Monday, September 17, 2012

Village of Arroyo Grande

The early morning sun caresses this antique wagon with its rays.   It is going to be another hot day, and I am up before my travel buddy.  I never used to be a morning person, but that is changing.  I am wide awake by six a.m.   Out the door in less than ten minutes.  While I walk the vacant streets, the sleep from my eyes slowly evaporates.  I am happy.  Alert.   A new day begins and I am its sole witness.
   I cross the Arroyo Grande Bridge, built in 1908, and now adorned with matching baskets of yellow flowers.  The massive stone I.O.O.F building is on the National Register of Historic Places.  My walk is taking me back a hundred years.

I turn on Branch, which is the main street through downtown Arroyo Grande.  I have been here many many times to stop at Andreini's for coffee, but I've always rushed on, always on my way to some place else.  Today, that someplace else is here.  The streets are still quiet.  The buildings' brick facades pose for me, unblinking, waiting.  Many of them were built in the late 1800's.  That they are still standing and beautifully maintained fills me with pride and a hope that people will continue to preserve history.

The street is named after Francis Branch.  He came to the area in 1832 on a bear hunting expedition and decided to stay.  He purchased 16,000 acres of land and began to raise cattle.  Forty years later he started to sell his property to settlers.  It does not take long before businesses set up shop and another town in Central California springs to life.

 I  cross the creek again on a pedestrian swing bridge.  It was originally built without sides in 1875 by Newton Short to connect his properties.  Sides were added in 1902, and it was renovated in 1995.  The bridge sways gently, and the creek is so beautiful I cross it again and go down the steps to investigate.

There are a few stray cats down here.  A man, homeless, is still asleep next to its banks.  I can't help but stare at his face.  He is so young, perhaps only nineteen or twenty.  I'm hoping he is a traveler, but the plastic bags filled with his belongings tell me otherwise. 
On the other side of the swing bridge are three museums:  The Santa Manuela School House, Heritage House and a barn museum.  I take a picture of an old millstone which had made a journey on the sailing ship "California" all the way from Mexico.  Gristmills were another important part of Arroyo Grande's history. 
Heritage House, Built 1895
By now it is almost eight o'clock and I am getting hungry.  I whip out my cell phone.
"You awake?" I ask my travel buddy.
"Yeah.  Where are you?"
I'm not even sure.  " I can be at Andreini's in ten minutes.  Want to meet me there?"
"See you in ten," he says.
"No rush," I add.  No rush at all.

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