Charlene's off work this week, and while she wanted most of the week to just do stuff around the house, she also wanted to get out of town for a bit. Our first inclination was to drive up through Oregon to visit my sister in Portland, but Celia and my nephew William were off to Atlanta to visit the parents, and Charlene has a step-sister in the hospital in Fresno, and a chance to visit Alan is always on her list, so we went south.
Stopped in Merced California, we were thinking about visiting the Castle Air Museum, but ended up feeling like just eating lunch and wandering around downtown a bit. They have a cool used bookstore, and this bizarre little store which appeared to stock milk, cereal, and canned fruit.
On down to Fresno, a whirlwind stop for all we managed to do, including a stop at Ideal Saw Works where, aside from some Festool supplies we picked up a re-conditioned Porter-Cable detail sander to help in refinishing the legs of a table we're working on. And in Fresno we noticed some weird signs.
When Rob and I had ridden up to Shaver Lake, Charlene took note of some signs that she wanted to mention to local bicycle advocacy groups. They say "Don't Pass Cars" and "On Curve or Hills", and, in a few particular instances, ie: the hill where Cici Krone was killed, we were thinking something similar, with particular note that cyclists are allowed the full use of the lane.
We tried heading up towards Huntington Lake, but as we climbed out of Shaver Lake the weather started to close in, and we knew Kaiser Pass wasn't open, so we turned around and headed south, figuring that we'd go through that town that always sounds like a sexual act that's banned in Missouri, Georgia, and parts of Texas.
So we turned the car south and west, towards Coalinga. On the way into town is the famous Iron Zoo, although the paint jobs and sculpture on the oil pumps aren't maintained any more, alas, they're still really cool.
In a state full of booms, Coalinga doesn't quite fit. It's a rural town which appears to have had a moderately robust economy. The oil fields probably contributed to this, and the surrounding hills have lots of cattle ranching, but while the town feels like the sort of place that's well loved by those who live there, I'm guessing the kids are leaving.
We had a neat visit to the R.C. Baker Memorial Museum, our guide was a 90-something man whose parents started in cattle ranching, and then moved into town to become the grocers for the region, and he stayed in that business. The museum has a lot of stuff, but they're short on what I think would be the really interesting thing: the stories that go along with all of those objects. For instance, we were told that one of the surries on display was used well into the automobile era, where an old couple who lived 20 miles out of town felt they could no longer drive safely, so once a week they'd drive a team of horses in for groceries and an afternoon of visiting.
I think we could have stayed overnight there, maybe if we'd had the Roadside Geology of California or a few more days we could have gone rock hunting, the local geology is really interesting. And on the way out of town we saw a sign down a side road to a county park, which we went a ways towards, but with fading light and lots of not terribly welcoming "no trespassing" signs, we decided to continue on.
I didn't stop to try to capture the drive in pictures, but the changes in geology as we climbed out from the central valley into Coalinga, and then up from there across the past down to Priest Valley, was fascinating. Lots of subtly different road cuts and "hey, that's different" feelings. It'd be nice to go back with a hammer and a geology book and take the time to try to document and get a better feel for what's really going on through the rift zones and fossil beds and the like.
Shortly after Priest Valley we turned north and drove up route 25 in the fading twilight. Amazing country, like the Nevada desert, but lush, with ranches every so often. Here again, we probably could have taken more time to stop and gawk and the open valley and the patterns as the canyons climbed up into the mountains, but we knew we had one day left, and we thought it'd be nice to hit Pinnacles National Monument before sunset. We did, barely, but it'll have to be another trip.
Hollister & Environs
So we tooled up into Hollister, looking for a place to stay. We found it in the Cinderella Motel, an otherwise ordinary motel which obviously had some proprietors who were willing to go a little bit beyond the ordinary. Small touches, and not necessarily to everyone's tastes, but I've stayed in hotels in New York that charged more of a premium for similar decorations, and it gave me a feeling that the proprietors cared. We stayed in the Library:
In the morning we didn't see much to grab us in Hollister short of driving back down to Pinnacles, and we thought that we should do that visit differently, so we headed west to San Juan Batista. We wandered through the two museums there, one of them is run by the state and talks about the history of the town, including the interesting history of the Breen family, who were survivors of the ill-fated Donner Party, managed to strike it rich in the gold rush, and intertwined with all sorts of other interesting bits of California history, and the other run by the Catholic Church, the mission building and grounds.
San Juan Batista is a weird town, it seems like it's on the tail end of Silicon Valley, so it's a bedroom community, but with a long enough commute that people leave early in the morning and come back late at night, and there's no local services. So there's the tourism of the museums, with lots of school kids, and a decaying historic downtowm, but outrageous real estate prices have pushed out anything that'd make the town have a self-sustaining downtown.
Watsonville & Environs
At this point we were getting into the southern part of Silicon Valley, not a terribly interesting destination for a road trip, so we turned towards the coast and Watsonville for lunch. While searching for lunch we found Riva Marble & Granite, so we stopped and talked to a guy who was laying out cuts on big 600lb sheets of granite, and suddenly we remembered that Rob had mentioned that there was a good wood shop in Watsonville. We took a shot in the dark, looked in the yellow pages, and decided to go find Jackel Enterprises. The first instructions we got were wrong, that location pointed us back towards a wood carving place that we knew wasn't it but figured could send us the right direction, and were pleasantly surprised to find that they were just across the street from Jackel. Bought some nice wood there, with promises to return for more when we had racks on the car and some projects in mind, and then stopped back at Riva to raid their dumpster for some chunks to work into some project, and headed north along one.
We still had daylight, and Charlene saw the sign for Seacliff State Beach and said "let's stop here". So we did, and discovered the rotting hulk of the SS Palo Alto sitting at the end of a pier. A little walking on the beach (and out the pier), trying to find some history, and we got back on Route 1 north. Right into the evening commute traffic into Santa Cruz. So we abandoned Route 1 for Capitola.
Capitola is a little tourist town, but seemed like a good place to hang out and have some tea at Mr Toots Coffeehouse while listening to two very amusing bickering staff. And after that we pointed the car north and headed on home.
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