(C)  2002-2014 J. Watson       All rights reserved  
Travel Letters
Travel in this part of California is unlike any other
place in the US.  Most of the area is parched with
trees sprinkled in the dry grass areas.  Then, rather
abruptly, the scenery turns to vast fertile fields –
thanks to irrigation.
RV Travel notes from
the traveling gran'ma and gran'pa
Vol 22  No 3                                                                                                                                                                          June/Jully, 2012
We've enjoyed many sightseeing highlights while going north of Los Angeles
on US-101.  Come with us as we visit early Spanish missions; arid areas that
have become fertile farm land thanks to irrigation; and climb over coastal sand
dunes to take in marvelous seascapes.  In contrast hike among the giant
redwoods on the way to coastal fishing ports in southern Oregon.  

What intrigues us is the waterfront.  Our site
overlooks the harbor so we see the lighthouse
flashing every 30 seconds, hear the fog horns, and
see the boats come and go.  From our front windows
we look over the dike that protected the area.  Along
the side is Elk Creek which has annual salmon runs.  

We enjoy walking along the waterfront at the nearby
park and going out on the breakwater to get a close
up view of the lighthouse as well as the port.  The
area is quite flat, which means it is easy to walk.  The
fact that it is so flat was the reason that the earlier
tsunami was so damaging.  Only the fact that the
water was a few feet less than ’64 kept it from
causing comparable damage.

Out on the breakwater are giant concrete thing-a-ma-
jigs that augment the boulders that hold back the
surging waves.  These were placed here after the ’
64 tsunami.  They’re like the letter H with one leg
twisted at right angles.  The design should help them
stay in place if subjected to severe stress.  

That’s it for now, keep in touch
Dear Gals…   Your guys…
Our grandkids…     and special folks…   

PLEASANTON, CA                              June 14, 2012

Left Buellton a few days ago…and been on the go
since.  Easy does it… relaxed!

From San Diego to the San Francisco Bay area
there is a string of missions, so we visited some
more as we headed north, in a bit from the coast.  
We like Mission San Miguel Arcangel because of the
generally barren grounds, which probably is more
authentic than the elaborate plantings at some of the
missions.  There are extensive cacti plantings, which
is in keeping with the arid surroundings.  They have
minor plantings in the central plaza that makes the
grounds more pleasant for the Franciscan Friars
who are studying.  At one mission we were told they
are planning to remove their flowers to be more as it
had been in the early years.  

All the missions have been restored to include some
displays that portray life at the mission.  These
usually include living areas (dining, bedroom, etc.)
as well as displays of the work areas such as
weaving, carpentry, cooking.  Keep in mind these
were the centers for as many as a thousand people.  
Mission San Antonio, above, is in a parched area 20
miles from US-101.  So what do you associate with
hot desolate areas?  Military bases, of course.  The
mission is within Fort Hunter Liggett, an Army training
center for truck drivers.  This is an active church that
serves locals including military families on the base.  
The base is so remote that area residents are
permitted to use the base’s recreational facilities
when the troops are not using them.  

It is a surprise to see gardens in the quadrangle –
beautiful roses and other plantings. The land was
part of the “boss’s” ranch (William Randolph Hearst)
and he sold it during WW2.  This mission and
Mission San Miguel Archangel benefited from the
family’s generosity
Often we see laborers bent over the rows picking
cabbage, strawberries, lettuce, and other crops.  
This is an irrigated field in the famous Salinas
Valley.  There are vineyards all the way to Northern
King City is the farming center of the Salinas Valley.  
We stayed at a campground in the county park.  The
reason I'm mentioning it is that this is a heritage
park.  Like many  parks of this type the farm life of
early residents is portrayed.  Farming equipment,
barns, even an old railroad station.  In King City the
stress is on farm irrigation -- understandable in a
desert-like environment.  This is so important that a
separate museum building is dedicated to irrigation.  

We can imagine the mobs of fourth graders visiting
for the required local history lessons.  
From the interior we headed to the coast a bit north
of Monterey – to Marina.  We enjoy hiking over the
dunes to walk along the beach.  Extraordinary
dunes – parts are more than 150 feet high and a
third of a mile wide!  

The dunes are mined for the sand.  The area near
the RV park is presently protected and they are
letting the dunes rebuild from the damage of earlier
mining activities.  The persistent winds are blowing
sand and over the years this should fill the mined
area.   There’s a variety of plants and of course, Ida
enjoys birding.   
As we left Marina Dunes we passed artichoke farms,
many vineyards, and irrigated land ready for
planting. .

Next stop…Mission San Juan Bautista.  You may
recall that we visited here on earlier visits.  We enjoy
seeing the symmetry of the arches and  plantings.  

In the late 1700s missions were established every
20 miles or so along a roadway,
el camino real, from
San Diego north to the San Francisco area.  It
generally followed preexisting trails used by the
Indians.  Each of the restored missions shows
similarities of mission lifestyle as well as unique
characteristics.  In common were a church and living
quarters.  Each had work areas that provided for the
needs of 2 padres, a small military force of half a
dozen and an Indian population of up to 800 to
1,000.  To accomplish this they often had over a
hundred square miles, some used for crops and
some for livestock.  There might be tens of
thousands of heads of cattle for food, leather and

Displays at the missions often include old
hand-inscribed choir books, vestments, living
accommodations for the padres, and even wine
cellars.  Work areas include food preparation,
candle making, olive presses, carpentry, wine
making, weaving, etc.  
All missions have the covered areas that gave
protection from the sun – and with the archways that
I enjoy.  Often the restorations have colorful gardens
with the adobe backdrop.  

Cities now crowd some of the missions from which
they originated and others are in rather protected
areas.  At the Mission San Juan Bautista there are
irrigated fields just down the hill bordering the

Because of the vast operations that were directed
from the missions they had to be large.  The
restorations generally only represent a portion of the
total buildings but retain the spirit of the initial
structures.  I refer to the structures as restorations
because they were made of bricks or adobe that
deteriorated over the years. The architectural and
historic values motivated the church and state to
reconstruct the missions, within budget constraints.  
Efforts have been made to replicate the original
structures.  On this trip we often encountered school
groups visiting missions as part of their fourth grade
study of California history.  

At the present time the state of California mandates
that they be retrofitted to withstand earthquakes,
which is an extreme financial burden on individual
parishes as it can cost millions of dollars.  
CRESCENT CITY, CA                           June 23, 2012

We arrived here a few days ago after a great trip
north near the coast.  First we passed one vineyard
after another as we drove through Napa
Valley…miles and miles.  Then further north along
the valley, just in from the coastal range, the
vineyards continue.  On our recent trips we had
taken the coastal route and decided to stay inland
this time.  As we approached the ocean we got to
redwood country

We enjoy the redwood forests and spent a couple of
days tramping along the paths under these 300+
feet tall giants.  Redwood forests line the Pacific from
San Francisco to southern Oregon, about fifty miles
or so north of Crescent City.  The undergrowth is
comprised of many large ferns and other plants that
benefit from the damp cool conditions.  It’s like a rain
forest – the redwoods create an umbrella-like cover
that keeps the ground moist and the temperature is
relatively constant throughout the year, essentially a
controlled climate.  There’re even herds of elk.  It’s
remarkable that some concentrate at the same
location year after year, so tourists can expect to see
them at specific locations.

The route north through the redwoods zigs and zags
as the road clings to the side of mountains that
overlook the Pacific.  Traffic slows to under the
posted 30mph at many of the curves.  
As we approached Crescent City we came down a
steep hill to the flats overlooking the beach.  We had
no idea of what to expect as the tsunami of 2011
had hit since our last visit.  Initially it looked the
same as it had on earlier visits.  And, for the most
part it is.  But…

Over $60 million of damage was done in the fishing
boat basin.  More than a dozen boats were
destroyed.  The city was the bull's-eye of the
tsunami in’64 when a number of homes were
demolished so they had taken precautionary steps
and were well prepared -- as much as they could.  
So, they consider themselves fortunate that the
damage did not extend beyond the boat basin.  This
city has been in economic turmoil for decades with
the decline of the timber industry, the earlier tsunami
and now this one.  Tourism is now the major industry
featuring a cassino, fishing (on a reduced scale),
and the nearby redwood forests.  We enjoy it but for
many it’s only an overnight stop.