Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 13, 2018
Sister Gaila and I have been talking about a road trip for years. We planned to visit the Mount Rushmore area in 2015, but opted
instead to fly to Uncle Stan and Aunt Kay’s home in California. I joked with them at the time that they were "
Taking precedence over the presidents."
But this year was the year!
We flew to San Francisco and spent two days in the Fisherman’s Wharf district. The first day, we climbed to the top deck of a Big Bus for an overview tour of the city, stopping at a farmers’ market along the wharf. After enjoying the bustle of vendors and street musicians, we hopped on another Big Bus and passed through China Town, the Financial District, Union Square, and the poverty-stricken Tenderloin area. The Haight-Ashbury district, famous for its “hippie” culture and 1967's “Summer of Love," followed. We got off at Golden Gate Park to look at orchids, water lilies, hibiscus and other exotic plants.
Then it was back on the bus for a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. We weren’t sure if the cold wind would blow us off or freeze us, but we agreed it was worth the ride.
The second day was more serene. On the way to the John Muir Woods, our guide told us about San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake and fire, the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and the fact that before the 1849 Gold Rush, San Francisco had been called Yerba Buena and had a population of less than 800. He joked that most of the lucrative fishing business had moved away from Fisherman’s Wharf, so tourists were now “the catch of the day.”
Our guide explained what we would see in Muir Woods, named the 10th National Monument by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908. The coastal redwoods, some 800-1,000 years old, depend on condensation from the fog for survival. He also mentioned that the Ewok forest scene in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” was filmed there. We then spent nearly two hours wandering the Hillside Trail, awed by the height and girth of the beautiful trees.
After being dropped in Sausalito and spending an hour going through shops and eating hamburgers, we took the ferry back to San Francisco. We then waited in line an hour to check the last item off of Gaila’s bucket list for the city - a cable-car ride.
The road part of the road trip began the next day when we picked up a rental car and headed in the approximate direction of the Central Coast town of Paso Robles, where we have family.
We were a bit nervous about driving - Gaila about doing it and I about navigating. But it wasn’t difficult and soon we were heading southward on the Pacific Coast Highway. The views were breathtaking!
We passed through Castroville - the artichoke capital of California - and soon were on the 101 Freeway to Paso Robles. Our hotel was across the street from the city’s town square, where we listened to a concert already in progress.
The next day, we drove to San Luis Obispo, where we toured the 1772 mission of the same name founded by Franciscans. The simple beautiful building still serves as the parish church. From there, it was off to the coast with stops at Morro Rock and other points. A highlight was watching elephant seals basking in the sun, flipping sand onto their backs and “barking” at each other. Another was walking in the sand in our bare feet, letting the ocean waves wash over them. But it did seem odd to think that while people back in Kansas were sweltering, we were having trouble staying warm in wet 60-degree winds despite wearing coats.
That night, we had dinner at our cousin’s son Jeff’s place and it was fun getting reacquainted with his family. We hadn’t seen his mother Linda for more than 40 years or met his stepfather Chris. We were fortunate to be there to join in on Jeff’s 44th birthday celebration.
The following day was an Angus-burger/wine-tasting event at their family’s Oso Libre (Free Bear) Winery. We had the best Angus burgers I’ve ever tasted and sampled several wines from their grapes.
The morning found us on the road again, off to Alhambra near Los Angeles to visit Uncle Stan and Aunt Kay in their new home. Stan, 95, and Kay, 96, moved there in late February from Chino Hills. Kay wanted us to figure out what sightseeing we might like to do, but Gaila and I said we had seen enough and were ready to just spend time with them.
Over the next couple of days, we chatted, took them to a nearby In ‘n’ Out Burger, made a few meals, and went through photo albums and boxes of items they hadn’t had a chance to unpack. We found an oval-framed picture of my Great-Grandmother Mary (Hillyer) Freeland and a soup tureen that had belonged to my Freeland grandparents. Stan and Kay wanted us to take those items as well as Stan’s World War II Eisenhower jacket and a quilt Grandma Ethel Freeland had made for their wedding 70 years ago. We had to borrow an additional suitcase for all the family treasures.
And then it was off to the Burbank Bob Hope Airport for our trip back to Kansas.
Once home, we agreed "too" was the operative word to describe the trip. It went by too fast, there was too much traffic, and it cost too much money. But sightseeing and spending time with family were just too much fun to complain about the other things.
Top (l-r): Glimpse of Haight-Ashbury as viewed from the upper deck of a Big Bus; Gloria and Gaila with Golden Gate Bridge - which is actually red - in the background; Gaila and Gloria in Muir Woods; sisters after their cable-car ride. Bottom (l-r): Morro Rock in Morro Bay; Sisters Gaila (left-front) and Gloria (right-front) with their cousin's son Jeff Freeland's (yellow shirt) family: daughters Liliana (yellow sweater) and Isabella (white top), wife Elizabeth (green top), mother Linda (red top) and Linda's husband Chris (sunglasses); Gaila ready to sample her Angus burger; sisters with their Aunt Kay and Uncle Stan at In 'n' Out Burger.