California Road Trip: Golf, Wine and . . . I Don’t Remember!

The Central Coast

The ‘Roadies’

Saturday – Depart Orange County at 7:30 a.m.  Roadies included Jack & JJ Budd, John & Judy VanBoxmeer and Linda and me; Chuck and Linda Sager were scheduled to go on this boondoggle, but a death in the family prevented their attendance. A special ‘Thank You!’ to Ron Erickson, a local Mercedes dealer, who GAVE us a Mercedes Sprinter van to use. It was awesome, as it allowed us all to ride together and annoy each other every minute of the trip.

First stop, Alisal’s Ranch golf course, just outside the quaint Danish town of Solvang. The course was beautiful and well managed, unlike my golf game, which was ugly and mismanaged, but beautiful white oak trees provided plenty of shade on this warm summer afternoon and the cold beer at the end of the round tasted particularly good. Fortunately I still know how to play the 19th hole very well!

Solvang

We tried to get into ‘The Hitching Post’ for dinner, a

restaurant made famous by the classic movie, Sideways, but we ended up eating at another well-known restaurant in Santa Ynez, The Brother’s Red Barn – excellent beef and seafood in rustic surroundings.

Sunday – Up early for breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House in tourist-filled Solvang, then golf at the River course in Alisal. Scores are not important, although I should mentioned that I once again played the 19th hole particularly well. The evening was spent on ‘The Square’ in Paso Robles – a spot filled with great watering holes and restaurants. We ate at what was clearly the most popular restaurant in town, based on the waiting time on a Sunday night, Fish Gaucho, which loosely translates to ‘Fish Cowboy’ – excellent food, service and ambiance.

Candice in the ‘Peep Hole’

Prior to eating dinner we had stopped at another bar (surprise!) and were told by our server, Summer about a ‘Speak Easy’ in town. She said all you have to do is go down the street and around the corner, behind this building and look for a door with gas lamps over it and no name. There will be a doorbell to ring and then someone will open the ‘peep hole’ and maybe let you in. After dinner we did just that and Candice’s face appeared in the ‘peep hole’, we said, “Summer sent us”. She let us in. The place, called ‘1122’, because the address is 1122 Railroad Ave, has only been open for just over a month and is run by four young men who come from different parts of the country, bringing with them their special mixology talent that makes for a most creative drink menu, many of which required heat, smoke and/or fire. Mine, at left, required the harvesting of an entire mint farm.

Daou Winery

Monday – Breakfast at Joe’s Place, a restaurant that describes itself as a greasy spoon, hole in the wall – great breakfast, sassy waitresses. Then to Daou Winery, which offers great wines and even greater views of the Paso Robles valley. We were given a tour and history of the winery and then sat down for cheese and charcuterie (I didn’t know what it meant either, but I was embarrassed to ask – it’s chorizo, berries, prosciutto, pate, etc., served with cheese and ‘paired’ with various wines). Daou is a MUST if you’re visiting wineries in Paso Robles. In contrast to the 115 acre Daou Winery, our next stop was a the 11 acre boutique Pelletiere Winery that specializes in Italian wines – great tasting experience, where I found a wine combining my two favorite grapes, Sangiovese and Zinfandel – Magnifico!

Leaving the Central Coast for Sonoma/Napa.  To be continued . . .

THE BACKYARD BLOG ABOUT NOTHING

by Bob Sparrow

nothing1I know I don’t always succeed, but I always try to write something entertaining about where I’ve been or where I’m going, as I love travel and I seem to look at things from a little different perspective than most others. Or I’ll write about some little, but hopefully interesting, observation of life. Sister Suzanne does a particularly great job of the latter – I mean really, she brought us to tears last week writing about taking her dog for a walk out to the end of her driveway. Me – not so much, as I said, I usually rely on ‘going somewhere’ and hoping to find something interesting to write about.

sb coast

Santa Barbara coast

Last week I was supposed to go on a camping trip along the Santa Barbara coast, exploring the beaches and cliffs of this beautiful area, but for various reasons that I’m sure you’re not interested in – heck, I’m not even that interested – the trip was cancelled. So there I was, ready to regale you with my adventurous treks along the beautiful Central Coast and now I’ve got nothing. Didn’t go anywhere. Didn’t see anything interesting. Nothing extraordinary happened to me. Didn’t discover any special or unique places. I’ve got nothing. Even though Seinfeld made a career out of it, it’s hard to write about nothing. Although some have said there’s a lot of nothing in many of my previous blogs.

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Deck-side umbrella table and palapa

fireplace

Outside fireplace

So last weekend instead of camping in the Chumash Mountain Wilderness, I wandered around in my backyard. No, I didn’t camp there, although there have been occasions, when the kids were younger, when I’d pitch a tent on the back lawn, spend the night in it and be awakened in the morning by the sprinklers that I forgot to turn off. So, this week my ‘going somewhere’ turned out to be my backyard, and while I enjoy putzing around back there, I’m not finding anything of interest to write about this week. Unlike my sister’s backyard, which has Pinnacle Peak, I have no natural landmarks. I do however have some ‘man-made’ landmarks and so I wander around back there trying to find inspiration from them. I look past the pool deck umbrella table where no one is sitting to the palapa that no one is sitting under, and I get no inspiration . . . nothing. I check the ‘Tiki Bar’ to see if there are any stragglers left over from the weekend, perhaps with a good story to tell that would make for an interesting blog . . . nothing. I recently bought a new umbrella for our outside fireplace area, and although it’s nice, it’s hardly blog-worthy. I crank up some Jimmy Buffet music through the outside speakers hoping to get some inspiration from him . . . nothing. We bought this house new 28 years ago and the backyard was just dirt . . . nothing. And today in terms blog inspiration . . . nothing. I’m thinking maybe I should talk to some of the plants; perhaps they’ll talk back and give me something to write about. I bend down and put my ear to the hydrangeas . . . nothing.

bar

The Tiki Bar

plumeria

Plumeria

 

Behind the pool is what I called my ‘Ho’omana’O Honopua’, which loosely translate in Hawaiian to ‘Memorial Garden’. I love Hawaii, so my intent with this garden was to bring Hawaii to my backyard, so I wouldn’t have to pay airfare or expensive hotel rates to enjoy the sights and smell of palms and plumeria. I’ve told my family that I’d like my ashes under the moai (stone monoliths from Easter Island – a bucket list destination) on the right in the picture below. It is already a memorial garden in that when I returned from my best friend, Don Klapperich’s funeral, I purchased the moai on the left in the picture below and buried under it a shell casing from the rifles fired during the military memorial service.

memorial garden

Ho’ Omana ‘ o Honopua

It’s getting dark and there will be no lights turned on in the backyard tonight, no tiki torches lit, no music playing, no adult beverages consumed; there will be, like this blog . . . nothing.