On The Road

Beauty in our own backyard


Genie Anderson/Special to the town Crier
The annual outdoor sculpture show at Filoli Estate and Gardens is underway.

People often look beyond local attractions when thinking about where to go sightseeing, but we should keep in mind that visitors from throughout the world make the Bay Area their destination for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Filoli Estate and Gardens in the Crystal Springs area of Woodside is among the location attractions. With its annual outdoor sculpture show in full swing, we made several visits in July, driving the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring compact sport-utility vehicles.

Filoli was built in 1915 for William Bourn and his wife, Sarah. They used money made in gold mining to buy Crystal Springs Lake and the surrounding area for their home, with the design of the graceful brick mansion intended to evoke an Irish country home. Bourn named it for the family motto, “Fight, Love, Live.”

The estate was purchased in 1937 by William Roth, owner of Matson Navigation Co., which carried people and goods to and from Hawaii. His wife, Lurline Roth, developed the gardens, which soon gained the international reputation they retain today. The house and gardens – now a National Trust for Historic Preservation site – are operated by a nonprofit corporation and maintained by Friends of Filoli, an army of volunteers.

As Filoli members, we look forward each year to the summer sculpture show. Renowned sculptors place their latest works in appropriate places in the gardens, where they can be enjoyed by visitors and purchased by admirers to place in their own gardens after the Oct. 16 conclusion of the show. We’ve already measured the cargo space of the SUVs to make sure that the glass sculptures – parts of one of the fountain displays – we’ve reserved will fit when we’re ready to take them home.

Summer is also a great time for other outdoor events at Filoli, including six Sunday afternoon jazz concerts by nationally known performers on the old tennis courts. “Step Back in Time” creates a Gatsby-era garden party in July. Friday, a full day of guided and interpreted events in the garden will present everything from nature hikes to landscape photography and painting classes. The annual Farm to Table Dinner, scheduled Aug. 12, is an outdoor feast serving platters of locally grown farm-fresh food.

Crossover cruising

Our several trips to Filoli also gave us the opportunity to enjoy the scenery along the various back roads that extend between Interstate 280 and Skyline Boulevard and compare our two compact crossovers, similar in many respects and often cross-shopped against one another.

Styling was refreshed and safety features were updated on both the recently released 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and the 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring launched late last year, so the small SUVs have a fresh look as well as the latest in technology. In fact, it was that styling – similar between the two cars – that generated our first complaint. On both SUVs, despite the high seating position and good visibility to the front and sides, the belt-line below the windows sweeps upward behind the rear door, creating blind spots to the rear on both sides.

The Hyundai was the more expensive of the two at $39,070 out of the showroom. It comes with an extensive range of standard luxury and convenience features, including power adjustable seats, automatic liftgate and the navigation/audio/display system; the optional $1,550 Tech Package offers the latest in safety systems.

Interestingly, the Mazda was priced less – $34,485 out the door – but actually had a slightly longer list of standard features as well as its own tech and safety packages that totaled $2,655 of the full price. The interior trim and features were directly comparable to the Hyundai.

Frankly, we would have preferred that some of the luxury touches on the two cars – such as leather upholstery and power seats – had been options, because many families don’t want or need those features. On the other hand, we think the technical and safety packages that are sold as options should have been standard. Today, we wouldn’t think about buying a new car that didn’t have the newest safety systems, including pedestrian detection and collision avoidance systems, as well as blind-spot assist, lane-departure warning and intelligent cruise control capabilities.

So why the difference in price? The most obvious difference is that the more-expensive Hyundai features a turbocharged 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine producing a healthy 240 horsepower with 269 pound-feet of torque. By comparison, the Mazda comes with a standard 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine rated at 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque.

While the Mazda was certainly competent when moving in and out of traffic and merging on the freeways, it didn’t really offer the fun available in the higher-powered Hyundai. On the other hand, there is a trade-off for that quick-off-the-line performance: The Hyundai offered only 23 mpg in combined driving (20 city, 27 highway), while the Mazda was rated at 26 mpg in combined driving (24 city, 30 highway).

If part of your cruising pleasure comes from the tunes on the sound system, the Hyundai is superior there, too. On a more practical interior note, the Hyundai is 4 inches longer, which translates into enough room for one more jumbo paper-towel package at the big-box store. We also liked the automatic tailgate feature on the Hyundai.

But what we agreed on, regardless of which car we were in, was that when we turned off Interstate 280 at the Edgewood Road exit toward the Filoli estate, we couldn’t wait to get to the visitor center. If you haven’t been there, or if it has been a while since you’ve gone, you owe yourself the experience. The gardens and the completely restored interiors of the mansion are international treasures in our own backyard.

After you’ve been once and realized how much there is to enjoy, consider becoming a member so that you can be among the first to sign up for new events and visit as often as you please.

For more information on Filoli, visit filoli.org.

Longtime Los Altos residents Gary and Genie Anderson are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits several car club magazines and contributes articles and columns to automotive magazines and online services.

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