Monday, August 31, 2020

COVID 19 - Note to Our Readers

Although we here at The World on Wheels exist to promote travel, especially travel for special needs, we realize that this is NOT the time to go out and travel this fascinating world. We will still be running new posts and rotating previous posts and encourage you to enjoy vicarious travel from your armchair.

We are confident that all will be well and this will pass but, for now, please stay home and make plans for your trips after this has passed. In the meantime, please enjoy our travel posts (which have all taken place before this blew up) and stay well.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Summer in Lake Tahoe - Part 1

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed)  One of the great things about AbilityFirst is the summer camp program they run. We’d just dropped Tim off for a week at Camp Paivika and headed north on highway 395.

This is California’s version of Big Sky Country (with apologies to Montana). Vast stretches of desert lead up to the base of the Sierra Nevada range. A climb up through lava upthrusts deposits you in Owens Valley, hitting the wide spot in the road called Little Lake. Yes, there is a pretty, little lake here.

Continuing on , it’s not long to Dunmovin…great name, Lone Pine, and Independence – which hosted the trial of Charles Manson. Past Independence is Manzanar, the relocation camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II. It’s a beautiful area but, still, who would want to be in confinement here?

On to Bishop, where we make a lunch stop at Schatt’s Bakery, famous for their squaw bread…which just tastes like regular wheat bread to me.

We meet a nice gentleman who is driving a gorgeous black Pantera. He tells us he is coming from a Pantera get-together in Reno and lets us take a few pictures of his car.

Across the street is Bishop’s beautiful park with its gurgling brook. A momma duck and her ducklings swim about in the water.

Mono Lake

Back on 395, we keep up a steady pace northward…we see several more Panteras going the other direction, beautiful cars. There are many towns here that would warrant some more time in. Mammoth, June Lake, Lee Vining/Mono Lake, Bridgeport, and Topaz Lake to name a few. Our next stop is in Gardnerville, just a bit south of Carson City, where we stop to have a Basque dinner at the Overland Hotel and Restaurant. (NOTE: It has since closed - Ed)

It’s a by-the-book Basque dinner, except without the communal tables. No menu, just food. A small bottle of red wine it put on the table, along with a bread basket. A large tureen of soup, followed by a salad. The waiter then asks what you want for an entre; lamb, fish, steak, chicken? Next come the beans, followed by a dish of pasta. Your entre then arrives with a plate of fries. All followed up with dessert.

Bellies distended, we leave and play a quick game of Frisbee with some local kids in the parking lot before heading up the Kingsbury Grade to Lake Tahoe. Half an hour later, we’re cruising by the casinos of Stateline before crossing over into South Lake Tahoe.

This is where you Tahoe purists will come in and say “south? The north shore is the ONLY place to be in Tahoe.” Yeah, it’s nice, quiet, relaxed, and uncrowded on the north shore. It was also hard to find a decent room there. More on that later…

South Lake Tahoe is the “big city” of the lake. It has sprawl, traffic, shopping centers, and abuts high-rise casinos but it’s still a pretty place and you can get some good deals on great rooms. Our lodging will be the Best Western Station House Inn, a block away from the lake and within walking distance to the casinos and the Heavenly Valley gondola.

The room is a large, 2 room suite with a king-size bed, large bathroom with Jacuzzi tub (transfer seat available), and queen-size sofabed in the living room. The walls are a dark wood grain, so the room feels a little on the dark side but other than that, it’s a great room.

Also available onsite is a heated pool and outdoor spa. A free, full breakfast is served at the LewMarNel’s restaurant behind the pool. This is no ordinary hotel breakfast bar. It’s real restaurant food. You are seated, waited on, and can pick anything on the menu. It’s delicious too. The hotel’s website claims that it was voted one of the top 100 breakfasts by Esquire magazine, I don’t doubt that is true.

After the long drive, we unpack and head down to the lake to watch the sunset.

A good night’s sleep and one of those great breakfasts prepares us for our next adventure, hiking down to Vikingsholm…a Scandinavian style castle built on the lake’s edge in Emerald Bay by Lora Josephine Knight in 1929. There is a parking lot at the top of the trail and it’s about a mile down to the beach. It’s paved and smooth enough for wheelchairs but remember… you must come back uphill the same way. Although there are marked handicapped spots at the bottom, neither the park’s website or the docents on site say you can actually drive your car down there.

It’s a half hour to the bottom where we unpack a light picnic of fruit, cheese, and juice to eat on the beach. The castle is suitably spectacular and the water is sparkling. Just offshore is an island where Mrs. Knight built a teahouse on the peak. Lupines and daisies are in bloom and scrub jays try to steal our food. It’s a steep hike back up but not as bad as I thought it would be.
After a bit of a break back at the top, we head across the street to do some waterfall hiking. At the road itself, Lower Eagle Falls cascades in a spectacular drop into Emerald Bay. We are going to hike up past Upper Eagle Falls to Eagle Lake.

Many call this an easy, novice hike but I found it much more difficult that the trek down to Vikingsholm. Many long stretches along this 2 mile (roundtrip) trail require climbing stairs built into the mountainsides and rocks. It is definitely not wheelchair accessible, although there is a short, accessible boardwalk trail adjacent to the parking lot.

You reach the upper falls pretty quickly but the lake takes much longer. Although the trail is about the same length as Vikingsholm, it feels about three times longer.

Once you reach the lake, there are plenty of large rocks on which to rest. We have another snack of power bars and water while watching a couple of families swim and play fetch with their Labradors. There are also a lot of squirrels and woodchucks up here, so guard your food.

By the time we get back to the car, we’re exhausted after the two hikes so we head back to the hotel.

Stay tuned for part 2...

Copyright 2010 Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 12, 2020

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: A Hometown Gold Country Pub Crawl

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed)  We had some visitors recently and Tim and I had slowly been working on a new pub crawl in Ione, California, so this seemed like a good time to finish it off.

Ione is in the Motherlode region of the state, in Amador County, but has never been a gold mining town. Instead, early settlers of this town (founded in 1848) realized that their path to riches was in selling supplies to the miners instead.

Many parts of the town are supposedly haunted, especially the imposing Preston Castle...a former juvenile detention center looming on a hill over the town...but we're here searching for another kind of spirit.

There are five places to drink in this down...six if you count the Mexican restaurant where you can get beer and wine to to with your food...and we'll be hitting four of them. The fifth is a little over a mile away at the clubhouse of the local golf course. It's a little far, at just over a mile away, for walking. The rest are all in a two block stretch of Main Street.

Our first stop might be a better place to end up but, since they close early at 5pm, we're going there first. Mane Street Tack Shop might seem like an unusual place to start a pub crawl. Heck, it is an unusual spot.

Here, in a store full of saddles, bridles, ropes, boots, chaps, and more equipment for the equine, you'd hardly look for a spot for drinking. Don, the owner, has other ideas, though.

A contractor in addition to tack shop owner, Don took some unused space in the back of the store and built himself a little party space. Through swinging saloon doors, you'll enter what looks like the inside of a covered wagon, with a bar on the right, a few tables to the left, and a TV showing old westerns nonstop in the back.

Instead of bar stools, there are saddles to sit on.  A few feet at the end of the bar has a lowered counter for the wheelchairs.

Luckily for us, Don decided to share his hangout with the world and is open to the public on weekends.

In addition to being yet another Amador County wine tasting counter, you can buy a variety of wines and beers by the glass and hang out with Don while he regales you with modern cowboy stories.

Having whet our whistles, we cross over to the other side of Main Street and head to the town's only functioning hotel, the Ione Hotel.  In the lobby, the Burke Family Restaurant operates a saloon on the other side of the lobby from the dining room.

It's a bit warm as the air conditioner isn't up to completely cooling this space today. We have some wine and cold beer while Jerry Lewis, a retired Los Angeles Police officer plays as the bars musical entertainment for the day.

Moving on, we go back across the street to Tilly's Club, the city's dive bar. We love a good dive bar, especially up here in Gold Country, and Tilly's is a fine example. It's a few shots of tequila to go with some pints of 805 ale while we also load up on the free popcorn.

Gypsy, a friendly pit bull belonging to one of the other bar flies, comes over to hang out with us.

We're finishing up at the Ione Public House. Actually, it's the coffee corner which has become the temporary home of the pub while the actual pub is renovated and a brewery is added. Brothers Jeff and Mike Bligh also own this coffee house, along with the pub, so they've built a bar here and moved the taps for the duration.

It doesn't quite have the character of the pub but the beer's still cold and you have the added benefit of having pastries from the coffee shop available (pic at top of post).

It's been a fun crawl and now we have to crawl back home where we'll spend the rest of the evening sitting on the porch talking shit about each other...literally (you had to have been there). Fun times.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Sights and Sips of Motherlode Country: Motor Touring and Wine Tasting in the Sierra Foothills

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed)  We've got a lazy day to kill before we drive back home. Waking up in our room in the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in the mountains just east of the town of the same name, we make our way over the the Casino diner, Margaret's Cafe.

Watch the Video!

The restaurant is named after the member of the Mi Wok tribe here who was the driving force into developing this resort. The walls are lined with pictures of her.

After trying the buffet, we found that the best food is served here...not the buffet. And, yes, that is bacon covered pork chops just above.

Hunger sated, we head out on the road. Just a bit east up the road, we find this castle-like house that has it's own amusement park out front. No, Michael Jackson did not rise from the dead but an eccentric local millionaire, John Hertzig, built this for his own amusement.

Over the hill to the north is Shenandoah Valley, just full of great wineries with vines dating back to the Gold Rush. We've been here many, many times and today want to try a couple of new wineries.

First up is Dobra Zimlja on the far eastern end of Steiner Road. Using local grapes they make big, heavy wines in the Croatian style of its immigrant owner Milan Matulich.

The tasting room sits inside of a wine cave dug into the hill. The friendly server pours us a rose that looks black in the bottle, "it lightens up in the glass when I pour it," she says when I ask why they call it a rose.

It does lighten up a bit to a dark purple but it is a lighter tasting rose.

Tasting is $5 but we buy a few bottles so the fee is waved. We spend a few moments at their pond (pictured at the top of this post) before moving on.

Next door is the Charles Spinetta Winery.  In a more utilitarian cinder block setting, Spinetta pours deep reds and sweet wines surrounded by artworks of nature.

The sparkling rose and chenin blanc is on sale so we buy a case of that.

Last, we stop at Story Wine where we always try to have a picnic when we're up here.

The prices here have made a steep climb so we just buy a cold bottle of rose to wash down the sandwiches we picked up at the casino before we left.

It's been a whirlwind week and a half between here and Placerville, so we just spend our last evening chilling in the hotel room, snacking with one of the bottles we bought and just relaxing. 

Tomorrow is a long drive home.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 6, 2020

Vacation Reboot: Picking up the Pieces in the Motherlode

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed)  Other than health emergencies, it's tougher to think of a harder piece of luck on your road trip than having your mode of transportation have a major breakdown. That's what happened to us last weekend in Placerville, California when the rear axle on our van gave out. That meant we had to leave the van and Tim's very heavy everyday power wheelchair behind while we opted to get a rental car to go back home and wait for our van to be repaired.

(NOTE: we initially went to Placerville for a beer festival which you can check out at this Cocktail Hour and video)

It's a week later, the van's fixed (although the bookkeeper, who was supposed to call me to tell me how much the bill is has yet to call back), we're packed tightly into our rental Toyota Corolla, and we're headed north on Highway 99 as fast as our four little cylinders will take us.

Early afternoon, we're pulling into the parking lot of the Les Schwab Tire and Brake service shop in Placerville. We see our van parked outside so I pull in next to it so we can transfer our luggage into it.

The three of us file in and my first pleasant surprise is when I say I'm here to pick up the van and the lady there say's "That'll be $1412, please." Pleasant, because I was led to believe it would have been closer to $3,000. Trying to keep a poker face, I was almost like that lady in the IKEA commercial who was running out to the parking lot, yelling to her husband "Start the car!" before they found out they'd made a mistake.

No mistakes least they didn't catch any as I paid for my service...I collected the keys, we packed up the van, Tim had a happy reunion with his main wheelchair, and Letty drove it to Folsom behind me as we took the Toyota back to the Enterprise agency there.

Then, it was another 45 minute drive to our destination today of the Jackson Rancheria Resort and Casino in Jackson. The Rancheria is a small reservation for the local band of Mi Wok Indians who have turned their little piece of California into a large resort.

Now, it's one of the cheapest places you can get a decent room in the area.

Since they're not required to follow the laws of the state, there are no taxes so the $104 dollar rate we're quoted is the entire price we pay. Except, the front counter person tells us if we apply for the casino card, we'll get another $10 off of that rate. So it's $94 for three ($5 extra for the third person) taxes, no resort fees, no parking charges.

The room is spacious, about a third larger than the motel room we stayed in last weekend in Placerville. Two queen beds, a tub with transfer bench built in, refrigerator, safe, large flat screen TV, ironing board, iron, and hair drier. Immaculately cleaned, quiet, and a view over the pool to the hills beyond one side and the casino parking structure on the other.

It's a very nice room, the nicest we're going to get for this price up here.

A sense of completeness takes over...we're back where we left off, our van is working, Tim's back in his main wheelchair, and we're in our favorite part of the world in a nice room. Comfortable, relaxed, and ready we head to the casino to eat.

The buffet here is $15.95 on Mondays but we get another discount since we're over 55. Our roles reversed...Tim used to get the kid's discount and now he's more expensive...we find a table and dig in.

It's OK but I think I should have went to the Asian counter instead of the brisket bar. Tim was fine with the pizza and mac 'n cheese. Letty had a time trying to get the meat out of her crab legs.

Now, we head back to the room to relax and rest up to go exploring tomorrow. We'll see you then.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Trio Going for a Trio of Tapas, AKA Another Gold Line Pub Crawl

We doing something a little different. Instead of our usual Saturday night out-to-dinner, we've decided to take advantage of a rare spell of cooler weather here in Los Angeles.

In place of one big meal for dinner, we're heading out on the Gold Line light rail train to have a mini pub crawl, this one only visiting three stops where we'll have an appetizer and a drink before moving on.

First stop is at the Chinatown Station in downtown Los Angeles. We cross the street and head into some desolate looking territory.

No worries, though, because at the other end of that dusty lot is Highland Park Brewery.

Our app here is this delicious sausage plate featuring their mild housemade chorizo with some salsa verde, pickles, okra, and some very delicious slices of bread.

This, along with the house lager...Refresh beer...whets our appetite to continue on and get some more.

The next stop is the Highland Park Station, where a short walk takes us to...

...the Highland Park Bowl, a very retro cool bowling alley with a nice, overwhelming steampunk vibe to it.

App here is calamari, serviceable but not my favorite.

It's washed down with a wit beer made back in downtown L.A. at Boomtown Brewery, one of our favorites.

Back on the train to Pasadena where we get off in Old Pasadena and take the short walk to the Blind Donkey, a tavern that is starting to get a nice, divey sheen to it.

It's happy hour! Our discounted selection includes another wit beer, this one from Pasadena's own Craftsman Brewery, a pilsner from New Belgium, and a tequila sour.

This is our last stop so we pull out a few stops and have more than one app. Here's fritos and salsa with garlic parmesan fries.

Letty shared the fries with Tim and also had some elote.

Tim and I shared the fritos along with some delicious Vienna Beef corn dogs.

That's our limit today, so we hop back on the train to go home and watch the Angel game.

Stop by the Musick Channel Garage Sale to pick up your own copy of some of our classic vinyl LPs. Click on the link, above, for more.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 3, 2020

Panning For Gold to Pay For Our Car in the Motherlode

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed)  A few months ago, I retired from my day job at the U.S. Department of Justice. A couple of weeks ago, my former boss sent me three tickets for the Placerville Brewfest as a retirement present. Placerville is a small Gold Rush era city about 40 miles due east of Sacramento, California.

I hopped online and got the cheapest room I could find. We just need somewhere to lay our heads while we're here, nothing fancy. We'll be heading a little deeper into the Motherlode after this quick weekend in Placerville.

So we loaded up the van and headed up north. Because we were going to be drinking and because our motel was two miles from the fest, I brought Tim's folding travel chair with us. That way, we could get a taxi from our motel to the festival, indulge all we'd like, and then take the taxi back later. No parking hassles, either.

With stops, it took about 7 hours. We check into the Motherlode Motel which turned out to be a dated, retro hotel but was clean, quiet, and run by a very friendly and accommodating Indian family. The wife even deployed a homemade wooden ramp for us to get over the lip into our room (it wasn't an accessible room, just needed the two queen beds, room for the wheelchair, and to be able to get to the toilet for this trip).

My wife tells me "there's some oil or something on the back door of the van." I go and look and, sure enough, there's a oily sheen there.  I look around but can find nothing. The van was running perfectly on the way up so I chalk it up to some other vehicle leaking something near us as we were on the freeway.

After unpacking, I go to get some take out for dinner.  I notice several oil spots on the ground near our rear passenger side tire.  I look underneath and see that there's a leak near the brake on that side.  I'm thinking good news it's not the differential...that'd be more expensive than brakes.

I check the brake fluid reservoir. It's full.  Maybe it's a very slow leak.

"I've found the source of the oil," I tell my wife about my theory about the brake fluid leak.

We discuss what to do and decide to show up first thing in the morning at the local Les Schwab Tire and Brake shop down the street to have them check it out because it's the only local place we could find that would be open on Saturday.

It's an early morning but we make it right at 8 in the morning only to find there are already 10 people ahead of us. I check the van in. I tell the guy, "wow...I guess I wasn't the only one to try to get here right when you open the door."

"We open at 7:30," he tells me.

"That's not what your web page says. It says 8:00."

"Yeah...we need to fix that."

Van in the shop, we head to the Golden Waffle restaurant next door to eat then take a walk to downtown Placerville to kill the time.

While Letty is in a yarn shop, Tim and I are in the dive bar next door waiting for her. I get a phone call. It's Chris from Les Schwab.

"I checked your van, it's not the breaks. That was axle grease and oil that was leaking. The entire real axle is shot and we need to replace it."

This isn't good. After some back and forth where it was really recommended that I not try to drive it anywhere. If I didn't want them to fix it, they said it needed to be towed. The closest Ford dealer is 30 miles away in Folsom and home is over 350 miles away.

"Can you fix it today?" I ask.

"We can't even get the part until at least Tuesday," he tells me.

"How about the cost?"

"About $2400."

Oh no...this free beer festival got very expensive, very fast. 

Well, you have to do what you have to do sometimes. I call Enterprise to rent a car. After some false starts, I find that the closest office is also in Folsom. I can't find a Lyft or Uber to take me, so I bite the bullet and call Hangtown Taxi where a very nice and competent driver named Simeon dropped Letty and Tim off at the motel and then drove me down to Folsom to pick up the car.

That was another hundred bucks, not including the cost to rent the car.

So, our plan is to go to the festival later today, spend the night, drive home, and come back up next week to get the van and continue the trip. Les Schwab is understanding and will hold my car for me at no extra charge until we can get back.

This is just starting but let's hope the worst of it is behind us.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Zen and the Art of Toilet Paper

It was around four decades ago that I was witnessing an argument about toilet paper by two of the biggest names in the orchid industry.

At the time, I was working my way through college at an orchid nursery in San Gabriel, California. The president of the company (big name number one) wasn't in the argument but his wife was (still had the name as a perk of the marriage). The vice president of the company...who actually ran the business side of things...was big name number two.

"Paul, you have to know that you're wasting money on that cheap toilet paper," the wife would tell him. "If you get the good two-ply paper, you'll use less of it."

"Toilet paper is toilet paper!" he replied. "People will use a lot of is just because it's free."

This went on to the amusement of us employees and a few customers as the two argued for half an hour in the middle of our main showroom about the pros and cons of toilet paper quality. I can't remember who won that argument but I suspect the wife made a rare victory over the former Marine colonel who ran the shop.

Why am I reminded of this? Why, it's another symptom of Covid 19, that do-it-all bad guy of 2020.

As the world turmoiled over this virus and responded by wiping the shelves of toilet paper, more than a few of us started to pay more attention to that humble, dissolvable paper on a roll sitting next to our commodes.

For many years, now, we've been Charmin people. That's because it's the brand sold in 30 pack bundles at Costco (they also have their own Kirkland brand but we've never bought that). One pack lasts us a couple of months.

We were lucky, we went to Costco for our bi-monthly run just before our governor imposed a 2 month shelter-in-place (SIP) order for our state. While we could still go out shopping, people took this as the call to stock up on paper and cleaning products, cleaning out all of those items from store shelves around the world.

In the meantime, there were times I'd pick up a pack at our local store, when available, to have as an emergency if Costco would not have any in stock on our next adventure. It's then that I I suspect many of you are, now...a toilet paper connoisseur.

For instance, I now notice that Angel Soft...a brand I thought was pretty good...was a good half inch narrower per roll than Charmin (see pic at top). Although two-ply, it is still nowhere as soft our orchid lady at the top noticed...we use more of it than the Charmin.

We've also noticed that the one-ply rolls that hotels usually provide run out quickly like a bad date. You always wonder if that one extra roll they put in the bathroom will be enough when you're having dinner at Bubba's Discount Barbecue nextdoor.

Scott has big, 1000 sheet rolls but it's one-ply and very rough.

In the end, we're still with the Cadillac of toilet papers, Charmin. Mr. Whipple and his bears would be proud.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2020 - All Rights Reserved