This time it was off to California before the whole area becomes the first “Safe State.” Started with a visit to our son Philip, in Santa Clare, a.k.a. Silicon Valley where we stayed several nights. Wow, his two bedroom, two bath unit, with almost the exact layout as his former apartment in Orlando but cost 2 ½ times more. Made a day trip to Palo Alto, where we visited Stanford University and the colorful town of Stanford. Lots to see and do if you have deep pockets.
As the weekend came, the three of us headed to Sacramento which was the most western point of the Transcontinental Railroad that was completed with a golden spike in 1869. Caught a train ride in celebration of the 150th anniversary of its completion.
This was followed with an interesting visit to the railroad museum. From Sacramento we drove to several old towns. Placerville was nice with the old buildings restored. It was on to the town of Colma which maintains an old section that included a Catholic Church that was used till 1925. Famous Wyatt Earp, who was born in Illinois, made it out west to Arizona, then to California where he is buried in Colma. On to the town of Murphy, founded by several brothers. This area became one of the richest gold mining towns out west. Today, it is known for its fine dining and wineries, plus the large green shamrocks painted in the streets.
Patty and I then made a quick trip to San Francisco where we took a 1 ½ hour walk from downtown to the famous “Wharf” to see changes since our last visit over 25 years ago. The displays of fish and crabs were not as abundant as before but the number of fine restaurants increased 10 fold. Did see the old Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory plus Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. These are all sites you don’t want to miss if you have never visited the area. San Francisco has suffered from many earthquakes over the past few hundred years but to Italian American history buffs, like myself, the 1906 earthquake is of particular interest. San Francisco was virtually destroyed by the quake and massive fires that broke out as a result of ruptured gas lines. It was Amadeo Giannini, founder of the Bank of Italy, who is credited with the start of reconstruction of the area. After the quake he entered the remnants of his bank and loaded two million dollars on a produce cart underneath vegetables. From there he made loans in the street while other banks refused funding. During this trying period, Giannini often made a loan with a handshake. In later years he would provide funding for the establishment of Hollywood and loaned Walt Disney $2,000,000 for the completion of the film "Snow White" when it ran over budget. Giannini would go on to found Bank of America.
Though there was a presence of homeless in the downtown area we did not visit the sections of higher concentration as we caught a Lyft which took us to the Cal/Train Station for a wonderful trip back to Santa Clare. This is the type of system that is sorely needed in South Dade County instead of a “band aid bus proposal.”
The next day it was off to delightful San Jose, again by train. On arrival, we attended a Rotary luncheon. This club is the 9th largest Rotary Club in the world with over 450 members. Over 400 attend the weekly meeting! San Jose is a wonderful city with many things to do and see. During our self designed walking tour, we found ourselves in a homeless tent city. Though there was lots of trash scattered around, the stories of excrement on the sidewalks was not apparent. Later, when talking to our son, we became aware of another type of homelessness that exists in California. With the high cost of housing, many are forced to return to their parent’s homes while other working singles or couples live in cars or motor homes unable to afford proper housing. With a small 2 bedrooms, 2 bath house near a major city starting at 1.2 million dollars plus the additional State income tax it is easy to understand. Thank goodness we Floridians do not face these additional economic factors. Well, enough on social issues. This is a vacation!
Now it was time for us to fly to San Diego and relocate at another time sharing hotel for a sales pitch. Stayed in Carlsbad, a beautiful ocean side town with lots of fine dining. One night we found ourselves at a restaurant/pub named Coyote. After dinner we went for a stroll only to return to our parked vehicle that had been hit by a Toyota when the driver got out without putting her car in park. Next day was better as we met up with Frank, my best friend from college and his wife of 47 years. Over a late lunch we melted away the years of separation as we talked of old memories, families and new happenings in our lives.
On the daring side, one morning Patty, Philip Jr. and I rented motor bikes and took off for an extended ride along the seaside. California has an amazing system for bikes and small motor vehicles. That afternoon we visited the nearby town of Oceanside and enjoyed a beautiful sunset on their ¼ mile pier. After we had exhausted the sites of Carlsbad it was time to venture in to San Diego proper and see what this famous city had to offer besides the best climate in the world. Imagine, being a bit chilly in the mornings, with over 300 sunny yet pleasant days due to low humidity. Couple that with the wide variety of flowering plants and trees and you have a natural paradise. If it wasn’t for the high price of housing and taxes this would be my choice for living.
While in San Diego we visited the world famous zoo. Enjoyed the double decker bus tour through part of this magnificent 100-acre facility that houses over 3,500 animals of over 650 species. Later, we walked much of the area stopping to talk to animal specialists and learned of the extensive breeding programs used to preserve endangered species. They participate in a world-wide program using DNA to match compatible mates.
The following day we caught a “Hop On Hop Off Bus,” the best was to see the highlights of any city. Made several stops on our second trip around the loop. The tour started at and returned to “Old Town,” the oldest city in California. This area is full of history, shops and restaurants. We skipped the next several stops to exit at the “Gaslamp Quarters and New Town.” Selectively we visited the US Grant Hotel built in 1910 by Ulysses Grant Jr., to honor his father and family. This magnificent hotel was a needed kick start for developing present downtown San Diego away from Old Town. The downtown area is designed with small blocks built without alleys. Thus developers were able to offer more corner spaces for higher rents. Passed the harbor and saw several Clipper Ships on display. We could see the presence of our military with vessels visible in the distance.
We passed through gigantic Balboa Park which is double the size of Central Park in New York. There is so much to see in the park that it is impossible to cover in one day. There are museums, concert areas and more. One concert building has an organ stage with 5,000 pipes. Every Sunday there is a free concert in the park as stipulated in agreement from the family who donated the land for the park.
Next, we visited Little Italy of San Diego which is larger then the combination of the three largest Little Italy towns in America including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Ate at Boneo Appititos to the delight of us all. After lunch we searched and discovered an Italian Bakery to satisfy our “Sweet Tooth” with a variety of mouth watering Italian goodies.
At days end it was time to take our son to the airport but not without a little history of the facility. There is only one runway in and out of the Lindbergh Airport that services both take-offs and landings. Secondly, the plane Lindbergh flew (the Spirit of St. Louis) was actually built in San Diego but Saint Louis investors bid more then San Diego could afford for the rights to name the plane. After completion of his famous flight, Lindbergh thought San Diego deserved the rights to use his name for their airport due to the fact that the plane took off from that air strip. Patty and I were scheduled to leave the next day but due to severe weather in Texas our flight was cancelled. Without hesitation, Patty booked a room near the airport and extended our auto rental for another day. This gave us the opportunity to drive to La Jolla Beach where we enjoyed the amazing seaside with a few sunbathers but lots of seals and sea lions.
When we flew out the next day we hit several delays with our connecting flights but Patty wasted no time as she pulled up the calendar on her phone and started planning our next trip.