Karen & Dan’s NoCal Adventure Friday, 3-20
With some free United mileage to burn and a long ugly winter to escape, Northern Cal became the destination to revive these
pale Midwesterners. United Flight 1255 had a 1pm departure from O’Hare and we got there early enough to hit Tortas Fron-
tera, a Rick Bayless joint. Had awesome food and awesome server guy, Tony, who made everything right. Everything tastes
better on the first day of vaca.
Flight was a breeze. Actually arrived early and we were like kids in the SF
airport. We rented a little red car and drove into the California sunshine.
With a couple hours to shoot we headed into the city - Karen knew the
landscape. Earlier, I’d sent out a FB request for a downtown hotel bar
suggestions and my sister Ann mentioned the Hotel Vitale. We parked,
wandered around and found it, just off the water. It was right on the money,
with a big-city vibe as the after-work downtown crowd filled it up. This
wasn’t Madison Dorothy; everyone was good-looking, and fit and probably
owned a piece of a dot.com.
Leaving, we meandered around in the general vicinity of where we thought
our car was. At one point, two 20-something hipsters appeared, walking
towards us. They looked like ad agency guys. As they passed, one smiled
big and said; “You two make a great-looking couple”. OK, we’ll take that.
Must have been our vaca vibe.
Made our way to Alameda to Bill & Lili’s place. Initially
shocked to plug in the route in K’s iPhone only to find
that it would take us 4 hours and 15 mintues to get
there. Switched iPhone from walking to auto, to get us
there a little quicker.
Alameda is sweet. Old houses, big trees, real character. Having not seen my amigo Bill for over 20 years, I was happy to find
him as the same, affable, fun-loving chap. We walked in the door to see the third Amigo, J.W., on Skype - so we chatted like
Bill & Lili’s sweet home
Bill & Lili
Dinner at Sidebar in Oakland. Great place, awesome neighborhood,
just off Lake Merritt.
Saturday, left Alameda and motored across the bay and up to Muir woods, intending to do a quick walk and then find our
rental; AKA the Yellow Cottage. Beautiful drive to Muir, but were stunned by the volume of parked cars on the road leading up
to trailhead. We drove around for awhile, getting desperate and finally decided it wasnt worth it and we’d give one more swing
towards the entrance, take a look, and head back. The ghost of John Muir must have taken pity on us as we drove to the very
front of the closest lot and found one lonely spot wating for us. Meant to be.
First view of the Pacific
Hess WinAesry our friend Dave Heuring told us; Muir Woods is
“magical and unforgettable” - and he was right. We took
a hour and a half, semi-death march thru some amazing
forests of redwoods. Favorite trail stop was Cathedral
Grove. Why didnt we take pics? Spectacular.
photo credit; K. Stakun Park 121
Gloria Ferrer vineyards
Ernie’s Tin Bar
Old guy, old tree.
After Muir, we drove to our AirBnB rental, known as the Yellow Cottage. Tiny, cool, inexpensive. Overlooking the bay, lots of
foilage and an outdoor shower. Yep.
North to Napa. Finally, in the car and out of the Bay Area. The landscape changes quickly and becomes rolling, bucolic hill
country. Nothing like this in Wisco.
Gloria Ferrer vineyards Park 121
Lunch at Park 121, Sonoma
Entrance to Gloria Ferrer Vineyards
North from lunch we took back road, with no real destination in mind - but wanting to avoid the crowds. We stumbled on Hess
Vineyards - a long-time establishment, nestled in the foothills. Beautiful place. We pushed on until north of Napa, making one
more vineyard stop - at Conn Creek - for a wine tasting. Wine good, expensive - and fun to have the experience - but no need
for another stop.
Hess Vineyards Hess Vineyards barrel vault
Popeye boat, in forest near Hess
In contrast to the
was Ernies Speak-
easy bar, found by
getting lost, just
south of Petaluma.
Maybe our favorite
stop of the trip.
Made it to the ocean for dinner at the Sand Dollar in Stinson Beach.