The Real Windy City


Palm Springs – like most of California that I’ve seen – is based on travel by car. All the best stores line the main drag. There’s even free parking downtown in a multi-level garage.

Heaven help you if you have to take the train.

The Amtrak station is miles out of town, next to Route 10, near the windmill farms. As you can guess, the reason they put the windmills out there at the edge of the Coachella Valley is because it is windy. Now, I live in Belvidere. It’s considered one of the more windy places in the country. I grew up in Chicago (you know, “The Windy City”). I know something about wind. Let me tell you, we have nothing on Palm Springs.

20080313-173048I drove over to the Amtrak station because I wanted to get a closer look at the windmills. I think they’re cool looking, tall and gleaming in the sun with their large propeller blades spinning in the wind blowing through a pass in the mountains. I knew I was in trouble when I drove into the parking lot and was temporarily stymied by a sand dune covering the road. As I climbed out of the car, the wind slammed the car door back on my shins. I yelped and was force fed a mouthful of grit for my trouble.

Despite this, I pressed ahead. I think the fine sand all blew out of the area a long time ago, leaving only coarse sand and small stone chips. I was rapidly being violently exfoliated as I staggered into the area beyond the train station. The wind had blown down the cyclone fence (you know it’s windy when something called a cyclone fence is knocked down). I leaned into the wind and the air made my cheeks flap; not a pleasant feeling. The windmills are a lot bigger than you think and therefore they were much farther away than I originally thought.

Still, I’m nothing if not stubborn. I finally made it to the first line of windmills. They had a pile of spare blades lying next to them. They were maybe 15 or 20 feet long and about as thick as a boat oar. I set up my camera – on the tripod, low to the ground, with one leg braced against the wind – and set the timer to take a picture with me standing next to one of the windmill pylons to give it some scale. In the picture, you can see the wind borne dust blowing in the background, my hair is sticking out sideways… you would never know that the windmill I am standing next to wasn’t actually turning.

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