Pretty Damn Nice! travel blog


After two weeks of visiting with the Hanford branch of my family, we headed north once again. We started today's trip on Highway 99 which has basically been in crappy condition for years. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see that many parts of it have been repaved and that construction is continuing. Hopefully by our next trip to California, Highway 99 will be new and improved all the way from Bakersfield to Sacramento.

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As we traveled up the San Joaquin Valley through all of the towns with familiar names, I was tripping down Memory Lane. I grew up in Fresno and Madera. When we lived in Fresno, Highway 99 was not built yet. My brothers and I used to walk from our house to what was then Roeding Park, across where the freeway is now. We would spend all day at the park, just wandering around, something that I doubt many mothers would allow their kids to do in today's world.

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When we lived in Fresno, our house did not have air conditioning. We had a swamp cooler which sat in the living room and cooled with the use of water. It did not cool the bedrooms however and I remember my Papa sleeping on the floor in front of the front door, where there might be a chance for a night breeze. I cannot begin to imagine trying to get through a summer in Fresno now without air conditioning. They were building new houses in Fresno in the 1950's that were advertised as having a sea breeze. My Mom said they must hang a fish in front of the swamp cooler to achieve it.

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This time of year is beautiful in central California. The fields are green and the fruit trees are in bloom. The fragrance of spring is in the air. Fields which once held vineyards are now planted with trees, which I assume are pistascio. All of the little towns I once knew are now much bigger. Fresno has a population of over 500,000 people. Smog is also a bigger problem in the Valley now. Some days, we were able to see the snow capped Sierras from the park in Visalia, but most days it was too hazy.

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Several times this morning, I was reminded of a story my Papa told me about work that he had done on a particular building, or I remembered something special that we had done as a family when I was a kid. We passed over the San Joaquin River where we would go in the evening for a swim to cool down. Mom would pack a basket of sandwiches. Can it really be that it was that many years ago??

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One of the things that annoys me about traveling down Highway 99 is the number of billboards advertising alcohol, especially those in Spanish near the smaller towns where the majority of the population is Mexican. I noticed that after we got to Merced, there were no billboards.

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We are staying for the next week at the Sugar Barge Marina RV Park in Bethel Island, which is located on the Delta. We have stayed here many times before since our good friends, Sue and Manuel live on the Island. The park is very pretty and you have the feeling of being way out in the country when in reality you are in the middle of the huge metropolis of Contra Costa County.

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I would like to take a moment to say how proud I am of my family. John and I are both really blessed with great families. Our siblings all have great kids and families. And, of course, I am super proud of my awesome son, Zac, and his beautiful special lady, Autumn, who got engaged last week! It is amazing to me to watch all of these young families struggling to do a good job raising their kids, maintaining jobs, and trying to make the most of their lives. They are all doing such a great job. I have said before that the hardest part of our lifestyle is being away from family and friends, but when we do get to visit, it really helps seeing how happy and productive everyone is. You guys are all awesome!



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