Friday, January 8, 2021

Turning the Calendar on a Most Unusual Year


What can we really say about the year that just was? 

This would usually be the time we'd present an article, or more, on the best things we saw during the past year but, let's face it, there was little to be happy about in 2020. We took only one trip since the COVID-19 lockdowns began here in Californa...a four day getaway to Oregon in the fall...when things looked better and restrictions were loosened for a bit.

Other than that, it's been mostly stay at home save for an occasional foray out to have a picnic, take a hike, or just a drive to get out of the house.

Luckily, we had the foresight to move to our favorite vacation area so our days out are kind of like going on vacation and, up here in the Sierra Foothills, the restrictions have been just a little looser than they are in tightly-locked down Southern California where we came from.

Still, what a year...


Who knew that a trip to Costco would be a day out we'd look forward to? Instead of going out for a weekend getaway, a trip down the hill to stock up on toilet paper would make a great change of pace from looking at these four walls.


And what was that with the run on toilet paper? Who knew it would become such a game and challenge to keep stocked up. I even saw advice online as to the best, shall we say "wiping strategies", to make sure you didn't use too much.


We even drove over the mountains one day to shop the Costco and Trader Joe's in Nevada (a 2 hour drive each way) just so we could have some scenery and a day out. Also, we could pick up about 2 months worth of supplies so we didn't have to go out so much.

Speaking of shortages, there were some other weird ones. Like many people, my wife increased her bread baking many fold, making 3 or 4 loaves of sourdough per week. As the shopper of the family, I'd go out with instructions to pick up bread baking supplies for her. Then, it was a game of what I could get.

Flour was almost non-existent for awhile. Then, I could find all-purpose but not bread flower. Unbleached wheat flour would be out conveniently when she needed it. The flour supply would correct itself and then I couldn't find yeast.

Eggs would be unavailable and then the next week, there'd be a glut. Soda...especially diet...would be problematic. We drink Coke Zero, diet Sunkist, and diet 7-Up.  Each would go through periods of being unavailable and we'd substitute root beer, ginger ale, and more.

Chips went through phases. I like Fritos but they're too salty for me. Luckily, there's a low sodium version...which suddenly became unavailable. Tortilla chips would be substituted.


It was a strange year for shortages and, suddenly, I felt like I lived in 1970's eastern Europe.


Cooking at home became the standard. Before the pandemic, we'd cook about 3 days a week and eat out or get take out the rest of the week. Now, we're challenging ourselves as to how many days in a row we can make our own dinner before we break down and get restaurant food. I think our record is now 6 days in a row...we got to the point of calling our kitchen the Lockdown Diner.

I've always enjoyed going for a walk, even when the only place to stroll was through downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row. I've amped that up a bit doing at least 3 miles a day up here in the Foothills where the scenery is much nicer and the atmosphere more serene. I even get Tim to join me at least once a week. Our local paper even did a profile on me when I did an extended walk up to Sutter Creek.


Since dining rooms have closed and, at times, even outdoor dining was banned, we would take the opportunity to go up to the mountains and have a picnic. Even that was a challenge at time as the state would shut down parks and discourage even outdoor activities. Thankfully, that is no longer the case although outdoor dining at a restaurant is still banned in most of the state.

Even with our lockdowns...and California had some of the strictest...our Covid numbers went up, especially towards the end of the year. A new scheme was instituted where the state was divided up into five regions. When the ICU capacity would drop below 15%, the region would be put into a minimum of three weeks of heavy shutdown. As of this writing, four of those regions are shut down with less that 700,000 Californians free from that strict regime in the furthest northern part of the state.

It seems like the only way we can go is up especially now that vaccines have been developed and distribution has started. We'll be cautiously optimistic and we'll look back in 52 weeks and see if life has returned to normal.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

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, January 4, 2021

CALIFORNIA MOTHERLODE GHOST TOWNS: Hornitos



(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Although the state is criss-crossed with interstates, freeways, superhighways and is home to more millions of Americans than any other state, once in awhile you can find a seldom traveled stretch of asphalt that is actually a time machine.
One such road exists starting at highway 140 in the foothill town of Cathey’s Valley, about 20 miles east of Merced, California.
Turning north on Hornitos Road will take you through some spectacular rolling hill country dotted with happy cows. Green in the winter and spring, golden in summer and fall.

Watch the Video!

After about nine miles, you’ll start to see mounds of rocks scattered about the creek off to the side.  Dug up around 150 years ago, these are tailings left by the original Gold Rush miners.  Following that creek, you’ll end up at the little town of Hornitos, which was settled by Mexicans who were kicked out of the nearby town of Quartzburg.
The joke is on them because Hornitos soon pulled much more riches out of the ground than their unwelcoming neighbors.
A collapsed shack sits a few feet from the sturdy jail.  The remains of a brick building stand next to the community hall. Across the street from that is an old brick saloon with sturdy iron doors and a café that saw its last customer half a century ago.  Overlooking all of it is a tiny, white, Catholic church manning the watch over the town’s graveyard which features dirt packed so hard that the original inhabitants had to put their dead in above ground mounds that looked like the ovens the women used in baking.


Because of the appearance of the graves, the town was named after them using the Spanish word for “little ovens.”
You’ll come to understand why Hornitos is listed as a Gold Rush ghost town on many websites, books, and articles.  Although much rough and rowdy history has happened in and around the streets of this village, it’s not quite correct to call it a ghost town…yet.


The Ortiz family still opens the saloon on the town’s plaza. Come in and have a shot of tequila…the bartender would like it if you chose the Hornitos reposado over the Patron…and chat with him. There’s him and one customer as the three of us have our shots.
Manuela Ortiz is the legend who would open the bar when she felt like it and hold court with her shot of brandy. A living link to the town’s storied past, Manuela is now suffering the memory loss of advanced age and living in a home down the hill in Merced. (Note: Manuela sadly passed away in 2018 - Ed)
Her son now stands in her place, giving us the update on her condition and pouring our shots…without lemon or salt…as he tells us he appreciates it.
The saloon sits across the parking lot from the tiny U.S. Post office. That comprises 2/3 of the remaining businesses in town and the post office is on the verge of closing. A gift shop operates out of an old general store at the north end of town.
Over $8 million dollars worth of gold has been pulled out of the ground here. The population grew to 8, 10, or 12 thousand people depending on which source you consider reliable.  Down to 65 now, it does seem the spirits outnumber the living here.
Ruins are mixed in with the private residences and the few commercial buildings. Across from the Ortiz’s saloon…next to an out-of-place looking, very modern handicapped parking spot…sit the collapsed walls of a brick building.  Here, back before statehood, Domingo Ghiradelli opened a store.


He would not be here very long, moving on to San Francisco, but the little plot of land is still owned by the company he and his family founded…the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company.
In the plot next door, whatever building had stood is long gone but a mound in the dirt is covered with assorted boards and corrugated metal. The barrier is to keep people out of the tunnel inside that is a danger for collapsing.


In its rowdier past, the town was full of saloons. Beneath the saloons on the underground level were bordellos. So that the customers could arrive without being seen, tunnels were dug to connect them
A couple of doors north, another old saloon sits. Across the street, a tree grows out of the hole another collapsed brothel tunnel created.
There are two handicapped parking spaces in town. One is a new, state-of-the-art concrete creation with multiple ramps for access adjacent to the Stagg Hall, home of the town's annual enchilada festival each March. The other is across the street at the post office.  We're almost the only people here so we just park in a regular spot in front of the old cafe...I don't think they'll be getting any customers today to block our ramp.

We wander around town. Technically, it’s not too accessible with just a few feet of sidewalk, but the traffic is so light Tim can drive his wheelchair on the road without problem.
It’s a block or so to the north end of town where the gift shop sits. We wander in, buy some candy and beads, and check out the art work. I can believe that we were the only sale that day.


We drive up the hill to the graveyard. Someone at some time must have gotten access to some earth moving equipment because all the graves are now below ground.  The dirt is very hard, though.
There’s an admirable view fromup here high above the town. We spend a few minutes wandering the graves, seeing dates going back to the Gold Rush days along with some wooden markers whose inscriptions have long worn off in the weather here.


Going back down, we navigate through a flock of wild turkeys mingling with the ghosts in the town. Past the old school house on the outskirts of town, and then back towards the highway.
It would be wrong to call it a ghost town now but the town is hanging on the edge.

Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Cocktail Hour - Martini

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Ken30684 under CC-BY license

Gin or vodka...a classic martini.  Sometime in the 19th century, probably in New York, someone put some gin into a glass of Martini vermouth and the martini cocktail was born.  I'm not a real fan, can have one in a pinch, but I dig the fantasy of having your wife waiting at the door when I get home from work with a cold, stiff, drink. 


Watch the Video!

My wife can't take gin too well, so we'll be doing it with vodka.  If you like gin, just substitute for the vodka.

MARTININI - 1 drink

2 oz. vodka or gin
spray of olive oil spray
1 olive
1/2 oz dry vermouth

Fill a shaker at least half full of crushed ice.  Put a quick spray, very light, of olive oil on the ice.  Pour in the vermouth.  Shake and strain out...we just want to coat the ice with vermouth and olive oil.  Pour the vodka or gin in the shaker, strain into a chilled cocktail glass with the olive on the bottom.

Hand Picked Vintners Wines Straight to your door- Exclusive member discounts

Cheers!

Darryl

Monday, December 28, 2020

Christmas in the Capitol: A Floating Dinner in Sacramento


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) We must like this hotel, we've stayed here repeatedly over the last decade and a half. At first, it was called the Hallmark Suites. Great free breakfast bar, cocktail lounge, and pool area. Nice two room suites.



It became the Sierra Suites after that then changed into a Hyatt House. All still the same but looking a little worn at our last stay a couple of years ago. Soon after we checked out, it closed down and underwent a year-plus renovations and reopened a few months ago as a Doubletree Suites.


Watch the Video!

Nice location across the street from the Sunrise light rail station, giving you easy access to downtown Sacramento to the west and the even nicer Old Town Folsom to the east.



This time, I was offered a two story loft unit with two bathrooms, mobility access, and two bedrooms each with a king size bed, for the same price as the two room suite we had before.

Well, I can't pass an offer like that up...



After checkin, we take our delicious Doubletree cookies with us to our room in the next building. 



The room is indeed spectacular. A large living room with a sink, fridge, coffee maker, and microwave welcome us as we enter (I could picture the sink area being a kitchen before the renovation. Comfortable sofa, deskchair, and large tv dominate the rest of this room.

Beyond that is the downstairs bedroom with it's king-sized bed and bathroom. Funny thing about this accessible bathroom...it is very large but has a tub without a shower on a hose and...no...the management has no bathchair they can put in there. There's a grab bar next to the toilet and a roll-under sink and no door.  I mean none...no sliding door, no curtain, nothing.

(Management offered to move us to a smaller room which would mean Tim would have to move to the sofabed instead of having that large king to himself)

Upstairs is another bedroom with another king bed for Letty and I. Another bathroom up here is smaller and more spartan but...get this...it has a walk-in shower! Swap the tub downstairs with this one and the room would be close to perfect, except for that missing door downstairs.

We do travel with a spare shower chair on road trips for just such an occasion but the room is just too darn nice and big to move to a smaller version. We'll see about some other arrangement for compensation later.

I go to a nearby Wendy's and we feast on Christmas Eve around our hotel room table on some hot 'n juicy burgers while watching old movies on TV. It's a very comfortable, cozy, and low-key evening.

In the morning, we head to the lobby for a light breakfast. In it's previous lives, the hotel had a great, free breakfast bar. The buffet and omelet station are still here but for a price now. A "Continental" buffet is $12.95 and the full buffet is $16.95. A bit much since we basically just want some bagels and fruit.

It's very slow on Christmas morning. The hotel is mostly empty and nobody is eating. The counter guy makes us a deal...pay for a continental buffet, which he'll knock 10% off of because it's Christmas...and we can all share it.

That'll do (pro tip: don't be afraid to negotiate a better deal when you've got the upper hand).



We rest up and clean up (Letty and I have excruciating back pain today we think that was brought on by the uncomfortable couch in the Marriott we stayed at on the way up here) before loading up and heading to Old Sacramento along the riverfront in downtown.



On arrival, we have about a half hour to kill before our reserved time, so we head over to Candy Heaven, a large candy shop known for their generous free sample policy. Sample we do - we even sampled the chocolate covered crickets - and buy some candy for later.



It's time to eat so we head over to the Delta King, an historic paddle wheeled river boat permanently docked here. We're shown to a nice table and settle in to eat.



This is becoming a tradition for us to come up here and have Christmas dinner on the boat. It's the only time each year the restaurant here serve their turkey dinner.



It's among the best turkey dinners I've ever tasted with a perfectly roasted and juicy bird, stuffing, mashed potatoes and vegetables. It's delicious and filling (that's why we went light on breakfast).



While the entire menu is available, I come strictly for the turkey dinner. Letty and Tim will digress to other menu items such as cioppino, pasta, or even fish 'n chips.



Tummies sated and spirits high, we head back to the hotel to enjoy the rest of the holiday together.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 27, 2020

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The Gibson



The Gibson is basically the same thing as a martini. The one big difference is that instead of an olive in the glass, you use a cocktail onion...which is a pearl onion that has been packed in brine.



Watch the Video!


INGREDIENTS: (two drinks)


2 oz. gin (or vodka)
1 oz. dry vermouth
4 cocktail onions


Put two cocktail onions on a toothpick. Place each toothpick in a cocktail glass. Put the liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake and strain into the glasses


Cheers!


110 Calories per drink.


-Darryl

Friday, December 25, 2020

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

PLACES THAT DON'T SUCK: The Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, Tennessee


NOTE: This is one of our occasional, VERY occasional posts on places that are huge tourist draws but manage not to suck at the same time.

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) It's synonymous with Country music. If there wasn't already a Country Music Hall of Fame, being a member here would count just as much. Everybody in the music business strives to play on this stage.


Now, the Grand Ole Opry show is enough of a draw but what makes it special is the winter version when it returns to its roots in downtown Nashville as opposed to the modern auditorium that's attached to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to the east, over the Cumberland River.


In the cold months, the Opry returns to its original home...the Ryman Auditorium, just a block north of Broadway in downtown Nashville.

The Ryman has its roots as a church so it's not a stretch to see why this is called the "mother church of Country Music."  These are hallowed halls for many.


While there are standalone concerts at the Ryman throughout the year, it's the Opry that made it famous. The Opry is what people want to come to see.

The Opry is not the building, the Opry is a radio show put on before a live audience. It's old and has been on the air in pretty much the same format for over 90 years. That is the longest running radio show in the United States.

People come to be enterained by a half-dozen or so entertainers...some well known, others just starting to make their mark in the business. Entertainers come here because it is the most important stage they can play.


That formula right there...people thrilled for the chance to be here to see the show and entertainers who consider playing here the highest honor they can aspire to...is the main reason this place doesn't suck.

The pricing is moderate, the staff wonderfully friendly, as are your seatmates on the pews that make up the seating area for this place.  The show is very entertaining and you'll wonder where the time went when you're done.


Wheelchair accessible seating is available at all levels and price points. Management also enforces that those seats only go to those who need it so someone won't sucker you out of those front row, prime spots.

Most people would say this is the biggest must-see attraction in Nashville. Most people are right. There is nothing bigger or better on the Nashville scene to brag about when you get back to your friends back home.

For more things to do in Nashville, the Groupon folks would like you to check out this link.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Cool Nights Call for a Hearty Hunter's Stew


It can still get a little chilly at night here in Northern California. A hearty stew is just the thing to take the chill off. This is even appropriate for a big entrée, we had it for Thanksgiving instead of the traditional turkey.


This recipe uses a cast iron Dutch oven inside of a conventional oven. It takes several hours to finish but most of that time, it's "set and forget." Just a little bit of preparation at the beginning and two stirrings during cook time.

For a different take, I use ground elk which is leaner and more iron rich than beef, along with some ground chuck. Other game meats like venison or bison can also be used.


INGREDIENTS  
1 lb. - ground elk
1 lb. - ground beef chuck
1 large onion
5 med. carrots
6 med. yellow potatoes
10 oz. - frozen peas
2 cubes beef boullion
2-28 oz. cans - whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup - sherry
1 tablepoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon - thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup - cornstarch
2 tablespoons - olive oil



My wife and son don't like chunks of onion so, instead of dicing, I put the onion in the blender on a medium speed with 2 tablespoons of water for 5 seconds (you can dice if you like). Then, it's peel the carrots and slice into quarter inch chunks.



I quarter the potatoes and set aside in a bowl with the carrots.


Preheat the oven to 285 degrees. Brown the meat in a little olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, on medium high on the stove top in the Dutch oven.


Layer the ingredients, in the order listed starting with the meat.
Cover and put in oven for 2 hours. At that time, remove cover and stir. Cover it back up and cook another two hours. Stir again and cover. Cook one more hour and serve.


Darryl Musick

Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 21, 2020

Tennessee Touring: The Hall of Fame and Studio B


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Winding down our adventure in Music City and the home of the Delta Blues, we're left with one must-see from Tim's list, the Country Music Hall of Fame.

We could have also spent the evening out at the Loveless Cafe barn to see the Music City Roots TV show but, at this point, we'd seen eleven acts in different concerts and clubs along the way plus had a CD shoved into our hands as we walked Nashville's streets by a unknown artist trying to get known (turned out to be a compilations of Christmas songs and the singer sounded like an animated chipmunk).

It's Letty's turn to have a bad day with whatever virus we picked up in Tupelo. She bravely soldiers on but you can tell she's not feeling the love today.


Thirty degrees with a snowy rain is not particularly inviting either but at least there is reasonably priced indoor parking half a block from the Hall.

It's warm inside and the Hall has an instutitional smell (like a library or school) that is not sitting well with my sick wife. We get our tickets, enhanced with a tour of RCA's historic Studio B, and head on in.

Another audio tour, another hour or so of helping Tim punch the right numbers to match whatever display he's sitting in front of


It's interesting to a point...you get to see Nudie's sewing machine, Elvis's "solid gold" Cadillac, Webb Pierce's silver dollar and gun car (Buck Owen's had a duplicate of this car, now hanging over the bar at the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield), many musical instruments, outfits, and gold records.


My favorite exhibit, though I do not think it's permanent, was the Bakersfield Sound exhibition. Probably because I'm biased towards that city but it weaves a great history of the two men who dominated it...Merle Haggard and Owens...and the intricate, weirdly intersecting family histories they had together.

Other less familiar names like Homer Joy along with notables such as Dwight Yoakam are also put into the context they have with that California oil city.


We check out all the plaques in the actual Hall...a big rotunda at the end of the tour...then head back into the lobby to wait for the bus to take us to Studio B.

A ten minute ride (yes, the buses are wheelchair accessible) and we're at the back door of the famous studio. While it's mostly retired today (Studio A next door is it's current replacement), some artists still like to make special arrangements to use it, such as Marty Stuart on his Ghost Train album.

Elvis recorded over 200 of his songs here, more than any other studio.


The tour starts off in a small lobby and it's significance is explained to us as well as a listing of some of the top artists who have recorded there.  At the end, we are ushered into the studio itself as we hear some more tales...


The lights are different colors so that they could be used to set the mood; Elvis liked to record at three in the morning; the room is perfectly acoustical, there is no echo at all, a special reverb box had to be built into the wall to accomodate those who wanted it.

We're allowed to sit at Elvis' piano...but not play it...and then we're off.



Nice addition to the Elvis Trail but still not as awesome as Sun Studio was back in Memphis.

The bus driver tying Tim down in the bus tells me an elderly gentleman who has just parked nearby is Harrold Bradley. 


Harrold and his brother, Owen, opened up Nashville's first recording studio in 1954, starting the industry that Nashville now thrives on.

My wife wonders what the driver told me, so I tell her. Soon the word spreads to the tour guide who announces it to the bus. A couple of women sitting in front of us excitedly chirp up "finally, we saw someone famous here!"

After hanging with Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Ranger Doug and meeting Leon Rhodes, Anita Stapleton and seeing all the stars at the Opry, I'm thinking "if that's the only famous person you've seen on your trip, you ain't been trying hard enough..."


Darryl
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved