Wind At Our Backs - Steinbeck Country - CycleBlaze

April 26, 2022

Wind At Our Backs

Salinas to Greenfield

Ooooh, a tailwind today!
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Last night I watched the local news at 10 pm to catch the weather report. “Windy” said the weatherman, “Very windy for this time of year for the next 4 days.” As we learned later in the day, it typically is windy in the Salinas Valley from May through October; it started early this year. The prevailing wind is an afternoon northwest wind off the ocean that blows up the valley. Happily this is our direction of travel today, but both tomorrow and the next day we sadly will be riding into it. 

Jim woke up early, at 6:15, and his rumbling about the room woke me. This happens often when we travel. Jim is one of those lucky folks that doesn’t require more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep. At home, he stays up until 2 or 3 am most nights. While traveling, we go to bed early and so he wakes up early. Me, I need 8 hours and will take 9 when able. But I have sleep issues and often don’t sleep well, both at home and while traveling. Fortunately I felt well-rested this morning in spite of the early wake-up. 

The promised “breakfast” room at the Quality Inn wasn’t open by 7 so we walked up to McDonalds for some breakfast sandwiches and for my large allotment of coffee. This McDonalds was all set up for Covid and required us to order electronically from a menu screen. The ordering software was kludgy but we bumbled through it. The last step told you to pick up a “table tent” and input the number on it. Do you know what a “table tent” is? My guess was one of those little plastic table numbers that are shaped like pup tents that you put on your table so the waitstaff knows which order goes where. The geeks that set up this software probably came to that step and didn’t know what to call the number gizmo, so instead of calling it something obvious, like a “table number”, they called it a “table tent.” IAC, there weren’t any sitting around because, of course, in this McDonalds they were all about social distancing the staff from the customers, so nobody would be bringing out the food anyway. (I have never been in a McDonalds that actually did that, even before Covid.) The breakfast sandwiches were”OK” but I was pleasantly surprised by the huge cup of steaming hot and great-tasting coffee I got for $1.00. I also noticed that all the coffee, regardless of size, cost $1.00, except the senior size, which was $0.79. 

After breakfast we packed up and were on our way by 8:50. We left Salinas through an industrial area and rode out a farm road to Spreckels, which was the home of a large sugar refining plant from 1899 to 1989, one of many sugar refining plants in California. John Steinbeck’s father worked at the Spreckels plant for many years and Steinbeck himself spent some summers at the plant.

By this time the wind was starting to pick up and by 5 miles out, where we had to turn into it for about a mile, it was quite strong. Once we crossed over to the west side of the Salinas river and turned onto River Rd, we had a nice tailwind to push us along. 

Right at the start of River Rd we passed a couple of subdivisions but for the rest of the day we rode through farmland in various stages of cultivation. I saw fields being prepared to plant, recently sprouted crops in some fields, ready-to-harvest cauliflower and broccoli, and recently harvested fields being tilled under. Further south in the valley we came across vineyards and wineries. 

Our route took us directly past the Soledad Mission so we stopped to take a look. The two docents were very friendly and curious about our ride. While we chatted they mentioned the wind and commented that it is early to be this windy but it is always windy in the afternoons from late spring through the fall. 

Both Jim and I grew up in California and we have both been to several missions but it was our first visit to Soledad so we went inside to see the exhibits. The barely recognizable remains of the original mission are still there protected under a shed roof and the current mission is a reconstruction. It is interesting and worthwhile to visit. 

After leaving the mission, we turned downwind and quickly covered the distance to Greenfield. Our motel was at the north end of town but we continued down to the south end looking for a lunch stop that wasn’t Mexican, since we are likely going to have Mexican for dinner. Our choices were McDonalds or Subway; every other restaurant was Mexican except Taco Bell, which is only sort of Mexican. We settled on Subway. 

According to our friend Kelly Pepper, who loves Mexico and all things Mexican, Greenfield has been heavily settled by the Copala Triqui, a small Native American group from west Oaxaca. When Jim called for reservations, both motels answered in Spanish and a wide variety of ethnic food is available in town as long as it is Oaxacan. 

After Subway we checked into the Budget Motel. There are only 2 motels in town; this one answered the phone first which is why we are here. The room is $85 which I guess is a bargain these days. For that we got two double beds in a small room, especially with two bikes inside. No frills though; no soap/shampoo/lotion except for a gross used bar of soap in the shower. (The shower itself was dubious enough that I wiped it down with some anti microbial wipes before using it.) The bare minimum of towels; no in-room coffee even though there is a microwave and small ‘fridge, and no ice machine. On the bright side, the shower head was high enough for Jim and the water was hot and consistent. 

Dinner will undoubtedly be Mexican. 

Crops on the outskirts of Salinas
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The old Spreckels sugar plant
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A giant farm worker sculpture outside of Spreckels
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Kathleen JonesThose “people” have been there for a long time. Looking in good shape.
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3 months ago
More giant farm workers in the fields
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Amber StarfireInteresting idea, these sculptures - sure are attention getting!
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3 months ago
All that remains of the original Soledad mission
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The Soledad mission today
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Master plan for the Soledad mission
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A short comparative history lesson
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More Soledad mission info
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Another giant, this time a vineyard worker
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Today's ride: 46 miles (74 km)
Total: 70 miles (113 km)

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