Friday, December 31, 2021

Adventures Close to Home: Riverside, California - Part 2

Farmer Boys is a fast food chain in California and Nevada. Just around the corner from our hotel, the Mission Inn, is their corporate headquarters. Next door to that is their flagship store.

Seems like a fitting place to have a quick breakfast so, armed with coupons we received before leaving home, we have a nice plate of French toast and eggs before heading out for the day.

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We’ll need the energy because we’re climbing a mountain.  Well, mountain might be ambitious…more like a hill…but it’s called a mountain here…Mount Rubidoux.

About ½ a mile due west of the hotel, Mt. Rubidoux has long been a landmark here. Bought by Frank Miller, owner of the Mission Inn at the time, it was used for Easter sunrise services and eventually donated to the city.

Cars used to be able to drive to the summit on a one-way, narrow road.  They’d go up on the north side and descend on the south side. Autos were banned in 1992 but those beautifully paved roads means this is a wheelchair-ready climb.

There are two entrances to the park. The north entrance has no parking so we enter via the south gate which has limited parking and a wheelchair ramp around the gate.

Fellow hikers tell us that the north road is not as steep as the south road so where the two roads meet just a little way up the trail, we switch over to the north road.  Tim tells me that the power meter on his chair has gone down by one bar. No problem, he still has eight left.

The trail winds up through a desert landscape of scrub, cacti, and succulents. Many large rocks also jut out of the ground. At a mile Tim tells me he’s lost another bar.

At a mile and a quarter, Tim…who keeps stopping to check the power meter and starting back up…says he’s lost another one.  I explain to him that all that starting and stopping uses a lot more power than if he were to keep going and not to worry about it unless the power meter turns yellow instead of green.

He keeps going without the constant stop and go. About 2/3 of the way up, we cross over from the east side of the mountain to the west side. We’re treated to views of the Santa Ana River (the river that Riverside is on the side of) and a small airport in the distance. It’s kind of neat to see airplanes flying below you as they enter the pattern for the landing strip.

Near the summit, Tim tells me his power meter has gone yellow. Not wanting to take chances, we stop here. I’ll stay and keep Tim company while Letty will continue to the top and take pictures.

While Tim and I watch planes land below, Letty gets some great pictures at the top.

Here is a bridge where the road winds over itself.

A flag has been planted at the top, with downtown Riverside providing a backdrop.

At the peak, a large cross has been erected.

After Letty gets to the top and back to Tim and I, we head back down.  There’s a saddle not too far from where we waited where Tim and I can get similar views to the top.

We take a few minutes to see the sight and then head back down to the car where it’s back to the hotel.

A short rest and then we’re out to greet the Zombie Apocalypse…

Next to the hotel is the Main Street pedestrian mall. Usually, a quiet place to get a bite to eat or browse for antiques, today it is taken over by hordes of the undead.

It’s the 2nd Annual Zombie Crawl where Riversides most unlively citizens come out to show their moves and try to gross out the living.

Groups have dance offs in the middle of the plaza…mostly to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”…and compete for the best zombie makeup effects.  There’s even a little workshop on how to do different zombie walks, from the fresh out of the grave shuffle to the running zombie.

It’s all good fun though Tim had to fend off a few zombies trying to eat his brain. We’ll take refuge in the hotel for now.

We’ve got a show to go to but first it’s dinner. Our hotel package came with valet parking and a $50 credit.  The parking has been used over and over. Now, to use that credit.

There are four restaurants at the hotel…Duane’s for steaks, Las Campanas for Mexican (great margaritas, too), Bella Trattoria for Italian…and, our choice, the Mission Inn Restaurant for a little of them all dining under the stars in the beautiful main courtyard.

We start off this this great and different bread basket.

The food is pretty special. While Tim had a basic penne dish, Letty had this fresh fish dish.

I had this savory and juicy roast chicken with some very creamy mashed potatoes.

Well fed, we make our way across the street to the recently restored Fox Theater. Tonight, we’re going to see The Mavericks in concert, who have recently reunited with their singer, Raul Malo.

It’s a great, rocking show but the wheelchair seats are not raised very high so whenever the people in front of us feel like standing up and dancing, which is fairly often, it blocks Tim’s view. He’s not very bothered by it but Letty sure is.

Still, it’s a good show and we have a good time.  We end the night with a bottle of wine back in our roomy, Mission Inn Suite and savor the end of another trip.

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 27, 2021

Adventures Close to Home - Riverside, California

We tend to take our local area for granted, don’t we? Anything within an hour’s drive seems like home to us and just doesn’t pop up on our travel radar.

People don’t go to Riverside, California from Los Angeles unless they have a reason to. Same with me…in good traffic, it’s less than an hour’s drive. Heck, I’ve worked in downtown Riverside off and on for the last ten years periodically.  I know what’s there…don’t I? I don’t need to go there on a vacation …do I?

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Apparently, I don’t know as much as I thought. A recent weekend in the city had us begging to come back for more.
Originally, this was supposed to be a trip to Scottsdale. The peg for the trip was to see the Mavericks…one of our favorite bands…who have recently reunited with singer Raul Malo.  They were playing at the Arizona State Fair this week and it made for a convenient excuse to go.

Recently, however, the band added a couple of shows closer to home. Even though the prices are more expensive here in California, our recent spate of $5-per-gallon gas prices had us re-evaluating. It was also enticing that we’d be able to see our concert in a 1,600 seat theater from the 9th row rather than an 18,000 seat arena.
I’m saving a ton of money by going local for two nights instead of four nights in Arizona.  Works out about the same time to do things when you factor in that we don’t have to have two all day drives to get there and back. Riverside is less than an hour.

Since I am saving so much money on gas, food, and hotel, I’m able to splurge on a suite at the historic and beautiful Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, where I’m able to book their “Fall Back in Time” promotion which includes a $50 resort credit and free valet parking.
Before check-in, though, we exit at Holt off of the 60 freeway. The roofs of warehouses stretch out for a mile in front of us. Hard to imagine anything worth stopping here for.

A quick right turn leads us onto a bumpy and rutted road, filled with eighteen wheelers. A dusty and dilapidated auction on the right, a Costco warehouse on the left, and then the road I’m looking for , Wineville.

It’s a stop back in time at the Galleano Winery in Mira Loma, a few acres of farm that time forgot wedged here between the freeways, factories, and warehouses.  Although it’s been here longer than any of them, it seems wildly out of place.

Some tastes of their award-winning varieties, buying up some of their great and cheap Chianti and old vine zinfandel, and we’re back on our way. (You can see and read more about the incredible Galleano and Fillipi Wineries in our report, “California’s Hidden Wine Country”)

With a little time to kill once we get to our destination, we head to the corner of Magnolia and Arlington for a historic and easily overlooked landmark. There are three citrus trees fenced in a tiny little grove here, a grapefruit tree and two navel orange trees.

While I don’t know what the significance is of the grapefruit tree or the smaller orange tree, the larger of the navel trees has a bit history behind it. This is the Parent Navel Orange Tree.

Navel oranges are famously seedless, therefore you can’t propagate them sexually. Instead, they must be cloned by cuttings or grafting. The old tree, brought here in 1870 from Bahia, Brazil, is the tree that spawned all of the other navel orange trees in California, creating a huge industry.

Somehow, it still survives after all these years, although a second tree transplanted to the Mission Inn by President Teddy Roosevelt didn’t live long after that misbegotten attempt to create a tourist attraction. 
Speaking of the Mission Inn, we are now driving under the arched entrance to the valet parking area. A tall, dapper man in a crisply pressed suit opens our door and asks the purpose of our visit. We tell him we’re staying there the next few nights and he says “welcome home!”

As we exit the van, Troy…the man who greeted us…needles Tim about is St. Louis Cardinals shirt because they’re contending against the Giants for the National League pennant while we’re there.
Check-in’s a breeze and soon we’re off to the second floor to see our room.

Junior Suite doesn’t mean the same thing here as it does at other hotels. I’m used to it meaning a small barrier between the bed and couch and “suite” being more a term of wishful thinking than anything else. Here, it’s an actual suite with a big bedroom completely separated from the living room area by two doors.
The room also features a large, queen size sofabed, a walk-in closet, two large flat screen TVs (that don’t have HD channels, unfortunately), decent bathroom with high end toiletries, and a semi private patio.

The hotel is enough of a historic landmark that a highlight is just exploring the many passageways, nooks and crannies, and hidden surprises around each corner such as 800 year old bells, a 6-story colonnaded rotunda, chapel with original Tiffany stained glass windows, and more.
It’s like spending the night in the Winchester House except without the ghosts.

For a late lunch, we head around the corner to La Cascada, with provides us a decent Mexican lunch.
We come back to do a little more exploring…finding the rooftop garden, the California history themed glockenspiel, hidden patios next to rooms that have housed presidents.

The sparkling swimming pool, in a bougainvillea shrouded patio at the front of the hotel, is inviting on this warm day but we didn’t bring our swim suits. We do notice, however, that there is a lift so that disabled people can get in easily too.

We’ll remember this for next time. For now, it’s time to relax a little bit and get ready for tomorrow where we’ll climb a mountain, run into hordes of zombies, and go to our concert.

Part two is coming soon…
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas in the Capitol: A Floating Dinner in Sacramento

(Note: This is what we do every Christmas. This year, we're not staying at a hotel, we're driving over from home for the day. Merry Christmas! -Ed)

We must like this hotel, we've stayed here repeatedly over the last decade and a half. At first, it was called the Hallmark Suites. Great free breakfast bar, cocktail lounge, and pool area. Nice two room suites.

It became the Sierra Suites after that then changed into a Hyatt House. All still the same but looking a little worn at our last stay a couple of years ago. Soon after we checked out, it closed down and underwent a year-plus renovations and reopened a few months ago as a Doubletree Suites.

Watch the Video!

Nice location across the street from the Sunrise light rail station, giving you easy access to downtown Sacramento to the west and the even nicer Old Town Folsom to the east.

This time, I was offered a two story loft unit with two bathrooms, mobility access, and two bedrooms each with a king size bed, for the same price as the two room suite we had before.

Well, I can't pass an offer like that up...

After checkin, we take our delicious Doubletree cookies with us to our room in the next building. 

The room is indeed spectacular. A large living room with a sink, fridge, coffee maker, and microwave welcome us as we enter (I could picture the sink area being a kitchen before the renovation. Comfortable sofa, deskchair, and large tv dominate the rest of this room.

Beyond that is the downstairs bedroom with it's king-sized bed and bathroom. Funny thing about this accessible is very large but has a tub without a shower on a hose management has no bathchair they can put in there. There's a grab bar next to the toilet and a roll-under sink and no door.  I mean sliding door, no curtain, nothing.

(Management offered to move us to a smaller room which would mean Tim would have to move to the sofabed instead of having that large king to himself)

Upstairs is another bedroom with another king bed for Letty and I. Another bathroom up here is smaller and more spartan but...get has a walk-in shower! Swap the tub downstairs with this one and the room would be close to perfect, except for that missing door downstairs.

We do travel with a spare shower chair on road trips for just such an occasion but the room is just too darn nice and big to move to a smaller version. We'll see about some other arrangement for compensation later.

I go to a nearby Wendy's and we feast on Christmas Eve around our hotel room table on some hot 'n juicy burgers while watching old movies on TV. It's a very comfortable, cozy, and low-key evening.

In the morning, we head to the lobby for a light breakfast. In it's previous lives, the hotel had a great, free breakfast bar. The buffet and omelet station are still here but for a price now. A "Continental" buffet is $12.95 and the full buffet is $16.95. A bit much since we basically just want some bagels and fruit.

It's very slow on Christmas morning. The hotel is mostly empty and nobody is eating. The counter guy makes us a for a continental buffet, which he'll knock 10% off of because it's Christmas...and we can all share it.

That'll do (pro tip: don't be afraid to negotiate a better deal when you've got the upper hand).

We rest up and clean up (Letty and I have excruciating back pain today we think that was brought on by the uncomfortable couch in the Marriott we stayed at on the way up here) before loading up and heading to Old Sacramento along the riverfront in downtown.

On arrival, we have about a half hour to kill before our reserved time, so we head over to Candy Heaven, a large candy shop known for their generous free sample policy. Sample we do - we even sampled the chocolate covered crickets - and buy some candy for later. (Note: free sampling has been suspended to due Covid-Ed)

It's time to eat so we head over to the Delta King, an historic paddle wheeled river boat permanently docked here. We're shown to a nice table and settle in to eat.


This is becoming a tradition for us to come up here and have Christmas dinner on the boat. It's the only time each year the restaurant here serve their turkey dinner.

It's among the best turkey dinners I've ever tasted with a perfectly roasted and juicy bird, stuffing, mashed potatoes and vegetables. It's delicious and filling (that's why we went light on breakfast).

While the entire menu is available, I come strictly for the turkey dinner. Letty and Tim will digress to other menu items such as cioppino, pasta, or even fish 'n chips.

Tummies sated and spirits high, we head back to the hotel to enjoy the rest of the holiday together.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 20, 2021

CLASSIC TRIP - Yosemite Ski Trip, California 1998

This report is dedicated to the late Nic Fiore, a legend in Yosemite, who taught over 100,000 people to ski during his 50+ years at Yosemite, including the day described below...

How about a ski trip? Yes, you can do it if you're in a wheelchair.  To prove it, we present a ski trip we took back in 1998.  Enjoy...

It's February and El Nino has finally hit as advertised. We have received over a year's worth of rain in just this one month.

The month has also started off gloomy with two people we know passing on and a million things to do with little time to do them. We're wet...we're depressed...we need a vacation.

  Luckily, the second half of the month perks up with Tim's birthday and our wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we decide to head back up to visit with Jon and Lois Moroni at their great bed and breakfast, the Restful Nest, up in Mariposa.

Are we tempting fate in this extra wet month? The weather reports for the area don't hold a lot of promise as the anticipated President's Day weekend is upon us.

Crossing our fingers, we load up our tire chains, cold weather clothes, and skis and head on up. To tempt fate even further we left at 3:00pm on Friday, February 13th.

The good weather in L.A. held up until we reached the summit of Tejon Pass (the Grapevine) where we promptly hit wind and rain. The rain stayed with us the rest of the way to Mariposa.

We stopped for a quick bite to eat at the In 'n Out in Fresno and to gas up before heading into the hills. Those hills were a gorgeous emerald green. It was not hard to think we had somehow been magically transported over to Ireland. Arrival in Mariposa was at 8:30pm.
Casey the Wonder Pooch
Jon, Lois, and their black lab Casey greeted us on arrival with a hot bowl of soup and a glass of wine. After exchanging greetings and catching up a little bit from our last trip, we unpacked into our room and went to bed.

Saturday dawned with even more rain. Lois cooked up a superb breakfast that included fresh fruit, bacon, eggs, waffles, muffins, and homemade rolls. This was washed down with some great hot coffee and fresh orange juice.

Today, we headed up to Yosemite Valley. It's about 40 miles from the B & B to the valley floor. The rain made even the tiniest of creeks into raging rivers of muddy water. Driving up the Merced River gorge towards Yosemite, we easily saw a hundred waterfalls...literally at each bend in the road.

The level of the river stayed below last year's flood levels. Once in the valley we saw numerous signs pointing out the high point of last year's flood...a level that was at least 3 feet above our heads!

Although it was still raining in Yosemite Valley, there was plenty of snow on the ground. This made for some seriously cold, wet, and slushy conditions. Determined to make the best of it, we drove a loop around the valley before settling down a bit at the store in Yosemite Village.

From there we took a walk over to Yosemite Falls on one of the few clear paths the wheelchair could take that day. Tim had a ball doing power slides through the patches of snow on the pavement.

Even in this wet and cold weather, Yosemite loses none of its majesty. The falls were spectacular and the walk nice but wet. We came back to the village and decided to do the rest of our sightseeing that day from the comfort of our heated auto. On the way out we pulled over to snap this picture of a coyote walking along the shoulder of the road.

Back in Mariposa, we stumbled onto the neighborhood herd of deer...who graciously posed for our camera...

That evening...being Valentine's Day...the Moroni's made a sumptious dinner for the inn's guest which had grown to include a race car driver and his wife from Newark, a policeman and his family from Vacaville, and another couple from Mill Valley.
The Restful Nest
Jon served a dinner of homemade French onion soup, salad, and stuffed shells. It was very good and very filling. Certainly we were not going to be losing any weight this weekend.

After dinner, the two couples went to the inn's spa while we family types retired to our rooms to watch videos and the olympics.

After another huge breakfast on Sunday, we headed back up to Yosemite. Today, the weather had cleared and we headed up to Badger Pass for an afternoon of skiing.
Nic Fiore, a young-at-heart 76 year old ski instructor at Badger Pass, had arranged for Tim to spend the afternoon skiing with one of the resort's instructors in a sit-ski. Fiore, who just celebrated his 50th anniversary at the resort, operates one of just 4 complete adaptive ski programs in California here at this little ski area located above the valley floor.
We met Tim's instructor, Jerry, who outfitted him with his equipment and took off with him for some serious slope time. This left my wife and myself with the afternoon to ourselves to explore the slopes of this mountain.

While small...the vertical from top to bottom is a mere 800 feet (you can see the entire mountian in the top photo)...the conditions were perfect and the uncrowded slopes gave us a lot of time to explore. The Pass was a comfortable if not exactly challenging place to ski.

The only downside to this day was having to put on tire chains to climb up the road to the ski area. Nic and his crew made sure Tim had the time of his life and in doing so also allowed his mother and I to have a good time as well.

Coming back down to the valley, we stop at Tunnel View to snap this picture of the view that just floored us.

Back down the mountain we went with a stop at the Pizza Factory in Mariposa for dinner. The food was good here but the kid with the ear-piercing scream was a bit much (note to the kid's parents: once maybe an accident and cute but to keep egging the kid on should be cause for criminal action!).

On arrival at the inn, we soaked our weary muscles in the hot spa...sipping a glass of good California Sangiovese while marveling at the millions of stars over our heads.

After sleeping like logs we had one more giant breakfast and spent some time in conversation with Lois while Tim played fetch with Casey. One more walk down to the inn's pond and one last breath of the fresh mountain air and then time to head home.

Another weekend in God's country leaves us with our spirits healed and ready to face another day of reality.

Copyright 1998