Since 2002, High Desert Test Sites—cofounded by Andrea Zittel, Andy Stillpass, John Connelly, Shaun Regen and Lisa Anne Auerbach—has hosted the work of more than 450 artists, 11 expansive site-specific programs, and 25 solo projects. Long directed by Andrea Zittel, HDTS leadership was recently handed over to Vanesa Zendejas, Zittel’s longtime administrator and program manager. HDTS has been a registered 501c3 nonprofit since 2013.
High Desert Test Sites is a nonprofit arts institution that supports and stewards experimental artwork in the Joshua Tree region. We support programs that intersect contemporary art with everyday life, creating intimate exchanges between individuals, artworks, landscape, and community, challenging art to be relevant both to a region and beyond.
Who We Are
PO Box 1058
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Office hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-5pm PST
Vanesa Zendejas - Executive Director, email@example.com
Elena Yu - Assistant Director of Programming and Communications, 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
Elena Yu, Emily Endo, Emma Palm, Sydney Foreman and rotating A-Z West Work Trade Residents. Thanks to Elizabeth Carr and Zena Carr at the Sky Village Swap Meet! RIP Bob Carr.
WEBSITE AND DESIGN
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
David Knaus - Chair
Andrea Zittel - Director Emeritus/Treasurer
Brooke Hodge - Secretary
Aram Moshayedi - Member
Marilyn Loesberg - Member
Susan Lubeznik - 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 zero budget. The idea was to support artistic visions in practical terms—provide tools, help, a cot, guidance, 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 including our Artist Painted Rock Auction, Gem/Mineral Expo, pop-ups at art fairs and art museums, and producing limited edition prints for sale.
But these endeavors never quite add up to what we need—to pay our artists fairly, to pay for venue rentals, for staff, to feed our volunteers, pay for all-terrain forklift rentals, liability insurance, the bookkeeper, 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
Although many past HDTS projects have only been temporarily sited, 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. Our 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 new base of operations, A-Z West is Andrea’s lifelong project, where she lived and worked for 20 years before handing the keys to HDTS in 2022. Located a few minutes outside downtown Joshua Tree, this 85-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 every 2 weeks, alternating between 1-hour outdoor only tours, and 2-hour tours that include most interiors. Tickets for these tours can be purchased through the West Works store. All funds raised from tour ticket sales supports HDTS programming and general operating expenses.
HDTS office hours at A-Z West are Tuesday through Thursday from 10 am–5 pm. Our office is not open to the public but by appointment only. Please email Sydney if you are interested in making an appointment.
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 in the rocks on this 10 acre boulder strewn parcel adjacent to A-Z West are several works that may take a few hours of 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 100-acre parcel in the beautiful boulder and Joshua Tree-strewn wilderness north of Pioneertown off of Pipes Canyon Rd. Several works are permanently 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.
Purchased from a tax sale back in the early aughts, this 40 acre site is surrounded by BLM land. Located at the most eastern edge of Wonder Valley, in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness area, this site is a commitment to get out to, and feels like the end of the California high desert before being clearly on the way to Arizona. This flat, sandy, washy land 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 a little in order to find. Also accessible from sunup to sundown, 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.)
HQ at Sky Village Swap Meet
The HDTS HQ is a visitor’s center and creative hub where artists, craftsmen, visionaries, and friends engage with the high desert community through creative projects and performances. You can pick up a copy of our driving map to HDTS projects and other local sites of interest at the HQ every Saturday from 9 am–12 pm (closed July-August)—and please check our Instagram page regularly to see what special events we have on the calendar. More on the HDTS HQ here.
Directions: 7028 Theater Road (just off Hwy 247, right behind Barr Lumber), Yucca Valley, CA 92286; 760-365-2104
One of our favorite community partners is Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center, where we’ve hosted many past HDTS programs and events. CMMCC is located in North Joshua Tree, about 15 minutes north of A-Z West. On the property is an old firehouse that served the neighborhood in the 80s, and now HDTS rents for community programs, public exhibitions and events. Currently HDTS is working on siting our Desert Research Library at the Firehouse Outpost and later opening this resource to the public. Stay tuned for project updates!
The Firehouse Outpost is currently open to the public only during public events. Please email Elena if you have questions about the space or are interested in Firehouse Outpost programming.
Directions: 65336 Winters Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252; Driving west on Hwy 62 into downtown Joshua Tree, pass Park and make a left on Sunburst. Right on Golden, left on Border, past Aberdeen and make a right on Winters. Take Winters past where it turns to dirt road, CMMCC is on the left.
Wonder Valley is the large open area just east of Twentynine Palms — there is no center “town” in Wonder Valley, but rather a scattering of homestead cabins that that extend about twenty miles out into the desert. Two parallel highways traverse the valley, one on the north side, Amboy Road (which eventually turns north toward Death Valley and Las Vegas), and one on the south side, Highway 62 (which you would take if you wanted to go straight to Arizona or the Colorado River). The heart of Wonder Valley, both literally and figuratively is a roadhouse restaurant bar run by the Sibley family called The Palms. Wonder Valley is home to an extremely diverse population and is the best location in the Morongo Basin for those who want solitude and wide-open spaces.
(excerpt from A Phenomenology of Place Idenentity for Wonder Valley, California: Homstead, Dystopics, and Utopics, PhD thesis, Kansas State University, 2010)
Sprawling over 180 square miles of California’s Mojave Desert, Wonder Valley was founded in the early 1950s and today is an unincorporated rural community of approximately 1,000 residents located east of Twentynine Palms. Set in a desert valley between the Pinto and Bullion Mountains, the community’s landscape is expansive and unsettling, featuring a chaotic assortment of residences that include abandoned homesteads, squatter settlements, artists’ studios, middle-class cabins, and luxury vacation properties. There are three distinct Wonder Valley identities—-homesteaders, dystopics, and utopics. Arriving in the 1950s, homesteaders were Wonder Valley’s first inhabitants and express a practical connection to the landscape that is interpreted in terms of environmental reach, specifically, the creation, maintenance, and extension of environmental and place order. During the 1970s, many homesteaders abandoned Wonder Valley, dystopics arrived and today include two subgroups: first, a criminal element pulled to Wonder Valley because of its local isolation but regional proximity to Los Angeles; and, second, destitute squatters pushed out from other communities and having nowhere else to go. The third group identified is utopics, primarily artists from Los Angeles and San Francisco, who arrived in the early 1990s, attracted by Wonder Valley’s natural beauty and sacred ambience. These three groups arrived at different times, for different reasons, to create vastly different landscapes, to engage in opposing aims and activities. Thus Wonder Valley’s meaning as a place varies greatly depending on the resident or identifying cohort. These differences in meaning are most directly expressed in the common areas of public land, which have often become sites of inter-group tension and conflict, particularly in regard to abandoned homesteads and the use of off-road vehicles. To interpret this group conflict conceptually, I borrowed a word used to describe a phenomenon present in the natural world: “ecotone,” - literally an environment in tension. The term is used to describe “a region of transition between two biological communities.” For example, a beach is an ecotone in that it is a transition zone between the sea and the land. As I explored Wonder Valley, met with its diverse inhabitants and reflected on its essential nature, I found that the idea of overlapping identity groups was analogous to the phenomenon of an ecotone. The contrasting landscapes, activities, experiences, and contradictory meanings of Wonder Valley’s three identity groups create a type of existential ecotone—-or a significant overlapping of different modes of human experience. In Wonder Valley, there is an obvious overlapping of radically different worlds that is relatively unique in the United States, in that they usually do not occupy or claim the same space at the same time.
(excerpt from the 2015 Institute of Investigative Living reader)
The “Homestead Acts”:
The “Homestead Acts” were several different US laws that gave applicants 160 acres of land, typically called a “homestead”, for little or no cost. They were originally passed as an expression of the Northerners “Free Soil Party” which wanted individual farmers to own and operate their own farms, instead of Southern slave-owners who used groups of slaves to their economic advantage.
The “yeoman farmer”, an ideal of Jeffersonian democracy, was a powerful influence in American politics during the 1840—1850s. Many politicians believed the Homestead Acts would help increase the number of “virtuous yeomen”. The Free Soil Party demanded that new lands opening up in the west be made available to independent farmers, rather than wealthy planters who would develop it with the use of slaves forcing the yeomen farmers onto marginal lands. Southern Democrats continually fought (and defeated) previous homestead law proposals, fearing that free land would attract European immigrants and poor Southern whites to the West. The Homestead Acts required a three-step procedure: 1. File an application 2. Live on and improve the land for five years 3. File for deed of title.
Between 1862 and 1934, the federal government granted a total of 10% of all land in the United States. Homesteading was discontinued in 1976, except in Alaska, where it continued until 1986. About 40% of the applicants who started the process were able to complete it and obtain title to their homesteaded land.
The “Baby” Homestead Act:
The earliest known homesteader in Joshua Tree filed on a site in the Fall of 1911. The land in the desert was impossible to farm — and in 1938 during the height of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt passed the Small-Tract or “baby” Homestead Act — so instead of 160 acres, people were allowed to acquire a 5-acre parcel of land through the “improvement” of building a small structure on non-agricultural sites. Originally this required a 200 square foot cabin, but later this size was increased to 400 square feet. Some of the first homesteaders were World War I Servicemen who wanted to move out to the desert for health reasons (apparently the gases used in warfare had damaged their lungs, and the dry desert climate was easier for them to tolerate than more humid climates).
San Bernardino County was enthusiastic about “getting lands on the tax rolls”, and was not concerned about infrastructure (roads, water, power, schools) to support such development. Because of this, dirt roads are not part of the county maintained road system so the property owners pay for maintenance. Much of the original grid-work of desert roads is now melting back into the desert.
The “baby” Homestead Act boom reached its peak after World War II when thousands of claims were filed in the Morongo Basin, sometimes sight-unseen in unbuildable washes or rock piles. Local companies such as Homestead Supplies grew by serving the “Five Acre People”, developing the quick-rising “jackrabbit” cabin models that could be put up almost overnight to help meet the requirements for proving up a claim. The boom petered out and homesteading came to an end by 1976. Today, the 5-acre homesteads, decaying, rehabilitated or acting as ruined catalysts for new forms of off-the-grid living have become the basis of a special “edge-culture” built upon a combination of resourcefulness, creativity, lack of traditional infrastructure, determination, and diversity that is increasingly rare in the monotonous suburban landscapes of California.
The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery is named for its latrine, a fully functional flush toilet in an outhouse built with two-way mirrors. The two-way mirror walls allow the user to look out upon the vast desert landscape in every direction while those waiting their turn see only their own reflection in the landscape. This glorious oasis of modern comforts is open for visitors to the art gallery and outdoor sculpture park located in Twentynine Palms.
The owner, Laurel Sidle, exercises a non-discriminatory first come first serve gallery booking process. She claims that the inspiration came from her own struggles to find places to show her artwork. She wanted a gallery that gave everyone a chance. After her husband passed away, she converted the former barn they used to raise and sell rabbits into the white walled gallery with three large rooms and track lighting. Two of the rooms feature solo exhibitions and the third hosts group shows. Laurel does not preview the artworks prior to booking the exhibition. If someone is interested in showing she’ll put them on the schedule. The artists are responsible for hanging their work, sitting some of the open gallery hours, and providing refreshments for the opening reception. Exhibitions are up for one month with openings that feature live music on the first Saturday of the month. Artists have the option to keep the full payment for any works sold or to donate a percentage to help with general operating costs of the gallery.
Rows of solar powered bobble heads at the front desk introduce the whimsical treasures installed along a trail that meanders away from the gallery, around Laurels house , and to a storyland sized Chapel. With humorous installations of skeletons using exercise equipment, oversized scorpions, and a cowboy armadillo bandit holding up a frog and rabbit, the place feels like a desert fun house or a loony Terminator-themed miniature golf course.
The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery opened its doors in 2009 and as of April 2015 is booked through 2017. When we visited, Laurel was sitting the gallery herself because one of the artists whose work was on display is a truck driver and had to be on the road. She says that she loves the time she gets to spend with the exhibited artworks.
77575 Twentynine Palms Hwy, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
My face almost touches the wall as I squat over the toilet and attempt to keep my purse and long black dress from falling in. At that distance, I spot some areas where the greyish film that’s creating the one-way mirror effect does not quite reach the edge. I quickly dismiss questions that bubble up about how these gaps might compromise my privacy and refocus on the rest of the experience, which is quite cool. The blended image of the desert, the glass mosaic on the gallery building, and my partial reflection create a compelling three-dimensional collage.
Once outside, a jolly couple sitting in plastic chairs, presumably the owners, offers me a cold drink from the fridge to enjoy while exploring the grounds. I pass a metal rooster and chicken coop, a maze of liquor bottles lined up and shoved upside-down into the sand, and a flower pot figure with a cartoonish heart-shaped mouth and long eyelashes. I mistakenly interpret the assortment of odd objects as random, and then realize that most are playful nods to the perils of the desert. I encounter body parts mostly submerged in quick sand, skeletons pumping iron and riding stationary bikes, and stitched black cowboy boots jutting out of a sand with an ornate cross and black lace fan marking the grave. The humor, loose staging, and inclusive nature of this eclectic and carefree collection are a welcome treat in contrast to the tightly curated art spaces I am used to.
77575 Twentynine Palms Hwy, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Do not drive on Iron Age Road unless you have experience driving on soft sand, have a truck, have your wits about you, or know a towing company. Lots of bad things happened to us on Iron Age Road. We got out of the car to look at something and the battery died. We sent our pin to a local JT’er and friend of A-Z West, Rachel Burgos, who came to rescue us and jump start our battery. Then our phones died. Then her dog Banshee ran away and it was getting dark. With our car jumped, we were ready to leave the area but encountered a large sand pit, where we got severely stuck. Rachel came to check on us again once she found Banshee a few hours later, found us stuck, helped to call a towing company, and had to go around the back way to escape Iron Age Road herself, only to get deeper in. The whole encounter on Iron Age Road lasted over 6 hours. Beautiful sunset, though.
The HDTS Ironage Road parcel is a 40 acre site out at the most eastern edge of Wonder Valley in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness area. Ironage Road is the dirt road that connects Hwy 62 and Amboy Road (so you can reach it using either access road)
The area is publicly accessible to anyone willing to risk the perilous roads to get there. It has been reported that Iron Age may reopen again to further extract ore from the large tailings, but as of 2018 nothing has changed. Access could be restricted at any time.
I was introduced to this site by some older folks who are familiar with the area and took me with them on an expedition to collect magnetite. Impressed with the large exposed road cuts and fractured surfaces found in the mine I returned to attempt to reproduce molds of the disturbed rock face. I spent five days traveling in and out of this site to complete the work.
Be warned, these are unmaintained roads of the poorest condition. A good part is not road at all, just sandy wash. I had no phone service after about a mile from CA-62. You need a good 4WD vehicle and some combination of stupidity, bravery and common sense. I had a tire blow out by driving too fast with crappy tires over an obviously sharp and pointy rock! Luckily I was not alone on that occasion and we had a second car to drive out and get a new tire. Caravaning is definitely recommended. Drive slow and easy, enjoy the view… but keep your eyes on the road!
Snowflake is the smaller of the two mines and the easiest to reach, just 4 mi. South of CA-62. To get there from 29 Palms take CA-62 East to the Iron Age Rd turnout. Pulling South on this road you will immediately find a fork. Take the left fork, you will see a clear road marker numbered JT-1953. On the right is a memorial bench dedicated to a local women who was murdered in 2016. After a mile of rough terrain and a sand pit you will find another fork. Take the right fork for another 2.5 mi and you will reach the entrance to Snowflake. There are large piles of tailings here, and a wide graded road that leads East. Park right near the rim to explore, the hike down is less than 5 minutes.
Iron ore in the form of magnetite is littered everywhere here. You can spot it easily by it’s rusty black color and noticeable weight. If in doubt try a magnet, it will stick! Also abundant is magnetite sand, which is fun. You can spot it as a darker sand atop flat or washy ground. Put a magnet to the sand and the grains will pull right up. There are also many rocks with thin quartz or calcite crystals growing on them like icing on cake.
Iron Age Mine
To continue to the larger Iron Age mine get on the wide graded road that leads East. It’s flat and straight for about a mile and then things get rough. You’ll abruptly be dumped into a sandy wash where you turn South into the mountain. The original Iron Age Rd. followed this wash and appears to have been built up from tailings and gravel. Most of this has been heavily eroded and is totally unusable. Early in you will find a bit of original road on the right that is driveable if you can get up on it. After ¼ mi you’re back in the wash for another 2 miles.
This washy route will overshoot the old mine entrance and allow you to circle back around on a better maintained road. After several twists and turns the wash becomes wide and flat again, heading straight south into the Pinto mountains. A maintained road will be visible immediately on your right, heading West. There is a marker here numbered JT-1959. It’s narrow at first, watch out for brush and thorns that will scrape your car. One last tricky turn and you will be up on solid ground, a hard packed gravel road that follows the back of the hills behind the mine. Follow JT-1956 about 1.5 mi. until you come to the junction of JT-1957. At this point facing North you will already see the huge piles of tailings from the Iron Age pit and the tops of the stripped mountain.
From here you can begin exploring right away by scrambling up the pile of tailings closest to the road. You’ll find lots of interesting old junk here that looks untouched since the 1960s. Tractor tires, cans, bottles, bottle caps, bullet shells, etc. My sister got really excited about a pile of old Pepsi bottle caps. I’m sure there is much more that we didn’t find. Many crystal encrusted rocks and other interesting minerals. If you walk across the flat top of tailings you’ll find the gated entrance to the mine.
If you wish to drive closer first take a right on JT-1957 and follow it as it curves down towards a small field below the tailings. You’ll see an old truck cab riddled with bullet holes. Park and hike up the dirt trail to the gated entrance, which is wide open. Down in the bottom of the mine you’ll find a rusted out Honda motorcycle still parked upright on its kickstand. Lower there’s the cab of what must have been a very large Good Year tire truck, the logo still partly visible on the door. Other than that it’s basically a big ugly hole in the ground, the benefit of which is access to (geologically) recently exposed rock. And of course there is magnetite rock and sand here of every shape and size.
There are multiple roads in and out of this area, and a slightly faster way to make the trip if you are not visiting Snowflake Mine. Return the way you came on JT-1956 and through the sandy wash until you return to the junction that leads to Snowflake (The wide graded road). Continue in the sand until you come to a fork. Left twill take you the long way out on the original Iron Age Rd. Right is a shorter route, rocky and sandy, but less perilous than where you have been. It will shave 1.5 mi off your trip and terminates at CA-62 with a stop sign of all things! Naturally you can also come in this way directly if you wish to go straight to Iron Age Mine.
(excerpt from the 2015 Institute of Investigative Living reader)
My friend Kip and I have been trying to piece together the history of a bar way out in the middle of Wonder Valley called The Palms. The bar is run by Mary Sibley and her two adult children Laura and James. Laura and James are also in a band called “The Sibleys” — Laura plays guitar and sings, James plays drums, and Laura’s ex-partner Thom Merrick plays bass. They are sort of the mascots of Wonder Valley. The Palms is pretty much ground zero out there — you can buy all sorts of things at the bar like motor oil, used clothes, boots, and books. I asked Kip what he remembers of their story and he wrote back:
“I don’t think that I have a complete time line on the history of the Palms, but I’m working on it. The Genesis of the story starts with Laura having a dream about her family owning a restaurant, back when they lived in Venice. If I have learned one thing about Laura Sibley, it’s that when she has a dream about something, it’s as good as manifested. Another interesting story is the history of how Laura learned to shred on the guitar. Turns out they were living near Pioneertown, when she was 14, and Laura would ride her horse to Pappy and Harriet’s where one of the bands that played there took her under their wing and showed her the basics. Can you imagine riding to your music lessons at a biker bar, on a horse, with a guitar on your back? That’s way cool. I assume soon after that, when Laura was 15, one of Mary’s friends told them about the burned out shell of a roadhouse in Wonder Valley. They scrounged up all their money, and then some, and bought the place and set out to rebuild the kitchen that had been destroyed by fire. That’s when they were living on the stage, and then the bus, from what I gather. This transpired 15 years ago, and now they have a house, the bookstore and 7 weekend rental properties (each with a hot tub) that have been keeping them running ragged this spring. One of the rentals is getting a 400 square foot addition. Currently, Mary lives in the house, Laura lives in the converted RV garage (with 10,000 books stacked from floor to ceiling) and James lives in whichever rental house is vacant or needs work. I have been soaking up stories and pearls of wisdom from Mary and the “Wonderites” at the bar which I’ll be more than happy to share with you when we catch up.”
83131 Amboy Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
The Palms is the only business to be found for miles in Wonder Valley, east of Twentynine Palms, off of Amboy Road. On Thursdays from 3pm-6pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 3pm-8pm, stop by the bar and grab a two-dollar beer, a five-dollar whiskey, or any variety of hostess cupcake products. If your timing is right, you’re in for an epic desert sunset that paints the entire bowl of sky above.
On Sundays The Palms is open from 9am-6pm. Get there early to order their homemade waffles shaped like the Death Star of Star Wars, any combination of eggs, breakfast meats, and two-dollar Bloody Mary’s. If the staff can tell it’s your first time, they might remind you that you’re in the desert, where things move a bit more slowly. They might ask if you’re willing to wait quite some time. The only reasonable answer is, YES.
While you wait, enjoy the random assortment of old school chairs, the chandeliers hanging from the trees, the out-of-tune piano, and the mannequin with a cat mask for a head.
The Palms is owned and operated by the Sibley siblings, Laura and James, and the bar is often tended by their mother Mary. It is certainly a desert institution.
83131 Amboy Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
The Palms owners, the Sibley siblings, also make music and perform in their Mother’s quirky rock/folk act, The Sibleys.
On occasional Saturday evenings, The Sibleys take stage at their very own Palms. Laura and James both sing while Laura plays guitar and James plays drums. Their mother Mary writes the lyrics, which adds yet another level of familial charm as the siblings sing their mother’s words in their family restaurant and bar in the middle of nowhere. Watching them perform feels a lot like being let in on a family secret that might feel somewhat like your own family secrets, but louder. Take a few of the lyrics from their song “It’s Your Family,’ for example:
It’s your family and we’re coming to see you/we’re calling ahead just like you asked us to/I know you won’t answer the phone/but you’re probably home… quick quick hide the cats cause you know we like to play with guns we’ll have such a good time/maybe we can borrow some money if you have any/ we’ll have such a good time we know you like nobody else does
The Sibleys have released two full-length albums, both recorded live at The Palms. CD’s can be purchased at The Palms, and streamed at, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8Kcz_rxD5G4BmcWpHNMhjw/playlists?shelf_id=3579731707244514300&view=50&sort=dd