This week my family took a trip to the George Patton Museum at Chiriaco Summit (off Interstate 10) with my father to celebrate his 91st birthday. Back when he was 20, Dad fought in World War II under General Patton in the 3rd Army Division.
All my life, my father shared memories of his service, instilling in us a familial patriotism. He always joked that it was very much like the government to send a warm-blooded desert rat to train for Army duty at Pike’s Peak in Colorado with a base camp at 8,000 feet.
Meanwhile, Patton was surveying our desert and proclaiming it was the best place to train the G.I.’s to fight Rommel in Africa. He took 18,000 acres across three states, Arizona, California, and Nevada, and turned the land into dozens of training bases. Eventually, 1 million American soldiers were trained in harsh, hot, conditions sans electricity or running water.
The museum was interesting, especially for my father as he nostalgically surveyed all the tools and weapons he had carried and used seventy years earlier. The museum is built at Patton’s old main base, called Young Camp. Together, we sat and watched a documentary on Patton. Despite his flaws, he cared about his troops and was a brilliant military leader.
My father had initially been trained to drive pack mules through the high, rough terrain in Colorado carrying artillery. But after a year, the Army admitted the mules were not going to work. The beasts were sent to do their duty in Burma, while my father and the rest of his human team left the mountains of Colorado and flew to France to join Patton in his march across Europe fighting Nazis.
Walking through one exhibit, my Dad pointed to a topographical map and remarked, “That’s how I fought the war, with binoculars, a radio, and a field map.” His job included listening to intel on enemy positions, plotting the coordinates, and then directing the field artillery on where to fire.
Surrounding Patton’s museum are myriads of tanks, ambulances, and other robust vehicles and machinery used to fight past wars. We didn’t take a lot of time looking at war machines, but we did see a lot.
After our tour of the museum and remaining in the spirit of my father’s war memories, we decided to visit an authentic French restaurant in La Quinta called La Brasserie Bistro & Bar. We were surprised and pleased to learn the beautiful eatery is owned by a valley native and her husband,Emmanuel and Kara Janin.
Kara is the daughter of Richard and Karin Ashurst of Westmorland. We hadn’t made the connection at the time, even when the dessert we ordered was a tasty cheese plate that came with a dollop of honey still ensconced in the honeycomb. We commented to our French native waitress on how delicious the honey was, and she responded that the owners have connections to the beekeepers.
It wasn’t until driving home that social media helped us solidify the connection. My daughter had taken a photo of the escargot appetizer (her first time tasting it) and before the drive was over, she had been informed of the Valley connection.
Once educated, we stopped at the Ashurst Bee Company in Westmorland and bought two jars of honey with the honeycomb, plus bee balm for the lips.
The Valley is full of good people, whether producing a World War II soldier who helped defeat the Nazi’s, or a native girl who marries a French chef and opens a restaurant in La Quinta that wins Best French Restaurant for the greater Palm Springs area.
Viva la France!