Having first-time guests fall in love with the Palm Springs Valley only to return for a second helping less than a year later is nothing new. It happens all the time! But when that first-timer is President Barack Obama, and the accommodations happen to be Sunnylands in the heart of Rancho Mirage, well, that’s not old news. That’s big news!
Late afternoon on Friday, February 14, Air Force One landed at Palm Springs International Airport. It was the sophomore visit for our president, who was last here in June of 2013 when he hosted President Xi Jinping of China at Sunnylands. This time, as the presidential motorcade made its way from Palm Springs to the estate in Rancho Mirage, the meeting to which Obama was looking forward was with King Abdullah II of Jordan. The two leaders met that evening behind the pink walls of the former home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, which is now used for such high-level diplomatic get-togethers. Once the dinner talks were over, the king retired to his suites at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, while Obama and his retinue slept at Sunnylands. (Fun fact: The charter of the Sunnylands Trust stipulates that only the sitting president of the United States may overnight in the house’s master bedroom.)
With official business behind him, Obama relaxed at Sunnylands on Saturday, playing golf with the same childhood friends who had joined him on the course last June: Bobby Titcomb, Greg Orme, and Michael Ramos. In the evening, the president traveled briefly to the home of Michael Smith—the interior decorator who designed not only part of the Sunnylands center but the White House’s living quarters. All the while, the stately presidential 747 waited at PSP to the delight of eager sightseers.
On Sunday, Obama and his buddies played some more golf. This time, they ventured to nearby Porcupine Ranch, the Rancho Mirage estate of Oracle co-founder and BNP Paribas owner Larry Ellison. Just after 3:00 p.m., the men made their way back to Sunnylands.
While the president’s Saturday and Sunday evening plans were not made public by the White House, we do know that one last round of golf was played at Sunnylands on Monday, the day Obama was slated to depart the desert. Later that day, while I was doing a bit of shopping with a trio of girlfriends in the Uptown Design District in Palm Springs, we heard a fierce roar overhead just after 2:00 p.m. We looked up and saw Air Force One flying away toward the west. With that concluded President Barack Obama’s long weekend in our fair oasis. I was sad to see him go. But one thing I know for sure. He’ll be back…