Traversing the highways of the Golden State in a 40’ motorhome is not an endeavor one should attempt without an infinite reservoir of patience and someone at your side reminding you that driving on the grass center divider at 60 mph is not permitted even though every other driver has stopped to gawk at some guy on the shoulder changing a flat tire. We actually did come across one problem legitimately requiring the slowing of traffic when we nearly ran over a front bumper and grill assembly from a relatively new vehicle, with license plate still attached, lying in the middle of 4 lanes of traffic. It defies even my bizarre imagination as to how someone could lose the entire front end of their car and not know it. My bride suggested that it would be far less stressful if we simply placed the motorhome in storage in L.A. and flew to San Francisco to visit the rest of our flock of kidlets and grandkidlets but this idea lost a bit of its appeal when I saw what she had in mind for air transportation . . .
These folks took one look and told me that my nebbish-like physique did not fit within the aerodynamic parameters of flight regardless of the airfoil mass. They suggested I take a bus. Northbound, we made a quick stopover at Santa Barbara so my bride could revisit her alma mater, UCSB, and then it was on to Monterey and visits to a few of our favorite spots . . .
Rappa’s is a great Italian/seafood restaurant at the end of Old Fisherman’s Wharf which has bottles of wine for half-price every Friday in addition to offering some unique views of Monterey Bay . . .
Our next stop was in Fremont where we spent some time with our son and the youngest of our myriad of female offspring . . .
This particular evening included dinner at Massimo’s with Caesar Salad before dinner and Bananas Foster afterward, both prepared to perfection tableside. A great meal usually inspires me to cook so I volunteered to prepare the food for a BBQ for a few of our friends and family which, in hindsight, was a major mistake. It turned out to be the ultimate cooking nightmare! Never have I encountered so many culinary catastrophes in so short a span of time. The turkey I was roasting on the Weber took nearly 5 hours to cook through, resulting in dark meat that was only barely done and white meat which could easily have passed for jerky. Next, after spending several hours preparing a pasta sauce and assembling the lasagna, the Pyrex dish in which it was baking exploded in the oven! The finale featured an attempted self amputation of my index finger while slicing some lemons for the cedar planked salmon. Fortunately, one of our adopted daughters is a nurse who always attends BBQs with a complete medical kit for treating the occasional kid who unsuccessfully jumps his skateboard over a blazing grill or the inept olde fart wielding a Ginsu knife like a Benihana chef. We somehow managed to get through the day without anyone getting ptomaine, suffering third degree burns or ending up on the wrong end of a shish kabob skewer. We even managed to compose a 4-generation Bryan photo of my dear old Ma (on my immediate left in the pic), myself, my 3 kidlets and 4 grandkidlets . . .
Okay, honestly, the lady to my left is actually my ex-wife who was granted a 2-day compassionate release from the correctional medical facility at Vacaville to attend this little soiree. She was, of course, heavily sedated and restrained during the event. Our visit to Fremont was not all fun and food however . . .
We also spent some time at our son’s gym where I learned that I was wearing “old guy” socks with my gym shoes. It seems that the proper workout footwear nowadays consists of a pair of short socks that barely emerge from inside the tennis shoe and not something that creeps up your leg to somewhere approaching the knee. I think this faux pas was the reason I was relegated to the farthest corner of the facility to exercise. Or it may have been that nebbish-thing again which just doesn’t provide a physical fitness guru with the proper paternal image. Simply put, I’m bad for business! I have discovered that a double dose of humiliation and rejection can be best alleviated by “drowning” one’s sorrows at some comfortable little watering hole such as the Buena Vista in San Francisco . . .
This place claims to be the birthplace of Irish Coffee and they have dozens of testimonials and newspaper clippings adorning the walls to support that contention. In addition to Irish Coffee, San Francisco is home to Fisherman’s Wharf . . .
As well as Coit Tower . . .
This landmark has been much maligned throughout its history as a tribute to erotica or a firefighter’s memorial, but it is simply an art deco tower built by the City with funds donated by Lillie Coit in the 1930’s. Another of the well known attractions of the “City by the Bay” are the cable cars which labor up the steep inclines only to descend again at a snail’s pace . . .
We took a tour of the Seattle Underground some years ago and were told that the cable cars were acquired from the city of Seattle in exchange for a fleet of ferry boats. The boats, we were told, have long since sunk to the bottom of Puget Sound but the cable cars are still running and lure thousands of tourists to San Francisco every year. It was fortuitous that we were in Fremont at this moment in time as it provided us the opportunity to attend an event celebrating the 80th birthday and 55th wedding anniversary for our friends, Roy and Else McKay . . .
Roy is the one celebrating his 80th while Else, like me, married a much older person. The next leg of our California adventure was through the ever popular wine growing region of Napa Valley . . .
At this time of year you will encounter an abundance of California Poppies (the State Flower) as well as other wildflowers sprouting along the Wine Country Highway . . .
Our excessive indulgence in Napa Valley wines provided the needed fortification to continue to our next stop, THE brother-in-law in Grass Valley! Although Jerry claims to be retired you would certainly never guess that from the number of projects he always has in progress. He is currently in the process of constructing a wine cellar in the barn, which he also built, while engaging in a 10-year running battle with a flock of red headed “woodpeckers” who have been chewing holes in the barn and devouring his grapes nearly as quickly as they appear on the vines . . .
He holds these adorable creatures responsible for the accelerating deterioration of his barn, seven uninterrupted years of producing bad wine and our annual visits. The battle plan thus far has been to shoot the “woodpeckers” with a pellet rifle when they get anywhere near his barn or vineyard. This program has yielded only minimal success as the pellets only annoy the birds to the point that they abandon the barn or vineyard when shot and concentrate instead on chasing him back into the house where they roost for several days at a time waiting for him to reappear. Since our travels this year will not take us beyond our own borders, north or south, we are now packing the appropriate weaponry to repel would-be boarders from our land yacht in addition to providing a definite game changer in the Battle of the Birds . . .
This is a Barrett M99 single shot .416 caliber sniper rifle. It has a range of accuracy of nearly 2 miles and owes its production to the banning of a variety of assault rifles several years ago including the .50 caliber version of this same gun which is now only available to the military and police SWAT teams. This smaller caliber model has a range similar to the banned weapon and is arguably more accurate. More importantly, it’s legal…even in California! Although I tease and torment my brother-in-law endlessly about his wine (and anything else I find amusing), he has produced several vintages that were actually drinkable and did not end up as fertilizer . . .
The number of award ribbons prominently displayed on several Zimmerman Estate and Library vintages does lead one to believe that the wine is of an exceptional quality. For the uninitiated, a “vintner’s dinner” is one in which a gourmet meal is served in an elegant setting and meticulous table settings with each food item accompanied by one of the winemaker’s varietals to enhance the flavor of that particular dish . . .
At a Zimmerman vintner’s dinner, hamburgers of questionable origin are served (remember the woodpeckers!?) and each guest is expected to provide their own bun, cheese and condiments. The Zim’s Zany Zin is served in 1950’s era jelly jars received from the Texaco station in Jamestown, North Dakota with each $2.00 fill-up. Additionally, each guest arrives with a couple of bottles of Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s to cleanse the palate of the taste of Zimmerman wine . . .
Coincidentally, one of the Zimmerman neighbors attended this particular tasting and mentioned she owns a champion goat which consistently wins award ribbons at both State and County Fairs which are identical to those adorning the Zimmerman wines. Many have disappeared over the years and she assumed they had been eaten by the goat. In retrospect, she may be laying the blame ‘neath the horns of the wrong goat. See y’all next time! Hugs, Chuck and Kalyn