“Stay Active!”

by Bob Sparrow

Sharon & Jack

Officially Spring will not be sprung until 5:58 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20, but this past weekend temperatures inched into the 80s and more importantly the rain stopped. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the rain, but enough already! If I liked rain that much I would have moved to Seattle.

Linda and I took off for Santa Maria on Friday morning to attend the 80th birthday party of my sister-in-law, Sharon.  Our first stop was at Dana’s bakery in Monrovia, for their famous blueberry pancakes and the best bacon ever. But the best part of breakfast was time with granddaughter, Addison, who never ceases to amaze us.

Addison

We took a detour on our way up through Simi Valley, were we visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to see an exhibit on Pompeii; as we will be visiting Pompeii later this year on our cruise around Italy. The exhibit included lots of information about life in the Roman Empire in the year 79 A.D. and in particular on the date of August 24th when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in a most dramatic style and buried the entire city of Pompeii under millions of tons of volcanic ash. With no planes, trains or automobiles to quickly get out of town, over 2,000 people were killed and fossilized in various positions trying to get out of the city.

While at the library, I took a picture of Linda with Ronnie and Nancy, who appeared a little stiff.

Our cloudless sunny drive continued over to the coast to Santa Barbara and lunch on the water at the Blue Water Grill, just across PCH from Stearns Wharf where we enjoyed the sun and salt air as we strolled the pier after lunch. We continued our drive up the coast and then inland to Santa Maria for a pre-birthday dinner at Jack & Sharon’s house.

Saturday morning we took a drive up the coast on another beautiful sunny day (it was almost like living in California) and had lunch at Wooly’s on the sand at Pismo Beach before returning to Santa Maria Country Club for Sharon’s birthday celebration which was attended by a group of 30 some odd family and friends, including both her children, Debbie and Brad, six of her seven grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. Sharon looks 65 and has plenty of spunk. When I asked her what her secret was she said, “Stay active!”

We’re just trying to keep up!

INTO THE TUNDRA

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

There are times in life when friendship becomes paramount.  Such was the case last week when one of my closest friend’s husband died after a three month struggle with pancreatic cancer.  The funeral services were planned for Minneapolis so a few of us did what good friends do – we made plans to go to Minnesota to support our friend.  It all sounded fine until someone asked me, “What is a California girl like you going to wear?”  Hmmmmm…good question.  I still have my ski socks and Ugg’s so I knew my toes would be toasty.  As for the rest of me, my good friend Patsy offered to loan me her sheared beaver coat for the trip.  Now that is a friend!  So off we went, bundled with coats, scarves and gloves, ready for the tundra.

My only other venture to the North Country was driving Interstate 90 from Chicago to Mt. Rushmore.  But that was in July, when our vistas were lush, green fields and wide open spaces.  In contrast, last week all I saw was white.  We stayed in Wayzata, a charming city on the north shore of Lake Minnetonka.  At least that’s what they told me. All I saw was white snow banks, tapering down to a very large expanse of more white.  They told me that was the lake.  In the middle of the “lake” I could see some huts and, unbelievably, a couple of pick up trucks!  How could that be a lake?  One of the locals explained that they were ice fishing huts and that people drove out to them.  In fact, at times when people have been over-served at the local pubs, they actually have drag racing out on the lake.  It gave me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it – what if the ice cracked?  My California was beginning to show.

But as I say, Wayzata is a cute little town and we were told that Maggie’s Restaurant was the place to go for breakfast.  So our first morning we put on endless pieces of clothing and ventured out to see what the excitement was about.  Maggie’s is a typical greasy spoon diner – linoleum floors, Formica table tops, and waitresses with attitude.  As the three of us nestled into a booth our waitress came over and asked if we’d like coffee.  My friend Terri, a former model who is always dressed to the 9’s, asked if she could have a cappuccino.  The waitress began to shake her head and said, “This is Maggie’s.  You can have coffee or you can have coffee.”  You just know she wanted to end that sentence with “princess”.  We moved on to food, something Maggie’s is famous for.  Knowing that we would not eat again until dinner, we ordered like we were embarking on a 10 day trek – eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, French toast.  Our order came quickly, plates filling every square inch of the table.  The waitress came back to check on things and with a bemused smile, looked at Terri and asked, “Would you like some more cappuccino?”

That afternoon we went into Minneapolis for the services.  It had begun snowing in the morning and would continue until early evening.  A block from our destination two cars in front of us slid and crashed, adding to our anxiety.  Between needing to wear four layers of clothing (which is a hassle when one needs to use the rest room) and navigating the snow to go anywhere I wondered to myself why anyone would live in that climate.  Later that night, a large group of us ate at Gianni’s Steakhouse, a fabulous restaurant which I understand has a lovely patio out back.  All I saw was white.  Around midnight we decided to walk back to our hotel, a distance of four blocks.  After all, it was only -5 with the wind-chill.  But on that walk, with no traffic in the street and a crystal clear sky, I loved the quiet, peaceful feeling of crunching through the snow.  It seemed like the perfect way to end such a sorrowful day.

Back home in Arizona, I held a new appreciation for the warmth.  I guess I really am a California/Arizona girl at heart because I did learn this: if I ever have to live in that cold climate I’m going to learn to wear adult diapers.

A Special Visit With An Old Friend . . . Squaw Valley

by Bob Sparrow

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley and I are old friends; I’m just 6 years older. We first met in 1952 when I visited the 3-year old resort and returned a few years later to learn how to ski. I remember that day like it was yesterday.  Brother, Jack and I went to Squaw Valley for our first attempt at skiing. The lift ticket for an all day pass was $6, which we thought was quite exorbitant – today it’s $179!  We had no ski gloves, but we didn’t think we’d need them as we both tolerated cold weather fairly well. What we didn’t realize is that our lift up the mountain initially would be a rope tow and after the first time we grabbed the moving rope with our bare hands and our hands started to blister, we realized we needed gloves. We could only afford one pair, so we each wore one glove on the hand with which we grabbed the rope. We were pretty good athletes, so we learned fairly quickly how to stay upright most of the time as we skied down the bunny slope. When we were ready to go on a chairlift for something a little more difficult, we didn’t realize that getting off the chair once we got to the top was the biggest challenge we would face thus far. I believe Jack got off the chair cleanly, but they had to stop the chairs and pull me out of the way after my face-plant exit.

While the day started with rope burns and face-plants, by day’s end we were exhausted from all the runs that we were able to get in – some without falling.

The Resort at Squaw Creek

I returned to Squaw Valley to attend the 1960 Winter Olympics there and ‘hit the slopes’ many times after that. When Jack was living in Tahoe after he sold his restaurant up there, he worked at the Inn at Squaw Creek when it first opened in 1990, and our last ski expedition together was to Squaw Valley in the mid-90s when we stayed at the Inn at Squaw Creek.

So attending a wedding at, the new name is The Resort at Squaw Creek, last weekend was like seeing an old friend. The wedding was for Blake Sullivan and Molly Ainsworth; we’ve known Blake’s parents, Rick and Kara for over 30 years; when they lived in the ‘hood; Rick coached our kids in soccer and baseball and learned how to rollerblade himself so he could help our kids become better roller hockey players.

We flew into Reno with other friends from the ‘hood and rented a 4-wheel drive with Mark & Kathy Johnson, for the one hour drive to Squaw Valley.   We actually drove past Squaw Valley into Tahoe City for a lunch at Jake’s on the Lake where we had a window table with a fabulous view of the lake.

Me, not having enough sense to come in out of a snow storm

We checked in to the beautiful Resort at Squaw Creek and that evening took a shuttle into the old Olympic Village to PlumpJacks restaurant for a gourmet food station dinner and open bar hosted by the Sullivans.

Sunday, the day of the wedding started out with a rain storm and ended with a snow storm, but didn’t detract from the wedding, which was originally scheduled outside, but weather conditions dictated a move inside.  The reception dinner was held at the Six Peaks Grille, where the full length glass walls afforded us an awesome view of the falling snow.

As of this writing we are hoping to get out of Squaw Valley to Reno airport on Monday, but if the storm doesn’t allow, we’ll just have to spend another day in this winter wonderland.

New Year, New Adventures

by Bob Sparrow

Cinque a Terre, Italy

I feel very fortunate that I have the wherewithal, time and health that allows me a good deal of travel. I was just reviewing my travels for the past year and realized that aside from annual trips to our timeshare in Palms Desert and to our Cinco de Mayo golf tournament in Las Vegas, last year, I was able to go crazy in Nashville, visit the crazies in Washington D.C., with a side trip to Gettysburg, feel crazy on wine trips to Paso Robles and Napa/Sonoma, play golf (or a vague facsimile there of) in beautiful Banff, Canada, although it wasn’t so beautiful due to the smoke that filled the sky from multiple forest fire throughout British Columbia and Alberta. We also took a trip in time as we traveled back to the ‘50s on our trip to Minnesota for Linda’s 50th high school class reunion, with the Mabel-Hesper Steam Engine Days parade thrown in as a bonus. On our trip to Laughlin, Nevada, my brother, Jack and I saw the creation, and the subsequent filing for bankruptcy of, ‘The Sparrow Brothers School of Fine Football Forecasting’. The year’s traveling ended with a visit to Seattle to attend our good friends, the Johnson’s son’s wedding. I should also include our trip to the famous restaurant, Dan Tana’s as any trip to L.A. is always an adventure.

And you got to come along on all those adventures, but I can already hear you asking, “What have you done for me lately – where are we going this year?” Well, I think you’ll like the itinerary we have planned for you as I start the year off with a trip to a familiar haunt, Lake Tahoe. We’ll be attending another friend’s son’s wedding at the Inn at Squaw Creek in Squaw Valley . . . in January . . . outside! Hope I can type with mittens on. While there, we’ll take some time to visit Mom & Dad’s final resting place overlooking ‘The Lake’.  In the spring I’ll be heading out to one of my favorite locations, Death Valley with some hiking buddies – hope we keep the death out of Death Valley. At the beginning of summer we have an Adriatic cruise planned that will afford us visits to Italy, Greece, Croatia and some other places missing some vowels that I can’t pronounce much less spell. In September we’re back in Italy, staying in Tuscany and taking day trips to the surrounding environs before heading to Cinque a Terre – those picturesque fishing villages hanging off Italy’s Mediterranean coast, which have been on my bucket list for some time – I hope I remember to come home.

I lay this itinerary out so that if anyone who’s been to any of the aforementioned destinations has some travel tips – I’m all ears.

I’m not sure where Suzanne’s travel will take her this year, but you can count on us to fill your every Monday morning with some travel highlights, some life observations, some tributes as well as some stuff you can just delete as spam.

Thank you for your readership and we hope your 2019 is adventurous . . . in a good way.

Restless in Seattle

by Bob Sparrow

Joe with Wedding Singer, Addison

I’ve been on enough airplane rides not to enjoy them, but on a flight out of Orange County last week heading up the coast, I was pleasantly surprised by what first appeared to be low-hanging clouds covering the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, but turned out to be 14,000 foot peaks poking through the clouds covered with a light dusting of the year’s first snowfall. It was a beautiful reminder that fall is here and winter is fast approaching.

My destination? Seattle, for the wedding of Chase Johnson, son of our long-time neighbors and good friends, Mark & Kathy – a great event. I had spent a good deal of time, years ago, working in Seattle creating a mortgage company within the offices of one of the largest real estate companies in the area, John L. Scott Real Estate. I remember traveling there nearly every week from October to April and never seeing the sun. But it’s a great city where one just learns to cope with precipitation.

View of Seattle from Salty’s Restaurant

We had a list of Seattle attractions that we wanted to see between the wedding and the rehearsal dinner at Salty’s, which itself is a Seattle attraction. Never, and I mean never, go to Seattle and not have dinner at Salty’s, which sits across Puget Sound from downtown Seattle and affords you a spectacular view of the city as the sun sets and the lights of the city come alive.

The morning we arrived, Seattle was showing off its beautiful, clear blue sky and a verdant countryside. We decided it would be a good time to go to the top of the iconic Space Needle, which sits downtown and was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and has been a major attraction ever since. Views from there of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, the lush neighboring hills and distant mountains, are spectacular! The ‘Needle’ also now has a revolving glass floor on top that, if you have the stomach, provides a feeling like you’re walking on air – a ‘Don’t Miss’ attraction!

Space Needle through Gilhuly’s Glass House

Directly below the Space Needle is the Chihuly Garden & Glass Exhibit. If you’re not familiar with Dale Chihuly’s work, you may have seen it in Las Vegas at the Bellagio, Aria or the Wynn hotels – those spectacular glass chandeliers are his creations. His exhibit here features his work in a glass house and a glass garden – amazing! As long as you’re visiting the ‘Needle’, see Chihuly as well.

With the next day came a steady rain – OK, this was more like the Seattle I remember, complete with gridlock that makes L.A. traffic look like a drive down Main Street in Mayberry. It was a good day to do the ‘Underground’ tour. I didn’t know what to expect, other than it was going to be out of the rain and probably . . . underground. I’d been told that it provided some interesting insights into the history of Seattle. It did not disappoint. The docents were informative and hilarious as we wandered through the underground rubble and artifacts that was once downtown Seattle and now sits a story below today’s street level. Not for the claustrophobic, but a must for the history buff. Great experience! Not wanting to dally on our way home, we walked a few blocks to the Pike Place Fish Market and watched them throw some Halibut around as well as be amazed at the awesome array of beautiful flower bouquets all along this outdoor mall.

Flying fish at Pike’s Place Fish Market

Yes, we managed to squeeze all that into just a day and a half in the Emerald City – we were truly Restless in Seattle.

The Great Smokey Mountains – West

by Bob Sparrow

JJ, Linda, Judy and Louise

The two-and-and-a-half hour flight from LAX to Calgary, Alberta was uneventful, no crashes, no hijackings, but there was a bit of disappointment once we landed; the usually beautiful Canadian Rockies were covered in smoke from fires west of us in British Columbia. So it seemed that the Great Smokey Mountains had moved from North Carolina/Tennessee to Alberta/British Columbia. The typically picturesque drive from Calgary to Canmore, our home for the next week, was filled with Linda and me saying things like, “See that hazy outline of a mountain over there, usually that’s spectacularly beautiful” while the rest of the party squinted and smiled in faux amusement.

The next morning we leave our comfortable accommodations at Blackstone Mountain Lodge and travel less than a mile to our first golf destination, Silvertip Golf Course. It is a course carved out of the forest and mountains with lots of elevation and incredible views on every picturesque hole . . . usually. You would have thought that the smoke, dark clouds and rain would not only dampen the course, but also our spirits – not so much.   The light rain had stopped and had cleared some of the smoke away.  We enjoyed the course so much that we decided to play another round there on what was going to be a golf-free day later in the week. I have included a photo of the famous triple mountain peak formation, The Three Sisters, I took during the round and juxtaposed it to a photo probably taken by the Canmore Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber of Commerce photo

My photo of The Three Sisters

Golf the next day was at Kananaskis, a 36-hole layout that was completely washed out in a flood in 2013 and only fully restored and reopened at the beginning of this month. Kananaskis is in a valley with great edifices of granite peaks surrounding it – it’s like playing golf in the middle of Yosemite Valley, without the waterfalls – although I managed to find some water.

Chateau Lake Louise

Tourist day today, with breakfast in quaint downtown Banff, then on the see Lake Louise. We were fortunate that we arrived at the lake when we did as we took some pictures, went in to have a drink and by the time we came back out you couldn’t see to the other end of the lake due to clouds and smoke.

The next day’s golf was at Stuart’s Creek, the course was in great shape, but the normally beautiful vistas from each hole were non-existent due to a layer of heavy smoke. There are currently about 15 forest fires blazing in Alberta, but next door in British Columbia where the winds are coming from there are a total of 559 on-going fires – most caused by lightning. The golf was a little hazy too.

What our view was suppose to look like

What our view actually looked like

Our penultimate day in the usually picturesque Rockies was the worst in terms of air quality. You know those outlines of mountains we could see on the way in? They’re gone, nothing but smoke-filled skies. We’re told we shouldn’t even be outside, but we’ve committed to play Silvertip again and since we all live in Southern California, our lungs are used to bad air quality.

Final day of golf at Banff Springs Golf Course and a walk through the hotel – nice, but without the views of the mountains and the Bow River due to the smoke, it’s not quite the same.

The companionship was superb as usual and  the courses were in great shape, but it was a shame that we could not fully enjoy the views of one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

 

Not smoke, dark clouds, rain or bad golf could keep me from making a fool of myself.  Here I am following the sacred tradition of playing with my pants down having not reached the lady’s tee with my drive.

 

 

Beautiful Banff

by Bob Sparrow

I’m writing this before we headed off on Saturday for a week in Banff, Alberta, Canada, so unless you read about a plane being high jacked or crashed in the Canadian Rockies, we’re there now and probably enjoying ourselves. The ‘we’ is again our traveling companions, Jack & JJ Budd and John & Judy VanBoxmeer. John is a Canadian by birth, but now a U.S. citizen; it’s always nice to have someone along who understands the language.  

This will be Linda’s and my third visit to this area, all prepared by a company called Golf Canada’s West. If you’ve ever been to the Banff area, you will understand what I am about to say: this it is possibly the most picturesque place to play golf in the world. The courses we will be playing are either in, or surrounded by, the Canadian Rockies and are nothing short of breathtaking.

Banff Springs Hotel

Banff itself is a cute little town located in Banff National Park along the Trans-Canadian Highway, surrounded by magnificent mountains, populated by elk and grizzly bear. It got its name in 1884 from George Stephen, president, at the time, of the Canadian Pacific Railway, whose birthplace was Banff, Scotland. Early on in our first visit to Banff in 2004, I stumbled across an Irish pub, as I am apt to do in every corner of the earth I travel, St. James Gate; we’ll probably pop in for a pint or two.

Just up the road from the town of Banff you’ll find the strikingly beautiful Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It was built in 1888 as one of Canada’s grand railroad hotels and has since been updated from the original wooden structure to a magnificent building of cement and stone, standing tall in the surrounding forest. Adjacent to which is a beautiful golf course which we will have an opportunity to play during our visit.

Chateau Lake Louise

We will take a day off golf and visit the equally beautiful Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel, which is about a 40 minute drive northwest of Banff. Chateau Lake Louise, as it’s now called, was also built around the turn of the 20th century by the Canadian Pacific Railway and is also part of the Fairmont chain. It sits on one end of Lake Louise and at the other end is a massive glacier. Well it used to be massive.  On a quiet night, during our first trip here we stood by the lakeside next to the hotel and could hear the cracking of the ice in the glacier echo across the lake. Our subsequent trips have seen the glacier size decrease. We weren’t there in 1902, but take a look at the photos taken in that year compared to the photo taken in 2012. Sad to see.

       

Well, I’ve got to get packing, although that brings in a whole other set of obstacles. We’ve watched the weather there for the last two weeks and it’s gone from raining every day to sunny and highs in the 90s and lows in the 40s. It’s the mountains, so we can probably expect a little bit of everything. And if it’s too bad, we do have St. James Gate as a backup to any of our plans. Eh!

 

California Road Trip: Golf, Wine and . . . I Don’t Remember (continued)

Sonoma/Napa

Buena Vista wine cave

Tuesday – It’s a driving day from Paso Robles to Sonoma over the Golden Gate Bridge with a stop in Sausalito for lunch – a beautiful day in the ‘City by the Bay’. We arrive in Sonoma just in time for our private guided tour of the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma Valley. Buena Vista is the oldest commercial winery in California, founded in 1857. Our guide, who called himself ‘The Count’, portrayed himself as the original founder of the winery and regaled us with stories of how he had come to create the winery as well as his death by alligator in Central America. Dressed in 1850’s garb, replete with a knob handle cane, he took us deep into the Buena Vista caves that were carved out of solid rock many years earlier and was now serving as the ‘tasting’ and ‘barrel’ rooms for storing wine in a perfect temperature.

Our hotel was just off the Sonoma Plaza, which was buzzing with the ‘Every Tuesday during the Summer’ farmer’s market, including food trucks, fresh vegetable carts, cold beer and a live band. We hung there for a while, but opted to have dinner at the Swiss Hotel, a favorite of my parents who had retired in Sonoma. We were seated in the back patio for a delicious dinner on a delightful evening.

Silverado Golf Course

Wednesday – 9:30 tee time at beautiful Silverado County Club in Napa. Thanks to our golf pro Matt Kliner, we were able to get on this beautiful private golf course that is used for professional tournaments. Beautiful golf course, beautiful day. After golf we had most of the afternoon free to cruise around the Sonoma Plaza or just relax. I took this time to visit my dearly departed best friend, Don Klapperich, who now resides in the Sonoma Military Cemetery.  I reminded him of what a good best friend he was and how he was the person who most influenced my life, and still does. We had a great conversation, although I must say he was a little quiet.

For dinner, feeling very European, we bought some baguettes, cheese and wine and sat in our Sonoma Inn patio on a refreshingly cool summer evening and ate dinner.

Sterling Winery

Thursday – We started our day by driving north over the mountain range that separates the Sonoma from the Napa valleys and hit the northern-most town in ‘wine country’, Calistoga, where the ladies did some shopping, mostly for windows. First winery stop was Sterling winery, which requires a gondola ride from the valley floor to the top of a hill, where you can taste their delicious wine while enjoying a spectacular view of the Napa valley.   We stopped in the next town going south, Saint Helena for lunch, on our quest to find the Prisoner winery, as we wanted to get Ron, who gave us the Sprinter for the week, and his wife, Shelly, a case of their favorite wine. We were to learn that the Prisoner winery is temporarily shut down, but the wine is still available at Total Wine – where we got the case of wine.

Silver Oak

Being a collector of Silver Oak wine, Jack wanted to make sure we got to the winery, which was just a few miles down the road. We drive through the city of Napa proper and back to Sonoma.

Fresno?

Cocktail cruise on ‘Lake Spradling’

 

 

One doesn’t necessarily think of Fresno as a must-see destination on a California golf-wine trip, but we wanted to visit our good friends, Don & Marilyn Spradling, who moved from Yorba Linda to Fresno five years ago to be with family. Don reminded us that Fresno is the leading grape-producing city in the world; while there are a few wineries, most of the grapes are for eating and raisins. After dinner, our evening was spent on the Spradling’s boat on the lake their home sits beside – a beautiful evening. As for golf, the Spradlings belong to Copper River Country Club, which is where we played early on Saturday morning, to beat the 107-degree heat, prior to heading home after a great road trip with great friends.

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 . . .

Backyard Bucket List

by Bob Sparrow

Bridge to Nowhere

Summer brings me this year’s edition of Westways Backyard Bucket List just in time, as I was running out of places to take you. So let’s see what new and exciting things there are to do in SoCal this summer.

-‘Bungee Jump off a Bridge’ – It starts off with “Hike 5 miles into the Angeles National Forest (and you thought there were only freeways in Los Angeles) to the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, which presumably inspired our governor to build a ‘Bullet Train to Nowhere’.  In the photo shown, due to recent droughts, the bridge no longer spans any water, so if something should go awry with the bungee, you don’t just fall and get wet, you hit the granite riverbed and die. I think I’ll pass on this one.

Visit the old abandoned zoo at Griffith Park – This zoo has not been operational since 1966, but we are told that it once attracted millions of guests. That’s great, if you were here in 1966, but what is there to do now? ‘Visitors can climb behind graffiti-covered metal cages and hike up deserted rock enclosures’. Yeah, that would be so much more fun than going to a zoo that has actual animals?  While you’re at it, since it’s not too far, maybe you could stop by Dodger Stadium when the Dodgers are out of town.  Check please!

Experience the Bakersfield Sound – I thought Bakersfield was in Texas; I guess it just wished it were. I am informed that there is nightly live music at Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace, but there’s more, you can see Buck’s red, white and blue guitar. Really? No way! Yes, way and there’s still more, you can see Buck’s ‘watermelon suit’ on display. Gosh, I wish it were closer, I’ve always wanted to see a watermelon suit. Honey, go start the car!

-Stop for a ‘Bucket List Burger’ – What better way to take a break from completing my ‘bucket list’ list than to visit ‘Bucket List Burgers’ in Riverside. I checked out the menu on line (the New Year’s Resolution Burger looks awesome, I’m getting it, even though it’s the middle of summer), I got directions and with my mouth watering, noticed that it was . . . closed for good! Apparently they weren’t on very many bucket lists.  Scratch.

-Visit Elvis’s Honeymoon Hideaway – The Palm Springs Modern Tour highlights some of the area’s best midcentury modern architecture, including the ‘House of Tomorrow’ where Elvis and Priscilla lived for a year, until Elvis’s nightstand was completely covered with half-eaten peanut butter, banana and pickle sandwiches. Elvis rented the house for a year in 1967 and the lease is framed and still hangs on the wall. The home went up for sale 3 years ago for $9.5 million, it didn’t sell and is now back on the market for . . . $5.9 million – guess those peanut butter, banana and pickle sandwiches are getting a little crusty.  No thank you very much!

-And speaking of bananas, here’s something I never knew even existed, the International Banana Museum, and it’s right here in southern California, well not exactly, it’s out in the desert in Mecca, which isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from there. This museum has over 20,000 banana-related items, some to eat. The photo at the left just makes you want to don an outfit and . . . go bananas!  Or not!

-Visit the Original McDonalds – the magazine says “the ‘unofficial’ McDonald’s museum is located on Route 66 in San Bernardino and provides a nostalgic peek at Golden Arches memorabilia.” Which begs the question, ‘Where is the ‘official’ McDonald’s museum?’   I don’t really care, since I haven’t visited a McDonalds ever, I’m not sure what would draw me to anything McDonalds now, unless I could get one of those plastic life-size statues of Ronald McDonald to put on my front lawn.  Super size this!!

To be fair, the magazine did offer some destination that I’ve either already visited or will visit, but my real ‘backyard’ bucket list, would start with a cool drink, some music, a spot in my own backyard while imagining I’m on a tropical island – it’s so much cheaper this way!

Happy Independence Day!