"A Trip Back In Time" with The Empty Nesters

One of the many wonderful things about being an "Empty Nester" is being able to enjoy your kids at an adult level and go do non-kid things with them! Tony and I have gone over the years, wine tasting from Paso Robles to the Santa Ynez valley. Living here near the Santa Rita hills we had multiple wineries to try out, and we certainly have!

One Saturday morning, when our son and daughter in law were visiting we decided to go on a wine adventure to the Santa Ynez Valley. My son Trey asked on our ride, if on the way home, could we drive the backway home. He wanted to show his wife Maddie, where our family's original ranch was, in Los Alamos. My family originally came from Brionne, Switzerland in the late 1800's. They and their families settled in this area like many Swiss- Italians did, during that time frame.

When he asked this question my mind flashed to old family stories of people who have long since passed away. The instant movie played in my head of not only stories but, old black and white pictures of non- smiling ancestors that I never had the opportunity to meet. Somehow though, it feels as though I know them! At that moment something dawned on me that these stories are now being told to the 6th (soon to be 7th generation) our first Grandchild is due in a few months!

Just off the 101 freeway going towards Highway 1, we saw that my Great -Uncle Albert Scolari's old little gas station was all lit up with lights and cars were lined up in front of the new establishment, now known as "The Station". I was so excited to stop and check out this property that houses a restaurant named Cisco Kid and serves Rancho De Ontiveros's wine.

There were many a story about this little gas station and how it greatly affected my family's history. Most of my life I only saw an abandoned building with a few old gas pumps with just shadows behind it. It made me sad to drive by, it seemed like it was just a shell of what use to be. To see this wonderful light and life around this family monument, was thrilling! This little tucked away spot, it almost felt as though we were walking into a secret garden, it was such a wonderful surprise!

It had been rejuvenated and reimagined by an old friend and classmate of ours, James Ontiveros! James was always that guy who was everyone's friend and has remained a true friend of our community. We had heard from many friends prior to the epidemic that it was a fabulous place and we had made arrangements to come out but then, the world shut down! So here we were on an unplanned little adventure that turned out to be one of the best times we have had this year! I think this experience of seeing new life in this quaint little spot meant more to me than it would have just months ago. One of the things I have learned in this season of life is how precious quality time is with your family and how extremely rich the "simple things" are to your life's happiness. You have to take the time to take it in. Another Empty Nester perk, is being a part time philosopher!

We listened to the talented one man entertainer, Richard Diaz, who sang songs and played his guitar from every genre! The crowd was relaxed and for a moment, it seemed we forgot all about the craziness outside the courtyard. ( Yes we all were following mandates!) It felt like our old "normal", if only for those couple hours we shared. We ordered the street tacos, artichoke dip with their homemade chips. We had the vegetarian, asada, and chicken tacos, I couldn't tell you which one was better because, all were devoured! I tried the flight of Ontiveros' wine while the guys drank beer. My favorite wine and the one that I truly enjoyed and loved was the Rancho Vinedo Reserva Chardonnay by Rancho De Ontiveros.

While I sat at this fabulously funky picnic table that was made from a plank from a tree trunk it really made me continue to think about this little town and my roots. The courtyard, was perfect for this small old farm town that welcomed many immigrants who dreamed of a better life. My Great Great grandfather and Great Great Grandmother, being one of the many. My great grandfather, Joseph Scolari and my Great Uncle Alfred Scolari both acquired loans to open up businesses to go after their American dream off of the ranch. Both brothers had wanted to open gas stations. My Great Uncle Al opened his, but my great grandfather didn't have enough to open a gas station down the road in Orcutt. Instead, he opened a grocery business with my grandfather by his side. Little did my Great Grandpa know that would be the best turn of events that could have happened to him. Scolari's markets began out of very modest people and a shoestring budget that lead to one of the most successful family owned businesses to date. in our little city. The last of the stores in California were sold just a couple years ago before my Papa's death. So this little spot truly is a huge family monument and a reminder of hope, faith, and the tenacity to adapt in the pursuit of building a better life.

We all sat there taking pictures and I kept telling them old stories of holiday fights of turkey legs, who drank too much every holiday and walking down fields of walnut trees and hearing the sound of "thwak" of the old screen door on the little ranch house and smelling the flowers from the little garden as we drove by my family's original ranch. It was sold after my Great Grandpa Joe passed away in 1976. I have no idea where the property line began or ended back then.

Somewhere along the line, part of it was purchased by a group of investors, one of which was Kenny Rogers and the investors built a horse race track on it. The track failed and sat there for many years. It had been quite a while since I drove the road last. I was surprised to see the race track was gone, Part of it or possibly all of the land had returned to farming. I felt a sense of completeness about seeing the "Station" full of life again, seeing the land that the ranch was on, returning back to what it was before, a farm. Seeing life evolve and change and witnessing re-growth where there was once dying, is truly symbolic of this season in life we are experiencing in this pandemic. A certain level of security I regained this trip. Recognizing that life has a way of balancing out and returning to a new normal. As I sat in the backseat with my daughter in law and her little belly that held our soon to be Grandchild, it made me tear up, at how far our family has come.

I know that my family would be so proud to see the revitalization of little Los Alamos and seeing the old become new again.

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