Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009, through Saturday, December 5, 2009: Quick trip to Park City, Utah:
By pre-arrangement, we drove to Los Angeles on Tuesday and spent the night at the (Jonathan) Town Club. We had our free (except for the wine) anniversary dinner in the second floor dining room. (It’s a minor perk of membership.) It was wonderful. We arose at 4:30 the next morning to head for the Long Beach airport and our Jet Blue flight to Salt Lake City. Donna picked us up and drove us to their home in Park City, where we will be staying (along with the senior Bernsteins). There were two big reasons for the trip: Thursday was Grandparents’ Day at The Waterford School (in Sandy) where Meghan and Emily attend, and Saturday we are going to two performances of The Nutcracker, in which Meghan has two roles (including a solo performance).

On Thursday, we spent the entire school day sitting in with the kids in their classes. Outstanding!!! What a terrific school. It was interesting to note that English teachers are still trying to figure out what Walt Whitman meant in his writings. On Friday, we did virtually nothing, except have dinner at a local eatery (Grub Steak). Wonderful!!!
Saturday was, of course, The Nutcracker, with Meghan as the lead Spanish dancer. She was terrific, in both performances. Some of the other performers were a little tired for the second show, I thought, and suffered a few mis-steps. In one sense it was the best Nutcracker (of many) that we have seen---in that it was a Readers' Digest version, only one hour long. Hurray!!!

Sunday, November 29 through Monday, November 30, 2009; at Wilderness Lakes (Menifee, California):
This Thousand Trails preserve is only 15 miles from Hemet, so we sent the girls ahead to find us a pair of perfect sites. They did a great job: we are side-by-side, backed up to (that is, with a view of) the lake. Bill discovered that there are pickle ball games every morning. He talked Becky into joining him Monday morning. They had a great time and a lot of exercise. The four of us met Bob and Beverly Newhouse for lunch in Sun City, and visited their home (in Murrieta)
after lunch---to be introduced to “Wii” which is their new passion. The games are fun.
That evening, Bill and I enjoyed the Patriots-Saints game while Pat and Becky went off on a walk with Daisy.

Sunday, November 22, through Saturday, November 28, in Hemet, California:
We spent this week at a less-than-perfect RV park in Hemet. The highlight was spending Thanksgiving in San Gabriel at the home of Peter and Terry Shelton, Becky’s brother and sister-in-law. A bunch of the Shelton gang was there.
We took a day trip to Idyllwild the next day. What a mob. It seems that Thanksgiving weekend is a major event there, and a lot was going on. We visited the Thousand Trails preserve there, to scope it out. It was very beautiful, but it was on so many levels (being in the mountains) that it seemed extremely difficult to get a rig into many of the camp sites. On Saturday, we went to Newport Beach to visit John and Sherry Phelan
and see their new house---which is under construction. It’s truly amazing---as should be any home that takes two years to build. The low point in the week was discovering that Bill Wheeler’s bicycle was stolen late Tuesday night---it was parked right next to his rig in the RV park. The policeman who came to the park and took the report indicated that bicycle theft was rampant in Hemet. It’s not a very nice place. We won’t be returning.

Monday, November 9 through Saturday, November 21, 2009: Near Santa Barbara, California:
We left the beach area and headed for Rancho Oso, a Thousand Trails preserve between Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez. We arrived without incident. Rancho Oso is a 310 acre property in the Los Padres National Forest, the largest national forest in the country. Rancho Oso is a beautiful facility, with all the usual facilities, plus horses. It does not have cell-phone service, though, and the Wi-Fi hot spot is at the adult lodge only. For the first few days, we mostly relaxed and enjoyed the respite from our verrrrry hectic pace. Becky, Pat, and Daisy hiked a lot of their local trails, and we all hiked up to their local waterfall.
Pat and Becky acquired a bit of poison oak along the way.

I have been surviving (actually, thriving) on Cream of Wheat, various soups, Ensure, and Diet Mountain Dew. It hasn’t been as bad as I expected. Yesterday, my nurse, Becky, allowed me to add grapes and pinot noir to my diet. I chewed each grape what seemed like a hundred times, just to be sure. Tonight, I’m adding salmon and salad to my diet.

The Wheelers finally joined us on Thursday night (the 12th) having completed their rig’s first-year warranty work at the factory in Lancaster, which took more than a week. We went to Pea Soup Andersen’s in Buellton on Saturday---and toured Solvang on the way back. We also stopped at the Shoestring Winery in Solvang
and picked up three more of their wineglasses, to complete our set of six. We had stopped there four years ago when we were last here and bought the first of their glasses; we have broken and purchased a few more (via the Internet) since then. We also stopped at Alisal Ranch, also in Solvang, where we celebrated our 20th anniversary and renewed our wedding vows four years ago. Today a number of great memories were revived. The evening was topped off by having Notre Dame lose (to Pitt) and having USC annihilated by Stanford.

Yesterday, we headed north on a day trip to San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Cambria, and San Simeon. The primary purpose was to visit Hearst Castle. We had been there before, but it was a new treat for Pat and Bill.
They were suitably impressed. I acknowledge that some people think it’s disgusting, but I consider it to be tasteful opulence. For contrast, we also stopped at the Madonna Inn, in San Luis Obispo, a property that is tastelessly garish. But it’s fun to see. Becky admits to spending a lot of time there when she attended UC Santa Barbara many years ago.

On Friday, the 20th, we had dinner at the Cold Spring Tavern (located on the old stagecoach road between Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez) with Eldon and Karen Shiffman---Eldon being a former banking friend of Becky’s, who lives in the area. The Wheelers went with us. I had another of my embarrassing esophagus adventures, this one lasting only a half-hour before resolving itself. I had violated the two-week hiatus in eating solid food and drinking no alcohol. Apparently, I’m not chewing enough. I’m being very careful now. On Saturday night, we had a barbecue with the Wheelers and some new guests at Rancho Oso, Gary and Michelle
---who have been full-timing for only a month and a half.
It’s such fun being the veterans in this exercise and rendering sage advice to the rookies.

Saturday, November 7, and Sunday, November 8, 2009: At the Beach:
We have been looking forward to spending “First Saturday” at the (second) home of our friends Paul Basile and Diane Chierichetti in Manhattan Beach. On the first Saturday of every month (hence the name, ”First Saturday”) they host a BYOSomething dinner party. We headed out with the Wheelers to Manhattan Beach, with Becky driving the Wheelers’ car because she knew where we were going and Bill and Pat had no clue. The theme this month was French. We brought three bottles of St. Emilion wine and a bottle of Courvoisier Cognac (VSOP, of course, since we are tres sophisticated). Paul cooked Boeuf Bourguignon, which (I understand) was very tasty. The reason I can’t be sure is that I chewed the first bite incompletely (okay, I wolfed it down) and it got stuck in my esophagus. I did not take another bite of anything, and devoted myself to trying to move the one piece I had taken. Thirteen exhausting hours later, I gave up trying to get the meat to either come back up or complete its trip to my stomach, and I headed for the nearest urgent care facility. (By pre-arrangement, we had spent the night at a hotel in Manhattan Beach.) After probing and prodding for two hours, those folks sent me to the nearest hospital emergency room, where, after taking every test known to western medicine, they stuck a camera (with a hook of some kind attached) down my throat and pulled out the offending blob of Boeuf Bourguignon.
I have now been relegated to a diet of clear (but non-alcoholic) liquid and soft food for two weeks, to allow my innards to heal from the harsh treatment to which they have been subjected.

Friday, November 6, 2009: Heading back to Acton:
Today, we went back to the Soledad Canyon TT preserve in Acton, California. We chose to go back by a different route---to avoid the dreaded “grapevine” and its phalanx of trucks. We have nothing against trucks, per se. They provide a very valuable service. But they complicate our driving when they surround us on a slope---either upward or downward. So we went via Bakersfield and Mojave. It was a painless exercise, and we arrived without incident. Our previous spot at the preserve (which we had liked very much) was available, but we decided not to take it---since it would have had us facing a neighbor: (i) whom we did not know, and (ii) who had a motorcycle. (You know how much noise they can make.) So we took the next spot, which faces no one, and has a small greenbelt next to it. We haven’t heard the motorcycle yet.

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