Friday, November 18, 2011

California or Bust!

Mon, Nov. 14th - Thur, Nov. 17th

We spent our last night in Oregon at Harris Beach State Park on the north side of Brookings, just a few miles north of the California border. This young man on the top of the rock formation was having a great time running up and down all the trails he could find. It was fun to watch his energy and how much fun he was having.

The sunset was clouded over, but still wonderful.

We spent Tuesday night at the campground on the Ridgewood Ranch, home and final resting place of Seabiscuit. They do tours out to the grave in the summer. It was a long, winding, paved road down into the valley to the campground, but very quiet and peaceful down there.

We saw beautiful vineyards all along the way, but they were almost constant by the time we got to Ukiah. We were only about 30 miles more or less from the Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley. As we drove thru Santa Rosa, there was a sign for the Charles Schultz Museum, creator of Peanuts comic strip. Going over the Richmond Bridge to Oakland, I saw a sign for the Rosie the Rivetor Museum. I spent 22 years working with a lot of great women who can relate to Rosie.

We arrived at Casa de Fruta Orchard Resort in the Pacheco Valley between Gilroy and Hollister where we will be staying for the next week. It's a very nice campground/resort over a 100 years old. They have orchards, winery, restaurants, etc.

Lots of garlic hanging from the rafters, as Gilroy is the "Garlic Capitol of the World". The amount of produce here is amazing, plus homemade candies, canned goods, wines, etc.

All of the boundaries of the parking lots, camping areas, parks and shopping areas are lined with the antique farming machinery used over the years in the orchards, vineyards and vegetable gardens.

A couple of the antique tractors. There are six historic Spanish Missions in this area along Hwy. 101, the original "King's Highway", or El Camino Real route that was developed to connect the missions.


Grandma going for a train ride....

while Grandpa spent some time in the stocks for being a naughty boy.

There is a double-decker Venetian carousel and a small train that runs around the property. Also, there are lots of peacocks in the park areas, little brooks and waterwheels and a swimming pool. A very pretty setting.

This white fallow deer is a descendant of a pair donated by William Randolph Hearst in 1932, from his private zoo at Hearst Castle on the coast.

Thursday morning we headed to the coast to take a whale watching cruise at Monterey Bay Harbor. We went several miles out to where the depth drops off from a couple hundred feet to a couple thousand feet. The fog was so thick, we couldn't see boats a hundred yards from us. We had been there for quite a while and everyone was sure we would never be able to see whales in this fog. "Thar she blows!" John spotted them first. All of a sudden, two humpback whales came up very close to our boat and dove down and flipped up their tails at us. We were all stunned and so excited. Our guide let a couple other boats know where we were, so they could come and see the whales with us.

If you look really close, you can see one of the boats that joined us, thru the fog. In this picture, the whale almost looks bigger than the boat, but I think that is a bit deceptive, because they were a little ways away.

Here the other boat got a little closer to us. Our boat was 70 feet long and held 70 passengers, about the same as this one, but we only had about 25 on board. John thought the two whales we saw were about 30 feet long, but I thought they looked a lot closer to the length of the boat. They were very big indeed. They were actually so close to us, that we could smell their bad breath!

"Yo, Ho! Yo, Ho! The pirate's life for me." Well, at least until the dramamine wears off, that is.

Well the whales got tired of hanging around our boat and left us, so we headed back to the harbor.

Our captain kicked it in gear and wasted no time getting us back. Our trip was almost five hours.

"Land Ho!" The fog finally lifted on our way back in and we were able to get a better look at the sea lions and harbor seals and birds.

The Custom House, the oldest building in California, is here at the harbor. It was the port of entry to Alta, California, Mexico from 1822 to 1846. U.S. military forces raised the "Stars and Stripes" here in 1846 marking the end of the Mexican era and the beginning of the American era in California.

A mother sea otter with her pup riding on her chest.

After leaving the harbor, we stopped to see the Monarch butterflies at a park in nearby Pacific Grove. They are kind of hard to see in the trees, but once you spot them, they are hanging in bunches of hundreds or more. They look like clumps of dead, brown leaves, hanging in clusters like bananas or grapes. If it gets below 50 degrees, they can't fly well, so they have to wait for the day to warm up before they can fly.

This is a view along Ocean View Drive around Monterey Bay. There is a walking trail along the beach here all around the bay.

There were lots of people jogging, walking their dogs, or just out to enjoy the views and the sunset. The point of land you can see is the end of the bay, where the famous 17 mile "Carmel-by-the-Sea" drive starts.

What can I say? A picture really is worth a thousand words!

Friday we drove to Gilroy to check out the "Garlic Capitol of the World". I stopped in here to get some tourist info and they gave me a couple bulbs of garlic along with the tourist pamphlets. They celebrate the "stinking rose" with the Garlic Festival in July. About a million pounds of raw garlic is processed every day in the summer. That should be enough to keep the vampires away! Goldsmith Seeds is also here, where you can walk thru a six-acre "Field of Dreams" among thousands of experimental flowers, many one-of-a-kind not to be found anywhere else in the world.

There are lots of wineries here, but we just stopped at one before lunch. This is Sarah's Vineyard just on the edge of town.

I did a little wine tasting, but my driver abstained.
There was a sculpture of a musical note on their patio with the quote, "Wine is the music of the vineyard."

One more close up. The vines are so beautiful this time of year. They have just finished crushing the last of the grapes and they are all fermenting now.

Enjoy a nice glass (or two) of wine every day.

Cheers to you all!

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