Palm Springs Road Trip – Don’t Visit in September

coachella nature

Update: Check out my Palm Springs road trip video above.

If you’re thinking about taking a vacation in Palm Springs, I have one piece of advice for you: Don’t visit in September.  I made the non-SoCal native mistake of assuming September would be cool in temperature like most normal places.  Apparently, September is California’s hottest month of the year.  The weekend I went to Palm Springs seemed to verify that.  And being in a desert only made it worse.

Basic Info

For those of you, like me, who know nothing about California (except that its residents believe it’s the greatest place on earth) Palm Springs is a small town located in the middle of the desert.  It’s about a two hour drive east of LA, right outside Joshua Tree.  The drive there is interesting because at first you look around and just see mountains, sand, and dirt everywhere.  Then all of a sudden, everything turns bright green and you see a welcome sign for Palm Springs.  Every road is lined with perfectly straight palm trees and well-groomed plants.  Shops, streets, and restaurants are up-to-date yet still have a lot of character.  It’s hard to believe such a clean, wealthy, and modern city sits in the middle of a desolate desert.

One great thing about Palm Springs is that the city can act as a central hub to all the other sites and attractions on your road trip or vacation.  the Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree, and Salton Sea are all easy day trips from Palm Springs.  People go to Palm Springs to get away for a weekend.  Golf, bars, pools, and casinos become their relaxation.  Many people move there to retire.  It’s not exactly a city to go do and see stuff.  But don’t let that stop you from making a visit there!  Spend an afternoon exploring the city and then spend the rest of your time outside it.

Let’s get back to why you shouldn’t visit in September:

  • It will be a scorching 115 at any time of the day.
  • You won’t see other people (This might be a positive thing depending who you ask).
  • The people you will see are mostly old.  Although this has nothing to do with September, I’m sure.
  • The #1 attraction is closed.  The tram/cable car up to Mt. San Jacinto was closed for two weeks when we visited. 😦

coachella oasis

This makes it sound like a really depressing place, but I want to make it clear that I did have a good time.  Here’s what I enjoyed:

The people are very friendly- probably because they never see anyone in September and get lonely. Pam, our dinner waitress, would strike up a five minute conversation with us every time she came to bring our food or drinks.  The single woman (probably age 65) behind us joined in too.

Cheap prices.  Did I mention I bought a beer for $4 dollars?

Abundant streets signs that said: “Free Unlimited Parking”.  It was almost like they were trying to taunt people from LA.

So if you’re visiting Palm Springs, what should you see?

Cabazon Dinosaurs. If you’re coming from LA, stop in Cabazon and see the giant dinosaurs.  There’s also an exhibit you can pay for, but the giant dinosaurs in front are completely free.

Wind turbines.  You can’t miss them.

Downtown.  Plenty of parking, nice shops, and a “Hollywood Walk of Fame” sidewalk.  Unfortunately, I have to admit the one in LA is a little better.

Mt. San Jacino tram.  I’m sure it’s open now.   About $25 to take a ride to the top.  #1 attraction on TripAdvisor.

Coachella Nature Preserve.  Palm trees, lizards, oasis, and a view of the San Andreas fault.  I highly recommend it.  I’d also highly recommend bringing water and staying on the trails…

Any lake, pond, or swimming pool you can find.

Tip: Don’t ask your hotel concierge what to do because ours just said this: “Oh, the tram is closed? Then, there’s nothing to do here.”


Interesting Facts:

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation (that’s how you have to say their name every time) owns most of the land in Palm Springs. $$$

Apparently, there aren’t street lights on most of the main roads (truth) because the citizens want to be able to admire the stars at night (questionable).  How does star gazing trump common safety practices??

Most restaurants and bars close around 9PM.  Although they do have some clubs and a casino.

Premium beers in many of the bars are Heineken and Corona. We went to one place and they only had four kinds of beer.

They got rid of the giant Marilyn Monroe statue earlier this year.  Now, it seems, the city really has nothing to attract tourists.  Seeing giant dinosaurs and a giant Marilyn on the same trip would have made my day!

mt san jacinto

Who should visit:

  • Old people who just want to relax.
  • People who like taking trams up mountains.
  • People who like nice, wealthy cities in the middle of deserts.
  • People who don’t mind driving without street lights at night.
  • People who like wind turbines.

Palm Springs Road Trip Preview

I went to Palm Springs this weekend.  September is the wrong month to go (unless you enjoy 115 degree temperatures and closed mountains).  More on that in a later post.  Here’s a 7-second time lapse I made of Palm Springs at night with Mt. San Jacinto in the background.

HD. Full Screen. HD. Full Screen.

EDIT: I just realized you can’t see any of the stars in the video 😦 I’m going back to YouTube.

Big Bear, California – Cabins, Lakes, and Free Parking

road trip randy

Everyone I know speaks highly of Big Bear.  If you live in LA, it’s where you go to get away.  Church goers attend retreats there.  Big time television producers have their second and third homes there.  Some athletes even rent cabins and go there to train.  Me? I just wanted to stop choking on polluted air in Los Angeles and get away for a weekend.

You know that saying that goes something like, Los Angeles is the only place where you can go snowboarding and surfing in the same day?  It’s a lie.  First, you can’t go snowboarding in LA.  The nearest “real” mountain is two hours away.  Second, what about the rest of California?  Surely there are other beautiful places with mountains and the Pacific in close proximity of each other.  Typical Los Angeles arrogance, thinking they’re so unique.  Anyway, that’s how I learned about Big Bear- as one of the few snowboarding mountains only two hours away.  Then I learned it’s a great place to visit in the summer too.

big bear drive

The drive there is actually really enjoyable.  Once you get about an hour out into the San Bernardino area, the scenery really changes.  The road starts to wind and get really steep as you drive into the mountains. Palm trees turn into pine trees, and you only see a house or building every mile or so.  The higher you go, the better the view becomes.  You hug some of these turns and realize that feet away from you are giant cliffs that lead into valley down below, or giant cliffs that could lead to your death with one wrong move.  Either one.

road trip randy

Once you get into Big Bear, you don’t really feel like you’re high up in the mountains, but you definitely feel like you’re away from the city- less annoying people and more space.  For me, it reminded me so much of northern Michigan.  The air is clean, the giant lake sparkles, and nature greets you everywhere you look.

What I especially liked about Big Bear was how diverse the different areas of the lake were.  On one side you have the city, with the touristy village.  Then on another side you have your public beaches.  Then on the other side is the residential road with houses and cabins that takes you right next to the calm water.  It’s a nice drive around the lake.  I would know.  I got lost looking for a hiking trail and had to drive around it three times.


It probably wins awards for village you’d most likely see in a snow globe.  Or in a propaganda video.  It’s beautiful.  Meticulously taken care of, clean, and it has lots of parking.  If you’re going to Big Bear, you have to check out the village. The main area is a small street that’s ideal for spending a few hours in.  There’s basically only one building for everything you need – ice cream, post office, theater, souvenirs, etc.  However, there are a handful of restaurants in the front.  Grab an ice cream cone and take a walk down its perfect sidewalk.

road trip randy


I went hiking on the Castle Rock trail.  It’s tough to find, but well worth it if you do.  Big trees, giant boulders, and one hell of a view at the top!  Once you get close to the top, the trail stops being a trail and turns into a boulder climb. It gets kind of dangerous if you don’t have good balance.  There was a family in front of me that wasn’t too athletic (think multiple Augustus Gloops from Willy Wonka), but they were leaping from rock to rock and climbing over one another as though they wouldn’t die if they missed a step.  Crazy.

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy


I’m a big fan of dive bars.  If I’m in a fancy bar or restaurant I usually don’t know what to do with myself and end up punching someone. The great thing about small towns, like Big Bear, is they usually have plenty of dive bars.  It’s fun to see who are the locals are and who are the tourists.  I went to a small one not too far away from the village.  It was the perfect dive bar.  Dollar bills on the wall, license plates on the ceiling, and business cards in the bathroom with the faces of the people currently sitting at the bar.  It couldn’t have been better!


I can’t be certain because it was my first time at Big Bear, but it looked like there were only a few big public beaches around the lake and then a lot of smaller “private” ones.  The public ones were nice- people were paddle boarding, swimming, and kayaking.  But what I really liked was that you could stop off on the side of the road, almost anywhere, and make your own private beach.  No one was around.  Just you and your thoughts… and a random pirate ship passing by.

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

I didn’t spend a lot of time at Big Bear, but I definitely see why people love it.  Angelinos go crazy if they see real, green grass and a tree that isn’t a palm tree.  I think that’s the appeal of Big Bear for them.  It’s real life. No billboards, no glamorous parties, no chronic traffic problems (you can park for free on the side of the road at Big Bear!!!), no rat race.   For a few days everyone is just living.  And relaxing.  And enjoying.  And appreciating the good things in real life.  And then not too long after, they drive back to LA… and turn back into their miserable, narcissistic-selves.

Big Bear, you were great!

road trip randy

I made this short video when I was there.  If you like it, please consider subscribing to my channel.  I just created a YouTube account and would love your support!




Road Tripping Down Memory Lane

(If you just want to see pictures and ignore all the text, scroll to the bottom.)

A few weeks ago, I took a road trip that I’ve been taking for years – 24 to be exact.  Every year in July my family has packed up our van and drove up north to a little town in Michigan called Oscoda.  My grandparents have a condo right on Lake Huron and we get our own private beach.  It’s incredible.  There are so many great memories on that beach.  Some include puking and knocking out teeth, but most are quite enjoyable.

If you follow my blog religiously (please always tell me you do), you remember from my first post that I work in television.  Initially, I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to take time off to fly home.  In the television world, you usually can’t just book a week of vacation whenever you want.  You have to wait until you have a break between shows.  We were right in the middle of production, but since I have an awesome boss, she told me I should take the week off.  Sweet!

Just hearing the word Oscoda is one of the few things in life that can bring me instant joy.  The association is that strong.  Another would be Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Because my family has been going to Oscoda for so many years, we’ve made a lot of great memories and traditions.

Some of my favorites:

  • Playing in the waves that were nearly two feet over my head.
  • Playing capture the flag on the beach after dinner.
  • Riding bikes into town to buy candy (and then always being reprimanded by my dad for buying too much).
  • Not being able to control the paddle boat and drifting out way too far from shore (not sure why this is a fond memory).
  • Spending hours in a small attic with six other kids (again, not sure why this is a fond memory).
  • Hitting golf balls on the beach.
  • Seagull chasing in our speed boat.
  • Late night swimming.
  • A huge storm flooding our parking lot.
  • Being able to see millions of stars in the sky at night.
  • Drinking around the bon fire for the first time (legally, of course).
  • Driving to Harrisville just for the ridiculously large ice cream cones they used to serve at The Cove.

My least favorite:

  • Knocking a girl’s tooth out with a golf club when I was four.  Her tooth is still messed up to this day.
  • Looking at a porcupine through binoculars and not being allowed to go pet it.
  • Getting small frogs thrown down my shirt after the big flood.
  • Getting grounded (probably for throwing bread) and missing one of our nightly bon fire.
  • Going to the 4th of July parade, standing at the end, and never getting candy because the people in the parade ran out. EVERY YEAR.  Why didn’t we move up to the front?!

road trip randy

Every year since 1990, a group of us kids shared these memories together.  This year we can add two more to the list.

In May, a Piping Plover decided to lay eggs in the middle of our beach.  For those of you who don’t know (I sure didn’t), a Piping Plover is an endangered bird in North America.  Apparently there are only three left in Michigan.  Because of this, officials closed off half our beach until September!  I was pretty mad.  And they gave that bird way more room than it needed, in my opinion! Think of roping off half of a football field for a potato.  Oh well, I guess if it keeps the bird alive, it’s all good.  And we still had plenty of room for our bon fires.

The other change this year was the addition of babies to our group.  What is it about babies that makes grown men and women change their personalities and act completely unlike themselves?  It was very bizarre to watch everyone talk like babies.  The oldest in my group of friends, Michelle, was the one who had twins recently.  They’re cool and all, but now I see why people say parenting is a full time job.  The twins didn’t let Michelle relax for one minute. Babies are so selfish.

I’ve noticed that within the past few years, we’ve been doing less and less of our yearly traditions in Oscoda.  We still go to the sub-par 4th of July parade, play on the beach, and have nightly bon fires, but something has changed.  Now we argue about politics, relax on couches after dinner, and complain about how much we just ate.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have a blast every year, but I think a big part of the appeal now is the nostalgia the place brings.

I guess I don’t like change and I don’t like growing up.  I’m a traditions guy.  I love traditions.  Last Christmas, my mom tried to put the presents under the tree a few days early because she thought they would look nice and wanted to enjoy them for longer than a couple hours.  I refused to let her do this.  Presents don’t appear under the tree until Christmas morning!  It’s tradition.

I think what I’m trying to say is that traditions seem to make activities better because of the memories attached to them.  The activity itself might not be that great.  Sitting in a hot attic?  Not that amazing.  But it was tradition (and we were weird).  Now that we have endangered birds and babies and politics changing our traditions in Oscoda, I guess it’s time to make new ones.  And maybe that’s a good thing.  But it might take me awhile to accept.

What does this have to do with road tripping?! Absolutely nothing.

Anyway, Oscoda taught me a couple things:

  1. Making new traditions can be a good.
  2. I’m not having babies until I’m 50.


Here’s a time lapse I made of the beach at night looking down towards the pier.  Turn on HD!

And here are a few more pictures I took with my new camera that I bought with my new money.

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy

road trip randy


Get ready for my next post to actually be about a road trip, in California, like my blog actually suggests.  Enough with the pointless, deep talks, Randy!

Go Trip Yourself!

Thanks, WordPress.  Last week when I was setting up my blog, you asked me for my Site Title. Easy.  I like anything with my name attached to it: street signs, monuments, schools, etc.  Road Trip Randy was the obvious choice.  But after that, you told me I should have a tagline, too.  I hadn’t given a tagline much thought, but figured it must be a good idea if you were suggesting it.

Rewind two years.

road trip randy

I’m on a boat in Vietnam (not the small one in the photo above).  My friends and I just signed up for a three-day boat cruise in Halong Bay, one of the seven natural wonders of the world! It’s cold and cloudy, but our captain assures us we’ll still be able to do everything on our itinerary including rock climbing, island camping, and cliff jumping.  Hours later he tells us that it’s all been cancelled due to the weather. Instead we’ll learn how to make spring rolls from the chef.  Unimpressed, we decide to go to our cabin and drink the 24-pack that we brought (snuck on) with us.

A couple months later, I’m in in China heading to the Great Wall.  I got a great deal on a packaged tour.  What I didn’t know is that before they take you to the Great Wall, they take you to a jade museum, a pearl exhibit, a tea ceremony, a silk shop, and a foot massage place.  Cool extras…unless they also take you to the fake Great Wall that’s nothing more than a fancy staircase.

Soon after, I’m in the sweaty, but awesome city of Bangkok, Thailand.*  I’m on a bus headed to go pet tigers!  We stop at a few places on the way and when we arrive at Tiger Temple, they tell us they’re about to close. They’ve already begun putting away the tigers!

What do these three stories have in common besides extreme momentary rage and depression?  Guided Tours.  You know what I say to that?  GO TRIP YOURSELF!  Side note: What’s great about this saying is that you can replace “trip” with another four letter word and it still accurately describes my feelings toward guided tours.

Guided and packaged tours can be okay… sometimes.  When you’re in a foreign country and you don’t speak the language, sometimes the easiest way to see the sights is to hop on a tour bus with a bunch of other people that look like you.  It’s easy to plan and very convenient.  However, the pros of guided tours end there.  Guided tours only want your money.  They’ll take you to the sites, but they determine how long you stay.  They determine what time you get there.  They determine what part of the attraction you go to.  They determine what stops you have to make before getting there.  They have complete control of your vacation from the moment you get in that van or bus to the moment you get out.

That’s why I like tripping myself. I control what I see.  Sure it’s a little more work and possibly a little more money, but in the end, well worth it.  In China, I was so disappointed with my Great Wall scam tour that I hired a private taxi the next day and spent three hours by myself at the real Great Wall.  It cost me $50 bucks and was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.  No more guided tours for this guy!

road trip randy

And that’s why I love my new WordPress-inspired tagline.  It fits.  It has meaning that goes beyond the surface and its conspicuous, alternative insult.  It motivates you to go do things on your own and create your own path- to not just follow everyone else because it’s easy.  I struggled with this a lot as a kid.**  Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it… unless it’s really, really fun- or something normal, like eating bread.

So the next time someone invites you on a great packaged tour, tell them to go trip themselves.  Make your own adventure.



*Let’s clear this up so I don’t sound like one of those world traveling jerks.   That year of travel was cool, but the way I wrote it makes it sound like I just hopped to exotic locations whenever I pleased.  Most of my year in Asia was actually spend in an 8x8ft “classroom” with no window.

**As a kid, my parents and my friends’ parents always tried to warn my friends and me about peer pressure.  Whenever we did something just because someone else did it, they’d ask: “If so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you??”  I always answered with a resounding “YES!”  It really annoyed them.  But honestly, what a silly question to ask a seven-year-old.

Welcome to Road Trip Randy, Now Here’s My Story

When I was young,  I didn’t venture out much further than my neighborhood.  I was content.  When choosing a college, I didn’t even think about going anywhere out of state.  I was content.  And then I graduated college and something weird happened.  I wasn’t content.  I wanted more.  I wanted to see what else was out there.  Sure, I’d been on a few vacations out of state, but I could count those on my hand:

  1. The “You’re only a healthy family if you take your kids to Disney World at least once!” vacation.
  2. The educational Washington DC and Boston double-feature trip.
  3. The aunt’s wedding in Vegas when you’re nine vacation.  There was so much for me to enjoy on the Strip at that age!

For whatever reason, I didn’t really care about vacations very much (It was probably because I was just a miserable kid).  I was happy staying in my hometown, with the people I knew, doing the things that I enjoyed doing.

It wasn’t until after graduation and I became strange that I realized I might not want to spend the rest of my life living in my hometown.  Maybe I’ll move to another state someday.  Or even another country!

That’s when I decided to move to Korea.  Yep.  After spending my entire life living contently in Michigan and rarely stepping foot outside it’s borders, I decided I wanted to move to the other side of the world on a whim. My parents thought I was nuts.  But I was determined to do it.  And so I did.  And for a year, I lived in Seoul, South Korea teaching English.  I visited five other Asian countries and had the time of my life.  That year was when I finally learned just what else was out there.

So now I’m back in the States but no longer living in the Mitten.  I’ve moved all the way to the Golden State to pursue a career in film.  I’ve got an awesome job working in television, and when I have a weekend free or a break between shows, I try to fill it with traveling.  That’s where this blog comes in (about time!).

road trips

Californians think they live in the greatest state in the world.  To them, there’s nothing better than their beloved bear, sunshine, and vineyards.  Well, I’ll be the judge of that.  So far all I’ve seen is copious amounts of smog, awful traffic, and hippies.  Yes, I live in L.A.  I’m hoping the rest of the state makes up this disappointment, because so far, I’m unimpressed.  They say you either love LA or hate it, and that’s so true.  I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have a strong opinion about it either way.

My plan is to take road trips.  Lots of them.  Short trips to the OC, day trips into the Mojave Desert, and hopefully, eventually some extended trips up north to the national parks.  I’d love to say I’ll be doing this everyday, full time, and making you envious of my lifestyle.  But that’s not true.  As of now, I’m dirt poor.  It wasn’t until recently I bought a real bed.  For a year I was sleeping on an air mattress (3 actually. I’d buy a new one each time one popped), unemployed, and accumulating debt.  I’m finally starting to move up in the world.  I even have matching hand and shower towels.

After reading my childhood story and knowing my new life plan, I know what you must be thinking.  But you’re wrong!  I’m not some free-spirit hippie living a vagabond lifestyle.  I actually thrive on having structure and routine in my life. I enjoy doing work and making money!  Weirdly enough, I also just like traveling and not having a single place to call home (Sigh. I sound like such bag in the wind).

What I want from you:

A group of loyal followers that tells me how great I am.  And people who give me money to go on trips and endless compliments.  Just kidding.  Really, I just want to e-meet some cool people who share my interest in traveling and adventure, have mad love or hate for LA, and aren’t on the gluten-free diet because it’s trendy.

Let’s begin!