Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 27-29: It’s the law: You must wine...

Who are we to ignore the fact that we’re in Wine Country? Of course, for us, we can make almost anywhere we are into Wine Country.

Friday night, we almost made it to Jocko’s up in Nipomo (about 30 minutes away) for steaks, but logistics coordinating with other family members, not to mention a lack of reservations at a place known for wait times measured in hours, conspired against us. Fortunately, we’ll probably be passing this way in the Fall on our way back to Arizona, so that was only a minor disappointment.

Especially since we were only 3 minutes away from another of our favorite steak places, the Hitching Post in Buellton. We’ve been going to this place for decades; Kathy was the one who introduced us to the place back in the late 1970s. Back then, it was a quieter time. Since the restaurant was featured in the movie Sideways in 2004, crowds have been larger, noisier, and more “touristy”. Without reservations, we were able to secure a couple of spots at the bar after a short wait and were soon elbow deep in great steaks and a bottle of their renowned house Pinot Noir.

On Saturday, we headed back toward Lompoc to make a stop at Foley Estates Winery, one of Geri’s favorites. In “the old days”, we would have identified several wineries to visit, mapped out a route, and made a day trip of it. These days, we pick one, maybe two, and tend to settle in. In this case, we did the standard tasting at Foley and ended up buying a couple of glasses of what we liked best. We skulked out a spot at one of the outside tables and settled in. We invited other wine drinkers to join us and met some new people. We relaxed and enjoyed.



We made plans to meet Cherie on Sunday afternoon at the “Wine Ghetto” in Lompoc. This area, “behind the Home Depot”, is a small industrial park that’s been almost completely taken over by small wineries. Since Cherie is the “local expert”, we let her be our tour guide. She led us through four tasting rooms before closing time, all within walking distance of each other. What an awesome place for winos!

This was a wonderful way to wrap up our stay. We’re back on the road tomorrow…


Friday, June 27, 2014

June 26-27: Celebrating Kathy in Lompoc

As mentioned in a prior post, our first stop in this summer’s travels was quite bittersweet. Geri’s only sister, Kathy, passed away in late May after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. Family and friends gathered in Lompoc from across the country at the end of June to celebrate her life and spirit.

The first order of business was a family get-together on Thursday night at a local restaurant. It was wonderful seeing everyone again or meeting a few for the first time, especially since, like many families, the geographic spread is wide. Folks traveled from other parts of California (Orange County and California City), Washington, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. All four of Kathy’s children were there, as were all of her grandchildren, most of her great-grandchildren, and even her great-great-grandson.

On Friday, family and friends met at the Lompoc Cemetery for a nice service and placing of the ashes. It was simple, inclusive, and informal. Kathy would have approved.










After the graveside service, everyone adjourned to the local American Legion for visiting and remembering. Kathy was member of this legion post (Lompoc is an Air Force town, located in the shadow of Vandenberg AFB) and a past officer of the Ladies Auxiliary. Several people, us included, brought pictures of various vintages for everyone to share.





Some of us then spent a little time at the local wine bar where Debbie (Kathy's daughter) and Cherie (Debbie's daughter) both work part-time. We finished out the day at Kathy’s old house, where we had more food and conversation before heading back to our spot in Buellton, about 15 miles east of Lompoc.

Sadly for the family members gathered, they were also grieving for Ron, Kathy’s first husband, who passed away in Ohio in mid-June. We were able to express our condolences, as they were making plans to travel east in a few weeks for another celebration of life…


Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 25-26: Go West, Old Man

We’ve done this trip before, so it was an easy drive from Peoria to Buellton, CA. We finished up with the last minute activities around the house right on schedule around 12:30 PM, before the temperature hit 105°. We were soon tooling down the AZ Loop 101 highway and making that big right turn onto I-10 West for Los Angeles. It was a pretty uneventful drive in spite of the strong winds and high temperatures. We ran the generator the whole way to keep the air conditioning going, and I was watching the analog and digital gauges carefully, as this was our first long drive since the engine problems of last fall. Everything ran fine, although it did seem like tire and engine (oil and coolant) temperatures ran higher than usual. With outside ambient temperatures near 110°, this was probably within the “normal” range.

After a quick fuel stop in North Palm Springs, we reached our first night’s destination, the Morongo Casino. We’ve stayed here before, so we know our way to the RV parking area, which is well away from the I-10. It’s roughly half way to Buellton in Santa Barbara County, and makes a great stopping point on Day One of any trip this way, since we always leave midday.



We got a reasonably good night’s rest and were ready for travel early on Thursday morning. The only tricky part of this segment is looping around LA. No matter what, there’s always some kind of traffic to be patient about. The toughest part is that there aren’t any good places for a “rest stop” for much of the route. “Merlin, you’ve just got to hold it” only works for so long.

Our route took us west on the I-10 to the 210. This is a relatively new (less than 10 years) segment of freeway, and isn’t fully designated as “Interstate” yet. The easternmost segment is CA-210. Once it crosses I-215 or I-15, it changes to I-210, which runs through the Foothills north and west of LA, all the way to I-5.

All this “new” stuff was apparently too much for our PC-based GPS navigation system, since it couldn’t seem to understand how the roads connected. It wanted us to take I-215 north and I-15 south, about 25 miles out of our way, just to travel on I-210. When I refused, it actually gave up, posting a message that it was unable to develop routing. That’s even worse than listening to “Off route. Recalculating…” for miles. This may be the last year for the PC-based system, as Google Maps and even Siri on my phone can do better.

We ran into the expected traffic on I-210 near Pasadena, but it didn’t last for long and we were once again back to cruising speed. Things got a little slower as we climbed from Pasadena up to Pacoima and Sylmar on I-210, then used the Truck Lanes on I-5 up and over Newhall Pass.

Soon, we made the turn onto CA-126 just past Santa Clarita and were able to find a turnout for that much-needed pit stop. From there, the rest of the drive was clear sailing on a familiar route: CA-126 to Santa Paula and US-101 near Ventura, our first peek at the Pacific, US-101 “North” (it’s really northwest then almost due west) through Carpenteria, Santa Barbara, and Goleta to Gaviota. There, we made the big right turn inland, through the tunnel, past the CA-1 cut-off for Lompoc, and up into the Santa Ynez Valley and Buellton.

It didn’t take long for us to get settled at our destination, Flying Flags RV Park, where we usually stay when we’re in the area.




Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 15-24: Ready to hit the road!

Let me start by saying we’re steadily getting used to the heat. After eight winters in Arizona, the body adjusts. However, getting ready for travel has been interesting. It’s been hot. Usually, I’m able to look at the extended forecast and pick what days look good for various activities like washing the coach and loading bulky items. Not so much this time around, primarily because we’ve had a different target departure date. Don’t get me wrong; delaying departure by 8-10 weeks was the right thing to do. If we do this again, I’ll have to rethink some of the activities and schedule accordingly.

One of the interesting side effects of the summer heat is the impact on the house’s water system. This picture shows "cold" water out of the tap in the early afternoon. At some point, we could probably turn the water heater off!

It’s also nice to have friends with a pool! Even though Geri’s been attending a water aerobics class each morning at our community’s pool, she really enjoyed our visit to Ana & Larry’s for their annual Pool Party celebrating Larry’s Birthday and Father’s Day.


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Part of getting ready to travel is packing all the essentials. Geri was lucky enough to get another “care package” from Connecticut with more Utz Chips, which aren’t available in Arizona. Other brands just aren’t the same.


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Later in the month, we had Ana & Larry join us for dinner at our place. Do you think Larry enjoyed the T-Bone?


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So, now we’re just about ready to leave. The coach is mostly loaded, except for last minute stuff that we need in the house. We've had our traditional pizza dinner at the local Grimaldi's. Tomorrow, we’ll finish that up and prepare the house for departure, resetting the thermostat, draining the water heater, turning off the water and gas, and generally sealing things up. West Coast, here we come!