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Friday, December 30, 2016

ROUTE 66 Landmarks and Historic Downtowns- San Bernardino to Pasadena





Here are some Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley Route 66 landmarks not to be missed, again from east to west...

Picture courtesy of Flickr
Keith_Rock under CC BY-ND 3.0 license
Glen Helen Park, Devore - As you exit the Cajon Pass via Interstate 15, you're gonna go west on Interstate 215.  That large park in the hills just south of the freeway is Glen Helen Park.  It was here on two weekends, Labor Day in 1982 and Memorial Day in 1983, that Steve Jobs' partner Steve Wozniak spent a good deal of his Apple fortune to stage two huge rock concerts, the Us Festival.  Up to 375,000 people packed the huge lawn for acts such at The Clash, Tom Petty, Van Halen, The Ramones, The Pretenders, David Bowie, and many more.  The lawn quickly turned to dirt, then mud.  The heat was pretty much unbearable but misters and free-flowing water helped to keep things cool.  The area just over the hill is where much of the audience camped out for each of the three-day festivals.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Cogart Strangehill under CC-BY-SA license
Original McDonald's Restaurant, San Bernardino - Actually the second restaurant the McDonald brothers started but the first one using their name.  The owner of the Juan Pollo chain has bought the property and turned it into a museum.  A modern functioning McDonald's is just down the street.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Marcin Wichary under CC-BY license
Wigwam Motel, Rialto - As Route 66 heads into Rialto, the iconic Teepee shaped rooms appear with the inn's slogan, "do it in a teepee."
Bono's Restaurant and Deli, 15395 Foothill Bl., Fontana - Old locals sometimes call it "Fontucky," but it's here you'll find one of only six orange shaped juice stands left in the state.  The owner plans to put it back in business but for now it's just for looks.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Cliff Hutson under CC-BY license
  -  Downtown Upland - Turn left on Euclid then left again on 9th Street.  Old timey village with a gazebo in the middle.  Not the most lively place at night, though.  Try Caffe Allegro for some really good Italian food or come to the Lemon Festival in May.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Binksternet under CC-BY-SA license
Heritage Park, La Verne - This area was once covered in orange groves.  A small one is preserved here.  Saturdays, from January through March, you can pick oranges for $5 for a large bag.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Phu "Son" Nguyen under CC-BY license
Old Town, La Verne - Dating back to the 1890's, this little downtown...originally called Lordsburg...was the heart of a Brethren community.  It's surrounded by the University of La Verne, which dates back to 1891, and is Tim's alma mater (see below).

  -  Downtown San Dimas - Cute, Western themed downtown.  A ghost town at night.  Turn left on San Dimas Ave. to Bonita.
  -  Downtown Glendora - mid 20th century type of downtown, coming back to life with new restaurants, shops, and entertainment.  Turn right (north) at Glendora Ave...at the retro Route 66 Arco station.

Foothill Drive In Theater, Azusa - The theater's long gone...its land being used for the expansion of Azusa Pacific University...but the college has preserved the marquee.

  -  Downtown Azusa - At the corner of Azusa Ave. & Foothill (Route 66).  It has become one of the top stops on the Gold Line light rail for food and drink Try Max's for some great margaritas and enchiladas.

San Gabriel River, Irwindale/Duarte - Usually dry, this river drains Azusa Canyon (or San Gabriel Canyon) to the north.  The bridge that is a quarter mile to your north is an old Pacific Electric trolley bridge.

The cities you're now driving through have roots back to the Spanish land grant days...Rancho de Azusa, Rancho de Duarte, and Rancho Santa Anita which mostly became Arcadia and Sierra Madre.  A land speculator named William Monroe developed what became Monrovia in 1886.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Flickr user Living in Monrovia under CC-BY-SA license
  -  Old Town Monrovia - Turn right (north) on Myrtle.  Pretty and lively downtown area dating back over 100 years, probably second only to Old Pasadena right now.  Many restaurants, a movie theater, and shops.  A large variety of ethnic foods in a three block stretch: Mexican (Rudy's,  La Adelita), Cuban (Marengue), Greek (The Monrovian), Italian (Bellasera), Vietnamese (Pho Lemon), Chinese (Wang's) and more.  Every Friday night is Festival Night here.


Photo coutesy of Wikimedia
Flickr user living in Monrovia under CC-BY-SA license
Aztec Hotel, Monrovia - A well preserved old hotel, now mostly used for apartments.  The lobby and gardens are very beautiful.  There's a bar and restaurant here but I can't vouch for them.  Tim and I used to get our hair cut here at the barber shop but he's gone now, I don't know what happened to him.

Past the Aztec, turn left on Mayflower and return to Huntington Drive and turn right, as you turn, notice the diner style McDonald's on the corner.  A plaque inside has a letter written by Dick McDonald  telling the story about how their first restaurant was actually here in Monrovia (approximately at Huntington Dr. and Shamrock Ave)  It was called the Aerodrome and was moved to San Bernardino and renamed McDonalds.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
TheBluZebra under CC-BY-SA license
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia - One of America's premiere horse racing facilities.  Home of the Breeder's Cup and the Santa Anita Handicap.  Seabiscuit raced here.  So did Spectacular Bid, John Henry, and many others.  It's not uncommon to run into trainers watching their horses run during breakfast at Clocker's Corner.  Racing in October and late December through April.  One of my favorite places to go.

  -  Downtown Sierra Madre - Turn north on Michilinda then right again on Sierra Madre Bl.  Quiet and quirky old section.  Probably the only city in Los Angeles County without a traffic light.  They have an old fashioned playhouse that puts on some pretty darn good shows.  Try Lucky Baldwin's on the corner of Baldwin Ave. for some great Belgian beer and pub food.  This is where the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers  was filmed.



Tournament of Roses, Rose Parade, Pasadena - Continuing along Colorado Bl. into Pasadena, once you pass Sierra Madre Bl., you're traveling on the Rose Parade route until you get to Orange Grove Ave. in Old Pasadena.
  -  Old Pasadena - One of the great urban renewal success stories.  Wildy popular with tons of restaurants, night spots, shops, and theaters.  Huge area.  Metro's Gold Line runs right through it.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Mike Dillon under CC-BY-SA license
Suicide Bridge (Colorado Street Bridge), Pasadena - Beautiful arch bridge at the edge of town that, yes, has been the scene of a few jumps.  It turned 100 years old in 2013.

We'll end the landmark list if you look to the north of the bridge...
Rose Bowl, Pasadena - This New Year's Day landmark has seen many classic games.  It can hold around 110,000 fans because most of the seats are wooden benches.  You can take a look when no games are scheduled by going through the south entrance.  UCLA now uses this stadium as its home field for football.

-Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

CEREBRAL PALSY STORIES: Answering The Call Of Mother Nature


For most people answering the call of Mother Nature is a pretty easy and fairly simple task to perform.   For someone like myself who uses a wheelchair to get around, answering the call of Mother Nature is not always easy but it's a fact of life that we all have to go bathroom in our daily lives.  Even those who are disabled like myself have to do it.  We just do it in a different way.

Still, there are times when I wish I didn't have to rely on my Mom, Dad or any other caregiver for help in performing a simple task that most people don't really have to worry about and is a no-brainer because when the feeling hits it can be taken care of fairly quickly and without too much hassle.

When it comes to going bathroom for someone like me who is disabled, it can be hard at times to go. At this point I'll try to do my best to continue our discussion of this sensitive and somewhat embarrassing  topic without being too graphic.


The first thing to consider is the equipment needed for such a thing.  The two most common items my Family and I use are a urinal for going number one and a shower chair for going number two primarily.  Sometimes I do go number one when I sit on the shower chair.


When using the urinal to go bathroom, the toughest thing that I have to deal with sometimes is working up a feeling.  Sometimes it comes and goes.  Other times it is really strong and I can go within a few seconds of being set up to do my business.

There are other times when it does take a while for me to go.  It is during those times when my hand gets stiff and tired from holding the urinal in place and I have to have my parents tie the seat belt on my wheelchair around the handle of my urinal so that I can take my time and relax when going bathroom.

Tim also uses his chair to take a shower

Even with this setup, I sometimes lose the feeling and I do tend to get frustrated on days when I'm having a hard time going, but I do the best I can to relax not worry about it too much and remember that there will always be a next time to answer the Call of Mother Nature.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

KARA AIELLO SPECIAL GUEST POST: Dog Sledding in Minnesota

Re-running this guest post about a winter adventure in the Great White North of Minnesota...


By Kara Aiello


I love to travel, I always have. Through travel I learn about new cultures and people, challenge fears and prejudices and I do so from the endurance and strength of my wheelchair.  Although I have taken many trips that have excited me beyond the text of a book, there is one trip that I want to share that has been a dream of mine since my relatives in Minnesota took this trip back in the early part of the decade, Back in 2011, with the support of Wilderness Inquiry, an organization that specializes in trips across the globe and makes it possible for all people to travel, including those with disabilities, I flew out to Minneapolis MN to visit my family and embark on a dog sled trip up north near the Canadian border.

The dog sled trip was to be a four day trip with two days of travel through quaint towns and open Minnesota land-scapes.   The two days in between would include dog sledding, hiking and challenging our grit and limbs to the midwest cold, by sleeping outside in 10 degree weather and jumping into a frozen pond before running to the safety of a warm sauna. 

I flew out to Minneapolis on a Wednesday afternoon and met my cousin at the airport who took me to her home to prepare for the trip.  I love staying with these guys as it makes travel all the more easy. I don’t have to worry about dragging gear across country for I get everything I need from them.  Their middle name after all is “outdoors.”  I find that when I stay with them to prepare for a trip, it becomes a night of entertainment with a comic twist that the camera would end up documenting.  One picture taken as we prepared to pack was me wearing an oversized beaver hat and gloves to match.  There was no way I was going to wear this on the trip, but the picture is forever on face book for a good laugh. 

On the day of the trip, my cousin dropped me off at the Wilderness inquiry headquarters where I met fellow participants and crew who would be our guides on this trip.  There were families and singles and people with and without disabilities.  Some of the disabilities were visible to the eye and some were not.  Their experiences were developmental or mental health and taking this trip allowed them a place to challenge themselves in a way that other life experiences may not have offered them.   So we took off on our seven hour trip that allowed us the time to get to know one another and take in the colors and quiet living of the Minnesota landscape.  Once we arrived, we unpacked our gear and headed to our home where we would live for the next four days. 


This trip to our new home was an adventure in itself.  Those of us who used wheelchairs were assisted into a one man sled that was sturdy and comfortable.  Our gear was placed in these sleds for transport as well.  Our guides who would become close friends tied themselves to the sled and would become our human sled drivers and take us to home base.  As we traveled, I felt a sense of excitement and awe at being able to do this. I love feeling the cold wind lap across my face and the smoothness of the ice and snow under the sled.  

We traveled across frozen lakes and when we came to a steep hill going upward, yes upward our human guides ran with all of their might and power up the hill and man did we fly. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time.  Once we got to the top, I could only imagine how fast they would take us going back down the hill. After all, this was a rush for them as well as us. Once inside, we were introduced to more staff that would prepare our meals and were shown where we would sleep the next few days.  It was a large cabin like structure with a ballroom size mess hall with army style tables and a small fire place with couches and chairs that made for a cozy evening after being out in the cold.  We unpacked our gear, had dinner and then met with the team and two of the dogs who would be taking us on our adventure over the next few days.  

One of the dogs that came in was so friendly and sociable she had to make sure she greeted each and every person that was in the room about four or five times.  The other dog that came in was very shy and kept to herself.  But I was excited to have my picture taken with her even if it was more stressful for her then me.

On Friday began the day of dog sledding and hiking.  Although many opted for the hike, I was one of the few who begged to stay back so I could prepare for the dog sledding.  One group went in the AM and I went in the PM with another group.  It was both exciting and nerve wracking to hear about the AM group’s trip with the dogs.  The hills were steep some said and there were nooks and crannies that could cause the sled to tip over especially if the dogs slowed down.  Now just to give an image, I live with brittle bones from birth and here I was, ready to embark on this trip…am I crazy?  Yes I am but I was up for it.  When it was my turn to go, I was escorted outside and helped into my travel sled to escort me to where the dogs are. 

Once in the sled, my guide would take me down snowy steps with the help of others and I found this to be rather smooth, not rough at all.  Then we embarked up steep snowy white hills that glimmered when the sun hit it just right and helped us to see for miles around. We got to where the dogs are and I transferred into my dog sled and was warmed with blankets and pillows to cushion any hard blows below the sled.  One by one, each dog was attached to the sled and once attached the dogs came to life with excited howls and barking and if not kept under control would have taken off without the rest of the dogs or the guides ready to lead.  


Once all were attached we were ready to embark on our 2 ½ hour journey through the wilderness.

My sled started slow as we began traveling through the woods with the pathway very narrow and steep.  The dogs knew what to do and where to go as my guide directed the speed of our movement which was about 7 or 8 miles an hour.  At times our travels were on flat snowy runways and across large snow covered lakes. At other times we would travel up and down mountainous inclines that felt more like a roller coaster ride.  Nature was everywhere with birds chirping and the son peered through the trees as we traveled.  On one adventurous move, we had to literally jump over a snowy groove in order to get the sled over a mound of snow. I was amazed at how cushioned the jump was and once down we were on our way again.  The trip included moments of comedy too as the dogs would tend to get over excited and get their ropes twisted around one another. When that happened, we would need to take a five minute break and get the dogs untangled.  To end the adventure, we had to tackle a death defying hill that came up just past the cabin and would bring us back to home base.  The hill was so steep that I felt I was looking down at a ski slope as we began to head down the hill.  The guides had to hold on to the dogs hard as we headed down the hill full force. Let’s just say it was a terrifying rush and I’m glad we made it out alive.


In the evening, we settled in for dinner and reminiscing of the days travels.  We also prepared to embark on our next adventure which took us out into the elements to sleep over night in 10 degree temperatures.  In order to survive the night, we wore layers of clothing and had special mats and sleeping bags that kept the heat incased within our own sleeping bags that we took with us.  We also were given candy bars to eat in the night should we become hungry. I never knew that we burned calories when our bodies were cold.  We slept on an open frozen lake near the cabin and our eyes were treated to millions of stars in night sky.   I slept OK for my first adventure but not like I was used to and did not eat like I should have.  The next morning I was starving and also came to see that some of our group became so cold they had to go back inside and sleep in the warmth of the cabin.  I went back inside and devoured a full breakfast of eggs, bacon and anything else I could get my hands on. Yumm.

Later in the day, I was treated to a hike in the afternoon that was a surprise highlight of my trip.  Although I am very independent when back home in my every-day world of accessibility, I had to allow myself to be OK with depending on other’s to assist me when traveling through the deepness of the snow.  But in allowing myself to do this, I also opened myself up to a world that I would never be able to get to with my wheelchair unless I put skis on my wheels.   I was escorted in my sled through open frozen lakes and snowy woods and taken to a part of the woods that felt like a winter wonderland.  We entered a woodsy door that took us into nature at its most raw and beautiful.  There was snow everywhere on trees, logs and ground. We did not know where the ground started and ski ended.  We came across a frozen waterfall and river that was partially flowing and breathtaking.  I felt exhilarated and free as we embraced nature around us.  It was a memory I will never forget.

Our last adventure was one I somewhat participated in.  A group of us went out to where a frozen pond was poking out through the ground and people took turns jumping into the eye opening, jaw dropping icy cold water.  Once out, people would warm up in a Luke warm sauna that was right next door to the pond.  Although I did not dive in with everyone else, I relaxed in the sauna and tried to get warm when the door would open up to the outside and people would come in and spray me with the icy cold water.



On the last day of the trip, people participated in a last day hiking and then we packed our gear and said goodbye to our hosts at the cabin. Once outside we embarked down a steep snowy hill with a speed that felt like 90 miles an hour. We then crossed frozen lakes again which took us back to our cars.  We drove home for seven hours and reminisced about out adventures and once back to home base, said our goodbyes and promised we would meet once again for another Wilderness Inquiry trip in the future.

Story and pictures by Kara Aiello - Used with permission.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from The World on Wheels

Darryl, Letty, and Tim

Friday, December 23, 2016

CLASSIC TRIP: It's Bargain Time in the Motherlode


I just hate it when wineries try to stick it to you when you visit their facilities. There was the time we went to a tasting room in Solvang with a $16 tasting fee...not applicable to purchase....that got you maybe two ounces of wine. Same with a winery in Temecula. Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley is famous for being the winery in the movie "Bottleshock" where an incredulous Bo Barrett asks his father if they now charge for tasting.

"No," Jim Barrett (in the movie answers). 

In real life, it will cost you a sawbuck and you have to buy at least $100 worth of wine before you get that back.

I'm more partial to the yet-to-be-discovered-by-the-masses wine areas where you will find down-to-earth winemakers, eager to intice you with their fine products and make you a deal when you decide to buy.


Watch the Video!


Cucamonga Valley, Mariposa County, and Lodi are examples of wine countries that have yet to go the route of the Napas, Temeculas, or Santa Barbara County's as far as gouging their visitors is concerned.


Still, our favorite is Amador County. Just a shade below the river where James Marshall found that fateful gold nuggett at John Sutter's sawmill, it's a sleepy, scenic area with blistering hot summers that are very conducive to growing the big, bold reds like sangiovese, barbera, temperanillo, and...the state's official grape...zinfandel.

You can find the state's oldest operating winery here, have a winemaker pour a taste while you scratch behind the winery dog's ears, eat at some of the state's best restaurants, explore some of the historic gold mines of the area (some of which are still commercially producing), see ancient Indian grinding rocks, and support those same Natives by throwing some money around at their casinos.

What you won't find is a lot of other tourists, especially if you come mid-week.

Monday is serious downtime for most in this area. Tuesday, a few wineries start to shake off the weekend cobwebs. Wednesday, a few more open up along with some restaurants and Thursday the county is winding up for another weekend with almost everybody up and operating again.

It's Wednesday. I already got a case of some very good barbera for just a hair over $100 at Amador 360 yesterday. Today, we'll go to the Shenandoah Valley and taste some more.


First stop is quirky Bray Vineyards. You'll find them easily on Schoolhouse Road by the yellow road signs with a silhouette of a farmer popping a wheely on his tractor, wine bottle firmly planted to his lips.

We start off alone with just the server (who turns out to be a winemaker I've spent a few years looking for) tasting their wares.  You can get "mystery wine" here, unlabeled bottles from their runs, at a discount along with growlers of wine filled from a tap.

Another lady comes in while we're there and she strikes up a conversation with my wife about where the best tasting rooms are around here.


We go outside, take some pictures, and pet the winery's dog.

It's up the road to Sobon Estate, the previously mentioned oldest winery (used to be D'Agostini), taste some more and trade an e-mail address for a 20% discount on an already reasonably priced mixed case.


It was to be Shenandoah Winery next but construction blocks our access so we end our day again with a trip to our favorite winery, Story, located way up a few winding roads at the top of the Consumnes River Canyon.

A case of their Gold Hill Zinfandel is procured for $99 while we sip. On this hot day, the biggest hit is their Miss Rose, which is a rosé made out of their mission grapes. It may be the best rosé I've ever tasted.


We grab a bottle and head outside to enjoy a picnic of bread and cheese on a very breezy day.

Alexandra, the lady we met at Bray, shows up next for some tasting and comes down to say hi.

"Wow, you were right. This place is amazing!" she exclaims to my wife.

She's on a reconnosance trip to find a place to take a group from work during an upcoming weekend and has settled on an Amador tasting safari ending with a picnic here at the stunning, grapevine covered canyon top picnic ground here at Story Winery.

As we sip our Miss Rose, chat with a new friend, and enjoy the stellar views, I realize my batteries are now pretty fully charged. Funny how everytime I come up to this beautiful, amazing, and laid-back place that happens.


Amador County is about an hour east of the state capitol of Sacramento. Everything mentioned in this post is wheelchair accessible. Good to great accessible lodging is available at the Best Western in Jackson, Days Inn in Sutter Creek, and...our new favorite...the Shenandoah Inn in Plymouth.  The Hyatt House in Rancho Cordova is also a good option with a 45 minute drive to Amador County and includes a full, hot breakfast.  All (except for Days Inn) have pools to cool off in the hot Amador summers with pool lifts.

Darryl
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Pictures by Letty Musick
Copyright 2014 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Caregiver Chronicles: In Praise of the Mighty McNugget


One of our duties as caregivers is feeding. Tim is very limited in his ability to feed himself so Letty and I have to step in to do it.  It's not because Tim has a special diet, it's because of his limited motor skills that he has problems using utensils and keeping the food either on the plate or in his mouth instead of everywhere else.



We've graded each food on how easy it is to feed him...pizza, hot dogs, penne, and macaroni are among foods that are easy. Burgers, depending on how elaborate the toppings are can be easy or a pain in the ass.

God forbid if Tim wants to eat a chili cheese burger.

The Holy Grail, however, are the foods that Tim can feed himself.

Not too messy finger foods, like grapes or fries, can be handled by him. I can cut up a banana or an apple and he can also feed himself using a special OXO grip fork we have for him.



For breakfast, I'll alternate between a banana, apple, grapes, or maybe another seasonal fruit put in a little compote bowl for him where I can just sit it on the table and let him go to town (Tim's never been a big breakfast person so he doesn't eat or care for the egg dishes I cook).

Sunday, in particular, is a day I like to take it easy.  Of course, that's a relative term around here.  On the Day of Rest, I still have to cook two meals, feed him dinner, get him dressed, help him with his bathrooming, put him in his recliner for his evening relaxing time in front of the TV, get him undressed and put him back in bed (yes, that's the easy day...).

Since I'm trying to relax and take it easy, Sunday is also a lunch treat for Tim and myself.  I'll go get him the ultimate feed-yourself lunch...a chicken nugget meal from one of our local fast food restaurants.

The nuggets are the perfect size for Tim to pick up, dip in the sauce, eat, have a few fries, and wash it down with a strategically placed soda and straw.

For those fifteen minutes, I'm in my happy place where Tim can do something for himself and I can have a little time to not worry about it.

Yes, I will always praise the Mighty McNugget for the small weekly break it gives me.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 19, 2016

CLASSIC TRIP: Our Encounter with Fate


We've talked here about our trips to Sutter Creek and what was a wonderful steak house there, J&D's (NOTE: J&D's is now closed and another restaurant is open in the space). Well, one of the owners has become a real estate agent and the steak house is now Griffin's and we've yet to try the new place.

When we went, there was a Happy Hour where you could try a local wine for $3 a glass. We had a red that was sublime. I asked the server what it was and he said a temperanillo. 

But who made it?  It took a little prying and finally he told me. It was made on the side by a waiter at Taste, another restaurant in nearby Plymouth.

He said I could try to find the guy there...who's name he didn't know...and maybe he'd sell me some. Almost sounds like a drug dealer behind the 7/11 but what the heck, I'd give it a try.

We went to Plymouth but Taste was closed and so ended my adventure to find the underground wine of Amador Country...for now.

Fast forward to June, 2014. We're back and in Plymouth. Taste is still closed so no hope of finding the waiter but we're tasting at Amador 360.

Amador 360 is a tasting room on Highway 49, which serves as sort of a catch all for wineries in the area that are too small to invest in a tasting room of their own and the staff to run it.

I came here because I saw a great sale on Parallax Barbera they had here but we might was well take advantage of the tastes being poured today.

We're sampling barberas, old vine zins, and then the owner pulls out a couple of sangioveses. 



"This one is Fate," the owner tells us (printed as F8 on the label). "It's made by a waiter at Taste on the side."

What? Again? I've found the wine, except this time it's sangiovese.

"He makes a different wine each time, you should have tried the temperanillo."

Well, we did but I guess we missed the boat on buying more. Nevertheless, the sangionvese is also excellent so I buy a couple of bottles while I have the chance.

I'd finally found the underground wine and the dealer who I can get it from. Sounds like a drug transaction but, no, it's completely legit.


The next morning we're at Bray Winery in the nearby Shenandoah Valley. A bucolic place with winery cats and a dog. Hundreds of award ribbons line the walls and we enjoy a quiet tasting of the wines.

I notice a tattoo on the arm of the gentleman pouring for us..."F8"...in the same font as the label on the wine yesterday.

"Are you involved with Fate wines?" I ask, pointing to his tattoo.

"I am Fate," he replies.

No way...after two years, I'm finally catching up with the phantom winemaker I've been trying to meet.


His name is Thomas Allen and he tells me that he buys grapes from different wineries up here. He's friends with the Brays and they let him use the winery equipment off-hours to make his wine.

My video camera focus was on the wrong setting, but if you can stand a little blurriness, here's the man himself with a quick explanation of his wine:

Watch the Video!



About two thirds into the tasting, Thomas disappears into the back room and comes out with a couple of glasses of wine, half-full, definitely more than a taste.

"Here, try this. It's my next release, coming out in August."

We do, it's delicious.  I remark that the wines are exceptional but they're not expensive ($12-$15 range).

"I think wines should be affordable. I make enough, I'd rather people like my wine than think they spent too much money"

We need more encounters with Fate in today's wine industry.


Thomas sells his F8 wine through various restaurants in Amador county and you can buy it retail at Amador 360 either in person or online. Here's a link to F8's wine at Amador 360.

It took awhile but I'm glad I finally tracked down the mysterious underground winemaker in this great wine region.  I'm sure Fate will cross our paths again someday.

Darryl
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Pictures by Letty Musick
Copyright 2014 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Cocktail Hour - Hurricane

Below is the video for the Hurricane but read the recipe at the bottom for an extra ingredient that made it much better.
The Hurricane is the classic New Orleans drink.  Sold in take-out windows so you can drink while perusing the French Quarter, it's a very tasty thirst quencher.  It's also quite potent.  Many of the recipes I found called for up to six different spirits (yikes!), so I experimented a little before coming up with this lighter version...that is if you can still call something with two shots of rum in each drink light.

In the video above, I used a different grenadine than I usually do.  It was weak and wouldn't hold its color so the drinks came out orange.  In the recipe below, I added cranberry cocktail.  It not only gave the drink its usual red color but also boosted the taste considerably.

HURRICANE - Two Drinks

2oz - light rum
2oz - dark rum
1 1/3 oz - lime juice
splash of passion fruit syrup
1/2 oz simple syrum
1/2 oz grenadine
2oz - orange juice
1oz - cranberry cocktail

Mix all ingredients in a shaker 1/3 filled with ice.  Strain into two old-fashioned glassed half filled with ice.

Cheers!

-Darryl

Friday, December 16, 2016

Plymouth Rocks: California's Motherlode


While there is no Plymouth Rock in this west coast version, it is rocks that are the foundation of this sleepy Gold Rush town located half-way between Placerville to the north and the county seat of Jackson to the south.

Specifically, it was the gold-veined quartz rock that miner dug out of the ground during the state's 19th century Gold Rush. In fact, this area was among the richest in the Motherlode, pulling out 185 million dollars in mineral wealth, 85% of that in gold. Just to the south of here, in Sutter Creek, the Lincoln Mine was still in use up until March of this year when the Sutter Gold Mining Company suspended operations and put the mine in mothballs. Tim and I panned for gold there a few years ago.

They still run an open mine in Mexico.

This is beautiful, scenic country. One of our favorite destinations in this state full of them. Tourists have really yet to discover it.


On weekends, dozens of wine fans come up and some even take limo tours to visit the old vines of zinfandel in the valley and taste some of the best reds made here.  Restaurants open up, musicians liven up bars, the few hotels and inns up here fill up and innkeepers can charge premium rates.

We're here on Tuesday when that's not so much the case. We get a hefty 30% off the high weekend rate, 80% of the restaurants and wineries are closed, and tourists are so rare everybody asks us what relatives we're visiting up here.

Still, we are determined to find ways to pass our time.

Ken and Marie are the very friendly owners of the Shenandoah Inn, our home for this trip. Ken even allows me to store ice packs in the utility room freezer (for a stop we'll make later on the way home) but the hotel's very basic continental breakfast just isn't going to do it for us.


At the bottom of the hill, just below the hotel, is Speed's Diner. Nothing fancy. Basic tables and chairs with car and cowboy pictures on the walls.  The food is outstanding.


Letty has the cowboy benedict (biscuits and gravy instead of English muffin and Hollandaise), pancakes 'n eggs for me, and some biscuits and gravy for Tim.


Nice perk is that Shenandoah Inn guests recieve 10% off of their bill here, too.
(Note: Speeds Diner has since closed - Ed)

It's not far to the town of Jackson, where we like to browse the pawn shops, kitchen store, and boutiques.  While Letty takes her time in a couple, Tim and I retire to The Fargo Club bar, across from the historic National Hotel.

It's just Tim, the bartender, and myself for a few minutes until the day's barfly shows up out of the bathroom. We sip our two dollar Amberbocks chatting with the barkeep and the local.

She asks if we're there to visit relatives. No, we're just here for a fun trip.

"In Jackson?" she exclaims excitedly.

Yeah...it's historic, there's old gold mines to explore down the street, old Native American villages, and great wine.

The barfly agrees with me. Seems he's ready to confess something he keeps secret...he grew up in Fresno...so he knows what boring is (actually, we've had some good times in Fresno but the opinion is his).

Letty shows up after a bit. The bartender pours her a beer too and we have a nice chat with the locals before moving on our way.


The thermometer is moving towards 90 as we get back to Plymouth. We change into our swimsuits and head outside. Ken shows us how to operate the lift and we deposit Tim into an inner tube with its help. It's much easier than carrying him down slippery stairs.


The pool, while small and ordinary, sits at the edge of the foothills rolling off into wine country. It's an extraordinary view.


There's something about it that makes me never want to leave. We spend a couple of hours in the 80 degree water before calling that a day. I go over to Amador Market on Main Street for some sandwiches and we head back out to the pool for dinner with a view.

Ken has some contractors here renovating rooms. At the end of their day, he brings them out to the pool area with a cooler of beer and a handful of cigars.


It's an impromptu party as we all celebrate this wonderful place, waiting for the sun to go down.

Darryl
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Pictures by Letty Musick
Copyright 2014 - All Rights Reserved