Thursday, October 22, 2009

Leaving Oakland and going North to Napa

Home of Napa Cabbage, better known as Bok Choy (Whatever that is).

As we drove north, I notice new bridges. The Bay bridge is under construction and a completed new bridge is the Carquinas Straits.

All with a (I think) $6.00 toll. Six bucks. Of course, the wealthy have no problem coming up with such a measly amount, "I'm important...., my trip is important. "But we think that the poor should really consider using Public Transit. "It's for the benefit of our planet."

Oh well. I pay the six bucks and like it. After all, so many State Government Employees are relying on the tourist buck to keep them and their Union well paid.

Up Hwy 12 we go, looking for our first Winery. It's 1030 and we are gettin' a great thirst.

Stop at some tourist trap and purchase a Napa Valley Map which is a five buck cartoon poster with a couple roads actually slid in for effect.

I hate being a tourist, it makes me feel like a Sophomore Prom date to a Senior Class Football Star. This can not end well... Hold on to your wallet folks!

We make a stop at the Franciscan Winery (Not to be confused with "Christian Brothers", another famous wine)

We read this sign and prepare the pocket book for the first tasting. It costs about twenty bucks each for what we are about to receive, but if you join the "Wine Club", (Which requires a subscription), the tasting is free.


Small talk is made with the Wine Server Dude, and we get on with drinking Franciscan's best. We depart with a couple bottles and a quarterly subscription for six bottles, delivered for $325.00.

Uh oh. This is not a good start.

Off to Montelena we go, via a stop at some cafe for lunch in Calistoga. Here is a view of Mount Helena:

This is the front of the Winery:

We entered the famous winery, which was portrayed as the "David" to France's "Goliath" of wine reputations in the film, "Bottle Shock".

Montelena charges $20.00 for tastings, and they have made the most of their notariety from the film. I purchased an autographed DVD of the film and left a bunch of money behind as a tribute to Montelena's fine wines.

After getting a full tasting session, we departed for more Calistoga action, which brought us to the Geyser.

Cue the cheesy tourist!

This was a semi-bad decision. I knew that the wine country was littered with geysers (See "Geyserville")

About every 30 minutes, visitors to the Old Faithful Geyser of California are treated to an eruption of steam and scalding water spraying 60 to 100 feet in the air. There are only two other "old faithful" geysers in the world that have earned the title due to their regular eruptions. On the geyser's grounds, there is a gift shop, exhibit hall, snack bar, picnic area.
We showcase the famous Tennessee Fainting Goats, Jacob's Four-Horn Sheep, and Guard Llamas in an endearing petting-zoo environment.

Pure tourist cheesiness. The cashier worked hard at giving every customer a discount through the Automobile Association, Student ID's and finally my retired military ID. Decent guy. Head out the back door and see the ruin of a 75 year old concrete tub, which had been in use (back in the day) as a therapeutic spa. The tub was empty except for a bunch of change littered on the grainy bottom.

No one was interested in risking a scalding for five bucks worth of coins.

We lurked about ten minutes and the geyser began to flatulate steam and sputter hot water. That felt good to use flatulate in a clean sentence!

The hot water began to grow forth until finally it was about thirty feet high, and it sustained its ejaculation long enough to take at least five pictures, including a shot of the two of us in front of the steaming tower.

After about four minutes, the water slowly began to subside and with a couple of apologetic bubbles, folded up shop.

That left a quick tour of the grounds, in which I stared a llama who flatfootedly ignored me. We spent three quarters buying corn from a gumball machine and fed the fainting goats, who seemed starved more for attention and pettings.

In an adjacent pen, there was a famous "Stump Goat", which I guess resembles a "Post Turtle". The feeling I had was that I had enabled a family that owned the geyser to enjoy the fruits of the Geyser's labor, and we had the benefit of seeing goats, llamas and a magma heated steam vent. For twenty bucks.

Man, I love America!

We burst into laughter at the whole silliness and left the Geyser park for a local store to purchase food and wine for the evening meal which would be enjoyed at the Washington Street Lodging.

By the way, if visiting Calistoga, try to stay there. The room had a starboard list, but the accomodations were really nice and at an excellent value. There was an original copy of the book, "Mrs. Miniver" in the room. Too cool!

Next morning, we had a light breakfast in the room and departed at 1030 for the Cuvaison Winery, just down the street from Montelena.

Now, the rain was a pouring, and the winds were picking up as a result of a vicious low pressure system. Not conducive to wanting wine, but we soldiered on. After all, who's gonna drink the wine if we don't?

Paid the fifteen bucks or so, and started down the list. The Zinfandel is incredible!!! We bought a couple bottles and departed Calistoga for Yuba city via Hwy 20.

Drove the wet surpentine road up to Clear Lake then vectored to 090 degrees and headed out of the hills into the Big Valley. Winds were picking up to about fifty mph, as we followed the straight road to Yuba City, where my father and sister reside. I commented that the Southern Wind was blowing so hard that the steering wheel had to be held to the two o'clock position, sort of like the condition on a sailboat called "weather helm".

Arrival at Yuba City was approximately 1500, turns out Dad lives about three blocks from Hwy 20, so we got a room at the Best Western ($65.00!) and went by for a visit.

We stopped at Nicholson Winery. This is what was on the rack.

I did not know PBR came in a 24 oz can!

We departed Novato at 0430 the next morning for San Diego. Discovered the U.S. 101 does not have a freeway through San Francisco anymore, you get dumped off and have to make it through downtown.

Made a stop for breakfast at the Madonna Inn at 0930, drove the Pacific Coast Highway through Santa Barbara, Ventura and Oxnard. Continued through to Malibu and Santa Monica. Hopped on the beginning of I-10 and got to the San Diego Freeway and wound up here:

Built in 1888, it is the premier hotel of the West Coast. They filmed "Some Like it Hot" with Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis at this very hotel and beach.

We were given an upgrade for a room in the original building, fifth floor king with complete ocean and beach view. There was no warning of what we were getting into...

I spun that couch to face the windows, opened them up and commenced relaxation!

Our room is on the left corner up top.

Airplanes did the approach to North Island the same as they did when I was flying:

Check out the view from space; You can see that those unintelligible little sand dunes have a message for satellites!

View Larger Map

Gator Freighter on Friday morning off of Coronado

Friday night dinner at Hotel Del with Pat and Robin. They look as good or better than 20 years ago. It was as if the time had no meaning, it was so nice to see these folks again!


Buck said...

I hate being a tourist...

Me too. But wasn't this more like a homecoming for you?

Great shots of the wine/wineries/everything. And I hear ya about reconnecting. The funny thing about reconnecting with military buds? I've NEVER had an awkward experience in that space... never. There's something forged in the experience that seems to transcend time and space. (Not to go all philosophical on ya)

Barco Sin Vela II said...

Thank you again Buck, for noticing. Come back and read the update and the next installment of the "Wildebeest Weturns!"

JihadGene said...

Napa Cabbage is not Bok Choy...ask anyone who eats Korean kimchi. This I know.

Buck said...

Ah... the Madonna Inn - SLO's ONE attraction, if'n ya don't count Cal Poly. It was just up the road (sorta) from Vandenberg AFB and I've been to many a wedding reception there. Well, three... anyway.

Nice digs in Sandy Eggo!

Barco Sin Vela II said...

Gene; Sorry. I did look in wiki and the Bok Choy picture looks different from the one I posted. There is no cabbage growing in Napa. Only grapes and liberals.

Weak attempt at humor.