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From the Desert to the Mountains

October continued to be crazy busy, setting a record for me of 12 shows in different venues in a month. That may be as much as I can do, along with a very high pressure job working for a major hospital during Covid.

The final show on the day before Halloween was the first time I performed at a casino. It was in Palm Springs and we just made a long weekend of it. What a small world it is. I had met the person they had as a fortune teller at a party just before Covid, and one of the people I did magic for also works at Cedars-Sinai.

It was great fun, and when they told me they expected a crowd of around six hundred, I was thrilled. I had several new Halloween themed tricks, and I strolled around entertaining groups of people. Unfortunately, it did not occur to the producers that magic is better when it is not pitch dark, but it was. I just had someone in each group provide lighting with their phone. I now bring lighting with me for strolling, and my husband found a battery powered light strip that lights up the inside of my purse, which is where I carry all of my magic effects since I never have enough pockets for all of the tricks I want to perform.

We made a weekend of it in Palm Springs. We took a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. If you are a Columbo fan like me, you might have seen it in the 1972 Columbo episode Short Fuse. That is not what the cars look like now, though. They were replaced in 2000 with cars that rotate. The last time we went on it for a backpacking trip was on the old cars.

The Aerial Tramway is a marvel of engineering. It took ten years to get the dream of electrical engineer Francis Crocker approved through a vote in Congress. He just wanted a way to escape the heat of the desert with a quick ride up Chino Canyon. It takes just ten minutes to glide up nearly 6,000 feet to the 35,000 square foot Mountain Station (elevation 8,516 feet) in the much cooler San Jacinto Mountains. The top of the Tramway is some 30 to 40 degrees cooler than the desert floor. From his initial inspiration in 1935, it took until 1950 to begin construction, which was finally completed in 1963.

The first and largest tower of the five holding up the span of cable was the only one accessible by road. Helicopters made the rest possible. Everything, even bulldozers that had to be disassembled and then reassembled at the top, were flown up by helicopter. It took some 23,000 helicopter flights to construct the towers and the Mountain Station. It was the most difficult and complex construction job using helicopters ever attempted. They hauled up nearly 6,000 tons of material.

It really was a spectacular ride. At the top we had a view that extended all the way to the Salton Sea, some 60 miles away, and beyond. The Salton Sea smells much better from 60 miles away. It is a super salty shallow body of water, twice the salinity of the ocean. Because of the droughts, it is becoming more concentrated and toxic. It is also California’s largest lake. It was created in 1905 when floodwaters from the Colorado River broke through a canal head gate. It took two years to repair, turning the formerly dry lake bed into a 15 by 35 mile lake. Last year, Palm Springs Life wrote that it was California’s biggest environmental disaster.

We do have a personal connection to the Salton Sea. It was the setting for a movie that my husband’s child star aunt, Mimi Gibson, appeared in. It was titled The Monster that Challenged the World, released in 1957. His aunt played Sandy, a little girl who is worried that the lab rabbits will get too cold, so she turns up the heat. This causes the mollusk (what it is called in the movie, but it is just a big monster) stored in the lab to become active and attack her. You can learn more Geoff’s Aunt in his book The Greatest Adventure, available on Amazon.

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