Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Cocktail Hour: Riviera Rum Punch

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Infrogmation of New Orleans under CC-BY license

Punches are a class of cocktails that mix five or more ingredients together to make a fruity, refreshing beverage for a hot day.  It seems that the majority of punches use rum as an alcoholic base.

Our punch today is in this tradition.  Using rum, limeade, lime juice, simple syrup, and amaretto for that Mediterranean flavor.

Watch the Video!
Here is the recipe, for one drink:
1 1/2 oz. rum
1/2 oz. amaretto
1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup

In a highball glass, 2/3 filled with crushed ice, pour all ingredients except limeade.  Fill to top with limeade and stir.



Wednesday, February 21, 2018

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Oriole Park at Camden Yards - Baltimore, Maryland

At a young 23 years old, Camden Yards is already considered a classic stadium. In the early 90's, Baltimore threw out the templates and told architecture firm HOK to build them an appropriate palace to baseball. Using the massive B&O Railroad warehouse as a backdrop, HOK went back in time to build an old looking stadium with modern amenities.  It has had a big influence on just about every baseball stadium built since. 

A lot of history here. Babe Ruth lived above his father's tavern, which was located somewhere between 2nd base and the right field wall. Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gerigh's consecutive game streak here. Here are the stats:

Opened: 1992
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
Construction cost: $110 million
Capacity: 45,971
Field dimensions: Left field - 333 ft; Left center - 364 ft; center field - 410 ft; right center - 373 ft; right field - 318 ft.
Home team: Baltimore Orioles (American League - MLB) 1992 - present
Events attended: 1 game

Great access all around the entire stadium. Wheechair seating is plentiful all around the seating bowl but the closest to the field are the seats we had, about 20 rows back behind home plate.

Ticketing is easy, just call the box office at 888-848-BIRD.  We had no problem getting seats for the wheelchair and two companions.  Dynamic pricing means there are no set ticket prices but our seats right behind home plate were around $50. Of course, this is in a period where the Orioles are not a contending team, so that might have put a damper on prices. 

Public transit, via the bus system, the Charm City Circulator, and the light rail will take you right to the stadium.

Many lodging choices are available nearby in the downtown area, all within a few blocks walk.  The most lively area is two blocks east of the stadium, the Inner Harbor area with many restaurants, bars, and attractions.

Food choices are expansive here.  Esskay hot dogs provide a very good basic ballpark dog.  Former player Boog Powell can frequently be found at his barbecue stand beyond right field.  The beer selection on tap is vast and average priced ($8 - 15). The local National Bohemian (Natty Boh) is very good for a cheap brew and an ice cold pint, delivered to your seat, is the best bargain in the park.

There is no open concourse so you'll miss the action when visiting the snack bar or bathroom but if you're sitting around left field, the authentic biergarten will provide great times while still giving you a view of the game. 

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Ah, the ever popular Rubio. What? You've never heard of it?

Don't feel bad...I just made it up. Actually, Tim and I made it up, as you can see in this week's Cocktail Hour video.

Watch the Video!

The history is we made some wine from the juice of our grape vine in the backyard. Not a great wine, in fact just barely drinkable. What to do?

At my wife's suggestion, we poured a healthy slug of amaretto into it and...voila...something much better emerged.

If you don't have your own barely drinkable, homemade wine, don't sweat it. Just get a really cheap bottle of rose, put a shot and a half of amaretto in it and you can have your own Rubio.

Where'd the name come from? Well, watch the video (it's short, only 4 minutes) for the answer...



Monday, February 12, 2018

Can You Spare a Quarter? A Free Night in Visalia, California

It's T-Minus Two until Christmas. On noon on Saturday, two days before the big holiday, and we're heading out. Seems we're not the only ones. Traffic is completely jammed on Interstate 5, disappearing up into the San Gabriel Mountains as we head up into the escape from L.A. known as the Grapevine.

Actually, I was going to leave tomorrow on Christmas Eve for this little getaway but Tim had wanted to leave a day early and maybe spend a night halfway. Sacramento is about 5 or 6 hours of driving for us if traffic isn't too bad. I had no objections to leaving early.

I went online to see where we could find a place to stay along the way. When I logged on to my Marriott rewards account, I found 15,000 points I didn't remember I had. I'm not really trying to accumulate points with them right now so I see what that many points can get me.

What is does get me is a room, a little over 300 square feet, with a king size bed and a full size sofabed in the heart of Visalia's downtown. I have to still pay the tax, which comes up to a quarter. I offer to pay it in cash with the coin in my pocket but the front desk manager say's that part is comped also.

It's not a wheelchair accessible room but it does have step-free access, which is all we need tonight. Tomorrow's hotel will need more accessible features but this will do fine for today.

Visalia is a very pretty little town, about an hour's drive north of Bakersfield, a few miles east of Highway 99...the main traffic artery through California's Central Valley.

The hotel sits about 100 yards south of Main Street, adjacent to the convention center. It's a very nice, classic Marriott hotel and will do well for this overnight rest stop.

Around the corner, we walk past a few skaters who are spinning the temporary ice rink that's been set up in a empty lot between buildings. Just beyond is our dinner destination.

Crawdaddy's is a Cajun place on the corner of Main and Bridge Streets. It's nice if a little expensive.

My wife orders a crawfish etoufee that she says is more like a gumbo. Too tomato-y for her but Tim and I really like it.

Tim gets some tenders...

...while I get a very good chicken Cordon Blue.

After dinner, we take a little stroll through the quiet and pretty downtown district. Being just a bit over 24 hours until Christmas, it's very quiet although a couple of bars are doing booming business. We're not in a drinking mood tonight, instead, we'll head back to the room and watch classic movies like "The Wizard of Oz" until bedtime.

In the morning, we can pay $16 for the hotel's breakfast buffet or we can walk a short block to get our meal half price at one of the local Mexican restaurants. Guess which option we choose.

Colima, back on Main Street, is warm, inviting, and friendly.

Letty...the true Mexican among us...isn't feeling her roots this morning so she goes with bacon, eggs, and pancakes.

Tim gets a delicious bowl of steaming menudo...

...while I get this delicious plate of chilaquiles and eggs.

It's all very delicious and a perfect meal to fortify us for the drive up to our destination.

We'll be sharing our adventure of Christmas in the state's capitol soon, stay tuned for that,

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, February 9, 2018

BAKERSFIELD: The Top Ten Attractions

Last week, I saw a list of the most underrated cities in each state. A wine county up north was listed for California.  That's not even a city and wineries dot this state's map like measles. 

If you know me or are a long time reader of this site, you know what city I think is the most underrated and, no, it's not a joke (it seems every time I post something about this city at the bottom of the San Joaquin Valley, someone thinks I'm pulling their leg).

It's cheap, it's real, it's fun, and it's only two hours north of Los Angeles...Bakersfield.

Here are our top ten attractions in this city that is surprisingly full of them.

10. Take a hike along the Kern River in Hart Park.  When it's flowing good in the spring, you'll see a lot of kayakers challenging themselves in the rapids here.  It's a gorgeous, natural river in a woodland setting, still in the city limits.

9. CALM, also in Hart Park, is Bakersfield's zoo. Only animals that cannot be released into the wild (injured, pets, or too used to humans) are displayed here.

8. Wind Wolves Reserve, south of town, is a very large protected natural area with great hiking up into the adjacent mountains and a birder's paradise.

7. Tule Elk Reserve...climb up into the wheelchair-accessible viewing stand to see if you can see these miniature and endangered elk just west of town.

6. Minor league hockey at Rabobank Arena downtown. The Ducks minor league team, the Condors, play here during the season.

5. Kern County Museum, north of downtown on Chester, has recreated an historical village out of old buildings that were saved and moved here. Next on the list is the house that Merle Haggard grew up in, made out of an old boxcar, which has been moved here and restored. The oil industry section is not to be missed as is their collection of old, Bakersfield neon signs.

4. The Bakersfield Blaze is a single A minor league baseball team that plays in the ancient Sam Lynn Ballpark, just north of the Kern County Museum, also on Chester. (The Blaze discontinued operations in 2016. A new independent team has replaced them, the Bakersfield Train Robbers - Ed)

3. Bakersfield is huge in the world of Country music, it's basically Nashville west and even has it's own "Bakersfield Sound." The last of the true honky tonks sits on Chester in Oildale, across the Kern River from Bakersfield. It's Trout's.  Closed, June 2017. Try Ethel's Old Corral near Hart Park instead.

2. The city has three auto race tracks...a drag strip in nearby Famoso, a 1/2 mile paved track alongside I-5 west of town...Kern Raceway...and Bakersfield Speedway in Oildale.  We prefer the 1/3 mile dirt track of Bakersfield Speedway. The action is tighter and more exciting plus they have decent food and a nice selections of beers.

1. The Crystal Palace is the place to go for a more upscale country music show. This steakhouse and nightclub built by the legendary Buck Owens serves up hearty food and live country music. 

There you go, the top ten things to do in Bakersfield...and we didn't even get into the fantastic array of places to eat yet, either.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

CHEAP GETAWAYS: Budget Friendly Bakersfield

One of the things we wanted to do on this blog is to highlight budget friendly trips in this tight economy. 

We’ve been highlighting one of our favorite weekend getaways, Bakersfield, this week. We’ve also been telling you that it’s friendly on budget. So just how friendly is it?
Here is what you can expect to pay in 2018 for two nights in Bakersfield…

First, you have to get there. It’s approximately 120 miles from Los Angeles, so we’ll start from there. The two hour drive, using a car that gets 16 miles per gallon, will cost you $22.50 each way, or $45 round trip at the current $3 per gallon cost. Figure another 4 gallons for driving around while you’re there and the total comes up to $57.
Be sure to gas up in L.A. and Bakersfield, not in between where the prices can be significantly higher. Bakersfield tends to be a few cents less per gallon than L.A.
GAS - $57

Hotel – Our go-to hotel in Bakersfield is the Springhill Suites where, with a AAA discount, we can usually get a two-room suite for around $85 per night. This price includes a full breakfast. A quick search at Expedia reveals many other quality hotels starting at $50 per night, so a two night stay will be between $110 - $170.

HOTEL - $110 - $170

Food – Bakersfield is a food lover’s heaven and, apart from the hotel breakfast, one big meal usually is enough for us.  From a low of around $14 for stuffing ourselves silly at Los Tacos de Huicho, to a high of around $60 for two dinners and a bottle of wine at Uricchio’s Trattoria or one of the city’s famous Basque restaurants, you will never go hungry here. We’ll put it right in the middle, $30, for two big meals.  We’ll add another $15 for those of you who want to have a lunch between your breakfast and dinner.
FOOD - $90

Fun – There is a lot to do here for fun. Free stuff includes going to the Kern River east of town for some hiking and dipping your feet in the water (we won’t recommend swimming in this sometimes dangerous river). Many nature reserves, such as the Wind Wolves south of town, offer free wildlife viewing and hiking. You can take a drive up into the nearby mountains and search for Sequoia trees…the largest trees on the planet.
Professional baseball at Sam Lynn Park can be had for $8 per person. $5 will get you into the Crystal Palace to see the night's concert.  
FUN - $13 - $15 for two
So there are the prices for all you need for a good Bakersfield weekend, let’s total it up…a two night getaway to Bakersfield from Los Angeles, including a suite, food, gas, and entertainment, will set you back anywhere from $275 to $325 for two people.
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 5, 2018

Stay CALM and Enjoy the Animals: California Living Museum in Bakersfield, California

We've been out to the eastern edges of Bakersfield before, hiking along the Kern River. Today, we've found a new place to visit.

Past the biker bar and honky tonk known as Ethel's Old Corral and the police department's shooting range, along Alfred Harrell Highway, you'll find a green patch among the dirt brown hills with a large parking lot. If you're in the right place, you'll be at the California Living Museum, also known as CALM.

Watch the Video!

Basically, this is Bakersfield's zoo. This particular facility's mission is to care for only California native animals that can't take care of themselves. They may have been injured, raised as a pet or any number of other reasons that they can't make it in the wild.

We're talking black bears, longhorn sheep, eagles, hawks, and a host of other creatures.

It's a Friday morning. The parking lot is pretty much empty. I think we might be the only people here other than staff and volunteers.

Looking at the map, there's a crooked path that makes a loop around the zoo. It's well marked with what is and is not accessible. We'll follow that.

First up are the cats of California, the mountain lion and bobcat, but they're not on display today as the crews clean out their enclosures. Beyond that is a large hillside with a group of longhorn sheep that are feeding.

For the most part, they're content with relaxing and chewing although the big ram of the group butts heads whenever he thinks one of the other family members is taking too much of the meal.

Tim rolls gingerly down into a small ravine where a bridge allows him access to cross the creek at the bottom. On the other side, it's birds of prey. Eagles, osprey, and various hawks make up the population of this aviary.

Mustering up a brave face, he rolls into the reptile house to come face-to-face with the six species of rattlesnakes along with the many other non-venomous snakes from our state.

A pair of hyperactive chipmunks tumble non-stop in their cage in the middle of the room.

On to the mammals, which include mule deer, racoons, badgers, and a very sleepy black bear napping under a sprinkler.

It's on to the pond for waterfowl, a barnyard with domestic farm animals, then my wife's favorite spot.

The desert exhibit...half underground and half above...features tortoises, vultures, and my wife's newest friend, the barn owls.

She's specifically taken with one little owl the staff has told us is named Mr. Fuzzywiggles. He follows her around the entire enclosure, maybe mistaking her for a former caretaker or something.

Cleary, they form a connection but, although you can take many souvenirs home from the gift shop, Mr. Fuzzywiggles will have to stay behind.

One final outstanding plate of tacos and sopes from Los Tacos de Huicho, another night at the Springhill Suites, then it's just a quick drive over the Grapevine back home.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Pictures by Letty
Copyright 2014 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, February 2, 2018

Back to the Streets of Bakersfield - Part 2

See Part 1 of this report here.

It's morning and, after having breakfast at the dining room of the Homewood Suites,we are heading out to do some thrift shop shopping. Bakersfield is loaded with second hand shops, pawn shops, and antique stores.

Watch the Video!

Before we get out of the parking lot, however, we notice a crowd of cars at the Kaiser Permanente medical clinic next door which is closed for the weekend. We head over to see what the commotion is all about.

The commotion is the Haggin Oaks Farmers Market, which sets up shop here each weekend. 

It's huge, full of organic produce, crafts, food booths, musicians, and even a couple of vendors for your pets.  There are so many free samples of food here we are wondering why we ate at the hotel.

While Letty ponders a few crafts vendors, Tim and I nibble our way through the fruit and food vendors.  We end up with a nice size bag of citrus, some summer stone fruit, fresh squeezed apple/cherry/pomegranate juice (will come in handy later for cocktails), and some craft items my wife picked up.

Luckily, it's next door to the hotel and we've got a kitchen in our room. I stash the food in the fridge to retard the ripening until we go home. 

I drop Letty off at a Goodwill store on Coffee Road while Tim and I run the van through the car wash next door.

The afternoon is spent back at the hotel where we make good use of the pool lift and go for a swim. We meet a couple where the woman grew up here and her boyfriend was visiting from West Virginia. 

We talk and gossip about all the Bakersfield history and characters while having some rum and farmers market juice punches before taking a nap to get ready for the night.

Years ago, Bakersfield had one of the premiere small race tracks in the country, Mesa Marin, with a high banked, paved, 1/2 mile oval.  The relentless march of urbanization doomed the track, which is now a park for a new housing development.

About 15 miles east of where it was, a replacement was built far from the sprawl of Bakersfield in the oil fields off of Interstate 5 on the west side of the valley.  Kern County Raceway Park has opened this year to take the place of Mesa Marin.

Our choices tonight were honky tonking at Trout's...a nightclub in nearby Oildale...or the races. Since we're kind of early birds and the music would take us late into the night, races won over music today.

The facility at Kern County Raceway is brand, spanking new and spiffy. Handicap parking at the gate, liberal use of ramps and elevators, and perfectly placed wheelchair seating in the shade makes this a wonderfully accessible track. 

Letty notices that the initials, put on 5 foot lighted red letters on the top of the stands, are KCRP or K-Crap as she calls it. The track is not crap but the beer selection sure is...Bud, Bud Lite, Bud Lite Lime, and Michelob Ultra are the only choices here.

I told Letty you'd have a better experience if you drank water and hyperventilated.

The evening's festivities start off with a monster truck demonstration where a huge truck smashed three junk cars over and over again, getting flung higher and higher in the air with each pass.

The top class of the night, super stocks, run their main even next (I guess qualifying and heat races are held earlier in the day), followed by mini legends cars whose 8-12 year old drivers race on a small 1/8 mile track.

The kids are treated exactly the same as the adult drivers and get to take a picture with the leggy trophy girl and an interview with the on-track announcer.

Next come super cross motorcycles, basically Motocross bikes with street tires who race around a make-do road course and jump set up on the front straight. I found this race to be my favorite of the evening.

After all that, the open wheel modifieds take the track for their 30-lap main event which provides the only crash...a minor one...of the evening. 

It's a lot of fun and we call it a night after that. It's a very dark ride back into town.

In the morning, we head over to do some shopping. Over in downtown, we hit up a few pawn shops and a jewelry store and even find some things we want to buy but no one's in a mood to make a deal today. 

Next, we head over to J & E Restaurant Supply in Old Kern (the old downtown) where Letty scores with some kitchen items.

Tim and I again abandon Letty but leave her the van this time and we walk the sometimes rough streets of east downtown. A quick jump over to the next block along Mill Creek (a canal spiffed up into a nice little riverwalk) to 18th Street.

It's time to stop in with our friends at Mexicali for one of their wonderful margaritas in their friendly little dark bar. (see our video "Southern California's Top Three Margaritas" for more on Mexicali's version)

Eventually, Letty joins us where we walk nearby to Los Tacos de Huicho to have another plate of sopes and tacos to bookend this weekend.

What a fun place this is. Can't wait to come back to our friendly "home away from home."

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2015 - All Rights Reserved.