Friday, October 31, 2014

By the Numbers: Home

We made it home!
Our trip was wonderful.

Map from Adventure Caravans

Here are a few numbers associated with the trip:

2783: miles driven before and after the tour
1429: miles driven on the tour
42: days on tour
40: number of people who went with us
14: campgrounds where we stayed
13: cats and dogs who came along
4: train and plane museums visited 
1: day with rain

Some of my favorite experiences on the tour:

Visiting "Between Golden Ears" blogger and
meeting Jet and Mitch

Seeing Elephant Seals on the beach

Canine Companions facility

Brunch on the Queen Mary

Ironstone Vineyards

Sacramento Railroad Museum

From museum web page

Rogue River jet boat trip

Jellies & Tentacles exhibits at Monterey Aquarium

From aquarium web page

Happy hours where we always had fun!

I wrote this poem to share at our last Happy Hour.
It is a brief summary of our trip.

How can forty-two days go by so fast?
This happy hour, dear friends, will be our last.
What will we do in the next few nights
When we wander around with no friends in sight?
Perhaps that won't be as bad as it sounds
because I, for one, have gained a few pounds!
But we have lots of memories that we all share
About food and wine and "Who", "What" and "Where".
From the huge blimp hangar filled with relics (like us?)
To trips through Yosemite hurrying back on the bus.
We saw lots of airplanes, light houses and trains, 
We had perfect weather, only one day of rain.
Seeing jelly beans made was more interesting than cheese,
And I didn't realize how much I would like the huge trees.
The jet boat was awesome and so was the food,
Even at the Cookhouse where the waitress tried to be rude!
The Napa Wine train was first class in every way.
And no one will forget the miracle of Jane and Ray.
We stopped by lots of small towns, all with cute shops.
Was it you who bought something at every stop?
We shared meals, and snacks and tasted some wine,
There were some great ones, and some... not so fine. 
We saw ale being made but couldn't quite hear
Just what is was that made it "rogue" beer.
We drove through some small towns where we were the parade,
To get to the campgrounds where we all stayed.
Some were on hills, a few were covered by trees.
Some folks didn't like that 'cause they couldn't get TV.
But despite folks arriving early, or all in one line,
Pat and Alice would get us parked in practically no time.
There were last minute changes because our group was so big;
Two campgrounds couldn't accommodate that many big rigs.
But making arrangements for changes, thankfully, didn't involve us.
The staff handled it all and we didn't see them fuss.
The travel days' challenges provided more stories and fun;
Did you see the signs? Miss the turn? Get there before one?
Tail gunners, John and Sally, were part of the crew,
But there were no break downs, so they had little to do!
Scott said writing that would jinx us, and guess what?
When we went to leave Flying Flags, our slide wouldn't shut!
Other than that the trip's gone without a hitch
Only minor issues fixed at campgrounds and basic service.
Jack's tire went flat while he was parked at the camp, 
And Jim Jerry-rigged his tow bar using duct tape as a clamp. 
We celebrated together, anniversaries and birth dates,
Did you keep count of just how many cakes were baked?
Many came as strangers, a few came with friends,
But we've become close as the trip nears it's end. 
I hated that the Laub's and Head's had to go
 But, things like that happen, you gotta go with the flow.
I won't say, "Good bye", because one thing I know,
I'll see you again on a trip, at a rally or show.
Travel in health and may God be on your side
As you travel down the road, I hope you have a smooth ride!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gypsy Plays Ostrich

Gypsy hates detests the fly swatter. 
All I need to do is bring it out of hiding, and she cowers.

 The other day we acquired quite a flock of stowaway flies trying to hitchhike to a warmer climate.  I grabbed the fly swatter and began to do battle with the little vermin. Knowing Gypsy's aversion to the tool, I worked as gently as I could, without taking wild swings are slamming the thing around. Yet, even so,  I turned around to discover Gypsy sitting perfectly still in the corner of the sofa on the motorhome. She looked pitiful as she sat with her head hanging over the edge of the sliding section of the sofa. It was almost as if she was willing herself into that small, dark hole. 

Poor pup!


Two days and some 800 miles later I got the last one, luring him with a swipe of honey.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On the Road

Since Sept 7 we have traveled over 2,600 miles.
And… we have more to go!

Our reflection in a shiny tanker

I feel like singing:

"I've been everywhere, man.
I've been everywhere, man.
Crossed he desert's bare, man.
I've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I've had my share, man.
I've been everywhere!"

It has been a lot of fun traveling with other folks.

Here, Phil and Donna negotiate the redwoods,

and Russ and Marg climb a switchback on the way to Yosemite.

There are two rigs ahead of us in this picture.
Russ and Marg are in the lead
and Brenda and Dick are following them.

We traveled on roads with sheer drops….
and no guard rails.

We drove on road where little separated us from the sea.

Some roads were very curvy.
(We didn't take this one!)

Others were supposed to be straight…
but weren't!

 Normally I plan our route, with the help of our GPS.
On this trip, the tour company provided a travel log.
Each turn was carefully marked,
down to the tenth of a mile.

I almost always had the trip log on my lap,
along with my iPad open to Google Maps.
I took this picture by mistake…
but decided I kinda like the story it tells!

More adventures to follow!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Superlatives: Trees

Dreaming measures tree in Jedediah Smith Park in California

Mr. Dreamy relaxes at Trees of Mystery, Klamath, CA

Friend, Brenda, dwarfed by giant Sequoyah in Yosemite National Park

But, my favorite picture of all…

The Best!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tucker Talks: Freeeee!

We went for a walk.
It was a long walk on a sandy path.
It smelled very interesting.

Unbelievably, once we got to the thing called "beach"
our Mrs. Owner let us go.
She never lets us go.
(On account of sometimes I pretend not to hear 
her when she wants me to come back.)


I ran this way…
and that way.

I chased the birds through the surf
even though I don't like water.

Then me and Gypsy saw another dog…
so much more interesting than the birds!

We went to investigate.
You humans probably can't even see the dog.
He's in the upper right corner of the picture.
He's kinda hard to see 'cause he's the color of the sand.


I did come back.


But, OMG… running felt so good!
Maybe our Mrs. Owner will take us to the beach again…
and let us run free!


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Coyotes! Beware!

Our travel group enjoyed a tour of the beautiful grounds and buildings that comprise Ironstone Vineyards. The winery is located in Murphys, CA, in the Sierra foothills. The grounds are a showcase. In fact, the winery is a draw for many reasons other than wines. They have a deli and a fabulous dining room, a museum and gift shop, the largest gold leaf specimen in the world, a huge ballroom with a restored theater organ and they have outdoor concerts for thousands of people in their outdoor amphitheater. The vineyards are a venue for many weddings. There are lovely areas throughout the grounds, around the lake, to stage a wedding. However, there is one problem. The Canadian Geese like the grounds, too. The winery has come upon a solution. Coyotes. We were lucky to spot one on our tour.

Don't tell the geese that the coyotes are simply plywood cutouts!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wining and Dining

Wine goes with food. It is a given. Those who know are always talking about 'pairing' - making suggestions of wines to complement the flavor of the food. Pairing our adventures in the wine regions of California also included adventures in eating. Two of our dining experiences stand out.

The first, a trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Our group traveled first class, enjoying the ambiance of a renovated 1952 domed dining car. I guess you might think we had no class… as everyone began taking pictures of everyone taking pictures!

But that might be partially due to our free glass of bubbly, 
provided by our excellent wait staff!

The food was outstanding...

and we enjoyed the scenery as we traveled from Napa, CA to St. Helena, passing numerous vineyards along the way. One of the vineyards was the V. Sattui Winery. 

We Dreamers happened to stop there the day before. We were excited to point it out to our friends. This winery has a long history, but somewhat dissimilar to that of other wineries I've blogged about. Vittorio Sattui came from Italy in the late 1800's and worked as a baker. He made wine on the side. His wine was very popular and he soon devoted his time to wine making. However, prohibition brought an end to his business.
In the 1970's Vittorio's great grandson, Dario, began anew to bring the V. Sattui wines to life. He recalled village delicatessens in Europe and decided to incorporate a deli and gift shop as part of his winery experience near St. Helena, CA. We just happened upon the deli, near lunch time. To be honest, I was not exactly thrilled with the prospect of having lunch at a deli. But, oh, my! I was so wrong! This place is Dreamy! The counter was mobbed. Which, in hindsight, was a good thing. It gave us time to decide what we were going to order. We had to decide between salads, paninis, stuffed things and breaded things, and a huge selection of cheeses and crackers. 

We took our order outside and ate at one of the picnic tables found under the trees on the grounds. Mr. Dreamy enjoyed a panini and German potato salad and I had a portabella mushroom stuffed with Italian sausage and cheese and beet salad. We shared the dreamiest crème brûlée I have had in a long time.

It was all good…. well, no, it was great! But, that beet salad was something else. I kept going back to it and eating one more bite. Mmmmm. I wanted to make this salad. I began trying to dissect it. Mr. Dreamy helped. The beets were easy. The chef had used golden beets, and they were beautiful. There was onion. There was something else crunchy… neither of us could decide just what it was. There were some bits of green. The dressing had vinegar…. I couldn't stand it. I marched back into the deli. The lunch crush was over. I asked one of the serving gals about just what was in the salad. She beckoned to a guy standing nearby. He was wearing an unassuming Tshirt and looked like one of the tourists. She introduced me to their Italian chef, Gerardo Sainato! Gerardo shared the basics of his recipe; golden beets, red onion, fennel, and a vinaigrette made with white balsamic (or he said 5% white wine vinegar could be substituted) and canola oil (olive oil is too heavy in taste). He also adds some fresh tarragon. Yum! 
A few nights later I prepared the salad for our group, using the last of the beets I had yanked from our garden the day we left on our trip. I roasted the beets in foil on our grill until they were tender, then added the rest of the ingredients. The salad received raves. The funniest comment though, came from Mercedes. She collared me and exclaimed, "You MADE me eat beets! I don't like beets. They taste like dirt. But, everyone said I had to try your salad… and you made me eat them. It was pretty good… although I think I could still taste a bit of dirt!"
If you are ever near St. Helena, CA, plan to be there around lunch. You won't believe it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Name Dropping

So, there I am, touring the Simi Winery with Mr. Dreamy. We had an excellent tour of the facility. This original building was constructed around 1875. The left side of the building was constructed first, using local stones and mortar. After an earthquake, bolts were added to keep the building stable in future earthquakes. Later, using different laborers and materials, the right side of the building was constructed. You can see a difference in the rock. This side of the building was stabilized with an ingenious method using reinforcing rods inside.

Another neat thing about the building is that the founding Simi brothers dug into the hillside, since there were no caves like they were used to in Italy, where they first learned the wine making craft. This would naturally keep the fermenting wines cooler.

Yup, here we Dreamers are… 
looking happy as we think about the free tasting to come!
(Or perhaps we are looking happy having just come from another tasting!)

The tour was fascinating. I enjoyed learning about the historic winery in the Alexander Valley in wine country, USA.  Our tour guide took a moment to trace the ownership of the winery, from the Simi brothers...

 to daughter, Isabelle…

to "a company in New York."

My mind stewed on that for a minute or two (or maybe five), as the tour guide went on. He was talking about something else when I had to ask him to back up. 

"That company in New York," I inquired, "is that in Canandaigua, NY?"

"Yes," he acknowledged, "Constellation Brands."

"No kidding!" I said, possibly with my jaw hanging open a bit.

It turns out I know the Chairman of the Board of Constellation Brands.
Well, I knew him… way back when!

He's standing behind me in this graduation picture!
(You'll have to figure out which one!) 

Who knew?!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Putting the Bubbles in the Bottles

Our group had a tour of the Korbel Winery, which has been producing wine on this site in Sonoma County, CA since 1882. 

Here we learned the fascinating story of the founders, three Bohemian (Czechoslovakian) brothers, as well as learning more about the process of creating "champagne style" wine. (The folks in the Champagne region of France took exception to other effervescent wines bearing their name! Producers outside of the region must identify their product in a slightly different manner, thus Korbel creates "California Champagne" or "Russian River Valley Champagne") 

Here is our group standing outside the ivied walls of the original building. The tower in the background is identical to a tower in which Francis Korbel was imprisoned after firing a shot in an uprising against the Government in Prague. He and his family had an interesting past!

The large, original casks were created on site in the cellars.
Currently Korbel uses only small oak barrels for fermentation
of their finer wines.

After fermentation the wine is bottled and capped, using a cap similar to that on a beer bottle. The bottles are stored for varying periods of time. The candle shows how the vintners lit their cellars where bottles were stored, prior to electricity.

After the fermentation process is complete the bottles are moved to riddling racks. Here the bottles are held at a downward angle. Vintners shook and turned each bottle several times a day. Adolf Heck, Korbel's second owner, created the first automated riddling rack. Riddling causes the sediment to move into the neck of the bottle.

The machines pictured below are those that were originally used to finish the bottling process. Following riddling, the neck of the bottle is held in a slurry of salt and ice to freeze the sediment plug. The temporary cap of the bottle is removed and the sediment plug is pushed out by pressure created by the slightly warmer contents of the bottle. (There are no bubbles in the wine at this time.) A mixture of wine and additional sugar is added to the bottle. The sugar encourages fermentation to begin again, causing the build-up of carbon dioxide, and this is what makes the 'champagne style' bubbles. Each type of wine has a different "dosage" (pronounced with a French accent, like dressage). The dryer (Brut) champagnes have a small amount of sugar added. We tasted one with a dosage of 1. It was almost lip-puckering dry. The sweetest variety I tried (and liked) had a dosage of 6.5. It was much sweeter. The French have high opinions of their process, which is (as I understand it) the same thing that is used to create bubbles in lowly beer!

Once the dosage has been added, the bottles are corked. If you have ever had Champagne, or a 'Champagne style' wine, then you are familiar with the cork, which is different than that used in regular wines. The cork is much wider in diameter, and before it is pressed into the bottle, the diameter of the cork is the same along its entire length. The corking machine compresses one end of the cork and it is driven part way into the neck of the bottle. The upper portion extends over the lip of the bottle and is held in place with a wire cage. This helps seal the bottle more effectively than a traditional cork. 

There are other means of adding bubbles to wine, including simply adding carbon dioxide in the final bottling or performing a secondary fermentation in the tank and bottling it under pressure.

I have included a video we saw at the winery that reviews the history of Korbel. 

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