Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pedaling around San Benito County

One of the first things that hubby Dick and I did after moving down to Hollister was to buy ourselves beach cruiser bicycles at Muenzer’s, which is the oldest sports shop in town. Hey, I can imagine I'm heading to the beach. :-)

Sometimes as we're riding around, we hear a guy call out to Dick, “Cool bike!” The guy can be a young geezer or an old lad. I think it's something to do with the manly flames on his bike. Now and then I get a middle-age gal say, “Cute bike.” And I know she's just taken herself back in time to when she was pedaling away on her precious pink bicycle.

Whenever we can, Dick and I hop on our cool and cute bicycles to do errands or to just tootle about for fun and sun. Our longest cruise has been to and from Tres Pinos. We think about going to San Juan Bautista, Dunneville Corner, to the end of Lone Tree Road, and other places around the county.

Since gas prices have gone up, we’ve noticed more people on bikes. Maybe with more bicycle lanes, even more kids and adults will choose to pedal to the store, church, library, wherever. Now, that’s a nice segue to the fact that the San Benito Council of Governments (COG) wants and needs public input into what the county Bikeway and Pedestrian Master Plan should look like.

If you'd like to put in your two cents about this plan, you can take a survey online at COG's web site. There’s a deadline on the survey that has come and gone, but since the Hollister Free Lance reports that COG is still seeking public opinion, I’d say go ahead. If you don’t want to assume, which is probably a good idea, then e-mail or call COG about the survey.

As a reward for taking the survey, you’ll be entered into a raffle to win a $100 Target gift card. Who couldn't use that? If I win, one of the things I would buy is a bicycle bell. Ding. Ding.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

If It’s Saturday, It Must Be Farm Day

We live in an agricultural area where some organic produce is grown. Yet, when Dick and I moved to Hollister five years ago, one of the things I really missed about living in the big city area was being able to buy organic produce year round. Ironic, isn't it?

Between May and late August, we are fine. The local farmer’s market comes to downtown Hollister every Wednesday afternoon. It’s a small market, which seems to get smaller each year. The unfortunate thing about farmer’s markets is that the cost of fruits and vegetables are higher than in the stores. I think it’s worth paying the extra pennies for lettuce, tomatoes, squash, onions, potatoes, apples, artichokes, and so forth to feel, smell, and taste them the way that they are created to be.

A couple of winters ago, we learned that the Pinnacle Farm (aka Phil Foster Ranch) in San Juan Valley opens it farm stand every Saturday morning. FYI: Pinnacle Farm sells its certified organic produce to Whole Foods Markets. The farm stand is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It's located on Duncan Avenue, between Bixby Road and Lucy Brown Road. For specific directions, click here.

We go this farm stand almost every Saturday, throughout the year. Early or late, it doesn’t matter. The produce is fresh. If some things are low, just ask, and they’ll replenish the stock if they have more on hand.

I wrote a note back in September that we had bought potatoes, onions, garlic, yellow cauliflower, watermelon, cilantro, carrots, apples, zucchinis, and a few other things for just over $20. I would've spent much more for the same amount, if I bought the food at Whole Foods in Monterey or San Jose or at the Staff of Life in Santa Cruz.

There are a few other farm stands just outside of Hollister. Along with produce, which may or may not be certified organic, they sell other food products. Swank Farms and Casa de Fruta also offer fun activities for kids and adults to do.
Today is Saturday. We’re off to the farm.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Maverick BBQ Restaurant and Lounge

If you’re drooling for some delicious, slow-smoking BBQ the next time you’re in Hollister, I’ve got the place for you. The Maverick BBQ Restaurant! Most times, when Dick and I need a BBQ fix, we head there. We like the light, but rich BBQ-y, taste of the meats. To put it another way, the meats don’t taste greasy or feel heavy in the tummy afterwards.

The Maverick has been around since 2004. It’s located in the former train depot, at the end of Fifth Street. You can eat your BBQ in the restaurant or lounge (the bar), or order take-out at the window. The Lounge is also where we like to go when we want to drink a martini or some other drink that’s not a margarita. The bartenders make a drink worth coming back for. It’s a good thing we don’t drink much anymore. The restaurant part is at the north end of the building, while the lounge is on the other side of take-out window.

New owners took over the Maverick this summer. I didn’t think it was possible to improve on the best. But, hey, they did! The tri-tip is more moist, the pork ribs have more meat. The garlic bread, beans, coleslaw, and potato salad—Oh, my! They all taste better. More oompfh. Sorry, former owners.

The portions are still huge. Dick, my mom, and I share a two-meat combo take-out dinner, usually the tri-tip and pork ribs combo. The order comes with beans, garlic bread, and your choice of coleslaw or potato salad. We go with the coleslaw and ask for a pint of potato salad. Depending on how huge an appetite Dick and I have, we may or may not have leftovers.

The downside about the restaurant is that if we want to eat BBQ on Monday or Tuesday, we can’t. (Well, we could, but why should I spend hours cooking for a mediocre result.) Maverick is open from Wed to Sun for both lunch and dinner. The new owners have expanded the menu to include other delish items. Here are the links for their menus:
For a review of Maverick by others, check out either of these links: Yelp and Yahoo Travel.

For reviews by yours truly of other restaurants, check out: Progresso Tamale Parlor and Happy Cafe.

(Thank you, Dick, for checking my grammar.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A little bit of thunder and rain. Yippyy!

A loud Ka-POW! woke me up early yesterday morning.

“Is that thunder?”

Dick reassured me it was. I was happy. It has been a long while since I had heard something like that.

A few seconds later, I heard a steady beat on the roof. “Is that rain?”

“Yes,” said Dick. “Rain.” Deliriously joyed, I fell back to sleep.

Unfortunately, the next time I woke up, the day was brightly shining. The ground and pavement were wet so that was good. Needless to say, the plants were happy, happy.

You bet rain is a big thing. We're going through a d-r-o-u-g-h-t, again. Normally, the rain would’ve stayed throughout the whole weekend and maybe even into the following week. For now, we look at the billowy clouds with hope.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The 25, The Bolsa—Same Difference

The route into Hollister from the north is via the two-lane Bolsa Road. California State Highway 25, to be more precise, says hubby Dick. That, I suppose, is a difference between having lived here as a kid and now as an adult. Also the difference between being an old-timer and one fresh-off-the-highway. You say "Highway 25," I say "Bolsa Road." Potay-toe, po-ta-tah. Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-tah. By the way, there are tomato fields on the Bolsa. Not the road, but the area.

Bolsa is the Spanish word for pocket. No doubt it comes from Rancho Bolsa de San Felipe, of which the route and surrounding land were part during the once-upon-the-time of Spanish and Mexican dons. I've read that this pocket of land was known for its swamp, willow grove, and ravine. During heavy rains (remember those?), Bolsa Road can get so flooded that it has to be closed. That can be maddening when you need to get in and out of town, but still the flooded plain is a beautiful sight to behold.

It's 12 miles between Hollister and Highway 101 by way of the Bolsa. Twelve miles out to the real world. Twelve miles back to living far, far away. I’m not kidding. When movers from the Bay Area drove our belongings here, they panicked at the instant sight of no buildings, no freeway exchanges, and no sound walls as they turned onto the Bolsa. One mover called his honey and said he was half-way to Los Angeles.

On the Bolsa, you drive 12 miles of flat land, first viewing row crops, next cows out standing in their fields, and then row crops again. As you get closer to Hollister, you see a few orchards too. And, yes, there used to be a lot more orchards and on both sides of the road.

Being older and having lived for many years of adulthood out in the real world of freeways and noise, tall buildings and noise, urban crowdedness and noise, I appreciate the drive through space that is the Bolsa to seemingly far, far away of Hollister. Who knows how much longer this luxury of nothingness will last. Just within the past five years different developers tried putting up an Indian casino and a Sun City along the Bolsa. There’s still talk about building a brand-new town on the Bolsa, nearer to highway 101. I don’t even want to try to imagine it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Progesso Tamale Parlor

The Progresso Tamale Parlor on Third Street is definitely a part of Hollister’s history. It has been around since 1939. For many old-time and once-upon-a-time locals, it is the restaurant to go to for Mexican food. For me, it was the first sit-down restaurant that I ever dined at. I was probably in sixth or seventh grade. My brother was taking my parents and me out—his first treat, of many.

Being a rather shy kid who stressed out when in public, I don’t remember much of that first restaurant outing, other than small tables, night fall, and lights that reminded me of Christmas (maybe it was around Christmas). Last Saturday, after a fun day at the county fair, Dick and I decided we’d eat at Progresso. All I can say is: What took me so long (over 40 years) to go back to eat there?

Right off, we got a basket of chips and salsa. My first chip was a flour one. Nice surprise. Never had that before. Several chips later, I came across a corn one. How cool to have both. The salsa had just the right amount of heat.

I ordered the chile relleno dinner, one of my standards for testing out new restaurants. The dinner came with rice, beans (refried or whole), and either salad or soup. The choice that night was cactus soup. Dick’s order was a combination of chile relleno, cheese enchilada, and beef taco. A lot of food, but he managed to polish all but a bit of rice.

The cactus soup was double yummy. The beef broth was rich and tasty with cactus bits in every spoonful. I’ll be sure to have that again. The refried beans were the kind I like. Thick and flavorable. They would be perfect to wrap in a tortilla and then deep-fry. I don’t normally like the rice that comes with a Mexican meal. It usually tastes bland and I think it shouldn’t because it’s red. Progresso's rice was yummy. To top it off, the cook had put a black olive on top of the rice. That made me feel warm and comforted. Black olives were treats when I was a kid, and my Auntie Virginia always put black olives in her tamales.

The chile relleno was mild, did not ooze of cheese, and tasted more of the egg batter than the chile itself. The dark sauce, my favorite part, reminded me of my Aunt Virginia’s cooking. The chile relleno was not one of the best ones I’ve ever eaten, but I would order it again if I’m in the mood for a chile relleno when I’m at Progresso.

Yup. I’ll be going there again, and I won’t wait another 40 years to do so. I have heard raves about their tamales for years. That’s next up to try.

Be sure to check out the Progresso web site. Along with seeing a menu and reading about its history, the owners posts recipes for tamales and other foods.

For another Hollister restaurant review, check out: Happy Cafe.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hanging Out at the County Fair

A pocket holder for band-aids from Hazel Hawkins Hospital.

A yellow rubber stress reliever from the Seniors Council.

A box of cute note cards, by students of San Benito rural schools, from the E Cubed Foundation.

Trail maps of Henry W. Coe State Park

Six raffle tickets for a hand-made quilt fundraiser by the Community Pantry.

Those were a few things that we brought home from the San Benito County Fair. That and a cozy feeling of being relaxed and protected from realities, even when passing by the NRA, the Democratic and Republican parties', and the various law enforcement booths. It was ironic, though, that no one was manning the bank booth when we passed by.

I didn’t bring home an honorable mention ribbon like I had hoped. QuĂ© bummer. Maybe next year, I’ll enter different crafts and flower arrangement categories to expand my chances for a ribbon.

There was quite a lot of good stuff to see, especially among the children’s entries. My favorites were

. . .the vegetable animals

. . .the flag made of marshmallows

. . .the white chick who reminded me of Phyllis Diller

. . .the ceramic piggy and the real piggy named Oreo

. . .the cake made in the shape of a ladybug

. . . the humongous pumpkins

. . .and these two gentle horsemen!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Wanted: Rain!

On Friday, we had a rare sighting—potential rain clouds!

On Saturday morning, we woke up to a rare sound—rain!

The news reported about an 1/8 of an inch of rain for Hollister. Hardly enough. But it’s a start. And we hope that is what it is!

For a great local resource for water conservation, check out Water Resources Association of San Benito County. The nonprofit organization offers rebates to folks who buy water efficient washer-dryers, toilets, and other things. They also perform free assessments of leaks and such for residents.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The San Benito County Fair

The San Benito County Fair will be this weekend. I’m ready to go!

It’s not an annual thing for me, but I like to go now and then. I enjoy wandering around the commercial exhibits and picking up freebies, as well as Ooh-ing and Wow!-ing as I gaze at the arts, crafts, food, and plant entries. Checking out the goats, chickens, pigs, and cows in the livestock pens is fun, too. I would love to raise a few chickens and a goat or two. To check out the Fair schedule, click here.

The last time we went to the fair, Dick and I each paid a buck to see The Strange Thing. It was a creepy, shriveled looking thing called the Chupacabra. Yuk! The buck was well worth it though. Not because we saw something strange and mysterious, but because we got to travel through a time warp and feel like kids again waiting to be surprised and coming out of the tent cracking up at ourselves for giving up our dollars so easily.

This year, I’ve entered something in the fair. Actually three things in the novice division of the photography category. Hee-hee. First time I've ever entered something in a county fair, and I've always wanted to do so. (Thanks Linda B. “Lady in Red” for inspiring me!) For all I know, there may be an honorable mention ribbon hanging from at least of ‘em right now. That’s what I hope.

Tuesday evening, Dick and I drove over to Bolado Park so I could drop off my entries. We had no idea where to go, but fortunately a couple walked by carrying artsy-looking stuff. So we followed them. They were delivering their kids’ entries. The mom was lugging a ceramic rendering of a stack of pancakes, while the dad held a firm grip on several photographs. We passed by people who were setting up their booths and tables. We heard (and smelled) livestock as we made our way to the appropriate building.

It was a wonderful joyous, and determined, feeling in the air. So much sparking and sparkle of energy as people flitted here, flitted there to make sure everything and everyone was where it, he, or she needed to be. That is what I missed all these years of not entering something into the fair. I’m glad had a chance to experience it.

I can hardly wait to go to the Fair. Maybe, there’ll be a new strange thing to see. Maybe I will have won an honorable-mention ribbon. Maybe I will see you there!



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