Darango, Colorado Riverbank, California Quartzsite, Arizona Wine Country Tour Sante Fe, N.M.
A Side trip of Wisconsin on the way to a class reunion
Dateline: April 7 - 12 2015
Breaking News! Angela Storm and I took a trip in April to my home town of Berlin, Wisconsin for a mini class reunion - Berlin Chamber of Commerce. They say you can’t go back - but, oh, not true. The moment I drove into Berlin memories came flooding back. The old two story brick building was my high school, My high school, the road to Green Lake where as young kids we would "park" on “the hill” and, of course, the Oak Hill cemetery where we would take the short cut to the rock quarries for our afternoon swim Quarry No. 2 in Berlin, Wi. Things did change, for instance, my old hang out of Steele’s was gone as well as the grade school I attended - but the memories were still there.
But, I digress, because before Berlin, Angela and I had a little road trip around Southern Wisconsin. We decided our first stop should be a winery. So, we got on the road out of town and headed over to the Develan, Wisconsin area. I tell you the Garmin does not understand round abouts! We kept going on the same round about because the Garmin kept telling us to go left, go left, and then it would say recalculate. Finally, I just followed my nose and we wound up at The Staller Vineyard and Winery Estate. We ordered our wine tasting which consisted of a Reserve La Crescent, a Cuvee, and finally an Ice wine with an aroma of honeysuckle and apricot. A very nice and charming vineyard. Before leaving, I had Angela try the Wisconsin Cheese Curds - not bad she said. Staller Wine Selections Anglea at the Wine Bar Gifts available at the winery
After leaving the winery we started for Berlin, having many detours, due to the Garmin, telling us to go on roads that I believe lead to p;onowhere. We stopped in the lovely town of Watertown - aka Watertoony as the locals call it. A local Irish pub for lunch and then off again to find our way home. It took us 3 hours but we finally drove into Berlin around 6 PM - checked into the hotel, a late dinner and bed. After all, tomorrow we were going to see Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan which I read was worth seeing. Bookworm Gardens Website.Grounds of the garden Bear sighting Hansel & Gretel Cottage. To our surprise a storm moved into Wisconsin and it started to rain on Thursday, the day for the Bookworm Garden. We decided to go anyway and got as far as Fond du lac where the rain was coming down in torrents. That ended the outdoor trip to the gardens so we stopped at Schreiner’s. If you want the quintessential "Bloody Mary" look no further than Schreiner's! Their Bloody Mary was rated No. 10 in all of Wisconsin. The garnish didn’t just come with a celery stick, oh no! There was an olive, a mushroom, a brussel sprout, a small sausage, and a large spear pickle. It was awesome. Best Bloody Mary I have ever had. They also have a great pub, named after the second owner - Bernie's Pub. Just a fabulous place and not to be missed. The Schreiner's Bloody Mary Rusty and the Bloody Mary
After leaving the Paine Museum, we drove around Oshkosh looking for a place to eat. We stumbled upon the Brooklyn Grill at 6th and Main, stopped in for a bite to eat and a glass of wine. Angela and Rusty with a glass of wine. After leaving the restaurant, our car came to a sudden stop. There was a dress shop that called our name. The Guilded Lady in Oshkosh was a wonderful shopping experience and for those of you that live in Berlin, Hamilton's on Grand Avenue is even better. I left a substantial amount of money at both of these shops.
Even though part of this trip was site seeing for my English friend Angela, I did make time to see my niece and nephew, Kathy McLaughlin and Rick Jent. We had a leisurely dinner at the Heidel House in Green Lake and caught up on what was happening in the family. Angela, Kathy McLaughlin and Rusty Kathy is a artist who paints among other things and Rick does wonderful woodwork. Angela took home an owl wood spinner for her backyard and I took home a bird house for my back yard. Both items were made by Rick. Owl Spinner made by Rick Kathy did a sunburst with beads which is eventually going to adorn my house. She does wonderful work and for those of you in Wisconsin you should check out her studio at the old court house in Green Lake.
On Saturday, we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant in Berlin called Bellissimo. What a treat! The food was fabulous and the staff was warm and friendly. Tilapia with artichoke in a tomato creme sauce This restaurant could very well be high dining on Rodeo Drive if it chose. I highly recommend this restaurant if you ever get to Wisconsin. Bellissimo's Business Card
That evening we attend the mini class reunion - a time to catch up with long time friends and classmates. You know, as we grow older, it is surprising how much we are all the same. It was an enchanting evening catching up and reminiscing about the growing up in Berlin. Even though we have all gone our separate ways, the bond of Berlin High School stayed with us and was ever strong that evening. I had a great time with all my classmates - after being gone for so long, for me it was difficult putting names to faces but eventually it all came back. Our class does a mini-reunion each year and then a reunion on the bigger years. Angela wants to go back for my 55th reunion. She thought the class was amazing with such a large turn out for even a mini reunion and the friendliness of the classmates to her was very touching. Thank you all for making my friend feel right at home. Picture of the Berlin classmatesRusty, Kathy, Joe and Susan Candid Picture of people standing around
Well, my vacation is coming to an end with only a day and a half left. We traveled back to Milwaukee and stayed at the Pfister Hotel. Built in 1893, the Pfister Hotel has been a Milwaukee hotel icon for over a century. As one of the Midwest premier luxury hotels, it continues to celebrate a grand tradition of gracious service and impeccable style. Website for the Pfister Hotel We checked in early was given a room on the 21st floor with a view overlooking downtown Milwaukee. Our room We also visited the ladies room on the 23rd floor and the Blu Room - Milwaukee’s most sophisticated martini and wine bar. Views from both places were fantastic. View from the ladies roomMilwaukee at Night from the Blu Room. We spent the day site seeing downtown Milwaukee, took in the piano bar in the evening and on our last night in Milwaukee we watched Dancing with the Stars with a glass of wine. Milwaukee's RiverwalkRusty and the lion Federal Courthouse in downtown Milwaukee
Angela and I had the most wonderful vacation, met the most warm and friendly people ever in Wisconsin. We throughly enjoyed every place we stopped. Wisconsin is a state you should visit and I only touched on a couple places. There is so much more to see and perhaps we will make another visit to this wonderful state.
Cannery Row and Steinbeck?
I bet this title caught your eye didn’t it? Well, this little story is not about either one; Cannery Row or Steinbeck. Although Monterey, California does have stories about both. Info on Cannery Row
No, my story is about a wild and wacky weekend in Monterey with, of all people, members and wives of the dead - or soon to be dead. Let’s ponder on that for a while and in the meantime I will tell you that on a bright and sunny day, I flew with a great group of people to Monterey for a wonderful 3 day holiday for me.
My friend Sharon and I stayed at a wonderful hotel call Hotel Pacific near the wharf and downtown Monterey. Home Page for Pacific Hotel The room was great, 2 queen beds, sofa with a large fireplace and near the back of the hotel which had very little morning traffic. The hotel is just a few blocks from the wharf area and about a mile from Cannery Row and the Aquarium.Hotel Lobby View of our room
We ate at this little restaurant on the wharf called the Sandbar. I had the best seafood dinner in a long time - scallops in wine sauce with sauteed mushrooms. It was really really good!. Home page for restaurant After dinner we all went back to the hotel as many of the people in our group had seminar classes to attend the next day. Part of the dinner group
I only had a couple days in Monterey and no car. So I paid a visit to Cannery Row Entering Cannery Row and the Monterey aquarium Home page for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium is fantastic!. I must say if you ever get up that way it is must see. I took at least a hundred pictures of all the different types of sea life. The girls (ladies) and I spent a wonderful morning going through the exhibits, petting the string rays, looking in tide pools and finally a lunch overlooking the ocean. Here a just a few of thepictures I took that day. Kelp BedSea Growth Puffer Fish Sting RaySea SnakeJelly Fish One Eye Fish After walking all day, we had to head back to the hotel to put our feet up for the last evening and a“Taste of the Town” dinner.
There were several serving stations, each with a different menu item, from bbq chicken, corn, sliders, homemade potato chips to home made cookies. Between the food and the hosted wine bar it was fun evening to remember. Of course, to finish off the evening Sharon and I had our picture taken with Viking Hats! The Viking girls Sadly, the trip was coming to an end and we were flying out of San Jose the next day so just a glass or two of wine was enough for the evening.
It was a wonderful little side trip taken with a great group of people. I think “they liked me, they really, really liked me” as I got invited to join them again. My next adventure is a California Coastal Cruise on the Crown Princess. Stay tuned for the exciting blurb on that upcoming adventure!.
You will never believe this! John and I did another California road trip. The sun had not even broken over the eastern horizon when John said let’s go. So, saying goodbye to my precious Pyewacket the III cat, we set out on our intrepid adventure. Picture of Pyewacket III We got to Barstow, California and made a left at the old Highway 395 and continued up the road heading to Bishop and our first stop Carson City Nevada. As we were driving, John pointed out a cinder cone volcano along the way. Having never seen one before nor having any special knowledge about this type of volcano, I had to look it up. Picture of a Cinder Cone
From Wikipedia, it states Cinder cones range in size from tens to hundreds of meters tall. Cinder cones are made of pyroclastic material. Many cinder cones have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit. I am assuming the cinder cone volcano I saw was hundreds of thousand years old. For more information here is the Wikipedia website. Wikipedia on Cider Cones
After seeing the cinder cone, the next item I spied were the Tufa towers in Mono lake. These rock towers form when underwater springs rich in calcium mix with the waters of the lake, which are rich in carbonates. The resulting reaction forms limestone. Over time the buildup of limestone formed towers, and when the water level of the lake dropped the towers became exposed. I was fascinated with the towers and could not stop that camera from snapping pictures. I guess you all know by know that I am a camera hog - my pictures aren’t great but I enjoy taking them. Tufa Towers - Picture 1 Tufa Towers - Picture 2 . If you want to read up on Tufa Towers at Mono Lake, check out this website. Mono Lake Website
We finally arrived at our first stop on our road trip, the Capital of Nevada, Carson City. We stayed at the Wyndam Garden hotel and casino. I think I would choose a different hotel the next time I make a trip to Carson City but I will say I had the most interesting martini at Red’s old 395 Grill across the street. It was a Nutte Smores Martini. I posted a picture of the martini on Facebook but for those of you who are not on Facebook, it has Frangelico, Nutella, Vodka and Bailey’s Irish Creme in it. It is like drinking desert. Nutte Smore Martini We gambled a little bit at the hotel, no big winnings. Our next stop is Virginia City, where the Cartwright boys from the Ponderosa would visit on their nights off.
As we started a short journey to Virginia City, my eyes espied a road monument entitled “Lousetown”. I made John slam on the brakes as I wanted to read what it said because I thought "who would ever name a town Lousetown". Here is what the monument said. Lousetown monument It was placed there by the Honorable Order of the E. Clamus Vitus. This is a fraternal organization dedicated to the study and preservation of the heritage of the American West, especially the history of the Mother Lode and gold mining regions of the area. The fraternity is not sure if it is a "historical drinking society" or a "drinking historical society." If you are interested, read more about this order at Wikipedia E Clampus Vitus
Arriving early in the morning (after 10 am is now defined as early), we strolled the streets of downtown Virginia City, took a road trip around the town where we learned all about the famous shoot outs, the many silver mines and the Silver Queen who had a dress woven to attached 362 silver dollars to her dress. It’s quite a dress! John and the Silver Queen A little research on the web and I found this website which gives the history of Virginia City and the Silver Queen a more detailed explanation. Very interesting website by the way. Website for Virginia City & the Silver Queen After spending some time in this famous little city we headed down the road to the biggest little city in the state, Reno. Reno was just a stop over for us as the next day we were heading to Sonora and Jamestown. Here I am visiting another old friend (Debbie) who moved out of Escondido years ago.
It's a Party on the Carnival Inspiration - Party Boat to Mexico
This is the third time I have done a party cruise on the Carnival line. This trip was on the Inspiration which is 855 feet long and can hold up to 2056 guests. Can you image 2000 people all wanting to party? A picture of the Inspiraton I have in the past done this trip with the girls but I am thinking maybe next time I will take a man? Probably my husband. Of course, if he doesn’t want to go, there are always more party girls around.
Angela (my roommate) and I started off on our cruise by driving to the Long Beach Pier. The trip was fun, driving up the coastline and merging in and out of the L.A.traffic. I must say, if I was in a post apocalyptic book, I would have been amazing - except I missed the turn off to the pier TWICE and had to turn around. I now know I would have been eaten alive! However, we did make it onto the ship to start our party weekend. Angela coming on board Got to our rooms, dumped our luggage and headed off to the atrium bar for our first martini. Fortunately, we had a great bartender - loads of fun, but his martini making left something to be desired. Bartender I drank it anyway just because I was thirsty. Our first martini
After our initial drink we explored the ship and then was called for “muster drill”. Have you ever been in a muster drill? First they drag you down to a room and make you stand around for 15 minutes before they even start their introductions, except of course every 2 or 3 minutes the man on stage would yell out “turn off your cell phones, this is a drill”. As if, in a real emergency, anyone would be texting away on their phones. Oh, wait a minute of course they would, after all nobody can live without their phones attached to their hips. Anyway, after about a half an hour, and explaining how to put on a life vest, they herded us out to the deck and made a stand there for 15 minutes, saying nothing, and then told us to leave. Did I happen to mention that there were at least 3 or 4 bachelorette parties on board the ship? These ladies were having fun. The Wheel of Fortune Spin Bachelorette Babe (notice her drink?)
After an uneventful evening we arrived in Ensenada, Mexico for our day of fun. Most of the people I spoke with were heading off to Papas and Bear, the local drinking establishment. We, however, having much better taste than drinking beer, went on a wine tour out to the Guadalupe valley. Here we drank the local wine, were fed bread, wine and pizza. Picture of our tour group After the brief stop at this local winery we headed to L.A. Cetto winery. We were given a tour, sampled some wine with bread and cheese and had a great time. Here is a picture of me drinking the wine. Rusty drinking from the tap I preferred the white over the red at this winery but on the way back to the ship, the group drank several bottles of their Champbrule Brut. That only gave impetus after the tour to stop at Papas and Beers for more refreshments. That night was formal night with the party in the atrium. It was a lot of fun.
On our third day, being a sea day back to Long Beach, we enjoyed the activities throughout the day, joined in a couple trivia games (not to good at that) saw the towel making guy in the hallway and had my last martini of the trip at the Alchemy Bar. Towel person I know that I talked a lot about alcohol on this trip but I actually didn’t drink all that much - I guess I am getting older and maybe wiser and treating my body a little better.
We had a great time on this party cruise and it is one I will do again with friends. Some of you might want to join me next time? Final picture - Angela and I at the piano. Piano picture My next adventure is Oahu and Maui.
Our California Road Trip
The first official trip of 2017 - Daytripping to Mexico
About a month ago, after consuming a bottle of Sonoma Valley wine, my friend Patti and I talked about doing a wine tour. So instead of heading up to the Temecula wine valley we thought let’s try out Mexico’s wine valley. Mexico's Valle de Guadalupe is only a couple of hours drive from the California/Mexico border, where travelers can have a Napa Valley-type wine experience for a fraction of the price. Valle de Guadalupe is blessed with a Mediterranean climate and is home to 100-plus wineries, producing highly-rated reds, whites and roses.
So, we decided to try out Valle de Guadalupe by using the services of San Diego’s based tour group, DayTripper Tours. Check out their website for many day tours that you can taken from San Diego - Daytripper's website. After booking, we waited a whole month before we consumed any more wine - ha ha!! The day arrived on a partially sunny, cooler day for California. I wasn’t too worried about the weather because it never rains in sunny California and truer words were never spoken.
By the time we stopped to get everyone on board from the different locations, we arrived at the border crossing about noon time. Before they would let the bus into Mexico we had to complete a Visa (make no mistakes because you cannot cross out the wrong word and write over it because they could refuse you entrance into Mexico said Jennifer our tour guide). Well you can guess there were a few people who made mistakes but Jennifer was wrong, we all got into Mexico. After that ordeal we traveled down the road toward Ensenada toward the wine country. Road sign to the wine country Our tour was to stop at two separate wineries. The first winery was L.A. Cetto is a larger well known winery in the valley.
L.A. Cetto's wines consistently take home top prizes for their excellence. Winemaker Camillo Magoni was actually named "Top Winemaker in the World" in 2004, thanks in part to the wonders he has worked with the Nebbiolo varietal at L.A. Cetto's Valle de Guadalupe property. His Nebbiolo (a grape which he introduced in Mexico!) is known for being silky smooth with a vanilla nose, bright stone-fruit flavors and a balanced finish. Cetto's Bottle of Wine
At this winery, our trip took on a different aspect. We sat at a table with 6 lovely 30 year olds. The Table of the Under 40 Year Olds They were having the time of their life and graciously included Patti and I in the group. I thought Patti and I were pretty good wine drinkers but they certainly out paced both of us. We laughed through the whole lunch and the ladies taught us a new game to play at the dinner table with friends. It is called “Pearly Whites” . The basics of the game are as follows: You pick a fruit or vegetable that you want to be. Then you must say your name (peas) and another person’s name at the table (apple) all the while by not showing any portion of your teeth. The faces you make are hilarious so if you do, you take a drink. It turned out very, very funny, and, of course, the more you drank the funnier it became. Patti stealing a bottle of wine Patti and I stuck with this group the rest of the trip because we knew they were FUN!!!! We all were given names, Stella, Sasha, Side Dish, Boom Boom, Jennifer, Amber, Pete and Patrick - which turned out to be Patrick’s real name! After lunch picture Posing for a picture
La Casa de Lupe was the next winery we stopped at which was a more intimate setting for wine tasting and chatting with friends. Cada de Lupe At this winery they have a wide variety of jellies and jams they sell which are homemade and delicious. They also have wild chickens which roam through the wine trails, however, in Mexico you see wild chickens everywhere. My chicken picture In addition to the wines, I also tried a tequila/bailey’s drink which was quite good. We spent about a hour at this winery and then had to get on the bus for home. The trip home was a little quiet because some people took naps. I wonder if the wine got to them? Patti and Rusty on the bus
Our little day tripper tour came to an end when we reached the border and crossed back into the US. Saying goodbye to our little friend It was a fun filled day with lots of laughter and meeting some fantastic people. Patti and I will be heading up to Napa for a wine tasting tour with our new friends Emily (Sasha) and Paul (Pete). Emily and Paul from the S.F. area I will be sure to write about Napa as its has been about 40 years since I visited the wine country - I bet a lot has changed.