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Pumpkins and Adobe


Original Article and Photographs by Kenneth A. Larson © 2008 - 2017

Day One

Last year at this time, we had visited Gilroy and everyone we met asked if we were in the area to attend the famous Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. We were not, but decided the following year we would. The festival starts at 9:00 am and I was hoping to avoid some traffic, parking, and crowd problems so we got up early with the intention of leaving Los Angeles at 4:00. We were on our way by 5:30 and were over one hundred miles along our route before the sun came up. We stopped at a rest stop just over the border into Fresno County along I-5 to use the facilities and change drivers. My wife took over while I took a much needed nap. I awoke an hour later to the sound of a heavy rain hitting the windshield. My wife doesn't like driving freeways or in the rain, so she was frantically trying to find a place to pull off the freeway. Fortunately we were just two miles short of the rest stop just over the border in Merced County so we pulled over and switched drivers back and I drove onward north on I-5. At Los Banos we turned west on Highway 152 and about halfway to Gilroy, the rain stopped and it was clear for the rest of the journey. We stopped for gas at Casa de Fruta, a collection of shops and restaurants and RV parks and I'm not sure what. Someday I might research the place. At Gilroy we turned north along Highway 101, then 85 and 280, exiting at 92 west.

It was now that the error of leaving later than planned came back at us as we sat in an eight-mile one-hour traffic jam most of the rest of the way to Half Moon Bay. Close to town, cars started pulling off at the many pumpkin farms and we would have liked to have stopped, but we were anxious to get to our destination. We found parking space in a large lot near the festival, but there were many other places to park ranging from $5.00 to $20.00. We walked the two blocks to the closed part of Main Street and began exploring the activities of the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. We came in the middle of the Halloween Costume Parade and managed a few photos through the wall of people enjoying this spectacle. We found the old city jail and the Methodist Church with it's beautiful stained glass windows. I got a walking tour guide for the next time and we found the giant pumpkin beside which visitors could pose, for a modest price to a worthy cause. We were about to get some pumpkin pie but decided the line was a bit long so we headed out of town, north on Highway 1 toward Pacifica.

Just before entering Pacifica, we passed a large construction project involving a tunnel and a bridge that will cut several miles of dangerous twisting cliff hugging road from the drive. The drive will probably be faster and safer, but several miles of scenic drive will be bypassed.

A week earlier, I had printed off several pieces of literature about our next destination, then managed to leave them at home. As a result, I didn't remember the name of the historic adobe or the address or directions, other than the name of the town. Fortunately there was a sign on the highway and we fond Sanchez Adobe Historic Park without much trouble. European history at the site did not begin with the adobe, it began decades earlier with an asistencia or extension mission to Mission San Francisco de Asis. The mission needed this outlying site, named San Pedro y San Pablo, to grow food. Francisco Sanchez received a land grant and between 1842 and 1846 built a home partly on the ruins of the old asistencia. The building was restored and opened to the public in 1953. The site is at 1000 Linda Mar Boulevard in Pacifica.

We wandered the site and toured the adobe for about an hour and headed back south, through Half Moon Bay, stopping to take the occasional photo. Suddenly a short distance off I noticed a lighthouse open to the public. Well, the lighthouse was closed for restoration, but the lighthouse keepers house (now gift shop) and fog horn building were open. The Pigeon Point Light Station has been in operation since 1872 and takes its name from the ship Carrier Pigeon which was torn apart on nearby rocks in 1853. The tower is 115 feet tall, the tallest unmodified light house in operation on the west coast of the United States, and topped with a first order Fresnel lens. A hostel operates adjacent to the tower. The tower is under restoration but available for viewing along Highway 1 just south of Pescadero.

We continued south along Highway 1, stopping for a few more photos of the scenic coastline and finally reached Santa Cruz where we eventually found our motel and checked in.

It was about 5:30 when we left for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk which closed at 7:00. The Boardwalk is a collection of rides and arcade games, food and merchandise venders, and other activities running between the railroad and the beach. The Boardwalk, which was filled with people and obviously quite popular, was celebrating its 100th year of operation the year before. The light was fading as we walked to the end and back, stopping for photos and a cup of clam chowder and a basket of garlic fries. Confident we were safe from vampires (or something), we returned to our motel and settled in for the night, tired from getting up so early that morning.

Day Two.


We awoke early and enjoyed a quick continental breakfast, packed, and checked out about 8:00. It took only a few minutes to reach our first stop for today, Holy Cross Catholic Church, the descendant of Mission Santa Cruz which gave its name to the city and county. The original mission, founded in 1791, is little more today than a bit of the foundation behind the new church (built in 1889), half of the Indian family building, and across the street from the original site, a half size reproduction of the mission church with a small section of the quadrangle. The mission church is owned by Holy Cross and the Indian family building is owned by California State Parks, but neither would open until 10:00 and we attended the 8:30 Mass after photographing what we could of the exteriors. Once the mission and family building opened, we toured them and pushed on.

It only took about 15 minutes to reach our other destination for today, the Mystery Spot. Our guide told us the strange history of this unique spot. It seems that the tool shed was built on the side of the hill, but slid down and stopped at the exact center of this spot where compasses and levels and senses get confused. The guide showed us how balls roll uphill, pendulums spin, and people change heights. The tour lasted a bit under an hour and fortunately everyone returned to their normal heights after we left. I've been to two other such places before and my skeptical side isn't quite sure about it all, but it was fun, at the end of a scenic road, didn't cost much, and you will just have to see it and make up your own mind about it.

A little after noon we started the long drive home. We drove east on Highway 152 through Watsonville and Gilroy and stopped at Mexico Magico in Hollister where I had my heart set on a 10-foot high metal dinosaur sculpture, but didn't bring a trailer and was $8,500.00 short. We stopped at Romero Overlook and looked down at the near empty San Luis Reservoir a little west of Los Banos. As we descended the hill into the San Jouquin Valley, we listened to Sons of the San Joaquin on the CD player. We had a wonderful and filling lunch at Pea Soup Andersen's in Santa Nella and bought one more soup mug and continued south on I-5. Four hours later we arrived home, tired, but glad we took this trip to see pumpkins, adobe, lighthouses, and a mysterious spot.
Mexico Magico

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This page last updated: Saturday, 06-Jul-2013 05:49:39 EDT

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