Monday, May 21, 2012

Thursday, May 10, through Monday, May 21, 2012: At Soledad Canyon (Mostly):

The 110-mile trip to the Soledad Canyon Thousand Trails Preserve was a no-brainer, once we decided to avoid rush-hour traffic by going around the downtown LA area.  We set up in a 50-amp site in the usual area we prefer, and settled in to enjoy the heat.  (It was 95 when we arrived.)

Thursday and Friday were mostly relaxation days.  (We had Chinese takeout Thursday evening from the nearby Wences Bistro.)  We did tour the new, badly needed Ace Hardware store in Acton on Friday.  It has been under construction for several months, and we have been watching its progress.  It’s finally open, and it’s very nice.  Most people don’t think it’s a big deal for a hardware store to open, but Becky and I are avid hardware store aficionados---me for the parts and Becky for the housewares.  Becky and Ramsey also took a number of walks.

Saturday evening, there was a free dinner (in honor of Mothers Day) at the family lodge, which we avoided because they were serving spaghetti (not Becky‘s favorite dish), but the dinner was followed by a live band (the same one that performed there on New Year’s Eve) to which we spent some time listening and dancing.

Sunday was another relaxation day, except that we celebrated Mothers Day by having an early dinner at the nearby Don Cuco’s Mexican Restaurant. 

I was excited to find Whitefish Vera Cruz on the menu, but was disappointed with the taste.  Fortunately, I was able to wash it down with a couple of oversized, delicious margaritas so it was not a total loss.

Sunday evening we watched Larry Crowne on HBO.  It was a typical Tom Hanks movie---largely predictable, but cute.  Monday was a shopping day in Palmdale, where, as usual, we stripped the Wal-Mart shelves bare.  Tuesday was another relaxation day.

Wednesday, we picked up Becky’s dad and his caregiver Raphael in Pasadena, and headed for the Jonathan Beach Club for lunch.  Becky’s brother John met us there.  It was a beautiful day and we all enjoyed it immensely.

On Thursday, we gave up on our toilet which, though only 1 ½ years old, was giving us problems.  So, on her way back for getting a facial in downtown Los Angeles, she picked up a new toilet at the RV dealer in Acton (All Valley RV) and I installed it immediately---with only one stop at the new, conveniently-located Ace Hardware store for parts.  That was followed by a visit from Sal Velez, Jr., a neighbor at the RV preserve, who is also an actor and a dog trainer. 

He came to give us a quick refresher in how to manage our dog. (We had last been trained when we got Roxanne in 1989. We’re a little rusty.) Sal spent an hour and a half walking us through the basics---Heel, Sit, and Stay. We will spend the next five months working on those, and will call him again when we return to Soledad Canyon at the end of October.

On Friday, we dropped Ramsey off at the local kennel we love and left for the weekend (sans trailer) at the Justin Vineyard & Winery 213 miles away in Paso Robles, California.  

We had stopped there last October just for the typical tasting, and liked the place so much we reserved one the four guest rooms they have for this weekend---to celebrate Becky’s 60th birthday.  It’s a long way there---215 miles---but we did it in leisurely fashion. The Tuscany Suite was not quite ready when we got there, so we had to kill an hour in their tasting room.  Damn!  The room was lovely.

We had arranged to meet Barbara Coad and Carla Schmidt (Barbara came from Los Angeles for the weekend and Carla came from San Francisco for the weekend) for dinner at McPhee’s Grill in nearby Templeton.

(It took 45 minutes to get there, half of which was getting from the winery to downtown Paso Robles.)  Interesting place, one of only two restaurants anyone goes to in Templeton, apparently.  We all had hamburgers; they were delicious.

When we made the reservations at the winery, we did not realize this weekend was the 30th annual Paso Robles Wine Festival, the main event of which was a mass wine tasting in the city park on Saturday.  We arrived at 11:00AM to get a decent parking place, and waited for the noon whistle to blow---announcing the opening of the event.  It was great fun.  There were about 50 wineries represented, all with their own booths and open bottles of wine.  By pre-arrangement, we met Barbara and Carla there, and, as well, our friends Sherry and John Phelan

(who had come up for the weekend from Irvine).  After slugging down several glasses with them, we all went across the street for a late lunch of Mexican food.

Saturday night we all met again for dinner at the winery.  Barbara and Carla got lost getting there and arrived about a half-hour late---having gone about 30 miles out of the way.  We had waited for them, so it was no big deal.  The dinner was spectacular.  It was a five-course “fixed” dinner, with three choices at each course.  We all chose a wonderful New York steak for the main course, but went every which way for the other courses.  I had a dessert consisting of Crème Fraiche Cheesecake with Pistachio crumble, Vanilla poached pear, and Apricot sorbet.  (I hadn't had that in quite a while.)  We also plowed through several bottles of the Justin wine, which magically appeared on the table.

Sunday, we met Sherry and John for a quick tour of Cambria (about an hour away, near the coast), to visit cutesy shops.  Becky got a new hat at one of them.

Becky and I then headed back to the winery for a 2:30PM formal tour.  Interesting.  We had added Sunday night to our stay some time after making the original reservation.  They could give us the Tuscany Suite for only two of the three nights, so we had to move to a different room for Sunday night.  By the end of the tour, our new room was ready.  It turned out the new room (the Bordeaux Suite) was twice the size of the Tuscany Suite, with a dining room and kitchen, and located at the site of the tour,

which was the production area of the winery, a quarter-mile from where the other rooms were.  It was very nice, but a little strange because there was no one else around once the workers went home. Barbara stayed for a while, and we had cheese and bread (and wine, of course) for dinner.

Monday morning, it all came to an end, and we left right after breakfast for Soledad Canyon.  Five hours later, and after a quick lunch at Don Perico's Mexican Grill & Cantina at the base of the Grapevine, we had picked up Ramsey and returned to our normal routine.  It had been a great weekend.

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