No, my eyes did not deceive me…that was a 9MM Glock semi-automatic pistol strapped to the fireman’s knee. I had to know…”why are you packing?” I asked him.
“Our police can’t go along on every call with us so the city decided to arm us,” he replied.
Equal parts gritty and interesting, the city lies in the heart of the produce belt of California’s Central Valley. It’s located along highway 99, about halfway between Bakersfield and Sacramento.
Two excellent and highly recommended accessible hotels lie in the northeast part of town next door to each other, the Springhill Suites and Homewood Suites. Both offer two-room, accessible suites with roll-in showers available. Each comes with a hot breakfast and, best of all for those beyond 100 degree days in the summer, swimming pools with disability access lifts.
Springhill will cost a bit less than Homewood. We stay at the Springhill.
This is the raisin capitol of the world, it’s also in the very heart of California’s heartland with miles of farms and ranches spreading out in all directions. The office of tourism can provide you with a fruit trail map to visit the different farms, fruit stands, ranches, and farmer’s markets of the area. If you’re here spring through fall, you’ll definitely want to try some fruit picked right off of the branch.
After a good night’s rest, it’s a little over an hour east to our next destination, Sequoia National Park. The scenery beautiful, the rivers frothing with white water, the wildlife flitting about…it’s all spectacular…but what sets this park apart from others are the legendary trees.
Big trees. Huge trees. Trunks the size of houses trees. Living before Jesus trees.
Out of the hundreds of giant trees in the park, one stands alone as the biggest of them all, old General Sherman in his own fenced off plot.
You can park in an upper lot closer to the tree or park a little lower and take a paved, accessible trail up to the grove. We park in the bottom lot.
Sequoia is not new to us. We’ve camped here dozens of times but the trees still amaze. Along the trail is what looks like a downed tree with a nine-foot thick trunk about 50 feet tall. Only it’s not a tree, it’s just a branch that broke off of the General.
The Sherman tree is massive. Just the bark alone is over a foot thick. The truck is over 20 feet thick. The age is estimated to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old…and counting. If you could, you’d climb over 275 feet before you reached the top. By volume, it is the largest single trunk tree in the world.
It may be the star of the show, but there are many more specimens in the park that, unlike the General, you can actually go up and touch. Some, burned out from ancient fires, you can even stand inside of.
It’s lunch in the park, then back down into the valley below.
Just west of downtown is Chukchansi Park, home of the Fresno Grizzlies. They are the AAA affiliate of the current world champions, the Houston Astros. Tonight, we’ll go and see them play the Las Vegas 51s, the farm team of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Before the game, a couple of colorful cars are parked across the street handing out free energy drinks. They’re parked next to the Fire Department headquarters which, of course, entices a few firefighters outside to take advantage of the free drinks.
This is when I notice how Fresno’s firefighters don’t go on calls unarmed.
On to the game itself, we score some accessible seats directly behind home plate. Misters attached to the bottom of the second deck keep things cool in the valley heat. In the outfield, some lucky group is frolicking in the pool in deep center field.
The food is good, the gift shop well stocked, the prices decent, but the beer is limited to a few bland domestics with Tecate being served as the premium brew. You can see more information on the stadium on our Chukchansi Park Fields of Dreams review.
After a fun evening of baseball, we turn in for the night.
Going south on the 99, we have one more stop to make. As you drive along, sign after sign entices you…best cheese you’ll ever have, ice cold soda, mouthwatering cheeseburgers, fresh fruit, cold milk shakes…by the time you get to the Traver exit, you just about have no free will left and have to stop at Bravo Farms.
A little traveler’s oasis, Bravo’s claim to fame is making cheese. You can watch the cheese makers in action, and then sample the many varieties.
Outside, you can walk over to the fruit stand and sample some delicious donut peaches. Back at the store and café, have a burger followed by that cold milkshake.
Save a little time to go out back, feed the goats, shoot a little pool, and relax in their garden.
It makes for a great little stop to recharge our batteries as we head on south towards home on the 99.
Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
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