BACK TO YOU BACCHUS

BACK TO YOU BACCHUS


BACK TO YOU BACCHUS

Sunday morning and time to get ready for our big day out tasting with Jason our regular driver. We
have a special caves visit at Rutherford Hill which we have never seen and Jason has a place or two
to see prior to the trip up the hill and others post picnic.

Ready on time, but minus breakfast, we enjoy Jason’s gift of a free bottle of bubbly to refresh the
palet!  First stop, some fresh bread for the picnic, and then over to Vincent Arroyo to see what he has
on offer. As we arrive so does the grape harvest but some over enthusiasm from the driver results in
an overturned container and grapes and juice are everywhere.

Ooops ! a bit too fast with the forklift

well they are only grapes

It’s in the bag !

Some pleasing tastes here and the first few bottles go in the trunk and we set off up the hill for our caves/cellar visit. Arrive with time to spare but are immediately told the tour has started already and
we are duly whisked away into the bowels of the hill.

Into the caves we go in search of the other tasters

Everything is beautifully laid out with just enough light from the chandeliers …….we catch up with the
main party and host in full flow. The aging process is explained along with coopering while sampling delights along the way. Some visits into other rooms where fine dining can be experienced and a
spot more vino collapso in case we run dry.  A fantastic place and all extremely well thought out over
the years. The visit comes to an end and we emerge once more to the daylight.

Quite an operation and drop dead gorgeous

Equally nice outside

Back to the reception area and main tasting zone when we are informed we have just been sent on
the wrong tour and our host is waiting to take us barrel sampling?  Lead on!   A nice young
enthusiastic man, Ryan, takes us back into the hill again and this time we get to sample directly from
the casks from what we will be their upcoming vintage……. all taste pretty good to us on our private
tour.

Ryan “dips” us through the barrels

Outside once more and after suitable photographs back to the main building again where Ryan
treats me to some extra tastings and goes in search of the elusive 2001.  Having lost Brenda to the
picnic area I pick up our selection and a 2003 for lunch. A fine lunch it is indeed …….. and some time
later we are off to yet more vineyards.

Two visits to the caves for the price of none!

That perfect picnic setting

Next up Honig, where the hostess looks like Shirley Maclaine. They have a pleasant shade garden
tasting area but have little for my palet although Brenda buys a red for some reason. They did have
a very sweet dessert wine which surprised me insomuch that the description seemed to actually
match the wine…… or maybe I’m becoming a James May ?    “a hint of crushed butterfly wings
mingles with honey bees and a grapey honeydew essence like a warm mead finished with hot
buttered toast served with pineapples”

On to another and here the gardens were delightful and the wine wasn’t. Nothing purchased but
the eyes were rested, or so I’m told.

The Peju’s Tower

Final port of call is at Peju where apparently we have to experience  “the Alan experience”. Alan
knows his wines and will burst into song at any time from Rap to the Peju’s anthem sung to the
Beatles song of “Hey Jude”.

The guitar comes out for the Beatles Pey—Ju’s anthem

Sales were inevitable after this and very soon it was time for us to go, say goodbye to Jason for
another year, and maybe see his selections in the other valley of Sonoma next time and also take
in the wine train on our 2012 visit.

Thanks Jason,     Sonoma next year you say ?

The pilgramage comes to an end once more, the taste buds are satisfied, the wallet is empty, and
our thanks go out to all those that made it possible including dear friend Bacchus without who’s
knowledge and continuous testing of the grape we are forever indebted.

Thanks again for a lovely day out Bacchus

The happy tasters at the end of another magnificent day

TONY DOWN

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GATHERING GOODIES

GATHERING GOODIES


GATHERING GOODIES

You can smell them on the bike

Saturday morning and much planning to take in all the required venues. Brenda wants to visit a
couple of wineries, one with her family name, we need the Dean & Deluca cheese selections for
tomorrow’s wine tasting lunch at Rutherford Hill and after a chance meeting over dinner we now have
a wine tasting in Pope Valley.

Through the Avenue on a delightful day

First stop is over in the “other” valley of Sonoma to visit the Jacuzzi family and see if their local
produce is as pleasant as their offering that Brenda sells at the Brew Pub. Seems that this family
were mad keen on flying in the very early days and were forever crashing until father told them to get
into wine making and also develop the hot tub with bubbles.

The run goes well in pleasant sunshine even stopping in the No 1 slot at the railway crossing where
we wait for the wine country train or Napa’s answer to the Orient Express which apparently could well
be worth a trip in the future and looks like fun with on board bars and 3 upscale restaurants.

Stopping for the Wine Train

Looks like a lot of fun next year

About a 40 mile run on the bike in nice conditions and we find the place right beside an old airfield
still flying vintage biplanes! The place is chock-a-block with tourists and it takes a little time before we
make it to the front row to be greeted by hostess who tells us she is a light pourer!!  She isn’t kidding
and samples barely cover the bottom of the glass. Not much here but Brenda buys the duty “two” and
off we go to our next stop at Dean & Deluca for our cheese selection for the Sunday picnic.

The Jacuzzi Winery…….. um, stick to bubbles and baths me thinks!

Usual selections and tasters and then over to BV for another wine map to replace the one that got
left in the Beaver Marquis when it got handed back after the great recession. Shopping complete time
to find the Pope Valley Winery.

Find the turn off and up and across the Silverado Trail and into some spectacular bends!! Well this
will be fun even if the wine is rubbish. Lots of oooohs and aaahs from Brenda as we negotiate the
bends and then we are down in Pope Valley and locate the Winery.

Grapes spoken here

Definitely rustic

Pleasant pourer, Rachel, clearly hasn’t heard anything about “light pouring” and from my calculations
as we survey the complimentary selection and then the reseve it looks like a tasting here is around
the two bottles a head variety while we work our way through the cheeseboard. With all those bendy
curves still to come on the way home I opt out of the reserve tasting!…… but I do have a sip of the port.
Might come back here again next year!!

Home of the 2 bottle tastings!!

The whole venue is definitely rustic and the wines are pretty good so we buy a case and stuff it in the
top box of the Beemer. A fun run back to Calistoga and the bends before we swop Beemer for bicycles
and set off for our anniversary meal.

Here we go again……..

Another zippy right …..left

left…right…..left….

top of the hill

Back home with Bacchus on the Beemer….. looks a bit like Valentino to
me

We have to wait for our seats at the bar but as it’s our preferred dining area and the service is better, definitely worth the wait. Overall a wonderful day and the “full” tasting day tomorrow.

The “worth the wait” seating area in our favorite restaurant bar

TONY DOWN

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CONVALESCING IN CALISTOGA

CONVALESCING IN CALISTOGA


CONVALESCING IN CALISTOGA

State Fairgrounds at Calistoga and without Rosa Klebb this year!

A cold damp morning in Calistoga after yesterday’s rain but the forecast looks good so time for a
rectification day. The fridge is off, no 12 volt lights either, and nothing on the monitor panel…….. great!
Wonder how the front tire is?? …… and I can hardly wait to open the trailer door and see the carnage to
the Beemer after yesterday’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus up I5 !

Well suck it up, it isn’t going to solve itself ! Out with the battery tray and before blowing everything
perhaps a diagram before taking off the wires. By 1000 the two new batteries are in and fridge power,
albeit small, is restored and now all the other services can charge the two new batteries to full power.

Diagram first!!

Tire has held the pressure and isn’t flat…….. so now lets survey the disaster area in the trailer…….
keys are offered to the houdini locks…….. one open…….. two open……. the drawbridge is lowered and
the first peek inside……..I don’t believe it !!! The Beemer has survived the ordeal and is upright…….
however, one of the helmets has somehow jumped out of the roof helmet box and closed the door
behind itself ??? My bicycle has a flat front tire??

A clean and happy “unbashed” Beemer to St Helena

The Beemer is unlashed and cleaned and the bike gets a new tube so all seems well. Today a
simple plan down the road to St Helena, a little bottleneck town, going down the valley. The place is
always busy but we have never stopped there so time to explore. In truth not much to explore as
revealed by a walk up and down both sides of the street where a ton of high end second hand
clothes are for sale. Not much here so back on the Beemer and retreat to Calistoga and find some
cheese and wine!

Normally chock’a’block with cars and tourists

Some impressive buildings

We find exactly what we are looking for and enjoy some “Red Tractor” vino at happy hour and a
cheese platter. Other things look good on the appetiser menu so dinner now becomes a walk
through down the appetiser selections. Mussels are up next and are spot on for our taste buds along
with the rest of the farmyard wine offerings.

Fantastic mussels

A little while later Rolf, a misplaced German, who has been here since 1965 joins us and invites us
to his vineyard over in Pope Valley, an area we rode through last year on one of our “bendy rides”. A
quick visit to the very nice town supermarket and we buy a bottle of the Tractor Red ATF we had been
drinking along with some french breakfast raddish that I normally grow at home.

……. now let’s see if it’s true

TONY DOWN

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THE CART TRACK TO CALISTOGA!

THE CART TRACK TO CALISTOGA!


THE CART TRACK TO CALISTOGA

I 5 as it is today from LA

Now if someone REALLY wanted to put America back to work here is the mighty state of California
which has to be classed as a federal disaster zone when it comes to roads. I drive on BETTER and SMOOTHER county DIRT roads in Colorado !! This state really is a disgrace, the surfaces are bumpy,
chunks of concrete missing, potholes everywhere and the worst ride I have ever experienced. The joke
that has the audacity to call itself a freeway (I5) is about smooth enough for the early settlers to move
on in a wagon train and even that needs to be done with care. In the last 5 years that I have ventured
into California there has been ZERO improvement to the roads and in many cases most have got
worse in a big way. The only thing I have seen is major work on the SHOULDERS???? Jesus Arnie, I
don’t give a flying f### about the bloody shoulders I want something to DRIVE ON!! ……. and as for
this crap of leaving bridges without any resufacing as some prat has decided concrete doesn’t freeze
as quickly as rubberised finishes, well how about making them level with either side? flying off one
side of the Grand Canyon and then getting airborne again on the other hardly makes for a
pleasureable driving experience.

An “everywhere” occurence

Enough on the road rage. The morning starts off well or not, as overnight we have lost all 12 volt
power so now the fridge isn’t working along with a host of other services, but the engine and the
generator both start so be thankful for what we do have. Phil arrives and whisks Brenda off to Trader
Joes so she can reload on the world’s cheapest good quality wine. We slip away from Warner
Brothers and make our way to the joke freeway. Now the first time we went up this cart track it was
laughable to see the colors in the road, huge red streaks and then a complete white stretch where
farm produce open topped trucks had shed their load over the bumps with load after load of
tomatoes deposited and then truck loads of white onions. I remember last time a truck had lost its
load of onions in 20lb bags and the freeway was at a standstill as people were looting the freeway
for bags of onions!!

Bumperty, bumperty bump and chunks missing

The lunacy of California driving continues unabated as we procede northbound, meaningless signs
adorn the road with “FINES DOUBLED IN CONSTRUCTION ZONES”…… nice idea but cock all
construction going on in the 300 miles + that I was driving. Some loopy sign about vehicles towing
limited to 55 mph, again nice idea but many places it wasn’t safe enough or smooth enough to attain
55 mph ! Periodically I achieved 60 but then regretted it as we were airborne again. When I did hit 60
I was still the slowest vehicle on the road as the brain dead hammered past in pouring rain to add to
the fun.

Nothing ever properly repaired

Refuel at California prices and notice the front passenger tire looks low?  Maybe a concussion
impact has nearly knocked the tire off the rim. It’s down to 40lbs from 110…….. doesn’t look good but
pump it up with truck stop air and off we go again. Might be dirt in the valve core or maybe they didn’t
tighten the core up fully ?

Still with no DC12 volt system time to find a Walmart and check the batteries again. Sure enough one
is a terminal case so buy two new ones and fit them tomorrow. The drive continues, and more rain
and now a $14.00 rip off toll fee to cross a bridge ?

At last !

Never mind Calistoga is in sight and we roll in tired and thankful we are still in one piece……..
everything else can wait until tomorrow!

TONY DOWN

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  • 10/19/2011 8:55 AM Jim Crain wrote:
    Tony, Just finished the trip to Hollister and found the same experience as you on I5. What a rotten drive. I was very happy to escape CA with my rig still intact. Thanks for the post. Jim
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PHOENIX TO PHILLY

PHOENIX TO PHILLY


PHOENIX TO PHILLY

Ready to roll in Cave Creek

Wednesday morning and grateful for the one hour time differential time to resecure that Beemer and
set off for Los Angeles and complete the parental round up with a quick visit to Brenda’s son Philly or
Phil to his friends. Phil has been out scouring the neighbourhood looking for places to park a 60′ rig in
the middle of downtown Burbank !

The Beemer is lashed in, small valve stem problem on a back set of wheels sorted and we are
unplugged and off to join I10 and wend our way into California. Back down I17 to the 101 loop which
it seems they are trying to widen and put in an extra lane. On the 10 and finally down to two lanes and
now the wind starts again with a crisp 30 mph cross wind making driving difficult and unpleasant.

Valves resecured

Refuel at Flying J and cross the border but don’t get stopped by the fruit and firewood police this time
so on into the gale which has now picked up and become a dust storm.

Into the dust storm

My new birthday present of “Miss Garmin” now tells us there is traffic ahead and she is thinking about
re-routing us! These things have come a long way!!

“Miss Garmin” warns of impending trouble

Into Palm Springs and pouring rain, after a brief respite in an area completely becalmed, which must
have been the eye of the storm, and now I guess its TOO windy for all the windmills which are all
stopped. The rain gets worse as does the standard of driving and lunatics are aquaplaning around
hitting the barrier and sliding up the banks beside the freeway……… Safari rumbles on between 55-60
and is still the slowest moving vehicle on the freeway, but we are still on the freeway unlike several
others.

No rain  in  Palm Springs……. yet

Yuk !

Into Burbank and find the guide Phil who directs us to our overnight parking alongside the Warner
Brothers lot. 2 beers later and any thoughts of moving further on up the road are done. Dog walking
complete over to Phil’s place for a hand crafted Margaritta. Phil has an exceptionally nice shared
apartment very convenient to all his acting and singing requirements and shows us his latest fun
film. I think Brenda was as pleased as I was to see Phil has given up all the “college” wild arse
ideas of veganism, alcohol abstinence and is now even smoking a pipe!

Pretty good margaritta and then to an Irish Pub for a couple of pints and a small meal. The day is
done, another family tick in the box and 420 miles closer to our destination.

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NOT SO FAST TO NAPA

NOT SO FAST TO NAPA


NOT SO FAST TO NAPA

The annual pilgrimage to Napa is planned, reservations made and all is due to begin on Monday 3
Oct. The Safari has it’s new tires, new tags, time cards for Dolores and Cortez School Districts are in,
the lawn is cut and the fridge loaded. Just the last minute loading of clothes, dogs (6), and Luna the
cat.

Sunday morning the Safari bursts into life and off I go to refuel ($200) and LP gas ( $100)…… all done
back in the park and connect up with the trailer now that Brenda has her NEW directions sorted out
using her previous experience as a cheerleader. So far, so good ………. but now the generator won’t
start !! A frustrating afternoon unable to resolve anything and now the bloody Safari won’t start either!!!
I’m beginning to lose it ! Frantic phone calls to Howard our RV Guru and as no answer there more
calls to other traveling RV experts. Seems everybody is on vacation and things are looking bleak.

Monday morning and still no answers from RV experts. Nothing for it but to try and resolve what I
believe to be a power issue in the battery bay. The generator just clicks! same noise that you get
when you try and start a car with a bad battery…….. just the click, click, click of the solenoid trying to
engage the starter motor. Well it could be a connection, bad earth, corrosion etc, etc. Let’s eliminate
all of the above. All batteries cleaned, all connections polished back to gleaming copper…… no
change…… just clicks faster!! About 11’ish Howard rings and he will be round later in the afternoon.

Battery cleaning time!

Better

Howard arrives, immediately says its a voltage shortage and its one battery dragging the others
down causing all the problems. Bad battery removed, everything now works!  No need for all the
hi-tech diagnostics to tell me it was the fuel pump, computer, cam shaft position sensor and any
other mysteries of the CAT engine…. no, very simple a NASTY battery!

Trying to recover lost time contestants must now depart at 0430 and make their way to Cave Creek
where they will find their next clue. Amid the non stop barking from the dogs the final bags are loaded
and Starship Safari slips from her dock at 0440. Moving through the time continuum we gain an hour
as we make Arizona and slide into a roadside docking area in the Cave Creek recreation area. Not
exactly a pull through but 50 amp right beside the road. Plugged in and not yet noon AZ time contact
a happy daughter to announce all is well and we WILL finally get to see one year old grandchild
Sophie.

Cave Creek and roadside 50 amp

Next up get the Beemer out…….. but once again thanks to the delights of the atrocious roads of
northern AZ my bike has once more shed all its 6 tie downs and is once again on its side in the trailer
……. I’m less than amused ! 30 mins of struggling with 850 lbs of Bavarian finest and its upright and
out of the trailer.

On the road by 1230 and meet up with Sally and grandchild at her apartment. Plan is to go to the zoo
and we will ride the Beemer. Zoo is done now time for some ice cream over in Scottsdale. Sophie
now suitably fed she becomes more amiable to being held so endures Grandfather’s touch without
too much resistance. All too soon time for fond farewells and OUR visit to a quality restaurant.

One happy daughter

A snowcone brain freeze…. and look what it did to my hair

Sophie with Grandad


Sally and father, Ian, take a baby break over icecream

Amazing what you miss when you are in the mountains. Last year when we were down for the
Buckeye Trial it had to be a visit to Red Lobster and this year would have been the Char grilled fillet
at Harolds on Monday and then a visit to P.F Changs on Tuesday. Well we are back on the Tuesday
schedule so PF Changs it is ! The weather has changed from strong winds and blowing dust and
now we have some warm rain to contend with but its intermittent  so press on without the rain gear.

Standard “memory” meal with lettuce wraps, crab and cream cheese wantons and then duck for
Brenda while I opt for my favorite of shrimp in lobster sauce.

Meanwhile outside the rain has intensified and is no longer warm! Rain gear on for the 20 mile run
back to the RV. Yes it stings but we make it back in one piece despite some clown driving straight
through a huge puddle that I was trying to avoid and covering us in a mighty bow wave!!

TONY DOWN

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BACK TO SCHOOL

BACK TO SCHOOL


BACK TO SCHOOL

The Mesa Verde “Bluebird” tour bus

During my time driving the Mesa Verde tour bus Bluebird I always had a 45 minute stint waiting for
the guests to emerge from the Cliff Palace tour and the time was most often spent up in the picnic
area. I had been trying to get a picture of the elusive “local” bluebird but without any sucess as they
seem to take off immediately the camera is pointed in their direction. One day I’m sitting at the table
when one lands on the table in front of me…….. and then walks every which way after crumbs…….
sod’s law the camera is in the bus!

Next day I’m armed with camera ……. NOTHING ! ……..but then on day 3, it comes back, hops about
and then sits in a tree over my head where I can finally focus the mini camera and get a worthwhile
shot.

The “elusive” Mesa Verde Bluebird

It seems to have gone very quickly, but its time again to be out scouring the countryside for lost
children and bring them in for another year at their place of learning. This time last year I was very
much the “newbie” and only working for one school district so my ration was fairly meagre to say the
least. This year with 3 school districts and the added bonus of Mesa Verde I should be fairly busy.

Cortez has kicked off with it’s “in service” day and exams have been taken and passed. This week
Dolores has it’s “new look” presented with Kathy as the Boss and Transportation Director, Wes from
Mancos, doubling up as the Dolores mechanic. Not sure how many routes will be up for grabs but
certainly Lena’s is available as she is now with Cortez on a full time basis.

The Team Mancos tour bus ready for a spot of mountain driving

The Mancos team are having a “drive-around” on Friday with all of us taking turns behind the wheel
as we take in all our mountain venues and get a chance to see where the school sports fields are for
the upcoming football season. I seem to remember the away teams were on the road nearly every
other day so this year I hope to get some pretty good trips instead of filling in for everybody else. Not
sure who has retired and who is still on the team but Friday will tell.

More mountain bends in the Telluride area

The Mesa Verde National Park driving lasts until the end of October with the Wetherill Tram operation
closing after Labor Day when that side of the park shuts for the winter. I’m hoping that with some of
the drivers now on full time school routes I will get a bigger crack on the Tour Bus which is without
doubt my favorite task, not quite so fond of the employee shuttle bus run which requires getting up at
0330!!

My school duties opened up with a Friday afternoon run on my well known D11 route and all was
going well until I pulled up at a little boy’s house and he then tells me he has moved and we passed
his house some 2 miles back!! Since then all has gone smoothly having taken over Karen’s Rico run
on the small Bluebird Vision while she is on holiday in Taiwan.

The Rico run sports car

I should have been on a Saturday sports trip to Monticello  taking the High School girl’s Volleyball
team but on arrival at the school no signs of anyone ? Further investigation reveals the first screw up
of the season and its a home game so clearly I’m only going back to the bus barn.

Two weeks on the Rico run watching the start of the fall colors, a week with Cortez relearning some
route changes and then another week driving the old D11 run and a fistful of activity runs with two trips
taking football teams to places far and wide and also the girls volley ball teams to Telluride and
Ignacio.

The girls just keep winning

Throw in another middle school activity of a two bus day driving up a mountain on some very dubious
roads which started off as dirt and then became rocks and more rocks something akin to Pipeline in
the Scottish. Needless to say the two buses chosen for this mission were manuals, and I can now
see why !!

Steep and washboardy

Through the Aspens and into the rubble field climb

Finally after crashing our way up the rubble in 2nd with delicate throttle control we make the stop
point  and let off the climbers to climb Helmet Peak which they all do within the 4 hour time limit….
quite a hike!

Made it !

About 4 miles to the summit

TONY DOWN

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