We left our unusually spacious motel rooms in Madera, heading for Clovis through fields of oranges and cotton, a combination we hadn’t expected to see. Nor did we expect to see so many folks in the vicinity of Festus--a statue, that is, honoring Ken Curtis, the actor who portrayed him on Gunsmoke for 13 years. (He apparently died suddenly after a day at the Clovis Rodeo.) Turns out the annual Clovis-Fest was going on downtown, and many, many people wanted to know “what channel we were with.” Highlights included a personal encounter for Mike with a giant Soft Serve, and for Don, sighting a ’63 Corvair Monza (the first car he owned.)
On our way to the famed Forestiere Gardens in nearby Fresno, we opted to get some long overdue car washing done--and who better to do it than trainees from the police academy? They said “sir” a lot, hosed the copious amount of bugs on our grille with no complaints, and even took our $10 donation in $2 bills as a training opportunity in the fraud division...
The amazing thing about the Forestiere Underground Gardens is that from above ground, you really have no idea they’re there. Hence the name. Baldasore Forestiere was a Sicilian immigrant who devised a whole way of digging out the rocky soil on his land to live a much cooler life in those pre-airconditioned days. There are 40 years worth of tunnels and walkways leading in countless directions, but somehow an amazing amount of light still penetrates, and trees and flowers grow. We took the tour courtesy of Andre, the builder’s brother’s grandson, and Andre’s mother, who you as you can see in the picture above, still knows a hottie when she sees one.
Heading back towards the coast, as our plan called for, takes you first through more fields of fruit, then into a petroleum-centric stretch near Coalinga, where a cluster of oil pumps have been artfully remade in animal form. That’s cool, but it’s kinda troubling when you approach to get a closer look at the cute giraffe, and the sign says DANGER, POSON GAS! We can take a hint...
We wrapped up with a trip down Cal Hwy 46, the same road where Donald Turnipseed and James Dean had their tragic meeting on September 30, 1955. A memorial stands at the Jack Ranch Cafe, but you can’t pee there without buying something, so Mike purchased some tasty homemade cookies to bribe his way in.
Thought you’d want to know.
Music in the van--”Too Long In the Wasteland” James McMurtry, “Has Been” William Shatner, “Long Gone Still” Uncle Tupelo
P.S. Don’s found money total so far--$1.25, 1 guitar pick, 4 marbles