Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Old Town Palm Springs

IMG_0915IMG_0913Bottomless champagne for breakfast.  Not my cup of tea, but you can have it at Pinocchio’s In The Desert restaurant.  Great breakfast menu and fun place.  The bar makes up half of the restaurant.  Old Town Palm Springs takes you back 40 years.  Fun morning walk.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Midnight at the Oasis

Joshua TreeBetween Paso Robles and Palm Springs, California, you drive through oil fields with pumping oil rigs looking like a scene from the one of the Terminator movies, then orchards of almonds, hundreds of windmills, and Joshua trees.  What funny little trees.  Why do they grow here?  They look so alien; like something from a Dr. Seuss book.   The photo to the left is a website copy.  We plan to visit the Joshua Tree National Park in the next few weeks and take some original photos up close and personal.

DSC_0115And then we see Palm Springs in the distance.  An oasis in the desert.  Literally.  Our RV Park, Outdoor Resorts, is truly paradise.  Our site is surrounded by colorful purple bougainvillea, lime and lemon trees (honestly, we have already picked a few), palm trees, manicured lawns and a golf course water feature directly out back complete with a fountain.  The splashing water put us to sleep last night.  The park has over 1,000 RV sites, five swimming pools, tennis courts, coffee shop, golf course and club houses.  It took us 30 minutes to ride our bikes through the park.

Each site is owned.  If the owner is absent, the spot is rented to grateful people, like us.  The pride of ownership is apparent everywhere.  Creative pavers rather than boring concrete.  Stylish patio furniture.  Potted plants.   Makes a big difference when the spots are owned and people treat the park with more respect.

I am not sure we can do everything there is to do in this city before we leave November 26.  So many casinos all with entertainment (local and big name celebrities), hiking (the tram climbs from the desert to the mountain top), museums, outdoor markets, a national park, spas, golfing, rat-pack memorabilia/homes and probably more.   Plus, we need to enjoy this fabulous RV Park!

Let the games begin.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Good-Bye Beautiful Central Coastal California

IMG_0870 We leave the coast of California today.  Destination Palm Springs.  This was a beautiful part of California and someday we will be back.

We were lucky to see a sunset like this one every day out our large back window.  Beautiful.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Elephant Seals

IMG_0899Driving down PCH (Pacific Coast Highway 1), we saw a number of viewing pull-outs for elephants seals.  The ones on the beach this time of year are juveniles or sub-adult males and they were HUGE!  The big bulls arrive on the scene in December and I bet they are really something to see.  The volunteer at the viewing area told us the real action starts in January – February when the mating seasons begins.  The locals bring down their lawn chairs and picnic on the beach for the afternoon during this time.  Is nothing sacred?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Best Day of My Life

Okay, I have had too much to drink.  But, really, it was an awesome day.
IMG_0910IMG_0907The weather was purrrfection  (72 degrees in Peachy Canyon), the wine tasting divine (our wine server was adorable, see picture right), and a pulled pork sandwich causing you to drool as you are eating it.  The Vine 4 Winery and Farmstand 46 Deli  pair up on Highway 46 West for the best eating and drinking California can offer.  We finally found “the” stem-less wine glasses we have been wanting at this winery; one with the logo “ZinBitch” (that glass is mine) and another “Heretic” with cool flames on the side of the glass.  Mike is really missing his Harley Heritage Softtail bike, and this glass said it all.

IMG_0908 And is it not a small world—our RV neighbors, Bob and G, the Dynamic Duo, walked through the door as we were sampling red wine #6 (there they are in the picture on the left).   They are full-timers from Florida.

We love the area between Paso Robles (known as “Paso” to locals) and the Pacific Ocean.  This may become our wintering grounds in the future.  Ocean. Wine. Golf. Food. Weather. Scenery. Not Crowded.

IMG_0911A note about today’s blog title… I shared an office with a really cool gal, Linda, for the last ten years before I retired.  Every day she would come to work with a new story about her  son, Jack (from age 3 to 13) .  Each time he experienced a fun new day, he would say, “This is the best day of my life”.  I really miss Linda and her stories of Jack, but I will use his line for my blog title today.  Cheers to you, Linda!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

King of the Hill

IMG_0876One of the items on our bucket list was to see the Hearst Castle, and we made the trip to San Simeon, California yesterday to take the tour.  Believe me, the visit and the tour were so worth it.  What a class act.  Although it seems distasteful to build such an extravagant place during the U.S. Depression in the 1930’s, I have to say I am so glad he did.  In retrospect, the project and maintenance probably provided quite a few jobs, a Stimulus Project, if you will.

IMG_0891The Castle is a hodgepodge of style and artwork from every European country and era.  But, it comes together beautifully.  What was unbelievable to both of us was the art, sculptures (white Carrera marble looked almost translucent in the morning sun) , furniture, tile, and ceilings were original—hundreds of years old—imported from Spain, France, Italy, and other European countries.   Mike rarely likes tours, but he could barely close his mouth, he was so amazed.

Our tour guide was not your typical jokester.  He was suave and sophisticated telling interesting stories about the Castle and people taking the tour over the 37 years he has been on the job.  Many years ago, one of his groups included Cary Grant, who just wanted to see the place again.  How excited our guide must have been that day!

I especially liked the fact that William Randolph Hearst hired a woman architect and builder, something never done during the early part of the 20th century.  This woman was a genius; and more importantly, she had patience…William Randolph was particular and he would frequently change his mind.  Moving a four story concrete wall or tearing out and re-doing a swimming pool the size of a football field is no easy feat.

I could go on and on about the intricate design in the eaves, the manicured gardens, an indoor pool with sky blue and gold (real gold) tile—instead if you have the opportunity, please visit the Castle or at the very least take a look at their website.   http://www.hearstcastle.org/

A magical place on the hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Late Harvest in Central Coastal California

IMG_0856Every once in a while you get a really great bargain AND a special evening to remember (usually bargain and good time are not found in a sentence together, are they?).  Last night was one of those times.  This is the Late Harvest Celebration weekend in Paso Robles, and it is all about kicking back after the final fall grape harvest.   Lucky for us, we scheduled our stay here during the Celebration held the third weekend of every October.

IMG_0863On Friday, our RV Park hosted five wineries in their clubhouse, including local olive oil vendors.  The wineries set up shop for complete wine tastings.  The Park provided appetizers (more like dinner) while you sampled wine.  It was there we learned JJ Cellars was having a BBQ, Blues Band, and all the wine you can drink on Saturday night at “their place”.  For $35 each, we decided to give it a try. 

We were not disappointed. The setting was glorious (view from our table in the upper left picture), there was mouth watering food, and head bobbin’ music.  Only 10 miles on the back roads from our home site out in the middle of the vineyards in San Miguel, California.  The event location was beautifully landscaped with  plenty of  covered seating, outdoor heaters to keep you warm, and a upbeat blues band, “Code Blue”.   All with a backdrop of miles and miles of rolling hills lined with grape vines. 

IMG_0867 The number of people attending was limited; so it was a comfortable crowd of 100-150 people.   There were three types of BBQ’ed meats—beef, pork and chicken.  Many salads, cheeses, fresh fruit, marinated vegetables and desserts to die for—where did they get that pumpkin pie?  And get this, all the wine you want to drink.  They have a red wine, Malbec, that was perfect for the meal (our opinion).

We watched the sun set around 7 p.m. and tapped our toes ‘til late.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Little Off the Top

200px-Marge_Simpson Getting a good haircut in a new, unfamiliar town requires an unusual new skill set.  First, you search for a gal in the store, the bank, or a waitress in the restaurant with a cute hairstyle.  Next, how to find out where she got the cut.  You compliment her haircut in a way that does not seem like you are hitting on her or you want something “special”.  People are suspicious of strangers fawning over them (probably, for good reason).  We had one odd moment in a bank when I complimented the teller, she giggled, and the other bank employee glared at me.  Clearly, the one I complimented was flattered and the other figured I wanted something unethical.  Oh well, they will never see me again.

Finally, I get their hair salon name, stylist, and call to make an appointment.  It is amazing how easy it is to get an appointment when you explain you are passing through town and you spied “so and so’s” striking haircut at the bank…”Do you happen to have an opening today?”  “Why, yes of course!”

So far, so good.  BTW, this is a little trickier for Mike.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Grape Harvest

DSCN0380This morning we opened the window shade in the big back window and saw the grape vines shaking like nobody’s business.  What is going on?  Was it really windy?  No.  Are we experiencing an earthquake?  No, only the vines were shaking.  Finally, we could see them (if you look closely in the picture you can see their hats).  Lots and lots of workers picking as fast as they could.  Once their baskets were full of grapes, they would run, RUN!, to the vehicle collecting the baskets.  They were in and out of five acres in about two hours.   

Sunday, October 10, 2010

RV Quality of Life - Top 10 Products (not Technology related)

Efficiency has become our middle name, and we have adapted well to our RV lifestyle.   The following items have made life that much easier for us.

Stressless recliner1.  The original RV furniture with our 5th wheel really was not our style, plus it was not comfortable.  We purchased two Ekorne Stressless recliners (http://www.ekornes.com/) with the fold-away laptop table and gave away the big original recliner and sleeper sofa.   The picture to the right is from the website; our chairs are actually black leather.  The chairs are a little pricey, but the quality and comfort of the chair and the function of the laptop desk sold us.

IMG_00572.  Upper cabinets in your RV can become a miserable mess without any thought to organization.  We found a great website http://www.organization.com/ selling boxes fitting perfectly in our cabinet.  We are able to fit about 12 labeled burgundy boxes trimmed in black (happens to be our color scheme—RV redecoration—will explain in another blog).  Fantastic!  For example, one box holds our cameras/camera accessories, another box contains office supplies, another software, and you get the idea.  Can you imagine the jumble without the boxes?

LevengerTable3.  Why use the original RV end tables with no storage when you can have so much more?  When you need a table but have little space, our No-Room-for-a-Table Table made by http://www.levenger.com/ fits perfectly next to my recliner. Hidden hinges allow the top to lift from either side to reveal an oblong storage compartment, and there's a shelf below. Two of the leather baskets fit snugly within the table's storage compartment and the shelf basket holds our frequently used files (bills, RV park reservations/information, medical records, miscellaneous, and magazines).

4.  Storing heavy pots and pans can be a real challenge in a RV.  You do not want to put them in a deep drawer since the jostling occurring as your travel will break the bottom.  Under the sink and the upper cabinets are usually too small and awkward.  Our solution was to install a roomy, deep sliding  basket in our kitchen “garage”.  Rails attach to the insides of the cabinet so you can simply slide the basket in and out with one hand, bringing anything you need right to your fingertips. Basket is made of heavy duty steel with chrome finish.  We bought ours at http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/, but I see them at Home Depot and Lowes, too.

IMG_0056 5.  Since we pitched the sleeper sofa, we had plenty of room for a larger “end table” with some extra storage.  Pottery Barn had a great solution for a table, storage (we use it for Mike’s shoes), and it is sturdy enough to use as extra seating.  http://www.potterybarn.com/  The black “box” in the picture is our solution for extra storage and a table.

6.  Our Britta water pitcher is our answer to reliable clean drinking water on the road.  You really do not know what condition an RV Park water system is in; so why chance it?  We love our Britta and use it constantly.

7.  A portable ice maker can be considered a luxury, but I want ice in my drink and lots of it.  I hate dealing with the little plastic ice cube trays—I am short and every time I tried to put the trays in the freezer I spilled water all over me.  Ughh!!  I really like love our portable ice maker.

8.  Washer and Dryer—cannot live without it.  See blog posted on July 19, 2010.

9.  After traveling down the road with your RV, I can guarantee you that the contents of the medicine cabinet will come tumbling out when you open the door.  Simple solution—we purchased little bamboo trays (again from Bed, Bath and Beyond) fitting perfectly on the shelves.  Works like a charm.

garbagecan 10.  Simple Human makes great products and we are sold on their garbage can.  Yep, you read correctly.  The garbage can made it on the list.  Instead of using valuable cabinet space (which I now use for MY shoes) our garbage can is located conveniently at the end of the counter.  The lid seals up nice and tight; the stainless steel blends perfectly with our stainless steel appliances.  http://www.simplehuman.com/

So, there you have it.  From the expensive to the cheap.  They are our solutions to-date and we are always trying to improve.  Let me know if you have more ideas!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Firestone Winery

IMG_0840It is a short walk to the Firestone Winery Tasting Room from our RV Park.  Today, we walked through their vineyard and on up to the fairly recently built winery (2007).   The winery, which is located at the corner of Highway 46 East and Airport Road near downtown Paso Robles, features a tasting room, barrel cellar, enclosed patio, vineyard and terraced gardens with picnic accommodations.  We walked by  grapes still waiting to be picked in the vineyard—smelled wonderful.

Looking from the winery over to the RV Park (picture on the lower right) you can catch a glimpse of our 5’er through the trees.  We think we have the best spot in the park.

We pinch ourselves everyday to make sure we are not dreaming.  This lifestyle is so much fun.

A drinking quote for you, “Beauty is in the eye of the wine holder.”

IMG_0842 IMG_0847IMG_0846

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Paso Robles

The smaller city of Paso Robles, California (approx. 30,000 population) has won its way into our hearts.  It is easy to drive around, a revitalized old downtown with artsy little restaurants , clean, beautiful golf courses, relatively close to the beaches, and so many wineries you cannot hardly count them.  Our back window looks out over a vineyard and a Tuscan-looking winery.  There is a trail next to our site, it goes through the vineyard, and on to the winery.  How convenient is that?

WineCountry#1The RV Park, Wine Country RV, is tied for the best park we have stayed in so far.  They have wide, long sites, all beautifully landscaped.  There is an adult-only hot tub landscaped for privacy behind huge boulders and includes a splashing waterfall.  It rivals any up-scale hotel resort.  We were hot-tubbing the first night here.  Good thing we have plastic wineglasses and a non-breakable water cooler that holds exactly a bottle of wine.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Traffic Control

cali-freeway-01 I really do not do well with heavy traffic.  Especially California drivers.  I think it is the passenger part of travel that gets to me.  If I am the driver, it is not so bad.  As a passenger I really suck.  My hands flutter, I clutch the door handle, my foot pumps an imaginary brake—I make Mike crazy! 

I am getting better stopping my seizure-like antics, but this is a work in progress.  Tomorrow, we relocate south to Paso Robles, California.  I will control myself.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gilroy Premium Outlets

GilroyOutlet The Gilroy Premium Outlet Mall is huge—145 stores.  Four blocks, or distinct shopping areas, with stores like Saks 5th Avenue, Banana Republic, Coach, Cole Haan, Bose, Polo Ralph Lauren and the list goes on and on.  Any more,  I am not a big fan of shopping and Mike never has enjoyed shopping (that is an understatement).  But, we needed some things and how fortunate to be able to shop at discounted prices and have lots of opportunity to find up-to-date and items sized right.  Gap T-shirts at $6 apiece, Timberland shorts for Mike at $14, Ann Taylor dress pants and skirt for $50 (petites! to fit my shortness), and a J.Crew scarf and belt (with studs, no less).

Life is good.
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