The Palms aka Hoberg’s, Borrego Springs, CA

Movie stars, gangsters and us have something in common.

When Natasha and I retired and hit the road five years ago, we made it a point to seek out unique or interesting places away from tourist venues. Earlier this year, we struck gold in Borrego Springs, CA and a place called The Palms.

The main entrance

Opened in 1946, it was originally called Hoberg’s Desert Resort. In fact, the locals still call it Hoberg’s. Its location well off the beaten path in the Mojave Desert made it a perfect getaway for famous and notorious people in the 40’s and 50’s. Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Mickey Cohen all frequented here. Many of the guests flew in to the resort’s private air strip. Those heady days are long gone. Now its patrons are regular folks with nearby hiking, biking, motocross, golf, RV parks and geocaches galore along with a fair supply of munzees and letterboxes.

The resort is very laid back and unpretentious, with eight rooms and two pool-side casitas. It doesn’t even have phones. Cell phone coverage is pretty good and the resort has WiFi and DirecTV.

The front desk at The Palms

The original lodge building was destroyed by fire in 1958 and re-built in classic mid-50’s California modern style. Memorabilia covers the lobby walls and “rat pack” music plays in the background. They could have filmed scenes from The Godfather here. Along with the main lodge were 56 air conditioned bungalows scattered over the 17 acre compound. Those are all gone now except for a couple of ruins. The resort was abandoned in the 1970’s and fell into extreme disrepair. It was scheduled for demolition in 1993 when the current owners stepped in at the last minute and saved it. They restored everything and renamed it The Palms.

It sits on the edge of Anza-Borrego State Park and has unobstructed desert vistas in almost every direction. You can be as active as you want or not at all. The nearby mountains are full of desert bighorn sheep, which can often be seen on drives or hikes. In fact, the word “borrego” is Spanish for those bighorn sheep.

The Pool

The focal point of the resort is its magnificent Olympic-sized pool. For many years after it opened, this was one of the largest swimming pools in southern California. It also has a large hot tub/spa on the deck. At the far end of the pool, there are windows below the water line. There used to be an underground bar here where you could get a drink and watch the mermaids. It is now used for storage although you can still see through the windows. Also notice the desert skyline in the background. The pool is literally just steps from the lodge, which is just to the left of the pool.

The skies here are pitch black at night, so star gazing is a popular activity.

The Red Ocotillo

Another very popular activity – and the one that brought us here – is the food. There are two restaurants here. Inside is the more formal (and more expensive) Crazy Coyote. Outside, shown in this photo, is the Red Ocotillo. This is laid back, informal poolside dining at its best. People come for miles to eat here. After a hard day in the desert, it’s the perfect place to unwind and recover.

This was one of our best off the beaten path finds. It has it all – remoteness, history, uniqueness, geohides, a “coolness factor” and food. If you’d like to check it out, you’ll find them at 2220 Hoberg Rd, Borrego Springs, CA. Here’s a link to their web site. The GPS coordinates are N33.2692° W116.4008°. Click on the hyper-linked coordinates for a Google map.

NOTE TO READERS: Anza-Borrego State Park used to be a hot bed of geocaching. No more. In 2010, the state contacted geocaching (dot)com and directed them to deactivate/remove all physical geocaches in the park. Although they may show up in a search, they are no longer active. There are virtual caches and earth caches that are still available. This restriction was only placed on Anza Borrego Park. Do not despair, however. There are hundreds of geocaches in the 40 mile stretch between Borrego Springs and the Salton Sea, including several long strings of off-road/4×4 geocaches.

Cheers … Boris and Natasha

KD’s Bar-B-Q, Midland, TX

During our travels and adventures, we are always on the lookout for some good eating. We try to stay away from chains (with the exception of In-n-Out Burger) in favor of local diners, dives and cafes. We struck culinary gold while driving across Texas on I-20. Just off Exit 138 in Midland, TX is KD’s Bar-B-Q. You can see it from the highway and we headed straight for it. The place was full of families, truckers and oil workers and with good reason. It was some of the best BBQ eating we’ve ever had – maybe even the best. Check out the pictures. This was our kind of place.

Front of KD's BBQ

Years ago, KD’s was a feed store. It still has that ambiance.

They’ve added a few modern conveniences, like ceiling fans. In the adjoining saloon, there are three big screen TV’s with NASCAR and Fox News. You won’t see MSNBC, Wimbledon or The View here. I reckon you might catch a Cowboys game in season.

Inside KD's BBQ

Here’s that feed store ambiance. Wood floors, metal tables, tin ceiling, exposed pipes and duct work. Everybody was super friendly, as they always are in rural Texas. The free fixins bar is in the center. It features plenty of the usual meat and potato add ons, along with hot sauce with names like Nuclear Waste. Be careful what you wish for.

Now to the important stuff – how to get the food. You enter through the smokehouse door, grab a tray and put a big piece of wax paper on it. Step up to the pit and tell ’em what you want. They slap it on the tray. Next, over to the line for sides, drinks and desserts. Pay at the end of the line then top off at the fixins bar. Staff cruise the floor constantly, picking up trays and cleaning tables. If it’s crowded, just sit down with some strangers.

Food at KD's

Now we’re talkin’. Brisket, ham, turkey, chicken, sausages, pulled pork and more. Then it’s off to the counter for your sides and then to the fixins bar.

The only downside of KD’s is that it’s a bit pricey. Plan on about $20 a person. Everything on the grill is priced at $14 a pound with an $8 minimum. No use taking just a little. Sides are priced individually. One other problem we ran into was that we were so full when we walked out, we skipped looking for a couple of geocaches that were close by, including one in the parking lot.

Trust me – that doesn’t happen very often.

Bon appetit … Boris and Natasha