Senior Social Media Moments

by Bob Sparrow

photo (8)First, I want to thank those who follow us here by subscribing to our blog and especially those who take the time to comment on the subject of the week.  Second, I’d like to sincerely thank those who have been following my quest to become Jauntaroo’s first Chief World Explorer, which you know by now has consumed me.  It has been an awesome experience, one that has helped me understand what I really want to do when I grow up.  OK, I’m never growing up, just growing older.

But I must say, in many cases, it’s been a real challenge to get my peers to ‘Like’ my video.  Not that they wouldn’t like it if they saw it, it’s just that they’re . . . how can I put this delicately, social media challenged.  Following is a sample of what I mean.

Me: “Were you able to see my video and ‘Like’ it?”

Senior: “Didn’t see it so can’t tell you if I liked it.  Where was it?”

Me: “You can pick up the URL on my Facebook page that will take you to the video link”

Senior: “Say what?  I don’t have Faceplant”

Me: “That’s Facebook”    OLD GUYS

Senior: “Whatever”

Me: “I also tweeted it on Twitter”

Senior: “You did what?”

Me: “Never mind. What about LinkedIn?”

Senior: “What about him?  I thought he was one of our greatest presidents”

Me: “Not Lincoln, LinkedIn. Did you see the blog?”

Senior: “The Blob, wasn’t that a ‘50s science fiction movie?”

Me: No, do you have an iPhone, iPad?”

Senior: “iRefuse”

Me: “Hey, I need your help here, I’m trying to get this thing to go viral”

Senior: “Sorry, don’t they have shots for that now?” road sign

Me:  “Yeah, thanks.  What about Instagram?”

Senior: “Is that Billy Graham’s sister?”

Me: “Pinterest?”

Senior: “No, I’ve lost interest, mind if I go back to reading my newspaper?”

OK, it’s not quite that bad, but it’s based on true stories.  To be fair, there are many of my peers who are very tech savvy, but risking their indignation, I’ve asked those over fifty to pass my ‘voting messages’ on to their children, and in some cases their grandchildren.

babyboomersHere’s the paradoxical thing about all this – the demographic that is now in their peak earning years or retiring, the Baby Boomers, have the time, interest and wealth to travel, yet it is the group that seems antidotally at least, the hardest to reach electronically.  The percentage of those 50 and older who get most of their news from the Internet drops significantly from the younger-than-50 group and the numbers for the 65+ group drop even more dramatically.  So, how does a relatively new travel company like Jauntaroo get the attention of this critical demographic?  I have some ideas, but they’re going to have to hire me in order to hear them.

If you’re reading this, you’re clearly not the people I’m talking about above, so as Jack Kennedy’s presidential campaign manager in Chicago said, “Vote early and vote often”. vote


Thank you



Jauntaroo Who?

by Bob Sparrow

Januntaroo   No, Jauntaroo Who is not the bon vivant brother of Cindy Lou Who, the wee tot in The Grinch That Stole Christmas, who espied the Grinch on Christmas Eve stuffing the family Christmas tree up the chimney.  Rather it is a relatively new travel agency that has caught my eye and the eyes of several thousand other people recently with a unique employment opportunity.

They are offering a $100,000 salary to a person who will travel to some 50 destinations during the course of 2014, mingling with various cultures, helping those less fortunate and using social media to keep the rest of the world abreast of all the adventures that ensue.

How do I know about this?  I was working in my office, which is a loft in our bedroom while my wife, Linda was getting ready for work in the bathroom, watching the Today show, where Jauntaroo was getting air time from Al Roker and Mel B about their ‘Best Job Around the World’ employment offer.  Linda called my attention to the ad and said, “This job has your name all over it!”   My uneasiness over my wife’s enthusiasm for me applying for a job that would put me on the road through most of 2014 should I win, was tempered by my excitement over the prospects of doing just that.

So, yes of course I’m applying!  I am currently in the process of filling out the application, part of which requires a one-minute video on why I should be Jauntaroo’s first Chief World Explorer.  That video is in the making as I write this and should be ‘in the can’ (that’s Hollywood talk for finished, not in the garbage can) by September 6th, as the deadline for applications is September 15th.

Once the video is posted, I will be bugging every person I know to go on line and ‘Like’ it – EVERYDAY, as you can ‘vote’ every 24 hours according to the Jauntaroo  rules.  As part of the ‘interview’ process, Jauntaroo is looking to see how much social media attention job candidates can generate – so I’ll need help from all of you to show these young wiper-snappers that there is still plenty of tread left on these tires.

If you like travel, their website at has some interesting features, like their unique ‘Vacation Finder’, ‘Travel With A Cause’ and their daily ‘Travel Tip’.  They take a very personal approach to matching travelers with the right destinations.  You can also click on  ‘THE CANDIDATES’ and you’ll be able to see all the videos that have been submitted thus far for the ‘dream job’. Well, you won’t want to see ALL 1,000+ videos, but hopefully you’ll see one, mine.

I’m apologizing in advance for the ‘reminders’ to vote that I’ll be sending out to all of you and asking you to send them on to all your contacts.  The video is short and you’ll hopefully be entertained . . . for 60 seconds.

Prairie Home Companions

by Bob Sparrow


Barney’s Jersey Farm

Pardon me if I seem a little jet-lagged, but last week my travels took me back in time to southern Minnesota.  It’s not that southern Minnesota is behind the times, far from it, it’s just that the mid-west, and particularly Minnesota and particularly this family, embodies good old mid-western values that we on the coasts just don’t see much of anymore.  It was refreshing to be surrounded by people who fervently hang on to the importance of family. The occasion was the 90th birthday of Warren Barnes, my father-in-law, who admitted that he wasn’t going to be 90 until December, but December is not a time to ask people to come to Minnesota – that’s ‘hibernating’ season.  So the party was held last week, when according to Warren he was “prettin’ear 90”.

While it was Warren’s birthday celebration, it was really a tribute to both Warren and wife, Phyllis, who is a young 87, for the wonderful life they’ve led and the incredible families that were created out of their marriage in 1945. The birthday celebration was held on Saturday in RochesterMN, but the preliminary activities on Friday took us south on a tour of the Barnes’ hometown, Canton, MN.  The photos below show 1) the parking lot of the Canton Coffee Shop; yes it is still a one-horse town, 2)  a farmer driving the ‘company car’ through Lanesboro, and 3) traffic at Amish rush hour.  We visited the old family spread and one could still barely make out the words ‘Barney’s Jersey Farm’ on the side of the barn.

1. horse  2.  Lansboro  3. Amish


Cobb Residence

That evening, dinner was at the bucolic residence of Gene & Denise Cobb (granddaughter); he a 25-year IBMer and she a math whiz teaching ‘Advance Placement’ classes at the local high school.  They bought 5 acres in the beautiful rolling hills outside of Rochester and built a house, planted fruit trees and a garden with almost every conceivable vegetable known to man, and some not known, at least to this man – like salsify; then added some chickens and goats and cats and a dog and probably by the time you’re reading this, who knows what species of flora and fauna have taken up residence?

PHC     The birthday event on Saturday mystically transported us to Lake Wobegon from A Prairie Home Companion’.  For those unfamiliar, A Prairie Home Companion is a radio program originating out of Minnesota that started in 1974 hosted by Garrison Keillor and featuring a variety of musical and comedic entertainment that typifies the mid-west.  The show can still be heard every Saturday on public radio.  Warren and Phyllis’s children, grand children and great grand children as well as in-laws and friends spoke and performed various acts from playing musical instruments, to singing and dancing, to a game of ‘Jeopardy’ based on the life and times of Warren.  But the emotional highlight of the event was the reuniting of ‘The Barnes Trio’.

barnes trio early

The Barnes Trio – back in the day

Barnes Trio

The Barnes Trio (Dale, Linda, Starlet) – reunited

Warren and Phyllis’s three children, Starlet (Barnes) Brummer, Dale Barnes and Linda (Barnes) Sparrow formed ‘The Barnes Trio’ and started singing together back on the farm when they were all in grade school; they were good enough to be sponsored by Purina Dog Chow and they performed all over the state from talent shows to county fairs.  This evening they sang ‘Daddy’s Hands to a very emotional crowd, particularly the guest of honor.


Phyllis & Warren Barnes

     Warren and Phyllis have truly been ‘prairie home companions’ for the last 68 years – a remarkable couple and a remarkable family.  Their response to all the festivities? “This has been the best day of our lives”.  Considering the number of good days in their collective lives, that’s  saying quite a lot.  Well-deserved!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

We’ve been spending a lot of time this past month in the historic city of San Luis Obispo – a city of many dichotomies. Where else can you visit a historic religious site and be solicited by Greenpeace crusaders on the same block? Or mingle with whiz kids at the coffee house and then potentially sleep in a room dedicated to one of the biggest pop stars in the world? San Luis Obispo (or “SLO” as it’s known here), that’s where!

San Luis Obispo Mission and the statue of Father Serra before he took off.

San Luis Obispo Mission and the statue of Father Serra before he took off.

Our first visit on this trip was to the beautiful San Luis Obispo mission. It was fifth in the succession of missions established by Father Junipero Serra, built in 1772. Yes, that’s right. He founded the mission before the first tea bag was even dumped in Boston Harbor. Father Serra had traveled through SLO some years before and remembered it as a place of abundant flora and fauna, in addition to almost perfect weather. And bears. Yep – here on the central coast of California apparently the area was rife with bears.

He quickly made friends with the local Chumash Indian tribe and engaged them to help build the mission. But shortly after the cornerstone of the building was set, Father Serra said a quick mass and hightailed it back to San Diego. The history is unclear as to what sent him running back to civilization before the building was complete. My guess is it was the bears. In any event, the mission was completed two years later and is still thriving today. It remains an active Catholic parish and its plaza is considered the town center where on any given weekend you’ll find a wide array of concerts, fairs and festivals.

After leaving the Mission we decided to grab a quick cup of coffee before visiting our next stop. A few steps later I was approached by a

A typical Cal Poly geek

A typical Cal Poly geek

rather scraggly young man who told me that I looked like a nice person. So right away I knew he was no judge of character. He then proceeded to follow me down the street, talking about the rain forests and whales. He gave up on me when I showed no interest but at the next corner I ran across one of his counterparts who made no attempt to assess my personality but gave me pretty much the same pitch. Turns out they were students at Cal Poly-SLO and worked for Greenpeace in their spare time. Cal Poly-SLO is a school for high tech geeks. Think of the characters on “The Big Bang Theory” and you’ve pretty much nailed the average Cal Poly student. Still, I hadn’t been solicited by Greenpeace (or anyone else for that matter) in 10 years. I felt as if I’d been transported to another time and space. But actually, that phenomenon was awaiting me at our next stop – the Madonna Inn.


The Madonna Inn

The last time I had been to the Madonna Inn was in 1971 when I was a college student traveling between San Diego and Marin County. It was a good mid-way stop for coffee, food and bathroom breaks. I still remember the pink flocked wallpaper and gold fixtures in the restrooms. I assumed that the Inn would have gone under lots of modernization since then. I was wrong.

The Madonna Inn opened in 1956 and specializes in “theme” rooms. Their website offers 110 such rooms, from the “Caveman” to “Oriental Fantasy”. I think for my next job I want to be the room namer at the Madonna Inn. In any event, I wanted to see what modern-day changes they had made so I looked up the Madonna Room. I assumed it might be adorned with pointy bras and maybe some Vogue magazines or posters of Sean Penn or Warren Beatty. Nope.


Madonna Inn suite


This is a picture of the suite – named for the wife of Alex Madonna, the founder of the hotel. Apparently Mrs. Madonna was quite find of pink. I didn’t even want to see what the “Barrel of Fun” or “Jungle Rock” rooms looked like. I did get a glimpse of a room that had a safari theme with a huge buffalo head mounted on the wall staring down on the bed. It’s things like that that made Father Serra run for the hills.

All on all, SLO is a fabulous little town, well worth visiting. But unless you’re into gargoyles and pink, you might want to stay at the Marriott.

Missed Saigon

by Bob Sparrow

MissSaigonPreface   Back when the earth was still cooling and I was in the Navy (Yes, ours), I was stationed in Japan at Atsugi Navel Air Station and was an Ensign (Yes, and officer and a gentleman by an ACT of CONGRESS) on the staff of COMFAIRWESTPAC, which was ‘Navy-speak’ for, Commander, Fleet Air, Western Pacific.  My duties, aside from getting the Admiral’s coffee and newspaper to him in a timely manner each morning, eventually included arranging for the shipping of damaged helicopters out of Viet Nam to a repair facility in Japan and then shipping the repaired aircraft back into Viet Nam.  I had three seamen working for me at the time who took turns ‘escorting’ the repaired aircraft on the ships going back to the port of Da Nang, in South Viet Nam. 


I hate these ‘magnificent ceramic elephants’!

I eventually wanted to have a better understanding of what these escorts actually did and since I was in the Navy and had never set foot aboard a ship, I asked my commanding officer permission to be out of the office for a while and escort the next batch of helicopters headed ‘in country’.  Permission was granted.  I had a buddy, who was flying supply missions in a C-130 transport aircraft between Da Nang and Saigon, who told me he could throw me in with the cargo anytime if I wanted to tag along.  So I requested and was granted a couple of extra days for my trip.  This was 1969 and the war was in full swing and I wasn’t looking for a vacation, but rather wanted to see first hand, from a relatively safe distance, what was really going on.  Three days before my ship sailed out of Yokohama for Da Nang, my commanding officer had an opportunity to go to Bangkok, Thailand to pick up some ‘magnificent ceramic elephants’ for his wife and told me I needed to stay and man the office, that I could be an escort another time.  A ‘Reduction In Forces’ memo came out not too long after that and there was not ‘another time’, I was soon on my way home and out of the Navy (Yes, honorably).

welcom     So I never got to Da Nang and subsequently Missed Saigon, but I live in Orange County, which I’ve come to find out, has the largest Vietnamese population in the world, outside of Vietnam, some 200,000.  So my ‘in country’ plan evolved, after 44 years, into my ‘in county’ plan and eventually permission was granted by my commanding officer – my wife.


The Beginning of ‘Little Saigon’  After the Fall of Saigon in 1975 many Vietnamese refugees migrated to Southern California because, well, why anyone else would migrate to Southern California, the weather.  More and more gathered in the City of Westminster and eventually in 1988, then Governor George Deukmejian officially designated part of Westminster as ‘Little Saigon’.

Most of the literature I read about ‘Little Saigon’ prior to driving the 15 miles over there, described the food, the jewelry, the food, some temples and the food.   I learned that Pho (pronounced ‘Faa’), which is a noodle soup consisting of rice noodles, broth, meat and some spices, was the most popular Vietnamese dish.

The Trip – My son, Jeff is a lover of all food foreign, so I asked if he wanted to meet me for some Pho and an exploration of ‘Little Saigon’ – he obliged.

  We met at the HA NOI restaurant (Must have been in the northern part of town) and had a wonderful meal served by an older  gentleman who didn’t speak one word of English, but recommended several dishes by pointing to some pictures on the menu and making some Jeffsort of cooking gestures – what ever we ordered, it was delicious.  Jeff likes his food spicy, so he added some contents from a container on the table to his food; from his reaction, it might have been a bit too spicy, but it said it was good . . . through watering eyes.

Unfortunately that was the highlight of our trip.  I checked to see if there were any tours of ‘Little Saigon’ available – there are none.  ‘Little Saigon’ is a place of contradictions; it is of course East meeting West, so we shouldn’t have been surprised to see the Sun Moon Bakery or the sign in the jewelry mart reading, ‘Lien Phat’ (Lean Fat?), which was more confusing albeit less disturbing than ‘Dai Phat’.

2013-08-01 17.13.24       dai phat       DaiPhat

But for me there was too much West and not enough East. I expected narrow streets lined with colorful garments hanging from two-story wooden buildings, the smell of spicy food offered by traditionally dressed street vendors, Asian music playing – basically some Far East atmosphere.  What we got was a series of strip malls on a busy Southern California street.  It was sort of like Barstow with strip mall storefront signs you could only partly read.

2013-08-01 17.20.47

The Conclusion – For my money, if you want some good Vietnamese food, visit ‘Little Saigon’, if you want to get the feel of old Viet Nam, see ‘Miss Saigon’ or go to old Viet Nam.






by Suzanne Sparrow Watson 
Normally we are healthy eaters, if one can overlook the occasional foray to   Dairy Queen and In 'n Out. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I'm the only reason  the local kale farmer is in the black this year. Butwhen we are in Nipomo, as we are now, we throw caution and our cholesterol to the wind and eat at       Jocko's. Jocko's has put Nipomo on the map. Okay, that might be a slight      exaggeration since most people still don't know where Nipomo is. Nevertheless,it is likely that for those who do know where it is it's because they've been to Jocko's. Jocko's inside

As you can see from the picture Jocko’s has all the atmosphere of a cattle barn. I think the last remodel was done sometime in the 50’s. The 1850’s. But people come from far and wide to eat here so they must be doing something right. That something is their beef. It is grilled over an oak BBQ, with just the right amount of charring on the outside and tenderness on this inside. We went there last week with my brother, Jack, and his wife Sharon. It was a Tuesday night and we had a reservation for 6:30. We were not seated until almost 7. For those who didn’t have a reservation the wait is closer to an hour and a half. Let’s just say that the bar business at Jocko’s is quite brisk.

It’s the type of place thatJocko's bar serves drinks in those old-fashioned jelly jar glasses but that’s just what you’d expect at joint that has paper place mats. The wait staff is cheerful, which is astounding given that they serve over 300 dinners a night – every night. The menu has a wide array of beef dishes but their chicken is also out of this world. The steak sandwich is HUGE and comes with a salad, antipasto dish, beans, potato, and then, as if your veins aren’t already coursing with enough fat, vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

The price of all this? $17.00. Or, to put it in perspective, $1 less than Bob paid for two beers at Del Mar. JSB NIPOMO

Speaking of Bob, we just had our annual family golf tournament here in Nipomo.
There was a lot of pre-tournament revelry, as you can see from the picture of us three.

I think Bob had just said something about winning the golf tournament. Or some such foolishness. In any event, there was much revelry on Friday night. By Saturday morning there was some talk of needing resuscitation but the group rallied in time to take a stroll through the quaint town of Arroyo Grande. As it turns out, there was a vintage car show on the Main Street and we had a ball walking around looking at all the old cherry cars. Until we realized that we had either owned or ridden in most of them. It is a sad day indeed when you realize that you are “vintage”. Jack decided to sit in front of a local winery with our dog,Dash, and just watch the world go by.

20130728-172158.jpgHe always was the smart one.

In any event, our golf tournament later that day was a bit of a bust. We played the 12 hole Challenge Course at Monarch Dunes. Some of us were more challenged than others. It is a prickly little track with greens that defy the normal logic of putting. To make matters worse, I was in charge of scoring but I completely forgot to record one of the holes. Which on a 12 hole course is pretty pathetic. And tells you everything you need to know about my short term memory these days. But since I was in charge and had the scorecard I just declared that the girls won the tournament and the guys were no wiser. Until they read this.

But never let it be said that a little cheating at golf got in the way of a good time with our family. We all know that we are so lucky to be related…and better yet, good friends.

Opening Day at Del Mar (Part 2)

by Bob Sparrow

DSC00675    On the way to my seat I pass the ‘Cross Over’ – a path through the bleachers where all the horses and jockeys travel  on their way from the paddock to the racetrack – I stop to watch the parade for the first race.   To  my amazement even  the horses are wearing little silk hats on their saddles in the shape of a joc . . ., no wait, that is a  jockey, my gosh they  are small.  I’ve seen a jockey bigger than that on my neighbor’s lawn.

I finally make my way to my seat.  When I bought my ticket over the phone, I was told that my seat was in the ‘pole  position’; I thought the pole position in racing was a good thing – not so much.  Fortunately, my poor pole position  seat  was minimized by my lack of betting acumen, so I never really needed to see the finish line at the end of the race, as my horses were in no particular hurry to get there.  The picture to the right shows that long after the race was finished, I was still waiting for my horse to round the club house turn.DSC00645

“Another beer?”

“No, think I’ll have one of those Mint Julep things, you know, kind of get into the spirit of things?”

“You’re not at Churchill Downs.”


“Do you want some fruit and an umbrella with that?”

 “Hey, are you saying that it’s kind of a girlie drink?  I thought it was a ‘racing drink’.”

“Sir, there’s a line behind you?”

 “Fine, I’ll take one . . . and a shot of tequila!”

Guess I showed her who’s a man!

DSC00679     Aside from a few pre-historic creatures with faces you could bounce a trifecta ticket off of, the crowd was generally  very  young – I kept wondering, ‘Do their parents know they’re here . . . dressed like that?’  And I found that most of  these 20 and 30-somethings paid, even for a single drink, with a card, not cash.  I understand that that generation  really doesn’t  use a lot of cash, but I’m just hoping they were using debit cards and not credit cards; otherwise those $9  beers, with interest, were  costing them about $10.75.

With a bratwurst, a beer (Oh yeah, I got another $9 beer) and my racing form, I sit down in my pole position seat and  watch the people parade.  I must admit that the ladies do a great job at ‘dress up’ – I guess that’s in their DNA; most of them look great.  The guys?  Not so much, although a couple of ‘dandies’ (left) did stop and pose as well as a guy (right) in a seersucker jacket – Sears made it, a sucker bought it.DSC00680

There were a few party fouls perpetrated by ladies who tried to pour their 12-gallon bodies into an 8-gallon dress and top it off with cheesy chapeau; consequently ‘Where the Turf Meets the Surf’, became ‘Where the Hat Meets the Fat’.  Thankfully, no pictures are available.

DSC00681  Here’s me ‘tearing it up’ – my ticket that is, on some nag with a catchy  name that ran  like she was headed to the glue factory.  You can see that the guy sitting  next to me was  less-than-amused with my racetrack antics.

Surprisingly, I didn’t win a race all day, but with great weather, great refreshments and great scenery, I managed to eke  out a good time.

For those worried that I may have been driving under the influence on my way home, worry not; I took the train; not that I was being so responsible, I just couldn’t remember where I had parked my car and OK, I accidentally got on the bus to the train station.  It was just as well, I couldn’t find my keys.

Disclaimers: The Del Mar Opening Day experience was wonderful, my seat wasn’t as bad as it looked, the horses were awesome animals (just not the ones I bet on), the jockeys are courageous athletes, I did see a few over-weight people there, but they all seemed very jolly and, the beers were in fact $9 each, but I only had two of them (honest, Officer).

We are looking for more subscribers – know any?

Opening Day at Del Mar (Part 1)

by Bob Sparrow

DSC00657      I can count the number of horse races I’ve been to by scratching the ground with my hoof three times, and the number of Opening Days I’ve been to without scratching the ground at all.  But I live about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Del Mar where Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Durante, Pat O’Brien and Oliver Hardy, all part owners, celebrated Del Mar’s first Opening Day back in 1937, so I felt it was time for me to join some 43,000 other fans and open up this year’s racing season at the Del Mar Race Track. 

     I was told to get there early and use the entrance by the ‘Turf Club’ – that’s where all the Hollywood stars go in.  As I’m waiting for the gates to open there, I did see a couple that was trying very hard to look like Scarlett Johansson and Bradley Cooper, but came off looking more like Rosie O’Donnell and Alice Cooper, in stupid hats.  It seemed as if Silicon Valley had moved a little south for the day, but this day was not about nipping and tucking, in fact it wasn’t even really about horse racing . . . it was mostly about hats!  One could find hats of every shape, color and description, and some that were beyond description – some elegant, some hideous.

   DSC00636    DSC00666   DSC00646   DSC00662

     The ‘show’ had started and I wasn’t even inside yet, and it became painfully obvious that I was not going to be let in at the ‘Turf Club’ entrance (I think my skin was too loose), so I meandered down to the ‘Steerage’ gate and was herded through.

“I’d like to buy a  . . . schedule . . . a list of the races . . . a program, a . . . ”                                                                                                                                         “Racing Form?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         “Yes, that’s it, thank you”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     “Good luck buddy!”

With racing form in hand, I pretend to study it, or do whatever it is one does with a racing form.  It makes me thirsty and son of a gun if they don’t have plenty of places to buy a drink.

“That’ll be nine dollars”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           “I’m sorry I just wanted one beer”                                                                                                                                                                                                                       “That’s all you’re getting for nine dollars”                                                                                                                                                                                                           “But it’s only 10 ounces, that’s almost a dollar an ounce!”                                                                                                                                                                                     “Sir, there’s a line behind you”                                                                                                                                                                                                                               “Fine!”

     The beer went down too quickly (Hey, it was only 10 ounces!) and I soon find myself back in the $9 beer line reading the racing form and having a little trouble understanding some of the jargon therein.  I asked another $9 beer line-stander for the definition of a ‘furlong’; he said, “Let me put it this way, with your racing knowledge and proclivity for drinking, your money won’t last furlong.”  I didn’t like his answer, so I turned to another line-stander and ask him to explain what the ‘odds’ meant.  He said, “All you need to know is that they’re always against you”.  I quit asking, but continued to study the racing form and found out that horses in a ‘Maiden Race’ and I have a lot in common, neither of us have ever won a race.

     But today the horses and racing are really secondary to the festivities, and I don’t want to bury my head in racing form statistics while all the ‘festivities’ walk by in short skirts, high heels and bodacious . . . hats.

     I asked a group of young ladies if they wouldn’t mind posing for me for a picture.  The picture below shows their response.



Thursday: Opening Day at Del Mar (Part 2)  My ‘pole position’ seat



Captain Dana Tree
Hopefully he didn’t hang people from it

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This week we’re doing the best thing you can do in Scottsdale in the summer.  Leave.  I can hardly contain my excitement.  If it weren’t so darn hot I’d do a dance, but blinking my eyes while lying in a heap on the couch will have to suffice.  For several summers now we have spent a few weeks in Nipomo.  If you’re typical of my friends you have just asked yourself – where in the heck is Nipomo?  I’ve had people guess that it’s some quaint village on the coast of Italy.  One person thought we were going to a remote city in Japan.  I have even discovered that if you write it in a blog, spell-checker doesn’t recognize “Nipomo”. Fact is, most people have no idea where it is and that’s what makes it so good.

Nipomo is a quaint coastal village and it is remote (sort of) set between Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo in the Central Coast of California.  We discovered it several years ago as we were driving on Highway 101 from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  There was a Trilogy development that had just opened in Nipomo that we wanted to check out.  For those of you unfamiliar, Trilogy is the name Shea Homes has given to all the “active adult” communities they’re building. Guess it sounds better than “old geezer housing”.   Being active and adult (okay, not always but at least sometimes) we wanted to see if it might be a place to live one day.

We told the sales person we had never heard of Nipomo and he said that it was once the answer to the “Jeopardy” question: “Where is the most consistent weather in the United States?”   Given that NO ONE I know in California has ever heard of Nipomo, much less contestants who might be on Jeopardy, I suspect that it was just one of the many lies that the salesman told that day.  But we were intrigued enough with the surroundings to come back the next summer and stay in the Blacklake Golf community and have done so most summers ever since.

Turns out that Nipomo was first settled by the Chumash Indians.  Ne-po-mah is the Chumash term for “foot of the hill”.  It probably should have been “footing the bill” given the success of their current day casino.  Rancho Nipomo was one of the first and largest of the Mexican land grants in San Luis Obispo County.  Modern day Nipomo was founded in 1837 when the Mexican governor granted William Dana, a Boston sea-captain, 38,000 acres in the area.  He married a woman from Santa Barbara and in 1839 they built the Dana Adobe, which served as an important stop for travelers between Mission San Luis Obispo and Mission Santa Barbara.  It also became the exchange point for mail going between Northern and Southern California, thus becoming the first regular mail route in California.  I wonder if they lost as much mail back then?  But I digress.

Migrant Mother

Migrant Mother

Nipomo became a large farming area and was a major stop for the Pacific Coast Railway from the 1880’s through the 1930’s.  Turns out that one of my favorite photographs (right)was taken in Nipomo:  “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange .  Apparently during the Depression Ms. Lange worked for the Resettlement Administration and would travel the old US Highway 101 photographing migrant farm workers.  The name of the woman in the picture is Florence Owens Thompson.  In the 1950’s the current Highway 101 was built west of the old road.  Fittingly, the old highway was re-named Thompson Road.


Blacklake Golf Course
Odds are I’ll be in that trap

By the end of 1942, the train tracks had been removed for the war effort and Nipomo became just another small farming community.  Today, it is known for two things:  golf and Jocko’s steak house.  The golf is good, with 27 holes at Blacklake, 30 holes at Trilogy (including a fabulous 12 hole 3-par course) and a beautiful course in Arroyo Grande, just a mile from Nipomo.  Notice I said it was good – not great.  The Nipomo Chamber of Commerce describes the golf this way: “The prevalence of golf has led some to refer to Nipomo as a mini Pebble Beach, only with better weather.”  I think the “some” they’re referring to are a) members of said chamber and b) people who have never actually been to Pebble Beach.  But then again, in Nipomo you don’t pay $500 (plus cart and caddie) per round.  Nor do the golf courses in Nipomo require that you stay at their lovely Lodge for two nights at $700 per night in order to play there.    So all in all, it’s a good experience and you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to hit a little white ball.

Jocko’s Steak House is famous up and down the coast of California.  Even on a Tuesday night the line to get in wraps around the corner.  It’s so good that, well, I’ll just say this:  I don’t eat red meat and I make an exception once a year to eat at Jocko’s.  In fact, it is SO good that I will devote my next blog entirely to Jocko’s – assuming that I haven’t gone into cardiac arrest before I can write my review.















by Bob Sparrow

stregisbentley‘Road Trip’ was the simple headline in a local magazine; those words however are always a clarion call me and thus seduced me to read on.  This road trip was described as ‘one of the world’s most iconic drives’ – cruising the coast on Highway 1 between Orange County and San Francisco, taking in Big Sur and the beautiful coast line along the way.  I read on to discover that this ‘Pacific Grand Tour Aficionado Package’ was being offered by St. Regis Resorts.  As a rule Istregisoc try to stay away from packages with the word ‘Grand’ in them, as it usually refers to the price. Add words like ‘aficionado’ and St. Regis and I can almost feel my bank account wither as I’m reading.  But it gets better . . . or worse.  What makes the tour so grand is not only that it includes two nights at both ends of the trip in St. Regis Resorts in OC and SF, but it also includes a Bentley Mulsanne.  For those who think Bentley Mulsanne is a footman on Downton Abby, it is not; it is an expensive automobile – a very expensive automobile, like $300,000 expensive – if you don’t want any extras.  Undaunted . . . OK, I was somewhat daunted, but I continued reading and finally found what I was looking for . . . the price.  “Prices start at $6,900”, it said.  “Whew”, I breathed a sigh of relief, for a moment there I thought it was going to be up in the $7,000 range.   It doesn’t really say how far that ‘starting price’ will get you, but probably not out of the shadow of the St. Regis from which you are leaving, but I read on imagining myself tooling up Pacific Coast Highway in a Bentley.  I looked good.

When I finished reading the article I paused and wistfully thought to myself, I haven’t made that drive in many, many years and it is beautiful and what a thrill it would be to do it in a Bentley; I have the time and I’m not getting any younger, so . . .

zzyzxYou guessed it, I threw the magazine away and wondered what I was thinking.   But I’d been put in the mood for a road trip, so I decided to create my own package – I called it ‘The Grand Fun Bus to Barstow, Baker and Beyond’ – mostly Beyond.  It wasn’t in a bus, but it wasn’t in a Bentley either that Linda and I headed for Vegas tocdsLOVE celebrate her birthday.  Now I’m not saying that the Zzyzx Road turnoff reminded me of Big Sur or that Baker’s giant thermometer, as majestic as it is, compared favorably to the giant redwoods along the coast, but I’ll tell you this, we had $6,900 worth of fun, maybe $7,000.

The fun included a great room at the Mirage Hotel, an evening at the greatest Irish Pub (and I know my Irish Pubs) this side of Killarney, Ri Ra at Mandalay Bay, a liquid lunch (their specialty) at Margaritaville, where the bartenders put on a show that you’d pay to see, and the Cirque du Soleil LOVE show – an amazing performance that we did pay to see, AND we left town with about a thousand dollars more than we came with.

1000                                                                                                         NOW THAT’S A GRAND PACKAGE !

  I’m thinking that if I can do that 300 more time I can buy that Bentley!