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Friday, April 22, 2016

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA - The Final Chapter



We've been covering our home state of California with a summer long series of reports up and down the Golden State. That summer long tour concludes today with the finale of our trip to the Monterey Peninsula and the cities of Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey. Hope you had fun on this trip, be sure to let us know via the comment link at the end of the report.

In Part One of our Monterey Peninsula trip, we dodged poison oak to get breathtaking ocean views, had breakfast in a patio across the street from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and walked the streets of Carmel. Now on to part two...






The next morning we have an even better breakfast at Toasties, a comfortable and cozy diner parked in an old house in downtown Pacific Grove on Lighthouse Avenue.





Omelets filled with chorizo and avocado accompanied with silver dollar pancakes, along with French toast for Letty, make a great start to the day.

Monterey Peninsula Video


Watch the Video!

Passionfish…our favorite area dinner house…is across the street. Tim, having heard us rave about it for years, says he wouldn’t mind giving it a try.

This is a surprise as Tim would not usually volunteer to eat at a mainly seafood restaurant.

Our plan today was to go to the fair and load up on the fair food as our lunch and dinner. This throws a happy kink into our plans as I was lamenting not being able to eat there this trip.

“If I can get a reservation, we’ll go for dinner,” I tell Tim and Letty.

Walking across the street, I see there’s no one inside. There’s not a phone number printed on the sign or the menu posted on the door. Should we just try our luck later…on a Saturday night…to see if they have a table available?  Sounds very iffy to me.

Letty goes to a stand of newspaper machines nearby and pulls out one of the local freebie flyers. We’re in luck…Passionfish has an ad in it with their phone number.

Driving off to the fair, I call the number and leave a reservation request on their voice mail.





We get to the fairgrounds about a half hour before opening at noon. Even now, there is no parking available at all. Probably due to the fact that this facility has no parking lot…it’s all adjacent street parking.

Remote parking is available…with a wheelchair accessible shuttle too…but we could not find any confirmation at the time that the shuttle was available. We end up parking about a quarter mile away on a side street and walk in.





The fairgrounds here are small, a long narrow strip about two blocks long. There are exhibit buildings and a kids carnival at one end, a lot of food and drink booths clustered around the entrance in the middle, and the animal exhibits, the main carnival, and an arena at the other end.





The arena, quiet while we’re there, is also home of the historic Monterey Jazz Festival which has featured some great performances over the years including Jimi Hendrix’s historic performance back in the 60’s.





After watching a local dance troupe perform, we wander around a few exhibit buildings ending up at the Agriculture building where, in  addition to seeing blue ribbon winning produce, there’s a farmers market stand where you can actually buy the produce…pretty cheaply too!





I get a quartered navel orange in a plastic bag for a quarter. Nearby is a table giving away samples of berries.  Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries…all very delicious and, even better, free.

Back in the mid section, the local high school wrestling team sells fried calamari. It’s sort of a famous tradition here at this fair. I’m not a seafood lover but I buy some for Tim and Letty, who seem to really like it. I try a piece, just to shut them up. It’s good…really good.  I want more. It’s some of the best fair food I’ve ever had.






We get to the other end of the fair to check out the animals. Cows lick our hands, goats climb up the side of their pens hoping for a neck scratch, and lambs want to see what we smell like.

It’s all a lot of fun…just wish they had better parking.

After a fun-filled day at the fair, we head over to Passionfish for dinner. We’d gotten a call while at the fair saying the only time they could seat us was 5:30 so off we went.

Dinner was excellent and it’s nice to see how this place has taken off over the years. I see we’re not the only ones who think it’s the best the area has to offer.




With plates of scallops, braised lamb, and duck confit preceded by an appetizer of prosciutto wrapped dates, we were overwhelmed with the deep flavors and fun atmosphere of Passionfish.





One more night, but in the morning it’s time to pack and make that long drive back to L.A.

Darryl
Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 18, 2016

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA - Looking Beyond the Usual


The trail had lead to a bluff precariously perched about fifty feet above the breakers and rocks below. It was smooth and wide enough for the wheelchair to roll easily and avoid the hedges on each side that appeared to be about halfway composed of poison oak.





A mild enough scare watching Tim navigate his way out through that bit of a challenge and the wooden railings at the edge were enough to bring my parent’s worrying pulse rate down a bit.

Monterey Bay Video

Watch the Video!

Beyond, however…where the ocean had eaten away at the edge...the railing gave way to rope strung across metal stakes about ten feet apart.

“We’re not finishing the loop,” I told my wife. “We’ll go back the way we came.”



There are two wheelchair accessible trails here at the Point Lobos State Park in Carmel, California. Not enough parking in general and especially in regards to handicapped spaces, I pull halfway into a regular spot so I can unload Tim from the van, then pull the rest of the way in.




It was the last spot left. If I didn’t do that, I’d have no place to park and the ten dollar entrance fee would have just been for a short, but scenic drive through the park.



The trail was nicely maintained and a park docent was set up with a spotting scope pointing out to sea. He was very helpful and maneuvered the tripod to where Tim could roll up and get a close-up look at the hundreds of sea lions lounging on an offshore rock.

This was the second day of a Labor Day getaway for us to the Monterey Peninsula. We’ve come up here many times and thought we’d come up for an end of summer trip pegged to the Monterey County Fair, which runs a week or so from the end of August to just after Labor Day.



The hotel for this trip was the Rosedale Inn in Pacific Grove, just a block from the ocean sitting on the backside of Asilomar State Park and Conference Center.



Our room had a king size bed, queen size sofabed, tub with bench and shower hose, roll-under sink, fireplace, free wifi, and a big open area to wheel around in. What it didn’t have were any extra seats which would have come in handy for friends that were visiting us there.  It did have an expansive outdoor deck adjacent to the room that served that particular function well.



After sleeping off the long drive from L.A…made longer by a meal stop in Bakersfield and more traffic than we bargained for…we have a delicious and lingering breakfast at First Awakenings.



Technically in Pacific Grove, but just across the street from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we feast on crepes, crab benedict, and French toast on their outdoor patio while the nearby fire pit helps chase away the morning chill.

After our hike, we spend a little time in downtown Carmel. Cute, charming, and full of shops, it’s nice but a little shopping goes a long way for Tim and I.



There's more to come, stay tuned for part 2...coming soon!


Darryl
Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 17, 2016

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Whiskey, Women, and Song


Well, two out of three isn't bad. You can find the song over at our sister blog, "Musick's Music." The whiskey is below.

Tim and I have had requests to do a whiskey tasting for the Cocktail Hour. This week, we come through.

We're tasting four reasonably priced spirits plus a very popular guest star.


Watch the Video!



We start with Rebel Yell, a straight Kentucky bourbon from Louisville. It's smooth and tasty. We'll use that as our base to compare the other three. Rebel Yell is available from Trader Joe's in the$11-12 range.

Our first comparison is White Rabbit from the good people of Lynchburg, Tennessee at the Jack Daniel's distillery.  It's also very tasty and smooth. Smoother that the classic Jack Daniels, if I'm remembering right.

Next, it's Red and Blackie...Johnnie Walker Red and Black labels. Although the Black is aged 12 years, we didn't enjoy either as much as the first two.

As for the special guest? You'll have to watch the video above for that one.

Cheers!



Darryl

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

BAKERSFIELD: The Top Ten Attractions


Last week, I saw a list of the most underrated cities in each state. A wine county up north was listed for California.  That's not even a city and wineries dot this state's map like measles. 

If you know me or are a long time reader of this site, you know what city I think is the most underrated and, no, it's not a joke (it seems everytime I post something about this city at the bottom of the San Joaquin Valley, someone thinks I'm pulling their leg).

It's cheap, it's real, it's fun, and it's only two hours north of Los Angeles...Bakersfield.

Here are our top ten attractions in this city that is surprisingly full of them.



10. Take a hike along the Kern River in Hart Park.  When it's flowing good in the spring, you'll see a lot of kayakers challenging themselves in the rapids here.  It's a gorgeous, natural river in a woodland setting, still in the city limits.



9. CALM, also in Hart Park, is Bakersfield's zoo. Only animals that cannot be released into the wild (injured, pets, or too used to humans) are displayed here.



8. Wind Wolves Reserve, south of town, is a very large protected natural area with great hiking up into the adjacent mountains and a birder's paradise.



7. Tule Elk Reserve...climb up into the wheelchair-accessible viewing stand to see if you can see these miniature and endangered elk just west of town.

6. Minor league hockey at Rabobank Arena downtown. The Ducks minor league team, the Condors, play here during the season.



5. Kern County Museum, north of downtown on Chester, has recreated an historical village out of old buildings that were saved and moved here. Next on the list is the house that Merle Haggard grew up in, made out of an old boxcar, which is to be moved here and restored. The oil industry section is not to be missed as is their collection of old, Bakersfield neon signs.



4. The Bakersfield Blaze is a single A minor league baseball team that plays in the ancient Sam Lynn Ballpark, just north of the Kern County Museum, also on Chester.



3. Bakersfield is huge in the world of Country music, it's basically Nashville west and even has it's own "Bakersfield Sound." The last of the true honky tonks sits on Chester in Oildale, across the Kern River from Bakersfield. It's Trout's.



2. The city has three auto race tracks...a drag strip in nearby Famoso, a 1/2 mile paved track alongside I-5 west of town, and Bakersfield Speedway in Oildale.  We prefer the 1/3 mile dirt track of Bakersfield Speedway. The action is tighter and more exciting plus they have decent food and a nice selections of beers.



1. The Crystal Palace is the place to go for a more upscale country music show. This steakhouse and nightclub built by the legendary Buck Owens serves up hearty food and live country music. Buck's band, the Buckaroos, play the first set every Friday and Saturday night.

There you go, the top ten things to do in Bakersfield...and we didn't even get into the fantastic array of places to eat yet, either.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 11, 2016

Stay CALM and Enjoy the Animals: California Living Museum in Bakersfield, California




We've been out to the eastern edges of Bakersfield before, hiking along the Kern River. Today, we've found a new place to visit.

Past the biker bar and honky tonk known as Ethel's Old Corral and the police department's shooting range, along Alfred Harrell Highway, you'll find a green patch among the dirt brown hills with a large parking lot. If you're in the right place, you'll be at the California Living Museum, also known as CALM.


Watch the Video!


Basically, this is Bakersfield's zoo. This particular facility's mission is to care for only California native animals that can't take care of themselves. They may have been injured, raised as a pet or any number of other reasons that they can't make it in the wild.

We're talking black bears, longhorn sheep, eagles, hawks, and a host of other creatures.

It's a Friday morning. The parking lot is pretty much empty. I think we might be the only people here other than staff and volunteers.

Looking at the map, there's a crooked path that makes a loop around the zoo. It's well marked with what is and is not accessible. We'll follow that.


First up are the cats of California, the mountain lion and bobcat, but they're not on display today as the crews clean out their enclosures. Beyond that is a large hillside with a group of longhorn sheep that are feeding.

For the most part, they're content with relaxing and chewing although the big ram of the group butts heads whenever he thinks one of the other family members is taking too much of the meal.


Tim rolls gingerly down into a small ravine where a bridge allows him access to cross the creek at the bottom. On the other side, it's birds of prey. Eagles, osprey, and various hawks make up the population of this aviary.


Mustering up a brave face, he rolls into the reptile house to come face-to-face with the six species of rattlesnakes along with the many other non-venomous snakes from our state.

A pair of hyperactive chipmunks tumble non-stop in their cage in the middle of the room.


On to the mammals, which include mule deer, racoons, badgers, and a very sleepy black bear napping under a sprinkler.

It's on to the pond for waterfowl, a barnyard with domestic farm animals, then my wife's favorite spot.

The desert exhibit...half underground and half above...features tortoises, vultures, and my wife's newest friend, the barn owls.


She's specifically taken with one little owl the staff has told us is named Mr. Fuzzywiggles. He follows her around the entire enclosure, maybe mistaking her for a former caretaker or something.

Cleary, they form a connection but, although you can take many souvenirs home from the gift shop, Mr. Fuzzywiggles will have to stay behind.


One final outstanding plate of tacos and sopes from Los Tacos de Huicho, another night at the Springhill Suites, then it's just a quick drive over the Grapevine back home.

Darryl
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Pictures by Letty
Copyright 2014 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 10, 2016

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Tropical Storm



If it's not quite a hurricane, it must be a tropical storm.

Watch the Video!


This week's cocktail is a one-off of that great New Orleans tradition.  Ours uses ingredients on hand but is still rum based. 



Here is the recipe...


INGREDIENTS (makes two drinks)
2 oz. light rum
1 oz. dark rum
1 oz. mango juice
2 oz. sweet and sour mix
splash of grenadine
2 oz. orange soda


Mix all ingredients, except for the orange soda, into a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Strain over the rocks into two highball or pint glasses filled with ice. Top off each glass with the orange soda.

Cheers!




Darryl

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Last Man Standing in Oildale...Rockwell and His Honky Tonk


Each time we come to this city in the south end of the San Joaquin Valley, we find something new to see or experience.  There was the first time we went to the Crystal Palace. Then, the old town streets of the Kern County Museum and the Oil Museum. Letty getting to be the darling of the game at the local minor league team's game; tasting the great margaritas at Mexicali; the outstanding food of Los Tacos de Huicho, Urrichio's, and the area's many Basque restaurants; hiking along the Kern River...the list goes on and on.

So what will we find on our latest stay in this very underrated travel destination?



I've got two free nights at the Springhill Suites courtesy of the Marriott Rewards program and a day and a half to explore. We're thinking of going honky tonking tonight but can't decide if we should go with the safe bet of the Crystal Palace or be a little adventurous and head over the river to the more rough-and-tumble Oildale.



Our Bakersfield guide says that there are local bands jamming all day at Trout's...billing itself at Bakersfield's last "true" honky tonk...we head over there to see the action.

Mid day on Friday, though, there is none.  We do settle in to have a drink and introduce ourselves to the bar's owner, Thomas Rockwell. Rockwell is what he prefers to be called, so Rockwell it is. He's very nice and a gentleman to take a few minutes to chat with us before heading over to the other end of the bar.



There, a camera crew has set up and is interviewing Rockwell for a show. He's in very high demand as Trout's, and the Bakersfield Sound, is getting a lot more attention these days. Even the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville has set aside a wing to salute the Bakersfield Sound (very distinct from what comes out of Nashville) and hometown heroes like Buck Owens and Oildale's most famous product, Merle Haggard.



While the bartender sets Tim and I up with a couple of good microbrews (I know, in a honky tonk?) and makes a red velvet cocktail for Letty, we wander around the two stages, snapping a few pictures and listening in to the interview.



We learn that Trout's has been at this location since the 1940's and in business going back over 80 years.  Rockwell is trying to spiff it up a bit but there are still corners of the building that are off limits because of ongoing repair issues.

Back out into the harsh, Central Valley sunshine, we pile back into the van and head back to Rosedale Highway for dinner.



We'll fill up on an extensive Basque meal at one of our favorites, Benji's, sitting behind derelict derricks and other oilfield detritis just east of the 99.

After the drive from Gold Country, we end up too tired to go out for the show, so we just relax in the suite and enjoy some after dinner wine before turning in for a long night's rest. Tomorrow, we'll go find another new pleasure in our favorite underrated travel destination.

Stay tuned for that.




Darryl
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

CEREBRAL PALSY STORIES: The Rickety Van Lift


For anyone who has a disability, going out to your local surroundings is very important, whether you're going to work or just exploring the sights around town.  For us, we have a van equipped with a wheelchair lift.  Correction.  Our van has had two wheelchair lifts installed in it since we've had it.  One that folded up in three stages in order to be all stowed away and the new one which folds up the more traditional way.



  • The first one was a Vangater II, made by Braun, which was handy as hell when it worked properly but having all your weight on one post is not a great engineering marvel. Over time, the lift sagged to one side under that weight. Braun no longer makes it.


The first wheelchair lift started giving us problems at the beginning of last year when we came back from a road trip to San Quintin and Ensenada in Mexico.  During that time, we were without the lift and van for a three week period.


  • Next came the time when the lift would not fold up properly and we found a bolt sheared inside. We took it to the mobility dealer who fixed it at no charge.


I can't really remember all the things that ended up being repaired on the lift during this time, but I do remember it wasn't functioning very well after taking all kinds of punishing abuse from the dirt roads down south.




  • A little while later, while we were getting ready to leave on another road trip, another bolt sheared. As we headed out of town, we stopped again at the mobility dealer, who did a spot repair and said a bunch of (expensive) parts needed to be ordered. We jury rigged the lift with c-clamps and bungie cords to get us by in the meantime.
  • I asked how much a complete overhaul would be and the dealer said it would cost thousands but that since Braun didn't make the lift anymore, they probably wouldn't even be able to get the parts needed.


After that trip to Mexico and the initial repairs to the lift afterwards, we would still have to take the van to Mobility Specialists in Pasadena every now and then for routine maintenance or if there was a loose bolt or screw here and there or even if a blown fuse had to be replaced.


  • After the trip, I called Steve Causus at Mobility Works in Pasadena. We negotiated back and forth a little bit and we decided to go ahead and replace the Vangater II with a Century lift, also made by Braun. It was around $7,000 for the whole thing.

  • Once installed, we found that the lip of the lift was too high to close against the wheelchair footplates.  We asked if we could take it to a metal worker to cut it lower, Braun said no dice...that would void the warranty.



  • So, Letty and I set to work on Tim's wheelchair, moving the seat and footplates back a bit
  • Now, the chair fits on the lift...barely.

It's been a little over a year since that fateful trip to Mexico and the the first rickety van lift has now been replaced with a different one.  Oh and did I mention that a fuse has already been replaced on the second lift after a couple months of use?  Here's to keeping our fingers crossed in the continuing adventure of The Rickety Van Lift.



  • Let's hope so, Tim. The new lift is rock-solid but barely fits in our van. It has two posts, instead of one, so it shouldn't start sagging like the old one.  It's a bit more difficult to get in, since it doesn't fold up, but at least it works.


Tim Musick (with bullet points by Darryl Musick)
Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved.