Wine tasting trip to Paso Robles

Vineyard sunset 1024x384We took a trip to Paso Robles in late August to get away for a long weekend and try some new wineries and places to eat.

When we got to Paso Robles, and had settled into our hotel, we headed into town to find dinner and ended up at Blue Moon Grill – and yes I had a Blue Moon beer. Solid Mexican food.

We started Saturday at Eberle Winery. Their grounds were very nice and there was a good sized crowd tasting. There were a couple of the wines we liked and ended up buying. They do tours of their underground cellars, but we just missed one and did not feel like waiting for the next one.

Our second stop was Via Vega. It was off the beaten path. Just when you think you are lost, you find the sign for the winery. The road pretty much ended at their winery.
Their theme is very much adia de los Muertos vibe. When you walk into the tasting room it is dark – a big shock when coming in from the bright sunshine. But once your eyes adjust you can see that the ‘warehouse’ they are using for a tasting room has an eclectic interior.
There is a small Airstream trailer that has been converted to a mini-Tikibar, a music stage, and stacked barrels. Go here if you want to see if for yourself.

And while tasting, the 15-year old daughter of one of the ladies pouring got up on stage and sang several songs from different Broadway Shows. She has a great voice and is collecting tips to buy a guitar. It was relaxing to listen to her while sipping wine.

We took a break for lunch and based upon the recommendation of the folks at Via Vega we went to Fish Gaucho just off the downtown square. I had awesome fish tacos and Bev had a BIG burrito.

The first stop after lunch was at Chronic Cellars on the west side of town. They also have a dia de los Muertos vibe, but not nearly as dark. Lots of cool artwork on the walls and found a couple of wines we liked.

Our final stop was Vines on the Marycrest. We were the only ones there and had a great time talking to the guy doing the pouring. Interesting back story, which you can read about here.
We tasted 6 wines and liked six wines. Liked them so much we became members and came away with almost a full case of wine.

For dinner we were craving sushi and tried Goshi Japanese Restaurant. Hmmm, sushi. Tried some new combinations and enjoyed them all.

Overall it was a great trip to Paso Robles and we will definitely plan on going back – hopefully sooner than later.

Vacation Time

IMG 0233 It is that time of the year – vacation time.
And this year the whole family went to Bend, Oregon for a week and stayed at Sunriver Resorts in a house we found online.

We have definitely arrived in the middle of a ‘heat wave’ – normal temps this time of year are in the 80’s, but all week it has been in the 90’s. Just means we do stuff in the morning or in the evening and rest and recover in afternoon.

The first event of the week was the Paulina Plunge Adventure – a combination of mountain biking (6 miles total) and 3 stops to ‘plunge’ into the Paulina River. The first part of the mountain bike ride was a little challenging and the hikes up from the river were short but steep. But the water felt great on the hot day.
The final ride of 3 miles was gentle single-track through the woods – it was over too soon.

On Thursday the boys and I headed to Crater Lake to check it out. I think the thing that stood out for me the most was the size of the ash cloud/destruction when the mountain blew it’s top to create the basin that is now Crater Lake.
There was a graphic showing the size of the Mt St Helens fallout compared to the Crater Lake fallout – the Crater Lake fall out was at least 100 times greater. I remember what happened at Mt St Helens – multiplying that by 100 makes for some pretty spectacular damage.

The rest of the time it has been Landon riding single track trails in the Deschutes forest, Bev and I going for walks in the morning and evening with Guinness (the dog not the beer), playing card games in the evening, and doing a whole lot of nothing the rest of the time.

We did a run in to Bend to check out the Old Mill area and grab lunch and pick up a few things at REI.

Bend is on the short list of places we want to live when we are no longer working (we don’t use the ‘r’ word) and I think so far it is at, or near, the top of the list. Need to come back in the winter to see what is like that time of year.

If you want to see some more pictures from the trip you check them out at my flickr account.

On the Oregon Trail II

Thursday started with an early morning horse ride for Beverly, Landon, Marci, and Madeline. The weather was overcast and sprinkling. After we dropped them off at the stables, Bob and I rode our bikes back to the house. It started raining on the way so we just had to stop for coffee. Found out later that the lightning and thunder spooked some of the horses and they had to cut the ride short. But everyone was able to go back in the evening and complete the rest of the ride. This was probably one of the trip’s highlights for Beverly – the horse lover in the family. For Landon it was a bit out of his comfort zone but he managed it fine.

After the lunch we decided to ride our bikes the 6 miles to Benham Falls. The ride was along a great single-track trail. Not too challenging but enough to make it fun. On the way we saw some awesome views of the Deschutes river. I don’t know if I would call what we saw as “falls”, it was more like steep rapids. Either way it was a great view and a very fun ride.

All meals had been at the house with the families taking turns cooking. We ate very well for all 3 meals each day. But on Thursday the grownups got all dressed up and went to a really nice seafood place in Bend. Anthony’s is located in The Shops at the Old Mill and had great atmosphere and good food. It was nice to be all grownup for the evening.

Friday morning we were up early to get packed and head for home. We decided to drive straight through for the ride home – approximately 10 hours. Surprisingly it went by fairly quickly. It is great to be home and in your own space/bed, but we all agreed that Sun River is a do-over.

One adventure I forgot in the part one post was our adventure looking for Costco in Bend. We knew that we would buy the bulk food we needed once we got to Sun River. Being the tech geek that I am, I fired up Google Maps and searched for “costco in bend or”. This is the result I got.

When viewed in map view it seems pretty straight forward – go from Sun River, which is Southwest of Bend to Costco (see the “A”) which is shown to be southeast of Bend. I figure we can take the direct route and cut across on SE Knott/Rickard roads and then head south again. So we are cruising along when there is a sign that says “Pavement Ends” – not something you normally want to see. Started to get suspicious about our directions so I whip out my iPhone 3G and fire up Google Map and it shows us where we are (the wonders of GPS) and we are still going in the right direction that I thought we should be going.
We hit the main road and head south – and there is Absolutely. Nothing. There. This does not feel right. I do a query for Costco on the iPhone and get a location on the opposite side of town – so off we go in that direction. But still does not feel right. So brace yourself – we stop and ask for directions. Good thing we did, we had passed it a few miles back.

So back we go, and even when we are in the right area we still can’t find Costco. We finally find it down behind a bunch of other stores. This had to been the best hidden Costco ever. This Google map has user generated content on it. The “L” is where Google said the Costco was – the “A”, and “B”, and “C”, etc. show where Costco really is.

This is the first time I have ever seen Google maps be that far wrong. My faith is shaken.

On the Oregon Trail I

It is summer so must be time for a family vacation. Time to load everyone up in the roadster and hit the great wide open for Walley World – oh wait that was the movie from the other night. No hot chicks on this trip (at least that I will admit too) and no animals were harmed.

For this summer we spent a week at sunny Sun River, Oregon – near Bend. We rented a house with another family (Hi Bellicitti’s) who had been to Sun River a few times previously. We packed up (including bikes) and headed up on a Sunday afternoon and stopped in Redding for the evening. It was hot in Redding, but it was a dry heat so not too bad. Two things we wanted to do in Redding – see the Sundial Bridge and play in the pool at the hotel. Did the latter first and the kids had a great time. After dinner, and just before sunset, a few of us headed to the bridge. We took a rather circuitous route to get there – we were not lost, just, uhm sightseeing. That is it, we were sightseeing.

Anyway as we neared the bridge you could noticeably feel the temperature drop from the cool water in the river. The sun was setting fast so I shot several shots – a couple I have posted on my Flickr feed. The bridge is pretty cool and the pictures do not do it justice. Also had a really cool sunset because there was a fair amount of smoke in the air because of the forest fires west of Redding.

The next morning we all went back to the bridge so everyone could see it and I could get more pictures with more light. Even though the light was fading the night before, it was better light. But I was still able to get some great shots. After everyone had a chance to see/photo the bridge we took off to Oregon. Six hours later, including a some driving done by Landon, we reached Sun River. We checked in and checked out our home for the rest of the week. This place is sweet!

Next step was figuring out what do while we are here. The options are pretty extensive – bike riding, horse riding, hiking, golf, river rafting, swimming – you get the picture. As you would expect, everyone wanted to do something different but we could agree on a few things – the golf putting in the dark and bike riding.

After getting unpacked and unwinding Monday night we hit the ground running on Tuesday. First order of the day was to hop on our bikes and start exploring Sun River. There is literally miles of paved trails to ride – it is very bike (and walking) friendly. We wanted to do a family float trip on a raft, but none were available until after we were gone. So Bob and Madeline got a canoe and Connor got a kayak and they went for a float/paddle of 6 miles. At the end, there was a Sun River van to ferry them back to the marina and transport their canoe/kayak.

Tuesday night was wrapped up by make the rounds on the putting course. In the dark. With flashing golf balls. And glow sticks on our putters and around the flag at each hole. It was dark and it was and fun.

On Wednesday the big event was the Adventure Course that Bob, Scott, Connor, and I did. It consisted of lots of poles, wires, ladders, and other things to climb on – 15′ to 40′ off the ground. Did I mention that I get nervous climbing a ladder to get on the roof – no? Well let me say the course was a challenge. I have posted some pictures on Flickr from the course and will continue to post more. I am proud to say Connor did every obstacle. I made it through all of them expect the last one. Last one was a climbing wall that swung back and forth. I did not have the upper body strength at the end of the day to make it to the top. All in all I was proud of what I did and very proud of what Connor did.

To top off the day we caught the “running of the horses”. At the end of each day the move the horses from the stable where they stage all of the trail rides to their evening pasture. It was something out of the wild west – 10’s of horses and a few “cowboys” riding herd to move them to the evening quarters – pretty frackin’ cool.

[more coming in part II]

Safari West – Trip report and photos

At the end of October Beverly and I spent the weekend at Safari West with our good friends the Garons. From the Safari West website – “Nestled on 400 acres in the heart of California’s wine country, Safari West is home for over 400 exotic mammals and birds. Not a zoo, not a drive-through park, it’s a wildlife preserve where the whole family can experience some of nature’s most beautiful animals in a natural habitat.”

We arrived Saturday afternoon, and after checking-in enjoyed a BBQ lunch. After we dropped our stuff off at our tent cabins we wondered around the animals that you can visit in the main area. Around 4p we took off on a 3-hour tour (a 3-hour tour) to see the rest of the animals on the 400 acre property. They use a jeep/bus that can sit 18 folks and are pretty comfortable. A word to the wise – if you sit on the bench on top, make sure to wear your seatbelt. No really, wear your seatbelt.
Our guide Gideon is from South Africa. Gideon is not his real name – his real name is one that I can’t spell much less pronounce. It is from the language that has the pops and clicks. He came to the states as part of the choir that performed in the Lion King – he even sang a bit of it for us while on the tour. On the tour we saw all of the animals that are living on the property. Check out the photos on the web gallery link to the right.

After the tour we had a few minutes to get cleaned up and it was dinner time. Dinner was nothing fancy, but was filling. The highlight of dinner was the entertainment. There was a group of approx 12 staying there to celebrate a birthday. They had hired a group that sang and danced songs from South Africa. The members of the group are all from South Africa and work at Safari West – Gideon was one of the member. And he performed in native costume. They sang several songs and did some dancing with Zuluettes – one of which was Gideon’s daughter.
After the singing we went outside to see South African fire dancing – which I have some photos of.

Hit the sack – well actually a very comfortable king-size bed with a electric blanket – around 11p. Around 2a we were woken up by two very loud, very drunk guests looking for their cabin. The guy kept insisting he was at their cabin – number 11 – when actually they were coming up the stairs to our cabin – number 16. I opened the door as they reached the deck – scaring the bejesus out of the girl. Told them they were not at cabin 11, and no, I had no idea where it was.

The next morning the view was awesome. It was quiet. Had the morning sun. And the animals were just waking up. Nothing like getting the first cup of coffee and watching the giraffes coming out. After breakfast we walked around and visited with the animals and then headed out by noon.

This is an adventure I would strongly recommend. We had a great time and it was really cool to see the animals up close and personal. The only thing I would have done different is take the tour in the morning. Better light for photo talking and all of the animals were still out and about.

Photos from the adventure on on the web gallery – here is a direct link to the Safari West Photos.

Movie Review – Sicko

Rating – A-

Saw on DVD

Michael Moore sets his sights on the plight of the uninsured in this eye-opening documentary. In the world’s richest country, 45 million people have no health insurance, while HMOs grow in size and wealth. Moore also explores the widespread use of antidepressants and their possible link to violent behavior. With his trademark humor and confrontational style, Moore asks the difficult questions to get to the truth behind today’s health care.

I know that Moore’s opinions will influence his filmmaking, so I have to take what he shows with some grains of salt. What he shows is upsetting and I am sure there is another side to the story – but it is hard to believe that we can have a system that is so critical to our lives be so screwed up. Makes me regret giving up my Canadian citizenship.