Monday, February 28, 2022

Rocking a Post Pandemic World: Morro Bay After Covid

It felt like time to get out of the house for a few days so it was back to one of our favorite beach destinations, Morro Bay on California's Central Coast.

While the Omicron variant of the Covid virus is causing rising cases, it appears to be peaking and not as dangerous as other variants have been. With most of the population vaccinated, firm prevention measures, and more available testing and treatment, the state is staying cautiously open.

It's tough to get a good, accessible room in the waterfront area of Morro Bay when you're more than two people. Either it's a room for two or it's back in a lonely part of the hotel with no view. I've search high and low and have found exactly three rooms with beds enough for the three of us and with a bit of a view.

There's the 456 Embarcadero, a fireplace room with two queen size beds with a decent view (low season discounted rates can be found a bit under $200 a night in 2022 - you can read about our stay there here), the Anderson Inn, a very nice and very expensive waterfront inn, and our hotel for this trip, the Blue Sail Inn where a partial view with two queens went for $152 for the three nights we were there.

Partial view meant we could see a bit of the strand between the old defunct power plant at the north end of town and the landmark Morro Rock, although we couldn't see the rock itself unless we stepped out onto the little patio attached to the room.

Two comfortable queen beds, plenty of space for Tim's wheelchair, and a large bathroom with a roll-in shower that many hotels these days...was not built with water retention in mind.

Tim did like the channel lineup on the TV that featured most of his favorite sports networks.

Morro Bay is like a well worn pair of comfortable slippers for us. It's a favorite spot to unwind and visit some cherished spots. This time, since there's three of us and we'll be here for three nights, we all picked a favorite restaurant where we would dine one at a time for the three nights we'll be here.

First up, since the weather's nice and the dining is outside, is Tim's choice of Giovanni's Seafood Market and Galley.

He had a hankering for the calamari and chips here, which he proclaimed excellent. Letty had a delicious poke bowl, while I had a forgettable cheeseburger that they serve for those who don't like seafood like me.

The beer was nice, cold and delicious and the sunset view over the rock spectacular so I took solace in that.

A delicious breakfast of pancakes and eggs awaited me the next morning at Dorn's Breakers Cafe, the hilltop restaurant with a view nextdoor to the hotel. Fortified, the three of us set out for a two part walk to burn off calories and get some exercise.

Part one would be a hike up Morro Bay Boulevard to the traffic circle leading to the freeway of highway 1 where Letty could hit every thrift shop on the north side of the street...with a quick stop to one of my favorites, Central Coast Music shop...and then crossing over to get to the shops on the south side.

At the top, we'd all enjoy shopping at our favorite leather shop, Finn's Leather Shop, where Tim bought himself this stylish hat.

After a short bathroom break back at the hotel at the bottom of the hill, it's on to walk the waterfront and Embarcadero.

Starting at the south end, we stop at what used to be the Morro Bay Aquarium, a very old-school tourist attraction where you could spend a quarter on a bag of fish to feed the sea lions.

Now, a brewery is going in, Three Stacks and a Rock. The name refers to the exaust stacks of the old power plant at the other end of town and the big rock in the water that the town is named after. The former sea lion tank is being converted into a small beer garden with a view of Morro Rock.

From here, we can wind our way along the wharf where the waterfront is always available to the public, even if it means going through a restaurant's dining area. It's also about 90% accessible, only blocked in small portions on this trip by construction.

We can't pass Rose's Bar without stopping for a drink with a spectacular view at their completely wheelchair accessible, boat-shaped bar with friendly bartender Jack supplying the chatter and even loaning you his binoculars for a better view. He also shows us pictures on his phone that he snaps of the local wildlife that he sees from his unique office view.

Outside, we find the local fire department tearing into a neighboring building with their axes and saws. I ask one of the firefighters when the fire was. He told me the building was being demolished tomorrow and their just getting some training in while they have a chance.

Tonight's dinner is my choice, the Morro Bay Hofbrau where I get one of their delicious beef dip sandwiches that is carved to your order right in front of you, plus a pitcher of delicious German lager to split between the three of us.

Again, like almost anyplace else here, our dinner comes with a knockout view of the bay and rock.

We finish off this day at Anchor Memorial Park at the north end of the waterfront where we catch a great sunset with some otters playing in the water before retiring back to the hotel for the night.

Tomorrow, we'll set off on a hike on a trail we've never tried yet.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 27, 2022


I know we've done a margarita recipe before but this is special.  

We wanted to adopt a healthier lifestyle, lose a little weight, and get into better shape.  So far, it's been working.  The bad part is that cocktails are usually full of empty calories.  Hey, we like to drink too but we need to retool.

Watch the Video!

So, we've cut way back on the heavy drinks, switched to wine for the most part, and experimented with making a lighter cocktail.  Here is the first result of that retooling.
(Note:  In the video, I miscalculated a say it's about 125's actually about 150, see below)

Our new margarita lite recipe is just as good as our original margarita recipe but with about 80 less calories.  The alcohol is the same, 3 parts tequila, 2 parts triple sec, and 1 part brandy.  The difference is the mixer...we're using Sunkist Diet Sparkling Lemonade instead of sweet 'n sour mix.

Here's the recipe (two drinks):

2 ounces tequila                                   - 140 calories
1.25 ounces triple sec                         - 120 calories
.4 ounces brandy                                 -    40 calories
juices of 1/2 lime                                   -    5 calories
4 ounces Diet Lemon Soda                -    0 calories

Total Calories                                       - 305 calories
Calories per drink                                - 153 calories

(A Cadillac margarita at most restaurants, which this closely resembles, is about 325 calories per drink)

Fill a cocktail shaker 1/2 full with ice.  Put in all ingredients except for lemon soda and shake.  Pour lemon soda over ice into margarita glasses or cocktail glasses rimmed with salt (about half the depth of the ice).  Pour ingredients from shaker over that.  Enjoy the results - beware, these are still strong drinks.


Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Friday, February 25, 2022

The Irreplaceable Foods of L.A.

We really don't have much of a call to visit the Los Angeles area anymore except to visit family (you can catch up on some of our 57 years experience of the area here) but, when we are there, we try to catch up on some of the foods that we just can't find up in the northern half of the state. 

While many of our favorite places didn't survive the covid pandemic, there's still some gems there we try to hit whenever we're in the area.

Here are some places that are on our irreplaceable list...

Pastrami...yes, we can get pastrami anywhere but not like this. The Hat has is a chain of 11 fast food restaurants in the Los Angeles area. 

The farthest north is Simi Valley so that is still too far for us. If you've had it, you know...the juiciest, steamiest, moistest pastrami piled very high on a dipped bun with pickles and mustard (and a slice of swiss cheese, if you desire) for $12 in 2022. A small order of fries will feed a family of four with some left over.

(If you're in the area, you may want to stop at the original location on Valley Boulevard in Alhambra for a real time-traveling treat.)

Covid has killed their massive condiment bar but you can still get what you need from the counter person plus they still have those killer picked peppers.

In addition to The Hat, Capri Deli in Covina also has an equally good and almost identical sandwich at a slightly lower price.

Taquitos at Olvera Street really have no equal. This deep fried, rolled taco was invented at Cielito Lindo at the northern end of Calle Olvera but is taken to its zenith a few doors south at the oldest restaurant on Olvera Street, La Noche Buena.

For just under three bucks, you can get these piping hot out of the fryer with their signature watery and slightly spice guacamole sauce. I like to add their hotter red salsa to it for an incredibly delicious and cheap meal.

And, yes, you can get taquitos and guacamole almost anywhere but nothing like this.

Pizza...again, you can get pizza anywhere. Good pizza, even great pizza, but Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock is truly one of a kind, sublime, great pizza we just can't get anywhere else.

The key is the house-made, fennel Italian sausage that give this thin-crust pie a truly unique and delicious flavor. Get whatever topping you want, but...if you don't mind meat...make sure it has some of this sausage on it.

The only problem is the restaurant knows how good it is so it's not always so customer friendly. Oh, you'll get great service there but don't go for lunch (they don't open until 4), no reservations (you may be waiting over an hour for a table), extremely limited street parking, cash only, closed on Sundays and Mondays, and they tend to just take a two-week vacation whenever the feeling hits.

But, if you can get around those obstacles, make sure you give that pizza a try.

French dip...another staple in many, many restaurants. Yes we can get French dip sandwiches up in our home in the Motherlode. Some very good, even stellar French current favorite is the version we can get at the Lodi Beer Company. But none are like the original.

Philippe's...technically, Philippe the Original, but everybody in L.A. just calls it Philippe's...invented the sandwich which legend says was an accident when the counterperson dropped the bun in the drippings. The cop who was ordering the sandwich was in a hurry and just took it that way. He liked it so much, that he came back with all his buddies who wanted to try this delicious dipped sandwich.

Although the current location isn't the original 1908 location (it was moved to make way for Union Station), it still feels like the early 20th century when you step in with the news and candy stand at the entrance, the bank of wooden (working!) telephone booths, long communal tables, sawdust on the floor, and the uniformed and very professional ladies at the counter who will expertly carve and make your sandwich on the spot.

Along with the traditional beef, you can get lamb (a big favorite), ham, turkey, pork, and pastrami. All three of us prefer beef, double-dipped (bread is dipped twice in the drippings, you can also get single dipped, wet, or au jus on the side), with jack cheese. Oh, and don't forget that spicy and hot Philippe's mustard. There are jars on each table and you'll probably like it so much you'll want to buy a bottle or two to take home from the newstand.

Full disclosure compels me to mention that another restaurant claims to be the inventor of the French dip, Cole's, located six blocks south which also dates to 1908.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Cost/Benefit Analysis - Do you really need it?: RV

I have to admit, of all the toys and extras we've talked about, this is probably the one that I could see happening but let's take a closer look.

An RV or trailer towed behind your car can be very appealing. No more high hotel costs, go wherever you want, no worries about reservations...such a feeling of freedom and affordability for a vacation.

Sure, it's gonna be a tight fit (unless you get one of those multi-hundred thousand dollar ultimate behemoths) but you can expand your living area to the space outside your door. Have a campfire, roast some marshmallows, make some smores.

Now let's get some reality into this picture, starting with the no more high hotel costs. That may be true but you're still going to pay to park in a campground or RV park. Sure, this can be cheap and is almost always cheaper than a hotel, but you can still pay more than you'd expect.

Googling around we get a variety of prices per night...$51 at Mt. Shasta, $83 in Yellowstone, $150+ Florida Keys, even just parking overnight in the parking lot in Avila Beach in California will set you back about $90. Yes, you can go boondocking (parking overnight for free) but you better make sure it's a legal spot and no one will bother you about it. And, yes, cheaper campsites are not too hard to find but the more popular the destination, the higher it generally will be.

Then there's the ownership costs. We see ads on Sacramento TV all the time for used RV's for sale...not even really big ones...regularly going for over 100 grand, on sale!

Checking the used classifieds, good condition used travel trailers in the 20 foot range seem to go from $15-25k, not to mention you need a good strong vehicle to tow it.

If you're traveling in a wheelchair, you will have an even harder time finding one that will accomodate you.

Next, you'll need to register, insure, and maintain your RV or trailer. Add that all up and you're talking thousands per year before you even set out on your trip.

How do you get a camping experience instead? Well you can rent a cabin for anywhere from $100-$400 per night in many nice, remote areas. Sometimes, you can find a basic cabin for even less in some national and state parks where you can still have that rustic camping experience.

Yes, towing that trailer behind our van and setting off to remote destinations on our own terms sounds very inticing...but also very expensive. Whenever I get the temptation, I run the numbers and think there are better more affordable alternatives.

Still, it might be for you but make sure you run those numbers to see if you can really afford it first.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 21, 2022


Ione...formerly Bedbug or Freeze another of those Gold Rush era towns that didn't dig for gold. The city existed to be a supply and transportation center for those other towns up the hill that did the mining. It's gold came from the pockets of those miners buying supplies at precious prices from the town's merchants.

Founded on the banks of Sutter Creek down the hill from the city of Sutter Creek, the modern town of Ione got its name in 1848 and its configuration in 1853 when Thomas Rickey subdivided his land into lots around the creek.

After a few fires, the original wooden buildings were reconstructed with brick, which conveniently was mined and fired right here in town. One of the products that the town supplied was the eponymous Ione brick which rebuilt many a burned-out Gold Rush town.

While the city didn't engage in large-scale gold mining, other minerals were abundantly mined here. Copper, coal, sand, clay, aggreagates, and silica provided a big boost to the local economy. In fact, the only real large scale mining done in Amador County today is in Ione.

Cattle ranching took hold in the area and thousands of head still graze in the hills and ranches around town.

In the late 1800's, the city embarked on a new industry, corrections. A large reform school was built here in 1894 on 230 acres. The school, envisioned to be a place of reform for errant boys, would take the juvenile offenders from state prisons and teach them new careers to steer them from a life of crime.

Proposed by State Senator Edward Preston, the new school was named after him...the Preston School of Industry. 

A massive, gothic redstone building was built on top of the hill with supporting structures and houses for the staff below. This imposing structure was nicknamed "Preston Castle." 

Abandoned in 1960, it sat deteriorating for several years until a foundation created to preserve it was formed. They bought the castle and a few acres around it.

The foundation now gives tours on Saturdays during spring and summer. Reservations are required and can be booked online at

While not a gold mining town, Ione has a classic Gold Rush era downtown with several buildings dating back to the 1850's. Daniel Stewart built what is considered the oldest building in town for his general store in 1854. It now houses Salon Envy across the street from the Native Sons of the Golden West hall and the IOOF which both date from the same time.

A quick walk down the three blocks of Main Street yield more nuggets of history. It's also nice that Ione is the most wheelchair friendly downtown we've found in California's Gold Country.

The old Commercial Hotel, built in 1964, is now the City Hall. Still serving as a hotel, the Ione Hotel (no accessible rooms) has been in business since the 1850s but the current building dates to 1910. Another fire almost destroyed it in 1988 but it has been fully restored with a nice restaurant on the first floor (ask to see the haunted well that still exists in the middle of the dining room).

The old 1850s flour mill now serves as a charter school at the west end of Main Street. The original cabin from the 1840s has been expanded into a building shared by a real estate office and hair salon. You can still make out the diagonal swinging doors on the old saloon on the corner of Buena Vista Street but it is now a very fine butcher shop. A modern saloon, Tilly's, sits two doors down if you fancy a drink.

The old movie theater now houses another beauty salon and the town's ice cream parlor and candy shop. Another pub, Grumpy Jeff's, rounds out the block on the next corner (check our our Ione Pub Crawl). 

Look behind City Hall and you'll see Iron Ivan, the last steam locomotive of the old Amador Central Railrod. A couple of blocks away sits the old derelict train depot, along with the last locomotive of what was then called Amador Foothills Railroad, an old switching engine, next to the junior high.

That junior high was the original high school of the county with the oldest building dating to 1903. Around the corner, the tall brick spire of the United Methodist Church tops a building that dates back to 1864.

On the hill behind sits the original Catholic Church in the midst of its cemetery. Across the street, the Public Cemetery dates to 1850. Behind that, Howard park...formerly the racetrack of Charles Howard, owner of Seabiscuit...provides ample room for recreation.

The park is also the center of a three-day party and festival held each May called Homecoming.

Ione is not easy to find. It's not on the major highways...49, 88, or 16...of Amador County (you have to detour a few miles off of 88 on 104 or 124) and does not attract the crowds of tourists that other towns in the region do but it is truly an underrated and undiscovered historic gem.

Definitely worth it to spend a day or more on your Gold Country explorations.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved