Category Archives: Wander List

International Banana Museum ~ WANDER LIST


A curious snack on the shore of the Salton Sea

Roadside attractions….the perfect distractions to make you forget the miles and miles of travel behind and ahead. There’s something so fantastic about the bizarre-ness of most of these attractions.  Perhaps that ‘something’ is as simple as, it makes you feel slightly more normal. Whatever it is, it’s a welcome addition to the mundane yellow lines in the road. Speaking of YELLOW, on the Northern edge of the Salton Sea, sits a peculiar little spot in the sand, where yellow flowers, lead to a yellow building, and inside, a big yellow surprise!


Welcome to the International Banana Museum in Mecca


You better bet I’m going to dress the part


There’s all sorts of goodies inside

It’s a tropical fruit paradise inside, where banana paraphernalia comes in all shapes and sizes. And by all, I mean…a BUNCH. It’s the International Banana Museum, don’t let this one slip by. There’s just banana everything! Anything and everything ever done in banana form is in here.  B-A-N-A-N-A-S ~ I’ll spell it, and you name it, because it’s probably in here.


There are so many bananas!


Banana flavored food

You simply can’t escape them…the bananas that is. There are boat loads of them, everywhere where you look, every way you turn. Books, toys, food, all themed banana. The counters are bursting with what seems like billions of banana goodies.


Banana tchotchkes everywhere


This banana gal, dancing on the ceiling

YES they have some bananas, not just some, but more than 25-thousand banana related items. The International Banana Museum owners, Kym and Fred Garbutt brought the Guinness Book of World Records banana collection from a seller on Ebay, and in 2012 opened up the museum.


The owners serving up some banana treats

Kym Garbutt says, “When my customers walk in, first I see their big eyes, and then it’s amazement because they don’t expect it.” The people come in bunches and we met quite a few folks during the length of our shoot.


Banana fans from Los Angeles

The fantastically friendly and adventurous threesome (pictured above) were from Los Angeles and were in the area looking for something different and fabulous. They checked out Salvation Mountain and camped by Slab City and couldn’t escape their curiosity when they spied the Banana Musuem on the way out of town. Melanie Willing (left) even has a banana tattoo that she was super excited to see was the exact same banana that the museum uses for their logo.

Keep your eyes peeled, along with endless yellow trinkets, there are some pretty fantastic fruit costumes as well!


I look regal don’t I?

The owners profess that their museum is a fun place that evokes happiness in everyone young and old, “No matter your age you’ll find something to bring you a smile. If not, you’re probably truly bananas!”


a curious coconut monkey, with bananas of course


Saying farewell to the banana mascot at the front of the museum, we got close during the shoot

I must admit, I like this place a whole bunch…I grabbed a hand-dipped chocolate banana for the road and then it was time to SPLIT. Plan your visit, the museum is open Fri-Mon 11am-7:30pm. Admission is $1 but if you buy any of their banana goodies…admission is FREE.

Check out more amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs!






Gubler Orchids ~ WANDER LIST


Greenhouse, Gubler Orchids

I have an infatuation with things that don’t necessary go together, being put together. I feel it brings out the uniqueness. Things standout, they sparkle more, or they serve as a stark backdrop to that sparkle.  Like an outfit off a mannequin, I don’t want it…I want the unexpected.


The expected is always there…that’s why the unexpected is extra special and precisely why I love Gubler Orchids in Landers. I have visited the orchid farm on more occasions than I have fingers to count and find myself wanting to go back again and again to experience the kaleidoscope of color and surprise.

gubler-orchids-poster-8 Embraced by the Mojave Desert and surrounded on all sides by its sand lies a tropical wonderland almost too bizarre to believe. Orchids…every size, color and variety…Every shape, scent and texture…There are thousands of these exotic flowers, thriving here, in the middle of where you would least expect them to be.


Rows and rows of orchids


This sea of showy blooms and delicate clusters is the life’s work of one family that has tended to these flowering plants for three generations. Chris Gubler is carrying on his family’s legacy. Gubler Orchids was started by his grandfather in Switzerland in 1918. In the 50s his father brought the business to California and in 1974 moved East to the high desert where the air was clean and the sky blue.


Gubler family photos, when it all began


Heir Gubler


Hans Gubler

The Gublers are considered one of the top quality growers in the world. And their blooms, thousands of them ship out every week from right here in the desert.



Do you see the fancy lady? Hint, she’s wearing a yellow dress!

There are 20+thousand different species of orchids.  Vanilla bean is one of them, another is named for Chris and according to the orchid expert himself, the delicate beauties have been around for millions of years because they’re hardy.


Vanilla Bean Orchid


This one smells like chocolate


A sea of green

Along with the hundreds of varieties of orchids here, is a fantastical crop of carnivorous plants like Venus Fly Traps. Also lining the aisles, the family’s own botanical collection, including Staghorn Ferns, and a rare, giant bloom producing Stanhopia Orchid.


It’s a true flower dreamland, a spot where beauty and color only becomes more showy and vivid set against this backdrop. Now that I’ve told you to expect the unexpected with Gubler Orchids I assure you, I haven’t ruined the experience, I will tell you with much certainty you will still be surprised.


Gubler Orchids is open for greenhouse tours…no appointment is necessary. Be warned though, there’s a shop on your way out and you will absolutely, positively want to take home an orchid in every shade.

To learn more about the countless amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE!










San Jacinto Peak ~ WANDER LIST



Me thinking…what did I get us into?

I wonder how many minutes of my life I have spent starring up at the tip top of Mount San Jacinto. As a kid I used to pretend that the little furry pine trees on the ridge-line were actually a troop of khaki clad adventure seekers looking down at me. I have even shared that idea with my kids, wanting them to carry on the silly make-believe thought.  I typically say, “Oh can you see them waving at us? Maybe we should just walk up the side of the mountain and meet them up there”. I would get a courtesy ha ha from the kids, but all joking aside, I probably would have ditched whatever errand we were currently on to meet those ridge-line hikers (trees).  After all, you only live once…right?


All of our stuff! SOOOO Heavy! There are like 50 sandwiches in there (Brian made all of them)

That above is precisely the reason this story even happened.  I’m not much of a thrill-seeker but I do love hiking, and climbing to the peak of Mount San Jacinto  was one of the few thrills that I’ve always wanted to seek. So we loaded up on supplies, (everything including the kitchen sink seemingly) from backpacks to camping gear, to enough snacks to fuel a football team. FYI, I’ve never been much of a camper and I have never backpacked before. I do exercise regularly so I feel like I’m somewhat conditioned…ha!  And just like that, along with my film crew of three, we headed into the wild for a 33 hour adventure off the grid.


The standard here we go shot


Forested path into the wilderness

It’s always about the path you choose. Some are straight and narrow. Some are curvy. Some make your heart drop but of all the paths you take, make sure some of them are dirt.  This is my new favorite thing to say or saying…however you say it, it’s SO true. There is something so satisfying about the sound of dirt poofing out from under your shoes.

So there we were jumping on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to head 8,500 feet into the clouds.  That was just the first leg of the leg workout. It’s always a wild ride no matter how many times you have been on that tramcar. I’m impressed every time.


PS Aerial Tram, I love you! Director, Brian doing his thing

Once we got to the top, we glanced at the amazing vista and hurriedly got on our way as we were carrying our homes and all our water on our backs, two miles to camp. Not going to lie, adjusting to the new altitude was not easy with such loads.

Some people look at the mountains and see a two dimensional backdrop to Greater Palm Springs. San Jacinto’s giant stature appears almost artificial but don’t be fooled…with a couple twists & turns, the urban world is left behind and the wilderness is the only way forward.


The view from our campsite


I’m thinking maybe I will sit here the rest of the day and these guys can go on…tough climb

Mount San Jacinto National Monument is truly a land of extremes, with its weathered granite spires, unbelievable vistas and unending carpet of pines. You can’t be here without finally understanding why so many artists and writers have been inspired by this landscape. You’re almost living the words written by naturalist John Muir.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves…Camp out among the grasses… in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings.”


Script writing in the wilderness is a must

So we camped…it was a beautiful clear night with more twinkling stars than freckles on faces on earth. The tent was a tight squeeze and a good lesson to those people (me) who choose not to open the vents due to chilly air…you will wake up at 2:30am with cold condensation dripping on you. Not perfect! It was a good thing for the damp roll of toilet paper next to my head. It was used to wipe the drippy ceiling that had buckled from the dampness. Note…not my favorite moment of  the adventure.


Here comes the sun, thank goodness, it was cold

Up before sunrise, it’s a wild feeling being so isolated in the piney forest. There’s a peaceful silence here beyond quiet that can’t be explained, it should only be experienced.

With plenty of layers and a slight bone chill, I was beyond ready to watch the warm rays fall onto the damp forest floor. After capturing a few AM shots on video, we were off to the summit.  San Jacinto Peak is the 2nd highest in Southern California and the climb…breathless. It’s actually the largest elevation gain over such a small horizontal distance in the contiguous US.


When you have this view, stopping to rest often is a must


Taking in the beauty and thinking…are we there yet?

Looking out to where we’ve come from and seeing where we’re going was pretty inspiring. Along the way I also became enamored by the notion that this same trail system pioneered by Native Americans has been shared by prospectors, cattlemen, bohemians and adventurers.


I think we’re pretty high here!

Just before the summit, there is a really cool little rustic rock emergency shelter. It also doubles as an inspiration spot with thousands of messages left on note cards, in notebooks and carved into the wood ceiling. Perhaps it was there more to inspire those making the trek to press on just a few minutes more to the summit.


Rock emergency shelter with some style and plenty of inspiration inside


After camping and sweating a whole bunch it’s always a great idea to shoot some on camera moments

So we pressed on and used our last bit of football team snack fuel to crest the peak & then fully absorb the 360 degree view, all 10,834 feet and beyond of it.

John Muir is quoted as saying, “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!” I would like to now quote myself as saying, “Hello Greater Palm Springs…you’re looking good from up here”…oh and “WE DID IT!” Not quite as eloquent but whatever.


Cresting the peak, Videographer, Ian Hughes capturing the very moment


The cast and crew, Ian, Greg, Brian! I look (tired) and worried, the nice man taking our photo was covered in bees


Taking direction from Brian to not laugh (The sign almost fell over)

So I’ll never really know how many minutes I spent pondering, planning, and pretending to be at the summit of Mount San Jacinto. Since I grew up in Palm Springs and have lived here most of my life, I would say it’s probably a lot of minutes and even more seconds. But what I can answer for myself, for my kids, and for my imagination right now, is what it looks like to be on the top, what it feels like to conquer one of my desires, and what breathtaking, gasp-worthy scenery those cute khaki-clad climbers (trees) on the ridge-line have been experiencing all these years.

To learn more about the countless amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE!


My we made it moment! I laid down after taking this photo and didn’t want to move…


Khaki-clad climbers (Trees) this is what they look like up close







Coachella Walls & Beyond ~ WANDER LIST

I’ve always liked the look of art that devours the sides of freeways and buildings but to be quite honest I never gave it much thought after my glance. I never really wondered was it graffiti or a well thought out mural, what paint was used, if the artist was well studied, or the deeper meaning behind the design. I’m actually somewhat disappointed with my curious self because the stories that accompany these giant wall canvasses are pretty cool. So cool in fact, I want everyone else to consider now what I had been missing.

La cosecha del future se siembra con la semilla del pasado – Mural by Sego Y Ovbal

La cosecha del future se siembra con la semilla del pasado – Mural by Sego Y Ovbal


Artist Armando Lerma admires work by muralist Vyal Reyes

That brings me to explain my assignment which led me to an eye candy project happening now in the city of Coachella. It’s called Coachella Walls and it’s the undertaking of artist and CV native Armando Lerma (AKA one half of the Date Farmers) and curated by Med Sobio the director of L.A.’s Academy of Street Art. The men say this is their opportunity to create an arts driven community revitalization project aimed at bringing cultural awareness to a city that rests on the edge of the Coachella Valley and has the largest poverty population of any city out here.


Casa De Trabajador – Mural by The Date Farmers

The multi-phase art project was started in 2014 and has since been added to by a dozen muralists and international contemporary artists. Phase one honored labor leader, Cesar Chavez and the anonymous farm worker. Phase two honored women, their struggles and their strength and phase three…I didn’t ask but I’m certain it will be rad.


American Woman- Mural by Said Dokins

We actually showed up to shoot on a day when one of the last walls in phase 2 was being painted by Said Dokins, a prominent street artist from Mexico City. Dokins is a Calligraffiti Ambassador and part of the Calligraphy Masters Team. From art showings to installations, Dokins calligrafiti art has been exhibited all over the world.


Caligraffiti is incredible!

The wall in Coachella is done in his usual style and is captivating. It’s a series of concentric circles with just a few colors. In it he inscribed the names of organizations lead by women fighting for the defense of human rights in Mexico and Latin America.


Me and Armando Lerma ~ this is how Barbara Walters says to smile


Casa De Trabajador – Mural by The Date Farmers

One of the first murals in the Coachella Walls project was painted by Armando Lerma and his Date Farmer artist partner, Carlos Ramirez and is in true Date Farmer style. The mural depicts the groundbreaking grape boycott that started in 1965. It sits on the side of the historic Casa del Trabajador, building which is a place where Cesar Chavez once spent the night and still provides services to farmworkers.


Swallow on the wall

Take a stroll down 6th and Vine, right through the heart of Coachella and see the rest of these social and cultural artifacts. You can find a map to all the murals here.

As a side… Google’s awesome Street Art collection also includes the Coachella Walls project. Click here to see the digital database that features street art from across the globe.


Lerma working on a large piece with his doggie close-by


Bar built by Lerma in Date Farmer’s Art Studio

Perhaps my favorite highlight of all the highlights of this assignment was getting to visit The Date Farmers Art Studio which is just a short walk from downtown Coachella. This rad warehouse that Lerma bought and renovated is graced with large form art some from floor to very high ceiling.


Videographer Ian Hughes BTS

Lerma paints here, hosts art exhibitions, and even turns it into a music venue around the Coachella Music and Arts Festival aka Coachella. And it’s his hope that more and more of those concert goers will make their way into the city of Coachella to view the public art that will continue to grow, populate more walls and in turn become a mecca and a day trip for mural enthusiasts from all over the world. I really just adore the fact that Lerma has chosen to live and work in his hometown and continue his craft.


Mixed media art by Armando Lerma


It’s alive! Actually, it’s not…but his teeth are fierce


Love the creepy one!


This is how I make my soup too

Armando and Med are very protective of the Coachella Walls project. They made me aware that there’s a big difference between what they’re creating and other mural projects throughout the valley and beyond…but that brings me to tell you about a gem in the beyond section of Greater Palm Springs. It’s in no way, shape or form connected to the Coachella Walls project but it’s in every way, shape and form that I love it and felt the need to include it in this story.


Director Brian LaBelle hitching a ride in Slab City

This insane street art visual is in a place called Slab City, where really I’m not sure street art is the correct name because the streets here are mostly unpaved roads to who knows where. You may have heard of Slab City because of that movie, Into the Wild or because of the now Instagram famous Salvation Mountain.


Salvation Mountain


Salvation Mountain colors


Me matching the mountain

It’s funny because as so many folks are so fixated on Salvation Mountain, they don’t notice that just beyond the colorful hillside is an insane juxtaposition of open space, sun drenched desert sands and a giant water tank bathed in a beautiful girl, a Xanadu girl, a girl who was proposed to by the director on our video shoot.
She didn’t say no but she didn’t say yes either. 😉


Director Brian down on one knee!


Where the roads are unpaved


Art inside a different water tank and me hard at work

Next to the giant water tank girl is an open tank with a circular mural that populates the sides with even more pretty faces. Seriously the thing I love most is the contrast of landscape to structure that seems so foreign yet so desert comfortable.


Art and clear skies ahead

It’s this contrast and the opportunity to interpret it in the way that you want that makes the trek to Slab City to see this art completely worth it.


Breaking hearts and she doesn’t even know it!


Videographer Ian Hughes and drone captain Greg Peterson

Mural art is the oldest form of artistic expression and while it’s meaning, and each brush stroke is intentional it’s always up for interpretation. From Coachella Walls to the walls of this water tank, mural art, by its very nature, always comes full circle.

To learn more about the countless amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE!

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum ~ WANDER LIST

This is the place I came so many years ago as a beat reporter on local TV. When I got the assignment, it was actually the first time I had heard the name Cabot Yerxa and realized his life’s work, this incredible Hopi inspired pueblo, existed in Desert Hot Springs. I reported at the pueblo several times, mostly because the property was vacant, had been hit by vandals, and a small outside portion set on fire, then I covered the preservation story of knock it down or restore it. Another visit and story was a Halloween inspired piece on local haunts. That experience has certainly stuck with me for many moons, for reasons I could perhaps explain better over a beer up the road at the Sidewinder Cafe.


Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, today


Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, today

The property was eventually gifted to the city and they knew its value and worked to begin the preservation process, not only of the structure but of the vast fortune of artifacts, collectibles, and priceless memories and stories that are one man’s legacy.

Coachella Valley Desert, 1913

Coachella Valley Desert, 1913

The beginnings of Cabot's Pueblo

The beginnings of Cabot’s Pueblo

Cabot Yerxa was a nomad, an artist, a risk taker…he traveled the world many times over and one night in 1913 he got off the train in the middle of the Coachella Valley desert. There were 100-thousand acres up for grabs, all you had to do is put a stake down and claim your parcel. Yerxa says he followed the North Star that night and walked until he found the spot that would eventually be home.

Wander List shoot ~capturing the open desert with a drone

Wander List shoot ~capturing the open desert with a drone

Digging a well with son Rodney

Digging a well on property with son Rodney

For the next 24 years he worked to build his pueblo, all four stories, 5,000 square feet,150 windows, 65 doors & 35 rooms. Everything he used was either reclaimed or found materials. That’s why not one window or door is the same size. Yerxa married (twice) here, raised a child, he kept a donkey (named Merry Christmas) as a pet, and pretty much everything is, just as he left it when he passed in 1965.

Well Stocked Kitchen

Well stocked Kitchen

The kitchen is stocked with food, his cozy sleeping quarters still draped in a blanket, his wife’s set of ancient industrial sized curlers in her upstairs parlor, the narrow stair cases and the phonograph in his living room perched atop a sandy floor. Among many things, Yerxa was a human rights activist concerned with the cultural crisis for Native Americans. He adopted their values, one of which was staying connected to mother earth, hence the dirt floor.

Main Staircase

Main staircase

There’s something so primitively special about this place. The smells, the quiet calm, the profound feeling you get that somehow ties you to this time when things seemed so difficult yet were so simple. You can almost visualize the day to day as if Yerxa is still there in the wide open beautiful desert, pondering the afternoon with his wife, or bathing his baby in a washbasin in this sun-drenched land of promise.

Baby Rodney and Merry Christmas

Baby Rodney and Merry Christmas

The story of Yerxa, his family, his simple fortune, and his findings is fascinating and there’s so much more to hear. And he wanted you to hear it; his dream was for his creation to be forever shared with the public.  A visit to Cabot’s Pueblo Museum should be in your future so you can be 360 with the story.

As if this guy Cabot wasn’t cool enough, his home is on the National Register of Historic Places and he’s also credited with discovering the now famous natural mineral waters in Desert Hot Springs.

Wander List shoot behind the scenes

Wander List shoot behind the scenes

I love knowing his home still stands in this valley that has always been my home. It’s so unique and truthfully not many locals know it’s here.

Wander List shoot ~ open desert tody near Cabot's Pueblo

Wander List shoot ~ open desert today near Cabot’s Pueblo

Honorable mention goes to the little shop on the grounds. It’s curated beautifully with Native American jewels, extraordinary pottery from differing tribes, handwoven textiles, finger puppets of various adorable creatures etc. Truth is, I don’t often leave without taking a little piece of Cabot Yerxa’s dream with me.

To learn more about the countless amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE!