“This is hard.”
James looks up at me from across the net he’s splayed yet another ball into. I feel relieved I’m not the only one struggling with timing after a 13 hour plane ride and an abrupt change from winter to a steaming summer. My leg muscles feel as if they have contracted up into my torso and all I’m left with is skin and bone that refuses to move. Usually this kind of terrible play would stress me out, but it’s hard to lose my temper considering the scenery I keep losing myself in. The ball flies into the air against a backdrop of mountains, blue skies and palm trees. I’ve seen it all on the television in March when Indian Wells hosts arguably the fifth biggest tournament in the world, but even the latest HD set couldn’t do justice to the rich beauty of Palm Springs.
We chose Palm Springs as out first stop on our three month journey through the States simply for the tennis courts. Little did we know how much more there was to do in the place that arises unexpectedly out of the dry dessert. The following day we head to Mt San Jacinto State Park, where the cooler temperatures and pine trees await at the top of an impressive rotating aerial tram, (the announcer tells us the cables may be made in Switzerland but the towers are all-American). We spend the day strolling around the forest that is surprisingly peaceful. Only the occasional fellow tourist disturbs our peace as we sit gazing over Palm Springs and marveling that all the complaining about our jobs, all the shoddy home-cooked meals, and the all the latest fashions I didn’t buy, were worth it. Were easily worth it. For Palm Springs is nothing short of beautiful.
We hit the courts later that night and are rewarded with a return to form. We are lucky enough to meet Adam, who offers to show us around the tennis centre the following day. The tennis centre is as glamorous as the city that surrounds it, and Adam proudly states that the centre court is the second largest tennis stadium in the USA, (bigger is always better in America). But if Arthur Ashe lacks the feel of smaller stadiums, you get the impression Indian Wells would have no problem with atmosphere. And as he points out the champions locker room and massage chairs for media, it’s not hard to conclude that things look pretty good behind the scenes as well. Except for the practise court booking desk. “If you want to see the Radwanska sisters yelling at someone, this is the place to be,” he laughs. We finish the tour and promise ourselves that we will make it to the tournament one day.
We spend our final day at Joshua Tree National Park, a landscape like nothing I’ve seen before. Gnarled trees stretch in all directions and cacti that fade from green to black dare us reach out and touch. Rocks like forgotten Lego are jumbled in all manners; one bolder sits perfectly upon another, resembling a sitting human. It isn’t hard to find forms in the boulders; the shape of a dinosaur, a giant’s nose. We read up on how the strange rocks have been formed, but for once it is easier to believe in an immortal being than the science behind it. What else could have formed such strange scenery than a young God, playing with Earth’s toys?
We head to Arizona tomorrow but we’re not overjoyed to be leaving the comfortable Palm Springs. We have a feeling it’ll be hard to top the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. We will have to sneak in one more hit before we go.