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Big Trees and Jelly Belly Beans

• CATEGORIES: Features

Me, Ann, and Kasia at the Jelly Belly Factory tour in Fairfield, California.

On Friday we drove through two National Parks, then headed for Concord, California. On Saturday, we let Roadside America be our guide.


Friday’s trip from Tulare to Clayton, California.

Late Thursday night we had planned to stay in Exeter, but the lower prices in Tulare (plus my sudden realization that I was tired) convinced us to find a close motel after our visit with Chuck. The downside of this plan meant that we had to wake up at 5am if we wanted to reach Sequoia National Park at a reasonable time.

Thus, before the sun broke over the Sierra’s on Friday, we left for a 90 minute trip to see the largest organism (by volume), the mighty General Sherman Tree (a Sequoia). By the time we reached the park’s entrance, we had enough light to take a photo:


From that point, we climbed 7,000 ft on a tight, twisting road that never got over 35 mph. It’s a slow grind uphill that even caused our jeep to get slightly warm; yet it’s also a very pretty drive and, better, there were no vehicles in front of us. By the time we reached the top of the hill, the temperature had dropped to 39 degrees, which was chilly for two people dressed for 80 degree weather.

But, no matter the temperature, we were going to see that tree! So, we put on a couple layers and began a short walk to the tree. Part of the trail went through a fallen Sequoia. As you can see, they are pretty thick!


Finally, we reached the General Sherman Tree. I’ve seen taller Redwoods, but this tree was quite thick and stubby all the way up it. 


With that part of the trip finished, we drove north, catching the edge of Kings Canyon National Park, which is just north of Sequoia National Park. At one point, there was a lovely overlook of the canyon, but due to a crowd of cars behind us (road traffic forced us to sit for a half hour, causing traffic to back up within the park), we weren’t about to stop for an overlook.

After we returned to California’s Central Valley, we began our trek north. I’m happy to report that we had no freeway incidents (like flying metal); however every time paper shot up from behind a vehicle, we both flinched!

Naturally, it was great to finally arrive at Kasia’s place and see and where she lives. She only moved to Concord in July for her new job at FM Global, a place that at which, so far, she’s thoroughly enjoyed working (she interned last summer with them also).

Our first task was to get something to eat, so we decided to go have some zombies (thanks to Yelp), something none of us had eaten, at Patty’s Original Cheese Zombies. The sandwiches are kind of like breaded rolls with different fillings (similar to Italian Calzones, Russian Piroshkis, Chinese steamed buns, etc). They were were a fun treat.

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By the time we were done with our late lunch, we were ready for a few naps. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Kasia.


Saturday’s trip. First we visited a mine, then a statue, then the Jelly Belly factory, and finally the small monument to the Martini.

On Saturday, we let Roadside America be our guide. We started by going to the former mining town of Somersville, located in the mountains above Antioch and now the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.  Unfortunately, the actual visitor’s center, which is inside an old sand and coal mine, was closed as the park is installing a new display. So, we visited the temporary visitor’s center, which wasn’t quite as cool. However, the docent was very helpful. It turns out that the mine produced some poor quality coal. Sometime in the mid-eighteen-eighties the owner decided to move the mine and workers from Somerville to Black Diamond, Washington, which is a short distance from where I grew up in Renton. Small world.


It sounds like the new visitor’s center, which will include a more immersive coal mine experience, should be pretty good. So, we plan to return at some point next year to see it.

Our next adventure was to locate a statue in Antioch, which was a short distance away.


We learned the statue was dedicated to all the women who worked at the canneries in the Antioch area. It was a quick trip and probably not worth visiting to be honest.

Next, we headed to our primary stopping point of the day: The Jelly Belly Factory, located in Fairfield.  Let me state from the start that I’m not much of a jelly bean fan, but the free tour was still pretty amusing. It’s a self-guided tour aided by short videos all along the way that explain the history of the company and how jelly beans are made. We all enjoyed ourselves.


The entrance to the factory tour.

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Throughout the factory are a series of artworks made with jelly beans. They were pretty neat, too.



After our sugar rush, we headed over to nearby olive oil, wine, and vinegar tasting place run by Sonoma Harvest. The wines were good, the olive oil pedestrian and the vinegars outstanding. We walked away with several different vinegars.



Our last stop of the day, after some delicious middle eastern food in Fairfield, was the town of Martinez, where a plaque claims the Martini drink was born. Is it true? I don’t know, but it was unexpected.



So, we had a great day with Kasia.

On Sunday, we begin our trek home.


4 Comments on “Big Trees and Jelly Belly Beans

  1. Ted Jordan

    Once again another cool adventure you’ve taken us on Dave and Anne!!! Looks like a great trip, love me some Jelly Bellies, especially the belly flops around the holidays. Safe travels

  2. Ogle

    Cowboy says thanks for taking all the rest of us on your travels. You are a great 👍 tour guide. Keep up the great work. Proud ta’ know ya’. You and Ann see the koolest places.

  3. David Eilers Post author

    Thanks Donna (& Cowboy). I appreciate all the help you gave me when sharing your trip as well. 🙂 … hope we can see and travel with you both very soon!

    Ted: If I’d have known you love your Jelly Bellies I would have snagged you some bags. They also have a free testing station. So, if you are ever out in Fairfield, this place should be a MUST stop for you!

  4. Mom

    I, too, dont care for jelly beans, but love Jelly Bellies. The art work is quite amazing. I think Kim lived in Concord when she was down that way…at least somebody I know lived there.

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