Locations lost and found
The best way to fall in love again with your home town is to host a visitor from out of town. In any given week I might go to work, head to a strip mall, putz around my garden and pace within the dusty confines of my home. On a busy week, “going downtown means driving through and glancing to the right and to the left, the way one might view a cityscape from a fast-moving train.
However, when visitors are in town it’s showtime. Suddenly there’s motivation to fire up my dad’s Mustang and show places known and loved.
This month my work is hosting 18 teachers from 16 different countries from throughout the world. Their schedule is busy with more than a week in local schools and almost 150 hours of academics, but still there are slices of time to see this and that.
One perfect day in Bidwell Park, the wish list included a place to park the car. We stood at the base of the climb, which looks daunting when you take the first step.
It had been so long I could not point out why the big rock got this name. From the base, no monkey is to be found, just a steep crag that looks like all the other crags in the area.
We took in the view from the top, which makes you wish you could fly. Dogs leapt in the green grass below and a few folks rode horses. We walked for nearly an hour, dazzled by the sparselyscattered yet brilliant wildflowers, and headed back along Horseshoe Lake. Finally, from the northwest vantage point, the monkey’s profile jumped into view, and I think he was laughing.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” Masi from South Africa said when he saw people spread out every which way, climbing hills, golfing and riding their bikes. “I didn’t imagine Americans liked the outdoors so much.”
I probably shared more than was necessary about the long-gone lady who donated the land to the community, how much people in Chico love playing softball and that the observatory is run by volunteers. Masi was more interested in stopping along the side of the road to watch the deer that were nonplussed by whether or not we found a parking place.
The next weekend, a different mix of international visitors piled into cars and headed to Roble Road to view the almond bloom. For this trip, my Uncle Jimmy and his wife Cheryl volunteered to be extra drivers.
The blossoms were only half unfurled, but to new eyes the orchards were nothing short of magnificent.