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Garlic and Missions

Original Article and Photographs by Kenneth A. Larson © 2009 - 2017

We got off about 6:00 this Saturday morning, and hour late again. We headed north from Los Angeles on I-5 past Twisselman Road, Pleasant Valley State Prison, and towns like Buttonwillow and Kettleman City. The first two rest stops were closed so it was about three hours before we could stop at an open rest area just over the Fresno County line. There is an old saying in the West, "Whisky is for drinking, water is for fightin' over." Water has become a sensitive issue in California this year and the highway was lined with signs about water use. There were many signs saying "Congress created dust bowl," presumedly by farmers upset at being paid to not farm. Another sign called attention to the Cities of Stockton and Sacramento dumping sewage into the river that we get our water from. The Central Valley of California is one of the most productive agricultural places on earth, but it needs water to accomplish this task.

We left I-5 at State Highway 152 and in about 45 minutes exited the highway in Gilroy. A bit over an hour later we had traveled the short distance to the Gilroy Garlic Festival parking area. The festival is held in Christmas Hill Park the last full weekend of July. This was the 31st annual Garlic Festival and we had also attended the 25th festival six years earlier. That time the temperature was over 100 degrees, today was a bit below 90. Six years ago, we only saw part of the festival because of the heat, today we saw most of it. We watched two cooking demonstration, one for Kitchen Craft made me want to remodel my kitchen and start cooking again. At Gourmet Alley, we enjoyed a combination plate of garlic chicken stir-fry, (shrimp) scampi, garlic mushrooms, garlic bread, and garlic sausage sandwich. We got a sample of Garlic Ice cream which I liked, but my wife didn't. Maybe it's an acquired taste. My wife got a shaved ice and we got garlic fries. There were countless venders of garlic bread, garlic calamari, garlic this and garlic that. Merchandise venders sold braids of garlic, garlic powder, garlic roasters, garlic presses, shirts, hats, well, you get the idea. There were rides for the kids, beer for the adults, and entertainment. We spent about four hours at the festival, about twice what we did the other time.

There was a 20 minute wait for the shuttle to the parking area and my wife was tired and not happy when I opted for the ten minute walk. It took another half hour to exit the parking lot and then only when the attendants sent us out the entry. Twenty minutes later we were at our accommodations in Morgan Hill. We unloaded, rested, and headed off to Erik's Deli. My wife's parents lived in Morgan Hill for two years and always took us to Erik's, a small chain in the San Francisco Bay area with good food and a pleasant atmosphere. We returned to our room and settled in.

Sunday we awoke, enjoyed continental breakfast, packed and were heading south by 8:00. We arrived in the City of San Juan Bautista in time for the 8:30 Mass at Mission San Juan Bautista. My primary goal was the San Juan Bautista State Park which didn't open until 10:00, so we had a half hour to explore the Mission after Mass.

We had visited the town a year ago, but didn't have time to see everything we wanted to, so we picked up on some loose ends. I took more photos of a water wagon for a model maker friend in South Africa and we wandered the town. We had intended to eat lunch at one of several nice restaurants before heading out, but were ahead of schedule because we originally expected to attend the 10:00 Mass, so we headed south.

It was about Noon when we pulled off Highway 101 at the town of San Miguel which grew out of Mission San Miguel. In 2003, San Luis Obispo County was rocked by a major earthquake that severely damaged parts of Mission San Miguel. We had planned to visit the Mission for Christmas just three days later, but of course, that plan had to be canceled. We had stopped by several time since to see of any progress, but the fund raising was still going on. I had heard that they had finally begun restoration and I was happy to see the old church, not covered with big cracks, but covered with scaffolding. To the south of the main buildings, a Paella Dinner was being held to raise money. The fund raising thermometer was about 2/3 to the top. We had seen the mission only a year earlier, so we just looked at the restoration work. In the gift shop, we were told that the church might reopen in September and they are hoping to hold Christmas Mass this year. Since my in-laws are long gone from Morgan Hill, I'm not sure we will be going that way for Christmas, but we hope to see the restored church before the end of the year.

We enjoyed a buffet at Dos Padres Mexican Restaurant on 14th Street in San Miguel and continued south.

Not far east of San Miguel on Highway 46 is the Eberle Winery. I had been wanting to stop here for a few years, intrigued by the claim of a free cave and winery tour. Eberle, which is boar in German, is a medium size winery among a large number of wineries that have recently popped into the area around Paso Robles. The winery was beautiful, the cave tour (man-made) was interesting, and my wife liked the sample of wine (I don't drink).

The winery was our last major stop, other than two rest areas. We arrived home about 7:00 having enjoyed our weekend of garlic, wine, and missions.

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This page last updated: Friday, 28-Apr-2017 12:54:19 EDT

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