Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, through Wednesday, October 29, 2014: The Mid-California Wine Country:

We left Williams at 10:30 Tuesday morning, having spent the early part of the day doing the final cleaning (vacuuming all the floors and mopping the marble ones) at the house. 

The 178-mile trip to Fender's RV Resort in Needles, California, was uneventful (though boring, as usual).  This was our first time at Fender's.  It's a small, odd, old place, with a few pull-thrus, a few back-ins, a few pull-ins, and a 10-unit motel, on the premises, which faced the Colorado River. But it was fine, and the managers (Paul and Dail McCracken) were very friendly.

The next morning, we headed for the outskirts of California City in the Antelope Valley.  (Mojave is the nearest city.)  This time the trip was more interesting, just because of different scenery, and we covered the 216 miles with ease.  We are staying at the Sierra Trails RV Park.  This is also our first time here, and it's another odd old place but, again, it's just fine for a one-night stay. 

We decided to go to the center of California City to see what the place was like.  On the way, we stopped for dinner at Gloria's Mexican Restaurant.  I had been hallucinating about Mexican food, and this place was wonderful.  According to Trip Advisor, it is the best of the 17 restaurants in California City.  I can't disagree.  I had two double Margaritas and that set me up for the evening. 

Before we got to downtown, we learned that the city was the brainchild of a real estate developer and sociology professor at Columbia named Nathan Mendelsohn, who purchased 80,000 acres of raw land adjacent to Edwards Air Force Base in 1958 and designed a "model" city to grow there.  It was supposed to become as large as Los Angeles.  It hasn't got there, yet. 

There  are only 14,000 residents (nearly double what it was in 2000, and it's still growing---a little.  The good thing is that the design of the central city, which included a huge park and great public facilities, was actually built.  And remains.  Much of the rest of the city is a bit run down and depressingly '60ish.  The biggest employer is---no surprise---Edwards Air Force Base.  Second is a nearby prison.  And Hyundai just built a "proving ground" in California City.

Thursday morning, we left at 11:00 for the 164-mile trip to Paso Robles.  We arrived without incident and settled into our space at the Wine Country RV Park, where we are booked for a week. 

We've been here before and it's a very nice (expensive) place.  But it's spaces are very narrow and not very long.  They also are not even close to being level---either front-to-back or side-to-side.  Our slideouts extend beyond the paved area on both sides and we have to park our truck somewhere else.  Somehow, we'll survive.  It's nice to stay somewhere more than one night.

Friday was a very frustrating day.  We learned early that our printer had died.  It's quite old and we have thought for some time that we would need to replace it at any moment.  Friday was the moment.  And we liked the idea of having one that was wireless.  At the same time we figured out that one of the goodies that came with our new rig 3+ years ago actually included a DVD player (and built-in sound system) that would work with our TV if we wired it up.  (We've used it only to listen to Sirius Radio.)  We went to Staples to replace the printer

and then went to the Wal-Mart next door to get an HDMI cord to connect the DVD player.

While Becky installed the new printer (which is larger than our old one and only fits conveniently in the bedroom closet) I went about trying to connect the DVD player.  It was more difficult than one would expect and we ended up having to take out our faux fireplace, a window screen, and open a window to gain enough access to connect the damn thing to our TV set, before discovering that the DVD player did not seem to work anyway. 

I spent two hours on the Internet trying to get advice about the DVD player and finally gave up.  It also took Becky that long to divine the secrets of making the new printer work.  Ultimately, she was more successful than I was.

At 3:00 in the afternoon, we attended a wine tasting from Burbank Ranch, a local winery, at our RV park.  Since it was free, of course everyone at the park was there.  The wine was certainly drinkable, but comparatively way too expensive, so we didn't buy anything. 

That evening, we barbecued filets mignon for dinner and had a bottle of wine from our "nice" collection.  Both were delicious. 

Saturday was looking like it would be a lazy day, and I decided to have a pedicure.  Many years ago I dropped a TV set on one of my feet and not only broke one of my toes but deformed the nail such that I need to get a pedicure periodically just to make the toe presentable.  Saturday was the day. 

My pedicure was the day's highlight until much later when Utah scored a touchdown with 8 seconds left in the game to beat USC.  (Earlier, UCLA took two overtimes to beat Colorado, the worst team in the Pac-12.)

Our late lunch/early dinner was from Panda Express.  As usual, it was the best!  We then watched Ivory Tower, a documentary from the redbox about the rapidly escalating cost and the declining benefit of a traditional college education, which was enlightening and scary.

We headed for the Denner Winery on Sunday morning.  We had an 11:00 appointment for a wine tasting.  This dazzling place is so exclusive it normally requires appointments; walk-ins are not welcome---ever.

Our special entrĂ©e was that Joyce Wells, an old Xanterra friend of ours, works there.  Not only were we allowed in, we were comped the normal fee.  Joyce was off on Sunday, but we were treated very well.  Naturally, we had to buy two bottles of their delicious (and pricey) wine before we left.  But, it was fun. 

After leaving Denner, we headed for the Justin Winery.  We joined its wine club three years ago and actually stayed there 2 1/2 years ago.  In the meantime, the public area of the place has been completely redone and expanded.  It's beautiful, but not as homey. 

We went there on Sunday specifically to pick up our "fall/winter" six-bottle wine club selection that became available a week or so ago.  We had to taste a few more, of course, while we were there.  We ended up buying a seventh bottle (which we drank Sunday evening). 

Becky picked up two movies from the redbox---Million Dollar Arm and something else whose name I never knew.  I didn't watch either one.  The centerpiece of our dinner was a chicken we bought at the Von's.

Monday and Tuesday were wine-tasting free.  We reverted to our more normal routine.  I bought a new pair of tennis shoes, we took the dogs to a huge dog park, etc. 

Wednesday morning, Joyce Wells and her husband, Don, picked us up for a day of exploring the parts of "Paso" (as the locals call it) the tourists don't generally see.  We started at the Cass Winery for a delicious lunch and nice tastings.  Since Joyce is "in the business" we got royal treatment.

After a very long lunch and a very talkative reunion with Joyce and Don, whom we hadn't seen in three years, we went back to our rig to give the dogs a short walk, then went to Joyce and Don's home to meet their new golden retriever puppy, Bella, then on to another winery, Onx.

Onx is a relatively new winery, its tastings are by appointment only, and take place in the vineyard

We were driven to a picnic spot under a tree, where a delightful young girl named Anny provided the tastings.  In due course, we were joined by Ann, who is the sales and marketing manager at Onx.  She and Joyce worked together at Denner.  We had a great time learning about her personal history and the history of Onz.

We then returned to our RV park and said goodbye to Joyce and Don.  We settled in for the evening, and watched Chef from the redbox.  We had seen it on the plane returning from France in September, and enjoyed it so much we wanted to see it again.  It was just as much fun the second time around.

That ended our time in Paso.  Thursday, we will saddle up and head further up into California.   

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