The other day a friend and I took a quick, half-day road trip. We had a quest (Blenheim apricots), we had a destination (a slightly obscure orchard) and we had the possibility of lunch (tacos). Like all adventures, we encountered a few setbacks.
We got a little lost, we had to backtrack to an ATM (the orchard was cash only) and the taco stand, once a charming shack, had moved to a strip mall and now more closely resembled a food court. Still, it was a perfect morning spent in good company and the tacos (pastor, of course) were delicious despite the surrounding decor. Even more important, the effect of our journey continued into the week, bringing the scent of ripening apricots into my daily routine and reminding me that the adventures found close to home are just as pleasurable, just as significant, as something experienced half way around the world.
I've been rather antsy lately, more than overdue for a far flung adventure and the thrill of new horizons. But as my Instagram feed fills with other people's pictures of Spain, China, and Japan and my neighbors pack their bags for Greece, Romania, and Belize, I squint at my bank balance and swallow the hard reality that it's just not going to happen for me any time soon. So when my friend put out the call for a companion on her quest for apricots, I jumped at the chance. Despite the fact that it was just over the ridge, I had never been to this part of the Bay Area, which is known for its orchards and delicious corn. It may not be Paris but it was a new horizon and at this point I would take what I could get.
The rewards of our meanderings were substantial. Upon our return, a half case (twelve pounds) of Blenheim apricots were placed in a bowl on my kitchen table. Every day I've been checking them with a gentle squeeze and pulling out the ripest ones. Already, a few pounds have been sacrificed into the most amazing jam. Handfuls have been passed on to grateful neighbors, and last night a dozen were cut in half, drzzled with honey and broiled for dessert (delicious topped with fresh ricotta, sprinkled with basil and drizzled with a sherry vinegar syrup). Still, several pounds remain, and as a heatwave descends I begin to plan for another round of jam.
There's also the reward of time spent in the car with a friend, chattering away with the windows down and the map fluttering in the breeze (Siri could not handle finding Ygnacio Valley Road). There's the pleasure of getting out of Dodge and taking to the road, navigating the twisting scenic route through the golden hills of the Bay Area exurbs, averting our eyes from the ugly subdivisions and stopping for corn at a favorite farm stand. There's the pleasure in knowing that we are doing our part to help rescue this particular kind of apricot, which is a bit too fussy for supermarkets and rarely grown these days. But the biggest reward for me was to connect more deeply with the place that I live, to explore and discover and get to know the land and people just around the corner from where I live.
So the moral of the story is that while it's all fine and dandy to go traipsing around the world, there are often many adventures and new things to discover right in our backyards. I hope you have the chance to explore some for yourself where you live. Try researching a particular food unique to your area, an apple that only grows in your corner of the county, or a particular kind of cheese and take off in pursuit. Support your local economy, discover the stress-free pleasure of a simple day trip to a local farm stand or small town, become a citizen of your immediate surroundings!
(Image: Dana Velden)