Wednesday, August 9, 2006

That Drew, He’s a Modern Day Hardy Boy

Twice in the past month I have taken my life into my own hands and gone to explore some part of the world that once was inhabited happily by humans but has since been rendered unlivable by natural disaster. All in a very small way, I’ll admit, but the statement is irrefutably true.

A few weeks ago, I headed home to Hollister and while there went waterskiing at the O’Neil Forebay, an artificial body of water important enough to California history that the great Joan Didion even once mentioned it in a book. (This, really, doesn’t speak all that highly of the forebay, as Joan Didion mentions everything about California.) Nonetheless, I was there. After a few hours of soaking in the famous Los Banos heat, we headed home, the duration of which I slept, save one key point: The Don Pacheco Y. This happy spot of California asphalt marks the intersection of Highways 152 and 156. Anyone who’s been through the area and passed the strange Casa de Fruta complex on the side of the road has probably crossed this very intersection. It’s also near what used to be the Sugar Plum Farm, a restaurant that I loved as a kid and was owned by the family of my sophomore year roommate, oddly enough. To the frustration — and, often, danger — of many travelers, these two highways meet each other in an especially awkward way that results in one line of cars, sailing towards Hollister with fairly little traffic back-up, jutting into a second, that is very often stalled as it inches away. We’d often been stopped there, crawling on a road that should rightfully permit normal highway speeds, and as a child I always marveled at what looked the ruins to some local castle, where surely presents and candy awaited me, if only my parents would stop the car.

Not so.

The place, in fact, was a Mexican restaurant — the Don Pacheco — that burned to the ground in the 1970s. For whatever reason, the owners chose not to rebuilt. A baffling decision — considering how many cars slow to a stop there, it would be an easy place to pull over for food. Nonetheless, the ruins have sat there my entire life, slowly decaying and filling with thistles.

Realizing how much the place appealed to me and cleverly noting that I am now technically an adult and can do what I want, I drove back out to the Don Pacheco later that day. No surprises. No murderous vagrants either, presumably because the homeless and mean-spirited hate merciless sun and thistles as much as anybody. The whole experience gave me the creeps, though, and I was constantly worried that anyone I might bump into would have less noble motivation to be there than I did.

I’m not sure the pictures really do the place justice, but they — and this text — represent the limit of what I could convey.

This above is technically the front entrance, though you can honestly walk in any way that you'd like, since most of the walls burned down.

Oh look! A lovely fountain! Ful of... weeds! And a snake! And — ooh! — a condom!

As if to really date these ruins — at least in the span of my life — the sign advertising that the restaurant accepts credits cards still stands. To me knowledge, Master Charge became MasterCard years ago.

Also, someone felt the need to paint pro-America graffiti on the walls of a place that probably only gets a dozen or so visitors a year. Mission accomplished.

Quite overgrown with weeds, as you can see. Sad to think this was probably once a nice place to pull over, eat a taco and watch other motorists get in accidents. You can view the rest of the photos of the Don Pacheco restaurant on my Flickr account.
[ link: more of the same — but possibly even better! ]
I'm a little shocked this wreckage has remained here longer than I've been alive. You'd think someone would do something with a plot of land in such a heavily trafficked area. Then again, this is Hollister, so one day my grandkids might see it.


  1. Sent to this blog from flickr. Very interesting. I've been passing this intersection 152/156 numerous times (the latest were this past Thanksgiving). Strangely enough, I have never noticed this abandoned restaurant. It certainly looks like an interesting spot for some nice photography.
    On the side note, I always take 25 when coming south to avoid the traffic backup leading to the intersection on 152 during the holidays.

  2. Unfortunately, the ruined restaurant no longer exists, after having sat there for so many years. The intersection it was near is notoriously bad, and they've finally started work on an overpass to prevent the traffic back-up and the wreckage was cleared out as part of this effort.