Long ago, 6 years now, I came back to the Mighty P after being laid off. Because I was gone 3 years, I had to start over with accruing vacation time. Meanwhile, Michelle, who has been there 25+ years, earns more than a day every pay period.
Then, with the new job I have, it has been hard to take more than just a long weekend together. Last month, we finally made it happen. We took our first week off together in almost a year. Destination: Wine country in California!
Yep, I know, normally I am SO much better at blogging the vacations… But here we go!
In August 2015, Michelle and I, with Mark, Kim, and Rob, spent a week in Santa Rosa. The ladies did a half marathon, there was a short bike ride through the vineyards, and we tasted some good wine.
Michelle and I had talked about going back, and even booked a trip in 2017, but the smoke and fires stopped us. This year we decided to go before the fire season!
We took off early Saturday to drive down. It’s about a 10 hour drive from Lincoln City to St Helena where we were staying, We had considered flying, but when we were making plans, the President had the government shut down, with no end in sight. We didn’t want to have to deal with cranky TSA agents who weren’t being paid. So the road trip was on!
I have to tell you, we have come to the Ocean so often for vacation, it felt weird to leave! But I am glad we did.
The fist stop was Ashland for a quick brunch with Mark and Kim. We were then flying south.
I have not crossed the border to California to Oregon more than a time or two. I always forget there is a 4300 ft mountain pass between the two states! It was snowing like you would NOT believe! Luckily the road were clear and dry, we had no issues.
As you can see though, there was no view of Mt. Shasta on he other side of the pass, just his little brother Black Butte
Once south of here though, the roads were dry and we made good time!
It was a fun trip, but from the signs on the road though it appears NorCal is trying to secede from the Union. they want to become the state of Jefferson! I think this against the rules….
When we were 10 miles from the Hotel, the weather changed a bit! Suddenly it was a gully washer, just pouring down rain. When it stopped I laughed and said, “Wow, we’ve had everything but hail on this drive.” No lie, 45 seconds later, we got pelted by hail!!!
I am not kidding here, after that happened, I made sure NOT so mention the word earthquake….
Everyone has heard of Napa, but there a few different towns in that area. There is Yountville, St Helena, where we were staying, and Calistoga.. There are others as well, but these were where we spent most of our time.
Everywhere you look, regardless of the town, there are vineyards! The term “Winecountry” fits.
This was one of the more relaxing trips we’ve ever had.
We would wake up then spend the morning reading books, and hanging out in the room. Then we’d go down for the continental breakfast. (The English muffins were huge and yummy!) Then back for more hanging out,
Then we’d walk the town a bit, getting Michelle an iced tea or just checking out the little stores.
We would have one big meal a day, usually lunch. Our favorite place turned out to be the Italian place in town, Cook restaurant, I am not sure what this is, but it sits overhead when you are there.
We went there so often, and evidently ordered the same thing each time, that the head chef made a point to tell out server he remembered us and thanked us for liking his food! It was good!!!
The other place that is amazing is Gotts Roadside. If you watch Diner, Drive-ins and Dives on the food network, this is one of the places Guy Fieri went to. I can tell you it is worth it!
Michelle also made surer to appease the geek in me! Close to St Helena was Old Faithful Geyser of California, nestled in the shadow of St Helena Mountain.
Sadly, the geyser is NOT worth the $15 per person entrance fee.
I am STILL not sure there wasn’t a button in the back office that made it go off! But the giggles I had, watching this thing sputter, and knowing I paid $30 to get in, THAT made it worth it!
Further up the hill though, was something WELL worth the $8 per person entry. The petrified forest! And not just any tree, petrified redwoods!
Watch out for these things though.
I don’t have to worry about these when I walk around here!
We learned there that Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island) lived in town for a while early in the 20th century. I ended up download the book he wrote there, The Silverado Squatters. It was pretty good, and I learned more about the area than I normally would have!
We also hit up Mission San Francisco Solano the 21st and Northern most Catholic mission built by the Spanish in the early days of North American colonization. It’s the first Spanish mission I’d ever been to.
I am happy to report lightning did NOT strike when I entered!
It also is my first up close look at a prickly pear!
Yep history and science nerd combined!
But, as you know, we were in wine country, but we didn’t go to a ton of places.
In St Helena, Clif Family (makers of Clif bars) was our go to place.
The people were VERY nice, the wine was good and, well, there are bikes!
Even the bottle is bike themed!
We also LOVE Silver Oak, it is one of Michelle’s favorites of all time.
PLUS, at Silver Oak, they were playing 80s music! The guy behind the bar, I think his name was Steve, was our age We hung out, talked music, and he made us feel welcome. We coulda stayed there all day!
This really doesn’t seem to be the norm for the area though. The wineries seem to be a bit pretentious, and entirely too expensive even just for a tasting. I think Michelle and I have been spoiled by Woodinville, Walla Walla and those wineries here in Oregon.
Case in point, Stewarts wines in Yountville.
We picked it at random, as we wanted to go somewhere new. The guy knew his wine, but seemed cold to me, and was miserly on the pours. We got 4 tastes for $40… APIECE!!! This made me hesitant to try other new ones….
Shoulda known better though, in Yountville they are pretty strict… You better get your information fast!!
On our last full day, Friday we again read books in the morning, then went for the burger and salad you saw above. I decided to surprised Michelle and take her back to Silver Oak. We ended up talking with someone who seemed to be a mucky muck at the winery and the nicest guy! He let us taste a couple of extra wines, and then retest ones we liked. Then when Steve (the guy behind the bar from earlier in the week) came by to hang out and chat a bit. the guy taking care of us Friday waived our fees. “Thanks for coming back a second time!”
That emboldened me a bit. When we had gone to see the geyser early on, we walked around the little town of Calistoga. They too were strict, but in different ways.
Since my mom LONG ago house broke me, we didn’t have to worry about this.
In our walk though, I saw this place
It was named after a bear that, during the early 1900s, would come out of the mountains and raid the property of the local justice of the peace. The bear was never caught, and this went on for years. After reading that, and seeing the label, I really wanted to try it.
So on a whim, we did!
How can you go wrong when you walk in and see this!
They found this bear on eBay, and it was delivered, standing up, in a pickup all the way from Colorado!. I would have loved to had seen this on the road!!!
The kid behind the bar, you can see him in the background, was amazing. I REALLY need to start writing down names. He was friendly, made us laugh, and told us how the vineyard keeps part of its property in the natural state for wildlife. In short, he, and the winery, were our Kinda people. PLUS it was damn good!
We had fun all week, but the people at Silver Oak and the Huge Bear mad Friday the best day of the trip!
The next morning, we were on the road at 6 AM, and with no traffic to contend with, home 9 hours later! It was good to be home, but we had SO much fun on a much-needed week away from any and all stress!
BUT, I would be remiss without sharing 2 more things!
First, they have these weird nuts that fall out of the trees down there. When they split open, there is a heart inside!
And, I don’t want to leave without saying something positive about Yountville. This was a piece of art on display and for sale! Where else could you buy a death ray for the back yard! I was ready to slap down the credit card, but Michelle talked me out of it….
I will say, after the long drive, it was good to be home!