Sunday, June 03, 2007

travel notes

This is gonna be a long one, but if I don't do it now, it may never get done!

Taking a vacation like this one is very cool. Knowing that we were going to be doing things that each of us enjoy, together. Planning the time while leaving room for spontaneity.

Now that we are home, it's hard to put it all into words and describe our fun. But you know I'll try!

Day 1: Long drive! Left home at 7 a.m., heading south to Medford, Oregon. Enjoyed a quick stop in Portland for a fast lunch with a friend who lives there. Nice of her to buy lunch! Back on the road a few more hours, arriving in Medford to find that the hotel has put us in their very last room... a smoking room... and my sweet husband is allergic to smoke. UGH! After a lengthy discussion with the desk clerk, who can't and/or won't do anything for us except call the sister hotel to see if they have a room. They do, but it's $50 more. No, nobody will comp the difference. After asking the clerk if there is a manager available, we find there isn't one on-site at the moment, but she will call the manager at home. Manager gets on the phone and tells me it's all our fault that the room reserved is a smoking room. We must have done it. Oh... the travel agent must have done it. Oh... that's all they had left when we had our room booked because the hotel's bookings had been filled up for weeks. Oh... whatever! She just wanted to find someone to blame and make me go away, without fixing the problem or making things right for us.

The reality is that the person who walked in the door ahead of us asked the clerk, “do you have any rooms for tonight?” and was given a room immediately. So it wasn't booked up weeks in advance as we were told by the manager.

We had written confirmation in hand that showed a non-smoking room. Our travel agent knows about the smoke allergy, so she would not have booked a smoking room.

The manager at this point said she would come down to the hotel to see what we had, if we would wait. She was only 5 minutes away.

Lousy manager never showed up. She called the clerk about 5 minutes later and told her to give us a room with a story of a “phone hold expired” making the room available right that minute. Yeah, right. Whatever the story, we finally were given a non-smoking room so we could get some sleep.

It was not a pleasant process to get a room... but we were not going to let that spoil our trip.

We will, however, be contacting the hotel's corporate office to complain. Their motto is 100% satisfaction, guaranteed. Sorry, not satisfied at all.

Day 2: Another long drive, Medford to Sacramento. Up early and on the road, trying to find radio stations along the way and laughing at some of them. (Bob-FM cracked me up for some silly reason and we've giggled about it since.)

Got to our hotel a bit early for check in, but were given a very nice room anyway. Unpacked a little, grabbed cameras and headed down to the railway museum to see the fun. The walk along the Sacramento river was really nice. About a mile, which gave us a good stretch after so much sitting in the car. As we walk up to the museum, we can hear jazz bands playing... sweet!

We can also hear the sound of a steam train... cool!

And we are in time for the last ride of the day on that steam train... excellent!

While waiting for the train, we got to talking with some of the volunteers who run it. What a bunch of great characters they are!

Train ride was fun, little jazz band on the train playing for all they were worth and getting everyone to sing along. Very fun stuff.

After the ride, we wandered around Old Sacramento to find some dinner and then wandered back to the hotel to plan the next day.

Day 3: California State Railway Museum ( What an amazing place! Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and of course, my man spent the entire time there! The museum begins with a 20 minute movie about the history of trains, a 20 minute tour (with a guy that reminded me of Jimmy Durante!) and then you wander the exhibits. Superb stuff. The exhibits include several train engines that can't be found anywhere else now. My sweetie was like a 5 year old who had just gotten a great visit from Santa.

I had fun watching him... and then watching the jazz band playing inside the museum. They had a couple of 65 – 70 year old ladies, dressed up in flapper costumes, dancing around the big place and having a grand ol' time!

After about 3 hours, I went into train overload. We took a break for lunch together, grabbing sandwiches and eating picnic-style along the river. Then it was back to the museum for him and wander around Old Sacramento for me. It was fun to dink through the shops, talk with people, watch the Mounted Police and their horses “dancing” to the jazz bands as they wandered the streets, enjoy a wine tasting, buy the obligatory salt water taffy that every tourist area has and eventually wander back to the museum to finish the day.

The museum staff certainly know their trains... and are a blast when chatting!

That mile back to the hotel was a bit harder after all the walking we'd already done this day!

Day 4: Wine country. Heading up US 101 into Healdsburg (don't ask why I read this as Heraldsburg before the trip, but that 1st “r” really isn't there!). ( It was another pleasant drive into some lovely countryside. Vineyards everywhere you look.

After an early check in at our hotel, we took the advise of the desk clerk and caught their shuttle to the town plaza. Good thing we did! Thankfully we are very careful about drinking and driving anyway, but by the time we were ready to head back to the hotel, we really needed that shuttle!

Driver was cool, gave us a brief rundown of the available tasting rooms and shops and let us loose to wander. His first recommend was La Crema Winery. (

Oh... my... yummmm!

Starting there at La Crema's tasting room was a great introduction to the area!

We enjoyed both the beautiful tasting room and the wine! Chatting with Toby as she led us through the day's tasting was cool. She's into trains and history, in addition to wine... which makes her a fun person for us! Favorite wine: The Los Carneros Pinot Noir. It was fabulous. One that I could have just smelled the aromas all day long, so good... and the flavor to back it up!

After we'd determined what wines we wanted to purchase there, Toby recommended that we head next to Selby Winery. (!

Susie Selby definitely figured out how to do wine and do it well. She also has a great staff member in Jen, who was our tasting hostess. (wish I knew what her official title is, whatever it is, she's a great person for the job!)

Jen welcomed us as if we were long lost friends, included us in conversation when local folk came in to buy wine and just made us feel like we belonged in the community. Wow!

Selby winery had about 9 wines on their tasting list for the day. All of them were good, but there were a couple absolute standouts. Favorite wine at Selby: Old Vines Zinfandel. Another that I could sit and smell all day with great aromas, but also that great flavor to back it up!

One of the cool things here at Selby was the number of friends who popped in to talk with Susie and Jen. Each one got a hug or a kiss and we got introduced. Shawn, who had started his brand new catering business that day, gave us our dinner tip of the day.

While we were at both La Crema and at Selby's, everyone kept inviting us to the Tuesday Concert in the Plaza. A free community concert from 6 – 8... cool! The locals bring picnic and wine, passing food and beverages to one another in a real community setting. Lots of laughing, talking, enjoying food and friends. Kids dancing in front of the band. It was awesome!

We caught part of the concert from the Bear Republic Brewing Company, where we had dinner. Yep, beer with dinner in wine country. I know, too funny! ( But they have really good beers and really good food!

After dinner, we wandered a bit more around the plaza, listening to the music and just enjoying. Finally, we had to call Bobby, the shuttle guy to come get us. Like I said before, Bobby was a great idea because we would not have wanted to drive at this point!

Day 5: Wine country, part 2. There is a little tasting room I found online called Locals Tasting Room. ( The concept is that you try several different wineries versions of the same kind of wine, in a side-by-side taste test. There are so many to try there, that if I had tried everything it would have put me in the hospital! But I did enjoy trying the “flights” of Sauvignon Blanc, Rose', a single Sangiovese and of course, Zinfandel. While we were at Locals, visiting with the owner, Carolyn, one of the local winemakers came in to deliver wine. Joe Ramazzotti is a great guy! Just as friendly as could be, introduced himself and chatted a bit with us. It was very cool that his wines were the ones I liked best. When we open the bottle of his Zinfandel, we will remember his great personality and happy spirit. Favorite wine at Locals: Ramazzotti Zin-Giovese Rose

This is also the “experience” day... with a planned visit to Francis Ford Coppola's Rosso & Bianco Winery. ( While the website still says it is unnamed, we were told they named it Rosso & Bianco just a few days ago.

Okay, this place is exactly what one thinks of when envisioning a winery. Glorious vineyards surrounding an old-world style series of buildings. Sweeping staircase up to the tasting room and cafe. Yeah, the guy does movies, so he knows how to dress a winery, but hey... what else should he do??

A couple years ago, I discovered the Rosso wine from this winery and began telling friends about it. Already being sold on the Rosso as the so-called “table” wine, I've gotta say that it was very nice to find that the other wines were wonderful, too. Favorite wine at Coppola's: Director's Cut Zinfandel.

After we did wine tasting here at Coppola's, we decided to wander the grounds a bit with our cameras and then have lunch. That whole not drinking and driving thing still coming into play. Got some good pictures, and more importantly, had a really nice lunch with a great waitress names Lori.

The entire day here was simply lovely. Wine, food, experience, staff, view, everything.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was close to 3. We had decided that there were 2 more tasting rooms on our “really want to get there” list. So we called Bobby the shuttle guy who took us back into the plaza area.

Dropped us off at Toad Hollow. ( Toad Hollow is owned by Todd Williams, whose famous brother is Robin Williams. In chatting with the tasting hostess (dang it, never got her name!) she told us that their mother is an even bigger kick in the pants than Todd or Robin. Interesting growing up, I'm sure!

This one had great artwork and some interesting wines, but the staff was a bit on the standoffish side. Todd was there having fun with clients when we walked in, spoke to us briefly, but he left to run errands shortly after we got there. I suspect this one would have been a lot more fun if he had still been on-site... or maybe the gal was just tired that day. She was pleasant enough, but not even close to the caliber of friendly and fun that all of the other places staff had been. Favorite wine: Erik's the Red... a blend of almost everything red and probably a little of the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure! Complex tasting, but really nice.

Rosenblum Cellars was our final stop on the tasting tour. ( Now I know we can get a variety of Rosenblum wines locally, and everyone knows that “Rosenblum KNOWS Zinfandels”, but I suspected they had some things that one can only get there or online... and I was right!

My sweet husband really enjoys a nice dessert wine after a special meal. I try to keep some on hand... and usually the ones I have are from one of our fun trips. Great memories for us when we open a bottle!

Rosenblum has a dessert wine that is a chocolate infused zinfandel... and incredible! Wow, just wow! Yep, favorite wine at Rosenblum: Desiree Chocolate Dessert Wine.

Staff was indifferent, but that dessert wine certainly made up for them!

Of course anyone who knows me also knows that if I am in a new town, I will find the fabric store! Yep, there was a very cute little fabric store called Fabrications and yep, I did buy some fabric!

After all that wine, we went back to the Bear Republic for dinner. They were so good the day before and we wanted to try a different beer!

Day 6: Giant redwoods. How do you describe something this big around, this tall and this old???

We got up fairly early and just got on the road heading from Healdsburg to Eureka. A lot of windy roads, some down to just 2 lanes, but a beautiful drive.

Once we got our stuff into our hotel room, we grabbed cameras and backtracked a little to the Avenue of the Giants. ( Have to say that it's really hard to drive in this section because the trees are so incredible that you completely forget the road.

We spent a couple hours just driving from the Northern end of the Avenue, stopping to take some pictures in the glorious “golden hour” late afternoon, early evening light.

Day 7: Giant redwoods, part 2. See question in Day 6 about how one describes these amazing trees!!

Another early morning (wait, aren't vacations for sleeping in??) of grab the cameras and go. We began this day with a little wander through Ferndale, CA. Cute little town that a friend described recently as a Victorian Mayberry.

Ferndale is also home to the Itsy Bitsy Quilt Shop... and yes, I bought fabric there from the very nice lady who owned the shop!

Headed back down to the southern end of the Avenue of the Giants. We figured to have lunch in Garberville and then spend the rest of the day taking pictures of incredible trees.

Of course you know I found a fabric store in Garberville called In Stitches! And you also know I bought fabric. Well, for pity's sake, it was right across the street from the deli and she was having a sidewalk sale! How can I pass up a sale on fabric?

Fabric purchased, on we go to the southern end of the Avenue of the Giants. There, we just drove a bit, stopped to take pictures and wander around a bit, get back into the car and repeat. At one stop, a blue jay flew right up to me and landed at my feet. He hopped around a little bit, let me take a few pictures and then left. Pretty certain all he really wanted was to see if we had a handout for him.

Not being able to do justice to those magnificent trees and the forest and the area in general, I'm just going to post a couple pictures tomorrow and wish they could capture the reality of the place. I'm also going to encourage you to visit the area. You need to see it for yourself.

Day 8: Exceedingly long drive home. We made really good time, but it was a 12 hour drive... a little on the brutal side. Mostly we just wanted to be home and have a day to relax and recover before going to work tomorrow. We left Eureka at 8:30 a.m. and pulled into our driveway at 9:25 p.m. Only made minimal stops for bathroom breaks and filling the gas tank... lunch was all of 25 minutes and we “lingered” over dinner with 40 minutes.

Hitting the freeway in Portland at straight up 6 p.m., we were shocked to find ourselves home as early as we were. Normally it's a minimum 4 hour drive with good traffic...

Day 9: Today... we actually did get up and go to church. But that's about all we've done. Oh, we got the laundry all done, and have spent a bit of time looking at the pictures we took, but not much else. We've been resting up, reading, being lazy... as befits a last day of vacation, eh?

There are moments from this vacation that I will treasure and savor in my memory...

The staff of the Railway museum who were having so much fun showing off their place and enjoying their visitors.

Shawn, Jen and Toby in Healdsburg, who treated us like old friends and wanted us to enjoy their community as much as they do.

Being reminded again that quilters are the same everywhere, joyful and friendly and excited about what you might be making.

The silence of the forest.

The beauty.

The fun.

The joy at being away with my sweet husband.

...may there be mercy and refreshment as we return to work tomorrow.

home again

We made it home in one very long drive... and are pretty dang tired. In the next couple days will post a bit more about this wonderful trip. Too tired right now and gotta get to church!

...may there be mercy as we get back to our normal routine.

Friday, June 01, 2007

heading home

We've had an awesome time on this vacation. Tomorrow we get up early, early and head for home. It's about a 12 hour drive, so we are hoping we can push thought and make the drive in one day.

...may there be mercy and continued safety as we travel