Slow Life with Real Food

Eating and living mindfully by the beach

Pato's Dream Date Gardens

Where do I even begin? I guess the beginning is always a good place...

We drove down, down, down the Vallecito Mountains, entering the hot, dry weather of the Anza-Borrego desert. The ride was spectacular, with amazing vistas on the way down the windy, curvy one-lane road. If we could have talked to each other about it on the road, we would have commented on the lunar landscape, the changing temperature, the vastness of the Salton Sea, the sweat rolling down our backs. Instead, we looked ahead, and I daydreamed away to the tune of whatever was playing on my IPod.

When we reached Thermal, we followed the GPS, searching for Pato's Dream Date Gardens. The GPS was wrong! The address on the the Palm Pilot was wrong! It was hot, I was tired, and I was ready to be there. I forced a smile on my face, I willed patience into my heart, and positive thinking into every cell of my body. It was a struggle, but I was determined to keep my head in the right place, with a sense of adventure. It is with Guillermo's inspiration that I can do this. He drives the entire time, with complete concentration, the sun beating down and the wind whipping in his face (he doesn't wear a face shield because of the glare). He is just as hot as I am, just as thirsty, just as tired, and yet every time he steps off of the bike, whether we are lost or not, out of gas or not, he is happy, smiling, and still full of energy. He never complains, never looks tired, never wants to quit. He inspires me. Okay, time for me to come back down from the clouds. Back to the search for Pato's...

After extensive searching, we pulled into a tire shop, asking for a phone book (duh! with knock to the head). We found the address for Doug Adair (Pato's owner), drove a few short minutes, and lo-and-behold, there it was! Doug was waiting for us at the gate, with a smile on his face. No longer was it a struggle to keep things positive, because heaven was waiting, and it was in the form of a pool, a nice, cool, clean pool. In fact, ironically, I don't think I would have been so happy if we hadn't been so hot and tired. If we hadn't been lost. So, here I was, cheery without effort. Then came the West Nile mosquitoes... but I'll spare you the itchy details.

Doug took us into the old farmhouse, cooled by a 'swamp cooler', offered us some beer, and made us feel at home. I washed my face, unloaded the motorcycle, and breathed easier knowing that we wouldn't be swallowed whole and dry by the desert (the cold beer, and the upcoming swim, helped).

Doug (which sounds like 'Duck' to a ESL ear, hint the name 'Pato'), gave us a tour of his 5 -acre date farm, explained to us the process for harvesting dates, drying them, and packing them. We were able to try the many varieties he grows, all at different stages. Some were astringent, some were crunchy, some were mushy, some were sweet, some were blond, and some were black. So many different kinds! Guillermo was gorging on them, feeding the twins (as he lovingly refers to his belly).

We took a refreshing dip in the pool, and were then attacked by mosquitoes. We shared a nice dinner that evening with Doug and Debbie, eating grilled veggies from the Farmer's Market and drinking cold brewskies from the Budweiser factory, talking about Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, knitting and how Guillermo and I met (all some of my favorite subjects).

The next morning, after a cup of coffee and a simple breakfast of tomatoes and olive bread, Doug opened the gate, and off we rode, on our way to Tucson, Arizona.

Check out our photos of Pato's farm.
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