Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary -

Coastal Family - Part 2

September 17-21, 2016
Written September 19+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Ten days ago we had planned a "family coast visit" that would cover both Gabby and family in the Bay Area and Klare and family in Monterey.  That plan was changed when both Gabby and Marianne ended up too infirm to have much visiting fun, so, after just one stop, we had headed back to Fresno to regroup.
Gradually Marianne repaired and we even managed a few projects: painting a decorative fence for me and a (small) house for Marianne.  Well, we managed to start the projects anyway, but finishing will have to wait.  It seems like everything takes more time than we plan, once we work in required shopping, exercising, and occasional Mamo meals.d160917_06_dinner.jpg
d160918_00_path.jpgBy Sunday (17th) we were ready for the Monterey portion of our family visit.  For the millionth time, we drove north on Highway 99 and west on Highway 152.  I can't count how many times I have driven these two roads and Marianne has been doing it for almost 30 years more.  Most often, we go through Pacheco Pass and head north to the San Francisco Bay area, but this day we veered south toward Monterey Bay.

 Just for a break, we stopped at San Juan Bautista, a rustic little mission village near the farming center of Hollister.  SJB isn't fancy at all, but we thought it was time to see what it had to offer.  Besides, we needed a small snack and we quickly spotted the San Juan Bakery and Grocery.  Inside, we sampled custard-filled donut holes (Marianne) and a small lemon pie (me).   They were as good as we had hoped.  We recommend a stop here and will be back.
d160918_10_house.jpgd160918_12_garden.jpgAfter another hour in going-to-the-coast, bumper-to-bumper traffic, we made it to Klare's house in Pacific Grove, one of our favorite California towns.  We are lucky enough to have a choice of two family homes to stay at, but this time we opted for Klare's place since Jack had left for sad family business in Seattle and filling up Klare's time was part of the basic goal of our trip.
As usual Marianne and Klare (aka "Monterey Mamo") spent plenty of time sharing pictures and stories. After stories, we all enjoyed a filling and comforting Hungarian meal ("koloszvary rakott kaposta") and a bit of red wine.  Well, maybe more than a bit, because I needed to get out and walk to prevent falling asleep!
Pacific Grove and Monterey are wonderful towns for just wandering and I aways enjoy snapping away at flowers that line the neighborhood sidewalks. I started in Klare's front patio and walked all the way to Monterey Bay. I think I mostly enjoy the process of stopping, snapping, and later editing to relive a nice little walk.  In the end, I have to include the pictures in diaries, to justify the process.
My goal was the evening sunlight on a nearby rocky Monterey Bay beach.  I passed under birds as they assembled on power lines to see the same evening light I waited for. No red in the sunset this day, but a wonderful gold.
I like it here.

d160919_00_path.jpgMonday planning was uncertain.  We wanted to combine both family visiting and some of the tourism we don't normally get a chance to practice in our Monterey visits.   Some time we will sneak into town and not worry about feeling guilty for just behaving like out-of-town tourists, because there are any number of attractions to keep us busy.  Even this time, we did manage some exploring, from Monterey to Carmel Valley. (Looking at our path, I am reminded that we bypassed most of the scenic coastline.  Too bad.  Next time!)
Marianne's family has a cemetery plot where her dad and step-father rest and Mamo (Fresno) had asked us to place roses on the graves.  Of course this is always a somber activity, but I also find it reassuring to see family together, even despite the "step" part.  It doesn't always work that way.
d160919_10_museum.jpgd160919_12_viewing.jpgWith obligations done, we could start being tourists.  Marianne wanted to see some of the museums we have passed on for years (decades?) and, after striking out at two closed-on-Monday places, we landed at the Monterey Museum of Art.  In this case, it was half-price, but only half open, because the newest exhibits were under construction.  The permanent collection had a very California Coast feel, and we enjoyed our quick visit.
Next, we drove out into Carmel Valley, mostly to look at the development.  Marianne can still remember when this was a valley of ranches, but nowadays it is being filled with golf courses, condos, and plenty of grand homes.  I am not sure if I am jealous or simply amazed at the opulence of this California ranch land.
There are also a couple of dozen wineries in the Carmel Valley and we needed to visit at least one.   We chose the Boekenoogen Winery, because of its odd (Dutch) name I think, and thoroughly enjoyed an hour of tastes provided by John Boekenoogan.  He gave us the history of his family farm, including five generations as cattle farmers and almost 20 years as grape farmers.  In the last ten years, they have produced wine from their own grapes.  The wine was good and the stories are always worthwhile.

After this tourism, we had a nice salmon dinner with Klare and then Marianne and I headed over to brother Chris and his family in the house where Marianne grew up.  It is always fun to visit Chris, Leisa, and the boys, Adam and Spencer.  We need to do this more often and, next time, I promise I will remember to take pictures!  (Particularly of the boys, as they seem to change every time we see them.)

Das wars.

On Tuesday we planned a slow start and a return visit to San Juan Bautista.  The drive should have been quick, but we chose one along-the-way "attraction" and then Highway 101 road construction also extended the drive.  First, the attraction.

When we visit the Monterey area, we sometimes consider the possibility of moving here after we tire of Fresno. Generally, we are put off by house prices or by the idea of taking on yet another old house project (or both!) On a whim, we turned off Highway 1 near Marina, through the old Fort Ord army base, now California State University at Monterey Bay.  Marianne had heard of a new housing  development that might be interesting.

We saw the signs to "East Garrison", about 10 miles off the coast, and saw the new construction along the top of the hills before the Salinas Valley.  Since we had time, we stopped and checked out three houses that "might" meet our needs: single story, roomy enough (but not too big), and new.  We liked what we saw, except the price tags.  Everything was over a half-million dollars, some well over.  I worry we are caught between a declining market in Fresno and an increasing one here, even ten miles from the coast.  Oh well, we did not want to move yet anyway.
From East Garrison, we crossed into the Salinas Valley, avoiding most of Highway 101 due to road maintenance.  This highway should be three lanes, not two, but when work reduces it to just a single lane, it becomes a long parking lot. We had no particular schedule, so we just spent an extra half-hour exploring the nearby communities and side roads.  It was interesting to see that there were a few nice residential areas scattered among the poorer farm-worker communities.

A couple hours after leaving East Garrison, we arrived in San Juan Bautista and checked into the Hacienda de Leal. This not-too-big-or-small hotel turned out to be a treat.  It was tastefully rebuilt about three years ago and survives with weekend weddings and a few '"get away" guests like us during the week.  The rooms are large, the staff very friendly, and the large courtyard offers olive trees and vineyards for morning coffee or evening wine tasting.  An easy recommendation.
Check-in complete, we headed into town for lunch. For a tiny town, San Juan offers plenty of dining.  We chose Doña Ester's for Mexican, but there are two or three other recommended places as well.  Our choice offered a free margarita for Hacienda de Leal guests, so that may have affected our choice.  Good food, in any event.
Fully fortified, we headed to the San Juan Bautista California Historic Park.  This park hosts a half-dozen restored and furnished buildings around the original town square.  I love this sort of illustrated history and, by California standards, the mid-19th Century buildings are ancient.  On one side of the square are the Plaza Stables and Hall and on the
other, the Plaza Hotel and the Castro/Breen Adobe.  Stories and pictures:
Plaza Stables
San Juan Bautista was a major cross-roads in the mid-1800's, connected north and south to the San Francisco Bay and to Los Angeles and west to Monterey and east to the gold fields and the rest of the country. This black Baroche, the Rolls Royce of its time, belong to William Ralston, the founder of the Bank of California and a major mover and shaker of early California.  The yellow "mud wagon" was typical of the local public transportation, more popular in the rainy season and hence the name.  This last vehicle, The San Juan Eagle, was a human drawn fire wagon whose 16-man crew would race to suppress the all too common fires among the local wood structures. 
Plaza Hotel
Angelo Zanetta opened this building as a bar-restaurant-hotel shortly after arriving in the early 1850s.  It soon became the family home when Zanetta shifted most of the hospitality businesses across the square to the Plaza Hotel (Ne: Palace Hotel) across the square.  The first floor of the house is furnished with many original pieces and, out back, is the original wash house, complete with a luxury bath, the health spa of its day.  (Marianne went to school with Fidela Zanetta, a descendant from one of the branches of the old time family, so this all had a personal touch.)
Plaza Hotel
The Plaza Hotel opened its bar in 1856 and the hotel three years later.  It was a rounding success as both a watering spot for local ranchers and ranch hands, some of whom reportedly rode horses up to the bar for their beverages.  The stage patrons were treated to shared rooms ($1 to $2.50) and first-quality meals ($$0.40 and up.), welcome relief on the 58-hour trip from San Jose to Los Angeles.  The bar, for men, and the upstairs parlor, for women and children, became the social center of both locals and visitors.  The Historic Park's recreation of the spaces was very well done and it was easy to imagine the activities in these places 150 years ago.
Castro/Breen Adobe
By the time we made it to this part of the history tour, I think I was saturated.  The adobe was fully furnished with plenty of displays of life in late 1800s California and rules even allowed touching ("gently - one finger"), so it would be a great place for kids to get a feel for history.  Maybe I will review my photos and brochures for fascinating details, or maybe you can just go yourself.

We have a goal to see all the (US) California Missions, so we needed to fully cover this part of history as well.  (Link to our trip to several.) We are about half way through our inventory and we know by now pretty much what the basics are: a residence building (or buildings); a courtyard garden; a church.  Despite the similarity of each mission, we have found that each leaves a different impression, from Santa Barbara's grand style to Santa Ines' historic accuracy.  San Juan Bautista might be our favorite because it is large, without being grand, and authentic, without being a stale history lesson.
Residence or Convento
Originally, the mission had constructions along all four sides of a large courtyard, but only the padres residential wing ("convento") and the church survive.  The residence is over a dozen rooms, furnished with both living arrangements and preparation areas for liturgical ceremonies.  Despite its "Museo" designation, I felt it could revert to its original purpose with little effort.  (The buildings were in active service from the early 1800s to 1933.)
The courtyard garden was the heart of the old working mission-farm, with vegetable gardens, kitchens that fed 1,300 people three times a day, and workshops.  Now the small garden is devoted to flowers and the largest Crepe Myrtle tree I have ever seen!
The San Juan Bautista Mission, the 15th of 21 missions, was established in 1797 and the church was constructed over the next 20 years. It is the largest of the California Mission churches and the walled grounds were also among the largest.  The small graveyard along the eastern wall of the church holds the remains of over 4,300 Indians, Spaniards, and early pioneers.
San Andreas Fault and The El Camino Real
The large bluff alongside the church looks out onto fertile Salinas Valley fields, but the bluff itself has a story too.  It is a surface feature of the San Andreas fault and the shaking from the San Francisco 1906 earthquake destroyed church sidewalls that were only rebuilt 50 years later.  Midway down the escarpment, runs the the original trail linking 18th Century Mexican missions, presidios (forts), and villages, grandly called El Camino Real (The Royal Road).
Wow.  San Juan Bautista was quite a history lesson and a pleasant getaway as well.  Maybe we will come back.  Want to join us?

Wednesday morning started with an excellent light breakfast at Hacienda de Leal, complete with morning chat with other travelers.  Somehow, these casual conversations form one of the many highlights of travel, even short trips in our own backyard.

d160921_04_cemetary.jpgWe started our return trip with a stop at the local graveyard, not the largely unmarked burial grounds by the mission, but the town cemetery with ornate graves from early settlers to today. We found plots for both the Breen and Zanetta families, remarkably well maintained for almost 150 years.  Other headstones also told stories, the real reason for visiting such places.
d160921_02_path.jpgFinally, we could say our history lesson was over and head home.  The normal route would be north and then east through Pacheco Pass and across the San Juaquin Valley on roads we have traveled dozens (hundreds?) of times.  It is a very busy highway, mostly divided four or six lanes and only interesting the first few times.  Instead, I looked at a map and noticed what appeared to be a path straight east, fewer miles, but requiring a half-hour more time according to our car navigator.

That's how we discovered Panoche Pass, a real California Back road.  From San Juan, we passed south of Hollister, through the ubiquitous farms and vineyards.  Next we went south a few miles on "Airline Highway" (WHAT airline, I wonder), getting farther into open ranch land.  At some point, we turned east toward Panoche, a village we never actually saw, and were treated to miles and miles of country road, essentially no traffic, and golden hill with green oaks that represent rural California for us.  Of course, we had to stop for a few pictures.  (No cars passed by us, in either direction, while we stopped for 5 or ten minutes.  Not the Pacheco Pass rat race!)

Eventually, we descended into the San Juaquin Valley and found ourselves on Highway 180, one of our familiar east-west routes that connect farms and vineyards on the west to the Sierras in the east.  Quickly, we were home again.

And that's it.  A short trip that started as family and ended as a California exploration.  Nothing took much time, or cost for that matter.  We need to do this more often!

John and Marianne


Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary - Next Diary