Have you ever noticed the tree-like cell tower on the left as you head south on 89 towards Concord? The first time I saw it, I burst into laughter and told my partner, someone got their East Coast/West Coast trees mixed up. My friends, that metal thing is a Sequoia imposter. As you can see, I made sure to see the real thing in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Coastal redwoods are not quite as tall as the giant Sequoias you can visit in the Sierra Nevada, but I have to say, these trees are still pretty impressive. Asking the park ranger that we chatted with when we paid our fee where we could best stand with some, given the short amount of time we had, she pointed us towards the campground and suggested parking in the visitor lot and walking the circuit. We easily walked the trail in about an hour before making our way back to the car and more views of the coast as we headed to Monterey for a late lunch.
Row in Monterey is not quite the gritty place described by Steinbeck in his
novel of the same name. There are
several buildings housing the early history of this lively fishing port. We opted to head straight for a meal, noting
that all popular ocean communities seem to have t-shirt shops, shell stores,
and plenty of seafood. Of course it
would have been nice to re-visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it
was time to head north towards our hotel.
Cue up the Beach Boys, and get out your surf gear. Yes, our destination for the evening was the Casablanca Inn in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz was for me, what Hampton Beach, signifies for my native New England friends. When able, someone would offer to drive, and we’d head over Highway 17 to the boardwalk. Who can resist rides and beach and hanging with friends in such a fun town? In many ways Santa Cruz has not changed. The Boardwalk is still going strong, and we enjoyed walking to the end of the Pier and discovering a large family of sea lions sleeping on a dock, fighting for the most comfortable spot. Attached to the hotel was a nice Thai restaurant that served amazing pot stickers, and was clearly popular with locals. That night the rains began, and though it curtailed our explorations, my native state is so dry, we were happy to see it come. Breakfast the next morning was on the pier, at a restaurant I remembered from my youth. Gilda’s was as good as I remembered, and I happily munched on sourdough toast and hash browns, before we headed out of town.
Although it was raining, our next destination was ironclad. We were heading to Fremont, the city I grew up in, and to drive past my family home. Even knowing you can never go back, it was hard for me to see our house, painted a different color, with unfamiliar cars parked in front of it. This was my first visit back after putting it on the market when we moved my mother back East. As a kid, our little suburban subdivision was an island, surrounded by agricultural fields and walnut orchards. Gradually, the fields disappeared, and more houses were built, and by the time I graduated from high school, the landscape I knew in my youth was greatly altered. Yet I am of the age that our mother’s let us roam around the neighborhood, ride our bikes to the bowling alley, and stay outside until the street lamps came on, sometimes even later if there was a full moon. And always the ever-present Mission Peak loomed over our neighborhood, providing a comforting view, and occasionally, a snow-capped vista. Realizing I needed to take a deep breath from all the memories that came rushing back, we drove to my favorite district, Niles, to get a cup of coffee and regroup.
My city is actually comprised of five separate districts that came together under the City of Fremont. Niles is what I consider old Fremont. This area, surrounded with hills and with a quaint downtown filled with antique stores little has changed, well there is now a really good coffee roaster Devout Coffee. I had originally planned to show my husband one of my favorite park on the edge of the city, but the rain was relentless. As we sipped our coffee, I shared some of my memories of Niles, and its historic significance in early American Film. Charlie Chaplin and the Essanay studios set up shop in this area, taking advantage of the natural beauty to film some of most memorable movies. The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is housed in an Edison movie theater. Unfortunately, it is only open on weekends, but it is well worth the visit if you are in the area. Hoping that the rain would clear we wandered into a few antique stores, but our planned trip to Coyote Hills Regional Park was tabled for a future visit. As we headed out of town for our next hotel, I found myself recalling Dorothy’s famous mantra, “there’s no place like home.” Though there have been many times I have longed to click my heels and transport myself back to California, it seems I have come full circle. Sitting in traffic and noticing how many endless plazas were now present in my hometown, I thought longingly of Dan and Whit’s and realized I indeed consider the Upper Valley home.