Oh, no. The Halloween weekend foiled our plans. Rancho Jurupa Regional RV Park was booked solid until Sunday, October 31, so we settled in Temecula at Pechanga RV Resort for two nights.
Temecula has a lot to offer in the area, from gambling and entertainment at the Pechanga Casino, to wine tasting, to soaring above the vineyards in a hot-air balloon.
We did none of those things. The day of our arrival, October 29, found us at the local Trader Joes to replenish the refrigerator and pantry. Then I made a salad to go with our grilled salmon while Jon went out hunting for a jug of water.
After breakfast the next morning, we roamed around Old Town Temecula, popped in a few gift and clothing stores, and scoped out a place for lunch. I had eaten dinner at The Bank years ago while working in the area. It was obvious the restaurant had changed hands since my last visit. The wait staff were friendly, the service a bit sketchy, and our meal was just okay, definitely not what I had remembered.
The highlight of our visit was the Temecula Valley Museum. As we wandered around the exhibits, we learned about Vail Ranch (an 80,000-acre cattle ranch), the people who settled in Temecula, about the native people who lived there before the colonists and settlers arrived, and about how the Ramona Pageant got its start.
I remember hearing of the pageant each year growing up in Southern California, but never attended. I was pleased to learn it was still going strong. Perhaps someday I can sit in the stands and enjoy the play in person. So, what is the Ramona Pageant?
The story begins when Helen Hunt Jackson wrote A Century of Dishonor in 1881, documenting the government’s horrendous treatment of Native Americans. When the book failed to change Americans’ views of Indian rights, she turned to fiction, creating a romantic story set within historical events of the 1870s and 1880s. Ramona, published in 1884 by Jackson, was a success and earned Jackson acclaim. Her story subsequently became the basis for an outdoor pageant set in the hills at the Ramona Bowl.
The first Hemet-San Jacinto Pageant Ramona was held in 1923 on April 13, 14, and 15. To secure a permanent site for the pageant, the chamber of commerce and Ramona Pageant Association bought 160 acres. The 99th consecutive season of Ramona is scheduled April 23 and 24 and April 30 and May 1, 2022. Nestled in the foothills above Hemet, California, the bowl’s humble beginnings required patrons to hike up a hill, provide their own seating and provisions, and make do with no restroom. A parking lot, restrooms, and other amenities greet audiences today.
And what is the connection of the Ramona Pageant to the City of Temecula? The story details the fictional love story of Ramona, a young Scots-Native American woman who grew up on her father’s ranch, and Alessandro, a young Native American man from Temecula. Historical events relating to the mistreatment and eviction of the Native Americans who had lived in Temecula since 4,000 B.C. serves as the backdrop for the love story and plot.
Another connection to the Ramona story is the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. They are descendants of the earliest settlers in Temecula. As the U.S. government agent investigating the living conditions of Southern California Indians, Helen Hunt Jackson reported first-hand accounts of the Eviction. Her report helped secure land for the creation of Pechanga Indian Reservation in June 1882.
The Temecula Museum also honors Erle Stanley Gardner, the author and co-creator of the Perry Mason series. Gardner lived on the 3,000-acre Rancho del Paisano in the Temecula Valley from 1937 until his death in 1970. The ranch was renamed Great Oak Ranch and is now part of the Pechanga Reservation.
After all of our poking around for the day, we returned to the RV park to a Halloween Party of sorts. Wait, what? Halloween wasn’t until the next day. Still, many of the RVers had decorated their rigs with lights, webs, spiders, witches, and all manner of spooky paraphernalia. Music blared all around us. Kids rode their bikes and scooters up and down the streets. And laughter echoed through the park.
I took a walk to soak in the festivities and saw that people had set up tables lined with treats and bowls of candy. A girl offered me a cookie, but I declined. Then a pair of young men offered me a Jell-O shot. I was tempted for a second, and then I remembered the time I drank beer ladled from a punch bowl. I know. Who puts beer in a punch bowl? I didn’t appreciate the LSD trip then and wasn’t about to risk a repeat.
Passing through Temecula over my lifetime, I never realized how much history there was to discover in the area. After our visit to the museum and poking around, I was glad we had to wait for a spot at Rancho Jurupa Regional RV Park. If that had not been the case, I would still continue driving through town thinking the only thing Temecula offered was the casino, wineries, and hot air ballooning.
For more information on the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, visit their website at https://www.pechanga-nsn.gov/
For more information on the Ramona Bowl, visit their website at https://www.ramonabowl.com/
Next Up: The Historic Site and Museum of the Original McDonald’s