Monday, November 26, 2012

The Traveling Hillbilly Makes Wine?

The Traveling Hillbilly was offered the chance to work (volunteer) at a ranch in Santa Ynez for a couple of days and see first- hand what goes in the wine making process.   First, I could have not had a more beautiful day for the drive up.   The 2 ½ drive from Los Angeles was absolutely beautiful.  Blue skies above, clear blue waters on the left and beautiful mountains on the right, all made for a truly scenic drive.  Plus it was about 70 degrees and with minimal traffic, the drive went quickly.
I arrived at the ranch and it is quite charming.   As I park and get out of my car, I see an older gentleman and ask if Mike is around.  He says, follow me.  It turns out, he’s Mike’s dad and the one who bought the ranch over 30 years ago.   It started at as a horse and cattle ranch and they started planting grapes about 10 years ago.    He’s 89 years old and is quite the charmer!
After settling in, Mike starts giving me some background on the process and teaching me some of the terminology.  It’s a lot to take in but all very interesting.  We do a quick tour of the vineyard and he explains the different theories about planting the vines.   There is a reason or theory for everything from how far apart to plant the vines, to what the right length of each vine should be.   He tells me there’s a common saying, “there are a 1,000 decisions in making a bottle of wine” and I believe it.   Given all the work that goes into making one bottle of wine, it’s amazing every bottle isn’t at least $100 each. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Traveling Hillbilly Get's Locked Up!

The Traveling Hillbilly has been to San Francisco many times.   Many times, I've tried to go to Alcatraz, but it's always sold out.  I was determined to go this time, and was smart enough to make reservations in advance.  For those who have never been, it is worth the trip.   Aside from getting the chance to see one of the most well known and mythical prisons, you get some of the best views of the city!

I also recommend the audio tour.  I don't normally like audio tours.  I find they tend to slow the tour down and provide a little too much information.  But this one was very interesting.   Who knew that many of the families of those who worked at the prison actually lived on the island?  I also did not know about the occupation of Alcatraz by a group of Indian tribes in 1969 and last for 19 months.   There were also close to 80 kids that lived on the island, right along with the prisoners.  We actually got to meet one of those kids, Ernest Lageson.   His dad was a guard at the prison and was one of the nine hostages taken in one of the most well know escape attempts.  The escape attempt failed but it turned into a 3 day siege at the prison which resulted in two dead guards and three dead prisoners.  The other three "escapees" where later tried in court, two were sentenced to death and died in the gas chamber a couple of years later and one was given a life sentence.  Aside from this drama,  Lageson claimed it was an idyllic life and was like living in a small town.  
Approaching the island from the ferry

Being inside the prison was actually a little eerie.  I can't image what life must have been like there or what it would be like in any prison for that matter.   The cells were so small, only 5 feet wide by 9 feet deep.  There was just enough room for a small cot, toilet and sink.  Each cell had one small shelf, along with a very small metal table and stool built into the wall.   The days and nights must have passed achingly slowly.  I think the most torturous things for the prisoners was knowing that the vibrant life in San Francisco was so close by.   From the island, the city looks so close and I can see why many prisoners thought they could just swim to freedom.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Elephant Seals? Is There Really Such a Thing?

After taking a few pictures in Pismo Beach, it’s back in the car to continue our journey.  As we drive along, I suddenly see a vista point with a sign that says elephant seals.   I have heard about this place and we decide to turn and see if we can actually see any seals.    Boy did we see seals!   They were everywhere and they were huge!   The whole beach was littered with seals, sleeping, playing and swimming.  It was a site to see!

As we are observing the seals and laughing at their odd but amusing behavior, a cloud rolls in.   Suddenly the blue sky is overcome by clouds and we no longer have our sunny blue skies.   We get back in the car with the hope we’ll turn a corner or two and be back in the sunshine.    But no such luck!  At about 4:30 the rain starts and about 4:45 it’s dark.   So much for our scenic drive!  We are now driving along the winding road, in the pitch dark, in the rain.    It becomes a true roller coaster ride and we know we are in for a long night ahead.

The Traveling Hillbilly Goes Road Trippin’

Back a few months ago, the Traveling Hillbilly got a “save the date” notice for a friend’s wedding.  This friend just happens to live in San Francisco, so I decided then and there to make this a road trip adventure.  My friend Jon and I hit the road the Thursday before the wedding and started the long drive up the coast.   As a lot of you know, the Traveling Hillbilly has done this drive before and highly recommends it.  It is such a beautiful, scenic drive.   It takes you through some of the most amazing scenery California has to offer. 
So off we go.  Unfortunately it’s cloudy and raining lightly as we head out of Los Angeles.  Our first stop is Mo’s Barbeque in Pismo Beach, a great place for a late lunch.  Yum!   It’s a little chilly but the clouds have gone and now there’s nothing but blue skies.   We just can’t wait to see the beautiful sunset to come in just a few short hours.  

Our adventure has truly begun!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Sunday at the Airport

Okay so after a lovely weekend, it's time to head home.   My flight leaves out of Monterey at 1:55 so I head off to the airport around 11:30am.   It's a very small airport and I'm through security in less than 10 minutes.  I have plenty of time to grab a bite to eat before they start boarding.   I grab a quick sandwich and read my book, while I wait for the plane to arrive and boarding to begin.   I'm not surprised to discover a few folks from the weekend are on my same flight.   Suddenly we look up and to see our flight has been delayed.   It is now not due to take off until 3:20.   About 30 minutes later, the departure time changes again, now it's 4:25, then suddenly it's 4:45.   We are all wishing now that we had driven.  We could be home earlier had we driven than we will be at this rate.    At about 3pm, just as we are settling in for the long day we are spending at the airport, they suddenly change the time again.  It’s now a 5:20 departure, no wait, make that 5:30! 
There’s nothing like spending the day in the Monterey Airport, with its 6 gates!  Woo hoo!

A Weekend of Surprises, Indulgences and even a Shooting Star.

Oh and an earthquake too!

A weekend in Big Sur turns out to be one fun filled adventure after another.   More food than any one person should ever hope to enjoy, lots of fun-filled decadent adventures and the opportunity to meet some amazing new people.   Away from the bright lights of Los Angeles, we got to see the most amazing star filled sky.   Stars really do twinkle.  There’s something magical about sitting in a hammock and staring up at the stars.  The Traveling Hillbilly was actually lucky enough to see not one, but two shooting stars! 
Just as we are about to doze off on our last night in paradise, the room begins to shake, and shake and shake.  We are all too familiar with this and instantly know we are experiencing an earthquake.   It goes on for quite a bit but luckily no one was hurt.   It turns out to be about a 5.3 and was centered nearby.  We finally doze off, knowing we have an early morning and a long trip home tomorrow.

All in all it was a great weekend and one I’ll remember for quite some time.

Sunset in Big Sur

A nature hike, cooking with Top Chef or photo session with Nigel Barker?

These are the decisions the Traveling Hillbilly must make for how to spend a Saturday.   How does one choose when those are the options?   But do I really need to choose?  It won’t make for a nice relaxing day in Big Sur, but it could be one fun filled day that creates a lot of great memories.   And it does.   We start the morning off with a nice guided hike through the area and get back just in time to take a cooking class with one of the former contestants from Top Chef.   Unfortunately the lesson involved mainly seafood dishes, not exactly the Traveling Hillbilly’s favorite food type.  
My cerviche, looks good but yuck!

The real Chef!
Then it’s off to a photo session with the renowned photographer, Nigel Barker.   Of course, there is wine and champagne involved and lots of great people around.  It turns out to be quite fun, much more so than I anticipated and we all have a great time.
My friend Meija during her photo sessions with Nigel Barker!
 Now it’s time for dinner!   Time to eat again?   Surprisingly I’m actually feeling a little hungry.