Checking in from Barstow, CA …
After leaving LA, we headed north up the central valleys of California, to visit our son Jeff and his family in Pleasanton, CA (halfway between San Jose and Oakland). Once we were through the golden hill country, we passed endless fields of crops, groves of fruit trees and vineyards. Some we could identify; some unique to us. California produces more than half of the nation’s fruit, nuts and vegetables. Grapes are the leading legal crop, followed by almonds. Nationally, the following products are almost exclusively grown in CA (over 95%): artichokes, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins and walnuts. In addition, strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, greens of all types, onions and garlic are major crops. The fields, groves and vineyards were massive and generally well tended, mostly by migrant workers toiling in the California sun.
We enjoyed several days in Pleasanton, which lives up to its name and is certainly “pleasant.” On Friday night, we were greeted by Jeff and Debbie’s neighbors with a block party featuring pizza, ice cream and a cake tracing the Heart Trek USA path. Early Saturday morning, our granddaughters, Ashley and Olivia, marched through the vibrant downtown area of Pleasanton that looks like a movie version of Main Street America along with at least three hundred other kids that are part of the Pleasanton soccer leagues. Each team was dressed in costumes to match their team name. Ashley, who plays on the 10-12 year old Bullet team, was dressed with a silver cape, silver face paint and silver swim cap and was followed by coaches and team mothers carrying bull eyes (that had been made by Brenda, Jeff’s wife Debbie and Debbie’s mother Lillian). Olivia, who plays on the 8 year old Matador team, was carrying a red cape and had a red flower in her hair while her coaches dressed as bulls and charged in front of the girls. There were lots of creative costumes among the other teams as well. After the parade, we visited the downtown farmers market that featured many of the products seen on our trip north plus some unique Asian fruit that were new to us. Soccer games followed with Ashley’s team coming up a little short and Olivia’s team winning. But all had fun and got some good exercise.
On Sunday, Brenda had a full day learning to prepare and cook some Chinese dishes from resident master chefs, Debbie and Lillian. After a quick lesson, Brenda was busy folding and filling won ton pastries. There was much chopping and dicing going on. With the kitchen full, I was allowed to watch pro football which starts at 10:00AM in California. (I knew there was something special about the left coast). The meal that night included won ton soup, fried won tons with sweet and sour sauce, chicken with broccoli, bok choy with ginger, Chinese sausage, crispy pork and of course rice. The meal was very tasty, but Brenda found that Chinese cooking takes a lot of preparation. We’ll probably continue to eat most of our Chinese meals out of little paper pails with wire handles.
Jeff was busy on Sunday finalizing a musical video review of my walk across the country. Be sure to check future blogs for the end product. We had a wonderful, relaxed visit with the west coast branch of our family that was much too short. The girls are growing so fast. We miss seeing Jeff, Debbie, Ashley and little Olivia on a regular basis. It was great to see them so happy, however, and enjoying life in Pleasanton.
As we left Barstow, we headed south down Interstate 5 and east on Hwy 58, passing more groves and vegetable fields plus fields of roses and assorted flowers. We’re headed next for Bryce Canyon, Utah. Stay tune for what will hopefully be some spectacular photos.