Road Trip: Visalia

Ralph Moore was famous for popularizing miniature roses. And for living a very long life, and breeding roses up until he died two years ago at 102. I first visited Sequoia Nursery after a Great Rosarians of the World. The honorees, Viru and Girija, wanted to go there and meet Mr. Moore and talk with him about breeding roses. A number of others went as well, and we all took Mr. Moore out for lunch, and toured the nursery. It was a lot of fun for all of us. When Mr. Moore turned 100, there was a large party organized and a lot of people who knew him came. We all spent the night at a local motel, and had the biggest motel room party I can remember. In Mel Hulse’s room, of course.

Ralph Moore at his 100th Birthday Party

Ralph Moore at his 100th Birthday Party

Well, Ralph Moore’s birthday was in January, and it was a great excuse for rosarians to get together at a time when roses aren’t blooming. So this year, JD proposed that we have a get together in Visalia on January 8th. More than 20 of us decided to go, and arrangements were made for us to have a room to ourselves at Marie Callendar’s in Visalia from noon till 3 pm.

I awoke at 7 am, dressed and finished packing, ate breakfast and loaded up the car. I hit the road about 8 am. For company on the trip I had “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett being read to me from my Palm TX. When I went to England in 2009, I listened to “Pillars of the Earth” and followed that up with “World Without End” that accompanied me on walks for a couple of months.  I was hoping he’d do another book in that series, maybe from the Henry the 8th era, but he hasn’t, so I thought I’d give this a try. Of course, I’m loving it. By the end of the trip, a fourth of the book was completed. Another road trip to The Huntington Library is coming up later this month, so I’m saving the rest of the book for that.

From my home in Santa Cruz I drove through Watsonville, past Aromas and San Juan Bautista. Then connecting to Highway 152 north of Hollister. The part of Highway 152 west of Pacheco Pass is some of my favorite scenery in the world. Rolling hills dotted with oaks. I once thought I would like to live in this area, but I know now that I could not stand the heat in the summers.

As a geologist, driving over Pacheco Pass is very interesting. On the way up, the road cuts reveal the greywackes and blueschist of the Franciscan Complex. When I cross a bridge over a side canyon, I’m also crossing the Coast Range Thrust, the trace of where the Franciscan ocean floor rocks were thrust under the Great Valley Sequence (sediments drained off the Sierra Nevada) before there was a Coast Range. At that time, the Cretaceous, this land was deep below sea level, and dinosaurs roamed the earth.

After Pacheco Pass, the drive to Visalia becomes colossally boring. Flat land, mainly farms and orchards. Some citrus orchards, so at least there is greenery and oranges to break up the monotony of driving on the highway. I stopped for coffee in Los Banos, and gas somewhere after I get on 99. The worst part of the drive is the part between Fresno and the Visalia turn-off. Most of us who drove that way were sure we must have missed the exit, because we hadn’t remembered how far it is. But finally the exit appears, and it’s just a few minutes on 198 to the turn-off for Marie Callendar’s.

Still in the car in the parking lot, I brush my hair, put on lipstick, still listening to my book. Carolyn parks nearby, so I get
out and give her a hug. Then we saw Jeri and Clay driving in- I needed to visit the new motorhome and meet the newest dog, Katie. As I wait for them to park, Samantha came up behind me. Another hug, and she joins me waiting to meet dogs. The new motorhome is a big improvement, and the new Dalmatian is adorable and taller than Becket already. All four dogs were delighted to have some company petting them and telling them how pretty they were. Becket, Tika and Katie are all rescued long-coat Dalmatians from Texas, and probably half siblings. They have the best personalities of any Dalmatians I’ve ever met- very sweet and friendly.

Inside the restaurant, I met a few people I hadn’t met before. One was Jim Sproul, who breeds roses, and later gave each of us a hybrid hulthemia he had bred from one of Ralph Moore’s hybrid hulthemias. Then there were Rosemary and Ron Sawyer, who have a rose nursery in Columbia. I mentioned my rose rustling up in that area last June and asked if they knew Judy. Yes, they do know her. There was a slide show of Ralph Moore’s roses running on a computer, and a new book of Paul Barden’s rose photos was on a table. Pure rose pornography! Wish I could afford to buy a copy.

As people arrived we chatted and chatted, until we were told to sit down and start lunch. I had the roasted vegetable platter, and ate some of the cornbread. There was a birthday cake for dessert. Birthday Cake for Ralph MooreAnd we continued chatting with those around us. Then there was time for reminiscenses of Mr. Moore. Carolyn, who had worked there for many years, brought some laminated newspaper articles about him from 1960. Several people had funny stories of visiting the nursery. Suddenly it was time to leave. We posed for a group picture before anyone left.
Group photo

Most of us wanted to go to Burling’s nursery (Burlington Rose Nursery). She was Mr. Moore’s budder, and produced the tree roses used in restoring the gardens at Hearst Castle. As I left the parking lot, I was separated from the cars that left before me by having to wait for traffic, then a red light, then another red light before getting on the freeway. Burling had told me the way- take the Farmerville exit and head south 6 or 7 miles. I did this, and after about 6 miles, was happy to see that all the cars ahead of me on the road were turning at the same place. That was the place. No sign on the road. She has a number of the roses that Sequoia Nursery used to sell. I was happy to see, as I walked among the pots, several plants I need to get for the Heritage Rose Garden. It was really cold, and Burling had one of those outdoor propane heaters. I spent a lot of time under it.

When I couldn’t take the cold any more, and some others were also leaving, I followed Samantha to her house a little way into the foothills near Highway 198. Sam has several pets that I’ve been hearing about for years, and it was a real treat to finally meet her horse and the labradoodle. She also has a half grown kitty who is as cute as they come. We spent a pleasant evening sipping drinks and chatting.

After a good night’s sleep and lots of talking and drinking coffee in the morning, I headed west. The old Sequoia Nursery, what’s left of it, can still be seen from the highway. It’s a sad sight. I’ll remember it as it was when I was there for the 100th birthday party.

I took a slightly different route home, turning onto Highway 180 through Mendota. I’ve crossed the Delta-Mendota Canal many times, but never knew where Mendota was until this trip. The road is slower than taking 152, but I think the scenery had a bit more of interest. There are wetlands near the highway, for instance. Okay, it was still boring, but at least I had “Fall of Giants” to keep me company.

After enjoying the scenery around Pacheco Pass, I went into Gilroy, to the Outlet Center. I was there once, about ten years ago, and wondered if there was anything of interest. Not much, it turns out. Eddie Bauer had a few interesting things but they weren’t at sale prices, and there was a long line for the one cashier. The Corningware store had a few things I needed- a self-cleaning garlic press, a new can opener, and a glass bowl the size I like to make oatmeal in. My old bowl has a crack line, and this winter I noticed that it’s ready to break. Our other breakfast bowls are a bit smaller, and not as suitable for microwaving oatmeal. I also bought a bag of Moose Munch on sale at the Harry & David store, mainly for my daughter. 145 stores, and that’s all I found. Guess I’ll wait another 10 years before I check it again.

Then it was over Hecker Pass with a beautiful view from the summit, down into Watsonville and back home.

P.S. For more commentary on Ralph Moore’s 104th birthday, see Paul Barden’s blog:


About Jill Perry

Since 2005, I have been the Curator of the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, a part of Guadalupe River Parks and Gardens near downtown San Jose. I write about the Heritage Rose Garden, my garden and my travels when I feel inspired and have time. Since I have no regular schedule, if you'd like to know when I write a new article, please subscribe to this blog.
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One Response to Road Trip: Visalia

  1. Masha says:


    You are a great writer! I enjoyed reading about your trip very much. How lucky you are to meet so many friends and talk roses.

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