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What's up? Fresno Temperature
Escape to Monterey
July 8-12, 2017Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
As mid-July approaches, the Fresno sun heats up our world. That's just a fact. Predictable. Immutable. Like snowy winters in Buffalo or summer humidity in Washington, Miami, or Houston. How to cope? First, use air conditioning, but in our old, leaky, home that gets pricey. Last month, with only a few days of intense AC-use, the utility bill soared past $400 and got our attention.
Our next coping mechanism is to visit Marianne's mom, Magdalena, aka Mamo. Her house isn't new, but it is insulated (unlike ours) and she keeps the ac on. She also keeps the pool clean and full, so when the temperature gets past 100F, we can always jump in. Then, on the hottest of nights, we stay over. She gets a bit more attention and we stay cool. A win win.
On this weekend, we went to stage three coping: leave. There are two choices for cooling off: into the Sierra Nevadas or over to the Pacific.
This time of year, it is hard to get reservations in our favorite National Park hotels in the mountains, so that pushes us west. This time, we packed up, watered the garden, and drove west to Monterey, where we can ALWAYS find a room, thanks to friendly relatives.
We have driven the road from Fresno over Pacheco Pass many, many times, but on Sunday we managed a stop at Bell Station, a little, old, building that sits on the north side of the busy highway that we always pass, saying "We should stop sometime." This was the time.
Bell Station turned out to be quite historic. It was built in 1857 by Andrew Firebaugh as the gate house for his toll road between Pacheco Pass and the San Joaquin River. Humbly, he named the other end of the road "Firebaugh" and it remains an important Valley farm village. Soon, Bell Station became a stop on the Butterfield Transcontinental Stage, the first regularly-scheduled transcontinental stage line, running from Memphis, Tennessee to San Francisco. It also served as a telegraph station for the first cross-country connection. (Plans now call for high-speed rail between San Francisco-Los Angeles to run through this same area.)
With our history lesson under our belt, we continued on over to the coast, whee we fought traffic much of the way. This is apparently normal for the area and lots of folks have discovered how nice the Monterey Bay area is. Later we learned that our Sunday drive had been made even worse than normal because races at Laguna Seco Racetrack drew even more than the normal weekend crowd. At least it was cool.
Our first stop was the "B&B" on Colton Street. Actually, it is the house Marianne grew up in a half-century ago. On this visit, brother Chris had prepared a five-star reception in the guest house, with cheese, fruit, wine, and anything else a high-end B&B should have. Thanks!
After settling in, we treated for lunch with Chris and young Spencer, our 12-year-old nephew who managed to keep us entertained with a running spiel of stories. He even managed to talk more than his dad, not a small accomplishment. Actually, it was fun to hear him talk in this day and age of screen-obsessed young people. (and others, I have to admit.)
At our stop, we discover the work of Steve, the "Saw Dog", a woodworker who carves ancient drift wood into fanciful scenes.
His other specialty was tiny, ramshackle houses. The biggest one was priced at $28,000, much less than the going price of other Monterey real estate, but probably too small for us. Too bad.
The next stop on our tour was the Monterey graveyard where Marianne's father and step-father rest. The picture with Chris shows him standing on his own portion of the family grave site. Sobering, in a way.
We searched for the grave of Marianne's best childhood friend, Marianne Lowry (nee Ansel), who passed away in her 20s, far, far too early. Also sobering.
Speaking of sobering graves, Chris pointed out the headstone for a Thomas Williamson, "Murdered in Monterey County - 9th Nov., 1855". I wonder who exactly Tom was, given that he had a nice headstone, but was only remembered for his untimely passing. Better than being completely forgotten, I suppose.
The last event of the day was a very nice dinner prepared by Klare, Marianne's stepmother, aka "Monterey Mamo". It was fun to have some time to talk in person to Klare and Jack and to meet their new addition: Bijoux. Everyone posed for pictures.
On Monday morning I wrote a day's diary, while sitting in my normal writing establishment: the nearest Starbucks. I like this travel pattern, with early-morning writing sessions, but I took more time than I was budgeted. Had to run.
I went back to the Colton Street house, saw Chris off to work, and picked up Marianne for breakfast. We did not have firm plans on where exactly to eat, but Monterey and Pacific Grove have plenty of fun places for any meal.
After driving through both towns, we settled on the Red House Cafe, a cute little turn-of-the-century house that was converted to a restaurant many years ago. Even at Monday mid-morning, most inside seats were full, but we lucked out with a place near the fire. (This is Pacific Grove, not Fresno, and summers are a bit cool!) Marianne raved about her pancake and my lox was as good as I have had in a long time. The Red House is a clear recommendation.
We also used breakfast to come up with a rough plan-of-the-day. Our main goal was the mission in Carmel for an "official visit", as part of our quest to visit all California Missions (link to earlier trip). Since Marianne grew up in the area, this would not be her FIRST visit, but as part of an overall goal we wanted the visit to show us where the Carmel mission fit in the overall mission system. Part of learning history. After the mission, we could just wander. And we did.
Mission of San Carlos Borromeo Del Rio CarmeloThe Carmel Mission's official name is the Basilica of the Mission of San Carlos Borromeo Del Rio Carmelo. No wonder it gets shortened. It was Padre Junipera Serra's second mission when it was founded in June of 1770. Although he founded eight missions overall, he kept Carmel as his home and was buried here in 1784.
Inside, the church features an unusual ceiling, a "catenary arch", capable of providing the span with a minimum of material. (Gaudi used the same technique for the Sagrada da Familia in Barcelona.) Saint Serra and two of his contemporaries are buried under the white stones by the altar, reflecting this mission's importance in mission history. Unlike many California missions, the church still serves the local parish, at least for Sunday services.
The mission did not however, make it through unscathed from its 18th Century start to today. It prospered up through the first part of the 19th Century, but then began a long decline. The church roof collapsed and the adobe brick out buildings dissolved in the Carmel fog and rain. A late 19th Century picture shows the resulting ruins, surrounded by open farm fields.
The mission courtyard features wonderful old trees and plantings. The cross in the courtyard reportedly marks location of Padre Serra's original cross on the Carmel beach. This really is as old California history gets - at least the European part.
Padre Serra reportedly carried a small double-topped cross, like the one he had placed during the founding of the mission. Marianne has been collecting crosses from each mission, so we added one more for her set.
So, with that purchase, we finished our mission visit, ten visited so far, and twelve to go. I wonder which one will be next?
Just around the corner from the mission is Mission Ranch, a sprawling hotel owned by none other than Clint Eastwood, the one-time mayor of Carmel. We visited to see if we might ever pass on the Colton Street B&B. Mission Ranch is a bit pricier, but not unreasonable, given the posh neighborhood. (We later drove around the Carmel Point neighborhood, where million dollar homes abound, along with ocean views that warrant the prices.)
After Mission Ranch, Marianne dropped me off back at Colton Street so I could be on my own while she and Klare had time together doing girl things - talking mostly, I presume. I settled into the back patio to enjoy the space while writing up the morning diary. A great excuse for just enjoying the space.
Now it was time for Chris and me to join the others for dinner at Klare's. She put together another feast for us. Thanks.
By the time we got home, Leisa and Adam had made it back from their two-day trip to her family's cabin in Carmel Valley. We all settled in to share stories, but I think the two of them were much more tired than we were! Hopefully, they will get rested, now that they are back home.
Tuesday. The only plan we had was lunch with Chris at Santa Catalina school and, pretty much, that's all we did!
Of course, before we could head out to lunch, we needed breakfast. Honestly, this visit has been mostly slow touring, resting, and eating. That's OK, we need the break from the rigors of retired life - not. Anyway, we found ourselves back at the Red House Cafe for more eye-opening treats. It is always a good sign when we repeat a restaurant.
I am including maps of our day's travels, mostly because I have a hard time really understanding where things are in this area. Marianne grew up here, so she refers to street names and locations with a familiarity I do not have. Here you see that we started on Colton Street, in the middle of Monterey, and "drove over the hill" to the Red House in "PG" (Pacific Grove to us strangers.) Then it was back over the hill to Santa Catalina on the east side of Monterey. Finally, Chris and I drove back over to Carmel for Spencer's volleyball practice. Maybe now I can develop a sense for where places are. Maybe.
Santa Catalina School
Marianne spent her formative school years, grades 3 through 12, at Santa Catalina School (for Girls, at the time.) I have heard stories of Santa Catalina School for decades and had only visited once before, many years ago, so we were both eager to take up Chris' offer of a lunch on campus. (He is a summer camp tennis coach.)
After a better school meal than I ever had growing up, we headed out on a tour. Lots of pictures, so we don't forget anything.
This is the school chapel, a quiet and peaceful place (especially compared to the noise of kids at lunch!)
The school was developed on an old hacienda and some of the buildings seem to be original.
The stairs to the principals office and the dining room that had been used by the nuns who were teachers back when Marianne was in school. Scattered around were newer mementos, some funny and others sobering.
Santa Catalina has an amazing array of facilities, from theaters, a swimming facility, and a large modern gym. Marianne noted that none of these luxuries were built while she was still a student. (They had a pool, but more humble and the stage was simply a raised part of the cafeteria.
There were summer camp activities throughout the campus. Marianne was particularly interested in the art classes and she reminisced about her own time in art classes at Santa Catalina, both as a student and as a summer camp teacher!
After our tour, Chris had to go back to WORK. Somehow, this didn't seem like real work, but he does have to spend the days out in the sun - kind of like field workers? Naah.
Those of us who do not have jobs, headed back to the B&B for a rest. This may be the best part of travel, since we hardly ever can justify just reading (or naps) when we are back home. There are always things-to-do. Even in retirement.
After Chris came home from work, he and I headed over to catch some of Spencer's volleyball practice. Even the drive over was fun as Chris reminisced about the days when, almost out of money, he would coast down from the hills above Carmel all the way to the beach - saving gas for the return trip. Anything to surf.
I wonder if Spencer and the other summer volleyball camp students recognize what a beautiful place they have for class. Sand, ocean, and trees, surrounded by multi-million dollar homes. Probably too busy having fun. As it should be at twelve.
Back at Colton Street, Leisa and Marianne had been busy fixing a great dinner. They barbecued salmon and swordfish. Both were cooked to perfection, not easy for swordfish especially. Congratulations!
However, the best part of the meal would probably be just the chance to hang around with these folks. Adam and Spencer are growing quickly, so we probably need to visit more often.
Part of hanging around was a rousing game of "Apples and Apples". Don't ask me to explain. I fell asleep before the game ended, a sign of a good day on the road.
On Wednesday morning, we were up and out pretty early. Retirement activities were calling (gym and Marianne's art class, to be specific.) We hugged Spencer, Chris, and Leisa (Adam, as appropriate for a 15-year-old, was still asleep.) We saw Chris off on his scooter to another day working in the fields of Santa Catalina School.
Marianne and I stopped for yet another meal, this time breakfast at Casa da Fruta, a traditional wayside on the Pacheco Pass highway. It has probably been a tradition since Lieutenant Moraga first passed this way in 1805.
Farther along the highway, we paused to take a few pictures of San Luis Dam and Reservoir. While the vegetation looks pretty dried out, the lake was still filled to the brim, a good sign for the prospects of water for the San Joaquin Valley farmers and gardeners.
Soon we were home and working on all the chores that seem to pile up, even during a short trip away.
We need a vacation!
John and Marianne
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