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An American Odyssey (Part 9)

Dov and Barbara at the James Lick Observatory.

Dov and Barbara at the James Lick Observatory.

These days, Israel commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day, IDF Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day. I hope to write about these days sometime soon. For now, back to the Odyssey.

On Sunday morning, after breakfast at the Elite Café, we loaded the van, filled the gas tank and travelled the famous Route #1 from Los Angeles toward San Francisco, along the Pacific Ocean coast. It was the 4th of July weekend and the narrow route was crowded with miles of RV’s, campers and fellow travelers. Traffic was a bit slow along the way.

Our first pit stop was at the Santa Barbara wharf. My wife, Barbara, enjoyed stopping there to buy a refrigerator magnet with her name on it. We enjoyed the beautiful boardwalk and watched all of the tourists watching us. After a short visit, we drove along the highway, searching for a vacant table so that we could enjoy a picnic lunch.

From Santa Barbara, we drove to the very famous Hearst Castle, the beautiful former mansion of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Today the castle is run by the Parks Service and is considered a historical treasure of majestic beauty. With 165 rooms, three phenomenal swimming pools and 127 acres of gardens, terraces and walkways, it is a popular and very crowded tourist attraction. On jam-packed weekends, tours often have to be arranged in advance, so we just enjoyed the film about the history of the castle and, of course, visited the gift shop where Barbara and Martha enjoyed trying on the big, colorful hats that were for sale.

We left the castle and returned to Route #1. The traffic and the single-lane curvy road, with no cross road exits, was bumper-to-bumper for many miles. This 12-hour day of Sunday traffic became one of our longest days on the road, and we were exhausted when we arrived at our motel, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The next morning we stopped at the beautiful new home of our cousins Sara and Dave Benevento. The house is located in a forested area and has several spacious rooms. Dave works for a company that packages delicious berries (which we enjoyed with our breakfast yogurt). When we left Dave and Sara, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand and purchased freshly-packed, delicious California cherries.

We travelled a bit off the beaten track and drove to visit the James Lick Observatory. It is owned by the University of California and is located at the very top of Mount Hamilton (4,700 feet above sea level). The narrow, winding mountain-side road was a steep uphill climb (drive) to the top. Everyone, except for the driver, kept his or her eyes tightly shut during the scary ascent on this often single-lane road. It took over 75 minutes to reach the top (but only 30 minutes to travel down). The visit to the telescope room was very interesting and we heard an informative talk by one of the staff members. James Lick was a “generous miser” who grew wealthy dealing in California real estate. The telescope is used each clear night to observe the solar system and search for distant galaxies. The telescope needs darkness to work and light-pollution can be a problem.

We continued our drive on the beautiful scenic route to San Francisco with a stop at Menlo Park to visit my sister-in-law’s brother, Teddy Hamlet. Visiting relatives that we have not seen in a long while was one of the purposes of our trip. The local Glatt Kosher restaurant was, unfortunately, closed and the bagel place is open on Shabbos, so we could not go out for a meal. Some supplies from a stop at the local Walmart and our packaged meals served as dinner and we enjoyed the 4th of July fireworks from our motel room and via TV.

Next: San Francisco.

Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com.

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