By Ray Seidel and Geri Cidot.
Just east of Indio, California, is the Patton Museum where Patton trained over a million soldiers during WWII (1942-1944). In fact, the actual training area was 18,000 square miles which included California, Nevada, and Arizona. While I still have the Indian FTR 1200 S, (review December 2019 issue) I thought I’d take it out for a day ride to the museum.
Since I wrote my review of the Indian (now having the bike for five months), I’ve learned more about its personality, which was all for the good. One thing I hadn’t noticed before is that the dash gives you a weather report on the 1200 S version. If it says “RAIN” I’ll skip the hydroplaning on two wheels. I had the opportunity to use the high beams, which I learned were operated by a flip outward on a toggle switch. Great lighting on dark back roads.
My route would be from Temecula in the Inland Empire through the twisty roads of Hwy 79 out of town, and onto Cahuilla Road (CA 371), right onto the 74 to Fred Waring Drive city traffic near Indio, then exit north for Interstate traffic on the I-10 eastbound. That’s a mix of everything. For me this is two hours and 100 miles each way, and the FTR 1200 S has more than enough range for each direction. At the halfway point going out (the 371 & 74 intersection) there’s the Paradise Café if one wants a cold one or a bite to eat. Usually a mix of cars and bikes parked out front.
Once at the museum there’s plenty of free parking out front. It’s gravel, so possibly you might want to pull up onto the concrete walkway (near the entrance) to park so you’ll have shoe grip when you’re ready to leave.
The museum was established in 1989 by Margit Chiriaco Rusche and Leslie Comb, along with the Bureau of Land Management. There are over 14,000 square feet of war memorabilia including a large yard of tanks from World War II through Vietnam on display. If it has been a while since your last visit, a new Chandi West Wing has been added with a library, display cases covering all wars from World War 1 up to Afghanistan and a well-stocked gift shop.
Desert Training Center of Camp Young
From where you’ll be standing, you’ll be surrounded by the perimeter of historic Camp Young. In early April 1942, troops began arriving. Extreme climates varied from 130 degrees in the summer to winter temperatures near freezing. Rattlesnakes and scorpions crawled into sleeping rolls and boots. Water was rationed to one canteen per day, while men trained for combat under the desert sun. The harsh environment taught them how to survive in North Africa.
“A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.” – General Patton
Look at the wide open spaces around you and imagine 1942, eleven camps with one million soldiers stretching 18,000 square miles – making it the largest military installation maneuver area in the world. General George Patton saw this uninhabited and desolate desert as the ideal training site for large scale tank and infantry maneuvers against the Nazi Afrika Korps in the North African desert.
What can I see?
Well placed roads and outlines of the eleven camps can be seen from the air, and artifacts from a time gone by on the desert floor. Many of the artifacts were carried away, taking part of the story with them. For the enjoyment of those who follow you, please leave the artifacts where you find them.
One of the vehicles on display is a 1939 Cadillac. Patton did not die in combat in WWII but rather in a minor fender bender at the end of the war. This Cadillac is very similar. It took three manufacturers to supply “Jeeps” for the war effort, Bantam, Ford, and Willys Overland Jeep. Many are on display here.
At the day’s end, I recommend the diner next door for a meal – this place has been here for decades. And, there’s a Chevron station to gas up for your trip back.
30 miles east of Indio on the I-10 Freeway – Exit #173 at the Chiriaco Summit Exit.
Open 7 Days a Week * 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Active Military & Spouse are free with proper I.D.
Suggested: Worth watching the movie “Patton” (1970) and the follow up “The Last Days of Patton” (1986), with George C. Scott as Patton in both.