Showing posts with label travels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travels. Show all posts

Friday, August 11, 2017

Green Acres

It was so gooooood to get home this afternoon. We spent over an hour stuck on a barely moving rural road, which normally would've taken 10 minutes to drive. I feel sorry for the commuters. They have to deal with this every work day.

We three—the Husband, Molly the Cat, and I—live in an agricultural area in which the only way in and out of town are two-lane highways and back roads. It was not a big deal until maybe five or so years ago when construction of proposed developments approved 20 or so years ago finally went into full force. The building moratorium was dropped, which was imposed because the City had to fix its screwy sewage system.  Bam! Bam! Bam!

The bummer about this is that many people who work in Hollister live other places because they can't afford the homes. As for the people moving into the new homes, they drive the two-lane highways and back roads to Hwy 101, the main highway to the cities where they work. Our roads are essentially impacted teeth.

The Husband and I are not used to sitting in traffic anymore. I didn't even mention the big rig toting two huge trailers that got stuck turning left onto the road. Fortunately for us we were at the beginning of this incident so we managed to scoot around the obstruction before the traffic went kaput. The experience reminded me of inching through the San Francisco city streets to get onto the Bay Bridge exit during commute hours. Triple-packed in a sardine can.

C'est la vie. Yeah.

On a calmer, and happier, note, here's the Husband this evening finding zen with the iPad. He was sitting where the once-upon-a-time shed stood. Can you find Molly the Cat?

Friday, October 23, 2015

The One-of-a-Kind Windmill in Salinas Valley

My Alphabe Thursday theme: Places I've Been

Back in March, the Husband and I stumbled upon an amazing landmark in Salinas, California, of which I think many people in our area are unaware. Standing on top of a historic mill on the Harden Estate in North Salinas was a Victorian mechanical wonder known as the Challenge Double Header Wind Engine. It's considered the only surviving windmill of its kind.


The Challenge Double Header Wind Engine was built in 1892 by Salinas Valley pioneer grain farmer and dairyman Duncan McKinnon. Back then, many called the machine's design  a "masterpiece in Victorian engineering". The wind engine has two 30-foot wind wheels that rotate in opposite directions. It also has two smaller wheels which rotate the wind engine so that it faces the wind.

McKinnon decided to build the wind engine after seeing an advertisement. The man had vision. He used the wind engine to power his mill, a water pump, blacksmith shop, and carpentry shop. One source says that the wind engine was used until 1906 when electricity became available in the area. Another source says that the mill operation stopped around World War I.

Nobody operated the windmill until 2006 when it was restored by the Harden Foundation, which is based on the Harden Estate (originally McKinnon's property).  The windmill is closed to the public, but people wishing to see it can make arrangements to tour it by contacting the Harden Foundation.  The Husband and I happened to be in luck that Spring afternoon. Joe Grainger, Executive Director of the Harden Foundation, generously gave us a tour of the inside of the mill.

The story of the restoration is amazing as well. In 2004, the wind engine was removed from the top of the mill and traveled across country to Bridgewater, Virginia where the restoration took place. To read about the restoration project, click here

I was astounded when I first looked up at the wind engine. I didn't think it was a windmill. Nope. Not at all. It reminded me of a Ferris Wheel, a clipper ship, and what I imagine Jule Verne's time machine ought to look like.  I wonder what John Steinbeck thought of it. What would you think it is if you didn't know it was a windmill?

A day late is better than not at all. To check out other posts of, or to participate in, Alphabe Thursday, hosted by the lovely Jenny Matlock, click here.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


My Alphabe Thursday theme: Places I've Been

Vegas as in Las Vegas. The fertile lowlands of a city that's in southern Nevada. Yes, fertile lowlands is the English translation of the Spanish plural las vegas. Hmmm, could that be why you can find quite a lot of golf courses is Vegas?

Some might say that the fertile lowlands refer to something other than terrain. But, I'm not going there.

I've been to Vegas four times. The first time was in 1975 when I went cross-country with a college friend. The Strip wasn't a big deal yet and Downtown Vegas was so-so, but then I was still 20 so what was the use of being there. The second time was another quick stop as the first, late dear Husband and I were driving back from our first big camping trip together. Again, yawwwwn. We had after all spent a week down in a canyon by the Colorado River.

In the late 1990s, the Husband and I spent a few days in Vegas and by then the Strip was a very big surreal deal. The photos are from that trip. We gambled our nickels away at the various casinos and shook our heads at the unbelievable sights, such as the Venice gondolas, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramid, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The best stuff was off the Strip—the older part of Vegas, the Boulder Dam, and Mt. Charleston. My favorite souvenir was the library card from the Las Vegas Library.

About 8 years ago,  the Husband and I stopped overnight on our way to New Mexico. Nothing much to talk about other than we stayed at a hotel that catered to locals. I liked it because it was low-key and not so flashy. The hotel casino gobbled up my nickels just as well as the ones on the Strip had.

Next time, if there's a next time, I'll have to choose whether to play the slot machines or try out the fancy restaurants with my saved up nickles. All in all, I think it's fun to, as Elvis Presley sings, Viva, Viva, Las Vegas.

It's the letter V on Alphabe Thursday, a weekly meme hosted by the wonderful Jenny Matlock. To participate or to read other V posts, click here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Special Wandering

My Alphabe Thursday theme: Places I've Been

September 23 was the first day of Autumn. It was also the Husband's and my 19th wedding anniversary. And, yes, it doesn't seem like it was that long ago we turned right at the xerox machine to get married. (For that story, head over here, if you like.)

Our day began with breakfast at our favorite coffee shop in San Juan Bautista—Vertigo Coffee. That's one of the few places I'll allow myself to drink coffee. The Husband had himself a mocha latte, which is an occasion in itself. Until yesterday, he hadn't drunk coffee in over two years.

We also ate BLT with soft scrambled egg panini sandwiches. Yummm! Using coffee stirrers as chopsticks to pick up the eggs that kept falling out of our sandwiches made the meal even more fun and special.

We drove over to the coast and headed north on Highway One. Roadwork was going on, but that didn't bother us. We were after all in no big hurry to get anywhere. We saw a lot of pampas grass growing alongside the road and hills. Did you know that pampas grass is originally from South America? I always thought it was from the east coast.

North of Santa Cruz, Highway One is a two-lane highway. It's a gorgeous drive, with the ocean on one side and hill and mountains on the other. Lots of farm land.  This time of the year, you can see quite a few fields full of bright orange pumpkins. I didn't get any photos of that, but I did get a photo of some trees in modern dance pose.

We stopped at Half Moon Bay, a cute little coastal town, to stretch our legs. We walked up and down the main street, window shopping and even wandered into a couple of them.  I posted photos of the various signs we saw on Main Street yesterday.

While I was taking a photo of the Husband pretending to ride a bike rack shaped in a bicycle, a woman stopped and laughed. "You've made my day," she said. "Let me take a photo of the two of you."

Our destination was Devil's Slide, about 17 minutes north of Half Moon Bay. Devil's Slide is a portion of Highway One that often got closed after heavy rains because of mudslides. After tunnels were drilled through the mountain to bypass this treacherous section, the road was turned into a trail. It opened in 2013.

I think the last time I drove Devil's Slide was 20 years ago. As we walked the trail from one end to the other and back, I was astounded that people used to drive this stretch. I don't recall the driving lanes being narrow at all.

The trail isn't long, 1.3 mile one way. There are a couple of steep inclines. Going up them was fine. Going down, ouch. My left knee was a whining diva. She didn't cry though, so that was good.

Remember that the Husband drank a mocha latte several hours earlier for breakfast. As we rested on a bench after walking down the steepest incline, the Husband mentioned how quiet he had been. "You've been talking the whole time we've been walking," I said.

"I have," he said.


The Husband is so darn cute.

We kept coming across people who exclaimed, "There's a whale!" A whale just went under!" or "Did you see the whale?" They pointed to somewhere in the ocean, describing where to look. "See the white water. The whale is near there." The Husband and I didn't see a thing.

After driving through the tunnel twice, we headed back to Half Moon Bay for dinner. We also checked out Ocean Books, the used bookstore on Main Street that unfortunately is going out of business after 19 years. There's nothing like wandering around a small, charming independent bookstore with an eclectic selection. It was one of the things that both the Husband and I hoped we would get to do on our special day of wandering.

Dinner was at Café Capistrano, which specializes in Mayan food. A local told us about this hole-in-wall restaurant, two blocks west of Main Street. The Husband and I shared an appetizer and a dinner plate, a perfect amount as both were generous portions. The appetizer was a bean stuffed tortilla topped with Mayan coleslaw, pickled onions, and shredded roasted chicken. Yummm! Our entree was pork adobo (two pieces of thin, tender pork grilled in achiote and lime) with black beans, red rice, guacamole, Mayan coleslaw, and corn tortillas. Double yummmm! Mayan adobo is very different from Filipino adobo.

It would've been nice to have stayed overnight in Half Moon Bay. But, the Mama and I had doctor appointments the following day, so back home the Husband and I went, jiggity jig, with the sun setting into the ocean.

It's the letter S at Alphabe Thursday. (Yes, I know it's Friday.) This weekly meme is hosted by the amazing Jenny Matlock.  To check out other S posts, please click here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Random Scenes: The Train to Florence

Minutes before three o'clock in the morning, I ran along the train platform towards an open door. My host ran beside me. "Have fun," he said. "Come back with no money."

I hoisted myself up the train steps.  "Boungiorno," I said to the waiting conductor, then turned and thanked my host. "I'll see you tonight."

"I'll be here." he said. "Don't worry about a thing."

The train to Firenze started. I began my unsteady walk through the darkly lit train in search of a place to sit. For the first time in many years, I was alone traveling in an unfamiliar place.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rancho del Oso

My Alphabe Thursday theme: Places I've Been
A couple months ago I had a hankering to be by the ocean and the Husband wanted to be in a forest, so we drove to Rancho del Oso, the western portion of Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County.  The entry point is across from Waddell Beach on State Highway 1, where you can see surfers and kiteboarders having fun.

It was our first time to visit Rancho del Oso, which translates to Bear Ranch. Once upon a time, the Grizzly Bear roamed the area. Thankfully, we did not meet any bears, but we did come across jack rabbits, squirrels, butterflies, lizards, and an occasional human.

We hiked over a couple of miles, the first half going up and along a mountain side and the trip back on a nice flat fire road. Unfortunately, my left knee flamed up on the way back, so it took us longer to get back to the car. On a positive note: We got to enjoy being under the redwoods longer.

It's the letter R at Alphabe Thursday, the weekly ABC meme hosted by the lovely Jenny Matlock. To read other R posts, please click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Niles Canyon Railway

My Alphabe Thursday theme: Places I've Been

Toot! Toot! Allllll Abooooarrrrrrrrd!

Last year, the Husband and I took a ride on the Niles Canyon Railway, a living museum that runs through the gorgeous Niles Canyon in the San Francisco Bay Area. We rode in historic train cars pulled by a vintage diesel engine. It was about a 90-minute round trip between two small historic towns, Niles (which is now part of Fremont) and Sunol (which is off of Highway 680).

The Niles Canyon Railway is operated by volunteer conductors and engineers. They're part of the Pacific Locomotive Association, a non-profit organization. The volunteers in this group rebuilt the line that was once part of the transcontinental railroad. The volunteers continue to obtain and rebuild train cars. Near the Sunol depot is the train yard where the cars are stored and worked.  One of the association's objectives is to provide the public with a sense of what riding trains was like in small communities throughout the United States once upon a time.

You can sit either indoors or outdoors on the train. On good weather days, the outdoor seats are very popular. We took indoor seats and once the train was on its way, we walked towards the front to outside cars where you can stand and gaze at the passing scenery.

Niles Canyon Railway schedules several trips on Saturdays and Sundays. You can get on at either the Niles or Sunol station. If you time it right, you can get off at one station, explore the town or eat at a restaurant, and then get back on another train. 

I like starting our round trip at Niles because afterwards we can wander through antique shops. Not that I buy anything. If you're a silent film fan, you'd especially like hanging out in Niles. Between 1912 and 1916, many silent films were made in and around the town, including ones by Charlie Chaplin and Bronco Billy. Check out the Niles Film Museum for details.

Here are a few more photos from our train ride.

Today is the letter N at Alphabe Thursday, hosted by the lovely Mrs. Jenny Matlock. Click here to join in or to read other N posts.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Moss Landing

My Alphabe Thursday theme: Places I've Been

Moss Landing, California is a fishing village with over 200 residents. From the photo, it doesn't look like a quaint fishing village, but believe me it is. It has a few great antique shops and restaurants. This photo is of the harbor and the more commercial part of Moss Landing.

Moss Landing is located on Highway 1, about 15 miles to the north of Monterey. It stands at the mouth of Elkhorn Slough, which is a fun place for hiking, birding, and kayaking.

I have three wonderful memories of Moss Landing.
  1. Eight years ago, the Husband and I did a kayaking tour with friends on Elkhorn Slough. That was the first time we went kayaking. At one point, we paddled by a wall of pelicans. They were not fazed at all. They did not seem to move a muscle. "Yup, there go more humans."
  2. In the early 1990s, the First, Late Husband and I floated down the slough on a wildlife viewing tour. That was my introduction to Elkhorn Slough and the beauty of wetlands. It was also the beginning of the final adventures with the First, Late Husband.
  3. Long, long ago, the Only and Older Brother and I were sitting in the car, while the parents said their long goodbyes to friends. "Do you know what they do in that building?" the Brother asked, pointing at the monstrous plant with its amazingly tall towers. "That's where they make M&M candy."
Yes, I believed the PG&E plant produced M&Ms for a very long time. Whenever I pass the plant, I like to think the Only and Older Brother was telling the truth.

Today is Alphabe Thursday hosted by sweet Mrs. Jenny Matlock.  To join the weekly meme or to read other M posts, please click here.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Between Lovers Point and Cannery Row

My Alphabe Thursday theme—Places I've Been

Lovers Point in Pacific Grove is about 1.25 miles to the west from Cannery Row in Monterey via the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. It's a fun, lovely trail to take however way you choose to travel it—walking, jogging, or pedaling a two-wheeler or a four-wheel surrey bike.

Lovers Point is a popular city park and beach to both locals and tourists. It's a great place to picnic, stroll, swim, or simply sit and enjoy the amazing Monterey Bay views. When you're there, don't be surprised if you happen upon a wedding ceremony.

The Husband and I walked the trail between Lovers Point and Cannery Row with friends on New Year's Day 2014. We started from Lovers Point, where we had a picnic and remembered our friend Charlie who had passed away the previous year.

The walk back from Cannery Row was tough. My knee protested every step back. Thank goodness for the camera, which distracted me as I clicked away.

Looking east towards Cannery Row.

One year, the Husband and I rented one of these surrey bikes and pedaled from Fisherman's Wharf to Lovers Point. The Husband did most of the work since I had a hard time reaching the pedals.

This is part of a long mural that depicts the history of Pacific Grove. In the late 1870s, Pacific Grove was established as a Methodist seaside retreat. By 1910, it was incorporated as a city. Pacific Grove is also known for being one of the places on the California Central Coast where Monarch butterflies return every Fall.

Odd-shaped rocks on the beach, you say. They're resting sea lions.

Look at that rock's profile. Does it remind you of a cat?

Cannery Row. Yup, the same place that John Steinbeck wrote about when it was full of sardine canneries. Today, it's home to many, many shops and restaurants as well as the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Heading back to Lovers Point, which is just beyond that point on the horizon.

It's Alphabe Thursday with the lovely Jenny Matlock. Today's letter is L. Click here to read posts by other participants.