Look what was outside our door this morning!

Today was meant to be just a travel day, designed for no more than to get us from King City over east to within striking distance of Sequoia National Park for tomorrow’s visit. So after breakfast, we took our time and headed away just after eleven. There were just ordinary 2-way traffic roads to drive today with no great highways to negotiate but we still had 130 miles to cover so we hoped that the route would at least be interesting.

The road east started by penetrating some high hills covered in a beautiful golden yellow grass, the likes of which we had only seen in one other place, and that was also in this valley west of the Sierras. From early on there were little creatures dashing out in front of us to cross the road and we couldn’t help but notice the obvious signs of those who hadn’t quite made it over safely. We’re not sure what they were but we did notice some of them standing on their hind legs in the fields, like you see in the meerkat adverts. (Mary is researching as I type! She now tells me they were probably bushy-tailed wood rats!) I kept pulling over to let cars behind me pass as we were really enjoying the drive and were in no hurry to get to our destination. Then the crops gave way to fields of cattle and a field of goats, something we hadn’t seen all that much of on our travels here on the west coast.

Eventually we came down out of those glorious hills and passed through a town called Coalinga and, chancing upon a Walgreen’s (we now know that’s Boot’s the Chemist in the USA!), we pulled over and went in to buy our tea for the next couple of nights. When I opened the car door to get out, it was like walking into a furnace! The thing is, you don’t notice the heat at all when you have AC blasting away in the car as you travel along, so you can get quite a shock when you stop and get out. Fortunately, there was an electronic signpost not 5 yards away so I was able to record for posterity the temperature.

It’s a cooker!

Once we’d done our shopping, we headed east straight along the road towards our destination Visalia, yet another town we would be sleeping in, whose name we had never heard of. Visalia will join an esteemed list that includes Holbrook, Barstow, Kayenta, Price, Moab, Hatch, Hurricane, Bishop and Merced! While I imagined that the following 30 or so miles would be boring and uninteresting, I had no idea what lay ahead. The next part of the journey started by passing the Pleasant Valley State Correctional Facility (prison to you and me!) and Lady Burton quipped that it could have been more appropriately named as “Unpleasant Valley etc.” It looked like a grim place to be a resident in, all walls and razor wire and turrets, just like the other 3 places we’ve passed where folk go to get “corrected”.

Miles of fields!

And then we reached the fields. Fields of what? We weren’t really sure although I did manage to identify some Maize and some vineyards. But it was the extent of these fields that rather blew us away. They averaged maybe 2 miles in length each and we could see that they went back at least half a mile in depth. With a tree or bush maybe every 6 feet, that would amount to (let me see…..) an awful lot of whatever it was! Our lack of ability at recognizing what was growing in such vast quantities all around us only frustrated us even more  as mile after mile of beautifully cultivated fields sped by. In the end I counted 38 miles of non-stop crops both sides of the road. There were great intricate watering systems on view and this was clearly a very major growing area of the west coast. I couldn’t find a specific name for the flatlands we passed but it was all west of Fresno and part of their agricultural administration.

When we were checking in to our hotel in Visalia, there was a young man doing likewise and he was able to tell us that the area we had mentioned was the main place for the production of almonds and pistachios, which was a real surprise to us who were thinking apples, oranges and lemons. By the way, and I’m not so sure how we got round to this, the guy told us he had been looking after his grandfather who got shot 3 times by a son-in-law who rather “lost it” one day! Would you believe that? Anyway, we researched the crops once we’d settled in and discovered that the guy with the shot grandfather was correct about the almonds and pistachios but there is also a vast amount of aubergines, grapes and honeydew melons growing in this area. The main agricultural product nonetheless turns out to be milk!!

In the late afternoon we sat out by the hotel swimming pool and did the reading to prepare for tomorrow’s visit to Sequoia National Park (pronounced “sek-woya” and not “sek-koya” as I had guessed, so Mary 1 Me 0) as well as treating ourselves to a wee glass of Morgan’s and diet. Tea followed in the room and then we just watched some TV and chilled. The AC is on full blast now at nine in the evening and the outside temperature is 91 degrees Fahrenheit. Did I say “chilled”?

Mary last night in Monterey