Maree & Jack do Mexico, Cuba and California travel blog

Crossing the Richmond Bridge over SF Bay

The Mystery House

In the garden at the Mystery house

By the fountain

San Jose rose garden

More rose garden

More roses


The morning on Mendocino was clear but still windy as we set out for our return to San Jose. As usual CA 1 wound its way through yet more redwoods. Is it possible to become blasé about redwoods? They are magnificently straight and tall. One can see the attraction these forests must have had for the timber cutters and millers. The results can be seen of course in the denuded hills which are now pasture or vineyards. Still it is great that there were enough farsighted people who saved the rest as National and state parks.

The road near the coast had suffered quite a bit from the rains that fell over the winter. In a fairly short stretch we came across four or five sections where the route was reduced to one lane and we were forced to wait our turn. There were other parts of the road where there was evidence of slides which had been cleared fairly recently. We turned inland along the Anderson valley where we started to see grape vines and wineries replacing the redwood forests. When we eventually rejoined US 101 at Cloverville it was time for a coffee break. By chance we stopped at a cafe where we had a cafe latte that could only be described as the equal to the best we have had in Melbourne. I thanked the barista and asked him if he had been trained in Australia. He was quite chuffed, although he said that he had trained locally, because he knew of the coffee scene in Melbourne.

The rest of the trip was more or less uneventful, memorable only for the ever thickening traffic on the freeway which made for tense driving. How the locals do it day in day out I don't know. It must make for stressful living. We arrived at Anthony's at about 2pm - he was home because it was Sunday - after more than 1650 miles (2640 km) of driving. The temperature here was much warmer than on the coast and it was not long before we had changed to shorts and t-shirts. While I gave the car a thorough vacuum and clean Maree helped Anthony get stuck into the front yard. I think that she has been suffering from lack of gardening.

Next day I took Anthony's bike and went for a two hour rife up into the hills which are right next to his place. The bike is an old, not well maintained 18-speed mountain bike which is actually a bit small for me. The brakes squeal and something was rubbing when I pedalled, although I couldn't work out what, but I was still happy to be cycling again. The road, Calaveras Avenue, was actually closed to traffic for some of its length due to some subsidence but cyclists could get through. With a triple chainring I managed all of the gradients which my Garmin showed to be as high as 16% except for one section of about 50 m where my legs failed me. I really did feel out of condition after nearly four weeks off the bike and lots of sitting in the car. On my return I had a pleasant swim in Anthony's pool before Maree and I set off to the Great Mall to hit the shops again.

On Tuesday after checking the weather report for Monterey (cold and windy) bwe decided to see some of the sights of San Jose. The first of these was the oddly named Winchester Mystery House. This mansion was owned by Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Winchester of Winchester rifle fame. She bought an 8 roomed farmhouse and, over 38 years transformed it into a 160 room folly with 47 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms and 1 shower. Apparently she had been told by some fortune teller that, to appease the spirits of people who had been killed by the weapons made by her husband, she needed to start building a house but never complete it. Given that she had an immense fortune from her husband and shares in the company she apparently hired a team of carpenters and builders who worked 24 hours a day, 365 days a week for 38 years, until she died, constantly building and altering her house with nothing ever quite completed. There were windows to internal rooms, doorways to nowhere and all manner of strange nooks and crannies. You would need a map to get around the place and could easily get lost. Of course we had a guide to take us through the building and explain its story. Apparently there is a film being made in Docklands studios in Melbourne about the life of Sarah Winchester, starring Helen Mirren.

A short distance away were the Municipal Rose Gardens of San Jose so how could Maree resist going there for a look see. We spent about 40 minutes wandering about smelling the roses and admiring those that didn't have a smell. This was clearly the best time to see the gardens as every plant was in full bloom. On our return we did some sorting of suitcases and completed our packing in preparation for tomorrow's flights home. This is the final entry. See you all soon.



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