The drive from Indio isn't that bad at around 2/2.5 hours to Newport Beach, but in that time you notice significant changes. The interstate gains several lanes, the commuter traffic snowballs, and concentrations of overpasses start to resemble bowls of spaghetti. The arid desert also transitions into the humid coastal climate, which in turn affects the types, colors, and amounts of vegetation you see everywhere. Not to mention that when you reach Newport Beach, everything is relatively on the up and up and designed to appeal to a more selective income bracket - although to be fair, the beach itself is a mish-mash of everyone and everything in between.
The first thing Dave and I did upon arrival is make our way through the narrow streets between the miniature (but clearly expensive) beach front homes to get to the Newport Pier. My motivation for making the drive out to the beach after all was to grab a bite to eat in the restaurant at the end of the pier. In 2004 I had previously come to Newport Beach on vacation and regretted not getting the chance to do this.
Sitting upstairs in a cubby with the stairs behind us and a huge bank of windows stretching out in front of us, we marked the occasion with a couple of beers and wings (Dave got something else but I can't remember what). It was nothing fancy, but with a view like that it didn't need to be. From our perch on the pier we could see all the way down the beach, straight down the pier, out into the open ocean, and could even see Santa Catalina Island on the horizon.
Like I mentioned in the Indio Outio: Introduction, this was a moment of awe and euphoria - not simply because of the scale and ambiance that the ocean was providing, but because it had only been 4 days and we'd already seen so much. It also had a lot to do with recognizing the difference between just flying somewhere and experiencing the distance by driving. It was tough not to appreciate just what it took to get here. Memories of being in this same spot 5 years prior only emphasized the novelty of the entire road trip.
We spent the afternoon sitting around the beach, getting our feet wet in the ocean, checking out the surf shops (picking up some new sunglasses), and generally just filled the time as casually as we could.
It was around 4pm by the time we decided to head out to Palm Springs for the evening, which for the record is the perfect time (almost anywhere really) to experience the local rush hour traffic. L.A. certainly puts the competition to shame. Thank goodness for carpool lanes.