In Hollister, California on CA-152 is Casa de Fruta. This little place has been in the same spot since 1908 and has grown much since Joe and I have been coming here over the past 20 years. This is a family place with things for everyone to do and enjoy. There is a 24 hour restaurant named Casa de Restaurant, a wine shop named Casa de Wine, a coffee house named Casa de Sweets, and of course the fruit stand named Casa de Fruta. There is Casa de Choo Choo where you get on a small gauge train that takes you on a 1/2 hour ride, a carousel for the children to ride, a small playground with monkey bars and lots of other climbing structures to gets the kinks worked out of the kids from all the travelling.
We usually come from I-5 and take the CA-152 Los Banos exit. It is about 25 miles from I-5 going east. The road is through Pacheco Pass and it is steep and winding. The grade is 7% downhill one way and uphill the other. According to Joe, this means that for every 100 feet travelled you go down (or up) 7 feet. Makes for an exciting ride downhill. They have improved this road quite a bit since the last time we were through here. It used to be two lane. One lane going east and one lane going west. There was a passing lane each way at the steep parts of the hills for slower traffic. Our trip yesterday was on 4 lane – 2 lanes each way. What a difference that was. A 20 mile length used to take two hours plus and yesterday it was about 30 minutes.
This is now a four lane road. Used to be only two. Heavy truck traffic is on this road because Gilroy is near here and they are the Garlic Capitol of California. Lots of other vegetables and fruits are hauled by trucks over this road.
Loaded down as they often are made this stretch of road really difficult to travel with their slow speeds.
You can’t see it in this picture but this is one of the 7% grade hills we were going down with tons of curves. White knuckle riding for me that is for sure.
If you want to try your luck at finding gold Casa de Fruta will help you part with your money. You go to the fruit stand or Casa de Sweets and purchase a linen bag of dirt take it to the big water wheel and dump your bag of dirt in a screen then let the water run over it at the water wheel and shake your booty and the screen until you find gold.
We used to let the kids do this each time we stopped here with them on our way to Disneyland. The cost of the dirt was outweighed by the entertainment value we received from our 7 kids.
“She got more than me”, or “Stop shaking it so hard you’re getting me all wet”, and the delightful tune of “Move over you are taking up my space”, then there was the heartfelt “I’m going to find gold before you do so there (tongue stuck out for emphasis)”. There was a lot of hollering and scolding each other but there was always laughter along with all the other racket. There was always at least two kids that were not quite ready to go and they were sure they had a dud bag and wanted to try another.
This trip with just Joe and I was not the same. Echoes of the children were in my ears as we wandered around the grounds. Long ago memories of them all running from one place to another, playing tag out in the huge parking lot, playing hide and seek behind all the huge trees, asking for bread to feed the ducks, the clammer of voices raised when they all wanted to ride the train. The plaintive “Please, oh please Daddy” from each of the kids when they wanted something.
This was the very first time we left without buying anything except our dinner at the restaurant. Not the same at all. Oh well, it was peaceful and restful as we walked about with no demands on us to be somewhere in a hurry. A leisurely afternoon.
You can check out the website of Casa de Fruta. They do mail orders for dried fruits, nuts, beans, lentils, peas, and they even ship produce. If you are going to be in their vicinity it is worth a stop. If anyone you know has a fascination with old vehicles and farming equipment this is the place to see it all. Rusted, dented, and derelict it all is but you can certainly see what they used to use in farming long ago.