Carol writes: As the daylight hours shortened and more frequent snows were starting to blanket the high country, we decided that a move to the California Central Valley would be wise. Notoriously, summertime temperatures in the Valley frequently hit triple digits, so by our reasoning the month of November should bring us some pretty ideal days and nights.
We planned to spend a week in a somewhat unique campground situated in an actual orange grove on the outskirts of Bakersfield. We were told that when oranges are ripe for picking at Orange Grove RV Park,
guests are welcome to pick as many as they wish. The climate along the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is ideal for growing citrus crops. The orange trees in our grove were loaded with hundreds of oranges each, but unfortunately they wouldn’t be ripe for another month… Nevertheless, those trees loaded with slowly ripening oranges sure created a lovely setting for our campsite!
The enormous bounty of one of the largest agricultural producing areas of the world was all around us. The variety and freshness of local produce was astounding. We visited a farmer’s market one Saturday and found it to be one of the best we have ever visited. All the produce was amazingly fresh and not all that expensive! A yummy Mediterranean diet was on the menu for the foreseeable future.
The type of oranges in our orange grove wouldn’t be ripe for another month, but there were other varieties for sale at locally owned businesses like the
and so we decided to stock up on oranges and bought a small box of over 30 oranges. Fresh and sweet!
The farmworkers of the Central Valley have endured a lengthy struggle for higher wages and better working conditions. Fair and humane were the operative words, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1960s, along came community organizer and activist César Chávez, who had dreams of a farm workers’ union. Along with Delores Huerta, Chávez built a movement that brought the plight of migrant workers to the attention of the world.
The saga of Chávez and the 5-year grape workers strike played out in the California Central Valley. The bare framework of the history of the strike
and subsequent hard-won contracts for better pay, health benefits and safer working conditions was on display at the newly created César E. Chávez National Monument.
Since the monument was relatively new, it was clearly still a work in progress, and I might add that there was much work to do…
A small museum had a smattering of interesting exhibits, such the actual office that Chávez used,
and a few historic pictures from the activist days like this one with a poster reading “Huelga” (Spanish for ‘strike’) prominently displayed on the back of the car driven by César Chávez.
There were some interesting “Day of the Dead” altars throughout the museum.
Outdoors was a very lovely gravesite where Chávez and his wife were buried.
I found it somewhat interesting that the slogan used by Chávez and the migrant workers was “Si Se Puede,” which is Spanish for “Yes You Can,” a slogan very similar to the “Yes We Can” mantra used by President Obama during his presidential campaigns.
For hardcore train buffs, the nearby Tehachapi Loop is a must-see. The loop is a world famous landmark consisting of a 3/4-mile circular train track designed to allow trains to gain altitude through the steep Tehachapi Mountains. We were in luck and noticed there were a lot of trains on the tracks the day we visited. A great roadside viewing area provided just the spot to capture a train doing “a 360” and actually crossing over itself!
Bakersfield is located in Kern County, a very large county in California that is rich in oil exploration and boasts of having the second largest oil field in California. The life and times of the oil industry, along with the county’s labor struggles, were nicely chronicled in the Kern County Museum.
By far, the most interesting part of the museum was the section devoted to the
Bakersfield is a city of music. A music genre known as the Bakersfield Sound holds a special place in country music lore. Local Bakersfield residents Buck Owens and Merle Haggard are indelibly associated with giving birth to the Bakersfield Sound.
Playing their signature red, white and blue guitars, The Buckaroos, led by Bakersfield’s Buck Owens, were responsible for propagating the Bakersfield Sound. Some music historians have regarded The Buckaroos as one of the greatest instrumental bands of all time, and sometimes they are referred to as “The Beatles of Country Music.” Memorabilia from the Bakersfield Sound in the form of clothing, album covers and guitars were on display in the museum. A recent acquisition was Merle Haggard’s family home, which was moved to the grounds of the museum.
|Family home of Merle Haggard|
Interesting factoid: The nu metal rock band “Korn” is also from Bakersfield.
California has been nicknamed “the golden state,” for several reasons: the gold rush, sunsets over the Pacific, the Golden Gate Bridge, and its wild golden poppies. I have always thought of California as the golden state because of the magnificent golden-colored grasses that cover its fields and hills in the fall, although that line of reasoning does not appear in any brief google search.
We were both anxious to grab a hike in those iconic grasses and found what we were looking for on a short afternoon hike at the Wind Wolves Preserve.
Rolling golden grasslands, spartan desert hills, and blue skies (with an obvious hint of smog/dust pollution) were on full display. Our trail wound through the prairie grass
and went up about 500 feet for a wondrous view of the Valley.
Speaking of pollution… Over the past 3 weeks in the California Central Valley, we found brown hazy skies painfully obvious, although we were expecting that. While doing research, Al had read that the official air quality around Fresno and Bakersfield was some of the worst in the country. Besides pollution from automobiles, dust raised by ubiquitous farming was obviously a major contributor. That’s too bad, because controlling that source would seem to be near impossible.
From the Central Valley our next stopover was scheduled on the California coast for 6 weeks at Port Hueneme and Point Mugu. For many months we had been anticipating our sojourn on the Pacific coast, as that seemed like a perfect spot to check into the "Hotel California."
🎶 “Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)…”