Wine Country

We’re at the blue dot (Paso Robles) south of San Jose, 1020 miles (1652 km) from Albuquerque.


This morning we met Terry’s friend, Ignacio.


He was born in Jalisco State, Mexico, and has lived in the U.S. for 40 years. He worries about the direction our society is taking, on immigration and otherwise. At the same time, he thinks about retiring someday. He’d like to do what we do: travel America!


Heading north, we couldn’t forget that we’re in wine country. Vineyards large and small were in every direction. Jeffrey isn’t an oenophile, but even he recognized some winery names.

Then we turned onto Highway 101. The road took us up for many slow, steep miles, to Cuesta Pass.

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Whoosh! There was a several-mile drop on the far side, the first mile at 7%.  We went as fast as Jeffrey dared, sometimes 35 mph, sometimes half that when dodging potholes and debris.

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At Atascadero, Steve got out of his truck and asked about our cause.


L to R:  Steve, Joey

Steve, a municipal employee who was off duty this afternoon, is very supportive of efforts to help refugees and other migrants.  He told Jeffrey about a local entrepreneur who has American children and grandchildren, works to help his neighbors and his city, but has no American papers.  Steve believes that an immigration system that does not address the reality of situations like this, needs to be changed.  His answer is not to treat our foreign-born neighbors harshly.  It is to give them lawful status that reflects their actual place in our community.

Steve told Jeffrey about his new “downsized” house with a fantastic view.  He lives an active outdoor life, considers himself lucky to have a home in Atascadero, and was kind to share his time and stories with two NYC visitors.

Steve suggested that we see the local city hall, built in 1915 without a power crane.  It is beautiful indeed.

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The inscription at the top befits this agricultural town: “The most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil.” —Abraham Lincoln

We made it to Paso Robles, stopped at a motel, and learned that on the weekend in wine country, all motels usually are booked. Jeffrey went on to the next hotel and happened to see co-owner Frank in the parking lot. Frank said he had one room left. Jeffrey took it. Only 15 seconds later, a motorist walked up and asked if there was a vacancy. Fifteen seconds!  Frank later said he saw the hand of God in the timing, because had Jeffrey not booked the room, he and Jeffrey would not have had their nice conversation.

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Frank is a kind man.  He doesn’t like to say no.  But when the motel is full, it’s full.  That’s our calling card on the desk.

Frank told Jeffrey a fascinating story about his German roots.  Frank’s father, from a farming family in Stuttgart, was a conscript in Irwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps, captured by the British in North Africa in 1941 and sent to a prison camp in Canada. Frank’s mother spent the war in and around Frankfurt.  His parents met in the Los Angeles area in the early 1950s.  They made their way to Paso Robles and bought the motel in 1959.  Frank (U.S. born, but his first language was German) and his younger sisters still own and manage it.

Frank and Jeffrey (and later Frank’s sister Barbara) talked of what it is to be in a new country, how immigrants work hard, and how thin is the veneer of civilization.  They agree that refugees and other newcomers should be valued and respected.  That’s the American way . . . if we haven’t lost our way.

A postscript:

Remember Gilbert, our new friend from the Acoma nation?  He phoned yesterday from New Mexico to make sure we’re safe.

Remember Frank, our new friend from the Santa Susana Pass?  He emailed to wish us well, and to say that he read through the blog and hopes he can have such an adventure someday.

It’s nice to make friends on the road.

6 thoughts on “Wine Country

  1. So much enjoying reading about your latest adventure for the cause. My sister and I met you and your wife last August when we were visiting one of the lava formations in California. We saw the two of you descending, took your pic, and stopped to say hello. You inspired me to join the ACLU and I’m trying to help our local DREAMERS in their efforts to attain some kind of legal status. We also are immigrants (came to US in 1952) and want to help the cause. I very much applaud you!


    • Of course we remember you and still enjoy the photo you took of us walking down the crater. Thanks for sharing your good work with the ACLU and how you were inspired by the ride! Just fantastic. Nancy


  2. Jeffrey my superhero, in every post I learn new things from you ! You spread kindness and it always comes back to you:)
    May God be with you


  3. Joey and Jeffrey — it’s encouraging to discover that there are so many good-hearted folks all over this land. Thank you!


  4. Wonderful. I think Susan Rugh might be interested in that motel in Paso Robles. You are touching peoples lives and they are touching yours, Jeffrey. A very touching post.


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