Friday, April 30, 2021
One of the things that we have noticed about Amador County since we moved here a couple of years ago is that during the Spring and Summer months, there always seems to be a festival, concert or some other fun event that takes place on the weekends. One of those fun events is the Homecoming festival in Ione.
The Homecoming festival takes place in May throughout the whole town of Ione. As we were fairly new to the area we didn't really know what the festival was going to be like but we were very excited and looking forward to it.
The festival took place over a three day period during Mother's Day weekend in May. One of the biggest reasons why the Homecoming festival is a significant event in town is because anyone who has ever lived in Ione at any point is invited to come back home, so to speak, and take part in the annual celebration. The fun begins on a Friday with a carnival and a nighttime fireworks show at Charles Howard Park. While we didn't go to the park to watch the fireworks show, we still had a pretty good view of it from the front porch of our house.
The second day of the festival began with a parade that went down Main Street, very near to our house. That meant we didn't have to go too far to see the parade.
After the parade was over the next activity on the schedule was the annual soap box derby races for kids. As was the case with the parade we didn't have to go too far to see the racers do their thing since the races went right by our house as well. While it was fun to watch the derby participants go by we were somewhat surprised to find out that there was a total of three racers during this particular running of the soap box derby. Hopefully there will be more racers for this year's Homecoming festival in May.
Now that the parade and soap box derby were finished it was time for us to get ready to head to the carnival at Charles Howard Park and see what fun activities it had to offer. Of all the different festivities that were scheduled for the Homecoming festival, the carnival at the park was probably where we had the most fun. While walking around we saw that there was a good amount of food items and games and rides available for people to have a good time with.
Of course no big event that takes place in Ione or the rest of Amador County would be complete without the presence of the Ione Tacos food truck where we got some delicious tacos to eat! There was even a section in the park that has its own dedicated beer garden where a collection of good local bands played live music throughout the afternoon.
Later on, a plane also started flying by at multiple times throughout the afternoon to drop an assortment of candies for kids to pick up off the ground in a fun free for all exercise! The combination of the tacos, live entertainment in the beer garden area and the candy delivery plane were probably our favorite things about our first Homecoming experience.
Another noteworthy item that happened during our first time at the Homecoming festival was that I got to take a picture with the members of the 2019 Homecoming royal court! Overall I would say that our first time at the Ione Homecoming festival was a very enjoyable one. To top it all off, it was also very nice that we could walk to all of the places where the weekend festivities were happening. We can't wait to do it again later this year!
(NOTE: The Ione Homecoming dates to 1862, when the Methodist Church that stands just south of downtown was finished, and has been a fixture just about every year since then. The 2020 Homecoming was canceled due to Covid-19. This year's slightly scaled-down 145th version will occur on the 2nd weekend of May)
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Monday, April 26, 2021
(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Letty and I both grew up watching "Bonanza" in our childhood years. Who wouldn't want to live on the Ponderosa? Now, we're in the real-life location of that fictional ranch and one question bothers me...with Carson City being closer to their house, why did the Cartwright men spend so much time in farther-away Virginia City than in the closer, and bigger, state capitol.
This morning will be occupied by "business"...we're up here to investigate if it is a place we'd want to retire to. Specifically, we're looking at the area in the south end of the Carson Valley...around Gardnerville and Minden...to see if that's where we'd want to spend the rest of our lives after I retire.
House #1 on a 5 acre spread is too far back up towards Topaz Lake and has evidence of a large, recent wildfire on the hillside across the highway.
House #2 is nice, on a half-acre lot in Gardnerville near the country club but the street around it is not as nice.
House #3, across from the golf course club house looked good on paper but was pretty miserable in person.
Along with the 10-hour drive to see our families, pretty crushing traffic (due to only one main highway in the area) for a fairly rural area, a pretty desolate feel, and loss of California benefits for Tim, we decide to cross the Carson Valley off of our retirement list.
We'll pick that baton back up in a few days when we cross back over the mountains to our home state but, now, we're free agents...ready to explore the area as travelers.
Back up and around Carson City, we head over to Virginia City. Make sure you have a strong engine if you plan to take the shortest route up with a harrowing 15% grade. Easy parking is hard to find, so I relent and pay $6 to park in the Delta Saloon's (home of the "world famous suicide table") lot.
It's like Tombstone, set in the mountains. An old west town, where open-carry is a way of life (many of these costumed, and armed, men are also security guards at the local casinos so I don't know how many of these are props or real).
The hilly geography means wheelchairs are like rollercoasters on the undulating boardwalks. Tim has a few exciting moments where the wood meets the pavement.
It's chilly, so we retire to the Delta's casino with a cup of coffee an see the suicide table while feeding pennies to the slot machines. After, we head down the street to enjoy some baked goods and the hundred mile view out behind the coffeehouse we're in.
A little window shopping later and we're heading down the hill.
Just for the heck of it, we drive through the Bunny Ranch brothel's parking lot to snap some photos and video (we're, by far, not the only ones). I offer to drop Tim off and pick him up later but he declines...
While illegal in Vegas, brothels are legal in much of the rest of the state and several are out here east of the Capitol. Some innkeepers have told us of mild-mannered guests to their facilities who come up here just to tour these houses of ill repute.
Enough of that, after an afternoon break at the hotel, it's off to the "Biggest Little City In The World," Reno, to have some dinner.
While we could have a cheap spread at one of the local casinos, we opt instead for a delicious Basque meal in this Basque country. The Santa Fe Hotel, an historic shepherd's boarding house that's surrounded on three sides by the massive Harrah's complex, will be the destination for tonight. We're a little early...the bar opens at 5, dinner is served at 6, and it's 4:30.
An hour is killed by going to a local pawn shop and then the Cal Neva casino at the end of the block where Tim wins $10 on the penny slots and $25 for me on the quarter machines. Just enough to have a picon punch before dinner.
We strike up a nice, long conversation with the bartender at the Santa Fe (she's also a speech therapist so we have some common ground here and there) while waiting for the dining room to open.
The Santa Fe is a true, oldschool, Basque restaurant meaning that you don't get a table to yourself. We sit at a table made for at least eight wth a couple of gentlemen from the area joining us in a lively, talkative dinner of soup, salad, sausage, cheese, bread, wine, steaks, and fries.
It's an experience you won't get at a casino buffet and the price is not all that different.
(Note: It appears that the Santa Fe Hotel has been a victim of the pandemic and permanently closed althought their website is still live and their Facebook page still lists opening hours - Ed)
Appetites sated, we say goodbye to our dinner companions, our new friends in the bar, and the city of Reno itself as we retire to the Homewood Suites to rest up for our drive over the Donner Pass tomorrow.
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2014 - All Rights Reserved
Sunday, April 25, 2021
Although most of them offer traditional table service these days, most Basque restaurants also set aside some meals to be served "family style." That means everybody sits at one long table and passes the dishes of food, just like going to your Aunt Gloria's house on Thanksgiving. It's a wonderfully social way of dining but you will be sitting with strangers.
What to do?
That's right...a "Cocktail Hour!" Most arrive a little early to enjoy a tipple in the bar and get to know the people a little bit before the meal is served and for many, that means the traditional but strong Picon Punch.
Picon Punch uses a liqueur called Amer Picon as a base. This is an orange based libation that is very hard to find in our area so we substitute triple sec and bitters. Here's the recipe:
2 1/2 oz. - triple sec
1 oz. - brandy
2-3 oz. soda water
1 oz. lemon juice
dash of bitters
dash of grenadine
In an old fashioned glass half filled with ice, pour in bitters, triple sec, grenadine, and lemon juice. Fill with soda water. Float brandy on top.
Friday, April 23, 2021
(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) We'd saw some overpriced baseball, met some TV stars, watched big fish swimming underwater, and just missed having to be evacuated from a monorail.
The next morning, we decide to walk downtown. A bit of a mistake when we pass a rough section where drug deals are taking place out in the open and a couple of guys start to fight because one thinks the other shorted him out of a couple of rocks of crack. It’s just a short strip down the wrong street but next time we’ll get back on the bus instead.
At the ferry terminal, we buy our tickets and take a 30 minute trip across the sound to
Bainbridge Island. It’s about a half mile walk from the ferry terminal to the middle of town…there are also buses if you can’t walk that far…where we find a delightful little farmers market going on with some unusual fruit and vegetables. We buy some to make a picnic with later. Down at the waterfront, we find a boardwalk and dirt trail along the water that allows us to hike about half a mile up an inlet where we see some old ferries being mothballed, many blooming flowers, birds, and some beautiful houses.
Back in town, we buy some burgers to go with our fruit for a waterfront picnic.
After spending the morning in Bainbridge, it’s back on the boat. My wife wants some seafood, which curiously, we cannot find a whole lot of here. Some guides suggest Ivar’s, near the ferry terminal, so we head to an outdoor counter there where you can buy food to eat in a nearby dining area.
Ordering here is unique…basically there is no line, no system. Everybody crowds in and when the order taker is ready, everybody just kind of shouts their orders in at the same time. I’m told this is just the traditional way to do it here. We do eventually get our food but it is very chaotic and confusing…not really my cup of tea. The food is good, but it is heavy on the “deep fried” variety of seafood.
Earlier in the week, we walked through the Seattle Center where the Space Needle is located. We had learned that it would be $16 just to take a ride up in the elevator. That’s quite steep. I also learned there are a couple of alternatives.
The circa 1914 Smith tower (of Smith/Corona typewriter fame) near Pioneer Square is one of them. Just a bit shorter than the Space Needle (522 feet vs. 605 feet), the observation deck is actually 2 feet higher than the Space Needle, which has a deck at 520 feet. It’s only $7.50 to go up here to the famous Chinese room and to step out into the fresh air.
It’s very beautiful up there, and it’s not just the view. The owners have amassed a collection
of Chinese antiques and furnishings to enhance the surroundings. A chair up there is supposed to grant magical powers to single women that sit in it…they are to find their groom after doing so.
It is at this point where I’d usually say we went back, had another nice night in the hotel, and went back home but there is one more adventure that would await us. I called the same taxi company that brought us from the airport and reserved an accessible cab for noon the next day to take us back.
At noon, waiting in the rain in front of the hotel…nothing. At 12:20, I called the cab company and asked where the cab was. The man on the phone said, quote, “just because you reserved a cab doesn’t mean one will show up.” When I asked for an ETA, he hung up the phone somewhere between the letters T and A.
Where I come from a reservation means they will set aside the item to be reserved. Also, when a paying customer calls and…politely I might add…asks where the item to be reserved is and when it will be there, you don’t hang up on them.
We had a problem; the airport is 15 miles away on the other side of town. We had no idea when, or even if, our ride would get there. We had one slim chance to get out of town in time to make our 2:40 flight.
Grabbing our bags, we hoofed it to the busiest bus corner about two blocks away. When a bus pulled up, we ask the driver the quickest route to get to the airport. She said, “hop on.”
At Pioneer Square, she dropped us off at the Downtown Transit Tunnel and told us to catch a bus down there (the transit tunnel is like a subway, only used by buses instead). We find the bus, get on, and make it to the airport about an hour before departure. Indeed, Seattle transit workers are the nicest and most accommodating we’ve ever encountered…they really saved the day, and our vacation, by their actions.
As I’m waiting in the departure lounge, my cell phone rings. It’s the taxi driver. He’s in front of the hotel, wondering where the hell I am. I said to him “do you know what your dispatcher did to me when I called?” He said no. I pressed the disconnect button.
Copyright 2009 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Monday, April 19, 2021
(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) The scene on TV is scary. About half a dozen firetrucks…lights flashing, ladders extended…were under the track of the monorail. Frightened passengers were climbing down waiting for the safety of solid ground under them.
That could’ve been us...
The flight to Seattle was nice. Southwest Airlines has vaulted its way to the top of domestic carriers with a simple strategy; keep it simple and keep it consistent. As “passengers with special needs”, we were able to board first and snag the bulkhead seats. One knock on Southwest is that there are no reserved seats for most passengers. It’d be nice to know ahead of time where you’ll sit but this is one time being disabled comes in handy.
The flight left from Ontario, California right on time at 9:50am. The baggage handlers deftly handled Tim’s 350-pound power chair, using a special lift right outside the jetway door. A quick stop in San Jose, and we’re arriving at SEA-TAC airport at 12:30pm.
I had called a taxi service ahead of time to reserve an accessible cab but they said just to call when we arrived. I did and we had a ride within 30 minutes. Don’t cheer too much, though, as you’ll see later.
It was half an hour and $42 dollars later that we arrived at our hotel, the Homewood Suites in the Queen Anne District, just three blocks from the space needle and across the street from the late Post-Intelligencer newspaper building with its beautiful globe on top.
I had called about two weeks earlier to make reservations and talked to an Ed at the reservations office. All the accessible rooms were taken but he assured me he’d have a bath chair put in the room if we stayed there. At $215 dollars a night, this was the cheapest decent hotel I could find so with a little trepidation, I made the reservation.
At check in, who else would be manning the counter but Ed who not only remembered our phone conversation but also told me to check out the room and let him know if the chair he put in was OK. It was and provided a nice level of access in the bathroom…all we needed, really.
The room itself was a spacious two-room suite with a separate bedroom and a queen sized sofa bed. It also had a small kitchen, walk-through closet, robes, ironing board, and just a slight view of Puget Sound out the window.
There is an evening manager’s reception…with beer, wine, and appetizers…along with a hot buffet breakfast served each morning. One notable thing is that a nice, local microbrew is poured along with the usual bud and bud light. The bar is manned by Ed who greets us and tells us what appetizers he’s serving. While Ed is pouring the beer I comment to him that he sure seems to be everywhere. He tells me that the managers take turns running the reception by picking what appetizers will be served and manning the bar. It’s a very hands-on approach and I don’t know when I’ve had better service at a major chain hotel.
That evening, at Ed’s suggestion, we walk a little over a block to Buckley’s. This is a local pub that serves great microbrews for $3 during happy hour and served one heck of a macaroni and cheese dish for $13. Bubbling with cheese and infused with bacon, it’s the best dish we’ll have this week.
We continue on to the Seattle Center…the former World’s Fair site…and try to ride the monorail into town. I say “try to,” because it is not working at the moment. The workers have no idea when it will be running.
After a delicious breakfast in the hotel’s very nice dining room…with its floor to ceiling windows giving a view out to the sound…we head downtown. There are two major bus stops near the hotel with frequent bus service. Unfortunately, we are just outside of the downtown free fare zone, so we have to pay but it’s not much and 20 minutes later, we’re downtown.
Our first stop is the Mariners Team Store to buy tickets for a game. The main reason we’re in Seattle at all is that we’re trying to add another stadium to our list. Tim’s goal is to see every major league stadium. We get tickets at first base at the top of the field level for $60 each. This is a bit steep when the same tickets at our stadium…Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California…are $24. This is also for a team that will go on to finish with the less-than-stellar record of 61 wins and 101 losses to finish in last place 39 games behind the division champion Angels.
It’s not a long walk from there to the Pike Place Market, home to the world’s first Starbucks and the flying fish guys. It’s a very touristy place and also has a lot of traffic on the street out front but there is some great produce here. We buy some fruit to take back to the hotel, watch the guys throw some fish around, visit a few shops, and head back to the hotel to rest up for the game.
A couple of blocks away, we’re able to catch a bus that will take us all the way to Safeco Field, home of the Mariners. We get there early and the Pyramid brewery and bar are right across the street having happy hour but Letty and Tim aren’t interested. We get in and, as we do with any new stadium, take a lap around to see what’s there.
We find our seats and are shocked to find they are completely blocked by a TV camera platform. I can’t believe they charged us $180 dollars to sit here! I find an usher and complain. He says I have to wait for a manager who, when he shows up, allows us to move.
Mind you, this game is far from a sell-out. Less than half of the seats will be filled tonight…this is just unforgivable that the team would sell us such lousy seats at these prices when many better locations were available.
At our new seats…about fifty feet away from our original location…we settle in for the game. I get us some of the local specialty snack…Ichi Rolls from the Sushi stand…and watch at Ichiro, Arian Beltre, and company go down in flames again.
One very nice feature to the stadium is that in rainy Seattle (yes, it rained nearly every day, even in August) there is a roof over the park to keep it out. It is still an outdoor stadium; it’s just that the retractable roof rolls over like a giant umbrella when it starts to rain. That’s what makes it funny when I see during the next season that they had a rainout in Seattle. Really?
They couldn’t put the roof on?
After the game, we go outside to catch a bus going back. We find out that one bus comes by around every twenty minutes. One…for the several thousand fans that are exiting.
Luckily, the bus driver sees us and holds everybody else back so that Tim and his chair can board first. We also find out that we have to transfer to another bus at Pioneer Square to continue on to the hotel.
Now I have to note that there is a commuter rail station right next to the stadium but it doesn’t occur to anyone here…supposedly the greenest city in America…that it would alleviate so much traffic to the game to run trains? Only on certain weekend games to they run Sounder trains…not during the week. Only that lonely, solitary bus coming by every twenty minutes.
(Note: The new Link light rail, which opened up a year later, now serves the stadium)
I have to say at this point, however, that the bus drivers in Seattle are the best and nicest transit drivers we’ve ever come across. They always strapped down the chair, were friendly, and never hesitated to give us information about the town while we were there. They would also turn out to save our bacon in a major way later.
The next day, we walk over to the Seattle Center. The monorail is still broken. Inside one of the halls, we have a very good hot dog and go outside to see the fountains. They have this cool fountain set in a large bowl that the kids can go play in. It even has a wheelchair ramp that spirals down the side. After much coaxing, Tim finally goes down and has the time of his life dodging the spray.
I notice a monorail moving along the beam. We hurry to the station, buy tickets, and we’re off on the cheesiest transit you’re likely to come across. The driver dresses like he’s on Star Trek and sings Elvis songs during the one-mile journey. The train is old and, of course, looks like what people in 1962 thought trains would look like in the future.
At the other end in downtown, we explore the area, have some coffee, visit the Nordstrom’s flagship store before hopping back on board to the Seattle Center.
Next, we get some sandwiches from a nearby deli and catch a bus to Ballard. Another bus takes us the last mile to the Ballard Locks, a Corps of Engineers project that allows vessels in from the salt-water sound to the fresh water Lake Union and on to Lake Washington by lifting them in the twin locks.
It’s an interesting process to watch…you can go right to the edge, talk to the people on the boats as they wait to be raised or lowered. Afterward, you can go across the locks to the salmon ladders on the other side.
A ramp lets wheelchairs into the underground chamber where you can watch the massive fish swim upstream. Going out to sea, large pipes act as waterslides giving the fish the ride of their lives as they shoot into the ocean.
Back on the Ballard side of things is a nice park and pretty garden where we have a picnic of our sandwiches on top of a green hill looking down on the locks.
Instead of the bus, we decided to walk back to Ballard going by way of a few shops along the way to buy some smoked salmon to take home. We also see a couple of genuine TV stars…the Wizard and the Northwestern. These two boats are featured on the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch and are based here in Ballard, as are a few other boats from the series. Didn’t see any of the Hansen brothers though.
Back on the bus, we get stuck in a massive traffic jam but finally make it back to the hotel. Some more light rail or even a few ferries would make this city much more bearable.
At the hotel that night, I’m watching the news where a scene of multiple fire trucks have their lights on and ladders extended. It seems that the monorail broke down again…just a few hours after our ride…and the passengers were being evacuated down those ladders. I don’t really want to know how they would have had to evacuate Tim.
Stay tuned for part 2...
Copyright 2009 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Sunday, April 18, 2021
Coming to you from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, this week's Cocktail Hour tries to make a dent in it. Watch as we go from lobby bar to plaza bar and swim up bar to sample the bartenders talents.
Trying to not get too lit up (yeah, right) while keeping the sunburn to a minimum, it's all rum, tequila, and vodka by by the pool in this week's on-location Cocktail Hour video. Enjoy!
Friday, April 16, 2021
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
It's been a long year, I'm sure I don't have to tell you. We have been patiently...or impatiently at times...waiting for this pandemic to end. It's been a masking, social-distancing, staying at home, re-opening and quickly re-closing, frustrating period.
We know it's been tough, too, to follow this blog with very little new information and stories coming out. We've been doing our best but, aside from a short window last fall, travel has been off the table for us (it was the trip to Crater Lake and Southern Oregon, if you're wondering, during a period when California and Oregon loosened up the rules for a few weeks).
Well, we're happy to tell you that we'll be having some new content very soon. As our state's governor has said over and over, we can now see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Today marks the second vaccination for Tim and myself. Letty was able to secure hers a couple of months ago as a healthcare worker. Now, it's just 14 days until we're cleared to start loosening up our lives a bit.
That's also when we'll start debuting some new content.
In the meantime, we're going to a taco truck near the vaccination site...
...and eating some celebratory tacos.
Stay tuned and please get the vaccination when you are able to.