I couldn’t have imagined what fun I would have today. I woke up early again in Fremont (I guess there’s part of me that’s still on East Coast time), wrote, read, and returned to sleep. When I woke again to get ready to check out, I decided it would be neat to stop by Casa de Fruta, a place I frequently visited as child. It wasn’t too far off the route I planned taking back toward Los Angeles, and I always had fond memories of playing all over the grounds when I accompanied my grandparents to the swap meets that occasionally were hosted there.
I arrived at my destination a little before noon. I was surprised -thrilled in fact- to see that the place looked virtually unchanged from the last time I remember being there…which must’ve been when I was at least 10 or 13. That’s one of the things I love about California- that things don’t change so quickly. It always comforts me to see the familiar landmarks.
So I parked, took my prayer rug and purse, and decided to start by following on foot the miniature train tracks heading back behind the RV park section. I was looking for an area of track I used to call the “slanter”, which used to be so close to a cliff that it felt like we were going to fall off as we rode along. I didn’t find it, but perhaps that’s because the tracks were brought in away from the cliff (I did manage to find that)…..either that or I just remember it being much more frightening than it actually was.
As I rounded the curve where the tracks passed by the second playground near the RV hookups, the adhan for dhuhr played through my headphones. I was already near a grassy clearning, so I went ahead and made it there. I continued my path along the tracks when I noticed a lone steer laying in a pen. I walked over to him and gave him salaams. He didn’t seem interested in me, but I kept talking to him. I told him I understood how lonely he must feel and asked if he got many vistors. As I was chattering, “Always be There” by Maher Zain began to play. I know I was the only one who could hear it, but no one was around and I went ahead and started singing it to old Mr. Steer. Then, he decided to get himself up and come over to where I was standing near his fence. He just kept watching me as I sang. I started to walk again slowly ahead, singing all the while, and the steer “followed” me. I guess he liked my company 🙂 After the song was over, I gave him salaams again and proceeded to the playground area where the carousel was.
Even though they had installed a new playset next to the old one, everything else was exactly as it was when I was a child. I had a sudden memory of losing a glitter bracelet in the pond from throwing bread crumbs at the ducks there, and I was surprised that such a recollection would float through my mind after so many years of being forgotten. As I was pondering this, a crew of peacocks paraded through and I giggled in delight just to see them. It was almost as if I was a child again, and all I wanted to do was swing.
So I chose the one that seemed highest off the ground and turned around to face away from the pond, so I could take in the better view of the lush, green hillsides and puffy clouds. I had nasheeds playing in my headset, which I sang to (yes, aloud) as I swung. I tried to go higher and higher, not caring about the little Spanish girls giving me curious smiles as they played nearby. I closed my eyes and blissfully absorbed the pure freedom that came from such a simple pleasure. I leaned back and wished I could just fly away.
After about an hour of that, I decided I should go ahead and be on my way. I decided to stop in the store first to get a caffeinated drink, as I felt the swinging had tired me a little and I didn’t want to feel that way while driving. I perused all the produce offerings, and palmed one of the avocados which was scandalously ripe. I purchased a Starbuck’s Frappuccino and returned outside, where I noticed the “haunted” train tunnel. I walked over to it to take a closer look, and saw the stairs leading up to a seating area atop its “mountain”. I decided that was a nice enough place to drink my café, and I spent a few minutes there feeling grateful to Allah for the beauty all around. I felt like I was beginning to find myself, little bit by little bit.
When I finished, I began walking back toward my car. I passed by “Casa de Candy”, and thought I probably shouldn’t pass that up, which was a good thing because there they were selling the ever elusive U-no candy bars I had been trying to find the entire trip. They don’t sell them in Georgia, and I promised my sons I would bring them back several. I thanked Allah for giving me the chance to keep my word, and then got back on the road.
The drive to the coastline was breathtakingly gorgeous. The gentle, verdant foothills all around seemed to mark a path for the billowing clouds to follow in their celestial hijra. Driving the winding coastal highway made me feel like I was gliding over the cresting waves, through the azure sky and right into the unhidden sun itself. Sometimes I think these amazing drives are the best part of the vacation. The only disappointment was that there was not an opportunity to access the beach well enough to make salat until I reached Cambria, right before Asr was to go out.
I pulled off and exited the car as I caught my breath at the endless expanse of sea before me. I had always wanted to make salat on a beach, and use the saltwater for wudu. The wind gusted around me as I walked down to the pebbled shoreline. I timidly approached the ebbing tide, which seemed to retreat from me even with its influx back upon the beach. When I finally thought I was close enough to lean down and begin washing my hands in the saline foam, a rush of tide came at me forcefully. I tried stepping back from it to avoid my shoes getting soaked, but I only managed to stumble backwards and nearly fall. Before I could fully escape another small wave licked around my shins and drenched everything below my knees. I laughed riotously as I chased the waters back toward the sea to catch another handful of it to finish my wudu. I couldn’t stop laughing, actually, even as I finished washing and began to make my salat safely away from the tide.
When I returned to my car after prayer, I peeled off my “cheap” Chinatown shoes and kufs. I threw them on the passenger side floor, and kicked on the heat full blast and set it to blow on them, hoping to mostly dry them and my wet pant bottoms. I cracked my window to offset the temperature and continued my drive barefoot.
I decided to stop for the night in San Luis Obispo. Whenever I look for a room, I try to find something that looks like a cheap hole in the wall. I usually expect such places to be kind of flaky, but the truth is every place I have stayed at has actually been pretty nice once I get in the room. Tonight I have a plush king sized bed and tasteful décor, with a nicely tiled shower. I do kind of miss the little room I had in San Francico, though. When I finished bringing all my luggage in (still barefoot), I realized I hadn’t eaten all day and thought it would be a good idea to finish off the leftovers I had brought from Fremont. I needed something to drink, however, and since my footwear was still drying I decided to drive barefoot again to a local fast food restaurant so I could just order a beverage in the drive thru.
I thought it was kind of strange that the first place I passed -a Taco Bell- had no drive thru at all. I thought maybe it was just fluke and continued on until I saw a Jack in the Box…but it also had no drive thru. I drove a couple more blocks and sure enough, none of the fast food restaurants had drive thrus. But I needed a drink, regardless of being barefoot. I ended up heading back toward my hotel and stopping in a gas station (barefoot, of course) and grabbing a bottled soda. I asked the clerk if there was some kind of law against having drive thru’s here, and he actually said there was! I laughed my barefoot self all the way back to my parked car, thinking there could not have been a more humorous ending than this to such a joyful day.