Friday, June 14, 2013

Exploring Stenbeck Country

June 10 - 14, 2013:

We finally made it to the Pacific Ocean, well actually the Monterey Bay for a visit to the Monterey Aquarium.  Lots of school trips to the Aquarium, many kids with wild wonder in their eyes dashing all over.  I'm a bit weird, Aquariums and Zoo's, don't really thrill me, but Twinkles loves them.  I was more interested in the building itself that was a real operating Sardine Cannery along with many others on Cannery Row before they fished the Sardines nearly to extinction and put themselves out of business.  They did have great exhibits, especially the Psychedelic Seahorse exhibit, the Jellyfish and the tidal pool tanks.  I thought the fish tanks were sort of dark and murky looking, but Twinkles straightened me out on this.  The water in the tanks is real sea water from the bay that is only partial filtered and the lighting is purposely kept dim so the fish feel right at home.  The outside portion of the Aquarium is overlooking the Monterey Bay with the wave action and all and at times the harbor seals come in and frolic around, that's pretty cool !  John Steinbeck spent much time on Cannery Row and one of his classic books is titled "Cannery Row", he is now pretty much everywhere there, probably haunting the place.
Cannery Row
Monterey Aquarium

Keep reading below for more;

Twinkles and Slick  !

Old Cannery Row scene

The Sardine Catch

Steinbeck on Cannery Row

The view of the Bay from the Aquarium

One mean looking Shark

A psychedelic Jellyfish

Tank view 

A ride to the town of Watsonville is through a very huge agricultural area, lots of big trucks, farm workers, berries and vegetables.  The town was larger than expected, 50,000 people they say, and has a really nice old downtown.  A fairly vibrant original downtown to my surprise.  I parked next to the bridge, a long beautiful ornamental arch bridge over the Pajaro River.  The river is more like a small stream at present, but it has a huge flood plain, it must have some wild times.  The town of Pajaro is on the other side, kind of like the other side of the tracks, kind of dangerous and dumpy, a watch your back kind of area. I did see a sign for an old cafe, "The Idle Hour Cafe" that I thought was very cool, one of the best ever signs !

Watsonville building covered with murals

Apple grower label in Watsonville

The bridge from Watsonville to Pajaro

Pajaro mural

Artichoke Restaurant and Bar in Pajaro

The Idle Hour Cafe in Pajaro

They should rename this, The Lettuce Hotel in Watsonville

Great Watsonville farm mural

Mission Bell fruit label

Berry fields near Watsonville

Watsonville mural

A ride to Freemont Peak State Park up a narrow, winding steep road with incredible views.  We found our way to the Freemont Peak trail which was a moderate hike to the summit.  At the top you get a 360 degree view to the distant mountains and valleys.  US Captain John Freemont, was on a topography mission here in 1845 when this was mexican territory.  He was under the impression he had approval to be here however local the Mexican Commandante Castro thought otherwise and ordered him to leave.  Freemont built a fort and raised the US flag on the summit, but then hastily retreated when he understood that the mexicans were not happy with this intrusion.
John Freemont

View from the Fremont Peak trail

View from the trail with fog in the valley

Twinkles taking in the view near the summit

Sign at the summit

A ride to Salinas to explore the old downtown and see the Steinbeck Center.  John Steinbeck was born and raised in Salinas and people and places from the Salinas area were often used in his writing.  He did not always portray the local farming and business community in a favorable light, result in a period of time when they had Steinbeck book burnings in town.  It seems they have now forgiven him.  The downtown area has many interesting old buildings, but it is pretty sad and depressing.  On the other hand, the Steinbeck Center far exceeded my expectations, it was loaded with really well done exhibits on his life, his writing and accomplishments.  Twinkles, aka "The Reader" says his books are painfully sad and depressing, but that I would love them.  Not sure how to take that ?  One of his classic books is "Travels with Charlie" which I suppose was the idea behind our blog name, but I never really made the connection to John Steinbeck.  Anyhow, I am now very much drawn to his writing style and philosophy.

Great old building in Salinas

View from the road to Salinas

Fox Theater in Salinas

Steinbeck Center mural

1930's Salinas street scene

Classic Salinas farm labels

Travels with Charlie road map

Salinas building detail

Marilyn Monroe as the Artichoke queen

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