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Coastal Family - Part 2
September 17-21, 2016Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
Written September 19+
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.
By 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.
After 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.
Monday 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.
With 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
We 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.
Finally, 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!)
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
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