Our Christmas shopping was nearly finished, and the gifts were wrapped. We planned to drop off presents at Jenny’s parents’ house in Glendale, then head out for the Bay Area via Highway 101. Both of us had traveled “El Camino Real” as kids, and I had driven it many times to visit my grandparents in Alameda.
We packed a lunch and planned to have a picnic at some point. There was a harvest going on as we drove. Citrus trees were loaded with fruit between Oxnard and Santa Barbara, and the inland central coast had winter squash and fields of alfalfa. There were farm stands all along the route.
Our stop for lunch was near San Luis Obispo at a picnic site close to The Madonna Inn, a marvel of Swiss Alps architecture. We wanted to peek at the famous waterfall urinal in the men’s restroom but didn’t have time. Further along we passed Camp Roberts (another reminder) and then on to King City and Gonzales. In high school I had played football on a visiting team in those cities.
Salinas was a place we both knew. Jenny had lived there for two and a half years as did my great grandmother. Again, we learned how our paths had crossed in childhood. Jenny recalled that she and her sister went into a celery field and uprooted celery stalks, tied the roots in knots and replanted them . . . just for fun!
Driving through San Jose we took the Nimitz Freeway toward Oakland and exited on High Street into Alameda. We arrived at my grandmother’s Victorian house where we refreshed from the long drive. “Grammy” was very upset with my orders to Vietnam. She was against the war and feared for my safety. From her point of view, it was all just a dreadful catastrophe.