Tag Archive | California

Those Ears Though!

While looking for photos for another blog post, I stumbled upon a few photos that I had forgotten about.  They were taken from Jeff’s back porch in Siskyou County, California, the morning that I drove home after we visited Lassen National Park in July.  I was sad about having to head home, and we sat outside for a little while drinking coffee in the morning sun before I had to get on the road.  This guy has clearly been through some hard times, judging by that tear in his ear, but he was such a treat to see!  My first wild Jackrabbit photos!

Circus Trip 2018: Still Sick!

Sadly, this cold is still wiping me out.  I was hoping to be feeling better by now, and I was, but my cold took a turn for the worse again with more sore throat, swollen lymph nodes and exhaustion.  Not to mention all the pretty colors I’ve been coughing up.  Fun!

I did go for on a short hike a couple days ago, with beautiful views of Mount Shasta.  The 3 miles of the Spring Hill Trail, with only a 650 foot elevation gain, wore me out.  It was good to be out on a beautiful, warm day and get some fresh air though!  The temperature was in the mid-70s, in November!



Besides the hike, I’ve been laying low and sleeping quite a bit, and thankfully, I have the ability to do that.  I want to be on the mend soon though!


Circus Trip 2018: Blowout

So it happened. Only not specifically to me. After 13,000 miles on the road with no incidents, I am sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.

Only it isn’t my car; I am waiting with my friend and a blown out tire.

Into every life, I guess a few metal brackets that you don’t see lying in the road must fall.

Circus Trip 2018: Historic Toilet Edition

I have wanted to go to Bodie State Historic Park for such a long time.  It is in mid-eastern California, northeast of Yosemite National Park.  It is pretty remote, and the road closes in winter, so it has been a long time coming.  But, finally, I got to go!!!

Here’s a sneak peak, as a nod to my mom, who celebrated her birthday last week.  She loves historic toilets!

4 Chicks and a Little Bitch: The Presidio & Coit Tower

Day 3, Wednesday, March 28, 2018

After we went to the Sutro Baths, we still had plenty left on the agenda.  We saw the Legion of Honor Museum when we drove by it, and one day I want to visit – but that will have to be a different trip.

We were ready for lunch, so we went over to the Magnolia Gastropub in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.  Oh wow, this place was good.  I had the Bombay Bubbles IPA (YUM!) and the Fried Chicken sandwich with a salad. It was soooo delicious!

My beer at Magnolia


My fried chicken sandwich

We did some window shopping and Lelani tried on some clothes at a cute little boutique.

I found a dinosaur!

After that we went to the Presidio at Fort Point. Fort Point was built between 1853 and 1861 to protect the San Francisco Bay at the height of the gold rush.  It was designed in the Army’s Third System style, a style adopted in the 1820s, and was the only Fort west of the Mississippi River to be built in this style.  It was in use as an active fort up through World War II, although it never fired a shot at an enemy.

When the Golden Gate Bridge was being constructed in the 1930s, there was discussion of tearing down the now obsolete fort, but fortunately the bridge’s Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss saw the historical significance of the fort and designed an arch that would allow the bridge to be built over the existing fort structure.  I am so glad it could be saved.  Unfortunately the fort is currently only open Fridays through Sundays, so we weren’t able to go inside.  The interior is certainly on my list of places to see!

We walked along the water and climbed the steps down and up from the parking area – that was quite a workout!  We considered walking across the bridge, and I definitely want to do it sometime, but we were worried that all the traffic and the people might be too much and too dangerous for a puppy.  Next time – another thing for my bucket list!

We headed to another area of the Presidio for a late afternoon glass of wine at Sessions restaurant.  I had their happy hour white (twice…); the Ressó 2017 Garnacha Blanc – it was delicious!  I also had two oysters on the half shell, because at happy hour prices of $1.50 each, who wouldn’t?!!  Well, someone who doesn’t like raw oysters, but…  They were amazing!

My wine at Sessions

We sat at their outdoor seating, and it was so nice to just sit outside on a glorious, sunny, hot, March San Francisco day.  Those adjectives don’t normally go with San Francisco, and certainly not in March, so we really soaked it in!  And the folks at Sessions allow dogs in their outdoor seating, you just have to take the dog in through the side door on the patio, so we could linger for a while.  Our server even brought Shaka dog biscuits and a bowl of water!

Our last sightseeing stop of the day was up at Coit Tower.  I had been twice before and loved it each time, and so had Lelani, but the girls had never been.  It was too late in the day to go up to the top (if you get the chance to you should), but we had enough time to do a circuit of the bottom part of the tower.  That’s where (most of) the murals are.

Coit Tower

The murals…  Coit Tower’s murals were painted in 1934 as a part of a Public Works of Art Project, the first of the New Deal employment projects for artists during the Great Depression.  They were painted in the Social Realism style, and depict commerce and industry subjects.  Interestingly, I learned while fact-checking for this blog post, that there are more murals on the second floor that are largely closed to the public.  However, you can see these murals, which depict recreation, if you take a tour (there are some free and some paid tours available).  How did I never know this?!  Yet another reason to visit Coit Tower!

A mural wine shop!


Coit Tower Industry

We headed back to our AirBnB for a bit of relaxing before we walked up the street to Zen Sushi for dinner.  This tiny, cramped restaurant had some excellent sushi!  It was a great end to a really good day.


San Diego 2016: Old Town San Diego

After we left the Mission San Diego de Alcala we headed downtown to Old Town San Diego, located adjacent to Presidio Hill, underneath the bluff. For the first several decades, residents preferred to live within the Presidio walls or just outside, for protection from other Europeans or hostile Native Americans. By 1820, the threats had decreased, and San Diego residents were choosing to live at the base of the bluff in what is now Old Town San Diego.

The problem with the site of Old Town San Diego was that its location was several miles from navigable water, so supplies had to be brought overland from Point Loma several miles away. In the 1860s, residents began abandoning Old Town in favor of New Town (where the current downtown is now) because of its proximity to shipping ports.

We were hungry when we arrived after touring the mission, so we found a Latin American restaurant called Berta’s which offered cuisine from several Latin American countries. Renée had a wonderful Mango Avocado salad, a Chilean empanada and a glass of sangria, and I had Chilean Pastel de Choclo with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The sun was shining and it was warm – we enjoyed just sitting outside and having our meal.

Me sitting at Berta's among the Hibiscus flowers

Me sitting at Berta’s among the Hibiscus flowers


Renée's Mango Avocado salad at Berta's - YUM!

Renée’s Mango Avocado salad at Berta’s – YUM!


The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta's

The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta’s

After lunch, we walked across the street to the San Diego State Historic Park – a collection of historic buildings built between 1820 and 1872, when New Town took over in dominance. The park contains five original adobes, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and a stable, among dozens of other buildings. Some are reconstructions. We enjoyed wandering around in a rock shop that was originally the Assayer’s Office, and toured some of the different displays in one of the adobe homes and other buildings.  We even sat on a wooden donkey!  The real donkeys didn’t want to come over and talk to us…  The entire park is free to visitors, and there are living history demonstrations too.

The Assayer's Office - there was a wonderful rock shop inside

The Assayer’s Office – there was a wonderful rock shop inside


One of the original adobe homes at Old Town

One of the original adobe homes at Old Town


This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

Nearby, there are other historic sites that are not part of the San Diego State Historic Park too. I could have spent a couple of days just wandering around Old Town San Diego, checking it all out. I wish I had more time! It is nice that Renée has a similar appreciation for historic sites, so I didn’t feel like I needed to rush. I would have loved to have seen the Whaley House Museum that is nearby. I will certainly have to return…

The Old Town General Store

The Old Town General Store


One of the shops at Old Town San Diego - an interesting combination of items.

One of the shops at Old Town San Diego – an interesting combination of items.


The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego

The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego


Renée posing with the jail - they didn't let you go inside though...

Renée posing with the jail – they didn’t let you go inside though…


Renée had to be back at the hotel before 2:30 that afternoon for a meeting for her conference, so we left Old Town San Diego and headed back to the resort. I took the opportunity to get in some pool time. Angela and Allysa had to head out to the airport to fly home, while I was staying one more day. I enjoyed some time just laying by the pool with my book and my travel journal. And then I spent some time walking along the beach and collecting some shells.

That evening Renée and I went out to dinner at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop with a coworker of hers (my former coworker) who had also flown in for the conference. We had lobster lumpia, fish tacos, and beer. I swear I would be there all the time if I lived there…  It was all so delicious!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop - to die for!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop – to die for!

Sometimes You Just Need a Break

Some posts are difficult to write.  A few make the tears come to my eyes as the words come to my fingers.  But in every dark day, there are moments of joy, and I choose to hang on to those.

My father and I visited the Santa Monica Pier in August.  It was the first time that I had ever been.  We had been down in California visiting my Uncle Richard, and one evening, Richard declared that I wasn’t having enough fun on the trip.  He in no uncertain terms told us that we should do some sightseeing that evening – I guess when you are the older brother, you get to make demands like that, even when your younger brother is old enough to have grandchildren.

The Sign at the Top of the Santa Monica Pier

The Sign at the Top of the Santa Monica Pier

Richard sent us on our way with vague instructions about a burger joint on the Santa Monica Pier that had the best burgers in the area.  We will never know if we found the right one, but we each had a fabulous burger at PierBurger, with a homemade beef patty, fries and delicious iced tea.  My dad had a yummy chocolate ice cream cone as a dessert treat.

Perhaps this was the burger place my uncle was talking about?

Perhaps this was the burger place my uncle was talking about?

After dinner, we strolled along the pier, seeing the sights.  Carnival rides, neon lights, souvenir shops, and tons of people, both tourists and locals.  We were lucky enough to be there on a beautiful night when there was a concert, and we were able to stop and listen to the music for a little while.  I purchased a few Route 66 postcards for my collection.  We watched a beautiful sunset, and shook off the stress of the last several days.

The Ferris Wheel at the Pier

The Ferris Wheel at the Pier

The end of Route 66!

The end of Route 66!

The rest of the trip was more somber.  My uncle’s cancer had progressed significantly.  We interacted with a seemingly endless parade of doctors, nurses, social workers, and home health care coordinators.  We checked off the many details of hospice, home health care, home medical equipment and power of attorney.  There were still some opportunities to talk quietly, and we treasured those.  We collapsed into bed each evening, spent.

My uncle died a week after I flew home, with other family members by his side.  I will always be grateful that I had the chance to visit and say my goodbyes, and hopefully make things a little easier for him at the end.  And I will always fondly remember that evening I spent with my dad at the Pier – the most simple of respites when it was desperately needed.  Rest in Peace Richard – you are missed.

A beautiful California sunset

A beautiful California sunset


SW National Parks Trip: The Beginning

When: April 22, 2014 – April 23, 2014 (morning)
Where: Seattle, WA to Long Beach, CA to Barstow, CA to Zion National Park, Springdale, UT

Our first day on vacation was largely one of travel and logistics. Jon had to work and we weren’t flying out of Seattle until 5:15 that afternoon, so I considered working a half day, but in the end, I decided I was burned out and didn’t want to work. I spent the morning clearing my camera memory cards because I decided not to bring the laptop.

We drove down to Seattle in the early afternoon and met Jon’s friend Tyler, who had graciously agreed to take us to the airport. Once there we bought an airport dinner of Wolfgang Puck’s deli sandwiches to take on the plane with us. I had the Turkey Club with avocado – it was decent but the avocado spread was a bit too spicy for me. Jon didn’t like his veggie sandwich at all. It had eggplant, which would have been good but he hated the pesto spread on it. He did eat some of my sandwich instead. I guess that leaves us still looking for the perfect SeaTac airport “to-go” food. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

On the plane, Alaska Airlines was serving complimentary local beer and wine, so we had a Pyramid India Pale Lager. It was very good, tasting more like a Pale Ale than your typical lager. After an uneventful, smooth flight, we landed in Long Beach, picked up our wonder car for the trip – a teal blue Nissan Versa – got some coffee and tea, and began the last leg of the day’s travel.  It was about 8:30 pm when we headed away from the airport.

Just an FYI – if you have the opportunity to fly into Long Beach (LGB), I would choose it over Los Angeles (LAX) in a heartbeat.  It is way smaller, with only about 10 gates in the main terminal, and has a beautiful outdoorsy layout.  To pick up your rental car, you just walk across the street to the car rental building.

Two hours of boring, freeway driving later, we found our palace for the night – the Super 8 in Barstow, California. No frills, but a clean, warm place to sleep and shower. And best of all, cheap. We would only be there for 8 hours – the luxury would come later in the trip. It was very cold and windy that night, but the skies were clear.

On the plus side – I fell asleep right away and slept really well… until 3:30 am… Jon got really restless then because he was still hungry from dinner the night before, because he didn’t really like his sandwich, and we didn’t get any snacks for the road on our way to Barstow. So, we were both tossing and turning until we finally got up at 5. Which is fortunate, because at 5:15 am, as I was in the shower, I heard a noise. It was the smoke detector chirping! Good thing we hadn’t wanted to sleep in!

We had a Super 8 breakfast of cereal, oatmeal and yogurt, and took some coffee and tea and apples for the road. We were back on the road at 5:50 am, to continue the long drive to Zion National Park. We drove through Las Vegas right about 8 am, and felt very thankful that we were driving in the opposite direction as the morning rush hour.

We stopped for gas and snacks in Primm, Nevada, and discovered that they carried scorpion suckers – lollipops with an actual scorpion inside. You could have apple or banana flavor. I’m sure you’ll be surprised that we didn’t buy them. They also carried gusanos (the same worm they put in the mezcal bottles) and crickets as treats. We didn’t buy those either.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen treats like that in Washington!

Don't you want to suck on this and reveal the delicious treat inside?  To be honest, I feel bad for the scorpion.

Don’t you want to suck on this and reveal the delicious treat inside? To be honest, I feel bad for the scorpion.

The route also took us through a small corner of Arizona, before we drove through the Virgin River Gorge, and this was when we first began to appreciate that we were getting into some beautiful country. The Gorge had some wonderful scenery and amazing rock formations. We were getting excited to see the Park!

Not bad for Car Photography – the Virgin River Gorge in Utah

Not bad for Car Photography – the Virgin River Gorge in Utah

We got there a little before noon – the drive was almost 5 hours from Barstow, and there was an hour time change as we moved to the Mountain Time Zone from the Pacific Standard Time Zone.  Plus, by the time we reached Zion that morning, we had already been in four states!

I’ll be posting about Zion next!

California Marathon Road Trip: Maidu Indian Museum

The last day of our California trip came too soon.  It was Tuesday, and Jon was still a bit sore from running the marathon on Sunday, so we had another relaxing day.  We stopped by Total Wine to pick out some wines to bring home, and did a little shopping.  Then we headed out to the Maidu Indian Museum in Roseville, CA.

The Maidu Indian Museum is a small museum and interpretive center that is located on the site of an ancient village where the Maidu people lived for over 3,000 years.  The area saw the first signs of human habitation around 9,000 years ago – and historians believe that the Maiduan dialect began breaking off from other Native American languages around 2,000 years ago.

Around the same time, inhabitants began settling down in the area and managing the land through the use of burning, pruning, and gathering selected plants.  Acorns were plentiful there, and they provided a nutritious staple for their diet.  The Maidu also fished, hunted and gathered plants and berries.  They had an extensive knowledge of the medicinal uses of the plants in the area, and actively treated the sick and injured with various remedies.

The Maidu are expert basket weavers, using the reeds and grasses to weave baskets that range in size from a thimble to several feet across.  The museum has several excellent examples of Maidu woven baskets, and ceremonial pieces, including tools and regalia.  There is also a photo exhibit of historical photographs of the tribe.

A beautiful hawk was watching us at the Maidu Historic Site

A beautiful hawk was watching us at the Maidu Historic Site

The museum contains exhibits detailing the history of the Maidu habitation of the site, from prior to the arrival of the settlers through the period when the Native Americans were displaced from the area after gold was discovered in the area.  Exhibits talk about the Maidu trail of tears, the forced relocation to undesirable land.  It was hard to read about the hardships of their new home, and the destruction of their way of life.

A Replica Dwelling at Maidu Historic Site

A Replica Dwelling at Maidu Historic Site

After checking out the museum, Jon and I stepped outside to take a walk on the interpretive trail.  The trail is a short loop around the property, with signs at several locations explaining how life took place there.  One of the most abundant examples of the history of habitation there are the bedrock mortar holes, where women used sticks to grind acorns for thousands of years.  Over time, the constant use of the holes wore deep depressions into the bedrock.

Bedrock Mortar Holes at Maidu Historic Site

Bedrock Mortar Holes at Maidu Historic Site

The site also contains petroglyphs, but these aren’t as apparent.  They give you a little map to help find them, but Jon and I only saw one that we were sure was a petroglyph.  The others seemed like they could be natural; there were long scratches on some of the rocks that looked like the marks that are left behind by glaciers as they move other huge rocks along with them.

A petroglyph at the Maidu historic site

A petroglyph at the Maidu historic site

This site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, so it will be preserved for future generations to understand all aspects of the area’s history.  It was a pleasant visit; not an amazing museum by any means, but worth a few hours of our time.  If you are in Roseville and find yourself with a few extra hours, stop in and see for yourself.

California Marathon Road Trip: Petroni Vineyards

Our last stop on our Sonoma wine tasting tour was Petroni Vineyards  It is just off the main square on Broadway, the main street leading into Sonoma.  They share the space with the Wine Hardware store, which carries all sorts of wine racks, wine fridges, decanters and wine accessories.

Petroni is an Italian style winery; they produce 8,000 cases annually.  They have a limited distribution – the owner owns the North Beach Restaurant, an Italian restaurant in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.  They sell their wine there, and they sell by the glass at a few places in Sonoma, but otherwise, they just sell from the tasting room.

Inside the shop is a tasting bar with a flat screen TV mounted above the bar; they use it to show their customers a video about the winery and the vineyards.  Our server mentioned that it was a really slow day – we were their second customers that Monday.   I need to get that gig! Only a couple sets of customers in a day!  I could totally get caught up on all the reading I am always wanting to do!  Of course, not so great when you are trying to operate a business.

She took us through their line-up beginning with the 2011 Chardonnay, which was good, but I don’t remember anything more.  Then we moved to the 2012 Rosato di Sonoma – it is a Rosé blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Syrah – it was very good when we tasted it day, with flavors of strawberry and watermelon and a light floral taste.  Sadly, when we had it again a month later at home – the floral taste overpowered the fruit flavors and it wasn’t as good.

Next we tried the 2011 Pinot Noir – it is an earthy, cherry flavored wine with lots of spice.  It was excellent.  The 2008 Rosso di Sonoma blend is a heavy and tannic blend of 75% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was my least favorite of the tasting, but certainly not a bad wine.  The 2008 Syrah was up next – this wine was very good, with nicely balanced tannins and flavors of blackberry and spice.

The 2007 Brunello di Sonoma was an amazing wine – Wow!  It was fermented on the skins for up to 40 days, and then aged in 20% new French oak and 80% used French oak barriques (a standard 59 gallon oak barrel) and puncheons (an 80 gallon cask) for 18 months.  This wine is pricey though, at $60 a bottle, so a taste of it will have to be enough for us.

The last wine that we tried was their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine was an excellent example of what a cab should be; not heavily oaked.  Our server told us that the winemaker believes in using some neutral French oak, to avoid covering up the characteristics of the wine; it is aged for 18 months in 50% new and 50% used French oak.  I loved the fruit forward balanced nature of this wine, but couldn’t buy it at its $70 price tag.

Petroni makes their own olive oil too; during our tasting we also got to sample their olive oil with crispy bread sticks.  The salt of the bread sticks and the oil were fantastic – it was a great accompaniment to the wine.  We really enjoyed our visit.