Friday, April 22, 2016


We've been covering our home state of California with a summer long series of reports up and down the Golden State. That summer long tour concludes today with the finale of our trip to the Monterey Peninsula and the cities of Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey. Hope you had fun on this trip, be sure to let us know via the comment link at the end of the report.

In Part One of our Monterey Peninsula trip, we dodged poison oak to get breathtaking ocean views, had breakfast in a patio across the street from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and walked the streets of Carmel. Now on to part two...

The next morning we have an even better breakfast at Toasties, a comfortable and cozy diner parked in an old house in downtown Pacific Grove on Lighthouse Avenue.

Omelets filled with chorizo and avocado accompanied with silver dollar pancakes, along with French toast for Letty, make a great start to the day.

Monterey Peninsula Video

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Passionfish…our favorite area dinner house…is across the street. Tim, having heard us rave about it for years, says he wouldn’t mind giving it a try.

This is a surprise as Tim would not usually volunteer to eat at a mainly seafood restaurant.

Our plan today was to go to the fair and load up on the fair food as our lunch and dinner. This throws a happy kink into our plans as I was lamenting not being able to eat there this trip.

“If I can get a reservation, we’ll go for dinner,” I tell Tim and Letty.

Walking across the street, I see there’s no one inside. There’s not a phone number printed on the sign or the menu posted on the door. Should we just try our luck later…on a Saturday night…to see if they have a table available?  Sounds very iffy to me.

Letty goes to a stand of newspaper machines nearby and pulls out one of the local freebie flyers. We’re in luck…Passionfish has an ad in it with their phone number.

Driving off to the fair, I call the number and leave a reservation request on their voice mail.

We get to the fairgrounds about a half hour before opening at noon. Even now, there is no parking available at all. Probably due to the fact that this facility has no parking lot…it’s all adjacent street parking.

Remote parking is available…with a wheelchair accessible shuttle too…but we could not find any confirmation at the time that the shuttle was available. We end up parking about a quarter mile away on a side street and walk in.

The fairgrounds here are small, a long narrow strip about two blocks long. There are exhibit buildings and a kids carnival at one end, a lot of food and drink booths clustered around the entrance in the middle, and the animal exhibits, the main carnival, and an arena at the other end.

The arena, quiet while we’re there, is also home of the historic Monterey Jazz Festival which has featured some great performances over the years including Jimi Hendrix’s historic performance back in the 60’s.

After watching a local dance troupe perform, we wander around a few exhibit buildings ending up at the Agriculture building where, in  addition to seeing blue ribbon winning produce, there’s a farmers market stand where you can actually buy the produce…pretty cheaply too!

I get a quartered navel orange in a plastic bag for a quarter. Nearby is a table giving away samples of berries.  Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries…all very delicious and, even better, free.

Back in the mid section, the local high school wrestling team sells fried calamari. It’s sort of a famous tradition here at this fair. I’m not a seafood lover but I buy some for Tim and Letty, who seem to really like it. I try a piece, just to shut them up. It’s good…really good.  I want more. It’s some of the best fair food I’ve ever had.

We get to the other end of the fair to check out the animals. Cows lick our hands, goats climb up the side of their pens hoping for a neck scratch, and lambs want to see what we smell like.

It’s all a lot of fun…just wish they had better parking.

After a fun-filled day at the fair, we head over to Passionfish for dinner. We’d gotten a call while at the fair saying the only time they could seat us was 5:30 so off we went.

Dinner was excellent and it’s nice to see how this place has taken off over the years. I see we’re not the only ones who think it’s the best the area has to offer.

With plates of scallops, braised lamb, and duck confit preceded by an appetizer of prosciutto wrapped dates, we were overwhelmed with the deep flavors and fun atmosphere of Passionfish.

One more night, but in the morning it’s time to pack and make that long drive back to L.A.

Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 18, 2016

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA - Looking Beyond the Usual

The trail had lead to a bluff precariously perched about fifty feet above the breakers and rocks below. It was smooth and wide enough for the wheelchair to roll easily and avoid the hedges on each side that appeared to be about halfway composed of poison oak.

A mild enough scare watching Tim navigate his way out through that bit of a challenge and the wooden railings at the edge were enough to bring my parent’s worrying pulse rate down a bit.

Monterey Bay Video

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Beyond, however…where the ocean had eaten away at the edge...the railing gave way to rope strung across metal stakes about ten feet apart.

“We’re not finishing the loop,” I told my wife. “We’ll go back the way we came.”

There are two wheelchair accessible trails here at the Point Lobos State Park in Carmel, California. Not enough parking in general and especially in regards to handicapped spaces, I pull halfway into a regular spot so I can unload Tim from the van, then pull the rest of the way in.

It was the last spot left. If I didn’t do that, I’d have no place to park and the ten dollar entrance fee would have just been for a short, but scenic drive through the park.

The trail was nicely maintained and a park docent was set up with a spotting scope pointing out to sea. He was very helpful and maneuvered the tripod to where Tim could roll up and get a close-up look at the hundreds of sea lions lounging on an offshore rock.

This was the second day of a Labor Day getaway for us to the Monterey Peninsula. We’ve come up here many times and thought we’d come up for an end of summer trip pegged to the Monterey County Fair, which runs a week or so from the end of August to just after Labor Day.

The hotel for this trip was the Rosedale Inn in Pacific Grove, just a block from the ocean sitting on the backside of Asilomar State Park and Conference Center.

Our room had a king size bed, queen size sofabed, tub with bench and shower hose, roll-under sink, fireplace, free wifi, and a big open area to wheel around in. What it didn’t have were any extra seats which would have come in handy for friends that were visiting us there.  It did have an expansive outdoor deck adjacent to the room that served that particular function well.

After sleeping off the long drive from L.A…made longer by a meal stop in Bakersfield and more traffic than we bargained for…we have a delicious and lingering breakfast at First Awakenings.

Technically in Pacific Grove, but just across the street from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we feast on crepes, crab benedict, and French toast on their outdoor patio while the nearby fire pit helps chase away the morning chill.

After our hike, we spend a little time in downtown Carmel. Cute, charming, and full of shops, it’s nice but a little shopping goes a long way for Tim and I.

There's more to come, stay tuned for part 2...coming soon!

Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 4, 2016

CLASSIC TRIP - New York, New York 2000 - Part 2

In Part One of this trip, we were upgraded to the Presidential Suite, had two rude breakfasts, went to the Bronx Zoo, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and rode several miles of subway.  Today, we find that in this very expensive city, it is possible to eat well and very cheap.

After dinner we walked over to the New York Comedy Club where we were met at the door by manager and comedian Steve Aarons. At showtime, we were led into a hallway where we thought we were on the way to the showroom. At least that’s what we thought, the hallway turned out to BE the showroom. In what has to be the most cramped space I’ve ever seen in a comedy club, we watched several very funny comedians and a few mediocre ones. When the show was reaching the 3 hour point - with no end in sight - and the raunchiness of the comedians reaching new highs, we decided it was time to call it a night before our 13 year old’s mind was filled with even more clinical descriptions of human sexual behavior.

With the last comedian calling out “Tim! Don’t leave...Tim’s dad, bring him back, we still got more” we excused ourselves. Mr. Aarons was nice to us as we left, bidding us a fond goodnight and we made it back to the hotel at about 2 in the morning - again via the #6 bus.

Day Four, Monday. Monday dawned crystal clear - just the weather we’d been waiting for. Breakfast today was at the A & H store ½ a block from the hotel. They have a wonderful breakfast made and served by some truly nice people - what a change from Lindy’s and Sbarro’s - for less that $3. I really wish we’d had found this place a couple of days ago.
The Empire State Building is spectacular at sunset
With this clear weather, we walked the two blocks to the Empire State Building and drank up the views on top - both at the 86th floor outdoor observatory and the 102nd story indoor one. The outdoor observatory has either wall cutouts or a raised platform that wheelers can use to enjoy the views. The upper indoor observatory is very small and has a wall blocking the view. The staff here provides a periscope so that wheelers can look over the wall. The periscope is then given to the visitor as a souvenir of their visit and it’s a nifty one too. This was the second time we’d visited here and it’s well worth the trip. The view on a clear day is truly one of this country’s best.

Next was a subway ride on the Q line from Herald Square to the Lexington Avenue station where it was a quick walk over to the Roosevelt Island tramway. The tram was only running once an hour, so we red-lined that off of the itinerary and caught the 57 bus over to 5th Avenue so the ladies in our group could gawk over the jewels in Tiffany’s.

Several dozen dollars lighter after buying more souvenirs at Tiffany’s, we take the #3 bus up to 72nd Street, and then take the #72 bus over to Broadway to another New York landmark...Gray’s Papaya.

Fortunately for us, the owners of Gray’s don’t know the recession is over yet. Their recession special gets you 2 deliciously snappy all beef hot dogs and a glass of the juice of your choice for only $1.95. After dining on these delicious, cheap dogs, we head back to the hotel for an afternoon rest-up.
The dog walkers at Central Park
Dinner time and we head back up to Central Park West for dinner at Tavern on the Green. This landmark restaurant built in an old sheep barn is a New York tradition that does not disappoint. In opulent surroundings under 500,000 sparkling blue lights, we dine on rib eye, prime rib, fettuccine, topped off with delicious New York cheesecake. After dinner we walk through the park, coming out at the Dakota Apartments at 72nd Street where John Lennon was murdered on the sidewalk.
Hundreds of thousands of lights adorn Tavern on the Green
A rather well intoxicated bongo playing resident pushing a baby stroller loaded with bongos, boom box, and a couple of cases of beer starts up a jam session with Tim. He introduces himself to us as "Dangerous Dan, the Bongo Man."  After 3 songs and several encores, we are finally able to continue on and return to the hotel where the group celebrated by getting pretty lubricated ourselves before retiring the final time in our huge midtown suite.

Day Five, Tuesday. Ah, if it’s Tuesday, it must be time to go home. After a quick breakfast of donuts and coffee, we check out and take the train back up Long Island to Islip airport. We do have a 2 ½ hour layover in Boston so we take the T (their subway) over to the State Street station for a quick look a Fanieul Hall and a beer in Quincy Market before boarding the 6 hour flight home.

Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick

Friday, April 1, 2016

CLASSIC TRIP - New York, New York 2000 - Part 1

Those of you who have followed our adventures over the years know that we love New York.  I'd have to say that, pound for pound, it's the most exciting city in America.  Here is a recap of the second trip we took to the city back over a long Martin Luther King Day weekend in 2000...

Our 2-day New York adventure last fall whetted our appetite for more. We had so much fun that we decided to return in the late winter/spring to explore it a little deeper.

This time, by carefully tracking hotel room rates, we were able to find a hotel in Manhattan. I hate to say it was inexpensive because at $120 a night it would be up there almost anywhere else. In Manhattan, that’s a bargain. We stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania, across the street from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.

The flight was on American Airlines into Islip on Long Island with a change of planes in Boston. From here, we took Colonial Shuttle from the airport to Ronkonkoma station on the Long Island Railroad. The train then took us to Penn Station, directly across from our hotel.

One final note before we begin, all subway stations mentioned in this article have elevators for accessibility.

Day One, Friday, was spent traveling. The only thing worth noting is that when we arrived at the hotel, they didn’t have two standard rooms available...we had reserved two and confirmed them with the provision that one had to be wheelchair accessible. Just when it was starting to look bad, the manager upgraded us to the Presidential Suite at no extra cost.

While the bathrooms were not as accessible in the regular sense, the chair fit in it and Tim was able to use whatever bars and counters there were to hold himself up and transfer.

The suite itself was immense. 3 big bedrooms, one big bathroom and two smaller ones, a living room, walk-in closets, dining room and kitchen. We had views in three directions looking east to the Empire State Building (the picture at the top was taken from our room), South to the World Trade Center (RIP), and west to a room in the other wing.

Day Two, Saturday. We woke up to rain and 40° temperatures. The weather forecast on Yahoo had predicted this so we were ready with our wet weather clothes. After breakfast in the lobby at Lindy’s...overpriced with an attitude...our expedition begins.

We walk over to Grand Central Station. Transit could have got us there faster and easier, but we were in the mood for walking that morning and were rewarded with a glorious, if wet, stroll up Park Avenue into America’s most beautiful train station. While drinking in the views of the marvelous zodiac ceiling, we pick up our transit passes for the day and make our way over to the subway station downstairs (access via elevator next to the center 42nd Street entrance).

The wooden walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge

 We get off at the Brooklyn Bridge stop, make a lap across this American icon and back, and head back to Grand Central on the subway. We had a member of our group who, for reasons only known to him, had dreamed of going to the Bronx someday. We board a northbound Metro North train to Fordham Station in the Bronx. From there, the #9 bus takes us over to the entrance to the Bronx Zoo.

While it would have preferable to see the zoo on a clear day, there are still enough indoor exhibits to make a trip in the rain worthwhile. In with the gift shop was a great display of elephants and tapirs. Nearby was the monkey house with dozens of playful primates, probably the most enjoyable of all the exhibits. After that was a display of waterbirds and birds of prey including an enormous Andean condor.
Times Square
 To finish off this incredibly hectic day, we toured Times Square with its blinding advertising displays and dined at a wonderful little Italian place called Sam’s on West 47th Street.

The theaters of Broadway are just off Times Square

Our plans were to finish off by downing some cold brews at Times Square Brewery, but it was just way too crowded.

Day Three, Sunday. Despite a few little remaining sprinkles, the rain appears to be gone and the sun is making a valiant effort to break through. The temperatures remain mired in the 40's but today we shall be dry. We start by having a breakfast buffet at Sbarro’s across the street from the hotel. The price is much less than Lindy’s...$4.99 for all you can eat compared to $11.55 for two eggs and toast...but the staff’s attitude was downright rude. At least in New York, Sbarro’s will not be on the itinerary anymore.
Lady Liberty
We start by taking a downtown train, the #3, to the World Trade Center from Penn Station. From here, we walk along the Hudson to Battery Park...about 8 blocks. The crowds are fairly sparse here today, so we take a gamble and buy tickets for the Statue of Liberty ferry. Once you have your tickets, wheelers get to cut in the front of the line eliminating any wait (a Jamaican fellow selling knock-off sunglasses was kind enough to tell us this when we head for the back of the line).

This is as close as you get in a wheelchair

After a quick ride, you’re on Liberty Island looking up at the statue. Again, wheelers cut to the front of the line but you’re limited to visiting the pedestal and can’t actually go in the statue itself - it takes being able to climb 354 steps to get to the top. Overall, I think you get a better view of the statue from the free Staten Island Ferry than you do on the island itself.

Back on the ferry to Battery Park - we skipped the stop at Ellis Island - where we caught the #6 bus back to Herald Square. Here we dined on some delicious New York pizza though I couldn’t see a name on the place. Then it was a two block walk back to the hotel where we rested up for the evening activities.

Later, another #6 bus took us down Broadway headed for 19th Street. It broke down at 24th Street so we walked the rest of the way. We had dinner at Friend of a Farmer on Irving Place between 18th & 19th Streets. Good food, not spectacular, but decent.

Stay tuned for part two and our encounter with "Dangerous Dan"...

Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick