Disneyland, our honeymoon destination, was a 2 day 400 mile trip
before I-5. We took the scenic US 101 Route over the more direct US 99. Neither
of us had ever ventured so afar making it also another world exploration.
Leaving the reception, sitting next
to my new husband, now his wife, his 57 Chevy, now ours rumbled to downtown San
Jose, turned south on First Street the onto Monterrey Road, aka US 101. Past visited haunts, the El Rancho Drive-In,
Trader Lew's and Frontier Village Amusement Park, flipped by marking our
progress. Passing them I reminisced
about my past and what the future beheld.
Segments of old US Highway 101 in
California were also known as El Camino Real or The King’s Highway in Spanish. It followed the trail blazed by
Father Junípero Serra connecting California’s 21 missions from San Diego to
Santa Rosa, each one day's walking distance apart. That’s what the nuns told
us. As the car’s wheels spun I imagined each tire rotation as similar to the
good friar’s stride as he established his Missions in the California
wilderness. I concluded, however, the story, while beautifully said, was a lie.
The road simply followed a preexisting Indian trail.
Back then it was a 3 lane road between San Jose and Gilroy with the middle lane a 2 way passing lane, known as the suicide lane. We used it to pass slow vehicles while squinting ahead to see if another was using it coming from the other direction. I silently threw in a Hail Mary each time we passed, a doubting disbeliever.
The highway was lined with giant black walnut trees planted by Father Serra to provide travelers shade and nuts to eat according to the nuns. As they whizzed past I again over rode their version and concluding they were products of Cal-Trans or the WPA. I knew those trees, their sturdy trunks which often killed when a car veered into them. They triggered my thoughts back to when as a young girl I first saw them, my introduction to life’s disillusions.
Hearing from the nuns the potential
of free nuts I checked at the local market and saw the little packages of black
walnuts were more expensive than the English ones. My dream to buy a portable
electric Singer sewing machine for $70, beyond my baby sitting earnings of 50
cents an hour, suddenly seemed possible. While I loved Mom’s foot pedal machine
I wanted my own, one in my room which could do zig zags and button holes.
Selling black walnuts would be better than pushing firecrackers.