I haven’t spent much time in Gilroy over the years, but it’s familiar territory: of the Central Coast, Steinbeckian, the geographical area between it and the coast shaped by parallel faultlines and the resulting Santa Cruz Mountains.
‘Over the hill,” aka Mt. Madonna, is the Pajaro Valley, the agriculturally rich area named for the river that separates Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. I grew up here and while I have little family left in the area and rarely visit, it’s home in that way that is bone deep. Seemingly every inch of the roads we drove through the apple orchards and past my old elementary school were familiar.
The air smelling of madrone and oak and sun-warmed apple trees, bird songs of hawks and towhees, the occasional slow moving truck towing farm equipment. Spending your first 18 years somewhere is formative whatever way you slice it — but it was the first time I’d come through the area without the weight of a family visit and I could see it with clearer eyes.
There were a few more houses, the donut shop was now a taqueria, the school had added some satellite buildings but the clumps of redwood trees at certain turns in the road, the forestry station before a certain set of curves in a road, and the Corralitos Market (which I remember as much for its 2-cent candies than it’s now-famous smoked meats) were still there, providing equal parts support and back-drop to area residents.
The pace was still slow, a pace I’d felt maddening while growing up, but which I could appreciate a bit more now.