Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fresno Family Fun

April 1-3, 2017
Fresno - Santa Clarita, California

We take our time getting ready Saturday morning. It's strange to leave our home behind, knowing we won't return until the following evening. It's another first for us.

The drive north over the Grapevine, and up Highway 99 is a familiar one. Still, it is a unique experience with all the vibrant poppies covering the mountain before and following the summit at Fort Tejon.

Just south of Tulare we pull over at the rest stop. Where we find another wonderful surprise. The Phillipe S. Raine Safety Stop is more than restrooms and a couple picnic tables. Colorful panels tell the story of California's Central Valley with history, culture, environment, people and icons. Solar panels make an attractive pergola-type roof, all designed like an intricate basket weave. I tend to be less than generous in my descriptions of this part of our beautiful state, but this stop reminded me of how important it is. Good job CalTrans!

Wonderful design.

The information panels are very well done. 

March 31 was Cesar Chavez' birthday so it was fun to see him included on the panel of important people.

The "fronts" of the panels have colorful paintings of valley life.

Icons tell a story
Several miles north we see this unique tower just off the highway.
Okay, so rest stops aren't generally something to get excited about.....but it's a nice surprise when they are :-)))

We've come to Fresno to celebrate two family birthdays. Our cousin-in-law Kurt turns 50 today, and Bill's mom, Anne, will be 92 on Sunday. We're staying with Cindy and Kurt, their three boys, and Aunt Kathy. In addition to a nice big home, they also own the neighboring lot where they host large gatherings on a regular basis.

Tonight it will be the site of Kurt's birthday bash. But first we head over to surprise Ann who lives close by in a very nice assisted living home. Surprise might be an understatement - she is overwhelmed when she sees her son.

Mother and son.
We have a nice visit before returning to help get things ready for the evening. Nick and Corey (Bill's two oldest) have arrived and are doing the real helping :-)  

It's a big party and everyone has a great time. Fun to meet new people and see several family folks we haven't seen in a couple years.

Have a taco truck provide dinner - brilliant!

Cousin David and Kurt
Kurt, Corey and Nick.

Great-grandma Kathy with grandson Nate and great-granddaughter Elizabeth.

Rocking the cute.....
Bill and cousin Terry
Everyone had a great time
We enjoy visiting with Cindy and family Sunday morning. It's so fun having the time to just hang out and get caught up.

Cindy is an amazing baker and of course Anne's cake is not only delicious but lovely as well.

This is the cake I want when I'm 92!
Bill and Cindy pick up Anne and bring her over for pizza (her request) and cake and lots of story-telling with family. She is doing soooo much better since moving to California. It was definitely a good move for everyone.

Anne, Chris, Bill, DJ and Nick (Cindy and Kurt's boys)
Cousin David and wife Diana

Cousins Nick and Corey playing Tac while the old folks visit.

Can you imagine having had 92 birthday cakes?

Thanks for the photo bomb honey :-)

Grammy only has eyes for her "angels", Nick and Corey.
The house has two pets - dog Lola and cat Mosey. Tessa and Lola get along well, and although Tessa tries to ignore Mosey, the cat stalks her. He crouches and crawls toward her, looking like he'll attack at any time. This is going on on the patio when suddenly Lola rushes out of the doggie door and runs Mosey off. Hysterical! Then it happens again a little while later. Tessa clearly has a protector :-))))

Tessa' body guard. Thanks Lola!
The boys head out and after Anne returns to her home, we too must say our good-byes for our drive south. We're glad to be able to say "see you soon" as we'll return for a longer visit the first week of May.

We had such a great time.

Since hitting the road we have stopped eating fatty or processed meats. Mostly we just miss having bacon, but a good pastrami sandwich is like the holy grail. The very best we've ever had is served at The Hat - a small SoCal chain that opened in 1951 and is still extremely popular.

Monday we decide to splurge and make the 30 minute drive to split a pastrami sandwich and a bag of delicious onion rings. Won. Der. Ful.

No Jeff, it doesn't say "rastramu"...it's an old sign!
Another of Nick's good friends, Craig, stayed with us for a short time and is very much like family. His work schedule is super crazy but we manage to get a visit on Monday evening. And he brings his adorable littles - Craig and Avery. We love getting caught up with them.

Avery, Craig and Craig - such a wonderful family

Tessa holding court.

Girl talk
Just a few days before we're back on the road. We'll miss the kids a lot, but the hitch itch is very strong!!


  1. Great family memories and pictures Jodee. Cool idea to have the taco truck and I bet he stayed busy! And yes, Anne's cake looks almost too pretty to cut...I'm sure it was yummy!

    What a nice idea to design the rest stop with information and colorful panels. Makes the stretch so much more interesting. And those photos of the poppies were amazing !

    1. Thanks Gay, it turned out to be a much better drive than I remember :-)))))

  2. What a wonderful surprise for Bill's mom. What a delicious looking cake. Don't we all hope we'll have someone that talented who loves us enough to make one for us if we make it to 92. Was it chocolate? Love the Tessa's protector story.

    1. She was so delighted! Yes and the chocolate was wONderful :-)))

  3. Wow, love those brilliant patterns of poppies. I've never seen such a nice rest area. Love the coffee pot tower. Such a fun time you have with family. Funny how Tessa had a protector.

    1. I wish rest areas all did something similar so even if we're just driving through an area we can learn more about it. Lola was so funny - she may have just been playing with the cat, but her timing was perfect!

  4. What a great birthday celebration especially for Bill's mom:) Love the photo of her blowing out the candles:) It was great to hear she is doing much better now that she is closer to so much family.

    The hills are so beautiful with the spring flowers...Wow! Great photos! What a very cool rest stop! Not the usual for sure! Thanks for sharing!

    Safe travels!

    1. Since I have no family other than the boys, it's especially wonderful for me to have this big married-in-to family. We have a really great time with them.

      I was bummed we were missing the desert bloom, but those hills are incredible.

  5. What a great family time, Jodee! Love the poppies on the mountain. Thanks for the tip on the rest area...we will make sure to hit that!

    1. Thanks Jim. If one is going to stop anyway, might as well have a nice spot!

  6. So many sweet photos of family! It's great to hear that Bill's mom has settled in and that all is well. She looks like she's surrounded by love. :-) That rest stop looks like a worthwhile place to pull over—and your photos of the poppy covered hills are gorgeous!

    1. Thanks Lauren :-) It is quite the show on those hillsides!

  7. How wonderful to catch up with family. What did Bill's mom think of his altered beard? :) The taco truck? Genius. Now that you've seen everyone, is it time to hit the road and head to Idaho? I am looking forward to following along on that trip!

    1. She didn't say anything :) Tacos were so good! We're heading out Saturday but to Las Vegas and then Laughlin for our annual reunion. Then north through CA, OR and into WA. Staying in Carnation in July :-))) Idaho will be in the Fall.

  8. The lowers have been amazing this spring. Glad you are getting plenty of family time.

  9. Nice rest stop-I think we may have stopped there too, but my direct path to the restroom may have diverted me from the info panels :-/ Isn't it great that you get to spend so much time with family?! I bet they're glad you were able to join in the celebration :-)

    1. Next time read the panels - on your way out of course :-))