From the town with a thousand oaks to one with a thousand Jelly Bellies…nice!

Heading north on our way to Fairfield, CA  we took a few “we’ve got to stop here” stops. First place up was the small town of Gilroy, the undisputed “Garlic Capital of the World“.

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Although they also grow mass quantities of mushrooms here, and there are some boutique wine producers, this town is all about the garlic. The Gilroy Garlic Festival is an annual event held in July where thousands of people come to try every food imaginable (and those you couldn’t possibly imagine) with garlic in it…including garlic ice cream.

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We poked around the aisles in a shop called Garlic World where we saw (and sampled) pickled, peppered, pectined and pressed garlic in every conceivable food product including jams, popcorn, jerky and sauces. Not the place to go on your first date.

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Even all the McDonalds in this part of CA get in on the act by offering garlic french fries. Thick fries, drizzled with melted butter and drenched in garlic, what could be bad… besides your breath.

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Bart accosted a woman in the McD’s parking lot who was wearing a UCONN sweatshirt. She and her husband Bob have a daughter who goes to UCONN so of course Bart engaged in a lengthy conversation about his old Alma Mater. They couldn’t have been nicer and gave us all kinds of suggestions of places to stop on our way north.

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Leaving Gilroy and continuing our drive on Route 101, we stopped to explore the coastal town of Santa Barbara, nicknamed the “American Riviera”. The downtown area has a lot of public art including some awesome sculptures. Here’s Rorie playing hide and seek with a guy and his son. Bart said he had NO idea who she was.

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Santa Barbara’s downtown is hoppin’, has lots of diverse restaurants and shops, and is definitely a place we want to return to and explore on another DSTA tour.

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Love the Spanish architecture, courtyards and red tile roofs.

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Leaving Santa Barbara and winding along and through the mountains, we arrived in Fairfield – our “home” for the next few days. The town welcomed us with a huge banner and open arms.

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The DSTA Tour felt very welcomed in Fairfield!

The Town of Fairfield was founded in 1856 by boat captain Robert Waterman and named after his hometown of, where else…Fairfield, CT. It lies between San Francisco and Napa. A great place to stay if you want access to these great locations but don’t want to be in the middle of the busyness.

We passed this historic saloon while driving a backroad on our way into town and immediately pulled over. Built in 1902, this dive-bar, dance hall and community gathering spot is believed to also have been a brothel way back when. Locals also claim it’s haunted.

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Finally arriving at our home away from home, our gracious Airbnb super hosts Lerma and Elly had everything ready.

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We were thrilled to relax in this beautiful, spacious, private and sun filled in-law suite. It was our first time sleeping in a giant CA king-size bed and of course, Bart wants to buy one now.

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After a long day in the car, it was time to take a power walk through the neighborhood. Surrounded by mountains and parks, everywhere we went there was a beautiful vista to enjoy.

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After burning off some energy and calories, we needed to refuel and naturally it had to be with sugaaah. Fairfield just happens to be the headquarters of one of the most famous candies in the world…Jelly Bellys. It’s a fat free, gluten free fruit right?

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But first, think back to a time a few years ago (well, maybe, more than 30) when Ronald Reagan was President. Back then, when Bart was the CEO of the National Association of Towns and Townships, he brought a delegation of small-town mayors to the White House for some serious policy discussions. Bart (opposite the President…can you pick him out?) tried to steer the conversation toward an issue that was a high priority to local government leaders. The President, however, wanted to let folks in the Cabinet Room know he liked to mix different Jelly Bellys together to create new flavors. Serious stuff!

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We couldn’t find any “President Reagan flavors”, but we did find so many samples at the store that our bellies were jelly by the time we left. But, oh so worth it!

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The factory cafe serves a “healthy” Jelly Belly bacon fried onion ring burger shaped like the iconic candy. No we didn’t eat this, just drooled over someone else’s lunch.

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Not sure how the Jelly Belly factory arranged for this fruit colored rainbow to appear just as we were leaving.

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After consuming so many samples of candy, we needed a little something to wash them down with. Staying with the fruit theme, we stopped in for some heart-healthy wine tasting at Sonoma Harvest.

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Guiding us through Sonoma Harvest’s selections of wines, olive oils and other products was the knowledgeable ambassador, Lee. She really knows her stuff and loves her products. While Bart sampled the wines, Rorie tasted the olive oils, tapenades, mustards and fruit flavored vinegars. Delicious.

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Leaving the tasting tours and before turning in for the night, we took a spin through downtown Fairfield. The huge palm trees lining the main street through the town reminded us of Longboat Key, FL.

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Tomorrow the real tasting begins when we head up through the backroads to wine country…Napa.

4 thoughts on “From the town with a thousand oaks to one with a thousand Jelly Bellies…nice!

  1. That AirBNB in Fairfield looks phenomenal! And I lost my gall bladder from eating fried bacon and onion ring sandwiches with, of course, Tater Tots.

  2. Thompson’s Corner Saloon looks interesting, and I want to know who haunts it? Bart, I remember you telling Bill and me about President Reagan and his love for jelly bellies! Also, I’m really liking all the great airbnb places where you two have been staying. I think Bill and I might need to give them a try next time we’re road tripping.

  3. I COULD ALMOST TASTE THE JELLY BEANS. I LOVE THIS BLOG. KEEP DRIVING AND BEING CAREFUL. MISS YOU. LOVE DEBBE

    On Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 9:46 PM, Discover Small Town America Tour wrote:

    > Bart & Rorie Russell posted: “Heading north on our way to Fairfield, CA > we took a few “we’ve got to stop here” stops. First place up was the small > town of Gilroy, the undisputed “Garlic Capital of the World”. Although they > also grow mass quantities of mushrooms here, and there are” >

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