By Steve Brown
If you’re looking for a fun day trip to explore somewhere new, and meet plenty of enjoyable people in the process, consider Reach Out Morongo Basin’s 14th annual Parade of Homes. It’s a relaxed afternoon of a self-guided tour to half a dozen hi-desert homes. You’ll not only have a great day exploring the hi-desert, but you’ll also be supporting one of the region’s most needed non-profit community organizations in the process.
The Parade of Homes takes place Sunday, February 18, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. at locations across the hi-desert. You begin at Park Rock Cafe in downtown Joshua Tree, where you’ll enjoy lunch with live music by The Luminators, an upbeat acoustic duo. Any questions you have about directions or the tour itself can be answered while you enjoy the sun, fresh air, and music.
Then, pile into the car, and head out to explore the homes, and I would recommend taking in Joshua Tree’s Cramalot Inn, and then heading to Twentynine Palms, where four of the six homes for this year’s Parade of Homes are located. You can visit the Casa de Loma, Rancho de Las Palmas, Casa Ladera, and the Tower Homestead.
Casa de Loma is the home of Gary and Jan Peters, former owners and operators of the historic Roughley Manor (now the Campbell House). Casa de Loma was built in 1935 as part of an expansion of the existing Hotel Adobe. The house was one of two homes built by the hotel’s owner, envisioned originally as “presidential suites.” The original home was built from local adobe and brick.
Casa de Loma sat abandoned for more than two decades before being purchased and renovated. The home reflects the Peters’ passion for historic buildings. It features an outdoor entertainment area with a built-in cooking area and great views of the desert.
Rancho de Las Palmas is the home of Patrick Gange and Walter Holt. Situated on nearly 14 acres with 327 palm trees, the home has grand views of the hi-desert. The Rancho features the main house, an original adobe that has been expanded over the years, a pool/guest house, swimming pool, garage, stable with tack room, shop, and three storage buildings.
The Rancho is solar powered, and features a beautiful mural representing Joshua Tree National Park at night by talented local artist David Greene.
The Tower Homestead Ranch is a family owned guest ranch with an interesting history. Originally built from a 100 year old house originally located in Pasadena, the home found itself trucked plank by plank to Twentynine Palms in 1929. The Model T that relocated the house to the hi-desert had its work cut out for it. Coming up the Morongo Valley grade, the truck would drive 10 feet forward, chock the wheels to keep from rolling backward, then go forward another 10 feet, repeating the process until it reached the top of the grade.
The ranch is named for Herb and Lily Tower who homesteaded in 1929 and moved to Twentynine Palms in 1933, during the Great Depression. The Tower Homestead Ranch continues to be operated by members of the family, but has added some amenities since the Depression days. There’s a cactus garden, salt water pool, Jacuzzi, infrared sauna, outdoor kitchen, historic fireplace, and stunning desert views.
But when you’ve toured the homes in Twentynine Palms, make sure to leave time to visit Casa de Culebra in Morongo Valley on your way back home. Home to one of the desert’s greatest artists and characters, Snake Jagger, you’ll want to have time to enjoy Snake’s artwork and wander his nature trails around the property. It’s a wonderful way to end the Parade of Homes, and you may even find something to take with you back to your own home to remind you of the day.
While the homes on the tour, and the people who operate them, are delightful, the best thing about this Parade of Homes is that it benefits Reach Out Morongo Basin. Reach Out is a fantastic hi-desert organization that provides essential services to senior citizens and disabled residents. Tickets for the Parade of Homes are $25 each, including lunch and live music. For information call (760)361-1410, or visit www.reachoutmb.org.