Thursday, July 18, 2019

Modesto and Stockton, California

There seems to be no direct path between San Jose and Modesto, at least according to my GPS unit which takes me on a super convoluted route that I wonder about.  Back in previous days with the RV, I often double checked the GPS route against a real map to see if it made sense.  I have gotten out of that habit since it isn’t as critical with the smaller vehicle, but maybe it’s a good idea ?  

Anyhow, I traveled through through more than enough traffic getting away from the intel-cyber metropolitan area, but finally entered real farm country again.  In spite of that there were traffic backups everywhere, just too many people for the roads, but they just keep building.  I really struggled with where to go next on this adventure, but upon arrival in Modesto I knew I had made a good choice.  The downtown still somehow has retained much of its original look and feel.  I guess they weren’t smart enough to wreck their old downtowns during the 1960’s urban renewal craze like San Clara and San Jose did.  The Southern Pacific Rail Station remains although is mostly a bus station now, but the bus fleet looks modern and It is still served by Amtrak and is a planned stop on the future California high speed rail project.  Also the iconic street arch remains and has even been restored to its former glory.  Modesto is also home to the largest winery in the country Gallo, which is also the largest employer.

I live the arch, but the city motto seems weird

It even lights up at night

Every old town takes great pride in their beautiful Kress buildings

Modesto has this huge new movie theater and across the street
is a massive new Hotel which I can't image ever getting filled

I really liked the Fox Pub

I find a few good murals near the Train Depot and on wandering around the block come upon a history walk where it takes you around the early 1960’s car cruise circuit on 11th and 12th streets.  This was the in thing to do back in those days.  It seems that George Lucas who spent his early years in Modesto remembered those times fondly also and it was the inspiration for his hit movie American Graffiti.  It's kind of funny that this cruising, somewhat lawless, racing in the streets kind of thing is now a nostalgic city attraction.  Downtown Modesto is looking good these days with a nice mix of businesses, the restored State Theater, a beautiful new performing arts center, a giant new Hotel and many nice cafes and restaurants.  It was Wednesday night where the Barkin dog grill does a weekly jazz jam session. It was quite incredible, best stuff I’ve heard in a while, even though jazz is not my favorite. The lack of service sucked, but my priority was the music and it was great !

Well done mural in downtown

Another very artistic collage on a side lot

The beauty of hot rod cars  and the arch

There were a whole series of these murals

Another nice mural, but obviously done by someone from another era,
Mustangs were never a cool hot rod vehicle

Modesto street corner mural

A series of historical panels were around the old
car cruise circuit which was vibrant in that time

Don't know about the food, but the jazz jam session is great

Disturbingly I read that Modesto has a very high rate of car theft and gang activity, must be another area of town, I have seen.  As I am basically sleeping on the street, I need to be aware of these things.  It does have plenty of homeless types as every town I've been to so far on the California coast does.

I have a hiking trail app on my phone that gives me potential hikes wherever I go.  I need some exercise and pick one about 10 miles away that follows the Tuolumne River for a mile or so, it’s not long but sounds interesting.  The Tuolumne River is a fast flowing healthy looking stream that comes from the mountains.  Just a couple of miles outside of Modesto puts you back into farm country through many orchards and vegetable farms with fresh produce available. 

The Tuolumne River is a beauty

The river flood plain is mostly sand which the 

The most interesting Datura plant which is not to be eaten were
covering this sandy flood plain area

Deady Datura

This tree (unknown to me) was loaded with these blue berries

I do another first by traveling to the TA Truck Stop and doing the shower thing.  It’s a very efficient setup but kind of pricey at $15.  If you are a member of their loyalty program there is a discounted rate, I'm not.  It was a large private room with toilet, sink and shower, very clean and everything worked fine.  I don’t know if there is any time limit, nothing was said about that.  Going into the back section at the truck stop is like entering another world.  There is a truckers lounge with a TV and comfortable chairs.  It’s funny, but all the drivers seem to have a similar look.  You might be able to pick out a truck driver in a criminal lineup just by sight.  

Afterwards, I decide to go visit another nearby town for a few hours and somehow end up staying the night in Stockton, California.  I initially stumble upon this historic Spanish and Chinese area, then search out the old downtown area.  Unlike many other towns, Stockton did not demolish its old downtown during the 1960’s urban renewal period.  The buildings are mostly still there, many are vacant and in bad condition, but still restorable.  As a result the core downtown although rough looking, (maybe even scary) in areas has character and I had a great time wandering around looking at things. 

No open doors at the Confucius Church

Beautiful Bank of Stockton building

The beautifully restored Fox Theater

Very nice !

I believe this was the Masonic Temple

I loved the way they did this sign for "I scream for ice cream"

Stockton Memorial City Auditorium with the gold bear out front

City Hall building is looking a little shabby these days

Not sure this is still active here

Another landmark building with a series of murals

Good rules to live by

A poor looking apartment building with a motivating mural

I am in a different climate now since leaving the coast, it’s full direct sun with some humidity and over 90 degrees in the afternoon.  It’s like a sauna in the van by mid afternoon, but does cool off at night if I can open doors.

By late afternoon I had walked about 6 miles on the hot city streets, was hot and tired and then decided, why return to Modesto, makes sense to stay here tonight.  I ended up a few miles away on the old Lincoln Highway, route, near the campus of The University of the Pacific next to a giant shopping mall.  I found a spot one block off the highway that looked good, but in the morning at 5 AM a delivery truck was roaring next door and then a crazy homeless man starting yelling nonsense.  It’s time to pack up and get out of here.

A rather expensive sign for the mall using the
Lincoln Highway emblem

Next stop is the state capital of Sacramento. California 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Santa Clara and San Jose, California

The ride to Santa Clara was a stressful drive as the road climb steeply up the Santa Cruz mountains and then steeply back down in heavy traffic.  The van does not handle or ride so well on rough roads at speed, in spite of the expensive front shock absorbers that were installed a month ago.  My GPS unit was also not helping by giving me confusing signals in a couple of congested places directing me to stay left when the road actually was going right, or it could be that I was confused, that happens frquently.   My GPS also seems to get lost once in a while as the roads have changed since the last update.

I made an unscheduled stop in the town of Castroville, the Artichoke Center of the World which I remember well from my last time in California when we camped in this area.  I took the same photos downtown again, remember them well, but sadly things seem more run down than before in Castroville.  As I was walking by street arch, a woman sitting in front of the antique store started a conversation with me.  She said they aren’t maintaining the arch anymore, it doesn’t even light up at night like it once did and they have even stopped holding the annual Artichoke Festival.  She said they, meaning the present town politicos, just don’t care anymore. How can this be, the surrounding fields are still filled with artichokes, it’s about the only reason to go to Castroville?,_California

The famous Castroville street arch

Also famous for Norma Jean aka Marilyn Monroe who was
the honorary Artichoke queen in 1947

Fading mural on building

Trolley car grille is really an old trolley

Anyhow, I arrived in Santa Clara safely but found it a strange looking town arriving at the motel as the businesses were mostly Asian and Indian looking.  The Quality Inn was fine although the parking was a little tight.  The room was great except the people above me were a little loud and it seemed as if there wasn’t much insulation in the ceiling.  Also some one was tapping on my door at about 3 AM, I thought it was next door actually, but in the morning there was a note left.  They were looking for someone and hoping that person was still there, very odd at 3 AM ?,_California

I pigged out on the free continental breakfast and stayed in the room until check out time, then headed out to explore.  My first stop was the nearby Mission Santa Clara de Asis located in the Santa Clara University.  It was built in 1777 and destroyed and rebuilt several times, but looks perfect now.  It seems that the church wisely decided to turn the mission into a school which eventually morphed into todays University.  As a result it has been protected and currently maintained  very well.  The university grounds and buildings are equally beautiful, just immaculate, this is a nice campus !

The Mission is immaculate in every way

Had to get the flowers in the shot

The Mission interior

Lots of artwork

Another adjacent University building

Afterwards I searched for other nearby attractions and found the Santa Clara Train Depot which has been turned into a train museum, but closed on Sunday.  This Depot is a vibrant stop on the CalTrans mass transit rail and bus line.  Also a short distance away is the Triton Art Museum, which wasn’t much to see actually, a very impressive building, but the exhibits were not so good.  Across the street was a very unusual tall tower in front of City Hall with a painted face on top, kind of odd ?

The old Train Depot is now a train museum

The new rail station is a modern transit hub

Ethel dedicated her life to planting Redwood Trees all over town

Museum entrance was a work of art

I just didn't understand this exhibit

But liked this one

This is in front of the Santa Clara City Hall

I then set off the find the historic Hoover Theater which seems to be used as a school now.  Across the street was the most interesting Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum.  I went inside where they had great exhibits with very rare Egyptian  burial artifacts and  information about this period of time. The grounds around the museum were a bit mysterious, there was a peace garden and several monuments to important leaders who it seems to have been leaders of this organization (cult) who have assembled this museum, all explained in the link below.

Not sure how the net zero carbon involves the Egyptian Museum

Lots of beautiful sculptures on the grounds

Seem to be guarding the front entrance

This museum has the largest collection in the western US

Everything was displayed to perfection

The historic Hoover Theater

These appear to be Morning Glories, perfectly blue ones

After the love garden and the Egyptian burial and mummy antiquities I need to regain my mental balance so I drive into this decadent looking area.  There was a really good antique store but they were about to close.  Across the street was a bar with a great name, "The Bears" with an interesting sign which drew me.  It was a dive bar in the truest sense of the word, but mainly just a decent neighborhood bar with a good hike box and pool tables.  This area is somewhere between Santa Clara and San Jose which seems to overlap one another.

The Bears Cocktail Lounge where the $3 PBR was ice cold

Actually a beautiful old bar

I continued on to the Santana Row area of San Jose which is the new hot downtown shopping and dining area.  It was crowded with people, there was a small park with a band playing surrounded by several restaurants.  I sat and listened to the band for a while, they were basically blues, contemplated an ice cream, but the line was insanely long.  Instead I stopped at a nearby grocery, bought a small container of ice cream, mixed in my fresh strawberries and had a real strawberry sundae.

They have made a former street into a pedestrian mall

A mostly upscale mall

The band was good

I camped for the night a few blocks way out on a nearby street near another RV doing the same thing, it was fine.  I moved quickly in the morning across the street, not good to hang out in one area too long, into a shopping center parking lot and did my usual breakfast cereal and fruit thing.

I debated what to do, ultimately deciding to go tour the big attraction in San Jose, the Winchester House, which is very weird and amazing story. The house was built by Sarah Winchester who inherited a fortune after her husband, William Winchester of Winchester firearms fame died.  The story of how this came to be is another story of someone with more money than common sense.  The house from the outside is really beautiful and impressive as is the original portion of the house.  The other 100 + added  rooms on different levels, with fake doors and weird stairways to confuse the evil spirts who were after Mrs Winchester were just crazy !  There was a movie based on this house that could be purchased in the gift shop.  Portions of the house were severely damaged in an earthquake and were left that way.  Overall this is a very sad story.

This front section of the Mansion is beautiful

View from an upstairs window

The eccentric Sarah Winchester

She was well educated 

The man on the far right is one of the ghosts who
is reported to inhabit the house

 I am now really tired of this area, don’t like it much and am ready to head inland away from the crowds.  After much deliberation, I decide to head for the town of Modesto, California.