During the next two weekends, travelers along rural San Diego County road S14 north of Vista may think it's harvest time. That's because a farm field that usually appears to be a graveyard for outmoded machinery comes alive during a threshing bee and antique engine show.
The action takes place at the Southwestern Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum that occupies 45 acres of historic Rancho Guajome, now part of a regional park. City folk will be fascinated by the early-day farm equipment at work.
Old-time steam engines and machines thresh wheat and barley, grind corn, bale hay and saw logs. A special attraction is a 1917 Holt harvester designed to thresh grain growing on hillsides.
Blacksmiths will have three forges fired up to make shoes for horses at the event. Some of the horses will be pulling a hay wagon and you're welcome to hop aboard. Visitors also are invited to ride on a miniature railroad and an antique fire truck.
In the museum's country kitchen and parlor you can watch women doing the farm chores of yesteryear: making soap, churning butter, baking bread, pressing cider, spinning yarn and having a quilting bee. Other handicraft work will be chair caning and broom making.
A highlight each day during both weekends, June 21-22 and 28-29, is a fashion show of clothes from the 1920s. Also featured in a daily parade will be some of the museum's 100 tractors and other steam- and gas-powered machinery.
Besides the outdoor display of big farm and construction equipment, a building is filled with all sorts of motorized machines from earlier times. Miniature engines, some that fit in the palm of your hand, will be on special exhibit.
Entertainment planned for the show includes bluegrass music and clog dancing. Home-baked pies and cakes and other refreshments will be available both weekends.
For anyone 16 years or older, a $3 donation is requested for admission to the threshing bee and antique engine show. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wear comfortable walking shoes and take along a sun hat (or buy a straw hat at the show).
To get to the museum grounds from Los Angeles, drive south on Interstate 5 to the California 76/Mission Avenue exit at Oceanside. Head east about six miles toward Bonsall, then turn right on N. Santa Fe Avenue (S14) toward Vista.
Drive about two miles, passing signs to Guajome Regional Park, and look right for the tractor and fancy sign of the Southwestern Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum at No. 2040.
It's open every day of the week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and there's no entry fee except during the semi-annual shows this month and in October. Donations will help rebuild a barn that caught fire earlier this year and destroyed 13 tractors and other machinery.
Visitors are always welcome to look at the equipment scattered around the grounds and to take a self-guiding tour of the main museum building. Volunteers who grew up on farms or worked in construction, mining or the oil fields are on hand to answer questions.
They belong to the 1,000-member California Early-Day Gas Engine and Tractor Assn. that established the museum more than a decade ago. Call (619) 941-1791 for additional information.
If you have time, visit nearby Guajome Adobe, a historic ranch house that dates to the days of the Mexican dons. It was built more than 135 years ago and remained in the same family until acquired by San Diego County's parks department in 1973.
On Sundays a park ranger escorts visitors on informal tours of the 20-room adobe that's still undergoing restoration. Around the carriage courtyard you'll see a blacksmith shop, the ranch's own jail room, major-domo's quarters and a huge pepper tree planted as a seedling from Mission San Luis Rey.
A doorway leads to the garden courtyard surrounded by rooms that included a bakery and kitchen, schoolroom for the family's children, servants' quarters, bedrooms, parlor, dining room, the ranch office and a general store.
Old Family Album
When the adobe's renovation is completed, the rooms will be decorated with ranch furniture and other 19th-Century items now in storage. In the meantime, the ranger shows visitors a photo album that portrays the home when it was occupied by the family and relatives of Cave J. Couts and his wife, Ysidora Bandini.
Tours of Guajome Adobe are free, but donations toward restoration are appreciated. No reservations are required; just meet at the gate to the fenced-in adobe at 2 p.m. any Sunday.
Get there from the steam and gas engine museum by going back about two blocks on N. Santa Fe Avenue and looking left for No. 2210 and a park kiosk along the roadside. Then go about 60 feet up the entry road to the gate where there's a sign, La Casa de Rancho Guajome.
Guajome Regional Park preserves 570 acres of former ranch land and includes a lake, a half-mile nature trail and picnic tables with barbecues. Parking for day use is $1 per car. Summer park hours are 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Campers will find 21 sites beyond the lake; $11 a night with hookup. Reserve through the San Diego County parks office weekdays only at (619) 565-3600.
Go back on California 76 (Mission Avenue) to Oceanside and rejoin Interstate 5 north to return to Los Angeles.
Round trip from Los Angeles for good times at an old-fashioned threshing bee in Vista is 196 miles.