Frommer'sFrommer's

    Day Itinerary

    6 Activities
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    Day 4

    240 mi

    Natural Wonders and Blunders: The San Andreas Fault and the Dramatic Saga of the Salton Sea

    On the final day of your road trip, venture into the Mojave Desert and meet the people who have learned to tame this challenging landscape in their own unique ways.
    Photo credit: Jason Cochran
    5.4 mi15 min
    Shields Date Garden
    09:0045 min

    Shields Date Garden

    Food & Drink Shop
    Open Details
    If you’re low on gas, take a moment to fill up, because today we’re heading into a region with few amenities. Another quintessential roadside attraction, Shields has been cultivating and promoting dates since 1924. The central attraction is the ancient 15-minute film "The Romance and Sex Life of the Date." Despite the racy title, the educational movie is about the process of hand-pollinating and harvesting palm dates, which aren’t endemic to this area but have become a staple crop. But really, Shields is all about the shop, where you can find dozens of date varieties, touristy tchotchkes, and even date sugar that’s great for sweetening baked goods. The soda fountain produces one of the best versions of the local delicacy known as the “date shake.” That’s a smooth milkshake made with finely ground dates. Sounds odd, but the finished product is as delectable as caramel. Get some dates for the road, too—they make excellent car snacks.
    12.7 mi25 min
    Coachella Valley Preserve
    10:301 hr 30 min

    Coachella Valley Preserve

    Sights
    Open Details
    After crossing many miles of desert, you’ll find it a shock to spot this cool grove of fan palm trees thriving in this mountain ravine. California fan palms only grow where a water source is near the surface. That, along with a distinct sulfuric smell, is a sign of geologic movement underfoot. The San Andreas Fault isn’t a scar-like gap in the land, as depicted in the movie “Superman.” Actually, the fault is a system of cracks working together, pushing deep-level water up to create a microhabitat that sustains birds, animals, and plants, including arroyo willow, salt grass, and reeds. Piles of naturally falling palm fronds give ground-dwelling creatures a safe, moist habitat of their own. Follow the wooden catwalks over the boggy creeks and back into the sandy section of desert, a separate and very different biome right next door. The rocky bluff towering just to the west was forced upward by many eons of geologic activity, proof that the San Andreas Fault, on which you're standing right now, is always at work.
    10.9 mi20 min
    Burger Box
    12:301 hr

    Burger Box

    Fast Food Restaurant
    Open Details
    Burger Box, a classic roadside burger slinger, has been a favorite local joint since 1954, around the time McDonald's was making its own first appearance in the Los Angeles suburbs. You can feel the similarities, particularly in the flavor of the shakes, fries, and burgers, and the crisp pickles that go on them. While McDonald's went on to global domination, Burger Box has persisted in its original, humble format. Order at the window and eat on the utilitarian, shaded patio. Prices are humble, too. Where else does a cheeseburger still cost just $3? Not everything at Burger Box is McDonald's-esque, either. The pastrami sandwiches, for example, are especially beloved.
    27.6 mi50 min
    Salton Sea State Recreation Area
    14:301 hr 30 min

    Salton Sea State Recreation Area

    Sights
    Open Details
    In the early 1900s, an irrigation mishap accidentally channeled huge amounts of fresh river water into this area, forming a great inland sea, today measuring about 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. Land developers rejoiced and began selling the region as the new California vacationland, building yacht clubs, hotels, and gas stations to satisfy leisure demand. Those entrepreneurs were getting rich off an unfolding ecological disaster. The unnatural lake has no outlet and no natural tributaries, so it’s gradually drying up. The increasingly toxic water is replenished only by agricultural runoff from the east. The Salton Sea is so hypersaline and dense that fish and wildlife died, the water became poisonous, and the tourism industry fell into ruin. At the Salton Sea State Recreation Area, you can get a glimpse of the amenities ('50s-style visitor center, a dried-up marina, empty boat ramps) that are no longer needed. Walk along the beach that you’d never dream of sunbathing on, and get a whiff of the funk that makes the Salton Sea so memorably forlorn.
    15.9 mi20 min
    Ski Inn
    16:301 hr 30 min

    Ski Inn

    Restaurant
    Open Details
    Once an optimistic destination for holidaymakers, Bombay Beach now looks and feels like the end of the line. Roads are cracked, junked cars rust in the desert heat, and remaining residents are hard to come by. But look a little closer. This deserted-seeming hamlet has become a draw for iconoclastic artists and free thinkers who can live here on next to nothing and create artwork inspired by their Mad Max surroundings. Cruise the few blocks in town, and you’ll find the Bombay Beach Drive-In, an art installation involving a fleet of abandoned cars lined up in eternal decay before a big blank movie screen. Nearby, a vintage airplane, transformed through creative welding into a sort of giant catfish, presides over a corner of the desert. To counteract Bombay Beach's desolate first impression and get a feel for how friendly and jovial the locals really are, drop into the Ski Inn, which opened in 1956. From the outside, it looks like a run-down biker bar, but inside it's a family-friendly short-order restaurant serving burgers, grilled chicken, and the like. Between walls papered from end to end with dollar bills, locals are eager to chat you up and tell you about their quirky little outpost. After your pit stop, you can continue exploring the Salton Sea, head back to Palm Springs for more relaxation, or, in a little over 3 hours, be back in Los Angeles via the I-10.
    167.6 mi2 hrs 45 min
    20:455 min

    Los Angeles

    City Centre
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    Day 3
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    Frommer's

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    Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8PS, United Kingdom.

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