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Sunday, July 31, 2016

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Bahama Mama


This is a drink screaming for a little paper umbrella in it.  Not for us today however.  It's the tail end of a heat wave with temps of over 100 degrees.  A couple of days ago, we hit a blistering 110 degrees on our Cocktail Hour patio...in the shade!  So, what to do on a hot day like this?  

A cool cocktail, of course!


Watch the Video!

And here it is, keeping with our new theme of low calorie, full flavored and full strength drinks, we present this amazing 130 calorie Bahama Mama.  Believe me, this will hit the spot when the thermometer rises.

Here's the recipe:
INGREDIENTS (two drinks):
3 oz. coconut flavored rum (Malibu or similar)
2 oz. cranberry cocktail
2 oz. diet orange soda
1 1/4 oz. pineapple juice
juice of 2 limes, fresh squeezed is best (not lemons)
splash of grenadine

Take all ingredients except for orange soda and grenadine and shake over ice in a cocktail shaker.  Pour 1 oz of orange soda into two highball glasses filled with ice.  Pour contents of cocktail shaker over that.  Splash the top of each drink with grenadine.  Let it settle without stirring.

Cheers!

-Darryl

Friday, July 29, 2016

Adventures in the Far North...of California: Redding, Part 2



Catch up on Part 1 on this trip here.

"It's 700 feet down to the water. It goes down a lot deeper than that but I can't tell you that."

"There's a lot more security than you can see. Believe me, it's very secure but you can't know how."



"I can't shake your hand because that would leave me vulnerable to be taken down."


Watch the Video!






So goes the conversation, not that I asked any of those questions, to the body-armored clad and well armed guard on top of Shasta Dam. 



"Don't worry, I won't try to shake your hand...I'll just give you a wave."

"I can't shake hands."

So I've heard...



"I do like showing off the dam to people like you, though. It was built during World War II. These things over hear pump cold water up the dam to the spillways to help the fish downstream.  You should take a look at the exhibits in the visitor's center."

It's a bit of a strange conversation with the guard manning the top rim of the dam but he's nice and means well. We continue along to reach the other side.



Above us, we hear the shrieks of a few osprey. Several nesting pairs live around the dam and they like to fish near the structure.  Eagles command the rest of the lake, so they stay out of the bigger birds way.



The weather's warm but nice. A stiff breeze blows off our hats now and again and the views of the source of the massive Sacramento River are stunning.

Back in Redding, after a swim in the hotel pool, we head over to the local minor league field behind the library to take in a game.



The Redding Colt 45s are hosting the Redding Tigers at the field they both call home. The teams are part of the Far West League, a summer league formed to give serious college players a place to ply their trade during the summer.

Still waiting to hone their skills to the point where a major league team might draft them, the FWL serves as an independent minor league slotted between college play and the regular minor leagues.



For five dollars, we get great front row seats about 10 feet from home plate.

We soon discover that this little stadium behind the library serves one of the top three hot dogs we've every had at a ball game, along with a decent little selection of craft beer to wash it down.

It's a very fun time and a good game.  It's close for the first six or seven innings but the 45's pull away in the end to crush the Tigers 15 to 4.

With that, we retire back to our hotel to relax and get ready to head down highway 99 to our next destination.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 25, 2016

Adventures in the Far North...of California: Redding, Part 1


We haven't even left the state but, with a stop in San Jose to evaluate a new travel wheelchair, it's taken us 2 days and 560 miles to get to our latest destination, Redding, California just an hour south of the Oregon border.

Our hotel for this trip is Oxford Suites. We've had wonderful stays at this small, west coast chain of hotels at their Pismo Beach and Chico locations.  This one is not quite on par with those two.


Watch the Video!

After a breakfast at the crowded hotel dining room, we head down the road a bit to Turtle Bay Exploration Park. We find that Turtle Bay is just a small part of a bigger park that is anchored by a pretty stunning pedestrian bridge across the Sacramento River.



That would be the Sundial Bridge (note, you do not have to pay admission to Turtle Bay to access the bridge), a functional piece of art spanning the river with a glass deck, suspended by cables attached to a tall spire that is an actual sundial.



We take a slow stroll across the bridge, stopping to admire the view and to watch a few rafters drift underneath. There was a race here earlier for kayakers that started at the bridge and ended up in Chico, a hundred miles away. Our path is much shorter, maybe another hundred yards.

There's music at the other end of the bridge, sounds very live, but no band in sight. I guess they just have a great stereo system and speakers.

I show Tim the large arc of time points and tell him how the sundial works. It's configured to be correct on the day of the summer solstice.



We wander a little bit on some of the trails. We've been here before, years ago, when we came to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park but much of this area was undeveloped. There's a small bridge over a nearby creek, shaded by stands of oak and sycamore.



The main trail continues on to the banks of the river and doubles back under the bridge. An accessible platform there allows wheelchairs to go right to the edge of the water.



A band is playing under the bridge, taking advantage of the acoustics it offers. So that's where the music was coming from.

I ask a lady playing with them if it's okay if I take some video of them playing. She tells me it's okay and that they're having a 45 year reunion of a group that used to just get together here and play once a week.

She asks where we're from and I say Los Angeles. She used to live there and knows that's a very generic term so she asks specifically where. I tell her the San Gabriel Valley.

"Oh, really? I used to teach school in South El Monte," she tells me.

"I grew up in South El Monte," I respond.

"I taught at Dean Shively School."

"I went to Dean Shively School."

"Do you remember a Mrs. Salazar?"

"Yes, she was one of my teachers."

"I used to be Mrs. Salazar."

Fate had brought us back together 45 years later. Just a fluke turn and an interest in their music led to a reunion with my elementary school teacher.



We spent the next few minutes catching up with each other's lives. She divorced, moved to Redding, met and married her current husband, then moved up to the Seattle area.

Just by chance, she was here this weekend to have that reunion with her bandmates. It really is a small world sometimes.

After that impromptu reunion, we head back across the bridge to visit Turtle Bay. Part zoo, part museum, part educational center, part aquarium, part garden, this is Redding's biggest attraction right now.

Inside, we go through a faux cave meant to evoke Shasta Caverns to the north. This is the only wheelchair accessible way to 'visit' Shasta Caverns, by the way. At the other end of the cave is an aquarium meant to represent the Sacramento River with examples of the different species of fish and animals that call it home.



Trout, salmon, ducks, and even a less than eager beaver are in this display.

Outside, an elevated and accessible boardwalk takes us over to the zoo where we see an animal show.

We are warned strictly to take a seat and do not move during the entirety of the presentation because these are still wild animals and we do not want to spook or distract them.



The show goes on with a couple of trainers and a menagerie of critters such as foxes, porcupines, and skunks along with some hawks, a vulture, and a raven.

After a day of wandering around the river, we head over to downtown and have a nice lunch at Mary's Pizza Shack before ending up back at the hotel where while waiting an hour for the pool lift to be fixed, the quiet swimming area became a small pool populated by a large swarm of noisy kids.

Oh well, we'll just call it a day at that point and pick up where we left off tomorrow.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos Copyright 2016 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 11, 2016

Adventures Close to Home: Riverside, California - Part 2


Click this link for Riverside, Part 1.

Farmer Boys is a fast food chain in California and Nevada. Just around the corner from our hotel, the Mission Inn, is their corporate headquarters. Next door to that is their flagship store.

Seems like a fitting place to have a quick breakfast so, armed with coupons we received before leaving home, we have a nice plate of French toast and eggs before heading out for the day.


Watch the Video!

We’ll need the energy because we’re climbing a mountain.  Well, mountain might be ambitious…more like a hill…but it’s called a mountain here…Mount Rubidoux.

About ½ a mile due west of the hotel, Mt. Rubidoux has long been a landmark here. Bought by Frank Miller, owner of the Mission Inn at the time, it was used for Easter sunrise services and eventually donated to the city.


Cars used to be able to drive to the summit on a one-way, narrow road.  They’d go up on the north side and descend on the south side. Autos were banned in 1992 but those beautifully paved roads means this is a wheelchair-ready climb.

There are two entrances to the park. The north entrance has no parking so we enter via the south gate which has limited parking and a wheelchair ramp around the gate.

Fellow hikers tell us that the north road is not as steep as the south road so where the two roads meet just a little way up the trail, we switch over to the north road.  Tim tells me that the power meter on his chair has gone down by one bar. No problem, he still has eight left.

The trail winds up through a desert landscape of scrub, cacti, and succulents. Many large rocks also jut out of the ground. At a mile Tim tells me he’s lost another bar.

At a mile and a quarter, Tim…who keeps stopping to check the power meter and starting back up…says he’s lost another one.  I explain to him that all that starting and stopping uses a lot more power than if he were to keep going and not to worry about it unless the power meter turns yellow instead of green.


He keeps going without the constant stop and go. About 2/3 of the way up, we cross over from the east side of the mountain to the west side. We’re treated to views of the Santa Ana River (the river that Riverside is on the side of) and a small airport in the distance. It’s kind of neat to see airplanes flying below you as they enter the pattern for the landing strip.



Near the summit, Tim tells me his power meter has gone yellow. Not wanting to take chances, we stop here. I’ll stay and keep Tim company while Letty will continue to the top and take pictures.



While Tim and I watch planes land below, Letty gets some great pictures at the top.



Here is a bridge where the road winds over itself.



A flag has been planted at the top, with downtown Riverside providing a backdrop.


At the peak, a large cross has been erected.

After Letty gets to the top and back to Tim and I, we head back down.  There’s a saddle not too far from where we waited where Tim and I can get similar views to the top.



We take a few minutes to see the sight and then head back down to the car where it’s back to the hotel.



A short rest and then we’re out to greet the Zombie Apocalypse…



Next to the hotel is the Main Street pedestrian mall. Usually, a quiet place to get a bite to eat or browse for antiques, today it is taken over by hordes of the undead.



It’s the 2nd Annual Zombie Crawl where Riversides most unlively citizens come out to show their moves and try to gross out the living.

Groups have dance offs in the middle of the plaza…mostly to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”…and compete for the best zombie makeup effects.  There’s even a little workshop on how to do different zombie walks, from the fresh out of the grave shuffle to the running zombie.



It’s all good fun though Tim had to fend off a few zombies trying to eat his brain. We’ll take refuge in the hotel for now.

We’ve got a show to go to but first it’s dinner. Our hotel package came with valet parking and a $50 credit.  The parking has been used over and over. Now, to use that credit.



There are four restaurants at the hotel…Duane’s for steaks, Las Campanas for Mexican (great margaritas, too), Bella Trattoria for Italian…and, our choice, the Mission Inn Restaurant for a little of them all dining under the stars in the beautiful main courtyard.



We start off this this great and different bread basket.



The food is pretty special. While Tim had a basic penne dish, Letty had this fresh fish dish.



I had this savory and juicy roast chicken with some very creamy mashed potatoes.



Well fed, we make our way across the street to the recently restored Fox Theater. Tonight, we’re going to see The Mavericks in concert, who have recently reunited with their singer, Raul Malo.



It’s a great, rocking show but the wheelchair seats are not raised very high so whenever the people in front of us feel like standing up and dancing, which is fairly often, it blocks Tim’s view. He’s not very bothered by it but Letty sure is.



Still, it’s a good show and we have a good time.  We end the night with a bottle of wine back in our roomy, Mission Inn Suite and savor the end of another trip.

Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 10, 2016

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The Runaway


Greetings from Jamaica! This week's cocktail is our latest invention, the Runaway.

A little background...when we travel, and especially if we have a comped in-room minibar...we like to play around with it and invent a cocktail from the ingredients within.

WATCH THE VIDEO!


This week, we're at the all-inclusive Luxury Bahia Principe resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. Our minibar includes a massive bottle of rum, some Coke, Sprite, orange soda, and beer. We augmented this by visiting a nearby market to get some coconut water, lime juice, and orange/pineapple juice.

Using our resort's location for the name, here's what we came up with.

INGREDIENTS

splash of lime juice
splash of coconut water
1 oz. gold rum
1 oz. orange/pineapple juice
top off with orange soda

Mix all ingredients in an ice-filled cup and enjoy.

Cheers!

Darryl

Friday, July 8, 2016

Adventures Close to Home - Riverside, California


We tend to take our local area for granted, don’t we? Anything within an hour’s drive seems like home to us and just doesn’t pop up on our travel radar.

People don’t go to Riverside, California from Los Angeles unless they have a reason to. Same with me…in good traffic, it’s less than an hour’s drive. Heck, I’ve worked in downtown Riverside off and on for the last ten years periodically.  I know what’s there…don’t I? I don’t need to go there on a vacation …do I?

Watch the Video!



Apparently, I don’t know as much as I thought. A recent weekend in the city had us begging to come back for more.
Originally, this was supposed to be a trip to Scottsdale. The peg for the trip was to see the Mavericks…one of our favorite bands…who have recently reunited with singer Raul Malo.  They were playing at the Arizona State Fair this week and it made for a convenient excuse to go.


Recently, however, the band added a couple of shows closer to home. Even though the prices are more expensive here in California, our recent spate of $5-per-gallon gas prices had us re-evaluating. It was also enticing that we’d be able to see our concert in a 1,600 seat theater from the 9th row rather than an 18,000 seat arena.
I’m saving a ton of money by going local for two nights instead of four nights in Arizona.  Works out about the same time to do things when you factor in that we don’t have to have two all day drives to get there and back. Riverside is less than an hour.


Since I am saving so much money on gas, food, and hotel, I’m able to splurge on a suite at the historic and beautiful Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, where I’m able to book their “Fall Back in Time” promotion which includes a $50 resort credit and free valet parking.
Before check-in, though, we exit at Holt off of the 60 freeway. The roofs of warehouses stretch out for a mile in front of us. Hard to imagine anything worth stopping here for.

A quick right turn leads us onto a bumpy and rutted road, filled with eighteen wheelers. A dusty and dilapidated auction on the right, a Costco warehouse on the left, and then the road I’m looking for , Wineville.


It’s a stop back in time at the Galleano Winery in Mira Loma, a few acres of farm that time forgot wedged here between the freeways, factories, and warehouses.  Although it’s been here longer than any of them, it seems wildly out of place.



Some tastes of their award-winning varieties, buying up some of their great and cheap Chianti and old vine zinfandel, and we’re back on our way. (You can see and read more about the incredible Galleano and Fillipi Wineries in our report, “California’s Hidden Wine Country”)


With a little time to kill once we get to our destination, we head to the corner of Magnolia and Arlington for a historic and easily overlooked landmark. There are three citrus trees fenced in a tiny little grove here, a grapefruit tree and two navel orange trees.


While I don’t know what the significance is of the grapefruit tree or the smaller orange tree, the larger of the navel trees has a bit history behind it. This is the Parent Navel Orange Tree.


Navel oranges are famously seedless, therefore you can’t propagate them sexually. Instead, they must be cloned by cuttings or grafting. The old tree, brought here in 1870 from Bahia, Brazil, is the tree that spawned all of the other navel orange trees in California, creating a huge industry.




Somehow, it still survives after all these years, although a second tree transplanted to the Mission Inn by President Teddy Roosevelt didn’t live long after that misbegotten attempt to create a tourist attraction. 
Speaking of the Mission Inn, we are now driving under the arched entrance to the valet parking area. A tall, dapper man in a crisply pressed suit opens our door and asks the purpose of our visit. We tell him we’re staying there the next few nights and he says “welcome home!”


As we exit the van, Troy…the man who greeted us…needles Tim about is St. Louis Cardinals shirt because they’re contending against the Giants for the National League pennant while we’re there.
Check-in’s a breeze and soon we’re off to the second floor to see our room.


Junior Suite doesn’t mean the same thing here as it does at other hotels. I’m used to it meaning a small barrier between the bed and couch and “suite” being more a term of wishful thinking than anything else. Here, it’s an actual suite with a big bedroom completely separated from the living room area by two doors.
The room also features a large, queen size sofabed, a walk-in closet, two large flat screen TVs (that don’t have HD channels, unfortunately), decent bathroom with high end toiletries, and a semi private patio.


The hotel is enough of a historic landmark that a highlight is just exploring the many passageways, nooks and crannies, and hidden surprises around each corner such as 800 year old bells, a 6-story colonnaded rotunda, chapel with original Tiffany stained glass windows, and more.
It’s like spending the night in the Winchester House except without the ghosts.


For a late lunch, we head around the corner to La Cascada, with provides us a decent Mexican lunch.
We come back to do a little more exploring…finding the rooftop garden, the California history themed glockenspiel, hidden patios next to rooms that have housed presidents.


The sparkling swimming pool, in a bougainvillea shrouded patio at the front of the hotel, is inviting on this warm day but we didn’t bring our swim suits. We do notice, however, that there is a lift so that disabled people can get in easily too.



We’ll remember this for next time. For now, it’s time to relax a little bit and get ready for tomorrow where we’ll climb a mountain, run into hordes of zombies, and go to our concert.

Part two is coming soon…
Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved