Sunday, January 31, 2021

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Lounge 24, Riu's Do-It-Yourself Bar in Costa Rica


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) I think I count six bars at the Riu Palace in Costa Rica. There may be a couple more but there's definitely not any less. Plus, guests of the Palace also have full bar privileges at the Riu Guanacaste next door. 

You don't have to walk far to get your buzz on, that's for sure.


Watch the Video!



One of the unique bars is Lounge 24, at the back of the lobby behind the coffee and pastry bar.  It gets its name by being open and available to guests 24 hours a day. Feel like a nacho and beer craving at 3 in the morning? This is your place.

A fairly good selection of quality snacks and bar food line the back wall. It's definitely a step up from the all-night offerings of the last Riu we stayed at in the Dominican Republic. For drinks though? You're on your own.

That's not a bad thing, it's just what makes Lounge 24 unique...all the liquor and fixings are there for you to make whatever you want.

Think the lobby bartender is making your mai tai too weak? Make it as strong as you want here.  It's a nice break and even makes a good arts 'n crafts activity for those who want to play with a little mixology.

Watch in the video above as Tim and I demonstrate how to make a mai tai in this little DIY bar off the lobby of the Riu Palace in Costa Rica.  As an aside, after we finished, the other people in the bar watching us film the video, had me make mai tais for the whole group.  For the rest of the week, wherever we went in the resort, when one of those guests would see me, I'd get a greeting "hey, Mai Tai Man!"

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 29, 2021

Costa Rica Touring - Liberia, Guanacaste


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Missed a post on Costa Rica? Click on these links to catch up, part 1 and part 2.

Even though we were ripped off a bit and had quite a row at the rental agency, we still ended up with a car so let’s get in and go for a drive. The big city here in Guanacaste is Liberia, where we flew into, so we head in that direction.


Watch the Video!


Driving in this country is quite an adventure as we find out. A good portion of the drivers will pass you at any moment and in any traffic condition. Another large portion will drive exceedingly slow and will never, ever pull over. You soon learn that passing is a very necessary part of driving here in Costa Rica and passing lanes are pretty much nonexistent.

Add to that all the pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals that can be in the middle of the road at any given time, and you have your work cut out for you. In cities and towns, all the above turns into a free-for-all.


We make it into Liberia and find a place to park near the town’s plaza. The local church presides over it all…an ugly one, according to my wife…and it’s fiesta weekend.


Not much too festive in the daytime though. A few booths are open selling chicken and rice or dessert. We opt for dessert with some fritters covered in caramel and condensed milk and some churros.


It’s hot, quiet, and a few kids hit us up to buy a t-shirt or just to beg for money.


Walking around the perimeter of the park, I notice about 1 out of every 5 taxis are wheelchair accessible. One driver lets me take a picture of his for posterity.

We also notice that every public transit bus we see has a wheelchair lift and a spot to tie down a wheelchair making this the most accessible Latin American country we’ve seen for transportation.

The town’s a bit down in the mouth and sleepy in this humid heat so we move on.  We program the GPS unit in our rental car to take us to the nearby Rincon Vieja volcano but soon the pavement runs out and we’re on a very bumpy dirt road. When the Garmin says “drive 22 kilometers on this road,” we give up and look for a new plan.

On the map, it says there’s a zoo in nearby Salto. We head that direction.

In Liberia, we switch to Ruta 1, which turns out to be a modern freeway except it’s not quite finished. Instead, only one side is open and it’s on the honor system to be one lane in each direction. Again, we run into the problem of 25 kilometer per hour drivers on a 90 kph road.  One truck had over 50 vehicles behind him but, despite an abundance of space to pull over, he obliviously soldiered on.

We find the zoo, called the Adventure Park, and pull into the empty parking lot. A lady greets us at the entrance, offers us a cool drink, and wants to explain their “packages,” the cheapest being a basic zoo entrance fee of $100 per person.

That explains the empty parking lot which is empty once more as we hightail it out of there.

For today, we figure we’ll have more fun back at the Riu pool on the beach and spend the rest of the afternoon there.


Dinner will be at Papagayo, the steakhouse on the beach where Tim has this great looking burger…


…and Letty and I have steak, hers with the surf ‘n turf option.

It’s fine and delicious but down on the beach, the mosquitos know where dinner is also. Luckily, we put repellent on before dinner. Not many of our fellow diners were such forward thinkers, unfortunately.

Tomorrow, we have grander plans but until then, it’s chill in the room while listening to the floor show below and resting up for a very long drive and a big adventure.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

DINNER: Pan Fried Rib Eye Steak


My wife found a deal on a Lodge cast-iron skillet and got it for me.  This week, I'm christening it with some Prime steak.



I seasoned the pan last week with some lard, now it's time to cook.

INGREDIENTS
2 rib eye steaks, about an inch thick and 10 ounces
salt
pepper
Worcestershire sauce
olive oil
(optional, honey broth)

Place the steaks in a sealable plastic bowl.  Sprinkle some Worcestershire sauce on them. I'm also ladling a scoop of the honey broth that I got from the honey glazed carrots side dish that I made.

The weather's beautiful so I'm going to cook these outside on my gas grill. If you'd like to stay indoors, you can also do this on your stovetop and oven.

I put the skillet on the side burner and turn the heat up high, getting the pan very hot. 

At the same time, I turn on the burners under the hood and get the temperature to around 300 degrees.



I coat each steak with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, on both sides. The steaks go into the skillet along with any remaining marinade, which I pour over the top of the meat. Two minutes on each side.



Then, I move the skillet into the grill and close the hood. The steaks get another six minutes per side.



Cover with foil when you remove them and let rest for ten minutes before serving.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 25, 2021

Letting the Jet Lag and Stress Float Away in Costa Rica


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) (If you've missed it, you can catch up on part 1 of this trip here)

With the rental car shenanigans behind us, it was a dark and lonely road to the Riu Palace Hotel on Playa Matapalo. Around one dark corner, a lone horse stood in the road. I almost put him down. Now and again, speedbumps would appear in front of a school.  Narrow one lane bridges popped up with some regularity. Pedestrians and bicyclists  would materialize out of the dark, moving slowly in the traffic lane.


Watch the Video!

It was a bit harrowing that first evening then coming down the steep hill into the little bay we’d call home for the next week.  My wife urged me to slow down while I informed her my foot was already pressing on the brake pedal.

Three massive speed bumps really slowed us down and then we were at the gate to the Riu.

There are two hotels here, the Riu Guanacaste...the nice but more budget friendly of the two…and the Riu Palace, the top level brand of the Riu chain.

Unloading the car, we step up to the checkin counter and I immediately remember why I love the Riu.

As a server hands us each a welcoming cocktail (especially nice after the fight at the rental car agency and the dark drive) checkin goes efficiently and effortlessly.



“Remember, we are here to serve you. You only have to dial 9 on your room’s phone and we will get anything you want.”

And, as we’ve found out at the Riu before, that is not an empty promise.

Our room is just what we booked. Oceanview, though not quite beachfront, over the pools, with a nice terrace and three beds set up just for us. The bellman shows us the ropes, with the in-room liquor dispensers, the minibar, TV, and more.

There’s also a spa tub between the beds and the bathroom that’s really more in the way than useful but I can see where some people might like it. For us, the large, walk-in shower is more of a luxury making it easy for Tim to have a bath.

It’s not an official accessible room (although they do have some available) but we find the regular rooms here work just fine for us and we get better views and locations than the wheelchair rooms offer.

After tipping the bellman, we hit the buffet for dinner before retiring back to our room for a deep, night’s sleep to catch up on all we missed the day before and to shed our travel frustrations.

The morning dawns bright and sunny.  A hot sun. The breakfast buffet is very good and extensive. Great protein in the fried eggs, scrambled eggs, and more. Costa Rican food is represented by their banana –leave wrapped tamales, gallo pinto, and several varieties of rice and sausage.

A couple of shady lounge chairs invite us to stake out a place by the pool. A ramp makes it easier to get Tim in the water. We wade in and roll the chair as far as we can, put Tim’s feet through the hole of an inner tube, stand him up, let him fall through the hole till his arms hook onto the tube…holding him up…and away he goes to float for a few hours in the Riu’s pool.



Nicole, our pool server, keeps us supplied with Mai Tais, chocolate martinis, beer, and water. The three of us float around like this, soak up the sun, and meditate on what activities we’ll be doing this week.

After swimming, soaking, and meeting new friends at the pool, it’s off to L’Anfora off of the lobby. This is the Riu’s Italian restaurant and the only one besides the buffet that does not require a reservation.



I have a local version of ossobuco while Tim has lasagna and ravioli. Letty has a nice seafood pasta.



Our room is right over the floor show area, so after dinner, we can watch from our terrace. The music can be loud, so you might want to ask for a room away from it if it bothers you. Since they have a curfew of 11pm that is strictly enforced, we can live with it.

After a day of cocktails, sun, and water, our minimal jet lag is diminished and we retire to rest up for the next part of our adventure where we head off property and go exploring the Central American countryside.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 24, 2021

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The Matapalo


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Coming to you from lovely Guanacaste, Costa Rica, it's Tim and Darryl with another new cocktail for you.

As you may know, when we travel, we like to create cocktails out of our room's minibar or local drinks. Today, with a free minibar and unlimited liquor courtesy of the Riu Palace Hotel, it's another new cocktail named after the beach we're residing on. This time it's Playa Matapalo.


Watch the Video!

So, here we go...take a tall glass and fill completely with ice. Dump in a shot of dark rum, another of brandy and top off with Fanta and soda water.

The matapalo which, as you'll see in the video above, tastes remarkably like a picon punch of Basque fame.

Cheers from Costa Rica!

Darryl

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Rental Car Con - Welcome to Costa Rica


(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Signs say the new LAX is coming but, today, it’s still the same old worn out Terminal 6 only with more construction.  The old bones of the terminal are clearly visible…the circular gate area, the old tiled columns, and the stained acoustic tiles…while new shop and construction barriers sit in the middle.

It’s not ready for prime time, yet, and there are only three places to buy hot food. All with long lines. Instead, we opt to get some sandwiches from Hudson News to take on the plane with us

Alaska Airlines doesn’t serve free food to us in steerage and no First Class upgrades were available this Thanksgiving morning.

The plane does leave on time and the crew is bright and cheery.  This is because, as one told me, they get a 48 hour layover at our destination, Liberia, Costa Rica.

While the crew enjoys their two day adventure on the company dime, we’ll be at the Riu Palace over on the Pacific Coast for the next week but first, we must procure transportation.

The flight was flawless but the rental counter was a nightmare.

We’d booked a full-size SUV through Alamo’s web site for a little over $300 a week. Once at the airport, we found the Alamo rep who got us on a shuttle to the off-airport lot a few kilometers away.

I waited while the three parties in front of me argued endlessly with the two rental agents over their costs and cars. I was thinking “quit whining and get your car” so I could get mine and be on our way.

Finally…it’s my turn at the counter. I hand the agent my reservation. Thinks are moving along swimmingly. Then, he pulls out a notepad, “let’s talk about insurance.”


“I bought a policy from CTA that covers $75,000 in damage,” I tell him. “I just need your cheapest liability.”

“Senor, that insurance is no good here in Costa Rica. You have to buy the mandatory insurance.”

“No, it’s a special policy I got for this trip.”

“It’s no good. You must buy our insurance. It’s an extra $681 dollars.”

“Let me use your phone.”

I call CTA…”our offices are closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. Please call back tomorrow.”
Damn.

I argue for two hours. I have a copy of the entire policy. He won’t budge. I finally make a deal for a smaller car with a smaller insurance policy and only get ripped off to the tune of $120 instead of over $680.


Welcome to Costa Rica. Now I get to feel my way through a dark, narrow, mountainous road to our hotel instead of getting there at sundown like I planned.

Let’s see how the rest of this trip goes.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2015 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

BREAKFAST: Huevos para la Reina


The name simply translates into Eggs for the Queen and is a quick, little breakfast I made for my wife on Mother's Day.

A bit chilaquiles, a bit chorizo and eggs, a tasty treat served in a crown makes a protein rich way to start the day.

I came  up with this by rummaging through the fridge to see what I could throw together.  I've got a bit of chorizo, some small corn tortillas just languishing in the crisper, and some eggs. That's pretty much all I need.

So this is how I'll make two servings...



INGREDIENTS

1/4 pound Mexican pork chorizo
4 eggs
4 small corn tortillas
4 tablespoons olive oil

Heat up 3 tablespoons of oil in a 12 inch frying pan. Coat the bottom of the pan as thoroughly as you can after the oil is hot. 



Cut up the tortillas into small, triangle shaped wedges and cook for 4 minutes in the oil. Let drain on some paper towels on a plate. Set aside for later.



In a smaller frying pan, cook the chorizo.

Add two eggs, mix thoroughly while cooking with a wooden spoon.



Cover and set aside.



In a small frying pan, cook on egg over easy.

Put half of the egg and chorizo mixture into a flat circle on the plate. Make a ring of tortilla chips around the circle so it looks like a crown. Put the over-easy egg in the middle of the crown. Cook the other egg and do the same for the second serving.

We add red salsa and guacamole to finish ours off.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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 cafĂ© 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