Friday, November 30, 2018

Far Flung Points, Posers, and All the Beaches Inbetween - St. Croix, Part 4


“I have a challenge for you,” I tell the concierge. “We’d like to take a snorkel trip to Buck Island but we haven’t been able to find a boat willing to take the wheelchair.”

“Challenge accepted,” she tells us.

While she goes off to find that tour, we’re off to find the sunrise.  No, we’re not actually getting up at the crack of dawn, we’re just driving to the end of the island.


Watch The Video!


Point Udall is the eastern end of the island.  It’s also the eastern-most point of the United States.

It’s still hard to wrap our heads around that this is still our country…part of the good ‘ole U.S. of A…but it is. This barren little rock outcropping is the first soil in our country to feel the sun’s rays.


A monument put up at the millennium alludes to this fact.

I peer over the side to see the extreme end of the point. The rocky outcropping is constantly pounded by waves.


There’s even a little waterspout when the waves hit it just right.

Now, let’s go find the island’s most famous industry, the rum.

St. Croix has been making fine Caribbean rum for over 300 years. Cruzan is their brand and is found as the well liquor in just about every bar on the island. The distillery offers tours but it is full of stair climbing and is not hospitable to wheechairs.

We’d like to take a tour but this just doesn’t sound like much fun for Tim. Luckily, there is now another option.


Recently, Captain Morgan rums relocated their distillery from nearby Puerto Rico to a new plant near the airport. It’s new, this is the United States…home of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it should be accessible…right?

We pull into the handicapped spot in front of the new visitor’s center. Inside, we’re told that the tram used for the tour is not wheelchair accessible and that there is also one part of the tour where visitors get off the tram and walk a little bit.

I ask if I can transfer Tim into the tram and if he can stay on it during the walking part. The answer is yes to both so we sign up for the tour (no pictures allowed during the factory part).

We roll Tim out to the tram, which looks like the kind Universal Studios uses for their backlot tours. We’re escorted to the side where one tour guide notices the seat behind the driver folds up.

“If you can lift both him and the wheelchair, you can put him there,” she says.

No, I can’t lift both but I can transfer him into the seat onboard.

Then the other tour guide notices a slot under the floor of the tram.

“What’s this?” she asks and pulls on a strap there. Low and behold, a ramp slides out. In operation for a year, no one had noticed there was a wheelchair ramp built into the side of the tram.

They pull it out, I wheel Tim onboard, and beg to take a picture.

“But you don’t understand, a lot of wheelchair users follow our travels and would be thrilled to know your tour is accessible,” I plead.


After a few minutes, I’m finally given permission to take one, really quick picture. It turns out Tim is the very first wheelchair visitor they’ve ever had and I am happy to report that the Captain Morgan distillery tour in St. Croix is now fully wheelchair accessible…even the walking part halfway through.

After the tour, we watch a very entertaining film about the brand and learn how to do the “pose” while sipping samples of their dozen or so rums in the bar.


During this little “happy hour,” we also get to have two cocktails of our choice mixed with one of their brands, of course. We spend another hour in the gift shop looking for souvenirs and rum. It is a very inexpensive place to buy it. Before I left home, I saw Captain Morgan Spiced Rum for sale at Costco for $34.99. Here? It’s $9…no tax, either (U.S. citizens can take up to 6 liters of liquor home duty-free, as long as at least one bottle is made on the island).

We take a dozen bottles home.


Back at the Buccaneer, we change into our swim trunks and head to the beach. There are three beaches here but most people only go to two. Mermaid Beach and Grotto Beach. We go to Grotto because they also have a swimming pool there.

The road is long and the hill steep enough that you don’t want to walk down to the beach from the great house, especially with a wheelchair. The hotel runs shuttles up and down the hill all day long but we opt to drive in the rental car. That way we can set our own schedule and throw a six pack of beer in the back to supply us on the beach.


Not quite accessible, it takes two steps to get to poolside here but I’m able to back Tim down them pretty easily. We blow up an inner tube and Letty and I get him into the pool without a problem. Tim takes a couple of hours to float around the pool while Letty and I tag team to stay with him there while the other goes swimming in the adjacent ocean.


I get a diving mask, snorkel, and fins from the beach shack and head to the coral reef just offshore. It’s a bit murky since there was a storm a couple of days ago, with lots of little bits of seaweed floating around. Not really great and not really worth the great effort it would take to get Tim in the water.

Still, I was able to get a little video of it, which you can watch in the embedded video, above.


As the day comes to an end at Grotto Beach, we go back up the hill to make homemade rum punches, sit on the terrace and listen to the sounds of the house band playing on the beach and wafting up to our room on the sunset breeze.

Darryl
Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

ADVENTURES FAR FROM HOME: The Best Complimentary Hotel Breakfasts


You kind of feel like you're getting away with something when your hotel feeds you for free. It's also nice just to slip downstairs to eat and come back up to the room to get ready for the day without having to leave the building. A one or two minute commute from the room to the lobby is so nice and timesaving too.

Some hotels barely make an effort with a few pieces of fruit, some pre-packaged pastries, and coffee but others with fill you full of good, hearty food to tackle the day.

We're going to reveal our favorites but first a few honorable mentions. These chains offer full breakfasts, good food, but don't quite go the extra mile to make it special.

Embassy Suites
Drury Inn
Springhill Suites
Homewood Suites

Now on to the top-of-the-line hotels that really call to us at breakfast time.

5. Charter Inn and Suites is in the Central Valley town of Tulare, California. It's not a place too many go to for a weekend getaway but it is within driving distance to several places like the giant ice cream sundaes of Hanford or the giant trees in Sequoia National Park.  It's also one of the best hotels along Highway 99 and includes a great, hot buffet in their cozy library room.

4. Sure Stay Hotel, Bakersfield, California sits next door to the Crystal Palace, the country music club built by Buck Owens. You can still see the Buckaroos play there almost every Friday and Saturday night by just taking a few steps out the front door of this hotel. When you do, you'll walk by the onsite diner where you'll be able to order anything off of their menu in the morning for free. You might want to keep Sunday morning open, though. The Crystal Palace does a Sunday brunch that will blow your socks (and diet) off. That one's not free though.

3. Hotel Vi Vadi in Munich, Germany, is one of those hotels that have an arrangement with the next door restaurant. It's pretty common to find breakfast included in your room rate in Germany.  Here, the Italian restaurant next door puts out a nice spread of eggs, meats, pastries and more served in a very nice dining room with an assist from the waiters there. I found myself wanting to wake up early to take advantage of this great breakfast.

2. Best Western Station Inn, South Lake Tahoe, California, is another with an onsite restaurant.  Instead of a buffet, you are waited on and given a special menu with seven breakfast options like pancake combos, bacon 'n eggs, biscuits and gravy, and much more. Service is very good and afterward you still don't have to drive anywhere. The casinos, beach, and lift to Heavenly Valley are all only a block away.



1. The Buccaneer Hotel, Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, is not an all inclusive resort but they do include breakfast at a spectacular 40 foot long buffet. You can also order anything cooked to order from the kitchen and enjoy it while chatting with the friendly staff on their open-air veranda overlooking their beach in the Caribbean. The best complimentary hotel breakfast we've ever had.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved





Monday, November 26, 2018

Crashes, Feeding Frenzies, Disappointments, and Triumphs: St. Croix, Part 3



Need to catch up? Click on the following links for Part 1 and Part 2 of this trip.

We’re here, we’re squared away as far as access goes…why don’t we start enjoying St. Croix?

The Buccaneer is an historic, family run hotel sitting on over 300 acres just east of the town of Christiansted. It’s a rambling affair with a great house on the hilltop overlooking three beaches and a golf course. All guests receive a complimentary, full breakfast buffet with an option of omelets or eggs cooked to order.

Watch the Video!


Since we’re trying to do this on a budget, the plan is to eat a big breakfast to last us most of the day so we can skip lunch and save a little money on this expensive island.




Heaping piles of creamy scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, and sausage sit on our plates followed by a bowl of fresh pineapple chunks, oranges, grapes, and bananas. Steamy coffee wakes us up and a variety of juices gives us a filling and healthy way to start the day. All this fresh and delicious food is attended to some of the friendliest staff you’ll meet.


Looking to the west, we can see the harbor at Christiansted. It’ll be quiet on this Sunday morning so we’ll go over and have a look around after tipping our waiter.


It’s a two mile, fairly hair raising drive over to the town. Driving in the Virgin Islands is unique. Yes, you’re still in the United States but it’s a bit different here. For one thing, you drive on the left. I’ve done this in Ireland and really had no problem adjusting but there’s another curve these islands throw at you…you’re driving American style cars…which mean the driver sits on the left and drives on the left, not right-hand drive like you’d see in the UK or Ireland.


It is quite disconcerting and takes a bit of getting used to. To start off, the narrow little driveway of the hotel is a roundabout with a fountain in it. I’m watching on the right to make sure I have room when I suddenly hear the awful sound of metal scraping concrete. I’ve just put a large, crescent shaped dent in the driver’s door by rubbing up against the fountain.

We manage to extract ourselves, curse a bit, and hope that American Express will really cover the damage. With that behind us, we continue on to town without incident.


Downtown Christiansted is a warren of tiny little narrow one-way streets. Parking is scarce but we do find two handicapped spots open two short blocks from the waterfront. Luckily, we remembered to bring a parking placard with us.

Walking down to the boardwalk is an adventure in accessibility…roll down the sidewalk a bit, cross over mid block where there’s a ramp to cross over, get halfway down the next block and finish by rolling in the street until we hit water.


A dive shop offering snorkeling tours to Buck Island, just offshore, is open. On the web, they say they accommodate disabled tourists so we stop in and ask.

“Can he walk down stairs?” we’re asked.

“No.”

“Well you need to be able to walk up stairs into the boat and off of the boat when we get to the island for snorkeling.”

“But on the Internet it says you take disabled people out for snorkeling…you even have a picture of a guy in a wheelchair on the boat.”

“We do, but they have to be able to walk up and down stairs.”

“They don’t sound too disabled to me,” I finish up with and leave.

We’ll see if we can do some shore diving at the hotel and task the concierge into finding us a trip we can take. In the meantime, next door is Rum Runners, a waterfront bar, with very large fish swimming in the water under the dock.


“They’re tarpon,” someone says.

We strike a long conversation with a local lady just enjoying the dock while surfing on her iPhone.

“They’re not good eating so we leave them alone. Sometimes people will catch them, cut them up, and use for bait.”

We learn something new each day.

A short stroll to the other end of the boardwalk brings us to Fort Christian National Historic Park. Since Tim has a Golden Access Pass, we don’t have to pay the $3 admission into the fort. Doesn’t really matter since only the area inside the gate is accessible. The volunteer on duty tells us they can’t put a ramp inot the fort because of the historical nature.

I politely suggest that she should pass the word along that non-permanent ramps and lifts have been used at national historic sites like the White House and Fort Sumpter, maybe they could look into it?

While Tim takes a look at the binder full of pictures and descriptions, Letty and I go into the fort to explore and take pictures.


Under a half-staff flag (we were there just days after the Boston Marathon bombing) sits a row of cannon to ward off pirates and invading navies…never used by the way. Down below is the powder magazine, next to the officer’s day room and armory. Across the courtyard is the tiny, cramped, dungeon where recalcitrant slaves were punished, along with some small detention cells.

Outside the fort is the old custom house with another building still holding the old scales where cargo was weighed to establish the tax owed.


A couple of hundred yards offshore is a five acre island called Protestant Cay. It looks lovely with many trees, flowers, and a wide sandy beach. There’s also the Hotel on the Cay there, offering some unique and low priced accommodations on their own little island paradise.

I don’t think it’s too accessible, though.


We finish off our first foray into town at the waterfront Fort Christian Brewpub, the Virgin Islands' only microbrewery.  We have some calamari and beer when one of the very mean feral cats comes to beg. I say mean because I found out just how feral it was when I reached down to pet him. I’m lucky I still have a hand…

The bartender goes over to the water and throws something in. There is a big splashing commotion so we go over to take a look.

He’s throwing chicken bones into the water, which immediate sends the tarpon into a feeding frenzy. It’s quite a sight to see.

Apparently, it’s a tradition here to order chicken wings at the pub and then throw the leftover bones into the bay where the tarpon will gladly swallow them whole.

With a little island brew, history, and cheap entertainment under our belt, we head back to the hotel.

I meet tonight’s musicians unloading their van in front of our room. Junie is his name, as he introduces himself to me along with his son Rocky and associate Charles.

“I’ve never heard of anyone with the last name of Musick,” he tells me with great amusement. “Come and see the show.”


We do. Junie and Rocky provide a great, steel-drum set of music while we sip on cocktails on the terrace. Junie sees Tim and says “you have a special son.”

Yes, I guess I do.

“I have a special son too,” he tells me as he points to Rocky, who is now across the room surfing the Internet on the hotel's lobby computer. “He has ADHD and was put on all kinds of medicine including Ritalin. I had enough, it was just poisoning his head and it’s easier to deal without it.”

He tells me he’s been playing here at the Buccaneer since he was eight.

“The first night I was here there were battleships, aircraft carriers, and destroyers offshore. The Kennedy brothers and Lyndon Johnson were sitting where you were. It was during the Cuban missile crisis.”

He tells me of his family’s history on the island and the ranch they own.

“I’m cash poor and land rich but I consider myself a very wealthy man. My wealth is over there,” he says, as he points to Rocky. “That’s all the riches I need.”

Junie and the Jungle, as they call themselves, go back onstage for the second set as we finish off our drinks and head back to the suite.



A suitable introduction to our home for the next five days.


Darryl
Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 25, 2018

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Crucian Rum Punch


This week, Tim and I are coming to you from the beautiful island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Our quandary: we're not staying at an all-inclusive resort and have to pay for the majority of our drinks. Our solution: make a new, very easy to make, delicious cocktail that we can mix using cheap local ingredients.


Watch the Video!



The result is this rum punch using rum, cranberry-raspberry cocktail, and lime juice.  Here's the recipe...

INGREDIENTS

1.5 oz rum
2 oz cranberry-raspberry cocktail
juice of half a lime

In a lowball glass filled with ice, squeeze in lime juice. Pour rum in, then cranberry-raspberry cocktail. Drink.

It's that easy...




Cheers!

Darryl

Friday, November 23, 2018

Bad Omens and Good Luck in the Virgin Islands...St. Croix, Part 2



You can catch up with Part 1 of our St. Croix trip here.

We’re on the runway at Miami International, engines powering up, about to take the final flight to St. Croix when the pilot comes on the intercom as the engines wind down.

“Folks, we’re going to have to return to the gate. The second button on the radio is not working and FAA regulations say we can’t fly without it. Hopefully, this will be a quick fix and we can be in the air shortly.”

Uh oh, I’m already nervous about this trip, booking an unbelievably cheap trip to St. Croix in the U. S. Virgin Islands and crossing my fingers, hoping that the hotel will really have an accessible room for us. Is this a bad omen?

We crawl back to the gate. A mechanic soon appears up front and walks out with a box. We can see him get in a truck on the tarmac and drive away.

“Folks,” (they always start that way…a real folksy, aw shucks, wouldn’t you just know it, kind of quality in their voice) “the mechanic has just taken the entire radio and is heading to supply to see if they have a replacement in stock. We’ll let you know what happens as soon as we can.”

Our 4:20 flight is supposed to have us on the island at 7:00pm. Even though our package came with taxi vouchers to and from the airport, I have decided to rent a car so we can explore the island at our leisure. Besides, it just might give us somewhere to sleep if no room is available…will the Hertz office still be open when we get there? They close at 9:00pm.

Wouldn’t you know it…15 minutes later, the truck returns. The mechanic plugs in a new radio and leaves the plane…a hero to cheers from the main cabin.

“Folks, this is your captain speaking…that has to be the quickest repair in my history of flying planes. We’ll close the doors and be in the air as quick as we can.”

Just a little over an hour late, we’re wheels up from Miami. Now, I’m just wondering if I’ll make it to the car rental counter in time.

We touch down in St. Croix at 8:20pm. Since we need the aisle chair, we have to deplane last. You never realize how slow people can get off of a plane when you’re in a hurry and have to wait. You’re sitting there thinking “pull your suitcase, don’t push it; did you not know the plane landed? You’re just now getting your case out of the overhead?”

Sometimes, I'm not just thinking it...

St. Croix is too small for jetways, so we have to deplane using a very slow lift. We’re on the tarmac at 8:45pm. The plan is for Letty to go to baggage claim while I hustle to Hertz.


Luckily, they’re next door to each other and I make to the counter with a few minutes to spare. Our “minivan” turns out to be a Ford Flex, nice car but a real minivan would work better for us. We’ll make it work.

Letty makes quick work of the luggage and a taxi driver with our name on a board appears. I tell him we don’t need a ride but since we did pay for a voucher, would he mind driving to the Buccaneer and I’ll follow? No problem…we have a lead car to the hotel. Thirty minutes later, we’re there.


I tip the driver and head in…this is my biggest fear. Would we get the room promised? We hand the front desk clerk our voucher, fill out the form, and he hands us the key.

“Your room is just around the corner; would you like me to show you the way?”

Sure, why not? The moment of truth, what would the room be like and how accessible is it?

Four doors down from the main entrance, he opens the door for room 104…or I should say suite 104. There are no steps. There is plenty of room. The bathroom is accessible (tub, shower chair, and grab bars…no roll in here but not necessary for us) or I should say THIS bathroom is accessible. Yes, we have two.


It’s a full suite with a separate bedroom featuring a king-size bed, a huge ocean view terrace, two bathrooms (one accessible), three sinks (one in a separate dressing area), a large walk-in closet, safe, refrigerator, two flat-screen TVs, DVD player, a living room with a day bed couch that Tim will sleep on, a bucket filled with ice and a water pitcher.

Finally, my fears of sleeping in the car or on the beach are subsided. It’s time to enjoy this luxury but low-budget vacation.


It’s been a long, anxious day of traveling so we’ll hit the sack and take up the beautiful island of St. Croix starting in the morning.

Darryl
Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

ACCESSIBLE ATTRACTIONS: St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands


Our ratings are...

Fully Accessible - You can access all of the attraction, with no problem, in any type of wheelchair.

Mostly Accessible - You can access most of the attraction, and all of the important parts of it, with your wheelchair.

Partially Accessible - You can access a good deal of the attraction but some parts are inaccessible and some important parts you'll miss.

Inaccessible - Kind of speaks for itself, avoid if you're in a wheelchair.

Here's St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands...



Christiansted National Historic Site - Partially Accessible. The grounds, the old weighing house (scale) and bottom floor of the Customs House are accessible. Unfortunately, the jewel of the site...Fort Christianvern...has a few steps to get inside, rendering it inaccessible.



Captain Morgan Distillery - Fully Accessible. This newer distillery (Cruzan is also made on the island) found out their tour tram was wheelchair accessible with a ramp. Now we can happily report this very fun tour and tasting room can handle our specialty wheeled travelers.

Buck Island Boat Charters - Inaccessible. We could not find one boat that could really take a wheelchair user, who couldn't walk, onto a tour...even though a couple advertised they could.



Cane Bay Beach - Partially Accessible. A ramp is used by scuba divers to wade out to the Wall, a world-famous dive spot. Wheelchair users can also use it (with some help from a friend) to get into the great snorkeling water closer to shore, too.



Mt. Pellier Domino Club (Drinking Pigs) - Mostly Accessible. Ask the attendants to show you the rustic wheelchair ramp in the back of the pig pen. 



Walking Tour of the Buccaneer Hotel - Mostly Accessible. Contact the hotel for details at (340) 712-2100



Christiansted Boardwalk - Mostly Accessible. The islands go-to point for shopping, drinking, and dining boasts some great views and hungry tarpon looking for a handout from tourists. A few shops have steps to get in.

Darryl
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 19, 2018

Deal of the Century...Will it be a Dream Trip or a Nightmare?



When you travel with a wheelchair the biggest need you have is assurance. You need to be assured that there will be accessible transportation at your destination; you need to know that there will be no steps where you need to go; you need to know the bathroom in your room will be suitable for your needs; you need to know that the doors will be wide enough for your chair…in short, assurances.

The problem with assuring your vacation is that it usually comes with a price. When you see those really good deals on the internet, the only thing you can be assured of is that the company selling it will not want to give you any. “We can request it but it’s not guaranteed…you can request it when you check in,” is the familiar refrain.
But…what if the deal was just too good? What if you found the perfect destination, with one of the worlds best hotels, right when you wanted to go and the price was a quarter of what you’d normally pay? Would you throw caution to the wind or would you pass it up.

That was the quandary I was in. We had so much fun in the Dominican last year that I told Letty and Tim that I’d try to book another great beach vacation for this spring’s trip. I was working with a travel agent, who is supposed to be an expert in finding accessible vacations. We were looking at Playa del Carmen, just south of Cancun, and were getting quotes of $5-6,000 for a six night vacation.
It was just too much out of our budget range, even if it was all inclusive. Just when things looked bleakest, one of her e-mails came in with a Gmail ad at the top saying the Virgin Islands were on sale. What’d I have to lose? I clicked…



I was taken to a big-name online travel site and it came up with a form to enter my dates of travel and the number of persons. I did and it came back with an unbelievable price…$1,900 for six nights, including airfare from Los Angeles to St. Croix, accommodations at the highest rated hotel on the island, a full breakfast buffet daily, airport transfers, taxes, and free watersports for three people.
The problem was, of course, the wheelchair. Could it work? Would it work?

Naw, I’m not going to book a trip like that online without that magic word but, hey, there’s an 800 number on here. I’ll give it a call.

“First question, is this a real price?” I asked the agent. He assured me it was.
“Next question, is the hotel accessible?” I continued.

“Let me put you on hold and I’ll call them, “ the agent replied.
A few minutes later, he assured me that the hotel had a few step free rooms. He talked to someone named Lydia at the front desk and said the ground floor rooms were accessible and he could request one…but could not guarantee it. I’d have to request it at the front desk.


There it was…I was almost there but just couldn't get past that last hurdle. The price was unbelievably good. Basically, just pay the airfare and everything else was free. The hotel, the Buccaneer, is widely regarded as the best on the island and one of the best in the Caribbean. We’d get at least one full meal a day, and more…but what if?
What if the room was taken when we were there? There’s no elevator and our flight gets in kind of late at night. What would we do if we’re in the lobby and had nowhere to go? How committed to our cause would the staff be especially knowing that we paid just pennies for the room?

I went over the logistics in my head. If no room was available, I’m sure the concierge could at least find us another hotel. I could buy “cancel for any reason” trip insurance, call the hotel a few days ahead of time, and…if I got a bad feeling…cancel and get a refund.
Not completely assured but knowing I've been in worse situations, I rolled the dice and gave the agent my card number. We’re booked, now what’s going to happen?

It’s a week before departure; we've got our travel documents, flight information, and vouchers for the hotel and airport taxi. One more thing…I’ll call the Buccaneer and see if I can get some of that assurance.



I call and talk to the front desk manager. She asks what exactly we need, I tell her. I’m told that we have been booked in a mountain view room (the cheap rooms upstairs) and that there is no elevator to get there. It’s okay,  she assures me, she’ll give me a no-charge upgrade to the ground floor room and we’ll have step free access. She also asks me if I’d like to have food and drinks waiting in the room, a shower chair installed, or anything else I’d like.

I take her up on the offer of a shower chair and make a mental note to give that woman a good tip if everything is in order when we arrived.
Last minute assurances in order, it’s time to drive to LAX, board our American Airlines flight, cross our fingers and hope for the best.

See how it all turns out when we get to the island on the next part of this report.
Darryl
Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 18, 2018

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: A Drinking Tour of St. Croix


On location in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, join us for a drinking tour of the island.



In the video below, we visit one of the island's legendary rum distilleries.


Watch the Video!


While Cruzan is the traditional St. Croix rum, it's facilities are old and inaccessible to wheelchairs. Fortunately, Captain Morgan rums relocated here a year ago and their brand new, state-of-the-art distillery is.



We also turn into a bunch of posers as we learn the official Captain Morgan pose.



Next, it's on to frozen banana daiquiris at the Mt. Pellier Domino Club, more famous for the residents that make beer-swilling pigs of themselves but the drinks are still cool and refreshing at the bamboo bar in the middle of the jungle.



We make sure we get all the free booze we can get at the hotel by going to the weekly happy hour, the wine tasting, and the rum tasting (there's Cruzan!).



We almost lived at the beautiful waterfront Fort Christian Brewpub where, in addition to the great beer, we meet the chicken wing eating tarpon of St. Croix.

It's all in the video above, come along...


Cheers!

Darryl

The Cocktail Hour - Tequila Sunrise


Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Lynt under CC-BY-SA license


The Tequila Sunrise is a very visual drink, the name coming from the effect of the red grenadine sitting on the bottom of the orange drink, giving it the illusion of a sunrise.  It's a great change-of-pace beach drink when you get tired of the saltiness of your margarita or the heaviness of your pina colada.  Being that it's full of orange juice, it's also a great source of vitamin C while you sitting in the sun (hey, gotta bring the positives!).

Watch the Video!



The problem I've had with this drink in the past is that the classic recipe...orange juice, tequila, and grenadine only...has left me with an aftertaste that can best be described as "children's aspirin" taste...the St. Joseph's effect.  It tastes good, but that aftertaste is a bit annoying.  Even at the great bars that dot the beaches of Mexico, I still had that taste.  The recipe below is my adaption of the classic and uses pineapple and lime juice to eliminate that aftertaste.


TEQUILA SUNRISE (1 drink)

2 oz. - tequila
2-3 oz. - orange juice
2-3 oz. - pineapple juice
spash of lime juice
splash of grenadine


Take a highball glass and fill 2/3 with crushed ice.  Pour in the tequila.  Fill about halfway to the top with orange juice.  Pour in a splash of lime juice or squeeze half a fresh lime into the glass.  Complete the fill of the glass with the pineapple juice.  Stir the contents.  Pour a splash of grenadine along one side...note - do not pour over the top of the drink...the grenadine is denser than the liquid in the glass and will soon sink to the bottom.  Do not stir the drink, you want the grenadine on the bottom when you serve so you get the sunrise effect.  Once you start drinking it, it will mix in but let your guests to the mixing or you'll just end up with a pink drink.


Cheers!

Darryl

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Trio of Quick Fall Trips: Bringing the Extended Family Along for Gold and Wine Touring-Part 3


We've come up here to Gold Country to show Letty's mom and brother where we plan on moving to. Today, we're expanding our reach for some quality Sierra Foothill wine tasting.


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First, we pick up two picnics...breakfast quiches and sandwiches...from the Motherlode Deli in Jackson, California. Next, it's off to our first stop...Drytown Cellars in the tiny speck of a town by the same name a few miles up highway 49.

We set up our breakfast food, well brunch by now, then head into the bar for some tasting. As the wine flows, I feel something hard bounce off my shin.  It's a rock...who threw this at me?



The rock was thrown by Jay, the black dog in the picture above. Jay must have rocks in his head because that's what he likes to fetch. Customers of the winery beware, this dog will find a rock, then find you, plunk you with a stone, and expect you to throw it so he can fetch it.

This is all fine and dandy except the Jay will...not...stop. At some point, Rolo...the red dog...will get tired of it and attack Jay to get him to knock it off for awhile.



That's the life of winery dogs.

We pick out a few bottles and go back outside to eat our quiche.



Next, it's off to see our friends at Amador 360 Wine Collective in the town of Plymouth where we find this sweet Mustang parked out front.

Julie is there, as always, ready to pour and chat about the latest gossip and happenings of the area. Today, we have an extra treat. Thomas Allan, the owner and winemaker of Fate Wines, is there to pour samples of his fine wines.

It's always a treat to catch up on the former underground winemaker of the Sierra Foothills. He tells us that, in addition to making his own wine, he is now the winemaker at Story Winery, where we'll have our second picnic later on.



Off to Bray Winery where Oliver Bray pours a few tastes for us as we buy a few bottles from him, then it's Shenandoah Vineyards to pick up a bottle there and take a bathroom break.



Next, it's off to Shenandoah's sister winery, Sobon, which just happens to be the oldest continuously operating winery in the state (from 1856). We take Letty's mom and Amaury into the museum there to see the old aging cave and ancient winemaking equipment.

Milan Matulich, the Croatian owner of Dobra Zemlja Winery, is there to pour tastes for Amaury and Letty while I just buy a couple bottles of his power wine.



Last, it's off to Story just before closing time where we settle in with a bottle of Rose to go with our sandwiches.

Gypsy, the German shorthair pointer winery dog, comes along to get some ear scratches and to see if she can grab some stray bites of roast beef.



The next day, we head back to Jackson so our guests can explore the old Gold Rush town. After a bit of shopping, it's off to our favorite dive bar there, the Fargo Club, to grab a small Amberbock. We find the bar will be closing soon and moving to the other end of Main Street by the end of the year.



One more stop to see a craft show and get some ice cream in Sutter Creek, and then we head back down.



Across from our hotel, a car show is going on. We drive in...someone forgot to set up cones to cordon off the lot...and find ourselves in an impromptu drive through car show.



I even got this guy...



...and this gal to pose for me.



One more night of rest and then it's time to go home. We have breakfast before the drive across the street at Brookfields where we see a vacationing Santa Claus enjoying the meal with his wife.



Santa's got a sweet 1928 Ford Roadster he drives in the off season.

And that's it for our trio of quick fall trips.

Darryl Musick
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