Desert Inspiration in Palm Springs

It makes an ideal place to write, says local author Edward Cozza.

Palm-lined drive – a frequent sight in the Palm Springs area. [courtesy of Paul Burlingame Photo]
  • Palm-lined drive – a frequent sight in the Palm Springs area. [courtesy of Paul Burlingame Photo]

Dreams. Patterns in the clouds. Drug-fueled hallucinations. A life thoroughly well-lived. There are many answers to the question: where does a writer find their inspiration?

But for some, it's all about the location. Some places tell a story, other places create them. Some are a tale in themselves. The desert resort of Palm Springs, a diamond in the dusty rough of the Coachella Valley, is such a place.

Palm Springs has been delighting folk since the turn of the century. Tourists and celebrities alike have traded the city heat for shady mountains, palm-lined vistas and midcentury art deco glamour. The desert resort still pulls in a million pleasure-seekers a year from all over the world and it’s not hard to see why: less than two hours from L.A., the city is perfectly situated for a weekend getaway or longer sojourn with serenity.

(For those of you with darker interests, Palm Springs is also just an hour northwest of the shipwrecked Salton Sea, the haunting alter ego of desert modernism left to rot. A side trip to the eerie Bombay Beach is highly recommended.)

There is something for everyone at the Springs, whether your poison is a frosty beer at the low-key Hair of the Dog or a refreshing mojito at the luxurious Parker Mini Bar (with a decadent side order of spa treatment, wallet-allowing). Hardcore fashionistas can take a break at the charming Sherman’s Deli for the best pastrami outside of NYC, or grab an original slice at Shakey’s Pizza (left). Early-eaters can enjoy brunch and bottomless mimosas at Pinocchio’s alongside the ceramic effigy of Marilyn Monroe, daring white dress and all.

There is hiking serenity in the San Jacinto Wilderness, whether accessed by foot or the spectacular aerial tramway.

More cultural types can enjoy museums, antiquing, theatre and film festivals, and the city's also a haven for the LGBT community with its breezy, gay-friendly spirit. It really does seem as if Palm Springs has it all.

Local author Edward Cozza certainly thinks so. Palm Springs is the setting for his debut novel, Nowhere Yet, a tale of old friends reuniting for a nostalgic weekend to mend emotional fences after years apart. I was lucky enough to chat with Ed about his writing process and the mystical sway this desert oasis holds over him and his characters.

“I go to all these places,” he told me, “see all these things, meet all these people, eat and drink all these things. I make notes, let them ferment, then start writing. The desert is the perfect place to stop, collect and write.”

But why Palm Springs over any other good-time destination like Malibu or Las Vegas? The answer is straightforward – the desert climate just cannot be beaten. The stately mountains shade revelers from both the worst of the heat and the winter chill. And, Ed pointed out, for a man who spends a lot of his time travelling, a leisurely two-hour journey without pat-downs or x-rays is a crucial catalyst for some serious R&R.

Most of the action in Nowhere Yet takes place at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton at Rancho Mirage, which sits above the Coachella Valley and gazes down on lesser hotels… or at least it used to. Ed informed me, sadly, that the Ritz-Carlton has recently fallen from grace and after so many years of first-class care has been sold, repurchased and now languishes awaiting rebirth.

But in its heyday, the hotel was a source of inspiration for authors like Ed. “The therapeutic nature of my last visit started things percolating in my head, about resolving unresolved issues. The memories from that place are all tremendous.” And thus, Nowhere Yet was born.

With so much on offer in this arid playground, I wondered where the artistic types choose to eat, amble and play. “That is a tough one,” Ed joked. “Because if I tell you I might not be able to get in there next time.”

With a little persuasion he confessed to his two Palm Spring loves, steak and golf. The area boasts over a hundred golf courses – so how can a guy possibly choose? “PGA West Stadium and Jack Nicklaus Courses are just flat-out beautiful. I’m not good enough to play there but somehow I got on without incident or injury.” So not just for the gifted enthusiast, then?

The choices for post-round recuperation are just as bountiful. “For steak, there’s LG’s, Morton’s, Sullivan’s… and Wally’s Desert Turtle is always fun, too.” Again, the wealth of options is overwhelming to a first-time visitor, but with so much to explore, a return trip is definitely in the cards (editorial aside: the banana soufflé at Wally’s is a definite must).

For regular visitors like Ed, there is more to the desert than just fun and food. “I left Colorado 26 years ago and to say those years flew by is a terrible understatement...The desert made me think about where I grew up, and the hope that I wouldn’t have to spend so much time away from those people in the future.”

Edward Cozza [Paul Burlingame Photo]

Edward Cozza [Paul Burlingame Photo]

It goes without saying that there is nothing dry or lifeless about Palm Springs, and it doesn’t take an author’s heart to appreciate this oasis in the scorched wastes. Before leaving, I asked Ed to choose his favorite place on earth, curious if he would nominate the desert, and without missing a beat he answered in one word. “Home. Wherever my wife and dogs are.”

Now that's spoken like a true wordsmith.

Edward Cozza lives in Encinitas. Contemporary novel Nowhere Yet is his first of a planned trilogy.

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This definitely makes me want to head out to Palm Springs! I've only been to San Diego, which is gorgeous as it is (hello - flowers everywhere!) but I would love to explore California more.

Congrats on your new book Ed - your website says you are on a book tour! Maybe we will see each other in Palm Springs one day. :)

Amy, I lived in Palm Springs for several years, and I don't recognize the street in the "Palm Springs drive" photo. It looks more like Rancho Mirage or Palm Desert. Can you identify the street?

Ed makes this place sound quite romantic. I would really love to visit. Perhaps, I can even convince a few friends to join me. If the Ritz is closed down, where should we go?

There are so MANY resorts, hotels, motels, and B&Bs all over the Coachella Valley. Go to any travel site, and type in "Palm Springs." If you want to stay within the City of Palm Springs, go to:

Remind me of the many stories that have used Macy's department stores. Looks like Palm Springs is not only a tourist attraction and artist muse but now a backdrop to upcoming stories. Sounds like a trifecta.

Bummer the Ritz in Palm Springs is no longer open, sounds like Ed Cozza book could have assisted with reservations.

300 golf courses? 300 golf courses??? Three hundred golf courses? Ya' gotta' be kidding! San Diego County has well fewer than one hundred, and that's an area one hundred or more miles wide and at least sixty miles north to south. San Diego County has a population of over 3 million souls, and some of those courses are struggling to remain viable. And Palm Springs with a fraction of that population has THREE HUNDRED? Go back and check your sources, please.

There are not 300 golf courses in PS. I think there are around 10 if you want to count a public 9 hole course.The 2 mentioned in the story are not in PS. PGA West is in La Quinta and the Nicklaus Course is one of 6 PGA West Courses.There are not 300 courses in all of the Coachella Valley. I think there are about 120 or so give or take, the valley does have the most courses of any region in Ca. A couple of other bones to pick with this story. Palm Springs has not been delighting folk since the turn of the century, they have been delighting folk since early in the 20th century. Even the PS link in the story is wrong as it's a link to Palm Desert. FYI Amy, Palm Springs and Palm Desert, yeah 2 different places. And Palm Springs is NOT an hour west of the Salton Sea. That would be more like Julian. PS is about an hour from the Salton Sea, provided you don't get stuck behind an onion truck, but is pretty much equally north and west, not west. And personally, I prefer Las Casualas or La Bella. All of this leads one to wonder Amy, have you actually BEEN to Palm Springs??

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. That is, did the writer have any real notion of the place? Some of the comments of all the activities available failed to ring true. My experience with Palm Springs/Palm Desert/Rancho Mirage/Indian Wells was unsatisfying. As in booorring.

That figure (120) sounds right; wikipedia says around 125 for the whole Coachella Valley. There are 9 within the City of Palm Springs. As for the Salton Sea, visitors should stay away from that big stinkhole! Seeing (and smelling) it from the highway is enough.

Palm Springs link and golf course detail revised (269, says one source). Thanks for the accuracy checks!

"Thanks for the accuracy checks! " Uh, Why is it the readers are the ones correcting the mistakes?? There are absolutely NOT 269 golf courses in the valley. Please site your one source. And then you might try looking at this. It is about the most comprehensive list I know of:

Long answer, from almighty Google: the number varies from 125 (Wiki entry for 'Coachella Valley') to 296 ( to "over 300 local golf courses and resorts with in the Palm Springs area" + more sources that cite "hundreds."

Short answer: a lot of golf courses.

The Reader's Travel section is built entirely from reader submissions; thus it's appropriate that the comments be a place for other readers to add input – including updates/corrections.

Any more q's, feel free to email [email protected]

"Almighty Google"???!!! HAHAHAHA Why don't you just look at websites that actually LIST the names of the courses and count them for your self? BTW, my parents lived in La Quinta for almost 20 yrs after they retired and my wife and I have owned a place in Palm Springs for almost 10 yrs, so I can speak from actual personal knowledge that there are not "hundreds" of golf courses out there. I understand that the Reader's Travel section is reader submissions But while you may feel that it's appropriate for readers to cite errors and make corrections, I feel it would be appropriate that the readers making these submissions should at least have SOME idea of WTF they are talking about, and maybe, just maybe have actually been to the place they are writing a travel article about. But then again I tend to put a good measure of importance on details and accuracy, apparently unlike some others. BTW, here's another correction for this story. The Ritz Carlton is not languishing awaiting rebirth. According to what the mayor of Rancho Mirage said last week in his state of the city speech, construction is on track for the hotel to reopen in October as planned.

Just my opinion.

Opinions vary.

If it's there, furnished, ready, BUT NOT open, I'd call that languishing. Or just semantics? But I am glad to hear that it's going to be open soon. Thanks for that tip - hope nothing changes between the mayor's speech and October, or I guess you'll be wrong for sharing that info. I'll check back with you to make sure everything's perfectly on track.

"If it's there, furnished, ready, BUT NOT open, I'd call that languishing." HUH??? From what part of construction is on track for the hotel to reopen in October do you get "there, furnished, ready, but not open"? As for being wrong for sharing the info if it isn't ready to open in October, well I think not so much. I am sharing what the mayor said in his speech. No right or wrong about it, it is what he said. Nothing more and nothing less. And if you want more info, then why don't you just to the RC website, get the number and call the pre-opening office for yourself.

Sources vary, too, as it would seem.

More from Amy Beddows, including Southern California deserts:

This is another well written article by the SDR's own travel correspondent, and yes, I'm now a firm fan of your writing Amy. This article certainly makes me want to read the guy's book, which I guess is the whole point of writing such an article. Well done, lady.

Leaving aside the sad sacks above who quibble about whether the number of golf courses is 300 or 296 or 'lots' - and say, here's an idea, why don't you guys just take off and start counting them? - my own recollection of traveling in the area is that Salton Sea is indeed around an hour or so west of Palm Springs. Unless of course dehydration of that saline sea has caused it to move and to take over some of those golf courses? Why would the precise number of golf courses matter to anyone other than an obsessive golfer anyway?

Why in this global recession, would these trolls seek to discourage tourists from visiting Salton Sea? It is a fascinating example of nature in conflict with man's commercial exploitation of an area of natural beauty. If you can elevate your mind from the sea's olefactory drawbacks for long enough to take in the big picture, you will see this is an intriguing example of naturally occurring desolation, of a localised ecological disaster, from which we can learn much. I found the place haunting and well worth a visit.

Keep writing Ms Amy. Lovin' your stuff.

As you will see on the map below, the Salton Sea is southeast of Palm Springs, not "west" as you stated. Is your car compass broken? Yes, it's an "ecological disaster" and that stinky swamp needs to be drained and filled in. "Smell ya later," Salton Sea! P.S. I don't play golf, but the number of golf courses there matters for a travel piece (which still requires accuracy to be relevant).

I too love PS. There is something special about the place that makes it a standout in the bustling Coachella Valley. Maybe, it's the history of the area combined with the contrasts of the mountains and desert. It's great any time of year if you visit with the right frame of mind. So peaceful and intoxicating in the summer VS the busy but beautiful Spring and Fall. Winter is the best time to hike in the Indian Canyon. And, it's so easy to get to from San Diego!

SanCarlosGuy: Sounds like YOU could write a good travel piece on Palm Springs. I've heard the Uptown Design District is really jumping!

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