Archive for December, 2011

Driving the backroads

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Exploring is what this lifestyle is all about and Calistoga has some great back roads.  We took a drive up the Howell Mountain Range working our way to Middletown and then down to Lake Berryessa.  Another trip on a less than average road when I exclaimed to Paul that we need a 4-wheel drive Jeep for the roads he finds!  We didn’t meet anyone along the way and it was a good thing cause this was not even a 1 lane road!  In fact we wanted to find a nice place to picnic and I pointed out that we could just stop in the road because even if someone were coming along they couldn’t pass!  That is exactly what we did, found a sunny spot in the road where we could see some of the valley, popped the trunk and had our lunch!

We did make it to Middletown where Paul found the Calpine Geysers Visitors Center and of course we had to stop!  It is not a very big place but they had lots of displays and the lady at the desk was a wealth of information and was able to answer all of Paul’s questions!  We did find out that during most of the year they offer tours of the actual area where they operate the Geysers and Paul has it on his calendar for our next visit to Northern California.

From Middletown we headed east again into the foothills and came across a really nice winery Langtry Estate Winery, where we had to stop in and see what they have.  This is a really large property and they grow all the grapes for their wines on the property but only sell to wine club and in the tasting room.  We tried several good ones but they are a bit on the pricey side, $40 for Cab!  No worries, I did buy a bottle of Port.  It was outstanding.  I am running out of room for all the wine I am buying, guess we better drink up!!!!

Now, on to Lake Berryessa which was our destination when we left today!  Driving along the countryside we happened across an unique fence and I asked Paul to stop for a picture.  It turns out it is the  Litto’s Hubcap Ranch, a California Landmark!

Hubcaps everywhere

We looked for an entrance and only found the monument.  Darn, we were hoping for a tour!  Anyway, on to Lake Berryessa.

We are driving and I am not really paying attention since Paul researched the road online and put the information into the gps.  I am thinking we didn’t head far enough east but what do I know and who cares, we are seeing interesting stuff and it is a beautiful day.  Suddenly we come upon a stoplight!  There are not suppose to be stoplights out in the country and we should be getting close to the lake!  Nope, Paul wasn’t paying attention to his little machine either and we end up coming back into town near Silverado Trail and the lake is behind us!  We decide that we don’t want to go back since it is getting late and seeing the lake in the dark won’t be much fun so we will have to try again to get out and see the lake!!!

Christmas in not far away

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

I love Christmas and shopping for my family and friends is usually something that I can’t wait to do and I am always excited to find just the right item.  I am not sure what happened but Thanksgiving weekend I realized I hadn’t bought a single item and I had no idea what I was going to be buying.  I spent several days questioning the girls about what they would like and shopping online to get ideas and then I hit the mall in San Jose.  First Valley Fair and then Oakridge Shopping Center.  In two days I had exactly 2 gifts and wasn’t even sure about them!  Is this what is like to get older and out of touch with the newest trends?    Well I went home and thought about it some more and finally decided on some things and hit the stores in Santa Rosa on Monday.  I had to return again on Wednesday but I am happy to say my small Christmas shopping list is complete, everything is wrapped, the tree looks beautiful and now I have to wait 9 more days before I can see the happy faces of my family!!!

A Holiday Shopping sunset

Christmas Trees

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Another bucket list item!  Paul worked for a day at our friends Christmas Tree Farm in Lake County CA.  He and Tony sold trees all day while Janet and I enjoyed our morning coffee in a champagne glass (OK it was champagne!) with a Hibiscus blossom floating in the bottom for some Christmas cheer.  The Hibiscus blossom was pretty cool and they are edible.  While the boys continued to sell trees through lunch we visited the egg farm for a dozen eggs and then back home to relax in the sunshine.  Christmas trees in California are sold to people wearing t-shirts and shorts donning sunglasses with a Santa hat here and there.

Lady, are you sure you want me to cut it here?

Duke and Riley playing fetch among the Christmas Trees

Our favorite customer of the day was the guy who showed up on his minibike and wanted to find a tree for $19!  The trees are $24 minimum so Tony found him one that he could afford and he tied it on the bike and rode off into the sunset!!!

Yep, that is a Christmas tree tied onto the back of a minibike

Like all of the jobs and things we have done since being on the road our favorite part is getting to see friends that have moved away and meeting people.  We met some interesting ones in Lake County!  We will be back next year!

Christmas Parade Calistoga Style

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

I really don’t consider wine growing a farming crop but it is!  The vineyards are worked and the crops are picked so the growers must have farm equipment, right?  Well, every year Calistoga has there holiday parade and people come from all over northern California to see the lighted tractors the first weekend of December in downtown.   There were lots of entries and most had a Santa!  I found that different, actually I found the whole parade different!  Tractors carrying Santa and elves decorated with lots of lights rolling down the main street was pretty entertaining.  Paul loved it!  I am not sure I would put it on my must repeat list but it was fun.  We had our friends Jim & Linda who have just moved back to California from Virginia and are now living in Winsor, CA join us so I had someone to laugh with and Jim was pretty good about being interested in the tractors for Paul!!!

Tractors, old trucks, bucket trucks, all with lots of lights

The funniest tractor was one complete with lights and a Santa but you couldn’t see either one in the dark because his generator had quit!  And,  his tractor had quit also somewhere along the route because he was being towed!!!!

Winter in California

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The leaves have turned and are now finally falling to the ground and it is December!! Since returning from St. Thomas we have had lots of company; toured several  new wineries; and had our traditional Thanksgiving in an RV Park.   The areas grapevines have all turned their beautiful colors and the crush is finished for 2011.  We are really enjoying our time here in Calistoga and the weather has been excellent (this week!!).  The week of Thanksgiving it rained a lot and was pretty cold but now we are back to a balmy 70 degrees with total blue skies.

The weekend before Thanksgiving our friends Barb & Brian came to spend time with us.  We visited the Castello di Amorosa which is a beautiful Castle surrounding a very expensive winery.  The tour was well worth the $32 that includes some great wine tasting.

Paul, Barb & Brian


The view

Amazing colors

We also visited the Bale Grist Mill near St. Helena.  The Bale Grist Mill is a restored mill that is run by the California Parks and is currently producing wheat & corn products for sale.  We watched them grind some corn into Polenta and then bought some wheat flour and cornmeal.  I used them to make cornbread for the Thanksgiving stuffing.  Very good with lots more flavor!

Thanksgiving was great.  My mom & dad joined the 5 of us at the RV park in their new 36′ motorhome and it was a good thing because it rained and Stephanie needed somewhere dry to sleep Thanksgiving night!    Mom and Dad left for home on Friday as they don’t like to travel on the busy days and we were back to our family of 5!

Appetizers on the patio

The girls, Nick and I played 9 holes of golf Friday afternoon and were there past sunset where I lost my ball on the 9th hole!  I am sure it was in the fairway but we couldn’t see it!!!  Finding it wouldn’t have made my game any better so we let Nick finish #9 as he was the only one who still had the ball he teed off with!

Saturday Nick had to head home to work so Paul and I took the girls wine tasting.  We visited another castle, Chateau Montelena but didn’t taste the wine as they were very busy.  Chateau Montelena is a very old winery here in Napa Valley and the movie Bottleshock uses the winery for their movie about the Calistoga area during the 70’s.  We borrowed the movie and watched it.  Not the greatest movie but fun to watch as it is about an era that I am familiar with!.

Chateau Montelena

Next stop was Rombauer Vineyards where they have a great Zin and Chardonnay.  I had been their earlier this year and wanted to share it with Paul.  They also have some amazing views of the valley and the wine is great.  Rombauer is the family that wrote The Joy of Cooking cookbook.  They have a dessert wine that has that name.

A beautiful Saturday in Napa Valley


We had a fabulous week and this week is back to amazing weather.  Golf 2 days so far!  Life is good

Trying to get a Christmas Card photo! Didn't work