Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Carmel, CA to Home Sweet Home

2/17/2012 Carmel/Monterey, CA - I read a Doris Day biography once and was sad to find out that “the girl every man in America wanted to marry” had total bad luck with the four men she did marry. Clint Eastwood, in an interview, said he sees her in Safeway every now and then. So when we got to Carmel we staked out the produce section in Safeway, but had no luck. We went to her hotel, the Cypress Inn, but no luck there either. So Doris – if you're reading this – I apologize for my gender and commend you on your work for pet adoptions. (And Happy 88th Birthday!) We took the 17 mile drive through Pebble Beach. It's very pretty but very windy. Also very expensive – houses on the water were a minimum $12 million and a 750 sq ft bungalow that was inland with no view and a small yard was $750,000. Cannery Row is the setting of Steinbeck's novel of the same name. The fishery collapsed in the mid 1950's and when the famous marine biologist, Edward Rickets, was asked where the sardines went, he replied “They're all in cans.” Overfishing was originally thought to be the cause but now natural cycles is given the credit.

2/19/2012 Napa Valley, CA – We found out why they call it Napa Valley – after several winery tours and tastings you have to go back to the motel for a “napa”. Castello di Amoroso was envisioned as an 8500 square foot building but wound up a 121,000 square foot castle. The owner Darrio Sattui almost went bankrupt building it but finally emerged wealthy again. He started out by successfully reopening his grandfather's winery, V. Sattui, after prohibition closed it. In the picture Brenda is courageously sampling yet another wine at V. Sattui which has won more awards than any of the other wineries we visited. The tour at Sterling includes a gondola ride to their large elevated patio where you can look south and see most of the valley. The other picture is the Beringer Winery.

2/22/2012 Jelly Belly Factory, Muir Woods – On our way to San Francisco we stopped at the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, CA. They have free samples of all their flavors – and no limit on how many times you can go through the line – we didn't eat lunch that day. I just wonder why - if they can make buttered popcorn, sausage and over a hundred other flavors of ultimately lethal sugar-loaded candy – they can't do the same thing with broccoli. After OD'ing on Jelly Bellies we stopped at Muir Woods, a national park set aside to protect a large redwood forest. It was named in honor of John Muir who worked for preservation of many areas of the nation. He is considered the “Father of our National Park System”. 

2/22/2012 San Francisco, CA – A warning – you can only travel clockwise in San Francisco. The roads were laid out many years ago without left turn lanes and the current level of traffic precludes blocking one lane for left turns. The view overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge towards the city is one of the most breathtaking sights I've ever seen. The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park was nice also. After a cable car ride to Fisherman's Wharf, during which we were attacked by zombies (teenagers having some kind of party), we saw these sourdough creations in a bakery. We drove down the second crookedest street in America – Lombard Street (the crookedest being Wall Street). The second time, I wanted to go down backwards but Brenda wouldn't let me. We were about halfway down when a kid on a skateboard zipped by us. We happened to be in China Town when a dragon ceremony was going on. There were so many fireworks that we had to evacuate due to the smoke.

 2/26/2012 Las Vegas, NV Our friend, Catherine, flew out to meet us and after about three pulls on a slot machine won $53 (and wisely quit while she was ahead). We saw Cirque du Soleil – Mystere, Comedian Magician Mac King and Jubilee - a traditional Las Vegas style revue (that Brenda and Catherine picked out - it wasn't my idea). The pictures are of Las Vegas Blvd, the Treasure Island outdoor show and inside the Venetian. There is a Dueling Pianos Bar in Harrah's where we stayed. They could play anything but every night “Red Solo Cup” was the crowd favorite. The Bellagio Fountains were pretty amazing - especially at night. We got a really good deal on the Buffet of Buffets. You get 24 hours of buffets at six different casinos. Normally it's $45 but if you book two or more nights at one of the casinos it's only $16. You can do a late dinner, a breakfast, lunch and an early dinner or spend the whole day grazing non stop as some reviewers on TripAdvisor said they did. The food and selection were really good.

3/2/2012 Grand Canyon, Tusayan, AZ – We had thought about visiting Hoover Dam while in Vegas but never got around to it. Then all of a sudden on our way out - there it was. The Best Western in Tusayan was the best place we stayed on the trip. It had interior terraces with southwestern sculptures and waterfalls – also a bowling alley and the best included breakfast buffet by far. I was surprised to see the walkways along the Grand Canyon had no guard rails (I'm sure this violates lots of OSHA Regulations). It is kind of scary, especially at one section called “the Abyss..yss..yss..yss...”. Many people have died in the canyon as documented in the book “Over the Edge”. A Darwin Award Winner backed over the edge after dropping off some friends at a trail head. An experienced woman hiker had fallen 300 feet to her death the week before we arrived. We had wanted to hike down Bright Angel Trail but there was snow and ice. People were hiking without spikes and they all came back with muddy backsides. It is a beautiful place and we plan to come back some time when we can hike and camp.

3/8/2012 Chesapeake, VA – After 8700+ miles (and 18 hotel rooms) it's good to be Home Sweet Home. (Lead me to the couch!)