Monday, May 20, 2019

Milwaukee - The City That Beer Made Famous

It’s the city beer made famous, breweries and bars dot the landscape. Our latest escapades return us to the shores of Lake Michigan and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

After flying all day on Southwest and picking up a Ford Escape from Thrifty Rent-a-car at the airport, we eventually find our hotel, The Ambassador Hotel - Milwaukee, on Wisconsin Avenue adjacent to Marquette University.

Watch the Video!

The third floor room features a king size bed, a queen size sofabed, flat screen TV, wifi and wired free internet, basic wet bar, robes, ironing board and iron, accessible restroom featuring a barred bathtub with seat or roll in shower.

Letty says it’s the most comfortable hotel bed she’s ever seen.

Upon check-in, we’re offered a deal…$7.95 for breakfast vouchers. Seeing their site beforehand, and knowing that breakfast here went for twice as much, we snapped some up. We’re glad we did because breakfast is in their beautiful restaurant with entrees such as spinach omelets, pancakes, bacon and eggs, and delicious waffles covered with fruit served to your table by actual waiters. No warmed up breakfast bar entrees here.

Our main reason for being here is to notch another point for our seemingly never-ending quest to see every Major League Baseball stadium. We have tickets for tomorrow’s game but today is for exploring the city. First up…as all our friends who have experience here have been telling us…we have to go to the Third Ward.

This is an old area, burned down in a big fire long ago and rebuilt into an Italian neighborhood, that is being gentrified. While some buildings are still waiting for their time in the redevelopment spotlight, most of the area has been spiffed up and is home to nice little boutiques, restaurants, bars, and anchored by the Milwaukee Public Market.

It’s also the south end of the Milwaukee Riverwalk, a three mile long accessible walk along the Milwaukee River that takes you through the highlights of downtown.

We start filming (see the video above) and soon run into another crew doing the same thing on the river side of the Milwaukee Ale House. It’s a great walk that we’ll take full advantage of later. Tonight, we’ll have dinner at Benelux, a restaurant and bar dedicated to all the good food and drink of the European lowlands.

And what food it is…Tim and I have their very good burger served with Belgian frittes and a beer palette (four beers served on a wooden palette) made up of Belgian strong ales. Letty has the Friday fish fry with Ichtagem’s sour red Flemish ale.  That’s after a very tasty starter of tater tots filled with brie and accompanied by a Sriracha garlic mayo dipping sauce. It is very good and we vow to come back again before we leave and dig a little deeper into the menu.

An aimless trip south of town takes us to St. Francis, home of a big monastery, a bunch of bars, and a nice beach. It’s a nice place to stretch our legs a little, take some pictures, and just relax before heading back into town.

All in all, it’s a fun but short overview of the town we’ll be spending the next four days in. Stay tuned for more fun, drinking, eating, baseball, and cheeseheads here in what will turn out to be one of the best destinations we’ve been to.


Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2012 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 19, 2019

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The Milwauke Pub Crawl

Luckily, we got a ride to and from today’s adventure. Good thing…there was no way we were going to end this one sober…

Milwaukee is the city that beer made famous, so how does it stack up to the self-described “Napa Valley of beer” that we visited last year (Denver)? Very well, thank you.

Watch the Video!

We start off with a standalone visit to Benelux in the Historic Third Ward. Yes, you need to capitalize each word.

With a thick bible of beers to choose from, Tim and I have a palette of strong Belgian beers while Letty goes with a bottled sour.  It’s hard to pick from our palette but Letty says the sour, Ichtegem Flemish Red, could have more bite.

Next, it’s on to the actual crawl. We start at the north end of town where the really cool Milwaukee Riverwalk starts. First up is the American absinthe made right here in Milwaukee by Great Lakes Distillery and served at Trocadero. It’s the first time we’ve had it and it tastes like anisette and looks like cloudy water. Not bad but not really my cup of tea either.  I enjoyed the shot of Cazadores Reposado I had better.

Across the adjacent Hudson Street bridge, which has a really cool, wheelchair accessible, pedestrian bridge hanging under the main bridge, we go to Lakefront Brewery to take the tour.  This tour is so fun that it is rated as the number 4 best thing to do in Milwaukee on Tripadvisor. It should be number 1.

Our tour guide is hungover and drunk, but he’s funny, knowledgeable, and keeps our glasses full of our choice of Lakefront brews. I’m partial to their flagship variety, the Stein.

Seven dollars gets you on the tour and four tokens for beer. Answering trivia questions or helping the tour guide gets you more tokens, plus the generous policy of free frequent top-offs means there is much more beer available that most people can handle. I ended up giving my last four tokens away.

Walking along the river, we eventually end up in another historic neighborhood, Third Street…also known as Historic Old World Third Street.  Yes, with the capitals.

Mader’s has been here over a century, serving good but expensive German Cuisine. They also have a happy hour so we go inside to enjoy a $5 ceramic stein of Spaten Oktoberfest and a glass of Pinot Noir.

Afterward, it’s a couple of doors down to get some more Lakefront beer (two mugs for $3) and some Franziskaner Weissbier at Milwaukee Brat House along with some of their namesake fatty sausages and deep fried cheese curds.

With that, we cannot crawl another foot and call for the hotel shuttle to take us back. It’s all in the video above, so come along and watch as we take in as much Milwaukee as we can handle.


Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 17, 2019


Some of the best things we saw, along with the disappointments along the way...

BASEBALL - Since the theme of this trip was baseball, let's start with the stadiums.  All the stadiums were top notch, but here's how we rate them starting with the best.

KAUFMAN STADIUM, Kansas City, Missouri - Beautiful stadium with awesome fountains in the outfield for their signature feature.  Very little to no overhang from the upper decks means you can see everything.  Great employees and fans and some of the best pricing in baseball.  We got seats just a few rows back from home plate (in the Dugout Boxes) for only $52 including taxes.  The team is not doing well but did win the night we were there, the day after they fired their manager.  The only other knock I'd give it is that it's out in the suburbs and you need to drive there.  I wish it were downtown, but that's ok.  Great wheelchair accessible seating at all levels.  They just renovated the stadium last year and it seems brand new...I can't believe this stadium is around 40 years old!  To my home team, the Angels...this is how you renovate an old stadium and this is how you include wheelchairs in your seating plans, not the Mickey Mouse way you guys did (pun intended).

BUSCH STADIUM, St. Louis, Missouri - Another beautiful stadium.  Big, expansive.  Many different seating levels to choose from.  Many "private" clubs to sit in...we sat in the Infield Redbird Club along third base and had a food court with two full bars and gift shop that was only available to ticket holder of this section.  That meant short lines, a very comfortable indoor area to go to if the weather got bad, and great views of the field from the second club deck where we sat.  Again, accessible seating available at all levels.  Great views of the arch and an easy-to-walk-to downtown location two blocks from our hotel.  The most expensive of all of our tickets at $57 each...still a bargain.

GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK, Cincinnati, Ohio - Situated downtown on the Ohio River, not quite as easy to walk to as St. Louis but still walkable.  Great pre-game party atmosphere across the river in Newport, Kentucky.  A small looking stadium with great seating at all levels.  Our seats were halfway to third first base from home at the top of the field level deck at $53 each.  Biggest knock was mediocre to substandard food and very little variety of it.

BALL PARK FOOD - Here, St. Louis shines with barbecue, about 10 different sausages to choose from (including bacon-wrapped hot dogs like you'd find here in LA), Asian stir-fry made as you watch, pulled pork, barbecue, dessert bar, and on and on.  Prices are the highest for food and drinks we saw on the trip and the only beer I saw on tap was Bud, Bud Light, Bud Select, which you might expect from a team owned by Anheiser Busch (or InBev now).  Craft brews were expensive and available in the bottle only.

Kaufman in Kansas City comes in second with a huge selection of different sausages and the best popcorn in the bigs from the Topsy's stands.  Their funnel cake however kinda sucks.  Other selections include barbecue (how can you not in KC?), pan-fried chicken, and cheesesteak sandwiches.  Many craft brews on tap at reasonable prices.

In Cincinnati you basically have hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza.  Pre-made grocery store sushi is available but I wouldn't touch it.  Good beer selection at good prices (great happy hour, pre-game prices across the river) and for dessert, only ice cream and candy bars.  Not the best food.

HOTELS - Drury Plaza at the Arch in St. Louis is an outstanding hotel.  A real hotel, with big marble encrusted lobby and a Lewis and Clark Diorama fountain like you'd find in the theme park.  Large and very comfortable two-room accessible suite with a roll-in shower and recliner in the living room.  GREAT service and lot's of extras included such as hot breakfast, lite dinner and three cocktails a day per person, 60 minutes free long distance each night, 15 minutes free international long distance to Mexico or Canada each night, free wifi or ethernet high speed Internet access, and free soda, coffee, and popcorn from 10 am to 10 pm each day.  There's also two reasonably priced upscale restaurants in the hotel if you get tired of the free food, swimming pool, hot tubs (indoors with a view of the river), fitness room, and guest laundry.  Wow! What a hotel at only $150 per night.

At the other end of things, the Residence Inn in Kansas City was a big disappointment.  The roll-in shower was about an inch above the bathroom floor so each time we took a shower, the bathroom flooded.  There were tears in the carpet that housekeeping tried to hide by moving the sofa (we had to move it back to make room to fold out the bed).  Air conditioner that didn't work (but they fixed it).  Pool closed and the coup de grace was the huge, open air rock concert that took place 200 yards from the hotel...make that VERY LOUD, death metal concert which also filled the hotel with its drunk and chemically alterred fans.  We checked out and went to the Drury Plaza in nearby Overland Park which was not as spectacular as the one in St. Louis but still very good and enough to be the second best hotel of the trip.

We also stayed at a very average and just adequate Comfort Suites while in Cincinnati.

Honus Wagner's Jersey and Bat in Louisville

BIGGEST SURPRISES - The Louisville Slugger factory tour and museum.  Awesome, just awesome.  If you have any interest in baseball whatsoever, you need to come here.  It's like visiting the hall of fame...they even let you hold the real bats of legendary players such as 
Mickey Mantle and David Ortiz.

The Truman Library in Independence, Missouri and the Brown vs. Board of Education historic site in Topeka, Kansas are both moving and important places to visit.

BEST FOOD - Gates Barbecue in Kansas City and the Hanover Pancake House in Topeka, Kansas were both extremely delicious.  Five Guys had great hamburgers as well.

MOST INACCESSIBLE NATIONAL PARK (that should be easily accessible) - Jefferson Expansion Memorial Park (the Gateway Arch) in St. Louis.  Chairs cannot go up the elevator (or trolley) to the top.  Debatable as to whether one of the world's top architects should have envisioned that in the 60's, so that gets a bit of a pass BUT able bodied people can walk down a short staircase to the riverfront.  Wheelchairs must make at least a 1/2 mile, unmarked detour to get to the bottom of the stair when a ramp could EASILY be installed on the adjacent hillside.

WORST AIRPORT - Kansas City International (MCI).  I thought LAX was a bad is...but this one takes the cake.  Usually, you get to an airport and go through the hassle of checking in and dealing with the ridiculous TSA security checkpoints but then you get to relax (if you have time) and have a bite to eat, get something to read, and go to the bathroom before you leave.  Not here.  Once you're through security, you find 3 or 4 small snack stands, no news stand, and a total of 8 toilets (4 for each sex) for hundreds of travelers.  Not bathrooms...toilets.  All the other stuff is outside of security so once you're in, you'll either have to go back outside or just do without.  Most people do the latter.  Awful airport (the picture above is outside the secure zone).

Of the three cities, the most fun was Cincinnati...or more accurately Newport, Kentucky across the river...with it's many restaurants, bars, and attractions including a pretty good version of a German beer garden.  I'd also like to go back and explore Kentucky more which seems like a very interesting state.

Copyright 2010 - Darry Musick

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri

Busch Stadium is home to the National League’s Cardinals. The team was formerly owned by Anheuser-Busch, makers of such forgettable beers at Budweiser, Busch, and the various Bud brands. They were bought out in 1995 by a partnership headed by William DeWitt, Jr. of Cincinnati. This is the third stadium to go by the same name. The current stadium opened in 2006 and sits slightly to the southeast of the former stadium…part of the new stadium occupies what was the left field corner of the old stadium. There is a large, vacant lot where the old stadium stood and you can follow the outline of the old park.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Kevin.Ward under CC-BY-SA license

St. Louis is known as a baseball city. Its fans are acknowledged at some of the smartest baseball people around. Cardinal Red is a prominent color in the city. The team has won 11 World Series and is in 2nd place, a mere half game behind the Pirates. Here are the stats:

Opened: 2006
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $365 million
Capacity: 43,975
Field dimensions: Left field – 336 ft; left center – 375; Center field – 400; right center – 375; Right field – 335
Home team: St. Louis Cardinals (National League – MLB) 2006 – present
Events attended: 1 game

Accessible from all sides. There is one stretch outside from center field to right field that is unwalkable (no sidewalks), at least that’s what we were told – we didn’t test it. If so, it’s inaccessible for everybody, not just wheelchairs. There is an adjacent accessible (by ramp) subway station on the first base side of the park so transit access is excellent. It’s in a downtown location, 3 blocks from the Gateway Arch. There are several hotels within easy walking distance.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Matthew Black under CC-BY-SA license

If you want to drive, there is a lot of parking available in the area. Rates seemed to range from $5 to $10.

Wheelchair locations are mostly at the top of each level but there are some that are more midway on the level such as the field level and the upper deck. There are plenty of wheelchair spaces spread across all levels of the park. Getting more than one companion seat was not a problem. Just call (314) 345-9600 for tickets.

There are several “clubs” here where ticketholders have some exclusive access to certain perks such as restaurants and bars. Infield Redbird Club, Home Redbird Club, Homer’s Landing, Leftfield Landing, Legends Club, Bank of America Club, Champions Club, and the Cardinals Club are examples. We sat in the Infield Redbirds Club on the third base line and had access to a private food court and bar area. 

The team has moved to "Dynamic Pricing," where ticket prices fluctuate depending on the demand for a particular game. Current (July 2013) prices range from $5 to $195. Our club tickets cost $57 dollars each, the most expensive tickets of our Midwest baseball tour. That is enough to drop it down a notch on our Fields of Dreams list, behind Denver.

Food selections are vast. Several types of sausages from hot dogs to polish; bacon wrapped dogs to bratwurst; and on and on. There were “sausage bars” where several varieties were grilling and you took your pick. Barbecue, chicken, pizza, salad bar, and a cooked-to-order Asian bar were but a few of the types of food available to us. Beer selection was poor. On-tap selections consisted of several varieties of Budweiser but there is some Sclhafly beer to be found on tap at a few locations. Better selections were available but, mostly, only in bottles. 

Both food and drinks were expensive, the most expensive of our trip.

(See the St. Louis baseball trip report here.)

Overall, the stadium has great access, easy transit, great team, and great lodging close by. The knocks are expensive food and beer and a very limited draft beer selection.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Monday, May 13, 2019


UpTake Travel Gem

If you haven’t read Tim’s reports on preparing for this trip (this is his first time planning a trip), be sure to check out what it took to plan and prepare for this trip in a wheelchair.

In Part 1 of this report, we arrive in St. Louis to a fabulous hotel, get frustrated at a very inaccessible national park, and take a cruise on the Mighty Mississippi.  Now, it's game time.

Watch the Video!

It’s a short, two block walk to Busch Stadium from our hotel. Knowing us though, we walk to the part of the stadium furthest from our seats, so we need to walk around it back to home plate to find the Will Call booth to pick up our tickets. We do and head on inside.

Our tickets today are in the Infield Redbird Club. This is a semi-private (meaning anyone can buy tickets to it but only ticket holders have access to it) section next to the press box overlooking homeplate from the first base side to the third base side. It’s the second deck up. We sit on the third base side in the closest accessible seats to home plate. There is an overhang from the deck above but it does not block our view in any way. We have great views of the city, the arch, and our hotel just beyond center field.

The club also has an expansive indoor area with tables and booths. There is a large food court with ballpark staples like hot dogs, beer, and popcorn. There are also more specialty foods like pulled pork, barbecue, salad bar, and an Asian stir-fry bar that my wife took advantage of.
Each end of the food court area features a full bar. Unfortunately as you might expect of a team owned by InBev (and Anheiser Busch), all the tap beer is Budweiser, Bud Lite, Bud Select or some other variety of the town’s most famous product. It all tastes like water to me. They do serve a nice selection of microbrews and other brands, but only in the bottle.

Another knock on the stadium is that the food and drink prices are the highest we’ll encounter on the trip. Knocks aside, this is still a great stadium in one of the great baseball towns. Stadium toured, food and drinks purchased, it’s time to play ball as the Cardinals are hosting the Houston Astros…one of the worst teams in the league right now.

Ryan Ludwick scores in the first inning on a Matt Holliday ground out to give the Cards a quick 1-0 lead. Houston kills the no-hitter hopes in the third as Tommy Manzella gets a single but no runs are scored. Ludwick scores again as David Freese gets an RBI single.

That’s where the game stays until it all comes apart for St. Louis in the 7th. Carlos Lee of the Astros gets on first due to a throwing error. Hunter Pence doubles, sending Lee to third. Starter Brad Penny loads the bases by hitting Houston third baseman Geoff Blum. Two runs score on a Tommy Manzella sacrifice fly to right field. Pinch hitter Cory Sullivan brings Pence home on a single. Sullivan scores when center fielder Michael Bourn bunts a single.

Penny is taken out after this inning and replaced by Jason Motte. While the Cards were able to get another run in the bottom of the 7th, Motte gives up solo homers to Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence bringing the final score of the Cardinals loss to 6-2.

As any fan can tell you, a loss is tough but it’s still better than not being at the game. Being out-of-towners, we aren’t heartbroken and still have a fun time. On the walk back, we see this strange looking truck. A closer look shows there are two (clothed) strippers working a pole. It’s a moving billboard for several local strip clubs.

On a warm morning, fortified from our hotel breakfast, it’s time to explore the city. There’s a riverfront district called Lacledes Landing that looked interesting when we first got into town. We walk to the nearest Metrolink station about 3 blocks from the hotel. Metrolink is the trolley system here in St. Louis. My wife complains that it was just as far to walk to the station as it was to Lacledes Landing. Close, but I still think the trolley was closer plus I wanted to check it out for a future transit report.

Metrolink is 100% accessible. Every station has an elevator or is ramped. Each car has 4 locations where a seat can be folded up and a wheelchair put in its place.

We get day passes for my wife and I. It’s cheaper to buy each ticket separately for disabled riders ($1.10 for the trolley and $1 for the bus vs. $8 for a day pass) for the amount of rides we will take.

At Lacledes Landing, it’s a bumpy, cobblestoned area full of restaurants, bars, and just a few shops. Mostly closed restaurants, bars, and a few shops. I guess it’s more of a late night destination rather than a daytime jaunt.

Back on the trolley, we head to the end of the line at Shrewsbury on the southwest side of the city. By this time it was hot and muggy making the ½ mile walk we took excruciating. We were going to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard shop on the old Route 66.

We’ve heard about this place on many shows on the Food Network and the Travel Network as one of the icons of Route 66. This is particularly interesting to us because we live adjacent to a stretch of the Mother Road.

It’s hot and the custard is good but it’s halfway melted before we find a place to sit and eat it. By the way, Ted Drewes does not have a dining room, a dining area, or anywhere with tables or chairs. There are some bus stop benches on a nearby sidewalk, but that’s it. A bit of a disappointment after coming all the way out here.

On the way back, we stop at Union Station which used to be the massive St. Louis railroad station. It’s still massive and the old train barn is as huge as some of the stations I’ve seen in Europe such as Munich or London. Only thing is, it’s not a train station anymore. Now, it’s a mall with a small man-made lake, some restaurants, and a Marriott hotel. It’s very quiet and not bustling with life at all. It would have been nice if at least one or two platforms could have been saved. Amtrak now stops and a small platform near Busch Stadium.

I’m a bit disappointed in it.

We go back to the hotel, have dinner, and take a swim in the 8th floor pool and call it a leg.

Stay tuned as we head out to leg three of this Midwest Baseball Tour…Kansas City, Missouri.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 12, 2019


California has 100 American Viticultural Areas (AVA).  An AVA is a distinct wine grape growing region with boundaries set by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).  Some you’ve heard of…Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Sonoma Valley, Mendocino, Russian River…others may have escaped notice such as North Yuba, Seiad Valley, or Covelo.
Once, the MAJOR wine producing area of the state was 40 miles east of Los Angeles in the Cucamonga Valley, better known today as the Inland Empire.  With commercial vineyards dating back to 1838, it is among the oldest wine grape growing areas in the state.  At over 20,000 acres at the start of Prohibition, it was also the largest.  At that time, it had more vineyard acreage than Sonoma and Napa Counties combined.

Watch the Video!

With the booming expansion of the Los Angeles metro area, development pressures hit this area hard.  Skyrocketing land prices found many vineyards being sold, plowed under, and becoming housing tracts, shopping centers, highways, factories, and warehouses.  Little is left of the wide-open countryside I enjoyed as a youth.
Still, the old, historic vines have not completely disappeared but they still face enormous pressure.  Now, two larger producers and a couple of very small boutique wine makers are all that are left.  Sitting beneath the snow-covered peak of Mt. Baldy, this is California’s most endangered wine producing region.
It’s a Saturday with rain off and on, mostly on.  We start our day at the Original Pancake House in Orange County’s Yorba Linda.  After a filling breakfast of 49’r Flapjacks, we head over one of the last rural roads in the area, Carbon Canyon Road, which connects the area to the Inland Empire community of Chino Hills.  From there, we make our way over to our first stop, Galleano Winery in Mira Loma.
My grandmother lived a few blocks away when I was a kid.  We’d ride our motorcycles and horses for miles over the wide-open countryside here.  Now, it’s covered with houses, factories, and warehouses but at the junction of the 15 and 60 freeways, if you look to the east , there’s several acres of grapes being grown in the sandy soil.  On the street, you’ll be surrounded by warehouses.  If you turn at just the right stop sign (at Wineville and Merrill), you’ll enter a time machine and be on a small country lane with barns, farmhouses, animals, and the winery itself. 
This is exactly the way I remember Mira Loma from when I was a child.  It’s also so out of place these days as to be called “historic.”  The area is known for growing big, bold red grapes.  Zinfandel, Grenache, Mission, and Mourvèdre…all good grapes that stand up to the valley’s intensely hot summers.
At the back of the former truck mechanic’s garage is a small house that now serves as the tasting room.  Five tastes are $5 per person, price will be applied to any purchase.  While white wines are available (Galleano sources these grapes from other areas or contracts with other wineries to produce them), the reds are the star of the show here.  Cucamonga Peak Red, Legendary Pioneers Zinfandel, Old Vine Zin, Port, and Sherry are made very well here.
The valley terroir has a strong taste that infuses the wines made here.  Galleano is very good…and also very reasonable in price.  Wines here start at around $5 a bottle…good wine, too.  Many of the wines are also available in 4L jugs which make the price even lower and are great for parties.  We particularly like the haute sauterne, port, and Chianti in the jugs.

Be sure to grab a flyer from Centro Basco, a local Basque restaurant, which includes a coupon for two free glasses of Galleano wine with your dinner.
If you bring a picnic, this is a great place to grab a bottle.  Borrow a couple of glasses from the tasting staff, go outside to their little park, and have a nice relaxing lunch.  Nearby is a small zoo with farm animals such as geese and donkeys.  Hundreds of guinea pigs roam in their enclosure and a few peacocks preen.
I could spend an entire, relaxing day here but we’ve got another stop to make.

A few miles to the north, in the town of Rancho Cucamonga, is the other large wine maker here.  Joseph Fillippi has a winery and tasting room set up on Baseline Road, just east of Day Creek Boulevard off of the 210 freeway and a few blocks north of Route 66.  While there is a very small vineyard here, you can see the houses built right up to the winery’s walls…an eerie reminder that this place may not have too much of a future left.
More businesslike and industrial than Galleano, Filippi’s tasting room is a large retail establishment.  Tasting is not free here…$5 gets you five poker chips.  You trade a chip for a taste of wine.  With over 20 wines available for tasting, those five chips won’t get you very far.  If there are a few of you, share tastes with each other so you can try a larger variety of wines.
We taste several wines starting with the chardonnay and the Alicante rose and ending up with their cab/franc, zinfandels, and a variety of ports.  It’s all good but not quite as good as the wine we had earlier in Mira Loma.  That, and the fact that we just spent our money on tasting, meant that we bought the day’s wines at Galleano…not Filippi.
When will wineries stop being greedy with the tastes?  I always end up buying more where I can at least deduct my tasting fee from my purchase…this is not the case at Fillipi.
Still, they have decent wine and bottles starting at $3.95, which makes them quite a bargain compared to wineries up north and to the south in Temecula.
There is also a small appetizer bar here.  You can buy a bottle to take outside and share an app.  Not a bad way to spend the day.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the area’s other major tasting room, San Antonio Winery off of the 60 freeway in Ontario.  It’s also a nice place with complimentary tasting and they too have a small zoo.  A branch of the main winery in Los Angeles, this winery does not grow or produce wines here in the valley…it is strictly a tasting room.
At the end of the day, we drive back over the Chino Hills to Anaheim and have a nice dinner at the Phoenix Club, a private German club which has a restaurant and pub that is open to the public.  Here we finish the adventure, dining on schnitzel, sausages, and pretzels and wondering how much longer that handful of wine makers over the hill can last.
Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 10, 2019


If you haven’t read Tim’s reports on preparing for this trip (this is his first time planning a trip), be sure to check out what it took to plan and prepare for this trip in a wheelchair.

We leave the Comfort Suites in Newport, Kentucky with no regrets but we really won’t be missing it either. Next time, I think I might be able to get the Embassy Suites nearby at a comparable price.

It’s an all day drive, 384 miles, to get to our next destination, St. Louis. We have a Ford Escape, a non-accessible vehicle, to make the drive in. That means the power chair has been left at home and Tim is using a new manual chair he bought for this trip. He’s manhandled into the front passenger seat, our luggage and the folded-up chair in the back cargo area, and my wife sits in the back seat with the maps in the navigator position.

Watch the Video!

We cross into Indiana heading for Indianapolis to make a stop to see the museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s about 90 minutes away.

Before we left on the trip, my wife went to the AAA to get maps. Unfortunately, she didn’t check them at the time and the girl at the counter, geographically challenged, gave us maps for Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. None of those states feature our destinations of Cincinnati, St. Louis , or Kansas City (but Kansas comes close!).

Today, we are relying on the map Budget Rent a Car gave us and we exit in Indy to find the speedway. 40 miles later, we figure that either the map or our navigation were off because we never found it and ran out of time. Later, checking the map on the computer, we find that the map was off, placing the speedway about 25 miles west of where it really was. Too bad, I really wanted to see it…nextime I guess.

Ever onward, we stop at a great Love’s Truck stop in Illinois for fuel, sodas, and snacks and then later again in Terre Haute for lunch at a great Steak and Shake restaurant. We later find out that a couple of hundred miles south of us, tornadoes are wreaking havoc on Oklahoma including destroying another Love’s truck stop down there. We just got a little light rain along the way.

Weather is an ongoing concern for us. Local news keeps predicting thunderstorms and we’re concerned over cancelled games and vacation killing inclement weather. We can push back our next two games by one day if necessary, but no more than that.

Coming into the St. Louis area, the first thing you see is the giant Gateway Arch, the tallest structure in the city. It’s off at the Martin Luther King Bridge and into downtown. Our hotel is on 4th Street, right behind the arch, so it’s very easy to find once we’re in downtown.

For this leg of the trip, we’re at the Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch. We walk into the beautiful, large marbled lobby and check in. The room they give us has a small window with an interior view which we don’t like so it’s back to the lobby to ask for a better room. They give us a two-room suite on the 7th floor. It still has a small window but at least this one has a view of downtown and the Old Courthouse.

Window aside, it’s a great suite. A separate bedroom with a king size bed. A nice sized living area with a large (queen size) sofabed and recliner. Two 42” flat screen TV’s…one in each room…with a large number of channels to choose from including several HD channels. A large bathroom with a roll-in shower. A small dry bar with microwave, fridge (not honor bar), and a coffee maker.

The hotel also has a good number of freebies to go along with the room. We take advantage of the first with some wine, beer, and cocktails along with a light dinner in the lobby (chicken wings, nachos, egg rolls, salad, and veggies). In the morning is a hot breakfast featuring scrambled eggs, biscuits & gravy, sausage, pancakes, yogurt, fruit, toast, bagels, donuts, and muffins along with coffee, juice, and milk. Starting at 10 in the morning, it’s all the popcorn and soda you want until 10 at night. In the room, you have free wifi or free wired Ethernet high speed Internet access (your choice), 60 minutes of free domestic long distance, and 15 minutes of free long distance to Mexico or Canada.

There is a nice pool and spa area on the 8th floor with a good size pool and two hot tubs overlooking the river along with a decent fitness room. The guest laundry is adjacent…$1.50 to wash and $1.25 to dry.

Back in the lobby is a stunning diorama of Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea exploring the new territory with a waterfall and pond. Lovely hotel…one of the best I’ve ever been to. It’s rated #1 in St. Louis on Tripadvisor with good reason. Rates are reasonable too…we paid $150 for our suite, adjacent to the arch and two blocks from the stadium.

After breakfast the next morning, we go over to the Jefferson Expansion Memorial National Park behind the hotel. The arch is huge, stunning, and inaccessible. Built in the early 60’s, it’s debatable if the architect, Eero Saarinen, should have thought about accessibility (Universal Design was really in its infancy at that time) so we’ll let that slide.

An underground visitor’s center is under the arch. There is a fee to enter but if you have the America the Beautiful Access Pass or Golden Access Pass, you can enter free (you get the pass at the entrance to any national park if you’re disabled for free).

Tim and I elect to send Letty up to the top to take pictures while we watch a film on how the arch was constructed. I buy package deals for all of us that includes a riverboat cruise at noon. Letty goes up in the tiny capsule to see the observation deck. The trip includes 85 steps. That, and the tiny door plus small interior of the capsule rules this out for non-walkers.

The documentary is vertigo inducing as we watch the workmen put the final touches on the arch, 630 feet above the ground.

Meeting back up in the lobby, we have some time to explore the gift shop before going down to the adjacent riverfront for the cruise. Well, it’s adjacent if you can walk down stairs…

I ask at the information counter how we get down there in the wheelchair. They show me on a map how I can go either way and detour down to the water. It looks short on the map.
In reality, it’s a half-mile, unmarked trek to get around. We finally find a way by taking an elevator down to the bottom floor of a parking garage, exiting through their ramp, walking down a street to the river, then doubling back to the dock.

This is just ridiculous. Take a look at the pictures…it would be very easy to build a ramp down the hillside to the dock. I can’t believe it is this inaccessible.

On the dock, we find things accessible enough. We get spots on the bow of the boat and leave on our cruise. The tour takes us north past a floating casino; then on to the original power plant built for the 1904 World’s Fair (still in use); numerous docks loading and unloading barges; back down south to get great views of the city; seeing a wrecked barge up against one of the bridges; and finally coming back to the dock after an hour. There are also numerous barges being pushed up the river and pulled the other way filled with all manner of cargo. It’s an interesting trip.

Now, we have to make our way back up which entails another ½ mile trek. We decide to go the other way. It’s just as long.

Being lunch time, we decide to eat at Max and Erma’s, a nice little place attached to the hotel which has a $10.99 special. Choose an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. It’s very good and we can’t finish it all.

After lunch, we go to the room to rest up and get ready for the game.

There's more to come, watch for Part 2 coming very soon!

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