Vince and I scheduled today as a valleycation date. I love that word. My friend, Mary, coined it. It is like a stacation – a vacation where you stay at home and enjoy what you have at home. A valleycation is when you visit locations in the San Joaquin Valley (where we live) that you have always wanted to see, but never had the time-or took the time to visit like a tourist would. We left home about 11:00 and Vince was already starving. “Where can we eat between here and Fresno?” he said the second I got into the passenger seat.
“Oh well, I guess we could go to Subway,” he responded unenthusiastically.
Normally that would be the end of the conversation, and we would go to Subway, but I determined this would be different. “No, this is a special date, and Subway is unacceptable to me because it’s not special. I’ll Yelp some places.” I found three places, and he rejected them after trying to find one that didn’t seem to be where it should have been according to my iPhone map.
“Let’s just drive into downtown.”
“What about the Pizza place that I mentioned, Corsaro’s? It’s downtown.”
“Here’s a bakery. How about that?” It was next to the 4.5 star pizza place. A woman happened to come out of the pizza place about that time, so I asked, “How is the food here?”
She rolled her eyes like she was in heaven and just couldn’t wait to sink her teeth into lunch, and said, “Really good. Here let me show you my bread sticks.” She opened her box, and they looked and smelled delicious.
So we ate at the pizza place, and it was ok. I would give it 3 stars. The people were marvelous. The woman who took our order even knew me because her niece participated in History Day in Tulare County.
Down the street was Baby Cakes, one of Mary’s favorite places.
We got a peanut butter chocolate and a salted caramel Baby Cake, and a cookie, which was out of this world delicious.
As we got into our car and began eating our sweets, the high school dismissed for lunch, and students swarmed the restaurants like ants. We smiled and ate our Baby Cakes in the car, and left with just enough time to make it to the 1:00 tour of the Underground Gardens.
I have lived in the area 28 years, and haven’t been to the gardens, though I have driven past them hundreds of times and never known it.
Around 1900, Baldassare Forestiere, a second son asked his wealthy father what he was going to inherit. When his dad told him nothing since he was the second son, Baldassare left for America to seek his own fortune. A hard-working lad, he found work in Boston digging tunnels for the subway. A few winters cured him of wanting to live there, and he hopped on a train and headed west for California. He made it to Orange County, and discovered that he loved growing oranges, but land was not cheap even back in 1900. So he asked around and eventually decided to settle in Fresno. He bought 80 acres, and set about readying his fields for orange groves.
Fresno and Tulare Counties have some interesting soil types. They have wonderful delta soil from all the rivers that flow from the Sierra Nevadas down the Fresno, Kern, Kings, Kaweah, and numerous other rivers and creeks into what used to be Tulare Lake, the largest freshwater lake other than the Great Lakes in the United States. They also have a soil type known as hard-pan. This soil is more like cement. As it turned out, this ambitious lad, Baldassare Forestiere, had purchased 80 acres of mostly hardpan. Not to be discouraged, Forestiere picked up his old stand-by trade, digging and began to dig. During the day he dug for hire, and helped create some of the amazing canals we have in this arid agricultural region. By nights and weekends he dug tunnels in his property. He started out with a large underground room, and discovered that the 115 degrees on top of the ground was only about 75 or 80 in his tunnel room. So he moved into his tunnel. He built skylights, and planted his orchard underground. It flourished, as did he. By age 40 he retired, and tunneled full-time on his property. He ended up with 5 acres of tunnels. We only saw 2.5 of them.
Although he died without having married or children, his brother and his bother’s children bought the property, and kept it in the family, where it remains today. The tunnel house is truly a work of art. This is a tour definitely worth the investment. Photographs definitely don’t portray the amount of tunnels that we saw, and we didn’t see them all!
We drove home, and marveled at where we live, wondering how we overlooked such a treasure for so long.
What are the places in your neck of the woods that you know are there for sightseers, but YOU haven’t taken the time to go see them?