Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Fabulous Weekend Cut Short

After a long and amazing day, it was time for a little relaxation. Before heading back to the hotel, The Traveling Hillbilly made a quick stop to do a little wine tasting at Bernardus, a lodge just down the road from the hotel. The lodge is actually on the grounds of the winery and it truly is charming. However, the tasting room is about 2 more miles down the road. The folks at the tasting room were fun, friendly and you could tell they were enjoying their jobs. I must admit though, I was not thrilled with the wines there. After the great wines I had in the Paso Robles region, the bar was set pretty high.

I had originally only booked two nights at the hotel to give myself some flexibility for the weekend. Would I want to continue my drive North or head back home? I decided I’d get up in the morning and head back to Paso Robles. It would give me a chance to tour some more great wineries in the region, get a good night’s rest and I’d even be a little closer to home when it was time to leave on Sunday.

Unfortunately, my car had other plans for me. I got in my car, started it up and drove a few feet before several lights/codes started flashing on, traction control failure, stability control failure, my ABS light came on. I pulled over stopped the car, thinking maybe it’s just a computer glitch and needs to be “re-booted.” The dealer had mentioned to me at one point that sometimes happens. Unfortunately when I went to restart the car, I got nothing, absolutely nothing. The car was dead. I was stuck. Hhhhhmmmm what to do?

By some stroke of luck, it finally started about 20 minutes later and I decided I just better head straight home. I didn’t want to risk stopping for another night and not being able to get the car started again. At least if I had problems on the way home, I’d still have time to deal with the car and make it back home by Sunday.

I was about 40 minutes from home when my “engine coolant” light came on. Was this another technical glitch or a real issue? Was it worth the risk to stop the car and see? I decided I’d try and make it home. About a mile from home, all the lights came back on again, but I did make it home.

So my weekend was cut a little short and who knows what the repairs will be when I take the car in Monday morning. But the weekend’s not over yet and I truly had an amazing time. I still have one more day to relax and reflect on my journey.

When you travel often, there are always bumps in the road and these things happen. You just have to remember what’s really important and not let it ruin your trip. It’s just another part of the journey and often adds to the adventure.

After all one of my favorite travel memories is being “stuck” in Paris for 9 days after the rail workers went on strike and I couldn’t catch my train out of Paris to head to Italy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The 17 Mile Drive

I decided to walk around Monterey for a while before doing the drive. I was still thinking about the hike through the state reserve and wanted some time to process all that I had scene before doing another scenic journey.

I started at Fisherman’s Wharf and then just wandered around the area for a bit before stopping for lunch. After a quick lunch, it was time for the drive. The Traveling Hillbilly has heard a lot about this scenic drive over the years, so it was a must for any trip up the coast.

Well it’s true. The Traveling Hillbilly has now been to Pebble Beach and done the famous and scenic 17 Mile Drive.

It was definitely a drive worth making. Some folks had even told the Traveling Hillbilly it took them over two hours to make this 17 mile drive and I thought how on earth could it take two hours to drive 17 miles? After making the drive, I can see how. There are so many great places to stop along the way and just soak in the scene. The Traveling Hillbilly stopped at one point to watch some of the golfers play. My grandfather was a golfer and he often took me to the course growing up. As I watched these golfers I thought about how wonderful it would have been if my grandfather had gotten the chance to play on this amazing course, just steps from the ocean.

No trip to the Carmel/Monterey area would be complete without this drive, but I have to admit, I should have done this drive before the hike. After my experience at Point Lobos State Reserve, my expectations were set extremely high. I can’t say this was a disappointment, but the scenery at the park was nothing short of spectacular.

However, the Traveling Hillbilly wouldn’t mind having an address along 17 mile drive. Can you imagine, the Traveling Hillbilly at Pebble Beach? Who knows one day, you may be mailing the Traveling Hillbilly at XXX 17 mile drive.

The Best Hike Ever

Before I get to the 17 mile drive, I have to mention the great dinner I had at Little Napoli in downtown Carmel. It’s a quaint little Italian restaurant where the staff is friendly and the food is wonderful. There was a bit of a wait, but it was well worth it. It was the perfect way to end day one of my journey.

I awake on Friday morning, still feeling like a kid playing hooky. It’s so wonderful to be out and about enjoying the world on a work day! It makes the experience that much more fun.

I decide to start the day with a hike. Someone gave me this great book on California Hikes years ago and I pulled it out the day before I left, looking to see if there were any hikes in Carmel and Monterey that would be worth checking out. I was so excited to find one called Sea Lion Point Trail that promises sightings of harbor seals and sea lions. The Traveling Hillbilly got that and so much more. The trail is located in Point Lobos State Reserve.

I pull into the park and stop to pay my $10 entrance fee and am met with a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic ranger. I ask about the sea lions and he pulls out a map shows me the trail and tells me about several other trails and points that are “movie set beautiful.” You could tell he truly loves his job and his passion and enthusiasm for the park and all it has to offer are infectious! I’m excited to hit the trails.

The park is much bigger than what I was originally thinking and there were a ton of trails. I actually wound up starting at Whaler’s Cove and hiked all along the coast, including the Allan Memorial Grove (another must see) before seeing the Sea Lion Cove. All in all it was only about a 5-6 mile trek but it had the most beautiful scenery the Traveling Hillbilly has ever seen. The ranger was correct, it was movie set beautiful, actually it was more than that. You are walking along the coast, high up on a cliff over-looking the ocean surrounded by rocks, mountains and trees. It is truly magnificent.

I saw Sea Lions way before I reached Sea Lion Cove. They were sunning themselves on rocks and in the quiet little coves all around the trail. They were fun to see. After being in awe of the sea lions everywhere, the Traveling Hillbilly suddenly turns and there’s a deer in the bushes, nibbling away. I was so amazed that a deer would be that close and it didn’t even make an attempt to run away. Turns out that wouldn’t be the first deer I’d see. They were everywhere and I guess they’re just used to people and don’t scamper away.

It was a very moving and emotional experience. It really made the Traveling Hillbilly stop and think about life and made me appreciate the beautiful country we are all lucky to live in.

Pictures coming soon!

After taking a whole roll of film and starting on another, it was time to head to Monterey. I was excited to see Monterey and to do the 17 mile drive, but how would I ever be able to top what I had just seen?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Traveling Hillbilly Drives the Coast

After all the years of living in Los Angeles, not once has the Traveling Hillbilly driven the scenic drive up the coast. It was about time! What a beautiful drive it is. Very long and winding road, but a must see.

The Traveling Hillbilly awoke very early on Thursday morning to start this magnificent journey and what a magnificent journey it’s been so far. As a lot of you know, the Traveling Hillbilly likes a glass a wine every now and then so after a few hours in the car, it was time for a little detour. If you’re going to drive north, why not take a few hours of the day to do a little wine tasting in Paso Robles? I’ve never had a bad wine from this region and often look for wines from Paso Robles when at a restaurant.

First stop, Robert Hall. Great wines and the Traveling Hillbilly must give a shout out to Tim from Robert Hall. He was so wonderful and fun and did not give one bad recommendation for other wineries to tour. Thanks Tim! The Traveling Hillbilly LOVED Four Vines. Every wine tasted was fabulous. It is must for anyone who likes wine. Summerwood was good as well.

The Traveling Hillbilly has always wanted to go wine tasting in this region and must go back when there’s more time to explore.

Tomorrow, a posting on the famous 17 mile drive!