Desert Dreamers: Cabot Yerxa 2

Cabot’s Old Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs

Yesterday I wrote about Cabot Yerxa the writer. Today I turn to his Pueblo Museum on Desert View Avenue in Desert Hot Springs, a city a few miles north of Interstate 10 and Palm Springs. Other than the various spa hotels, the Pueblo Museum is the only real tourist attraction in that community. According to the pamphlet handed out at the museum:

Cabot’s vision is alive and realized in his 35-room, 5,000 square foot Pueblo built entirely of found and repurposed materials. Everyone who wants to see first-hand what can be accomplished with the three R’s—reuse, reduce, and recycle—will be in awe as they walk through the museum and home of Cabot.

In addition to the Pueblo itself, there are a number of outbuildings on the grounds, including a trading post, tool house, and meditation garden, to name just a few. The visitor can take a one-hour docent-led tour of the main Pueblo building, and easily spend another hour looking around the complex.

Cabot built the Pueblo later in his life, starting in the 1940s and continuing for most of his remaining years. Where most architects put together a plan to which they more or less adhere, Cabot did it the other way around. The size of the rooms had more to do with the building materials he had on hand at the time. Many of the windows, doorways, and stairs are unusually narrow or small. He justified his practice by referring to the Venturi Effect, which is usually applied to fluids, but which can also be applied to the movement of cool air in a desert building. In fact, the tour I had last Friday on a hot morning was remarkably cool in this non-air-conditioned structure.

Image of Eagle on Pueblo Wall with Narrow Window

There was no Home Depot or Lowe’s around for Cabot to buy standard windows and doors. Everything was based on found materials, as for instance in the window illustrated below. Usually, comfort on hot days in the desert is achieved by expensive air-conditioning: It is remarkable that Cabot’s Pueblo is actually quite livable. Even in West Los Angeles, where I live in an old uninsulated apartment house, the three windows facing the setting sun can heat the place up to 90º Fahrenheit (35º Celsius) until the middle of the night. Imagine what that would do in the Coachella Valley in August!

Check Out the Crude Bars and Barbed Wire on the Above Window

Although he traveled around the world more than most desert rats, Cabot Yerxa did know the desert from deep personal observation. That’s one of the reasons I am enjoying his book, On the Desert Since 1913.


Tut Tut

The Guardian Ka for the Afterlife of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen

There has been a major exhibit of treasures from King Tut’s tomb at the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles. The exhibit started in March and is ending in a few days, so I decided I had better hustle if I didn’t want to miss my second chance at one of the world’s great archeological treasures. (I missed my first opportunity some years back.)

In the end, it was not a pleasant experience. The exhibit was well mounted, but it was mobbed with family groups who were intent on SmartPhone snapshots of everything on exhibit. It was as if instead of people with minds attending the exhibition, the attendees were actually digital devices. No one understood what was being photographed: They were merely putting together a portfolio that could be used to demonstrate to friends that, yes, they had been in the presence. The children were mostly bored and acting up.

In the end, I seriously suggested that, at the entrance to the exhibit, all SmartPhones be collected and smashed to smithereens with mauls. That got a few laughs from the museum staff, but I seriously doubt they acted on my well-intentioned comments.

Although I have been interested in Pre-Columbian archeology for many years, I know very little about Egypt under the Pharaohs. I know I have Howard Carter’s book somewhere in my library about his discovery of King Tut’s tomb, as well as a few other volumes on the general subject, I have been extremely remiss. Resolved: After I return from Central America at the end of the month, I will try to catch up on the subject.

And that is my only New Year’s Resolution for 2019.



Flying in the Andes

Actually, It’s Anything But Tame

I have flown over the Andes on several airlines: LAN, Avianca, Star Peru, Copa, and TAME. Because we don’t often think about South America, we don’t realize that the Andes are every bit as high, in general, as the Himalayas. I say “in general” because our method of measuring altitude is in flux, largely because the ocean level is in flux due to global warming. If we measure a mountain’s altitude from a point at the center of the earth, the highest mountain on the planet is Chimborazo in Ecuador. That is due primarily to a bulge in the earth around the equator which in effect elevates mountains atop that bulge.

In the past, I used to be disturbed by air turbulence. Now, with all the vacations in South America, I see turbulence as a sign that I am nearing my destination. Virtually all flights from Los Angeles to Lima, Quito, Santiago, or Buenos Aires involve a diagonal path over a chunk of the Andes. This usually takes place in the middle of the night, so I don’t get a chance to see the snowcapped peaks over which we are flying.

That plane in the picture was the plane I flew from Cuenca in the south of Ecuador to Quito. My brother had left a week or so earlier (also on a TAME prop plane), so we had returned the rental car to the Cuenca office of the rental company. I explored a bit on my own, taking a bus to Alausi to take a fascinating train ride; and I also visited a whole lot of museums in Cuenca. There are a zillion museums in Latin America, and most of them are fun even when there are no signs in English.

For my next trip to South America, I hope to fly to Bolivia and return via Buenos Aires. There’s a lot to see in between, even if I have to take a connecting flight part of the way.


Ruddy’s General Store

Ruddy’s General Store Museum in Palm Springs

When I have to take a long drive somewhere, I generally prefer to leave early in the morning. Last Friday, that meant I would arrive in the Coachella Valley several hours before my brother Dan got off from work. So I decided to visit several small museums clustered along South Palm Drive in Palm Springs.

The first was the Ruddy General Store, whose sign indicates they are “A General Store of the 1930s.” This is one general store in which the goods on the shelf are not for sale. It was originally the private collection of the late Jim Ruddy. For a token admission fee of $1.00, you can see the thousands of items on the shelves and even take flash photographs if you want.

Rubber Jar Rings for Home Canning

The collection can be viewed in an hour. You can take longer if you talk to the nice ladies behind the counter, who can tell you the story of what you are seeing.


Trains and Trolleys

Pacific Electric Red Car

Pacific Electric Red Cars

If you’ve ever seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) you know that the Pacific Electric Red Cars were probably the world’s greatest interurban railway—until they were destroyed by Judge Doom, ably played by Christopher Lloyd.

The Red Cars were already history when I arrived in Los Angeles at the tail end of 1966. Imagine my surprise when I saw a whole collection of them, along with their predecessors, at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California. It appears the collection was put together by a private individual named Walter Abbenseth, who died in 2006.

Trolleys were not the only things Martine and I saw at the Orange Empire museum: There were steam and diesel locomotives, passenger and freight cars, and a whole slew of cabooses. The museum was staffed by old railroad pros who knew their stuff and were delighted to answer questions.

There was even a nice exhibit devoted to Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls, whose Harvey House station restaurants, particularly in the Southwest, stood for quality.

I had always intended to visit this museum, but was put off by the 85-mile drive along the 60 Freeway to get there. Now both of us want to return. We had a great time.

A City Named After a Raven?

Martine Communing with Bob’s Big Boy

Martine Communing with Bob’s Big Boy

For those of us who grew up in Cleveland, Oxnard is the name of TV Host Ghoulardi’s pet raven. For residents of Southern California, it is also a nondescript agrarian city in nearby Ventura County famous for its strawberries, and home to the Murphy Auto Museum.

Now that tax season is over, Martine and I decided to take a road trip to Oxnard, driving along the coast through Malibu past Point Mugu until we reached distant Oxnard. There, we located the Murphy Auto Museum near the corner of Statham and Oxnard and spent three hours looking at the old cars, exhibits of nostalgic memorabilia, and a huge HO model railroad setup that made me green with envy. (Of course, if I had a model railroad setup in my apartment, I would have to construct tunnels consisting of books.)

1930s Packard Hood Ornament

1930s Packard Hood Ornament

Unlike the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar and the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A., the Murphy has cars that are more likely to have been driven: There is no “Mint in Box” feeling about the displays. There is no plethora of Rolls Royces, Talbot Lagos, Duesenbergs, Bugattis, and Bentleys—but there are lots of great American cars from the 1920s onward, plus specialty items such as early camping trailers and an intriguing collection of Volkswagens.

My guess is that we’ll probably be back later this year. I guess we were swayed by the charms of Oxnard.

With the Warbirds


At the Estrella Warbirds Museum in Paso Robles

At various points across the United States, there are little flying museums usually tended to by retired military aviators and their families. One such is the Estrella Warbirds Museum in Paso Robles, which is located along the south edge of the local general aviation airport. In addition to the old fighter jets and prop planes, helicopters, jeeps, and ammo, there is adjoining all the weaponry a car exhibit called the Woodland Auto Display.

After leaving my brother and sister-in-law in Paso, Martine and I headed east on Route 46, stopping first for a couple of hours to see the displays. We weren’t able to give much time to the exhibits parked outside, largely because the temperature was 106° Fahrenheit (or 41° Celsius). Martine loves to visit these old military museums (including the one at Palm Springs, by the Santa Monica Airport, and the Torrance airport). It’s sad to think that the vets who flew these aircraft are beginning their own inexorable journey toward the setting sun. Very likely many of these museums won’t be around in a few years.

Considering the news from Iraq, the bomb photographed below might well become more topical:

Leftover Bomb from 2003 Invasion of Iraq

Leftover Bomb from 2003 Invasion of Iraq

After our visit to see the warbirds, Martine and I headed further east on 46 and 41 until we joined Interstate 5 around Kettleman City. Our destination for the night was the Harris Ranch Inn at Coalinga, where we spent the night in air conditioned comfort and gorged ourselves on prime beef.