Home and Then, Really Away

July 1-9, 2023

zoomDear Family, Friends, and Diary,

After the short trip to Sonora, it was time to be home and get ready for a real road trip. First, we needed to finish up with regular things, including Friday night games with the boys. Geoff and his family had run off to a distant desert island, so we had a Colorado-and-California game. I hope we can have these family gatherings on our pending road trip, but it will be more complicated.

Our Cambridge neighbors started July with an oyster fest, courtesy of Vern ans his restaurateur son Randall who shipped down a few dozen oysters from his normal sup[plier, Hog Island Oysters. They must have been good, because Vern himself ate a couple of dozen! (I let Marianne have my share. Slimy, raw sea creatures are not my thing.)

Hog IslandJonVern

4thThree days later, we hosted our own celebration: a Fourth of July barbecue. Over 20 neighbors and friends enjoyed our backyard, despite the start of Fresno summer heat. Up until the last minute, we had not decided on indoor or outdoor dining, but in the end, folks settled around the patio tables. We had bought this nice, big, table just as COVID descended and shut off gatherings, so we were glad to get some use of it, three years later. That night, we were serenaded by fireworks explosions (and, undoubtedly, gunshots) from sunset to well past midnight. At least we did not have family pets we needed to calm.

EAFinally, it was time to work on road trip preparations. For our electric car, I wanted to test a charging system other than Tesla's, "just in case". My experience with Electrify America, the second largest public charging system, was as complex and unreliable as I had heard it often is. At our Tesla stations, we just plug in and things work. This time, it took three separate EA connections to have any success, and even then it was only for a few moments. It's really no wonder Tesla is heading toward dominance in this field.

plantsdoveBy the morning of July 7th, we had finished our packing and it was time for one more round of the house and garden to make sure we hadn't forgotten something important. Gloria will be dropping by to keep an eye on things, in addition to her normal cleaning routine. Hopefully, the garden watering system stays functional, since we will be leaving everything to triple-digit temperatures. And we said goodbye to our resident Mourning Dove.


Drive #1, Across the SJ Valley to Monterey

After one more quick stop at Kaiser (physical therapy), we had breakfast and headed across San Joaquin Vally farm fields. This was a new route for us, bypassing our normal Los Banos tour, and we were again impr4sssed by just how massive the orchards, vineyards, and fields are. We chose this new route to be able to stop at Del Basque Farms on the valley's western edge. Our friend Priscilla grew up on this farm and her brother Joe has grown it into one of the major suppliers of organic melons in the country - and beyond.

Nephew Eric gave us a crash course on the complexities of raising a couple dozen varieties of melons in the SJV and shipping them to Whole Foods, Costco, and all the other stores that value high-quality, organic produce. As we were leaving, Joe Del Bosque stopped by and gave us even more background, including pointing to the distant clump of trees that marked the spot where he and Priscilla grew up. He built a very successful farm. She left the valley and built a very successful U.S. State Department career throughout the world. Small town successes, both.

farm stand Eric
yellow mellons agave

chargeThe rest of the drive was uneventful. We stopped for a quick fill up at Casa da Fruta, another old agricultural/tourist standby, and slowly worked our way through road construction as we entered the green, coastal hills and (more) farms.

We have done this drive many times (and Marianne has done it in her prior life many, many times), but it remains pleasant. Traffic can be a bit obnoxious, but overall it's a good way to get used to driving again.

redIn Monterey, we checked in at Chris and Leisa's house, Marianne's childhood home, toured the garden for new flowers and fruits trees, and chatted. Always fun.

Spencer and MFor dinner, we had arranged a night out with nephew Spencer. He is heading off to university in a couple of months and we wanted to learn about how he views the path ahead. I don't think we've ever had a chance to talk with just him, and it was great. We need to talk with young folks more often, it's more positive than sticking with our own generation.

So, that was day one of what we hope to be a one-month road trip.

Saturday morning started the way travel mornings often start: a trip to the Tesla Supercharger and to Starbucks. Then I bring a decaf, oat-milk, extra-shot, extra-hot, cappuccino back to Marianne. A comfy routine.

brothersFamily pictures hang on the wall of the Hidas guest house, including this one of young tennis fans in Paris. That little brother in a blue tee-shirt has grown up. Today I would enjoy taking new tennis pictures. Spencer was starting with a singles match at Chamisal Tennis and Fitness Club, part of a weekend tournament that would see him spend hours and hours on court. His first opponent was twice young Spencer's age. For over two hours they both played well, but experience finally won out. Great match in any event.

start return chase hide
serve close quarters aron smile

After my stint as a sports photographer, I went back to town to get Marianne at Klare's house. The two had been catching up while I was watching tennis and they seemed to have had even more fun than I had. It was nice to see the smiles.

For Marianne and me, the next activity was a bit of normal tourism for us: a visit to an art museum. The Monterey Art Museum is smallish, my favorite size, but always has interesting exhibits. Today:

museum whimsyfree range

In an exhibit called "You've Got to Be Kidding", there was a number of whimsical pieces, but my favorite was a photograph by Ted Orland titled "Free Range Derricks in Trump National Park." Good shot.


Next was a large series of pieces by Martha Casanave, black and white photographs created with real film and a simple pinhole camera. Amazing process.


The third gallery had a wide range of mid-century art by the three Bruton sisters. They created a wide variety of art and architecture. Here, I think my favorite was a piece of terrazzo, hanging as an imaginative wall decoration.


After all this work, it was time for an afternoon treat, in the German style of "Kafe und Kuchen". Unfortunately, our favorite French bakery, Parker-Lusseau Pastries, had plenty for us to choose from.

No sooner did we get home from French pastries than we needed to pick up Klare and head out to Italian dinner at her favorite: Il Vecchio. This trip has not been good for my diet!

chris klaresoup


Sunday was another light day for us travelers, but a tough one for our tennis player. Just as I was bringing back Starbucks coffee at about 8:30, Spencer was leaving to begin warming up for the first of his three matches.

A couple of hours later, we joined him court-side. His warmup and his first match were against his friend and doubles partner Anthony. It was first come first served in the stands, but we managed good seats, mixed in with the players' families.

bill chris court fan

Both boys played well, but Anthony was a bit better on this day. Chris says they generally split matches, with one on top one day and the other on another. The friendship did not seem to diminish either player's grimacing determination.

spence serve backhand watch
A servesbackhand toosqueeze

Spencer and Anthony stayed at the tennis club for two more matches, this time as doubles partners. Marianne and I left the Hidas family rooting duties to Chris and Leisa, so these two sessions are unrecorded. That may be just as well, because the boys lost the matches to far more experienced players. (Spencer at 18 and Anthony at 17 were about half their opponents age.)

chrisfireBack home, Chris cooked up a barbecue, with enough beef to feed the neighborhood, supplemented with shrimp and veggies.

It was all good, and we used the meal to talk about family and world matters, always useful.

By 8:30, I think everyone was more than ready to crash. Spencer has his six weekend tennis matches as his reason for exhaustion, while the rest of us just mumbled something about age.

morning coffeeOn Monday morning, we got in our family hugs and hit the road north. It had been a nice visit!

Now, it's on to another stay.

Stay tuned,

John and Marianne