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A Casual Outing

Today's letter is C.
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On the husband's and my last 23rd date, we got in our car and drove east over the mountain to finally do the wander we started a few months ago. The fog was too thick then so we had turned back. Not so a few weeks ago. It was a gorgeous day for being carefree and fancy-free.

Back in January, a waitress had told us if we wanted to see some great views, we should go to the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Gustine and drive up to the flagpole. She was right.  The husband thought that the Veterans buried at the cemetery were probably happy to finally be in a peaceful place.

San Joaquin National Cemetery in Merced County is one of the 131 national
cemeteries for U.S. Veterans
. To read personal comments about the cemetery at, click here.

We had one goal that day—to hike in the Great Valley Grasslands State  Park. It is truly an undeveloped park. It's a good thing we did our homework. Otherwise, we wouldn't have known by which unmarked gate to park.

I expected grass above my head and to be walking through it. Maybe it was
further up the path, but we only got a mile in because.  .  .

.  .  .this killdeer Mama stopped us in our tracks with her screeches. She was hatching
her four eggs. Rather than stressing her out with us walking by, we watched her for a bit,
then turned around and headed back to the car.

We definitely want to return to the Great Valley Grasslands State Park and complete our trek.

After getting back in the car, we decided to just wander. The husband and I took turns saying which way to turn. Left. Right. Straight ahead. Through the farmlands of Merced County we drove.

"Look at that!" "Did you see that?" "Wonder where we are." "Do we have a map?"

We drove through Livingston and wondered if a Stanley lived there.

"Are you hungry?"

When you're in the middle of ruralness, you won't find any convenient picnic tables. So we did what any of you, dear readers, would've done. We pulled off the road and into an orchard,  set our beach chairs under a shady peach tree, and made sandwiches out of the bagels, salami, and cheese that we brought from home. I can still remember how good those sandwiches tasted and how relaxed we felt just hanging out there in an orchard far away from responsibilities and duties.

The husband had waited several hours to read the comic strips.

After lunch, we continued taking turns saying Left. Right. Straight ahead. And, of course, Stop! I gotta take a picture. 

Water towers, my new fascination.

We eventually came to Merced, the county seat. Both of us had never been there. I'm ready to return if just to see more of the Merced County Courthouse Museum. That 1875 building is a beauty, both in and out. Because we got there half an hour before closing, we rushed through it with a docent following us all the way. Picture-taking is not allowed in the museum. I didn't know that.

It turned out to be a good thing, as the docent told us stories about the courthouse that we wouldn't have learned on our own.  For example: "See those scuff marks on the wall by the steps," the docent said, as we were walking up the stairs to the second floor. "They were made by the prisoners' ankle cuffs as they walked up the steps." I could just hear the sound of shuffling feet and metal scraping against the wood.

The statues that perch atop the old Merced County Courthouse.
At the tippy top of the cupola is Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.
Below her is Lady Justice. She holds a sword and scales. Hmmm.

From Merced, we headed homeward.  Left. Right. Straight ahead. Jiggity jigg.


  1. sounds like a really fun day! I'm trying to figure out what state you are in... peaches.... mmnnn... {:-Deb

  2. As far as I'm concerned, this is the very best kind of day. You just sort of let it happen, and there are always wonderful surprises.


  3. I love that you all had a wandering adventure! And you used a real map...not Gps!

  4. Deb, I'm in California. :-)

    Sue, I am so glad we're doing these 23rd dates. I really had forgotten how to be spontaneous.

    Jen, the husband and I both like navigating by maps. So much fun. And, the lively discussions we get into when we have different interpretations.

  5. It does sound like a wonderful fun day

  6. What a fabulous place to be and wander in. Love the photos and the fact that it was all 'as it comes' no plans.

  7. That was a good time had by all. Sandwiches look good as husband is taking a bite. Don't you gain in appetite as you take in the fresh air. Your have as much bleak land as we have in Montana, looks like. :) I guess I don't really mean bleak as bleak can have a gloomy connotation. Of course, it is often gloomy in Mt. but probably not in CA. In classic literature, whose house was Bleak House? Was that in David Copperfield? I rather like that name.
    That was an illustrious date. :)

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  9. hip-chick, We're on our second year of doing 23rd dates. One of the best gifts we've given each other.

    Mari's World, at the beginning of our 23rd dates, we tried to plan. Well, at least I did. Now it's tomorrow is the 23rd, where shall we go? what shall we do?

    Manzi, maybe stark is what you're think. We were wandering around the western edge of California's central valley and it is that. I didn't take photos of the slough that we were driving through at one part, which I think was overrun with water because of the all the rain we got this year.

    Bleak House was its own book. Didn't read that one cause of the title. :-)

  10. What a fantastic day! Your orchard picnic brought back memories of my childhood. I grew up on a 65 acre orchard, and spent my summers in and under the trees. I love how protective Momma bird was.

  11. i'll bet that was a wonderful picnic. what amazing recognition of the bird hatching eggs and respect to go away. beautiful day:)

  12. I don't know about the grasslands there, but in Wisconsin, the prairie goes through a five year cycle in which it only reaches the above-the-head level during one year.

  13. sounds like a fun trip! Through the years my family and I have wandered often into ruralness (on vacation) and always have food with us. I remember once eating a sandwich while standing in the cool waters of a river. mmmm....

  14. What a neat trip! I'm glad you let us share your 'wander'. This sounds like things my husband and I do! And we always take a picnic!

    Is there anything better than a day exploring with someone you love?

    Thanks for a wonderful link this week.


  15. And not a GPS in sight ... wonderful!!!!


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Thanks for the good cheer. :-)

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