Hit The Road

Sometimes the greatest destinations are right in your backyard, and if you’re in the autumn/Halloween mood and mode, you can’t do better than Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center.
For one thing, it’s close; takes just a bit of gas to get there. For another, it’s great family fun.
Our family began visiting Bates when our now-30-something kids were in their single digits. Then, after many trips and the kids’ growth spurts, we took a hiatus. But now, thanks to our toddler grandsons, we’re ready again for the Pumpkin Patch, which the five-generation Bates family claims is the oldest and largest in the county.
Kids will love running through the vines, picking that special pumpkin right from the fields (gourds and squash also are available). The farm also has a petting zoo with geese, ducks, goats, horses, rabbits, sheep and other four-legged creatures that love this time of year because it means lots of treats from eager kids.
There are picnic tables among the trees, tractor rides, pony rides, a straw maze and three gift shops. The original store has huge selections of dried fruits and nuts, homemade fudge (yes, they give out samples) and other gifts for foodies. The other two shops offer home accessories, holiday decorations and more.
So for a great, reasonably priced day trip, pack a picnic lunch and visit Bates Nut Farm. Go early because the traffic lines can be long at this time of year. You’ll understand why the Bates clan has remained on this lovely piece of North County real estate since 1921. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Call (760) 749-3333 or visit
How much do you know about Alaska?
I confess: I’m a trivia addict. I love to read random facts about almost anything. I know there are others out there who are just as pitiful, and so does Alaska Northwest Books in Anchorage. That’s why, not long after Gov. Sarah Palin was named John McCain’s running mate, the publishing house quickly sent out press releases touting the 31st edition of “The Alaska Almanac: Facts About Alaska” (oversized paperback; $12.95).
I do not regret being on their hit list; this book is fun.
Yes, I also admit that I hadn’t thought much about Alaska until Palin’s visage seemed to appear everywhere. What else is there to know about besides Mount McKinley and the pipeline?
The almanac offers 230 pages of fascinating factoids about our 49th state — our largest and least populous. Here are a few gems:
The highest temperature recorded was 100 degrees in 1915 in Fort Yukon.
In the winter of 1952-53, it snowed 974.5 inches near Valdez.
Until 1983, Alaska had four time zones; it now has two.
The ingredients of Eskimo ice cream? Whipped berries, seal oil and freshly fallen snow. For gourmets, add shortening, raisins, sugar and whitefish.
Alaska has 3 million lakes, 94 that are at least 10 square miles.
Alaska is home to 17 of the 20 highest mountains in the United States.
Mount McKinley (20,320 feet) was officially renamed “Denali” in 1975 by the state in 1975. (Denali is an Athabascan word for “high one.”) However, Congress legislated that the mountain remain McKinley in perpetuity.
Alaska is home to about 40 varieties of mosquito, but none carry disease. The insects are most annoying in the Bush in June. (The Bush is any place inaccessible by road.)
Looking for some winter fun? How about February’s Iceworm Festival in Cordova or Duct Tape Ball in Anchorage? Wait until March and you can attend the Bearing Sea Ice Golf Classic in Nome or the Cabin Fever Reliever in Trapper Creek.
Claire Fejes, an internationally known artist who lived in Alaska for five decades, wintered in Oceanside and Vista for 20 years. Her husband, Joe, was a miner, a businessman and an accomplished violinist. He founded the Arctic Symphony Orchestra, which brought classical music to remote Alaskan villages. Both died in Oceanside in the late 1990s.
OK, those last facts are not in the book, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to point out North County’s connection to The Last Frontier.