Hot, Hot, Hot. When I left Texas to cool off, I was not expecting Santa Clara to get swept up in a heatwave. We paused for nearly two weeks and parked close by my childhood hometown of Campbell at the Santa Clara Elks Lodge. Having stayed here in past years, we loved its central location, welcoming lodge members, close proximity to family, a few blocks from the freeway system and quiet nights. A day of laziness to recoup from travel, we mapped out upcoming explorations and family visits before catching some Z’s.
California’s massively supplemented growing fields of fruit and vegetable crops keep the farm to market circuit in full swing most of the producing season. There are multiple cities hosting markets within a 20 mile reach of LilyPad’s location. Needing veggies and fruit, we set up camp and stopped at the closest, Campbell Farmers Market. A variety of interesting choices, we walked the rows inspecting the offerings. Entertainment was provided by a local singer and his guitar. With our bag of fruits and veggies, and munching on a macaroon, we returned to LilyPad to watch a Red Box movie, spend some time with the pug and sleep.
A leisurely rise with a cup-a-joe bolted us awake while planning our day. San Jose is the heart of Silicone Valley, arguably the most inventive place on earth. First on our list, The Tech Museum of Innovation and IMAX. One of my favorite sayings is carved into the slab of stone at the entrance. “Optimism is an essential ingredient for innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places.” Bob Noyce’s truest of words. It is impossible to live on the roll, traveling far from the safety of normalcy and conventional living, without mega amounts of optimism to solve the unending supply of complications created by this lifestyle.
Museums with hands-on activities top my list of “to-do’s” and The Tech Museum is overflowing with techie tactile tangibles. Reasonable pricing for seniors, we had several hours of playtime. John was my guinea pig only because he is less than accurate when I’ve requested he capture our Kodak Moments.
Inside, we checked out the gift shop while the crowds were small. Quick stop at the restrooms brought another high tech discovery. The water faucets at the sinks were ones I had never seen anywhere else, quite inventive.
I found it amusing; one of the tasks in the multiple activities section designed for 4th through 6th graders was a lock picking exercise. A locksmith docent demonstrated two different techniques to pick locks and John practiced until he succeeded. I thought it curious, a museum teaching pre-teens how to pick locks. Then again, anyone having access to a computer would have far more intriguing and dangerous blueprints available, should they wish to conceive more sinister plans.
Inserting your entrance ticket into slots at each station unlock a multitude of tasks, games and learning opportunities. In one room, John reprogramed a robotic assembly line computer to remove the hack. I was the cheering section.
Typing into another computer programed an electronic arm to spell out your name in wooden blocks. The computer misspelled my name causing me to be thankful it wasn’t a program used for human surgery.
Another area demonstrated the 3D printer. Although not a new concept, it was fascinating to see one in action.
Outer Space had representation with physical activities and exhibits. Early Space Rover samples of rock and soils from the moon, Mars and Earth were encased in thick see-through display cabinets with informative descriptions. These were the smallest of samples we’ve seen across the US. It is puzzling how anyone would believe we haven’t gone to the moon. There are tangibles in many museums, in various states across America. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” St. Augustine. Truth.
John and I watched several teens maneuver a landing for a space flight simulator and I captured a Kodak Moment of virtual John in a space suite. I must admit, while taking the picture, I thought of the many days I would have welcomed sending John to the moon.
A variety of science labs and hands on explorations were in the next section.
In an enclosed science classroom setting, Stanford University sponsors mini genetic classes, demonstrating how current research is uncovering the microscopic mechanisms at the heart of Bates’ speciation discovery of 150 years ago. We listened in on the animated teacher and watched the fascinated students for a short time before leaving to watch the IMAX movie presentation.
The museums IMAX theater presentation of Amazon Adventure, for me, was the most fascinating segment of our museum experience. As an environmentalist, I listened for decades to my peers claim humans were destroying species at an alarming rate, their only proof, bones and remnants but finding none living. 150 years ago, biologist Henry Bates spent 11 years on a journey through the Amazon rainforest identifying 8,000 new species leading to crucial contributions in biology. “Batesian”, his discovery of the mimicry phenomenon of edible animals deceiving predators by adopting the look of poisonous animals, resulted from collecting the first evidence of speciation, the birth of new species. It is known as the “beautiful proof”, natural selection, survival of the fittest.
After the IMAX, we drove back to LilyPad, gave KatieBug time outside and spent the balance of the afternoon and evening visiting family. Dinner out and we hit the hay.
Our plans for this bright sunshiny morning included rising early to check out the Santa Clara Farmers Market and breakfast at a local café. Not the biggest market we’ve attended but certainly the most colorful with more than a dozen stands offered blooming plants and cut flowers.
Picking up KatieBug, we visited another old childhood haunt, the Municipal Rose Gardens. The Gardens were a favorite picnic spot for me and my mother. Whenever the weather was pleasant, my grandmother would come with, toting a picnic basket loaded with all the trimmings for a delicious ladies only luncheon in the garden.
Roses everywhere, in every color, many with multiple colors and all bushes trimmed to produce flowers near nose level. The scent, when the roses begin their bloom, is otherworldly, sweet, perfume like with bees and butterflies joining the in-your-face experience of blossoms and buds.
In the center of the park is a refreshing pond and fountain surrounded by benches.
I did not recall the overpopulation of geese resulted in dung stains, the pool clouding, messes on the sidewalks and pollution of the water from high levels of unsafe bacteria.
I am no longer a goose fan since cleaning up after wild geese at the BLM day use park in Massachusetts. They are nasty noisy massive poop producing machines and regularly pollute beaches near ponds and lake waters, using them as toilets. The bacteria surge forces government ponds and lake areas to close until the high levels of bacteria decrease. Exactly why you see signs instructing visitors to never feed wildlife. It encourages them to seek humans for food.
Many of the roses were past their prime but the scent remained a bouquet of marvelous fragrances. We walked through the rows, breathing deeply, before sitting on a bench to appreciate their beauty and watch volunteers trim and dead-head the bushes. The Gardens are a fitting place of remembering grandma telling me to “stop and smell the roses”, something John and I do often in our travels.
Off to visit family, afterward returning for another Red Box movie, pug time and lights out for the night.
Santa Cruz Beach, Boardwalk and wharf were our primary destinations for today. The rising temperatures and sandy beach would not be a pleasant experience for KatieBug so we dropped her off at the local day care, one where she had happily stayed in previous years.
The wharf and boardwalk are where I spent my childhood and young adult summers and weekends for as far back as I can recall. After my parents gave me a car, I became the chauffeur, friends and I spent our weekends in Santa Cruz until I moved to Chico, met John and we were married.
Older and worn around the edges, the boardwalk arcade still makes me giddy when I walk inside and hear the clanging bells and upbeat music blasting from the games.
The sounds of the new skill games are slightly more instrumentally varied but the thrill of the challenge remains the same. Walking through the arcade and down along the boardwalk, we stopped to watch pop-up jugglers, slight-of-hand magicians and listened to carnival game barkers calling out for tourists to come win a prize.
Mid way down the boardwalk is the 1911 carousel, a boardwalk prized original and the boardwalk’s oldest ride. We stood watching the children, hearing their squeals, seeing little ones hanging on for dear life. Everyone in our family has ridden on the merry go round to the sound of the 342 pipe Ruth and Sohn band organ. Built in 1894, it still chimes out a merry tune. Details of each carved wooden horse are incredibly unique down to the real horse hair tails. Listening to the music and watching the horses go around still paints my face with an ear to ear grin.
When my daughter was a teen, for a half dozen years of family visits to California, Laffing Sal would welcome us at the entrance of the San Francisco wharf’s vintage game building. We would play pin ball machines and other vintage games of chance, then sit to rest on the bench in front of Sal and listen to her laugh each time a coin was deposited. To see this strange larger-than-life lady, grinning widely with her gaping missing tooth, standing in a Santa Cruz boardwalk window was a surprise until I read the poster. She was purchased and moved to this location after years of storage and would now be an historic reminder of the world of amusement parks of the past. I was pleased to find her safe from destruction, even though her odd fashion statement, toothy mouth and loud cackle were slightly frightful.
A day at the beach would not be complete without walking along the Santa Cruz wharf.
Entering the sturdy wooden roadway of boards as thick as tree trunks, sits a vintage fishing boat, original to these waters back when my grandfather was young and fished along this stretch of ocean. Wisps of sea breeze, fried fish, fresh cut bait, candied apples, taffy and boiled crab sneak into each breath you take and drifts along with you all the way to the end of the pier and back again.
Resting with my tummy arched over the whitewashed railings, my eyes followed the foamy white line of ocean rolling up onto the sand. Looking out over the beach I saw small groups of children building sand castles, teens showing off their daredevil boogie board stunts, mid-life sun worshipers slowly basting themselves while they turn into the future leathery brown elderly couples who walk along the surfs edge. The scenes bring a peaceful full circle acceptance to my now senior self.
On the far side of the wharf is where I learned to skin dive. The dark and cloudy waters hiding whatever wiggly slithery ocean creature I might have been afraid to confront.
When I visit Santa Cruz, I am transported into my past, to my childhood, young adult “happy place” and back to reality, where I must acknowledge everything eventually comes to an end.
Slightly wind burned, sparkling sandy specks still clinging to our feet, we toweled off and drove the familiar serpentine highway back to Santa Clara, picking up KatieBug from day care, dining at home and a slipping into a peaceful nights rest.
Spending most of our day with family, John found an evening Summer Music Concert program in Santa Clara and the three of us visited the circular outdoor event center to listen to classic rock tunes. Deciding to walk around the circle for exercise, the music could be heard from all sections of the amphitheater.
A beautiful night, the venue sat in the middle of a city park and provided us with a flat pathway with which to stroll and intermittent bits of lawn for KatieBug to meet and greet other fur babies in attendance.
Dinner tonight was with lodge members at the hall. We sat at a group table of contract employees from Tesla, the luxury electric car company. Surprised at the claims of low pay and unacceptable working conditions, we listened to them tell of workers moving to contract work to earn a livable salary. I had heard only positive observations from stockholders I knew, yet from different perspectives comes an alternative truth. Intriguing conversation, it was a surprise to find how late the hour had become. We said our good-bys and walked the short block to LilyPad, ended our evening.
Morning arrived and I was excited about today’s day trip. John, myself and my aunt would be spending the entire day in San Francisco. KatieBug was comfortably settled in with her buddies at day care. Over an hour away, only a few stops planned, this trip would be a whirlwind jaunt but one which would include Chinatown, something we passed by on our last visit.
On observation, along with the words and signs of California’s political street corner barkers flashing in my head, one prior personal opinion immediately changed upon arrival on the streets of Chinatown. All Americans most certainly do not integrate into our society. If ever one needs proof, Chinatown offers a discernible example.
Arriving near Chinatown, we parked on a side street and walked down Grant, the main thoroughfare. Chinatown’s streets are alive with the color red in every hue, lanterns hang from windows, are strung across streets and dangle from poles. Pungent exotic scents fill the air, tiny Asian markets with dozens of foreign vegetables and fruits sit on display in boxes along the sidewalks and customers scurry up and down the streets popping in and out of stores.
The smells emitted from open doors of hole-in-the-wall shops are foreign to many, barrels overflowing with leggy ginseng, crystalized ginger and dozens of mysterious pods, leaves and earth colored powders, overpowering aromas to most Western noses. I fully appreciate the medicinal properties of plants. My kids call me a witch doctor but most of my healing knowledge comes from Asian, rather than African herbs. Healing teas and salves, roots and powders are staples in my medicine cabinets, any surplus shared with my adult children whenever needed.
Strolling the streets to absorb the atmosphere, we stop in front of a famous Chinatown landmark, Tin How Temple, one of the oldest operating Chinese temples in America. The temple is dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, known as Tin How in Cantonese. A Kodak Moment to appreciate the intricate details before continuing.
At the end of the street, we made a U-turn and wandered back down on the opposite side, stopping inside several shops for candied ginger slices and herbal teas. Our destination, a small side street called Row Alley where we hoped to take a tour of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. A few steps off the main street we found Row Alley.
Expecting to take a tour after having read a TripAdvisor review, we entered the small working shop, barely having room enough for 10 people to squeeze in at the same time. Completely open to the entire cookie making process, workers were sitting at their machines, everything out in the open, no tour necessary. If there had been a tour, no English was spoken by the shopkeeper or workers so none of us would have understood.
The fortune cookie was introduced to the United States from Japan around the 1890’s. Initially the cookies were made by hand using a special iron mold called a Kata. When demand grew, a San Francisco confectioner was hired to produce the cookies in larger quantities. Original fortune cookies make in Japan were savory rather than sweet and it is believed a vanilla recipe was developed to appeal to Westerners palates. It is traditional to serve fortune cookies to Tea Garden visitors and for some reason, the custom grew to include Chinese restaurants.
Our original plans were to visit St. Mary’s but we parked opposite St. Francis of Assisi Church, the first parish church in San Francisco, so we wandered inside to explore.
One of my favorite St. Francis prayers is posted just inside the door.
Begun in 1850 it was the first parochial school in California and in 1852, held the first ordination to the priesthood.
Peaceful and quiet, walking through the church and resting in a pew offered us a cool and relaxing break in our day.
Onward and upward to drive the downward zig zag drive on Lombard street, another San Francisco landmark on my list. Habitually crowded with driving and walking tourists, Lombard Street must be a distressing street on which to live. The steep plunging grade, sharp curves along the entire street, an entrance only at the top and exit only at the bottom is a must-do for visitors, regardless of its intimidating appearance. Breaks in the traffic allowing an owner to pull into or out of their garage were scarce.
Lombard is located on the upper most top of the hilly streets of San Francisco. Many of the streets are known for their heart stopping plunges and breathtaking views.
Exiting Lombard, we hooked a left and looking outward, Alcatraz Island took center stage. Located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, its 22 acres were originally the first lighthouse and fort in the US. Known primarily for it being the infamous Federal Penitentiary and therefore off limits to the public, major crime patronage included Al Capone, George “Machine gun” Kelly, and Arthur “Doc” Barker.
Another not-to-be-missed sight is the Golden Gate Bridge, a suspension bridge connecting the one mile wide strait across San Francisco Bay over the Pacific Ocean. It carries travelers from U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the waters but is not RV friendly.
Golden Gate Park is near the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge and was our next destination. Parking and walking the pathway around the rocky mountain protruding from Stow Lake, we passed Huntington Falls, now dried up, and stopped at the Chinese Pavilion for a rest.
Circling back, I took a photo of the 1893 Golden Gate walking bridge.
Crossing the bridge led to hiking paths circling up to the top of the mountain. Returning to the car, we all settled in for the hour drive back to Santa Clara.
At my request, John made a slight detour on the way home so we could all sample a few noshes at what was touted as the best Jewish Deli in San Francisco, Wise Son’s Deli. When my aunt lived in the Las Angeles area, we dined regularly at a local Jewish deli and I was eager to find an equal near her current home.
The founding location, in the Mission District, is located on a quiet tree lined street in a iffy neighborhood that once must have been magnificent. Old unadorned deteriorating row homes on the same block as gigantic elegant Victorian mansions, all needing some form of repair. Had I unlimited funds, nothing would keep me from purchasing one as our home. The building was my favorite style of vintage, intricate bay windows overlooking the sidewalk below. Both the building and the owner of the Deli oozed character. What the Jewish Deli lacked in extent of variety, the joyous owner more than made up for in character and delightful banter. The meal was tasty and the social interaction with the owner was purely delightful.
Time passed quickly and we arrived back at LilyPad early evening. My aunt left for her home and after picking up KatieBug, we all turned in to get our forty winks.
Early to bed, early to rise, our first stop this morning will be our last farmers market produce stock up until we reach our next pause. Sunnyvale Farmers Market is medium sized, shade trees offering no shade to shoppers and items for sale were divided between fresh produce, general market items, specialty foods and a few non-profit organization tents spaced intermittently throughout the market.
The only booth which piqued my curiosity was Rebecca’s bakery goods. Remembering back to the days our family was following the Rotation Diet, I wondered if she used the same items to make bakery goods with no gluten, dairy, sugar or eggs as I used. Stopping to chat, the goodies indeed looked familiar. I baked with almond milk, almond flour, coconut milk, coconut flour, pure vanilla, honey and nut butters as did she.
Purchasing a particularly tempting looking Rebecca’s macaroon, we strolled through the balance of the booths and returned to LilyPad. Tonight we bid farewell to family and my hometown, prepare LilyPad for the next leg of our journey and rise early in the morning for our next destination, Yosemite National Park, California