Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New beginnings and

The saga of the last Christmas present, 2016 that is, not an early 2017 one!

Ever since before Christmas my former housemate and I have been e-mailing back and forth about the saga of the missing Christmas present. She had seen something that she preceded to purchase for me – well in advance as she usually has her Christmas presents locked in before the new school year starts!

It didn’t arrive. After a couple of months she re-ordered and was reimbursed for the first purchase – still sending it to my Swiss address as the French one is never reliable and she is often not at her current Swiss one. Getting confused? Our lives are not your ordinary “live in one place and take holidays once a year” type.

The second one also never arrived in spite of repeated reminders from her part to the company through which she had ordered it. Finally in desperation she placed a third order and had it sent to her daughter’s house in Massachusetts: just a reminder, both my housemate and I live in Switzerland, but we travel a lot and the chances of picking something up from an USA address, or alternatively having family there send it turns out to be a lot more reliable.

Anyway, that order did finally arrive and made it back across the ocean in her suitcase just a couple of weeks ago (never mind that at that point she had returned to her home in France, there was a trip planned to Switzerland).

The upshot: drum rolls, high fives and firecrackers so acknowledge the receipt yesterday of my final 2016 Christmas present.

What, you might wonder, was so special that she went through all the effort? Ah… not only one of my favorite activities (and having finally finished my taxes I can now enjoy a bit of leisure so its arrival was well timed) – a puzzle, but such a cute one – a cat that greatly resembles Cléa, wound around books on a book shelf. It is also only 750 pieces so I have already been able to put a dent in the frame and start it. It may have been the last present, but it was definitely one worth the time and effort on her part!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Epic Road Trip Day 8

And on our way again, but this time at our speed and with no social obligations whatsoever, if one doesn’t count the elephant seals!

Monday, May 1st after a walk and breakfast at home we left by 9h30 and K says “hey we got off before 10” to which I replied “yes but we were aiming for 9”. Never mind – it allowed us to make a first stop at the Outlets in Gilroy, capital of garlic – they even have garlic ice cream – not that I have ever been tempted to try it.

Then down Highway 101 where I know almost every inch of the road. Upon arrival in Cambria checked in to our hotel the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach where we were able to negotiate an ocean-side room for $40.00 more than what we had paid online. No. 101 this time so I have stayed in most of them now.

Same car, same people, new loop

Our terrace at the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach, CA
Then top down (of the car that is!) and off to see the bathing beauties: the Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas just above San Simeon and Hearst Castle. I still love seeing them and could spend hours watching them laze about, flip sand over themselves to keep cooler and jostle with each other. The Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery spreads over 6 miles of shoreline around Point Piedras Blancas on the central coast of California and was probably the fullest that I have seen. Also the first time that I didn’t freeze to death. By the way there is an association Friends of the Elephant Seals and a webcam http://www.elephantseal.org/view.htm

One part of the beach and rookery

I will be heard

Sweet dreams indeed

A little teenage talk

Wake up, there's an ocean out there

Just stretching

Once back on Moonstone Beach we went for an early dinner at the Moonstone Bar and Grill. I splurged and had a beer, the calamari frita, the crab cakes and some salad. We also shared the deep-fat fried jalapenos as a starter. Nothing but delicious. 

fried jalapenos

Calamari frita, crab cakes, asparagus and salad
Afterwards we were tempted to simply fall in bed but as only about 18h30 made ourselves take a walk along the boardwalk. When we returned we sat on our porch and watched the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean.

Like the pillow said: In order for the most uninteresting event to become an adventure, one must and needs only to tell the story.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Epic Road trip Day 7

Sunday morning, April 30th, but no sleeping in, the three women went to Farmstead again for coffee where J. found us. Slowly looked for more breakfast down Main St. but finally simply bought bread and fruit in a grocery store before returning to cousin J’s to eat.

There were some very entertaining sights along the way, including a woodpecker and a cat observing the world from the protection of a truck.

Never mind “Nieman’s motorcycle rentals” where there was a Douglas A1H Skyraider as well as a Pratt Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major Convair B-36 2Peace Maker” engine. A plaque on the wall informed us that it was sometimes called “The Aluminum Overcast”, that it had been ordered into production by the then Strategic Air Command 4 Star General Curtis Lemay; the same who ordered the production of the B-36 to carry the hydrogen bomb. An engineering masterpiece, it was the last of the radial piston engines.

A WWII Continental 7 cylinder tank radial engine fueled by propane and N/O. 440 HP attached to a VW “Bug”. The reverse pitch propeller pushes the car forward to a speed yet to be determined. Being the most dangerous VW in the world, engineering challenges lie ahead. Stay tuned.

Made the motorcycle on the same lot seem tame – if one discounts the “driver”.

Packed up, visited a couple of stores in downtown St.Helena then quickly looked at an  Estate sale.

Then it was back on the road headed for “home”. Must admit that I was glad that my sister was driving as the freeways and the drivers here scare the heck out of me!

We were starving by the time we got to Cupertino so went and had a lovely taco salad at Chipotle’s for late lunch around 14h00. Home to do the wash and re-pack as the next morning we were off on our Southern loop. Not letting any grass grow under my feet on this trip!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Epic Road Trip – Day 6

A more leisurely awakening that fine Saturday morning as we were spending two nights at our cousin’s in St.Helena, Napa Valley. My sister’s husband had had too much to do so he came late that morning instead of Fri. night and it was “just” the three of us who walked over to Farmstead and had coffee under the trees before going back to J’s to have cinnamon toast.

The coffee bar is open early

Farmstead, entry to gift shop
As it was not yet too hot she then accompanied us on a walk out to the goats, past the Montessori school and through the vineyards.

One of thousands of pocket vineyards in Napa Valley

The Montessori school there has the kids doing hands on activities

More utensils to work in the field

Lunch time for a kid

Interesting sheep

Early that evening we again wandered over to Farmstead very early as they had been fully booked. Ended up sitting at the bar and having a fun “dinner” with totally gorgeous potatoes and cheddar biscuits. I had a kale salad with chicken.

Interesting, but not comfortable: we chose the bar

Glass line up

When we got back to our cousin’s house she invited another friend over and the three of us enjoyed a good bottle of wine whilst sister K and her husband J drove over to see the goats.

This bottle went down very well.

Company left fairly early and we were all in bed by 22:00. I had one of the best nights so far and slept through a solid 8 hours, then dozed another hour: WONDERFUL.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Epic Road Trip – Day 5

After a wee pause to take the second loop of our road trip…

Backtracking to Friday April 28th, we had breakfast at our hotel in Eureka and were on the road by 9h15 headed back to Ferndale to check out the cemetery, truly one of the more unique that I have seen – and I like cemeteries so try and visit more than the average person probably.

The bay back of the Best Western Bayshore in Eureka

Victorian Inn - dinner was scrumptious


View from the middle of the cemetery towards the church

Looking up the hill

Way too appropriate!

Lovely, lovely

On the way out we discussed coffee and a sweet: one of our party turned it down the other two outvoted so we parked on main street and looked around. Weren’t finding much so asked a restaurant worker who was going into his place. He said that Humboldt Sweets was great if it was open: the place stood up to the hype and the calories were abundant!
Shared half of a cheesecake with raspberries and another crust, coffee, caramel, chocolate creation slathered in whip cream together with coffee. Living dangerously.

Then we hit the road to go across on 136 instead of back tracking yet again over 299. The classmate that had met us in the redwoods had said that it was 2 ½ hours, but it turned out to be almost 4. Lots of hair pin curves and windy bits, very little straight although they are trying to get it into shape as an alternative to Highway 299. Sure was pretty country though. So we went past Clear Lake twice on this trip.

One of many rivers - lost track of the names

Looking back

Sad - one of the burn areas that our so prevelant in California

About mid-way

Warnings at Platina's

Mount Lassen in the distance

Rice silos along the valley

Green, green, green this year (I wasn't driving!)

Ended up in St.Helena with 45 minutes to spare before our dinner reservation at Cindy’s Backstreet where we treated our superb driver and our hostess-to-be.

Coming into the Napa Valley

Napa Valley, North-Eastern top of the valley

F left before we did dessert (yet again) and then we toddled off home to cousin J’s and a glass of wine. We were all exhausted so made it to bed kind of on time. Mileage on the rental car? J’s to J’s = exactly 900 miles!