High Desert Test Sites advances Andrea Zittel’s vision of creating art within the context of everyday life. The organization stewards A-Z West, Zittel’s 80-acre compound and artwork, where artists, writers, and thinkers spend time in residence while realizing projects that engage with our surrounding desert communities.
Co-founded in 2002 by Andrea Zittel, Andy Stillpass, John Connelly, Shaun Regen and Lisa Anne Auerbach—High Desert Test Sites has hosted the work of more than 460 artists, 12 expansive site-specific programs, and 25 solo projects.
Who We Are
PO Box 1058
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Office hours: Tuesday & Thursday, 10am-5pm PST
Vanesa Zendejas - Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Connor Schwab - Facilities and Grounds Manager, email@example.com
Sydney Foreman - Director’s Assistant and Visitor Services, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Shaun Caley Regen
WEBSITE AND DESIGN
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
David Knaus - Chair
Andrea Zittel - Founding Director/Treasurer
Brooke Hodge - Secretary
Marilyn Loesberg - Member
Susan Lubeznik - Member
Aram Moshayedi - Member
Paul Bessire - Member
High Desert Test Sites is grateful to The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Tides Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation - Arts Regranting Program/Inland Empire at The Community Foundation, Strengthening Inland Southern California through Philanthropy, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Ranch Projects, California Arts Council, Sky Village Swap Meet, Copper Mountain Mesa Community Association and our generous donors for their support over the years.
When HDTS was founded in 2002, part of the original mission was to run on a zero budget. The idea was to support artistic visions in practical terms—provide help, guidance, tools, a cot, and infinite space. For many years this worked and it produced self-driven projects that were ambitious and independently spirited.
Over the past ten years, HDTS has been working towards building a more substantial funding structure for artists’ projects. This has included hosting recurring fundraising projects such as our Artist Painted Rock Auction, Gem/Mineral Expo, pop-ups at art fairs and art museums, and producing limited edition artworks for sale.
But these endeavors never quite add up to what we need—to pay our artists fairly, for venue rentals, for staff, liability insurance, the bookkeeper, to feed our volunteers, pay for all-terrain forklift rentals, and so much more.
As our programs grow every year, so does our budget. And although we make every effort to raise the money that we need with Andrea’s self-sufficient spirit in tow, we still rely on support from donors to make it all happen.
HDTS has been a registered 501c3 since 2013. Please consider a gift in any amount to help us in providing access to engaging, experimental, contemporary art in the high desert region.
Donate via PayPal, via Venmo (@hdts_azwest), or via check:
PO Box 1058 Joshua Tree CA 92252
Many past HDTS projects have only been temporarily sited, but some are permanent and scattered throughout the Morongo Basin. The best way to find these works is to follow the directions on our current HDTS driving map. This map also includes sites we’ve partnered with in the past and admire as independent projects. Most HDTS works are located at sites that we regularly activate and operate out of. Those sites include:
Our base of operations, A-Z West is Andrea’s project, where she lived and worked for 21 years. Located a few minutes outside downtown Joshua Tree, this 80-acre compound includes four restored homestead cabins, several experimental living structures, permanent sculptures, 4,000 square foot studio space, and pristine desert landscape.
Public tours of A-Z West are offered twice a month. Tickets for these tours can be purchased through the West Works store. All funds raised from tour ticket sales support HDTS programming and operating expenses.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left, then the next right. At the hanging wooden signs, go straight to park in the Encampment lot, or make a left to go to the house, cabins, or studio.
Behind the Bail Bonds
Sited on this 10-acre boulder strewn parcel adjacent to A-Z West are several works that may take some deeper exploring to divulge: Morongo by Nathan Lieb, Surveillant Architectures by Julia Scher, and CA Truck Heads by Sarah Vanderlip. Feel free to visit this site sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking and do not block the road.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left. Follow along power lines, park just before the turnaround area.
Andy’s Gamma Gulch
Co-founder Andy Stillpass has generously allowed countless HDTS projects to take place on this wildly beautiful 100-acre parcel north of Pioneertown off of Pipes Canyon Rd. Several works are sited here, includingGradually/We Become Aware/Of a Hum in the Room by Halsey Rodman, Trail Registry by Scout Regalia and Tapwater Pavilion by Tao Urban. Andy’s is also available to visit from sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking or if you do need to park off the side of the road, be careful not to end up in soft sand.
Directions: From Hwy 62 turn right at Pioneertown Rd. Drive about 7.5 miles. Turn right on Pipes Canyon Rd. Drive 2.2 miles to Gamma Gulch Rd, turn left (respect our neighbors – do not drive above 20 mph on this road!) Drive 1.6 miles to God’s Way Love (if the sign has blown off look for Dave & Jeannie’s sign), turn right. Drive 0.4 miles.
This 40-acre site, located at the most eastern edge of Wonder Valley, in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness area, is surrounded by BLM wilderness land. Located at the very end of the valley, but feels like the end of the world, this site is home to several permanently sited works, including Dineo Seshee Bopape’s HDTS 2022 work, and a mostly “invisible” project: Bob Dornberger and Jim Piatt’s Secret Restaurant. On the opposite side of Ironage Rd and slightly to the north is a work by Kiersten Puusemp (Untitled) that you will probably need to get out of your car and explore in order to find. Be very careful when parking off the side of the road as the sand is very soft here.
Directions: From 29 Palms continue east on Hwy 62. Drive forever (23 miles) and turn left at Iron Age Rd. Drive a mile or so until you see something. (Iron Age Road connects both Amboy Road and Hwy 62, so you can reach it using either access road.)
Twentynine Palms sits at the west end of the Morongo Basin. The town of Twentynine Palms is perhaps best known for the nearby Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. It is also the site of the 29 Palm Oasis (around which the 29 Palms Inn was built) and it has over twenty-five murals depicting the history and native elements of the area. Not too far from 29 Palms Inn is a small Indian reservation belonging to the Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians. There are no coffee shops in Twentynine Palms (as of this writing), but a plethora of establishments where you can get massages and Marine haircuts.
The Twentynine Palms Public Cemetery was founded in 1934 by a World War I veteran who had moved to the desert in hopes to improve his health after the war. The cemetery is 30 acres and buries about 50 people each year. The first person to be
The cemetery is quite austere. Rows of graves rest in long, slightly raised white plots. Individual graves are framed by bricks and filled with small white rocks. Well-manicured trees and bushes dot the spaces between the graves.
There’s a rose garden on the property where visitors can rest on a memorial bench that reads:
Those who love the desert
Those who have lost a loved one
Those who need a quiet place to think
In memory of:
The pioneers of Twentynine Palms and to those who have followed them to this final resting place…
Remember them for their good deeds and the happy times they made possible
5350 Encelia Dr, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
The 29 Palms Marine Base (officially The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center) is the largest Marine Corps facility in the country. Within the area’s 932 square miles, military training and weapons testing is performed in association with other branches of the Armed Forces. 50,000 marines train at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center every year. The base has nearly 2,000 structures, most located in the community of Mainside, and employs around 28,000 full-time personnel, military and civilian.
History of the Base:
In 1950, with the Cold War and US involvement in the Korean War, the need for large-scale live-fire training grew. Camp Pendleton Base in San Diego looked to the interior high desert for expanded facilities and selected the abandoned Condor Field, a World War II era Army and Navy glider base located in the area now called Mainside. By 1952, the first large-scale, live-fire field exercises were being conducted. The exercises gave Marines an awareness of the facility’s significant potential and foreshadowed the large-scale combined arms exercises (CAXs) for which the base is now known.
In 1976, an expeditionary airfield was added to the base’s rapidly growing infrastructure. The base’s name was changed to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) in 1979. The airfield and surrounding Spartan accommodations for visiting units was nicknamed “Camp Wilson”. It was during this time that plans for the Combined Arms Exercises were conceived. Supplanting an earlier exercise known as Desert Palm Tree, the new CAXs were remarkable in two respects: the practice of combined arms, and live-fire and movement during the exercises were unprecedented in scale. Just as noteworthy was the creation of a Tactical Exercise Control Center with the primary purpose of controlling, instructing and critiquing the exercises.
As of 2000, there were 8,413 people, 912 households, and 904 families residing on the base. The racial makeup of the base is 70.3% White, 19.6% Hispanic or Latino, 10.4% African American, 3.1% Asian, 1.4% Native American, 9.5% from other races, with 5.1% from two or more races. Out of the 912 households, 73.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 94.5% are married couples living together, 3.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 0.8% are non-families. The average family size is 3.4. The median household income is $29,594. Males have a median income of $14,111 versus $17,014 for females. The per capita income for the base is $12,615. 12.1% of the population and 11.9% of families are below the poverty line.
“Mojave Viper” and “Enhanced Mojave Viper”:
Major live fire training for the invasions of and subsequent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are conducted at the 29 Palms Marine Base through a program known as “Mojave Viper”. Initiated in 2005, this training program became the model of pre-“Operation Iraqi Freedom” deployment training. The majority of units in the Marine Corps undergo a month at Mojave Viper before deploying to Iraq or a mixed training venue using the Mountain Warfare Training Center for Afghanistan. In 2009 Mojave Viper added security and stability training programs, known as “Enhanced Mojave Vapor”. The “enhanced” version boosted counterinsurgency operations, such as interactions with civilians and tribal leaders.
Bringing together as many as 5,000 troops at one time in live fire combat exercises, with artillery, tank, and close air support in use for training, the base was unique in creating a sprawling “Combat Town,” the first of several simulated Middle Eastern villages, complete with a mosque, an “IED” Alley,” and other immersive elements and close-quarters combat scenarios in which communication, coordination and maneuvering can be major challenges. As of 2011, these ersatz cities (known as MOUTS — Military Operations in Urban Terrain Training) had grown to roughly the size of central downtown San Diego and cost the government $170 million to construct. It comprises 1,560 structures made of both concrete and modified shipping containers (no two interiors are alike, which adds to the training challenges) and there are seven separate mock urban districts spread out across 274 acres of desert. In addition simulating the stress and chaos of close house-to-house urban combat and street fighting training, Marines are instructed by their trainers (known by 29 Palms troops as “coyotes”) in how to search for escape tunnels, hiding places, weapons caches and other dangerous factors of urban warfare. The facility has networks of underground tunnels, a manmade riverbed, dozens of courtyards and compounds, a fake marketplace, cafes, homes, and shops. In addition to playing the role of enemy combatants, the enactors help create scenarios for training in humanitarian relief efforts, peacekeeping, and police work.
The MOUTs include:
• 7 districts, each providing different challenges
• 38 basements
• 81 spider holes concealed by floor hatches
• 88 multi-story concrete buildings in the city
• 216 faux power poles
• 274 acres of cityscape
• 997 acres total
• 1,250 multi-story cargo-container buildings
• 1,560 buildings in Range 220 (CAMOUT) and Range 630 (Afghani village)
• 1,866 feet of tunnels
• 5,325 feet of chain-link fencing and 9,150 feet of courtyard walls
• 10,705 feet of faux conduit to simulate aboveground power lines
In the past some 1000 role players (many of them Iraqi or Afghan expats or émigrés to the United States fleeing the wars, violence and social upheaval of their home countries, as well as other foreign nationals or naturalized citizens) role-played as Iraqi or Afghan civilians, while current and former US military personnel played the role of insurgents and “enemy combatants”. Beginning in 2013, a process has begun under the leadership of the incoming commander, Brig. Gen. George Smith Jr., to transition to the Marines themselves to take on the roles of indigenous locals during “urban operations”.
In August 2008, The Marine Corps submitted a land withdrawal application to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for appropriating approximately 422,000 contiguous acres (1,710 km^2^). It hopes to expand the base by two-thirds in coming years to allow for larger live-fire exercises with an expeditionary brigade of perhaps 15,000 Marines. Off-road enthusiasts have criticized the proposed move into Johnson Valley, on land controlled by the BLM. Much unexploded ordnance, shrapnel and other hazardous materiel dot the terrain, making unauthorized travel in the training areas dangerous.
The area of Twentynine Palms was settled in 1867 by a band of Chemehuevi, whose descendants formed the Twenty-Nine Palms Band. The reservation now consists of two geographically separate sections, with the main one in Indio and the other in the city of Twenty-Nine Palms. The Twenty-Nine Palms portion of the reservation occupies 402 acres adjacent to the city of Twentynine Palms but their headquarters are based on the reservation in Coachella.
A Chemehuevi Burial Ground in the city of Twentynine Palms was officially established in 1976 when an acre of land containing fifty to sixty graves, one half mile south of the intersection of Highway 62 and Adobe Road in Twentynine Palms, was conveyed to the Twentynine Palms Park and Recreation District by Congress. In 1909, fifty to sixty marked graves were reported on the site, including the grave of Old Jim Boniface, leader of the tribe, who died in 1903 at the age of ninety. Other marked graves included thirteen of fourteen children of Jim and Matilda Pine, possibly victims of smallpox, and Mrs. Waterman (tribal name: Ticup), who was beaten to death by Willie Boy after she threw his rifle and ammunition into a pond. After the Willie Boy incident, the tribe left Twentynine Palms and went to live with the Mission Creek Reservation. The State of California declared the Chemeheuvi Cemetery a Point of Historical Interest by the State of California in 1974.
In 1997, the tribe established the 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians Tribal Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency. The tribe’s EPA manages all environmental protection programs on their reservation, including improving water quality.
In 1995, the Twenty-Nine Palms Band established the Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella, and in 2014 the Twenty-Nine Palms Band established the Tortoise Rock Casino in Twentynine Palms.
*culled from online sources
The 49 Palms Oasis trailhead is about a fifteen-minute drive from Joshua Tree proper. While so close, this area seems so different from Joshua Tree. Off the highway you begin to wind into the desert, you never pass a visitor center or a gate, you ease off the main highway and pretty quickly find yourself at the trailhead. It reminds me how tenuous civilization seems out here. The gas stations, the 29 Palms thrift store, and the “Jelly Donut” advertising date shakes all disappear so quickly.
I usually welcome the sight of other cars at a trailhead. I like to avoid the kind of traffic you find at really popular hikes in the park, but I do love people watching. I got to the trailhead at 8am, in the second week of May even the lizards seemed too hot that early in the morning. Starting my walk on the trail, big, dark chuckwallas gave me lazy looks over their scaly shoulders.
As I was beginning my hike, an older couple was finishing theirs. They were the first dataset in my 49 Palms Oasis hiker algorithm. Their kit was solid; camel backs, extra water, and covered from head to toe. They flawlessly executed trail etiquette, they stepped aside on the narrow path so I could pass, we greeted each other cheerfully, they expressed some good-natured exhaustion and excitement about the beauty of the hike they’d just taken.
Further in, a middle-aged woman passed on her way back to the trailhead. She had a faint European accent, hiking shorts, sunglasses, a hat. She seemed maybe a tad overconfident but well outfitted and prepared.
As the day wore on and got hotter, the hikers starting their walk seemed to get younger and less prepared. The final couple I passed fulfilled the equation. They were headed out, tank tops and shorts, all black, sunglasses but no hats, and one plastic water bottle each. I wished them well. I think I landed somewhere in the middle of all of them. The sun was already searing overhead, it was well before noon, and I was happy to be heading back.
As a person who grew up in and lives in a city, going into the wilderness seems totally separate from my everyday life. It’s easy for me to forget that trails like these are maintained and designed spaces, too. Descriptions of the hike to the 49 Palms Oasis warn you that it’s uphill - both ways. You begin hiking and with moments of rest find that it’s actually true.
The initial vantage is a sprawling view of the town of 29 Palms, neat, regular buildings, grass lawns and desert surroundings. Perceived distance seems almost meaningless here, where the town seems so miniature, so close, and endlessly far away at the same time. So often, on this hike and others, a cursory survey of the landscape reads quickly as desolate. Isolated plants seem a little weak and striving, with belied moments of diversity and abundance. Zooming in to a yucca flower I find a whole world of bees, beetles, and flies covered in pollen, buzzing and working. On the way to the 49 Palms Oasis I had a familiar experience, the bright sun bleached my view, it blended everything into a sandy, muted shade. I stopped to examine some yellowish blossoms and found an island of vitality. A tiny lizard scurried into the shade, stopped, blankly looked back at me, raised up on its hind legs, and nonchalantly gobbled up one of the flowers.
On the trail, as you descend off the highest point, the town disappears and you’re isolated in a little valley, red barrel cactus almost blend in with the other scrubby plants. Once you spot the first one they’re everywhere. At around the halfway point of the hike, for moments you can glimpse the shaggy, miraculously green palm oasis just as soon it slips out of view. Where everything seems alien, the unexpected glimpse is so strange it briefly makes the whole landscape seem mundane.
Once at the oasis, the shade is a revelation. It’s cool, with maybe a little moisture in the air, though thinking back on it that seems like a fantasy. The swaying palms manifest the desert wind in a dreamier way than sand in your food, your own hair in your face, or the wind farm in the San Gorgonio Pass ever could.
Trailhead and parking lot at the end of Fortynine Palms Canyon Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Just south of the 29 Palms Highway, between Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, there’s a three mile round trip hike to an oasis called 49 Palms. Whether there are actually 49 palms is up for debate. Regardless, whatever number of palms constitute the oasis are breathtaking, particularly from a distance, in contrast with the surrounding dry, brown desert. 49 Palms is one of five oases officially recognized as such by Joshua Tree National Park.
The 49 Palms trail is open for day use only. Don’t be deterred by the sign warning of those who have died on the trek. It’s an easy three mile round trip, with a 300-foot ascension each way. As always, bring water, wear sunscreen, and a good sun hat. Keep an eye out for big horned sheep running the ridges along the trail.
At the base of each palm, there are small bluish black pools of water. While they aren’t big enough to swim in, they do lend a gentle, refreshing coolness to the breeze.
Trailhead and parking lot at the end of Fortynine Palms Canyon Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
This is our new favorite spot. Since we moved to Twentynine Palms and have endured many weekends of major house renovations, we’ve found ourselves sometimes eating here several times a week. They have pretty great Mexican street foods, tacos and burritos yes, but also gorditas, tamales, and my favorite: huaraches. This bulky shoe shaped pad of a tortilla is topped with guisado or whatever you want and creamy green sauce which is just so satisfying. They also have a great selection of aguas frescas, cucumber is the best, sprinkled with chia seeds. The folks that own it are also really sweet.
6244 Adobe Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
This little Japanese diner across the street from Jelly Donut is surprisingly good. More izakaya style than sushi bar, I would recommend anything fried or in hot stew form, especially the Japanese curry. It’s tiny and wouldn’t win the cleanest joint in town, but honestly who cares. On the David Lynch movie set spectrum I would give it an 8 of 10.
That octagonal sign prompts a programmed response in most people. But, a somewhat conflicting message can mess with our mind, create a feeling of chaos…. or unleash liberation.
This “stop” sign on the 29 Palms Inn property has a curious story involving a philosophical (and regular) patron, a stop sign installed in the wrong location, the mysterious fading of the sign a few years later and its eventual conversion to a piece of playful - and cosmic - contemplation.
The sign can be found just inside the orange pillar entrance to the 29 Palms Inn.
I was surprised to learn that there are over 35,000 museums in the US. Surprised until I thought not about the Guggenheims or the Smithsonians, but of all the little oddball museums scattered along highways and in rural towns. I recalled a recent visit to the Old Schoolhouse Museum in Twentynine Palms. The Museum is also home to the Twentynine Palms Historical Society. I visited on their open research day, Wednesdays from 9am to 12pm.
They loved that I was there, loved seeing younger people care about history. It’s kind of like a social hour for the retirees in the community. It didn’t seem like anyone was getting anything done. I picked up bits of odd conversations about coin shows, flea market deals, Miss Twentynine Palms pageants, outhouse races, cooking turkey (it was around Thanksgiving) and what seemed to be a very serious dilemma my table neighbor was having as to whether or not she should bake her house neighbor a cake for his birthday… he had after all made a point to tell her that it was coming up soon. Impossible as it was to focus on anything I was reading, I enjoyed the tid bits.
The schoolhouse embodies the resilience and perseverance of early desert settlers. In the summer of 1927, a group of homesteaders drove from Twentynine Palms to the county seat in San Bernadino to ask the county for a school. The request was scoffed at. The superintendent of schools said she had seen it happen all to often in desert communities: homesteaders don’t last more than 2 years. There weren’t very many families in Twentynine Palms at the time, and only a few had children. But, the community agreed, if they weren’t going to get county money, they would build one themselves. And they did. Bill and Elizabeth Campbell gave 5 acres on the corner of their lot for a school, and others pitched in labor and materials. There was no monetary, people gave what and how they could.
The Campbell Ranch is what is now the Roughley Manor Bed and Breakfast. The Campbells were prominent early homesteaders, who amassed a vast collection of Native American artifacts and carefully archived them. Much of their collection is in the Joshua Tree National Park archives (I wonder how the native community here feels about that). I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point after 1944, the schoolhouse - by then a derelict building - was scheduled for demolition. The Twentynine Palms Historical Society intervened, and bought the building for a dollar from the county, then paid $20,000 to move it where it is today, across the street from the Twentynine Palms Inn. The members of the historical society knew what a feat the school had been to build, and couldn’t see it torn down.
I went over with the intention to sift through any information I could on Anna Poste. Anna Poste and her husband (who would eventually become a judge in the area) came out in the 1920s to homestead. She was a creative person, loved to paint. When she got way out to the desert and didn’t have access to paints and brushes, she made them. She used natural local materials for her paints, and used her dog’s hair to make her brushes. I was really curious what she was using to make her paints. I inferred that she was probably using the sludge from polishing stones. The woman who enthusiastically told me all this couldn’t remember how she came upon the information, and no one else in the room knew where it came from either, it was word of mouth as far as I could tell. So it goes with local history. Looking at the range of her palette and wondering how she got all those vibrant colors, and wondering how we’re all imagining her story, how different the proclivities might be, the varying experiential connections to how we each identify with that tale…
What I love about historical societies and small museums is that they are places where informal, stream of consciousness learning can occur. In the last few years I have had a little experience teaching undergraduate students. Although for the most part hard workers, in general they seem to only work towards a right answer. There is a hesitance to spend time doing something that may not lead to “results” or, an A. I see this as a consequence of standardized testing, of middle and high school teachers having to teach towards these kinds of tests rather towards the development of curiosity, innovative problem solving, and enjoyment in the process of trial and error. I wonder how, for the next class I teach, I can develop a project that will require this kind of exploration, and investigation of the local through oddball museums and historical societies, outside of the classroom…
6760 National Park Dr, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
We went to Smith’s Ranch drive-in in Twentynine Palms on a Thursday, but apparently should have gone on a Friday, date night for all the local Marines. We got to the drive-in early to get a good spot. If you have a truck (we don’t) bring cushions to make a big outdoor sofa.
We are both from England and the drive-in was quite a novelty!
4584 Adobe Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
If you go through the main populous of 29 Palms, a little further, then south to Baseline Road you’ll find a clump of scrap yards. Views of rust covered and gutted Studebakers are free, and parts for 70’s hot rods and random current junkers are cheap. While scrap yards are not uncommon, the desert backdrop magnifies the bizarre nature of the gathered wreckage.
Desert Storm Homecoming & Victory Parade by Chuck Caplinger, 1995,
Desert Cycle Works, 6177 Adobe Road.
The Oasis of Murals in Twentynine Palms was started in 1994 by a local Merchants Committee which then in 1995 evolved into the non-profit Action Council for 29 Palms Inc.
B y 2014 they had commissioned 26 out-door murals that illustrate the history, flora and fauna of Twentynine Palms and the neighboring Joshua Tree National Park. The murals have helped to spawn a renaissance in the community, creating new art events and art venues, attracting tourists and restoring a sense of community price.
Mural Brochures and the Oasis of Murals book are available at the Twentynine Palms Visitor Center and Art Gallery, and at the Chamber of Commerce.
We started out our evening with Thai Food from Thai Cafe in 29 Palms. Pad See Ew, Massaman Curry, and gigantic plastic water glasses. Chris Veit, Lisa Sitko and Douglas Amour and their friend were sitting at the adjacent table. Chris said that Thai Cafe was one of his favorite places in 29 - so we felt like we had chosen well. After dinner we thought we were too tired from eating curry but Katy said, “lets just go for 30 minutes.” It’s easy to find the Casino - it’s on the north side of Hwy. 62 back up against the hills. Don’t look at a map - just look for the ultra bright halogen parking lot lights. Follow those. The casino has a classy parking lot with several Tesla charging stations and is landscaped with palo verde trees and terraced parking tiers. Only about a quarter of the spots were full - but it was a Monday night. We debated the quality of the tortoise rock logo - one in favor and one not. Oddly I (AZ) was the one in favor. There was also a huge valet drive through parking area at the entrance which made it feel like we were about to enter something the size of a Costco - but instead the interior of the casino was surprisingly small. For the most part it was filled with a plethora of slot machines in every style and theme. Because the slot machines were electronic you could load in a dollar bill and play penny slots, nickel slots (our choice), or random higher amounts that seemed a bit more dangerous. I spent $2 and won $8 - and finished leaving satisfied that I was $6 ahead. Katy spent $5 and won $5. The slot machines dispense tickets with the winning amount and you have a choice between going to the cashier for a human interaction or using an ATM-like cash dispenser. If you are a card player the casino has card tables for Texas Hold’em Poker and Black Jack. Minimum bids are $5, $10 and $15. There is also a Spanish language table, as well as a virtual poker table with an animated dealer on a flat screen TV.
The rear of the casino has a generous area sectioned off for a bar that Katy describes as comedically sleek. There is a restaurant that is sort of a snack bar with hot dogs and a veggie wrap and a self-serve soda station. Last but not least there is a gift counter with a selection of different colored polo shirts with the tortoise rock logo, cigarettes, and sunglasses. Also the one other significant factor is that because the casino is on native land and outside of California jurisdiction, smoking is allowed - so it’s smoky inside. Maybe not as smoky as a techno bar in Berlin in the 1990s - but for some the smoke may be a factor. There is one small bank of slot machines that are labeled “non-smoking” but the air quality doesn’t seem any different in this area. The Casino is open 24 hours.
73829 Baseline Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277