PHOTO BY JENNIFER EMERLING
While the Instagram-ready hordes descend on Indio this month for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Hemispheres instead suggests an alternate, decidedly old-school rock ’n’ roll pilgrimage into the Southern California Desert. Joshua Tree National Park is deeply embedded in rock lore, thanks to U2’s landmark 1987 album, The Joshua Tree, and, even before that, to the father of “Cosmic American Music,” Gram Parsons.
Take State Route 62 from Palm Springs to the park, passing gnarled Joshua trees and mountains that look like they were haphazardly stacked by careless giants. Your destination is Cap Rock, a single boulder that’s tilted jauntily atop a giant hunk of monzogranite, sort of like a cowboy hat tipped to say “howdy.” There’s no monument to Parsons here, but this is where his road manager, Phil Kaufman, cremated the country rock pioneer’s body (fulfilling Parsons’ wishes) after he died in 1973, at age 26.
Cue up “Return of the Grievous Angel” on your stereo and cruise back out to the highway and the Joshua Tree Inn, the roadside motel where Parsons passed. The inn, which has since hosted everyone from Robert Plant to Kacey Musgraves, is decorated with Parsons memorabilia and has a guitar-shaped shrine in the courtyard. As you drive back toward Palm Springs, try to resist the urge to air-guitar—hands on the wheel!—while you sing, “20,000 roads I went down, down, down/And they all led me straight back home to you.”
2019 BMW M5
Few vehicles that have ever touched rubber to road can match the 2019 BMW M5’s combination of performance and luxury. Just flick the gas with your toe, and this monster will be loudly, quickly chewing its way across California’s highways, thanks to a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that puts out 617 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. But for a more relaxing ride through the San Bernardino Mountains, put the suspension and steering into Com- fort mode, sink into your 20-way power Merino leather seat, and find Sweetheart of the Rodeo in the iDrive 6.0 interface, satisfied that you’re driving a devil in disguise.
Starting at $102,700, bmwusa.com
BMW Performance Center West
You don’t need to be a music geek for the Inland Empire to be a draw. The Thermal Club motorsport facility, about 45 minutes east of Palm Springs, is a gearhead oasis, especially for those who take a course at the BMW Performance Center West. For a heart-racing experience, opt for the M School, which allows you to rip around the track in various cars—Hemispheres tried an M2, an M550i, and an X5 M— before taking timed laps in a souped-up M3. And if you want to see what an M3 can really do, get your instructor to take you on a hot lap. You’ll never look at seat belts the same way again.
One-Day M School, $1,550, bmwperformancecenter.com