Friday, April 26, 2013


An easy weekend getaway is heading up the 101 North and stopping along the way at beach towns like Pismo, wineries in Paso Robles, or John Steinbeck’s stomping grounds in Salinas. Those who wish to push further but stay just shy of San Francisco won’t be disappointed by visiting Monterey. This area is concentrated with sightseeing excursions from the comfort of your own vehicle like the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, to winding around the quaint beachfront villas in Carmel and is half an hour away from Santa Cruz.

Monterey is a perfect place to park, get out and stretch while taking in the charm of this historic town known in large part to writer Steinbeck for its Cannery Row. The narrow streets and warehouses aren’t filled with sardines anymore (although you can still smell a whiff of brine) but are loaded up with gift shops, restaurants and hotels. 

On the west end of Cannery Row is the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

With an emphasis on conservation this state of the art facility offers guests an opportunity to get up close and personal with sea life ranging from exotic seahorses, penguins and sea otters to sharks. The spacious exhibits accommodate large groups and tours with several aquariums for visitors to peer into within each room.

Monday, April 1, 2013


One of the things I've always wanted to do is ride the tram from Palm Springs to the snow covered peaks above. The idea of sitting around a pool in the hot desert until baked well done (about 5 minutes) and then heading up a mountain in a matter of minutes and throwing a snowball to cool off was quite compelling. 

But when planning the occasional trip to Palm Springs I'd always forget about including the tram in the schedule. I always remembered of course as I passed the road leading up to it at the Palm Springs Visitor's Center on the way into town. By then it was too late to mush the schedule around to accommodate. 

Finally I took a trip with a friend and we had nothing in particular scheduled except fun and relaxation. On the way into town we saw the sign and off we went.
We were so excited. We bought the tickets, got on board, waited for take off admiring all the granite and the views at the bottom. The tram starts going up, we are on our way. We both looked at each other: OMG we forgot we are AFRAID of heights. What were we thinking! What are we doing! We ran to the door... too late. We didn't just leave our fingerprints on the steel handrail, we left impressions.

Then we started to calm down. The gondola is completely enclosed. There is plenty to cling to (for sissies like us) and plenty of windows for people who want to actually see the view they're paying for. Did I mention the tram car rotates? Sigh of relief, we could hide and not look. To further enhance our illusion, the gondola seemed to be hardly moving, in fact it really felt almost like standing still (smooth, silky, stillness). A standard elevator seems like a herky jerky rocket to Mars in comparison. We felt less doomed. 

We continued up the mountain. Gee it doesn't look very high up. We relaxed and started enjoying the view. We were almost half way up at this point and it was FANTASTIC!

When we were almost at the midpoint we spotted the downward tram. Cool, we'll wave as they go by!

The downward craft passed us before we could raise a hand. It was zip lining to hell! We tried to remain calm.

At the top we stepped off and went immediately to the bar. Drinks in hand we spoke the unspeakable. We had to go down. Did you see how fast that thing was going!!! 
So we did the only thing we could do. We walked around on some of the trails, had a snack, took in the views and finally set our jaws, squared our shoulders and boarded the down tram. It felt just as slow going down as it had going up - until that blasted rocket to Mars zipped by!

Hot or cold, warm or cool, this is a very fun thing to do if you are in the Palm Springs area. Don't miss it.

Story & photos - Andrea Kirk

Palm Springs elev approx 500'
Mountain Station elev 8516'
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
WARNING! No matter how hot the desert is, it will be much cooler or even cold at the top! 
San Jacinto peak is more than 10,000 ft above sea level
Mount San Jacinto State Park and MORE about the park and the tram
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument .