Saturday, December 31, 2011

"The Streets of Bakersfield"

Thur & Fri - Dec. 29th & 30th

On the road again, our first stop is Bakersfield, "The Country Music Capitol of the West", where we visited the Buck Owen's Crystal Palace on Buck Owens Boulevard. He sang "The Streets of Bakersfield" with one of my favorite singers, Dwight Yoakum. It is a restaurant, museum and theater, designed to look like an old west town with shop fronts, and windows into the shops on the inside where the exhibits are displayed. John decided to sit down and get to know a couple of the locals before we went in, but they weren't very talkative.

In the foyer was this bronze of Buck Owens by Bill Rains of Billings, Montana along with ones of Willie Nelson, Johnnie Cash and John's favorite, Bob Wills, the King of Country Music. Never heard of him? Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, probably before your time. I think he was even before my time. (Remember the bet, Mark, that cost John a keg?) Buck had 21 #1 hits back in the 60s and performed on the TV show "Hee Haw" for many years.

This car is mounted on the wall behind the bar. It was originally built as a gift for Elvis Presley by Nudie..."Hollywood Tailor to the Stars". It's been said that Buck won it in a poker game in Vegas in 1976.

It has long horns on the front, calf roping ornaments on the hood, six shooters on the front fenders, six shooters for door handles inside and outside, a rifle mounted on the trunk, and check out the upholstery with the saddle mounted in the center.

If you recognize these folks, you must be at least as old as me. Buck Owens, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Roy Clark. "Happy trails to you, until we meet again..."

There were many hundreds of pictures, but this one caught my eye, Jimmy Dean. Dawn has his song, "Big, Bad John" as the ring tone on her phone when her Dad calls. Yes, he was known for something besides his sausage. Dawn told one of her friends that he had died and she said, "You mean the sausage guy?" I suppose Paul Newman is only known for his salad dressing these days. What is the world coming to?

I suppose this is as close as I will get to touching my favorite guy, George Strait", although I have been lucky enough to see him in concert a couple times. They also had statues of Hank Williams Sr., Elvis, Garth Brooks and "The Hag". Merle Haggard is a local Bakersfield boy who started out playing in honky tonks here, when he wasn't in one joint or another. He and Buck shared that guitar-driven sound that came to be known as the Bakersfield Sound, a line up of #1 hits and an ex-wife named Bonnie Owens, also a local singer of note.

We drove about 40 miles southwest to Taft where they put up a new monument to the oil workers in 2010 for their 100th anniversary. The town was built for the workers when oil was discovered and named for President Taft. A lot of the streets are named for the presidents who preceded him.

The Oil Worker's Monument. They also have a replica of Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, that was built here in 1940 on the 100th anniversary of the original fort. It was a WPA project.

Back at the River Run RV Park we went for a hike on the River Walk along Kern River next to our campground. This is the scenery right in town. It is definitely oil country. I believe Merle Haggard wrote a song or two about Kern River and Kern County.

Now that's a tumbleweed!. John had to move it off the walking path, so we could continue on our way. "Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds..." I believe that's the Sons of the Pioneers, another of John's favorites, that you youngsters have probably never heard of.

On the recommendation of one of our fellow campers, we went to dine at one of the local Basque restaurants. Bakersfield has one of the largest Basque populations outside of the Pyrenees (between France and Spain). We drove through there from Paris, when John and a friend went to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. We stayed at a beautiful, seaside B & B in St. Jean de Luz. Remember Bruce? Anyway, the meal was awesome! It was served family style at big, long tables. There were bottles of a wonderful red wine, vegetable soup, ceasar salad, cottage cheese, blue cheese, salsa, baked pinto beans, pickled tongue, cold glazed carrot salad and fresh baked bread for starters. And it was all delicious! Then came the roast, carrots and potatoes. I assumed we were done, except for maybe dessert. Then came really good ribs, then spaghetti and then wonderful homemade french fries. And they would bring more of anything you asked for. Finally they brought the ice cream. To top it off, we sat next to some colorful locals and enjoyed some very entertaining conversation. The name of the place is the Noriega Hotel in kind of a seedy looking part of town, but I highly recommend it.

There are lots of things to do here in Bakersfield, theaters, sports, museums, wineries, orchards, farmers markets, zoo, etc. But we have campground reservations at Santee Lakes just a few miles northeast of San Diego, for New Year's Eve and the first week of the new year, so we are heading there Saturday.

Cheers to you all! And Happy New Year!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Family Time in California

Wed, Nov. 23rd - Wed, Dec. 28th

Our last view as we left the Casa de Fruta campground. This is what holidays on the road look like. We spent Thanksgiving at John's sister's and the next five weeks thru Christmas.

One day we drove down to the little Danish town of Solvang on the coast. The vineyards along the way were beautiful, even though they were completely dead for the year and most of the leaves had already fallen off.

Solvang is a quaint, old Danish town still in it's original state for the most part. Lots of little shops, candy stores, bakeries and Danish restaurants.

This sign was on the side of the bakery above, with pictures of all the rulers of Denmark from present day back to the beginning, all descended from the original old King Gorm. Kind of neat.

There is also an old Spanish Mission here with tours and nice gardens and the twelve stations of the cross.

They also have a Hans Christian Andersen Museum. They had over twenty different versions of the "Princess and the Pea" on a display table. But they didn't have the version I read to my grand-daughter, where the prince puts a bowling ball under the hundred mattresses to make sure the girl he really wants to marry feels it.

View on the way back to Kathy's in Hanford. Thanks girls, for another great day with friends.

Another day we stopped at the Spike and Rail Restaurant in Selma, near Fresno, to check out the little raisin musuem they have there. Selma is the "Raisin Capitol of the World". It takes three years from planting to producing the first raisins. Raisins are one of the world's most nutritious dried fruits.

They have the world's largest California Dancing Raisin at 10 feet tall and over 500 pounds. It was built by students from the California State University at Fresno.
Raisin history goes as far back as 120 to 900 B.C. with the Phoenicians and Armenians. Raisins were so valued in ancient Rome that you could buy a slave boy for two jars of raisins. 100% of the raisins in California are grown in the San Joaquin Valley. 45% of the world's raisins are grown in California. They are mostly Thompson seedless grapes named after Scottish immigrant, William Thompson, who introduced them at a fair in 1876.

Christmas morning at Kathy's. We are heading south on Thursday to Bakersfield, and then on to San Diego area for a week or so. "Finally!" she says. "I thought they'd never leave!"

On the road again. More blogs next week.

Happy New Year All, and to all a good night.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Big Sur, Salinas & Carmel, California

Mon & Tue, Nov 21st & 22nd

Traveling south from Carmel thru the Big sur area.

The views are so awesome.

Looking down toward the Carmel city beach.

On the city beach looking toward Pebble Beach Golf Course.

We had lunch at Clint Eastwood's Hogs Breath Inn in Carmel. It had wild boars with tusks mounted on the walls and lots of fireplaces inside, and out on the patio. Kind of neat.

We went to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, John Steinbeck's hometown. "Of Mice and Men", "East of Eden" and "Cannery Row" are rooted in this region. He was a war correspondent in WWII. His books have been published in 47 countries and made into quite a few movies. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. JFK selected him to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, but did not live to present it.

After living in Europe for quite a few years, he and his wife returned to the U.S. in 1960. He decided to take a 10,000 mile trip around the country to get back in touch with Americans. He traveled with his dog in a pickup camper on the backroads thru small towns and farm country.

This is the camper he traveled in. He called his trip "Operation Windmills" and named his camper "Rocinante" after Don Quixote's horse. I read this book shortly before we retired and I remembered that he washed his clothes by putting them in a five gallon bucket with a lid and detergent and let them agitate while he drove down the road. I have actually done this a couple of times and it works pretty good.

There were a bunch of surfers out in the surf at sunset in Carmel.

Another great view, another great day!

Do I miss work? Not at all!

Visiting John's sis for the next few weeks. Probably no more blogs till end of December.

Happy Holidays to all & to all a good night!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Winchester House & Stanford

Sat, Nov. 19th & Sun, Nov. 20th

A few views along the coast from Monterey north to San Francisco on Saturday.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse just south of Half Moon Bay.

Ritz Carlton Resort Hotel and golf course at Half Moon Bay looking north.

Turning around looking south toward more of the golf course. I wonder how many golf balls go in the ocean.

We were sitting in the car at the beach near the Cliff House in San Francisco when this guy plopped down on the hood of our car. It gave us both a start. Then I just hoped he wouldn't poop.

Sunday we went on a tour of the Winchester House in San Jose. Sarah Winchester was married to the second president of the Winchester Repeating Rifle Company. They had only one child who died at six weeks old and her husband died about ten years later. She went into a depression and consulted a psychic who told her she needed to start a project that would never end. So she took the $20 million cash and 3,000 shares of Winchester stock she had inherited and bought a 160 acre farm with an unfinished house. She started adding onto the house and the work continued 24 hours a day for the next 38 years until her death. She believed that she needed to appease the spirits of all the Native Americans who were killed by Winchester rifles. There are 160 rooms. The tour took us thru 110 rooms in 65 minutes walking over a mile. There are 10,000 windows, many stained glass and leaded glass made by Tiffany. One of them cost $1,500 in 1910 (now priceless) and was supposed to create 13 rainbows when the light would shine thru it. Unfortuantely she placed it on a north wall where the sun would never hit it. Then she proceeded to make another addition with a wall right behind the window. Right next to it was a $2.00 window with an elevator shaft right behind it. She was obsessed with the number 13. 13 palm trees lined the entrance to the estate (nine remain). 13 windows in some rooms, 13 steps in some staircases, a chandelier with 12 candles had one added to it to make 13 and 13 bathrooms, but only one shower. She had 30 some bedrooms and slept in a different one every night to confuse the spirits. Every piece that she had custom made for the house, she ordered two or three, in case she ever needed to replace it. So there are store rooms full of stained glass windows, hand crafted wood work, siding, gutters, etc. Next to the sewing room was a room with huge drawers where she stored bolts of fabric. Whenever she saw something she liked, she bought it all up, so no one else would be able to have a dress made out the same fabric as her. She had a seance room that she was the only one ever to enter. She went there for advice on what to add to her house. It had one entrance and three exits, one of which dropped straight down 14 feet to the kitchen sink. There were doors to nowhere, stairways from floor to ceiling and 47 fireplaces, many of which were connected to a chimney that stopped at the ceiling on the third floor and was never completed. One stairway had 2 inch steps with switchbacks of seven flights to get 9 feet up to the next floor. In the 1906 earthquake a seven story tower fell over, the front 30 rooms were damaged and Mrs. Winchester was trapped in one of the bedrooms for several hours before the servants could find her. The $3,000 European Art front doors had just been installed before the earthquake. She and the two men who installed them were the only people to ever use them, as she blocked off the 30 damaged rooms and never used them again. A rumor says that when Pres.Teddy Roosevelt was in San Francisco he stopped by to visit her, as her husband had been in the Rough Riders with him. When he was asked to use the servants entrance, he left in a huff. This shows one of the doorways to nowhere on the second floor with an 8 foot drop to the ground. When she died her niece, who was her personal secretary, inherited the furniture. After taking what she wanted, the rest was sold at auction. It took 8 truck loads a day for 6 and a half weeks to empty the house. The whole thing is just totally bizarre!

In the afternoon we drove to Palo Alto and walked around the Stanford campus. After walking thru the entrance, we walked for about six blocks down this palm-lined street before we even saw a building. There are park-like areas on either side that are used for event parking. The night before had been the big game with Cal, so the reminents of the tail gating were still very evident.

This is Hoover Tower built in honor of Herbert Hoover who was in the first class at Stanton and later became president of the university and the country. Another person who was in the first class, and a friend of Hoover's, was the wife of the man who built Scotty's Castle in Death Valley.

Stanford was built on donations from Leland Stanford and his wife. He was a railroad baron and one of four men who practically owned California back in the day and was also governor.
Last year when we were in Sacramento, we went thru the Governor's Mansion that he lived in.

It is a beautiful campus. I wish we'd had more time to walk around, but it got dark and we had to head home.

This is the back side of the football stadium. I thought it was interesting. The pine tree is engraved on the wall to the right and the two real pine trees on the left are reflected back on the wall behind them.

This is one of the libraries. Right behind me is another one just as big.

I should have another blog in a few days. We will be at John's sister's place by Wednesday for Thanksgiving and a very long, extended visit. Are you ready, Kathy? Here we come.

Happy Turkey Day, Everybody!