30 August 2014

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 11 - Homeward Bound

The flight I was shooting for left at 7:20am. So my get up was officially 5am, but I tossed and turned all night with flight fright. Would I get on or not?
Again I was ecstatic to see my name KIL/D appear on the cleared seat board. I got a window seat (my fave) and there was even an empty seat between me and my row partner. The weather outside the window was foggy and cold as we left the terminal--typical for SFO in summer.

My connection city today was DTW (Detroit), rather than Minneapolis. The ride was pretty bumpy and we had to skirt south nearer to St. Louis because of thunderstorms on the traditional air route. It is always a thrill to cross the mighty Mississippi (pix below), be it over a bridge or in the air.
Not sure where, but I also saw a wind turbine farm from the air. That was cool.
The movie was Million Dollar Arm, but I was busy finalizing paper notes for this blog. You could buy a sandwich if you wanted, but I figured I could wait 4.5 hours rather than get airline food. The time went by fast.

I did have a bit of luck in the beverage department though. One of the first class flight attendants came walking down the aisle with a glass of red wine asking if anyone wanted it. I piped up pretty quick to say, "Me, me!" Apparently he had poured the wrong color for an up front passenger and rather than throw it way, he passed it on to the lowly economy folks. Actually no one else spoke up, but I'm not proud!!

After a short snooze I opened my eyes. The movie was over and there was a travelogue thing showing. Moments later they were showing the famous Bixby Creek Bridge (in lots of car commercials) and then cut to an aerial view of Half Moon Bay beach. I almost jumped out of my seat. A cool good-bye treat to end my trip.

At DTW, I transited through a colorful tunnel to my next terminal building and gate which, again, was quite far away.

We had been a little late arriving here because of the detour, but I still had time to pick up a Caprese (sun-dried tomato and fresh mozzarella) sandwich.

I wasn't at the gate two minutes when I saw my flight had cancelled due to heavy thunderstorms in Kalamazoo. And they were headed this way. There were two more flights to AZO, but both around 8pm. I had no hope of getting on standby, because all these cancelled revenue passengers would be put on first.

I called Mike with the bad news. I was stuck in DTW. I had a couple of choices--rent another car or Mike could drive the two hours to come pick me up. He opted for the drive.

We were not really familiar with the nuances of DTW, so I took the Sheraton shuttle to the hotel. We had stayed here before and it was a way easier way to meet-up for the pick-up.

I sat in comfy seats in the lobby, sipping ginger ales, reading my camera manual. I was sure I was going to get kicked out at any moment, but I guess they took pity on me for whatever reason and did not grill me as to why I was there for so long. I for sure did not look like a hooker or a homeless person, but someone in between that seemed OK, I guess.

The normal 2-hour drive took Mike three hours as he traveled with the storm every mile of the way. Traffic was heavy and slow, roads wet or semi flooding, winds fierce. 

The Sheraton has a tall glass atrium and I could see and hear the intense downpour on the windows above. Leaves and branches were flying around and hitting the glass. I was surprised there were no leaks, it rained so hard. 

I was so happy to see Mike's smiling face when the car pulled up. I was worried because of the storm, and his marginal eyesight did not help. We kissed and hugged. Happy to be home.

I drove the miles back, but not in rain. It was all behind us now. It was fresh and clean and sunshiny. It was perfect. Home sweet home, as they say. And it is true.

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 10 - Devil's Slide and Beyond

Suzi called to announced I should ditch the rent-a-car today, as James would be the early bird hero and drive me to the airport for my pre-dawn departure tomorrow. Phfew! That was one stress off my mind regarding the trip home.

The coast towns of Pescadero, San Gregorio, HMB, El G, Princeton, Montara, and Moss Beach were sprinkled along Highway One up to Devil's Slide. The Slide is an area north of all them. It used to be the least reliable of two roads from the coastside towns to the more populous part of the peninsula where most people worked. We traveled each day from home to the SFO airport--only about 20 miles, but about 45 minutes in time.

The slide area was prone to rock and mud slides and total "implosion" into the ocean on a few occasions. I remember one time when Mike and I were driving separately to work. As I drove by the area I noticed a few pebbles trickling down the rock side toward the ocean and thought to myself "I've never seen that before!"

By the time Mike arrived in his car, a few scant minutes later, boulders and  rubble had spilled down the hill to completely block the highway. To get to work, he had to turn back round to our alternate route on Hwy-92. Devil's Slide was closed down several months after that for repair. 
Now 11 years later, Cal-DOT had drilled two traffic tunnels inland and through the mountain. This would avoid constant closures and maintenance and a reliable route for travelers into Pacifica and beyond to San Francisco. The project was completed earlier this year. The original, abandoned roadway was replaced by a park and narrower bike-walk trail. I didn't see that, but here is the tunnel.

Rather than driving directly to the Kennedy compound, Suzi met me at the Kiss-And-Fly lot near where I returned the rent-a-car. We cruised to her place and proceeded to chatter at 100 miles per hour while sipping from a bottle of wine that Suzi had saved for a special occasion.

Had we really been gone for 11 years? It seemed like only yesterday that Suzi and I worked for United at res and then the airport. She was my first real girlfriend on "west bank" and a mighty cherished one. There are so many work and personal stories I could tell about this cute little red-head and her debonair hubby (looks soooo good in a tux), but I'll save those for another time.

James and Suz had done a lot of reno/redecorating since our last visit--new windows; new mixed verde green granite in the kitchen; new rich caramel-colored granite, luxury shower and heated floors in the bathroom; colorful paint throughout the house; and "evergreen-no fret grass and glass pebble landscaping outside. And, James had presented Suzi with a fit-for-a-queen settee lounger. Just perfect! Wished I had gotten her photo on it.

Jamesie freshen up after work, while Suzi (always the hair dresser and most up-to-date on product) gave me a mousse treatment to brighten up my gray to silver. I was transformed from drab to dramatic in a split second!

Now that James was in chill mode, we tippled a couple more. Then off to a new (for me) San Francisco restaurant, Aziza (website).
An aside: This was the first time EVER that James did not get a parking spot within a few feet of the restaurant door, but he dropped us off and we snagged a good table. 

The place has a Bohemian look--bright and rich colors, arches, private cubby-hole seating, and lighting that is reminiscent of old candle chandeliers.

The chef was born in Marrakesh so the menu has a Moroccan flair. Foods were colorful, with interesting blends of spices, a nice selection for veg-heads, and delightful presentations.

We shared a pita and 4-dip appi. James chose seared ahi tuna, Suzi tried the beef cheeks (and loved them), and I scarfed down the vegetable "shavings" over couscous. Of course, a red wine was sipped between bites. Dessert was chocolate truffles ... served on a rock. Rock on!!!
And moving on ... James gives the best San Francisco tours of anyone I know (including any tour company around). When he is the driver of an outing, there is always an engaging driving trek with something new included. He did not let me down this evening.

After dinner it was dark, so we enjoyed the City lights as he tip-toed through the traffic. We passed City Hall and the Asian Museum where Suzi works part-time. He braved the famous and steep 1-block downhill Lombard Street, consisting of eight tight hairpin turns. Even under the dark of night photographers were standing at its side taking photos of the heavy traffic.

We cruised along the Embarcadero and stopped for a brief moment to snap shots of the spectacular Bay Lights art installation. It extends 1.8 miles of the west span of the Bay Bridge, is 500 feet high at its peak, and is comprised of 25,000 individually programmed white LED lights. It shines from dusk to dawn in a never repeating pattern. Read more about the project here (website).
Soon after that we headed home, wrapped up the chat, and had a bit of an early to-bed. We all had to get up early-early on the morrow.

29 August 2014

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 9 - Artichoke Everything

Today's stats:
Miles from Lisa's to Duarte's to Kiss-n-Fly were about 50 miles
Actual driving time about 1.5 hours
HMB temp range today 59-73 degrees
SFO temp range today 59-68 degrees

Today's haps:
Livvy woke me up with a few doggie kisses to the face. It was Monday, so I did an impromptu weigh-in on Lisa's scale (update coming soon). Lisa was already on her way to work, so Tom made coffee. They have a Nespresso machine, which Mike and I have considered buying, so it was fun to check it out first hand. There were a variety of coffees to choose from and I went with something Italian. Yep, good.

My plan for break-lunch was another fave, Duarte's Tavern (website) in Pescadero. Carole was joining me and offered to drive. This allowed me to take in the sea, the artichoke fields, the pumpkins patches and other old landmarks along the 22 mile route. As it is a windy 2-lane road, it took about 45 minutes. Lots of fond memories passing through my mind as we traveled the coast road south.

Through the cool, foggy drive and breakfast we chatted about it all--coastside happenings, our HMB real estate agent Kathy Caloca (Carole's a Realtor also), Coastal Repertory Theatre, our families, our mother-daughter relationships, Kalamazoo, world affairs, religion, you name it.

I was almost drooling with anticipation by the time we sat down at Duarte's. They serve the very best artichoke omelette at breakfast and the very best artichoke soup at lunch--both loaded with artis.

You have to time it just right to catch the changeover to get some of each (about 10:30am). Those two items, along with the warm homemade bread, are way too much for one sitting, but not when you get it only once every couple of years. It was soooo worth it. I savored every bite and did not leave a crumb behind.

Back in HMB in the Safeway parking lot, Carole and I parted ways. She gave me a book about moms and daughters that she said helped her with that relationship. Maybe it would help mine, too. Thanks, Carole!

Now on to James and Susan's in SFO (San Francisco). I back tracked a little to see the old This Side of the Hill Players Theatre (now the Coastal Repertory). I had worked many a show there, mostly as stage manager, but also set builder, prop mistress, ticket office, etc. It was now painted completely black. Didn't really like that color scheme. But I missed the ol' theatre gang (especially Margaret) and experiences there. Theatre is just not the same in Kalamazoo.

Next side trip was about a mile north and 1-1/2 blocks to the left between Highway One and the ocean. I wanted to see our old house.

At first I couldn't find it, so I counted the third house from the corner and this is what I found. The shell of the house had been totally reno-ed. The arched window decorations had been removed and the two bedrooms extended to where the arches were. The windows were turned into bay windows.

An addition of a windowed atrium was added to the side of the garage, creating an entirely new entry. The house was painted a sunshine yellow. The yard was landscaped in roses with a stone wall. It was almost completely unrecognizable to me. Some folks would probably be shattered, but I thought it looked fine and wished I lived here in this new and improved version.

I was so stunned, I forgot to even look at my neighbors' homes--the Yamane's and Bob Hatcher's.

Now moving north in earnest, things looked much the same except for the newly completed tunnel through Devil's Slide. 

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 8 - California Home

Lisa met me at the door with warm hugs. By her side were the newest family members. Olivia or Livvy is a black and white Boston terrier. Elvis is a black and white German shorthaired pointer. Unlike most jumpy pups, both are sweet and gentle.

Lisa and hubby, Tom, are members of our old coast side gang. Lisa and I are well known for our saling (not sailing) excursions. That is garage sale-ing. Most Saturdays we would take to the road north to check the sales out on the east side of Highway One and then back down the west side. We got the best deals in town and often cajoled each other into buying stuff we did not really need.

On the other hand, OUR yearly garage sale was infamous. We had soooo much good stuff (some of it recycled from what we had purchased at other garage sales). It was hard to leave without a full shopping bag. On Sunday, everything was 1/2 off at noon and that almost always cleaned us out.

Mike would keep us well-lubed throughout the day with mimosas and made the lunch time burrito run to Tres Amigos Taqueria. One year Mike had too much home brewed beer on hand, so he offered a free glass of beer with every purchase. That year was particularly profitable. 

I also admire Lisa's party planning skills. Her annual New Year's brunch was not to be missed. It was the premier social event of the coast side with picture perfect table settings and a scrumptious spread of gourmet delights. And she the perfect hostess.

On the other hand, rough and tumble Captain Tom runs a charter sports fishing business out of Princeton Harbor. His 53-foot boat, the Huli Cat (means barb-b-qued cat!!) was in the movie Chasing Maverick's with Gerard Butler and Elisabeth Shue. You absolutely must watch the extraordinary footage from the movie here (YouTube).

Tom and the Huli Cat have experienced many "firsts" in his expeditions, including the first catch of a giant Humboldt squid and the first great white shark viewing on a charter trip to the Farallon Islands.

Tom is also an avid nature and ecology supporter. His charter business includes cruises involving whale watching, bird watching, and oceanic research. There is much to be learned and enjoyed on the Huli website. Once Tom took myself, my cousin, and my Uncle's Bill's ashes out for an ash scattering at sea. I remember we poured a bottle of my Uncle's favorite Spanish wine in at the same time as a final toast to his life.

Tom was out on the boat, so after a quick chit-chat, I suggested Lisa and I run to the Miramar Beach Restaurant (website), for old times sake. This is a popular destination for locals as well as other-side-of-the-hill visitors. It is so popular now that they have valet (free) parking to make sure only patrons park in their tiny lot.

This is a spot Mike, coast side friends, and I frequented often when we lived here. Since we left town it is quite expanded, inside and out. Now you can walk all the way around the bar  (instead of three sides) because the building was blown out on one side. Then a huge outside patio with fire pits was added. 

Lisa and I cozied up to the bar. She had a Cosmo and I hard a Long Island iced tea. We shared artichoke cakes (after all this area of Cal is the Artichoke Capitol of the World) and cheesy bread. The piano man played tunes nearby and the surf roared up on the boulders just outside. You could hear and smell and see the Pacific Ocean. What could be better? Not much, except I was really missing Mike.

Next stop was our friend Carole's. She and her hubby built a spectacular home pretty much from scratch that overlooks the Pacific. It is not your little ticky-tacky place, but one filled with odd angles, much wood, lots of windows, an expansive outdoor deck, and many quirky details. See the ocean out the windows?

Inside overflows with art, and artsy and musical objects. One table was filled with paints, colored pencils and sketches depicting a study in emotions. Another area displayed wooden guitars and bits and pieces of guitars being fabricated. It is like a mini-museum of interesting "stuff." I always enjoy a visit here. Something new to see every time. And good wine, too!

Back to L&T's we sat on the wooden balcony enjoying the view of the ocean and harbor while we waited for Captain Tom to return. Once he was freshened up, we decided on Pasta Moon (website) for dinner. This is another ol' fave.

Thank goodness we had a res, as it was overflowing even on a Sunday evening. We started with cocktails  ... and why not! Then got right into a bottle of wine and good eats. I had eggplant parmigiana, Lisa had peppardella pancetta, and Tom had the fish special. All wonderful. We shared a sesame seed spongecake a la mode dessert as we shared memories from the past and news of the present.

After a leisurely meal, Tom gave a little tour of Princeton Harbor and the new things there. We rode to the end of the pier and saw Pillar Point with its necklace of lights. On the other side of that point is where the super surf of Maverick's Wave (website) runs.

It was foggy and cool. The very opposite of the last couple of days in Ashland and Chico. Not sure which I like better.

Back at T&L's, Tom hit the hay for an early morning appointment. Lisa and I did our usual girl talk'n'talk well into the night with a little port and port filled chocolates. Ummm good. All of it. Her, me, port, dogs at our feet, the sea view, life at its best.

28 August 2014

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 7 - The Way Home to HMB

Today's stats:
- Departure time 10am
- Temp in Chico 82 degrees
- Miles driven 216
- Driving time 4.5 hours
- Temp in El Granada CA 70 degrees
- HMB airport altitude 66 feet above sea level (sloping down to sea level)
- HMB attitude...laid back, beachy, refreshing, natural 

Today's haps:
Not many photos today because Mike made me promise not to take any photos while driving. So I hope you can picture things in your mind, if I do a decent job of writing.

Last night we had discussed the horrible drive, especially on a Sunday afternoon, from Chico over the Bay Bridge through San Francisco down Devil's Slide to El Granada (just a few miles north of Half Moon Bay (HMB). Jon turned me on to a route through Hayward, crossing the San Mateo Bridge instead. It was a bit longer, but much less stressful traffic-wise.

Once toast and coffee were downed and good-byes were done, I headed for home (at least the place we called home for 20+ years). The first miles were on a 2-lane blacktop, our fave kind of driving. I passed grape arbors, fruit and nut orchards, animal farms, and green trees growing in golden fields along the way.

Today I finally found a radio station with my kind of music--KUBA out of Yuba City CA--playing classic rock like Four Seasons, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Rolling Stones, Rev Al Green, Doobie Brothers, Eagles, Doors, Men at Work, Eurythmics, etc. I cranked it up and barreled onto the first of the series of freeways I would drive today. I was feeling like a Honky Tonk Woman.

Actually, I just tuned in on my computer to KUBA and am rockin' it out as I write this. "Layla" was the first tun playing. 

Again, passing exits for old hangouts Mike and I enjoyed--Clear Lake, Granzella's Olive Store (before it was chic) and Cafe, wine country, Nut Tree in Vacaville, Berkeley, the Bay Bridge.

On this journey I would not cross the bay at the Bay Bridge though. Instead I maneuvered my way from freeway to freeway to the more southern San Mateo Bridge. The toll was now $5 for a car. The temp was now 70 degrees. The fog was present but light. The aroma of the salty sea air was making me swoon with pleasure. A few sailboats were coordinating with the heavy breeze. My heart rate lowered. I was HAPPY! Couldn't BE more happy, unless Mike was by my side.

The SM bridge is Highway 92 and that goes from Hayward to Highway One, the California Coast Highway. Once I reached Crystal Springs Reservoir, it was a slow back-up of cruisers craving the nature and nurture of the coast side. This was to be expected on a sunny Sunday afternoon and did not disappoint. It gave me more time to rubberneck our old stomping grounds.

I remembered every nuance of the twisty turny 2-laner over the Santa Cruz Mountains. The seven mile drive does not really go over a mountain, as compared to the Sierras. But it high enough to meet the evergreen tree line and rate "beware of falling rock" signs. It was exciting to anticipate what was new around the next curve, but there were not a lot of changes "over the hill."

Things had changed, however, once I hit the flatland at the bottom of the west side of the hill. It had been 11 years since we'd lived here, so many additions had materialized. I was glad to see the Half Moon Bay Nursery was still there.

This is where I learned to love opera. On my many shopping trips there, they always played opera inside the greenhouses and outside in the gardens. In this calm, plant and flower infused atmosphere it seemed natural to listen to opera. Then I bought some opera "mix" tapes for home and I was hooked. To this day I especially enjoy opera when cooking or eating a good meal. I'm always shocked when an Italian restaurant is playing anything besides opera (or Sinatra) for background music.

There were a number of equestrian schools now. The metal sculpture shop selling life-size or bigger-than-life animals (elephant, horse, tigers, deer, eagles, etc) was still there. In addition there was a similar business selling metal sculpture dinosaurs!! The Pumpkin Patch et al was still there, but expanded. (How could they fit even more stuff into that little plot of land?) Even in August there was a crowd of children playing there. The tree-trunk chainsaw wood sculpture place was still there. The Obester Winery was now the Nebbia Winery.

In HMB town, much looked the same. A few more coffee shops. Twice as Nice (at Half the Price) had expanded to most of its little shopping center, except Sam's breakfast joint. A natural grocery store took over the old (what was it?) store. New neighborhoods appeared along Highway One going north to El Granada. Surfer's Beach was teaming with waders, sun-bathers, and surfers wearing wet suits in the chilled water.

I drove by L&R's. No changes there. Windows covered. Wondered if I should stop, but last time we visited they did not return our calls so I was reluctant to bother them. Hoping L is doing well. Thinking of S&L also, but just can't fit everyone in.

Now back up the hill to near the top of El G and into the welcome arms of my good friend, Lisa.

27 August 2014

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 6 - Here Chico Chico

Today's stats:
- Departed Ashland at 9:56am
- Altitude in Ashland 1949
- Highest altitude today and highest elevation on
I-5 Siskiyou Mountain Summit at 4,310
- Highest temp I noticed 101 degrees in
Shasta City (seemed way hotter at the dam) Chico 95 degrees
- Drove about 208 miles, with 3-1/2 hours actual driving time

Today's haps:
I woke at 7am to a lovely morning. The sun was shining and the 70 degree temp was just right. I checked out of my motel and drove the two miles to downtown Ashland for a walk-about before heading farther south.

I parked near the Ashland Springs Hotel, so took a peek inside. The last time we were here it was closed for a complete reno. They had done a fine job. (I actually tried to book here on this trip, but there was a 2-night minimum.)

I took our usual window shopping route, down and back up the main street. At the end of that "trail" was a lively farmer's market. Veggies, flowers, cheeses, handmade products, all for sale. I picked up some fresh red and black raspberries to take on to Jon and Lora's (hoping they would last and they did).

A harpist and guitarist were strumming at either end of the block to enhance the ambiance. There was also a guy with two goats sitting on the sidewalk. He said I could take their photo if I would just ask him. I moved on instead. Coffee, at this point, was more pressing.

On to our ol' standby, Water Street Cafe. We stopped here 14 years ago when they first opened. Still there. Yay!

They have an outdoor seating arrangement on the corner. Best place to sip and people watch. Kind of hippy-ish. What's so funny is our fave coffee shop in Kalamazoo is also named Water Street Cafe. I picked up a medium soy latte and opted for a stroll in Lithia Park.

Even at this time of the morning it was teaming was kids, bicyclers, runners, readers, people walking their pups, tweeting birds, friends meeting and greeting. The stream flowed nicely down the rapids.

I spotted a sign saying "Black bear sighting" and what to do if you came across one. It brought me back to reality--this is a little burg (population about 20,000) in the middle of a big forest. Darn! Had to move on from one of my fave places in the U.S.

Just 14 miles from Ashland to the California border. Last stop in Ashland was an attempt at side trip to the top of Mount Ashland (didn't make it to the top). First stop in California was the agriculture inspection station. I had forgotten about that when I bought the berries. I toyed with the idea of "forgetting" I bought the berries, but came to my senses and declared them. The agent smiled and advised, "No problem. We're mostly looking for citrus, cherries, and mangos." I breezed through, glad I kept my moral compass.

Two things I did see of note along the way. You know how as a kid (and sometimes even now) you'd roll down that car window and moo to cows standing out in the field. They'd always look back. Well, I saw a metal sculpture of two huge cows mooing toward the interstate. I had to laugh. Then I saw an ad for the "State of Jefferson." This refers to the effort of some folks to break up the great state of California into six states, one of them being the State of Jefferson. I can't imagine! Hope it never happens...maybe 2 states (north and south Cal), but that's it.
Again on I-5, I passed places with old memories--Yreka, Weed, Mt. Lassen, McCLoud, Dunsmuir (recovered site of a huge oil spill in 1991), and Lake Shasta City. I saw the signs for Shasta Dam (website and Wikipedia) and, as I had never done so before, decided to make a pit stop at the visitor center. It was about seven miles off I-5, but I had a little time to spare.
We had house-boated on Lake Shasta twice in the 90s with a varied bunch of good buddies. As a matter of fact, as I drove through Shasta City I spotted the old Sentry grocery store where we bought supplies for these "gourmet" trips. All fancied ourselves to be chefs (except me) and some (like Cheryl) were. I didn't see the Beverages And More, but I'm sure it is there also. I recall we bought $400+ of liquor for 7 people plus an occasional house boat guest and ran out halfway though the week!!

I had only seen lake side of the dam (not the water output side). The lake water level had been low when we were there, but now, per docent information, it is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Only a trickle was flowing from the water side into the headwaters of the Sacramento River. I learned some facts and figures, marveled at the construction feats of the project, took a few photos, and continued south again. See the little cars? That's how low it is from the tree line.

After a lot of meandering on business routes through little towns and to the dam, I finally arrived a Jon & Lora's about 3pm. Lora was a little under the weather and Jon was at work weeding in the newly landscaped front garden.  This was their first major project since the last time Mike and I visited, just after they moved there in 2012. It was VERY nice.
Chit-chat started immediately after hugs and kisses. The list of the usual topics were reviewed and re-addressed. Add SR, JR and Unicum to the topics. Again, it was as though we were still neighbors by the seaside near San Francisco CA.

We drank a little wine and decided to do Thai in downtown Chico. It was a place we had been to before. It did not live up to my memory of how wonderful it was, BUT that is one cuisine you cannot find in Kazoo. So it quenched my taste buds for Pad Thai and we left satisfied.

When we returned home, their neighbors Rob and Hmmm? stopped by for a visit. Sweet and fun couple. Then two other gals stopped by with their two dogs. One was a long-haired Dachshund that had had a stroke. He walked with a little sideways giddy-up and was the sweetest thing on earth. One of the gals treated stroke patients as an occupation, so it was the perfect match-up.

This new home is still the "house of excess," a sign Jon in his single days proudly displayed as you walked through the door of his little El Granada bungalow. (I think it's in the garage now.) The evening provided not quite the hype of the ol' days, but we darn near downed a whole liter-size bottle of sake at night.

Needless to say, I slept heartily and thankfully woke up well and ready to roll on down the road south way.

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 5 - Here Chickie Chickie

I was glad that Brooke took over the driving. We had about a 17-mile drive up a nearby mountain road. Although Brookie did a great job, I was still a bit nervous. The road was narrow, windy and steep with plunging drop-offs on the passenger side. It took about 35 minutes to get to our destination.

It reminded me of our daily mountain route from home in Half Moon Bay to work at the San Francisco Airport. Not bad once you learn the nuances of the road, but a little harrowing when it's your first time.

Our destination was WELL worth the scenic drive. Green Springs Inn (definitely check their websiteis a rustic/modern resort lying in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (website or Wikipedia). The junction of two mountain ranges--the Southern Cascades and the Siskiyous--meet here. It was the first national monument set aside solely for the preservation of biodiversity and includes an unusually high variety of species in the geographically small area. The monument also includes the Pacific Crest Trail.

After the geography "lesson," Brooke led me on a 1-mile trek down a dirt road to see all the sights of the resort. First stop was the hen house. This was actually her senior thesis project. Her art specialty is linocut, where you carve out a pattern in linoleum and then print that pattern onto paper.

She wallpapered the hen house, built the egg laying boxes, carted the huge contraption down the 17-mile road to the university, and earned an "A" on her project. Yahoo! She said the chickens seemed to like it, had not destroyed the wallpaper, and did not produce any less eggs. Sounds like a winner to me!

Along the rest of the trail we saw five gorgeous wood homes built by her special guy, Paddy, his dad and some talented friends. Each was unique and custom-designed with lovely vistas, private settings, and luxurious appointments. They are set up for vacation or long-term rentals, but I wouldn't mind moving in permanently.

We also saw the workshop, the pow-wow circle, a wooden yurt conference center (also built by Paddy), the 2-story lodge and matching restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining. I'm sorry to miss the music festival that is playing here tomorrow.

What a spectacular facility for lovers of nature, hikers, researchers, birders (over 200 species), Indian archaeologists, botanists and other outdoorsy folks. Winter with snow outside and a warm cozy fire inside must also be a slice of heaven. A remarkable place...

Next we drove a few miles further down the road to the smallest school district in Oregon. The district has only this one school with 19 K-8 grade students. Brooke will be teaching Art here part-time in September.

As we pulled in the school driveway we saw at least six deer wandering around the premises, not bothered by us human visitors. There was a thriving garden project and several buildings that make up the school. Brooke listed a number of ideas she has in mind and is pumped to start teaching. What a way to start a career!

In the miles driving back down the road to Ashland, we saw the "extreme forest fire danger," as well as numerous handmade signs offering thanks to the fire fighters who had been battling local fires. It was so sweet.

Brooke also said each night these guys eat dinner at the Green Springs Inn cafe. I even met Gene Davies, the local fire chief in charge of managing fire issues in this important ecological area, as he waited for them to show up.

Back in Ashland we proceeded to the Peerless Restaurant. I was treating Brooke to a "fancy" dinner there for graduation. Mike and I had been to the Peerless B&B several times years ago and loved it. To this day I use an egg casserole recipe they gave me on our first visit. The B&B looked the same, but I was shocked at the changes in the "cafe."

No longer was it a breakfast joint. Now it is a high end restaurant with elegant indoor and outdoor seating. The pre-theatre dinner crowd (Ashland is known for its Shakespeare Festival - website) had gone, so we were seated in a quiet cove overlooking the patio. This was great cuz we could gab and laugh to our heart's content without bugging anyone else.

The menu was gourmet. Brooke had Caprese salad and mussels. I had the best French onion soup ever and Hawaiian sumotome fish with garlic mashed potatoes and shitake-morel mushroom gravy. We shared nibbles and every bite was delectable.

After stuffing ourselves, we drove around this/her neighborhood and then back to my motel (not particularly worth mentioning). We said our good-byes there. Just too little time.

PS - Paddy, sorry I didn't get a chance to give you a little hug. Thanks for holding Brooke so dear to your heart.

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 4 - On to Ashland

Today's stats:
- Miles driven 246 
- High temp noticed 81 degrees
- Highest altitude noticed 2,130, not sure what pass

Today's haps:
Got up at 6am for coffee and scones, a last minute chat with Auntie, and then off to pick up the rent-a-car at 7:30am. It was a lipstick red Ford Focus. Very cute! I felt so cooool driving it that it shaved a few years off my mental life. The only thing better would have been a red convertible. Dang, why didn't I take a selfie?!

As I was checking the weather outlook for today, I set my phone down on Joan's coffee table. Had to stop back and pick it up (hate those second good-byes). It was on my route to the freeway though, so little time lost.

As I drove along I-5 to Ashland, I saw exit signs that brought back memories of previous trips--Crater Lake, Rogue River, Shady Cove. Roads were twisty-turny, hill'n'dale, but I wheeled it like a pro. Got delayed in traffic for about 45 minutes though as a big rig had overturned off the highway and there was a long back-up.

Got to the southern end of Ashland about 12:30pm. Long time airline buddies Don (Mike worked with him in DTW (Detroit) decades ago) and wife Joy, and their sweet black and white springer spaniel, Chadwick, were settled at a patio table.

Lunch was at Caldera Brewing Company (website). The four inside walls were lined with hundreds (maybe thousands) of brands of beer bottles. Mike and I have an East German (before the unification) pilsner bottle we got in Santa Fe years ago. I may send it to them. It would be a nice addition to their collection.

We four exchanged info as though no time had passed since our last get-together. Updates included mutual airline friends, the Budde family, family news, ailments!!, Segway stories, living in Oregon and Kalamazoo, amongst things. We chatted so vigorously that the waitress returned three times before we could concentrate on the menu. I had a veggie with fresh mozz sandwich (my go-to these days). Very tasty! We ordered and the continued our rambling reminiscences.

Our visit was too short, but sweet. Too quickly they headed back to their lovely home along the Rogue River and I headed to the hotel to meet my niece, Brooke.

I had asked for a ground floor room as I did not have Mike to lug my luggage up stairs. To accommodate that request, they gave me a family room--two bedrooms, two baths, connected by an alley kitchen. Way too big for my needs, but oh well. Could not complain.

I freshened up and my dear niece Brooke picked me up a bit later. She's lived in Ashland for a number of years now and recently graduated Southern Oregon U. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Art. Congrats, Gal, Uncle Mike and I are so proud of you!

24 August 2014

2014 Deb's WEST COAST Drive 3 - The Rest of the Day in Salem

After experiencing a plethora (I love that word for some crazy reason) of emotions, we were starved. Joan had found a fabulous little restaurant nearby called Word of Mouth Neighborhood Bistro (website). She also heard there was usually a long wait, but worth it. It was a little gray cottage converted to a cozy cafe with about 30 seats and, surprisingly, a full bar. 

Yes, we did have a wait of about 35 minutes, but we sat on comfortably padded benches on the inside porch. There were little sayings displayed around like "Every sixty seconds you spend angry, upset or mad, is a full minute of happiness you'll never get back" and "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" These got you into conversations which helped pass the time. Before we knew it we were seated in a private little alcove.

And, yes, the wait was worth it. Service was great and everything on the menu sounded good. Joan ordered a chicken breast sandwich with fries. I got the huge ciabatta bread sandwich stacked with fresh mozzarella, veggies and avocado. Instead of fries, I got wild mushroom soup (I think the best I ever ate). I downed every bite. It was so delish and I could not bear to leave a crumb behind even though I was stuffed.
Joan had just moved here in May, so we explored downtown Salem together. It is about a 4x4 block area with old and new buildings mixed together. I particularly liked the US Bank (above), previously the Ladd & Bush Bank Building (1870). We also discovered the old Reed's Opera House and the Pentacle live arts theatre. 

We stopped in a number of little shops--a pastry store called The Little Cannoli (bought dessert for later) and a book and gift store (got a travel pill case). Among others, we browsed Lilli's kitchenware store, a handmade soap shop and
a great second-hand store.

Then Joan offered a driving tour of some other landmarks downtown--the library, the farmer's market, the museum, the building my cousin Kristan works in, and some of the Willamette University campus.

Salem is the capitol of Oregon, so we drove by the lovely capitol building. It is constructed of white/gray marble, looking a bit like a wedding cake, and topped with the gold statue of the Oregon Pioneer. It is a combination of Greek, Egyptian and Art Deco style and was completed in 1938.

We took a break and went back to the apartment. Sammy was ready for some playtime. He does not meow, but kind of squalls. Never heard anything like that before. Sounds like he is hurting or ready to throw a hair ball, but that is just his normal sound. He is an 18-pound short haired tabby, but has almost a flat nose like a Persian. It's a crazy combo of cat attributes, but a lovey kitty.

We had a date with Kristan (K&J's daughter and my cousin) and her hubby, Lee, at 6pm. Their cats were a first meeting warmer upper to the conversation. I met Daisy (white with black mustache), Zoe (black with white mustache) and Sable (an older blind tortie). The two young ones were hilarious, tumbling around in a big black and white ball of fur.

In no time we quickly got into a family gabfest. Lots of stories about Uncle Kit (he didn't come on this visit), K&L's kids and grandkids, family vacations, trips to the beach, rock tumbling, crabbing and fishing, Disneyland, and much much more. It was soooo fun to meet and get to know new family. I felt right at home in their home.

I don't know much about baseball, history or stats, so I hope my memory serves me right. Lee Langley (stats) played semi-pro and pro baseball in his sports heyday. He pitched and was a switch hitter with the minor league team Class A Salem Volcanos (website), which was affiliated with the San Francisco Giants.

He was drafted by the LA Dodgers in 1986. Unfortunately he took a line drive to his right eye which cut short his blossoming professional career.

I knew it was true when I noticed a plug of  tobakky in Lee's cheek, but then ... he broke out his official baseball cards and two championship rings. THAT was a thrill for me to see. I took his photo for posterity.

I missed seeing K&L's kids and grandkids, but they recently became empty nesters. Just the two of them in the household for the first time in MANY years. I had to give them a yahoo on that one.

Back home we enjoyed an antipasti dinner which included basil from Auntie's balcony garden, fresh mozzarella, rich balsamic vinegar, artichoke hearts, purple ciopollini onions, red peppers, a variety of olives, hummus, crackers, bread and the porcini infused salt we had purchased yesterday. We topped it off with wine, and cookies from the Italian bakery downtown. It was heaven!

A little TV in the background. A little more gabbing. Then a little dreaming.