I took the scenic route to Palm Springs a while back, to visit my Uncle Bob, who is not my actual uncle but a dear family friend who I have known almost my entire life. It takes just over two hours to get to Palm Springs from Los Angeles if you go straight there, but I opted instead to meander up and over the San Jacinto Mountains through the small towns of Idyllwild and Pine Cove, going from desert to hills to forest - and snow - and back in a matter of hours. When it comes to varied topography, California wins every time. I drove through recently charred landscapes, where I listened to the wind whistle over the barren land with no other sounds to interrupt it; under giant pine trees, growing out of a thick layer of orange needles; past hills speckled with massive, wart-like boulders, landing in Palm Springs just as the sun began to sink below the looming mountain that frames the entire town. The day ended with a fiery pink sunset, accompanied by drinks, food and conversation with Bob and his girlfriend Jackie. Sometimes the best part about doing things solo is knowing that you'll end the day in good company.