Someone once asked me, "Is your life as great as it looks?" The answer, for 99% of the time is, "YES!". Last night was the 1% that I would prefer not to share, but you're going to find out anyway, so here is the saga. Through my own carelessness, I have broken my neck.

The emotional roller coaster that led up to this seemingly 'happy' photo is far too long to share here. But for a short synopsis: after a night on the town in Palm Springs, I klutzily fell, landing head first onto the concrete hotel room floor. After a misdiagnosis, and three days of treating a 'neck sprain' (a dangerous prescription for neck fractures), it was determined, at 5PM yesterday, that I had two broken vertebrae (one being the very precarious C1). There was a fear of potential paralysis, possible surgery, four major radiation imagery sessions, a great deal of waiting and copious amounts of crying.

After over nine hours in the ER, the spinal specialists sent me home in a NOT TO BE REMOVED neck brace. I will know more about the severity of the injury (and the ramifications of it all) after my follow up orthopedic surgeon appointment on Wednesday.

When I finished feeling sorry for myself, I walked out feeling incredibly grateful. It could have had a completely different, horrible outcome. Please wish me a speedy recovery.

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Jet Propulsion Laboratory Day...

Steve and I have been trying to tour JPL for years. All the planets aligned for us to get there today and Scott and Lynne were eager to join in the fun.

These tours run approximately once per week on Monday or Wednesday on an alternating basis. Visitor Day Tours are generally held at 1:00 PM and last for 2.5 hours. The walking distance for the tour is approximately 0.8 miles with multiple flights of stairs.

We began the tour with a history lesson by watching a multimedia presentation entitled Journey to the Planets and Beyond, which provided an overview of the Laboratory’s activities and accomplishments. On Halloween 1936, five grad students studying at Caltech and two amateur rocket enthusiasts drove out to a dry canyon wash in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and helped jump-start the Space Age. It took them four attempts to light a liquid rocket engine. But the result was encouraging enough to keep going and to build more rockets, which led to an institution where this kind of work could be done every day -- the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
JPL grew up with the Space Age and helped bring it into being. It is a place where science, technology, and engineering intermix in unique ways: to produce iconic robotic space explorers sent to every corner of the solar system, to peer deep into the Milky Way galaxy and beyond, and to keep a watchful eye on our home planet. Analyzing the data pouring back from these machine emissaries, scientists around the world continue to discover how the universe, the solar system, and life formed and evolved.

We actually had the amazing opportunity to watch the newest Mars Rover being built.
Its launch window is July 17 - Aug. 5, 2020. It will leave Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida, and land (hopefully) on Feb. 18, 2021  at the Jezero Crater.
The mission duration is at least one Mars year (about 687 Earth days). So very, very cool.

Next stop was at the very interesting von Karman Visitor Center.

This museum tells the history of JPL and its missions. It’s set up like a journey through the planets. At each planet, there’s information about the spacecraft that have visited them.
All of the displays surround the 17-foot-tall, life-sized model of the Galileo spacecraft.

We were intrigued by this aerogel. a silicon-based solid made of 99.8% air. It was used on Stardust to trap fast moving comet particles and it also insulates the electronics on the Mars Rover. Wild stuff.
The infrared images of us made me think of Andy Warhol's work.
Our guide, Nicky, pointed out the interesting pattern on the Curiosity rover's tires. When it took its first test stroll in 2012, it beamed back pictures of its accomplishment in the form of track marks in the Martian soil. Careful inspection of the tracks reveals a unique, repeating pattern, which the rover can use as a visual reference to drive more accurately in barren terrain. The pattern is Morse code for JPL. The purpose of the pattern was to create features in the terrain that can be used to visually measure the precise distance between drives. Beyond cool!

Our final, and truly exceptional, stop was at the Space Flight Operations Facility (SFOF). This is where spacecraft tracking and scientific data are received and processed from JPL's Deep Space Network.
The SFOF is an active NASA facility supporting various ongoing NASA projects including the tracking of the Voyager Spacecraft. It has continually been modified and its equipment upgraded since it was built and put into operation in 1964.
The scale of the achievements of NASA's planetary exploration program over the last fifty-five years is staggering. Like the great early explorers of human history, Columbus, Magellan, Balboa, Cortes, and Champlain the unmanned space craft of NASA have opened new worlds to human understanding and comprehension.

This has been an afternoon of knowledge and discovery. One thing quite unique thing we learned about was the peanut tradition/superstition, started in the 1960s during JPL’s Ranger missions. The first six Ranger spacecraft failed during launch or while leaving orbit, but on the 7th launch, someone brought peanuts into mission control, and the mission succeeded. It’s been a tradition at JPL launches and landings ever since. Fun tidbit!
The Space Flight Operations Facility for this period of time has been at the heart of this operation. Through the achievements of modern technology and communications, the entire human family was able to travel to the planets and experience the thrill of discovery. This Facility is the symbol of this technology and the resource most closely associated with the unmanned planetary exploration program of the JPL and NASA, hence its Historic Landmark designation in 1985.
We booked this JPL tour in May. And while the wait was a long one, the anticipation led to an exceptional afternoon. This is free. This is showcasing our tax dollars at work. It educated. It entertained. It wowed. It was so worth the wait. Yes, I'm going to say it... it was out-of-this-world. A must for all.

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Palm Springs: Various Scenes...

This town is full of diversity!

We hit a really great estate sale.
I am a connoisseur of unique bathroom signs.

Steve wanted to come to Palm Springs to be hot! He got his wish.
We spent hours in our Del Marcos pool.
And we made a bunch of new friends. After being together all afternoon, Jim suggested we all get cleaned up and hit the town.
Here's the gang, Steve, me, my Steve, Jim, Nick, Vanessa and Gillian. What a great group.
Our hotel was within walking distance of great dining and drinking spots.
First stop was Lulu's.
Guests at LULU are treated to a Vibrant Bar Scene, ambiance that embraces the dynamic downtown Palm Spring scene, exceptional menus throughout the day, award winning catering and a beautiful  venue in which to host private parties.
Our final stop was at The Chill Bar. From their website, "The best way to describe us is simply, chill. Our atmosphere of well balanced music, friendly staff and social patrons make it the best place in town to mix and mingle." It was the epitome of nightlife in Palm Springs.
This was one a unique and welcoming place. At Chill, they open their doors to everyone. They strive to serve patrons from all walks of life with respect and outstanding service. This reflects on their friendly staff as well as the guests who continue to celebrate diversity in Palm Springs. What a cool place to conclude our evening on the town.
This was our hotel view when we returned for the night. Palm Springs continues to surprise and delight. We'll be back in October. I can't wait.

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Palm Springs & Some History

Each time we come to our new favorite desert town, we try to focus on one specific architect. Today's was William Francis Cody (1916-1978). Mr. Cody was an influential desert modern architect working in Palm Springs during the peak of the Modern Architecture Movement.

Like many of the architects during the mid-20th century, Cody designed almost anything Palm Springs allowed him to; houses, cluster housing, churches, offices, restaurants, schools, hotels, and club houses. His residential projects illustrated simplicity of form, natural light, and large windows displaying a smooth connection between interior and exterior.
Our first stop was at L'Horizon Hotel. Built in 1952 by Mr. Cody with iconic, mid-century modern architecture, it has a rich Hollywood history. This was a favorite celebrity destination spot in the 50s and 60s, and it attracted guests of Hollywood's golden era including Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and several U.S. Presidents. Steve and I both agreed, we would love to stay here one day. WOW.
Our next destination was the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center's Summer Lab (S/LAB) - Structures Program Exhibit.
This special exhibition was a selection of 6th-grade architectural models created by the students at St. Theresa Catholic School for the "Structures" program.

"Structures" is an in-class curriculum on the topic of modernism. Every year the students bring the city's architectural heritage to life through artful interpretations of noted midcentury homes and buildings in Greater Palm Springs. I would have loved this in 6th grade. What a great way to 'tour' the City.

Conveniently located outside the museum is William F. Cody's star. The Palm Springs Walk Of Stars immortalizes over four hundred celebrities. It is so fun to walk the walk and recognize so many greats.  Ruby Keeler, Al Jolson, William Powell, Rudolf Valentino and Harold Lloyd started the escape from Hollywood to the desert in the 1920s, all leaving their mark, captured in these stars.
Among the last projects in which Cody is credited as the designer was St. Theresa’s Catholic Church (1968).

This church is considered one of Cody's masterworks. He was an enthusiastic parishioner of the church and reportedly expended much time and creative effort on the commission. The church is in remarkably original condition and many of the interior elements designed by Cody remain intact.

One of Mr. Cody's early projects was the conversion of the 1936 Thunderbird Ranch to Thunderbird Country Club which led to design commissions for the clubhouses at Tamarisk, Eldorado, Seven Lakes and seven other Country Club developments. It is through these many projects that Cody is credited with the County Club Sub-division concept in the West. Interesting tidbit: the Ford Thunderbird was named after the Thunderbird County Club, where then Ford Motor Company chaiman, Ernest Breech, was a member.
No good tour misses a stop at a local cemetery. We chose Desert Memorial Park (1956) in Cathedral City.
William F. Cody suffered a debilitating stroke in 1973, passing away in 1978. He left behind a legacy of important contributions to what is known today as Desert Modernism. His career continues to serve as an inspiration to successive generations of architects.

From Atlas Obscura, we learned of the Lee R. Baxandall Bridge. The so-called Bridge of Thighs allows nudists to discreetly cross the road. Named after a prominent leader of the naturist movement, the bridge connects the two sides of the Desert Sun Inn Resort & Spa, a clothing-optional resort. The five-foot canvas panels ensure that only the heads of crossing naturists are seen, though a second layer of canvas was later added to further conceal overly-suggestive silhouettes and to prevent fender benders. Hysterical.

We briefly toured The Riviera. Original architect and visionary, Irwin Schuman fashioned the resort after major Vegas hotels like The Sands, The Flamingo, and The Stardust. Opening in 1959, this resort immediately became the go-to hot spot for celebrities and sophisticates like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, who would lounge by the pool and in the Presidential Suite.
Elvis Presley was a frequent visitor at here and sought both refuge and rehearsal space in the Mediterranean Room for his band before leaving for tours and shows in Las Vegas. It was the only hotel in the United States at the time to be built in a spoke wheel layout, a unique design which would fit into the psychedelic culture of the 60s because of its communal shape.
Back to William F. Cody. Following graduation in 1942 from USC, Cody apprenticed at several California firms, moving to Palm Springs in 1946. He was first employed staff architect for the Desert Inn Hotel, before setting off on his own to design the Del Marcos Hotel (1947).  This historic place was our home for the night.

“I like to travel any chance I get,
even if it's just a local vacation to
San Diego or Palm Springs or wherever.

I just like to get out
and do stuff and see the world.”
— Christa B. Allen

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