Archive | April 2013

California Road Trip: Anderson Valley Sparkling Wines

The next stop on our wine tour was at Roederer Estate – a winery that specializes in sparkling wines.  Argyle in Oregon is the only other sparkling wine house I have visited on a wine tour, so I was particularly looking forward to this one.  Roederer Estate is not family owned – it is owned by Champagne Louis Roederer, the French Champagne house that was founded in 1776.  If you don’t recognize the name, you may recognize one of their most famous products – Cristal champagne.

Roederer Estate Tasting Room

Roederer Estate Tasting Room

Our server was great; she was kind and friendly and explained how sparkling wines are made.  She also explained some of the terminology that describes sparking wine.  Brut is the driest sparkling wine, with Extra Dry being a little bit sweeter, and then Demi-Sec being sweeter still.

To begin, we tasted the Brut MV (multi-vintage) which is their most mass produced wine with about 75,000 cases produced.  It contains 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir.  The base vintage on this wine is 2008, and Roederer adds in 10-15% cask aged Reserve wine to give this sparkler most substance.  I had never had Roederer before, and I was very impressed – it was a great wine!

Next we tried the Brut Rosé MV, which was a very dry, delicate, fruity wine.  I really loved this wine.  After the Rosé, we tried the 2003 L’Ermitage Brut.  This wine is produced with a first fermentation “enterage,” which means “on the yeast,” for six years.  This wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.  It is very smooth and creamy, with that nice yeasty finish that good sparkling wines have.

The MV Extra Dry is made with the same blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir – the difference is that after disgorging, a little more sugar is added.  I was pleased with all of the sparkling wines – there wasn’t one that I didn’t want to bring home with me!

Jon and Me in the Roederer Estate Tasting Room

Jon and Me in the Roederer Estate Tasting Room

Next we moved on to the still wines that Roederer produces.  We started with their Rose of Pinot.  Unlike most roses, this one had almost no color.  It is fermented in stainless steel, with two months in oak casks – it had great acidity and a light fruit flavor.  The 2009 Pinot Noir had a delicate flavor, and the fruit integrated well with minimal oak.  It contrasted nicely with the 2008 Pinot Noir, which picked up a smoky flavors from the three wildfires that burned through the area in 2008.  It was aged in 85% stainless steel and 15% oak.  The Roederer Chardonnay has some nice tropical fruit flavors.  I picked up some lychee flavors.  Roederer was my absolute favorite winery of the day – I like all of their wines, and it was difficult to choose just three to bring home.

By this time, we were ready for some lunch, so we got a recommendation from the server at Roederer.  We headed down to Philo and got sandwiches at Lemons’ Market there.  It is a small country grocery store with a deli sandwich counter in the back.  I had a smoked turkey on wheat with avocado, pickles, olives and gouda cheese.  Jon also had smoked turkey and gouda (we didn’t know what the other was ordering – I hope we don’t start to look alike as we to be an old married couple!), but he had a spicy philo mustard on his.   Jon also got a jar of pickled garlic to take home with us – he eats it straight from the jar!  We took our sandwiches to go and had a picnic at Scharffenberger outside in their front courtyard, where we could soak up some rays.  And thankfully, my stomach didn’t rebel!

After chowing down our yummy sandwiches, I went into Scharffenberger Cellars to try their sparkling wines.  Jon decided to stay outside with his book for this one – he wanted to enjoy the sunshine and was wined out.  Scharffenberger is owned by the same company as Roederer (but was already established when it was purchased).

The server at Roederer had explained that Scharffenberger produces sparkling wine in the California style, which she explained are more fruity than the French style sparkling wines that Roederer makes.  I was intrigued by this, because I’ve never really done a side by side tasting (or one after another tasting as the case may have been), and I hadn’t really realized that there was a different “California” style.

Scharffenberger Cellars Tasting Room

Scharffenberger Cellars Tasting Room

My server guided me through a tasting of five sparkling wines and three still wines, beginning with the 2006 Blanc de Blancs – a 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine.  This wine was very dry, with yeasty bread flavors.  Next up was the Brut NV (meaning no vintage), which is their biggest production wine at 25,000 cases.  It is a blend of 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay.  It was quite dry with a slight citrus flavor.  The Rose NV is 54% Pinot (including 4.5% with skins) and 46% Chardonnay.  This sparkler was quite nice, with a pale pink color and a long fruit finish.

The Extra Dry is the same blend as the Brut, but has a heavier mouthfeel and more sweetness.  I finished off with the Crémant, which literally means sparkling wine that is not from Champagne.  This wine is equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and it is bottled with less pressure for a lighter effervescence.  It is extra dry, but with a creamier mouthfeel and taste than the other Scharffenberger sparklers.

I finished off my tasting with the three still wines, which were a 2008 Chardonnay, a 2007 Pinot Noir and the 2007 Syrah.  At less than 300 cases each (and only 130 for the Syrah), they aren’t the primary product for the winery, but rather a side project of the winemaker.  I tried them all, but I just wasn’t satisfied with any of them.  Of the three, I liked the Pinot best; it was a nice, soft light example of the varietal.

We decided that four wineries was enough for the day – I still wasn’t feeling 100% from my stomach flu the day before, and I didn’t want to push too far.  I enjoyed my day, but to be honest, I wasn’t blown away with the Pinots like I wanted to be.  I guess that’s a good thing, since the Willamette Valley is so much closer to home.  I did absolutely love the sparkling wines at Roederer though!

We headed out to our destination for the evening – Petaluma.  We stopped in Healdsburg along the way to check it out, and wandered around and stretched our legs.  Healdsburg is ritzy!  There are lots of upscale shops – places that would certainly be luxury purchases for Jon and me.  One clothing store had a clearance rack outside on the sidewalk – it was the $50 clearance rack!  Healdsburg did have a beautiful square in the middle of the downtown that was very nice, and a nice local bookstore with a cooperative art gallery on the second floor.

Healdsburg Downtown Square

Healdsburg Downtown Square

After leaving Healdsburg, we completed the drive to Petaluma, where we found our hotel.  Jon went for a quick run, and then we went to go find some dinner.  Jon had done a search on TripAdvisor and we found Café Zazzle, an Asian fusion style restaurant.  I had the Too Much Funn – A Zazzle specialty with house made shrimp & turkey wontons & chow funn noodles – together in a chicken broth with bok choy, snow peas & sweet red peppers!  I also had a delicious Pomegranate Italian Soda.  Jon had the Spicy Lettuce Wrap with curry.  It was so spicy that Jon even had to slow down to eat it!  I didn’t try it – anything that is so spicy it makes Jon sweat would probably burn my lips off!

After dinner, we stopped by a great bookstore across the street and we each found a great clearance book.  Jon found an ultra-marathon book, and I found a good nerdy tourist book on San Francisco.  What a great day!

California Road Trip: The Anderson Valley Pinot Tour

We woke up the next morning ready for our foray into Anderson Valley Wine Country.  At that point, it had been a whole 18 hours since I had last thrown up!  Not the ideal timing for a wine tour, but today was the day, as the rest of the trip was mapped out in other places.  I am a big (no – HUGE!) fan of Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, and I have been interested in trying some of Pinots from other areas.  In researching our trip, I learned that the Anderson Valley has a double draw – they are known for their Pinot Noir wines and there are also several sparkling wine producers!  Win, win!  The Anderson Valley is characterized by a coastal fog that settles in the valley, creating the cool nights that Pinot Noir is known to thrive on.

Jon and I got on the road, and while I was feeling a lot better (my breakfast remaining in my stomach being a vast improvement over the day before), I would be lying if I said I was feeling 100%.  So we headed out, across Highway 253, a scenic country road that heads up and over some hills before descending into the valley at Boonville.  The view was nice, and we enjoyed the drive.

A Historic Wine Delivery Truck in Boonville, California

A Historic Wine Delivery Truck in Boonville, California

Our plan was to drive northwest from Boonville to Navarro on Highway 128, and then turn around and work our way back, stopping at our destination wineries along the way.  There are many wineries located right on 128, so there really isn’t much chance of getting lost on country roads along the way.  We checked out where we wanted to go on the way back (really, I decided where I wanted to go, because Jon hadn’t provided any input) and then we drove up to our first stop of the day.

Handley Cellars is a family owned winery that began operations in 1982.  When you step into the tasting room, you are met with all sorts of interesting items from around the world.  The server explained that the elephant chairs in the sitting area are over 100 years old, and is among the folk art items that have been collected by winemaker Milla Handley in her travels around the world.

Handley Cellars Tasting Room

Handley Cellars Tasting Room

While we were there, we tasted the 2011 Mendocino County Chardonnay, the 2011 Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer, and the 2007 Late Harvest Riesling.  For the reds, we tasted the 2009 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, the 2010 Mendocino County Pinot Noir, and the 2009 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir.  We also tried the 2009 Redwood Valley Syrah and the 2010 Redwood Valley Zinfandel.  It was our first winery of the day, and as I was still a bit tired from being sick, and I completely forgot to take any notes.  Sadly, I didn’t love the style of Pinot Noir.  It was a much more earthy and spicy than the light, acidic, cherry Pinots from the Willamette Valley.  The highlights of our tasting were the Late Harvest Riesling and the Zinfandel, which we took home with us.

View of the Vineyards at Handley Cellars

View of the Vineyards at Handley Cellars

Husch Vineyards was our next stop, right down the road – their tasting room is very scenic – located in a historic pony barn built in the late 1800s.  Husch planted their first vineyards in 1968 and the winery was founded in 1971, making it the oldest winery in the Anderson Valley.  The current owners purchased the winery from the Husch family in 1979.  All of their grapes are estate grown, but some of the vineyards are in the Mendocino area.

Husch has a wide selection of wines (22 in all – although only 17 were available the day we were there), and you can choose to sample any six on their list.  I sampled their 2011 Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Vine One Anderson Valley Chardonnay, 2012 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley (a Rosé), 2010 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, 2010 Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Mendocino Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Chenin Blanc, and 2012 Muscat Canelli.  If you count up those wines, you’ll notice that they let me sample eight, which just goes to show a little friendliness goes a long way.

Husch Vineyards

Husch Vineyards

I was pleased with many of their wines, with their Chardonnay being a nice balance between the crisp style that I like and the oak that Jon prefers.  Their Vin Gris Rosé was a nice, light summer wine, perfect for a hot day.  The Reserve Pinot Noir was very nice, with more of the cherry flavors I have come to love in a Pinot Noir.  Jon and I both enjoyed the Husch Cabernet Sauvignon, although I didn’t taste enough of a difference to justify the big price difference between the regular and the reserve Cab.

And I enjoyed the Chenin Blanc, which had a slight sweetness with acidity and just a hint of butter.  The Muscat Canelli had flavors of peach with honeysuckle on the finish.  We left with a couple of bottles – the Reserve Pinot Noir and the Chenin Blanc.  Then we continued on our tour!

California Road Trip – I Puked On Historic, Victorian Ferndale

When we last left off, I was puking my guts out in a hotel room in Eureka, California, plagued by a nasty stomach flu…

The next morning I woke up feeling a bit better, which was good since we only had the hotel for a night.  I slept in as late as possible and then I took a nap while Jon went for a run.  After he got back, I ate some bland toast and was able to keep it down, so we checked out and got on the road.  We looked around historic downtown Eureka and poked around a little antique shop (sadly I didn’t find anything I had to have).  We also stopped and took some photos of the Carson Mansion.

The Carson Mansion was built between 1884 and 1885 for William Carson, who earned his money shipping Redwood lumber in the middle and late 1800s.  The Carson Mansion has been a private club since 1950 and is not open to the public, so we were only able to take photos from the street, but it is a beautiful home!  The club does have information and photos of the interior of the mansion posted here.  The mansion is 3 stories (the cupola adds a fourth) and has 18 rooms.  Inside, the home is exquisitely detailed with Redwood paneling, ornate wood carvings and gorgeous stained glass windows.  The home was sold directly by the Carson family to the club, so the mansion has been maintained since it was built, and has never fallen into a state of disrepair like so many other fine, historic homes.

The Historic Carson Mansion - Eureka, California.  Constructed 1884 - 1886.  Architectural Style - A Mix of Several Victorian Styles, Including Eastlake, Italianate, Queen Anne (primary), and Stick.

The Historic Carson Mansion – Eureka, California. Constructed 1884 – 1885. Architectural Style – A Mix of Several Victorian Styles, Including Eastlake, Italianate, Queen Anne (primary), and Stick.

Our first destination after leaving Eureka was the Victorian town of Ferndale, population 1430 (have I ever mentioned that I love when cities tell you their population on the sign?).  The entire town of Ferndale is listed as a California Historic Landmark (#883).  We stopped at a little general store which had a neat eclectic mix of items, from modern decor and fancy food items, and several exhibits upstairs with antique items arranged in displays of rooms and shopfronts.  There were displays of a millinery, a dry goods store, and an exhibit on Chinese Foot Binding.  Well worth a visit.

Victorian Inn - Ferndale, California.  Built 1890.  Constructed of California Redwoods.

Victorian Inn – Ferndale, California. Built 1890. Constructed of California Redwoods.

A Victorian Building in Ferndale, California

A Victorian Building in Ferndale, California

We wandered the main street and I took some photos of the Victorian buildings.  We checked out the small grocery to see if there were any local items that intrigued us too.  By this time I was feeling hungry and hoping that I could eat something.  We stopped in at the Lost Coast Café and I asked the server (who was also the cook) if he had any soups that were bland, and he explained that he had a a cabbage soup in a tomato broth – normally he would serve it with a feta cheese garnishment, but I wasn’t sure that would be a great idea for my so recently traumatized stomach.

The soup was delicious, even though I didn’t go for the feta topping.  It was served with delicious homemade bread.  I only ate half of a small cup of soup – even though I was starving I didn’t want to risk eating too much.  I had a spearmint green tea, hoping to keep my stomach calm.  Jon had a really good salad with caramelized onions, olives, zucchini, tomato, feta cheese, and peppers.  Jon said it may have been the best salad he ever had.

The Lost Coast Café - Ferndale, California.  The Soup Was Excellent, Even Though I Couldn't Keep it Down.

The Lost Coast Café – Ferndale, California. The Soup Was Excellent, Even Though I Couldn’t Keep it Down.

Unfortunately, I didn’t keep my lunch down for long once we left the café.  Sadly, I only made it about 20 paces before I puked it up on the bark mulch at the base of a tree, on the main street of historic Victorian Ferndale.  A woman who was walking by watched me studying the base of the tree (I was assessing where would be my best option for lunch losing); she couldn’t figure out why I was so fascinated by that tree.  She got more than she bargained for.  Another of my not proud moments!

After I puked on Ferndale, we figured we had overstayed our welcome there and got back on the road…

We got back on California 101, towards Ukiah.  On the way, there is another worthwhile detour through the Avenue of the Giants, another huge stand of Redwood trees.  The Avenue of the Giants is a 31 mile stretch of the old highway 101.  It is an opportunity to drive through stands of old and new growth Redwood trees.  Avenue of the Giants claims the tallest tree in the world, at 370 feet.  There are lots of places to go hiking or camping, and you drive through several tiny little towns along the way.  It is a really beautiful area.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well enough to go for a hike, so we settled for a few stops near the side of the road for pictures.

Our Honda Posing With a Redwood Tree - Avenue of the Giants.  These Trees are Huge!

Our Honda Posing With a Redwood Tree – Avenue of the Giants. These Trees are Huge!

By the time we reached Ukiah, I was feeling a bit better (have you heard this story before?).  We found our hotel and freshened up, and then did a bit of driving around Ukiah while it was still light out.  We stopped and peeked at the Redwood Tree Service Station, a little bit of Americana.  It was once a gas station, built in 1936 out of a Redwood trunk carved out inside.  It is now a small museum with gas station memorabilia.  It was closed when we visited, but it was neat to see the historic gas pumps out front.  Cute!

The Redwood Tree Service Station Museum - Ukiah, California

The Redwood Tree Service Station Museum – Ukiah, California

I tried to encourage Jon to try one of the delicious sounding restaurants that he had researched (I could just order white rice), but he didn’t want to have a fancy dinner if I wasn’t going to enjoy it too – what a sweet guy!  So instead, we stopped at a Food Coop and got some things for dinner.  I got some bland food – applesauce, bananas, and bread; but I was able to keep my dinner down – that was a vast improvement.

Another Year, Another Tooth

Biz, my soon-to-be twenty-six year old Quarter Horse, had his dental check up last week.  Biz has EOTRH, which is a degenerative disease that affects his teeth, causing them to become spongy and weakened over time.  We have been watching them for a few years now, because the disease has no cure other than to pull the teeth as they become painful.  As it affects the incisors, which are a horse’s tearing teeth and not their chewing teeth, a horse can function perfectly well even after the affected teeth are pulled.

Two years ago he had a tooth pulled, and last year he almost lost two more.  Upon the recommendation of my vet and the equine dental specialist he works with, we decided to let the teeth stay and instead we adopted a watch and wait approach.  So, last week he had a new set of X-rays to see how the disease has progressed.  Unfortunately, two of Biz’s teeth have further deteriorated to the point where they are almost certainly causing him pain.  Like cats, horses are prey animals and they try to hide their pain if they are ill, so even though he doesn’t appear to be in pain, we have to guess that he probably is.  The good news is that he is still eating well and holding weight on, and my vet shared X-rays and photos with other vets who specialize in equine dentistry and they were all impressed with his overall appearance for his age.

So the question becomes when to do the deed.  I’m waiting to hear back on a date that works – and that will likely be in the next month or so.  After the surgery, there will be daily flushes with saline while his gums heal.  Thankfully, Biz has always been a very good healer.  I wish there were a tooth fairy for horses!  I could be cashing in!  It would all go to the vet bills anyway.  Oh, the things we do for our animals…

For previous posts on Biz and his tooth troubles…

Biz’s Narrowly Averted Surgery Last Year


Melrose Vineyards 2010 Pinot Gris

I’m ready for spring.  Apparently, Mother Nature is not.  It has been cold and rainy for days – stopping only long enough to taunt us into thinking the weather might improve.  As of April 11, it has already rained 1.82 inches for the month, when the average for the entire month of April is 2.59 inches.  Today the sky dumped a lot more rain, but that isn’t calculated into the total until tomorrow.

So to celebrate spring, and our commitment to keep trying new wines that we haven’t tried before, I opened a bottle of the Melrose Vineyards 2010 Pinot Gris.  I purchased it on our most recent trip to Costco for $14.99.  Melrose is in Roseburg, Oregon, on the banks of the South Umpqua River.  Melrose started growing grapes in 1996 for their first vintage in 1999; the winery was founded in 2000.  By the photos on their website, I think I would love a visit, especially because the tasting room is located in a 100 year old barn on the property.

At first taste, this wine had more than a hint of floral and light butter flavors.  Which was curious because this wine was aged in 100% Stainless Steel.  However, after being open for a couple of hours, those flavors had largely departed to leave a crisp Pinot Gris with apple and pear flavors.  After doing a little research, I discovered that Melrose aged 33% of the grapes Sur Lie for 4 months.  The lees are the dead yeast that are created by the fermentation process – to age a wine Sur Lie means that the winemaker does not filter out the lees through a process known as racking.  I think that yeasty flavor was what I was picking up at the beginning.

Melrose Vineyards 2010 Pinot Gris

Melrose Vineyards 2010 Pinot Gris

Overall, I enjoyed this wine quite a bit.  With my busy week at work, I didn’t have much time at home in the evenings, so I actually had this wine for four days before Jon polished off the bottle.  The wine held up very nicely until the end.  My recommendation would be to let the bottle breathe for a while after opening, particularly if you like a crisper style of Pinot Gris.  And if you try this wine, let me know what you think!

California Road Trip – Sea Lions and Ginger Ale

After we left the Battery Point Lighthouse, we headed down to see some Sea Lions.  We turned down Anchor Way in Crescent City, as recommended by the guide, and headed down the street a little ways to a dock right off the parking lot.  This tip was fantastic!  The Sea Lions were on a dock right next to the parking lot.  If you wanted, you could have walked right up and pet them!  That would be a really stupid move, but that’s how close they were!

These California Sea Lions Hang Out on a Dock Right Off the Parking Lot!

These California Sea Lions Hang Out on a Dock Right Off the Parking Lot!

California Sea Lions are mammals that are found all up and down the West Coast, but it seemed like they are much more common in California.  I don’t remember ever having seen a Sea Lion in Washington, although I have seen Harbor Seals.  I know they can be a nuisance animal, and I’m sure the folks in Crescent City think so, but I enjoyed them.

This Sea Lion is Checking Me Out Too!

This Sea Lion is Checking Me Out Too!

Then we continued down the road, stopping along the way to enjoy some of the scenic pullouts, and going to the Trees of Mystery – it is a tourist attraction where for $15 per person you can do a tour of the Redwood trees in a gondola.  We opted not to.  But I did get photos of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, who stand out front greeting visitors.  In the summer months, apparently Paul talks to people – I guess there is a way to get inside and look down at the tourists.  But in March, no one greeted us.

Paul Bunyon, Babe the Blue Ox, and Me

Paul Bunyon, Babe the Blue Ox, and Me

Our next stop was the Klamath River Overlook – you drive way up a long winding road to an overlook that looks out over the ocean and the mouth of the Klamath River.  It is beautiful and would be a great place to sit and have lunch or go for a hike.  It is also supposed to be a great vantage point for the migrating grey whales.  We didn’t see any though.  We didn’t hang out for too long – just saw the view and continued on our way.

Then we took a detour off Highway 101 to the Newton B. Drury Scenic Highway.  This stretch of road is only 10 miles long, and has several scenic turnouts where you can walk among the Redwoods.  We stopped at the Big Tree Wayside and took a walk in the grove.

It was still drizzling, so we didn’t go for a long hike, but we did visit the Big Tree.  21.6 feet in diameter and 68 feet in circumference, the Big Tree is over 300 feet tall, and approximately 1500 years old (just so you know it is not the largest tree in the world – I think it is fourth largest).  Apparently, there was a landowner in the late 1800s who wanted to cut down the Big Tree for a dance floor.  And he didn’t intend to mill the wood and build a dance floor; he was going to just have people dance on the stump!  I’m glad he didn’t go through with it!  Of course we had to pose like ants in the forest, to show just how massive the trees are.

Me Sizing Up the Big Tree

Me Sizing Up the Big Tree

Jon Walking Among the Redwoods.  Can You See Him Down There!?

Jon Walking Among the Redwoods. Can You See Him Down There!?

After the Newton B. Drury Scenic Highway, we continued down Highway 101 towards Eureka.  About a half hour outside of Eureka, I started to feel really queasy.  I made Jon pull over at one point because I thought I was getting carsick from all the curves in the road.  In hindsight, I wish!  When we got to the hotel, I was feeling really unsettled.  I got out of the car at the hotel to get checked in, and promptly threw up in their flower bed.  Not my best moment!  After we got checked in I continued vomiting for the rest of the night, and that’s when I realized I had the stomach flu that Jon had a couple of days before we left for the trip.  UGH!  Jon went out and explored Eureka a bit, and got some sickie essentials – Ginger Ale, crackers, bananas, while I laid in bed and tried to get some rest.  I rushed from the bed to the bathroom all evening.  Ahh… the best laid plans.  At least the day’s touristing was done.

The California Road Trip – Rain and a Lighthouse…

Pre-day – The Drive to Eugene, Oregon

The first night of our trip, we left after work for the long drive to California.  We had decided to split up the drive – drive to Eugene the first night and then on to California the next day.  We stopped at the Starbucks drive through on the way out of town for a snack and a pick me up – the rain was just starting as we headed out.  But the rain kept getting worse.  Unacceptable.  And there was a lot of wind.  At points, you couldn’t drive the speed limit!  UGH!  The late start and the slow-downs from the torrential downpour meant that we didn’t get to Eugene until midnight.  We were still so on edge from the rain and wind that we needed a glass of wine to settle down before bed.  Covey Run Syrah.  Inexpensive, nothing special, but it did the trick.  As a matter of fact the wine kind of fit right in with our lodging for the night.  Inexpensive, nothing special, but it did the trick.

Day 1 – the First Day of Spring!  Eugene, Oregon to Crescent City, CA to Eureka, CA

We woke up early (especially considering we were up until 1 am!) and were on the road at 8 after having the hotel’s continental breakfast.  The rain continued.  During the first part of our drive, we passed a lot of farms with lots of sheep and baby lambs.  I have never been on that stretch of I-5 in the daylight (as an adult), so that was kind of interesting.  We also saw a lot of moss hanging from bare trees.  And strangely, they were doing logging right off the side of the freeway!  The torrential downpour let up north of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, but not for long.

This Part of the in Oregon Was NOT Pleasant

This Part of the Drive in Oregon Was NOT Pleasant

We stopped in Grant’s Pass to get gas and then headed over to the Northern California Coast on Highway 199.  Highway 199 is a narrow twisting road in places, but it is not scary like the Bear Camp Road we took to Gold Beach, Oregon in 2011 (never again!  You can read about it here).  It would be nice if Highway 199 had more scenic pullouts though, as you are traveling along the river for a good portion of it.  Towards the end of 199 we drove through stands of Redwood trees.  They were enormous!  We learned later that those aren’t even the big ones.  We got to Crescent City and had lunch at the Good Harvest Cafe.  Jon had the seafood salad with shrimp and grilled fish.  I had the crab quesadilla.  Both were delicious and very filling.

Welcome to California!  It Was Still Raining Though

Welcome to California! It Was Still Raining Though

After lunch, we went to the Redwood National Park Visitor’s Center – where I got a stamp for my National Parks Passport!  The ranger gave us some great information on the best scenic drives, the best hikes, and the best place to see Sea Lions nearby.  He was very helpful.  After leaving the Visitor’s Center we headed out to go find the Battery Point Lighthouse.

The Battery Point Lighthouse is one of the earliest lighthouses on the California coast – actually the 10th one finished.  It is built in the Cape Cod style of architecture.  It was first lit in 1856, with a fourth-order Fresnel lens.  The light was automated in 1953.  The light was decommissioned in 1965, but it was lit again in 1982 when it became a privately owned lighthouse.  Fresnel lenses are smaller, compact lenses with many sections of prisms that reflect light extremely efficiently.  The “order” of the lens indicates its size – Fresnel produced six sizes of Fresnel lens, with first-order being the largest.

The Battery Point Lighthouse - Crescent City, California

The Battery Point Lighthouse – Crescent City, California
Cape Cod Architectural Style

Battery Point Lighthouse is only accessible during low tide, but when the tide is low you can walk right out to it; it is open for tours on weekends from 10 am to 4 pm during the winter months.  I wasn’t expecting it to be low tide, but it was!  So we were able to walk across the spit and walk right up to the lighthouse.  It was closed because it was a weekday, but we were still able to get some great shots of the lighthouse.

The Battery Point Lighthouse from Across the Bay

The Battery Point Lighthouse from Across the Bay

Planning for the California Road Trip

Jon and I had some vacation scheduled for mid-March and of course, it fell to me to make a plan about where we should go.  Jon needed to take his vacation before the busy spring/summer season starts.  For those of you who have followed this blog, you know that I was also dealing with my sweet kitty Martini, who was undergoing chemo treatment for lymphoma.  I wanted to go to Virginia, but I was too anxious about flying somewhere and having something happen to Martini, so we decided on something within driving distance.  Sadly, we made the decision to euthanize Martini on March 1 – she was no longer holding her own against her lymphoma.

So, the idea of a California Road Trip was born.  I had been aching to get to San Francisco to see The Girl with a Pearl Earring, the famous painting by Johannes Vermeer.  The painting is currently on display at the DeYoung Museum until June, on loan from the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery in the Netherlands.

Jon had been itching to visit Point Reyes again; he took a day trip there when he lived in California and really enjoyed the small town on the coast.  And what do you know?  Point Reyes National Seashore is there – an opportunity for me to get a stamp in my National Parks Passport!

We also wanted to visit the Northern California coast – we have seen most of the Oregon coast and the Southern California coast, so it seemed like it just had to be done.  There is also a National Park there – Redwood National Park.  Coast Redwoods are the world’s tallest and oldest trees.

And no trip to California would be complete without wine.  We have visited Napa, Sonoma, and the Santa Ynez Valley, and we wanted to add another wine-notch on our belt so to speak.  We had heard that the Anderson Valley is known for their Pinot Noirs, with cool night temperatures from the coastal fog that settles in the valley.  It sounded like a win!

To round out the trip, I planned visits to Monterey and Sacramento.  Monterey because I have heard nothing but good things about this little seaside community.  And Sacramento because Jon’s long-time friend lives there.  And I think Jon secretly wants to relive his memories of living there.  Or perhaps not so secretly.

So, just like that, we had a plan.  Who am I kidding?  I google-mapped distances, figured out where there were historical sites and national parks, tried to plot overnight stays in the most convenient, yet still affordable locations, and asked Jon 57,975 times for his input.  Which was answered each time with a “Yeah, I’ll look at it tonight.”  And finally I just planned what I wanted to do.  Because secretly (or not so secretly), I would rather just do what I want to do, and hey, if Jon isn’t going to provide input, then who cares!

And that is how the California Road Trip was born.  My series of posts will be coming over the next few weeks!

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

The last day of our February Walla Walla trip was reserved for history!  The Whitman Mission National Historic Site that is – and a stamp in my National Parks Passport!  Being a life-long Washington resident, I learned about the Whitmans in school, and wrote a book report on Narcissa Whitman, but I haven’t read or studied anything about them as an adult.  So it was time to update my knowledge on this piece of history from my neck of the woods.

Marcus Whitman was born in western New York State in 1802, and decided early on that he wanted to become a minister.  However, his family was not supportive of his goal; it required seven years of schooling to become a minister.  So he became a doctor instead – that only took 16 weeks!  He never did forget his dream of becoming a minister and later did enter studies to become a minister, but was not able to finish due to an illness.  He eventually decided to become a missionary; it took him awhile to be accepted because of the same illness that ended his ministerial studies.

Narcissa Prentiss was born in Prattsburg, New York in 1808, about 25 miles from Marcus Whitman.  She also had dreams of missionary work, but could not become a missionary as an unmarried woman.  The record isn’t clear on how the two met, or whether it was a marriage of convenience for them to pursue their missionary careers, but they married on February 18, 1836.  They left for the Oregon Territory the next day – what a honeymoon!

The site is located just outside of Walla Walla, near the Walla Walla River, in what was Cayuse territory – the Cayuse call it Waiilatpu.  In 1836 Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and Henry and Eliza Spalding headed west with fur traders along what would become the Oregon Trail to set up two missions in Oregon Territory – Narcissa and Eliza were the first white women to travel overland across the United States.  The Spaldings set up their mission at Lapwai, near present-day Lewiston, Idaho, while Marcus and Narcissa continued to Waiilatpu.

Looking down at the Whitman Mission Site from the Hill

Looking down at the Whitman Mission Site from the Hill

They set up their mission and set about trying to educate and convert the Cayuse Indians to Christianity.  Although their intentions were generally good, the Whitmans saw the Indians as inferior and I have no doubt that greatly influenced their attempts to establish a good relationship.  Evidence exists that Dr. Whitman was a bit rigid in his opinions of how the Cayuse should be living – he was a bit of a ‘my way or the highway’ type of guy.  Dr. Whitman did make an attempt to learn the Cayuse language and administer to the sick or injured members of the tribe.  Narcissa set up a school and taught both Cayuse and children who were traveling through.  Narcissa had become pregnant on the trip to Waiilatpu, but unfortunately her daughter Alice Clarissa drowned in the Walla Walla River at the age of two.  Alice was the Whitmans only biological child, although they did adopt seven children whose parents died on the trail west.  Sadly, those kids would be orphaned again in a few years.

At first, things seemed to be going ok, but over time, many of the Cayuse began dying of diseases such as smallpox, to which they had no natural immunity.  Straining tensions further was the fact that more and more white people were rolling west in their wagons and setting up shop in the territory – often stopping at the Whitman Mission for days or weeks to rest for the last bit of their journey.  The Cayuse, understandably, were starting to get nervous about the larger numbers of people who were coming and claiming land.  In 1847, the Cayuse began dying in large numbers of a measles epidemic that was quickly spreading among their people.  Dr. Whitman tried to help the sick, but the Cayuse were largely unable to fight the disease.  They noticed that white people generally lived through the disease while the Indians died, and rumors began spreading that Dr. Whitman was intentionally killing the Cayuse in order to get their land and horses.  Apparently Dr. Whitman was aware of the significant decline in the relationship and was warned that his life could be in danger if he stayed, but decided not to leave.

On November 29, 1847, several Cayuse raided the mission and killed Marcus and Narcissa and 11 other men and boys.  Over 60 people, including several women and children, were held hostage for a month until representatives from the Hudson Bay Company could negotiate a ransom for their release.  There were 19 of these people who directly witnessed the raid and were able to provide significant details about what happened.  They provided a great deal of information that is useful to historians today.

At the mission there was a mission house, a grist mill, a blacksmith shop and fields where crops were grown.  All of these buildings are outlined for visitors with blocks, but the originals are long gone and the Park Service has not created replicas.  I like it better that way – I find I enjoy a site more if it hasn’t been altered.  You can also see a section of the Oregon Trail, and the wagon ruts are still clearly visible – no grass grows there.  It is pretty humbling to imagine walking most of the way across the United States, and to know you will never see family or friends again.

A Section of the Oregon Trail at the Whitman Mission Site

A Section of the Oregon Trail at the Whitman Mission Site

Marcus and Narcissa and the others killed that day are buried in a mass grave – you can visit the site up the hill a little ways from the mission site.  Later a memorial monument was placed at the stop of the hill – you can walk up to the top and get a good workout – so of course we did!  There is also a visitor’s center with a small museum and a theater with a twenty minute video about the Whitmans and the Mission.  The Visitor’s Center did a good job of simply telling the story as it is.  They didn’t try to treat the Whitmans as martyrs, and didn’t try to villainize them either; the exhibits and the film pointed out that the Whitman’s had shortcomings and certainly contributed to the decline of the relationship with the Cayuse that ultimately cost them their lives.

The Mass Grave Where the Whitmans and Eleven Other Victims of the Raid Are Buried

The Mass Grave Where the Whitmans and Eleven Other Victims of the Raid Are Buried

The Whitman Mission was well worth the visit – it is a very peaceful site today.  There were probably a half dozen other people there during our visit.  I enjoyed refreshing my memory on this couple who were integral in the history of the Oregon Trail.