America Through My Eyes- California – North

Telugu Original : Dr K.Geeta 

English Translation: V.Vijaya Kumar

FairField Santha Rosa

Everytime when we planned a tour we used to choose a location and visit the surrounding places around it. This time I hit upon a rather different idea. How would it be if we plan to go on a particular route, while heading forward, watching important things of certain places we come across along the way? As soon as I got the idea, I planned in the week of the coming Independence Day, July 4th, so that Satya and the children will have the holidays. The journey would altogether come around twelve to thirteen hundred miles. Most of the journey happened along the unseen route of North Coastal California. We planned to travel during the day and stop somewhere in a village at night.

We reserved rooms in advance, where we decided to stay as we are going with children. We decided to extend our journey two days more, in case anything left unseen on the way of our traveling. We wished to reserve the rooms at our convenience on the spot during our visit.

I have already said that the entire West Coast of California is the Pacific coast! 

That’s where we stayed on the California coast in the middle. On the South side all the villages on the seashore were rounded up  previously from San Francisco to Point Reyes on the North coast, Yet we didn’t visit the seashore, which is almost another 300 miles up to Crescent City. The question may come to any onlooker what is there anywhere on the beach.  If you look carefully at the beaches, they never look alike anywhere. It’s always something special to me and I never satisfied. Those are like the memories that haunt my previous birth.

As we were going with the kids, we wanted at least one in our everyday visit, a place that is interesting for the kids, especially to Varu age group children, so that they didnt get bored on this trip.

Like in every trip, everything from planning to preparatory work fell upon me. I started booking tickets 20 days in advance as we can not get tickets if we hurried at the last minute. The credit card bill for the month was ten pages long as we had to pay the money online at the time of reservation. And when Satya comes home he asks me every day how far the arrangements have finished, and I answer to him, ” Ah…Just getting along” as if it’s like a marriage occasion.

 ” Hey! It is simply not jotting on a paper where to go. This time I want all the information online. The location we go to, the map, the routes … I need to see everything when I turn on my cell phone.”  He assigned me a new task, I said to myself, “greasy in doing things but very active in assigning over tasks…”

Do we have cell phone signals everywhere? When I was about to say this, he curtly said, “Hey! This is America…What do you think? ”(However, with almost 50% of cell phone signals on the go, we are lucky enough to be able to travel with the help of the paper map I worked out. Satya became guilty for boasting about signals when the signals were lost while I became elated.)

I Okayed. When he was confident, why should I bother, so I worked hard to save the map for him online. The details of the route we are taking, where and when to stop everything furnished well in advance.

Travel: On the first day of our trip, the first location we fixed was to the “Jelly Bean Chocolate Factory” in Fairfield. Varu was excited and asked at least ten times that when we were going over there. She declared “I can’t wait to see the Jelly Bean Factory” while keeping her luggage bag in the hall two days before our trip.

We were supposed to leave on the 4th of July, though the factory being opened that day, the staff would be on vacation, maybe there would be nothing to see, so we decided to leave the day before.

Fairfield is about 80 miles from our home. Most likely it takes an hour and a half or hardly two hours to reach there. As Varu insisted on reaching there sharply by the time of opening of the factory, we left the house at eight o’clock.

So as to wake the children up at 6 o’clock, when I looked for them, Varu was already there and finished her bath by that time. Though I was amused at her swiftness, I thought instantly that the children usually like chocolates, biscuits at this age but dislike them as they grow up.

Exactly half an hour later when I looked back at the back seats in the car, Varu and Siri were sleeping comfortably.

The morning was delightful. We started the first day of our journey by crossing the vehicles next to us, gossiping and clearing with our laughter while the early sun shines on the roads brightly. We both love visiting new places and it makes us highly excited about the journey.

 Fairfield-Jelly Bean Factory: Sharply by ten o’clock we reached the Jelly Bean Factory at Jelly Belly Lane in Fairfield. As it was a summer vacation for all children, and the factory opened early at nine o’clock, the factory visiting queue at the entrance was very large.  We stood in the queue for almost half an hour. Guides were sent to the factory tour in batches so we had to wait. There was no ticket for the factory tour. It was painful to Varu when the previous batch to us was stopped. To make the children forget about the disappointment, I took the kids to the counter called Jelly Bean Free Samples next door. Each one was allowed to taste three flavors offering two freely each one.

The jelly bean is about the size of a large boiled pea, with a sweet coating cover, similar to a bean-shaped elastic dough.

Some of the flavors are awful in taste. If I distort my face against the taste of those beans, Varu will say surely, “What I like makes you dislike it” so I said, “Oh, they are very good.”

Our turn came in another half hour for the factory tour.

The funny thing about the whole factory is it was section-wise in a large hall-like shed below. While walking through the glass lounges we had to watch some videos and some live viewing, there’s nothing to look up to yourself getting nearer to the place. They didn’t show the Unit of pre-cooking the dough tablets. Perhaps it may not be such a pleasant process. This 20-30 minute tour with a series of videos and the history of processing those chocolates, and the experience of offering the visitors to taste them, and the passing of beautiful tablets on the conveyor belt, color coating, turning them with extra fat with sugar coating, and so on… was a wonderful experience to all of us.  This time the queue increased further as we went back downstairs.  So we spent another half hour in the gift shop below. I read somewhere that ‘belly flaps’ are very famous there. The company name is usually printed on every tablet sold there. ‘Belly flaps’ which are disfigured in their shape are separately packed and sold at a lower-than-usual rate without being stamped on a regular form. Varu stuck near the fudges which are like fluffy lumps of sugar.  We spent the afternoon in the fair field until lunch time.

Santa Rosa-Safari West: From there we have to go on an African safari called “Safari West” in Santa Rosa around 3 pm.

Santa Rosa Fairfield is about fifty miles away.  It usually takes an hour. As we went on less traffic roads it took us two hours. We went to this place through Napa Valley and Kalistoga which we had seen earlier. This Safari West comes into Santa Rosa County but it’s another five miles away from the Petrified Forest. Once again we recalled Napa and took a sidewalk downtown together and stopped for lunch. This time we went to an Italian restaurant.  Meals in new restaurants do not taste as good as they usually do somewhere.  But very strangely, the ordered food was very tasty (among other country flavors).  We ordered a type of pasta, pizza, make & cheese called ravioli.  The uniqueness here was that they served a kind of garlic bread as a complimentary. We spent an hour there relishing the food.

We reached Safari West in two and a half hours as planned.

The sun was shining brightly. The heat we experience in our country is usually scorching but here it makes you sweat a lot in the car. There was nothing cold outside even if the wind shields were open. That’s why it seemed like an African safari. It’s an exclusive zoo for African animals running with an African safari theme. There were also cottages to stay in that atmosphere.

In the off-season, however, you must book at least two days there.  But we rent for a single day during this summer season. We booked to spend the night in tent houses that looked like tree houses right there to have fun with the kids. The cost is very high.  Over $ 300 a day. Such things are always a luxury, but we must spend money if we want to see it at least once in life. Ours is the last cottage on a small hillock within a five to ten minute walk from the entrance.  When we checked into the office, they picked us up in a jeep and took us to our accommodation. The jeep driver helped us carry our luggage.  Probably then, we had to give a tip.  We didn’t give any tip to the driver, its effect was seen the next day.  When we asked for a jeep while vacating the room, the driver of the previous day at the counter replied indifferently,  “We will see it in the morning if any possibility is there.”

 As for the lodging, it was a spacious room built on a  large wooden structure with a tarpaulin cloth around it. The furniture is good as if it was like a hotel room. The building that was built and the walls of it, in the forest, including the bathroom, looked as if they peeled off Indra palace and wrapped in khaki cloth. There’s a  balcony to watch the small lake. There is no limit to Varu’s happiness. However, there are no facilities like phones, internet, or TV. Perhaps to enjoy the seclusion of being in the jungle. There was no signal on the cell phone.

As we have been traveling since morning we are comfortably laying on the couch. As our safari was booked for the last 4.00 hour tour of the day, we got up in half an hour and got ready. The jeep was ready at 3.00 o’clock outside the  entrance. When we searched for the door lock there were no locks or latches. We left things like the laptop to destiny and headed forward.

The old man, who had read the list till 4.15 am, picked us up in his jeep, loading up 8 per jeep in batches.  There was also a chance of climbing on top of the jeep but I stayed below as Siri was already dozing. Varu, along with Satya, climbed up on top of the jeep. She said that  it is the “best part” of her journey.  Even though it was sunny, the sharpness decreased a little.

The tour was a total of two and a half hours.  It includes a half hour walking tour.  Walking tour is just for name sake, there’s nothing to walk. They lead us to the bird den, monkeys and a cheetah.  It amazed me that there were over a hundred pelicans left free without cages.  I asked the guide how they were kept without flying away.  “Look closely at them,” he said.  Then I noticed.  Each bird has one wing cut in half. They call it ‘Wings Clipping’. So they will keep them away from flying.  All the joy that had been in me until then was gone.  Capturing and maiming birds and animals for the sake of maintenance of zoos and parks seemed to me very pathetic. When all of those birds clanked wandering around I felt that it’s like curses to my ears.

There are many species of birds that keep their wings uncut and fly in large wire dens are plenty in number behind the mesh cages- Himalayan pigeons, especially red storks, weaver birds etc.   Everything seemed to move around a bit freely, but it seemed to me that those creatures were just as sad as any other creature or human beings captivated like this.

Siri enjoyed waving at the birds there and watching the monkeys clapping. Varu listens carefully to every word the guide says and walks behind him.

The jeep tour started after a ten minute break.  First sighting of giraffes.  From there a total visit to the park spread over 450 acres.  All the roads were left  dirt  to look like forest.  The great thing here is that the jeep slides back and forth with the jerks (the roads are nowhere to be seen outside like this). Varu was overjoyed. On the way some wild cows, herds of buffaloes and moose were seen.  Whenever the animals were seen like this, the driver would stop the jeep and listen to what the guide had to say, and move forward again.

It was half past six when our jeep approached the entrance where we started.  We booked before dinner at the restaurant right there.  $ 30 ticket each.

 Dinner is served at 6 o’clock here, so the starters session already started by the time we reached there.  We brought raw vegetables, fruits, cheese, cassis and salt biscuits.

 Bread, pasta for dinner at 7 o’clock, chicken and meat roasted on a round high flame was $ 30, for those who stayed at night. 

Due to the summer, the sunlight was still there at 9.00pm. After finishing dinner we started walking slowly towards our cottage at eight o’clock. The giraffes went into the sheds. Occasionally there are storks. A small pool was there when we walked along the dirt road and turned past the other cottages.  Something was dug for a look but there were no fish in it.  Our cottage was the last one to walk up the hill to the shore of the lake.  I was relieved when I saw the laptop there.

Meanwhile, Varu suddenly screamed and ran into the balcony.  We rushed to see what happened. Hundreds of black ants clung to the chocolates bought from the chocolate factory. As they grew up in houses without ants and mosquitoes, those children here are afraid of whatever they see.

Black ants are harmless, the room was full of fudge and ants were flooded everywhere in the room.

We, who are not accustomed to sleeping till twelve, sit on the balcony, chatting, watching in the changing twilight of the dwindling sunset until we fall asleep.

Although the children had different beds on the floor, we slept on the same bed with the fear of  ants as Varu was stubborn. 

When it got dark, the storks and pelicans started howling terribly.

When the night calmed down in the middle, some of the animals howled again and again. The storks in the early morning started howling. We couldn’t fall asleep or sleep soundly all night.

In addition to all this, there is a door that has no latch.

Good fresh orange juice along with fruits and bread crumbs served as breakfast, the only best thing to remember here after spending a lot of money.

We went to the Safari West Gift Shop in the morning and exchanged the $ 5 coupons we had left at check in time the day before. It’s only on the condition that we should buy something worth of $ 25 dollars for the eligibility of $ 5 discount.  What’s more, I bought one for each of us and went out.  From there we had to travel all day again and explore new places, seeing many things.

Excitedly, we headed to Fort Ross, our first picnic area that day.


Photos & Telugu Original

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