As Bob and I ventured toward Highway 101 to visit friends and attend a fundraising in Southern California this past weekend, I was reconnected to appreciate the beauty of the landscape of this stretch of highway. I was reminded of former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, who in the sixties undertook the beautification of America’s highways, saying that “where flowers bloom, so does hope.” The flowers continue to bloom in spite of the age and lack of attention.
As we passed Gilroy, the former garlic capital of the world, the garlic farms that used to dominate were replaced by rows and rows of commercial establishments – shopping malls and car dealerships. I remember the drives of yesteryear when you know you are passing Gilroy because of the garlic scent.
In our stop in San Luis Obispo, the seat of the famous Cal Poly, this place is a modern town that sits in a country atmosphere. The Apple Farm Restaurant stands out with its delicious food and charm.
The hills above Pismo Beach are now filled with newly-built homes, the tiny bridge between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties seem dry and inconsequential, the water that runs underneath are now replaced by rocks and debris.
As we exited to the town of Santa Maria, the place bursts with commercial establishments, there’s now a Marriott even. The town’s pride and joy, Santa Maria Inn, seems strange and cold. As we drove to follow our friends toward the town of Guadalupe, I felt a sense of joy to reminisce the days when I first met my townmates who welcomed and embraced me almost 50 years ago. I could suddenly smell and taste the chicken and tri-tip off the barbeque on Labor Day weekends.
But I noticed the farm lands were disappearing. The fields where strawberries, lettuce, artichokes, spinach and cabbage grew are barely there today. Does this resemble how progress diminished the place from its title, “Fruit basket of the world,” into a 21st century implosion of modernity?
The church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is simply amazing! Fresh flowers abound – every corner, every space. The loving image of Our Lady of Guadalupe seems to follow our every move. She even allowed her photo to be taken, amassed with indescribable beauty, grace and humility.
As we said our goodbyes to my lifelong friends-turned family I felt a sense of joy and sadness, promising to stay in touch, until we meet again. I left with my heart filled with gladness, knowing that they are within my reach, as I am to them.
And on we trekked to the City of Angels, where there is Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and Disneyland nearby. I find there is no need to write about them as I will never give it justice to do so!
On the way back, we spent two days in Danish town of Solvang. This is one of my favorite places to visit for its charm and scenery that is so movie-like. People stroll along the Danish avenues, with country stores that uniquely feature the old and the new. Streets are filled with tourists eagerly taking pictures of what I consider to be how Danish structure looks in Denmark, covered with lush bushes of flowering gardens.
Normita Fenn studied journalism at University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
She earned her MBA in Marketing from Golden Gate University-San Francisco. She
resides in San Ramon, California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @NormitaFenn