Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve at the Hotel Charlotte

Victor, in his usual last minute generous way has asked me to invite our local friends-without-families for a Christmas Eve feast. We love having little parties, I like having more time to plan them. But that's okay, we will serve for those who don't have family in the area. We have invited our hotel guests to join us also.

With our own family holiday events celebrated in our Thanksgiving travels to the midwest, this is a good cheery plan for us.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wine, Murder & Music

This winter our entertainment series is titled: Wine, Murder and Music. We will host two winemaker dinners, one on February 17th with Cartlidge & Browne and a second on March 30th with Muir Hanna. Murder & Mayhem is scheduled for April 6th and our Cabaret Charlotte: MORE Broadway show is on March 2nd and March 9th. On May 23rd we have a Gala celebrating the World Premiere of the melodrama: Love Potion #1. Most events are $49 inclusive of show, dinner, tax and tip. We hope to welcome you!

Additional details and menus are online at

See you soon.

Priest Grade Update & Online Mapping Services

Online Mapping to Groveland-Yosemite: What Next?

So, test it out. Get on your computer and type in Run a directions search for Sonora to Groveland. Though not perfect, folks are no longer being sent up Old Priest Grade with no regard to vehicle type (RV, 18-Wheeler, pulling a trailer...) Now do the same search with the Google Maps and Yahoo Maps. These two still have the old directions. It could take a year for the new information to filter down into their system. Mapquest, after seeing all our "hooting" about these faulty directions did an uncommon manual update.

We aren't done with this yet! Let's keep up the communication with Google and Yahoo. Let's follow through with all the routes that aren't quite right for our area and get them submitted for review and correction. Especially now that we know change IS possible! Curious about which route should be next? How about Coulterville to Groveland-Yosemite, where folks are sent over dirt roads (Cuneo, Jackass Ridge & Merrell) telling them to turn here and there when none of these dirt roads are sign posted. These poor folks end up in Groveland, mad as heck!

Thanks to the Union Democrat and reporter Rebecca Howe, Sacramento News 10 and reporter Tim Daly and everyone who supported this effort with their own letters to these companies we HAVE made a difference!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Good bye Bob

Bob left us today, December 14th 2007.
Bob was The Hotel Dog and had reached 100 years old, 14 and a half.

We will miss him.
I would really appreciate if anyone has photos of Bob if they would send them to me. I would love to have photos of Bob doing any of his tricks, playing the piano or laying in his wine barrel bed. If you have a personal Bob memory to share, that would be cool too!
The photos I do have are online at, sort of a memory page.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mapping your way to Groveland-Yosemite

Photo by Terri Metz
A week ago the local newspaper, Union Democrat, published an article on the mapping services, (Mapquest, Google & Yahoo Maps to mention the biggies) and the directions they provide for travelers to get to Yosemite via Groveland and Highway 120.
This is the story:

I started trying to get corrections a few years ago after visitors had shown me the directions they got online that sent them up Old Priest Grade, Down New Priest Grade and up Old Priest Grade again. In writing the information suppliers, I was given contact numbers for the database companies that provide the information, NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas, but was unsuccessful in finding anyone who wanted to help correct the problem. Every few months a new guest would come in with faulty directions and I would follow up again without success.

Heading the Marketing Committee for the Yosemite Chamber of Commerce, I have regularly published the progress through the newsletter and kept the properties informed, encouraging others with similar concerns to team up on them with oodles of similar storied letters hoping that we would get the changes we needed. A few months ago the Union Democrat got my name as a resource for this story.

Researching the story for the the Union Democarat took them to Cal Trans, the Highway Patrol and the companies that provide the databased information. It took Rebecca Howe to introduce herself as a reporter for someone to listen to the problem and get to work fixing it. The story ran on Tuesday, 12/4, and by Friday, 12/7, the Sacramento News 10 television station was in Groveland doing a followup on story. Watch the clip:

Both media teams got the message almost right which was very exciting.

The direction errors that send someone up/down/up the grade need to be fixed and all drivers should be given both options, old and new priest. The implication when using the map companies is that the routes suggested are going to be regular highways, no restrictions. Well our little Old Priest Grade is not good for heavy or long vehicles or those pulling trailors. The pitch of the incline can overheat even the sturdiest of vehicles.

For someone who hasn't been to Groveland or used this route to get to Yosemite, letting them know that there are two options and the pros-cons of each is the better way to be of service to the traveling public. However if they can only offer one set of directions, it should be the set that will qualify all vehicles, unrestricted—and that is New Priest Grade.

We have seen 18 wheeled big rigs on Old Priest, they don't make it to the top. We have seen folks in RV's renting them for their first time and nervous to the point that they can't continue. The new grade, with a far more gentle pitch and big sweeping curves with good visibility and lots of pull off spots is by far the better recommendation if a company can only suggest one route.

Today, December 10th, I heard from Jessica of Mapquest who had called me to let me know that the Priest Grade change would be going through their system this week instead of "within a year" as NAVTEQ quoted for a change to be implemented. We had a lovely conversation and I came to understand a bit more of this process and how unique it is that we are getting this change. Thanks so much to the Union Democrat, Sacramento News 10 and All the folks that wrote those letters! We are heading towards a success.

But....Let's not end it here, lets keep up the communication and follow through with all the routes that aren't quite right for our area and get them submitted for review and correction. Especially now that we know change IS possible! Courious about which route should be next? How about Coulterville to Yosemite, where folks are sent over dirt roads (Cuneo, Jackass Ridge & Merrel) telling them to turn here and there when none of these dirt roads are sign posted.

While the Mapquest interface allows one to click a box to choose non-freeway routes, the implication is that all routes will be regular, class A routes. Maybe someday the mappers will have a box that searchers can click that lets them choose paved roads only. ;) Let's tell them what needs fixing!

NAVTEQ Global Corporate Headquarters/North America
222 Merchandise Mart, Suite 900
Chicago, Illinois 60654
USATel: (312) 894-7000
Home Page:
Map Errors:

Tele Atlas Americas Headquarters
11 Lafayette St.
Lebanon, NH
Tel: (603) 643-0330
Home Page:
Map Errors:

So, this was my media week of fame, first the Union Democrat newspaper, then the Sacramento News 10 local news television. All quite exciting! But for those who are counting, it was only 2 of my 15 minutes!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Loyal Reader #1

As Marv Dealy likes to say: Thanks to our 47 regular weekly readers...I can now boast that I have a regular reader who subscribes to this blog. Isn't that grand! One reader! Well, maybe there are more out there, it's just this one that has let me know that she is a regular reader...and insists that I keep this blog updated. Truth be told, I would probably only have half the entries I have now if it weren't for her reminding me that my reader is eager to hear about our last adventure....

Sorry Reader #1, but nothing exciting happened over our Thanksgiving Getaway. We went to St. Louis & Wisconsin and Chicago. When we got to the airport everyone had appropriate ID with them, so no hysterics there. The plane didn't crash, though I often think the tiniest burp in the sky is the precurser to a sure fast fall to the meet the earth's crust. We didn't get a speeding ticket, though in some cases we did drive faster than the posted limit....

It was a good refreshing getaway and I caught up on 17% of the sleep I was deprived of this last summer. Hopefully the other 83% will catch up before we get into busy season again! Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Most unlikely Halloween Costume

Who is least likely to be a priest?
Halloween was such fun this year. I think I took over 100 photos of the kids as they reached into our deep bucket of candy. Next year we will have the candy in the middle of the dining room and host a special ghoulish dinner with all the kids parading through in costume!
I will have a webpage up this weekend,
See you soon!

The Tooth Fairy Visits the Hotel Charlotte

Guess who came to visit the Hotel Charlotte last week? That's right, our first visit of the Tooth Fairy. This little charmer was up visiting with her mom and dad, brother and sister looking at property in Pine Mountain Lake. A little after breakfast her first tooth fell out. We were able to find it and I taped the tiny tooth inside a window envelope so she could check on it throughout the day. Bob (the dog) was a hit with these girls!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cafe Charlotte weekly specials, November 1-3

We wrap up another month this week and Tioga Pass is still open. This is good news for travelers and businesses that support them! We hope it goes long into the season.

This week we have some new specials and old favorites:

Bay Shrimp Stuffed Avocado $10.95
Oysters Rockefeller $10.95
Escargot $8.95

Baked Lasagna $14.95
Homemade Curry Chicken stuffed Ravioli $15.95
Seafood Pasta $16.95
(Clams, Shrimp, King Crab and fresh fish with a with wine sauce and a touch of Marinara over linguini)

We hope to see you this weekend. Please plan on visiting us Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Sunday is the Murder Mystery.

We have begun planning our Winter Dinner Events and will be calling the series: Wine, Murder & Music with a blend of all three and maybe more! The first event we have scheduled is on Sunday, February 17th, a Wine Maker Dinner with Cartlidge and Browne, an affodable award winning winery from Napa.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dinner Specials 10/25-10/28

Happy Thursday Friends!
What weird and wacky weather we are having! I hope everyone is enjoying the Indian Summer. Tioga Pass is still open, the fall colors are in full swing. Victor, Bob and I are hoping to do a road trip to Bodie or Mono Lake before the final change of seasons.

This week's specials include:
Bay Shrimp stuffed Avocado Appetizer $10.95
Potato-Cucumber Soup Cup $3.95 Bowl $5.50
Homemade Spinach and Ricatta Cheese Stuffed Ravioli topped with Marinara Sauce $15.95
Veal Saute Sec (Tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and capers, white wine) $18.95
Calamari Steak Doré $15.95
Fresh Wild Shark grilled and topped with a lime-garlic dressing $15.95
Baked Rigatoni with meat sauce and cheese $15.95

Homemade desserts include silk pie, blue berry pie, that wonderful rich chocolate brownie and homemade banana-chocolate brownie ice-cream. Yummmmmmie!

Save $4 a bottle on our Wine of the Week: Twisted Oak % @ # $ ! (Murphys) A local white blend with a strange name!

We look forward to welcoming you!
Lynn & Victor
Hotel Charlotte
Reservations encouraged: 209-962-6455

PS: A very warm thank you to everyone who has supported our fall entertainment line-up, we are pleased to announce that as of today we have but one ticket left for the Murder Mystery on Sunday, November 4th and all the other shows are sold out with a waiting list. We have begun planning our winter line up and will be kicking off the season with a Winemakers dinner on Sunday, February 17th followed by an all new Murder Mystery Dinner, Music and More!

Enter our monthly drawing for a $25 Cafe Charlotte gift certificate by answering the following question by reply email: What is our featured wine of the week? Bonus question: do they farm shark?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Evolution of a town: Groveland, near Yosemite National Park

The other day a Groveland resident and community leader came into the restaurant and started a conversation with me on the certain demise of Groveland's downtown business district. His views were that we were in the tank and sinking fast with mentions of several unoccupied stores and just as many up for sale. On the night of this discussion, I was quickly convinced by his arguments that he was right.

Since then I have spent some time pondering this conversation. Surely it is natural for neighbors to move, businesses to change, some close, new ones open. For every failure or "for sale" he pointed out I am now able argue some superb new businesses or transitions. I wish I was more prepared when the topic was first being discussed. My dwelling on the subject over the last month as made me curious as to how many others in the community think as he does.

Yes, we know there are several empty store fronts along the way and a few places are for sale. But what was so obviously ignored in the conversation were are all the recent successes: Coffee Time has a new owner and is consistently open with a great product, the painters offices have moved off of Main Street and the space is opened anew with some very energetic ladies doing a great thing with Body Beautiful. The flower shop has a new name, Benita's Bouquets and new owner. In a smart move that puts more visitor friendly retail shops on Main Street, Sabre Design, a graphics company moved off of main street and a fantastic hip clothing shop opened in their place with Perfectly Posh.

Bunny Rose, a long time downtown merchant showed her confidence in Groveland by purchasing a second Main Street store, Critter Corner. For a year and a half the restaurant next to the Hotel Charlotte was closed, now some great people are running the Cross Country Cafe, a fresh sandwich deli. The long-closed Tshirt printer has been reincarnated as a carpet and tile center and Sun Cable offices converted to a Dollar store. Murray & Bev have finally moved Homemade into the vacant space next to Hot Doggie, a brilliant move. Even the long closed Tiano's has gotten a face lift this summer with new windows and hopefully a plan to open soon. Let's not forget what an asset Main Street Market is to Groveland, they too are less than 4 years old.

Remember the feed store that closed this summer? Now it is a furniture mart and is doing 5 times better than projected. All Seasons Groveland Inn with its new owner has fresh landscaping and an inviting curb appeal. Does anyone remember the Charlotte before Victor and I bought it four years ago? The Charlotte might have been on the failure list with the restaurant well into its third season of closure.

Lets talk about the evolution of Groveland as a cultural center. This community first built the museum library project, then a wonderful stage in our park just waiting for someone to produce great events. These, paired with our new world-class skate park makes our public space very unique. In recent years Groveland has added Whitewolf Art Gallery showcasing works from local artists. We now enjoy 3 Groveland Art Strolls a year, a quilt stroll every other year, the 6-show concert series produced by Mountain Sage with the introduction of Grammy award winning artists, the Yosemite Courtyard Theater at the Groveland Hotel with productions throughout the summer and Cabaret Charlotte and Theatre du Jour at the Hotel Charlotte with the winter performances featuring Groveland's new theater company, Yosemite Entertainment Productions (YEP) and I am sure there are even more new cultural events.

On the outskirts of Groveland, Priest Station (the first impression visitors have on approaching Groveland) has just been purchased by the Anker family with plans to put in a mountaineering shop, coffee house, pack station for guided wilderness trips, a restaurant and a 5-star out house. This refreshed outpost will serve as a gateway to Groveland followed a mile down the road by the monumental historic restoration project in its infancy in Big Oak Flat that STCHS is undertaking.

I argue that Groveland is on leaning towards great successes, not the eminent demise prophesied. I hope that all folks in this community consider taking a fresh look at where we have been and where we are going and put their hearts and efforts into supporting this great community. I hope everyone out there is shopping Groveland. But I urge you to do more than just shop our great stores, get involved! There are many opportunities! Together we can work on building our own positive self fulfilling prophesies.

Let's all go buy some rose colored glasses to go with our rosy future!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

49er Festival & Chili Cook-off results, Groveland parade

Each year we think it can't get better, but this year's perfect weather, fantastic people and great fun rings side by side with the glow of a job well done by so many people. Here it is, days later, and the joy still lingers with everyone I meet saying how grand the festival was this year.

The parade with its lively theme "Swinging through the Sierra" brought out some of our most creative floats ever with swings, swingers and singers! The music rang throughout the park with the beautifully clear vocals of Joni Morris and the great fiddling sounds of Don Burnham and the Overalls.

The Chili Cook-off had a fantastic showing with many area restaurants and home-chefs brewing up a special pot of their best recipes with great early morning efforts by all. The selection of wares available from the vendors, many local and some from far away, provided plenty of diversion for our dollars! The poker walk and saloon girls added loads of flair to the festival. Prizes for this years raffle were desired by all and many a ticket purchased in hopes of the lucky draw.

But a festival favorite was the return of the Live Auction. The donations the Yosemite Chamber of Commerce received from members and neighbors were exciting and fresh and the bidding hands waving throughout the auction hour were testament to the interest by all. Robin in her glorious attire played a perfect "Vanna" to the Auctioneer's clear calling out: Going Once, Going Twice.....Sold!

A special thanks to the many people and businesses that volunteered oodles of hours and donated bunches prizes and dollars to make this festival a hit. We look forward to your participation again next year and hope those wishing to wear our special glow and bright orange vests let us know which areas they would like to chair to lead the town to another success as we begin planning for an even grander 2008!

Let's do it all again next year!

Chili Cook-off Results 2008
Peoples Choice Chili with beans
49er Chili Leaders
Groveland Fire Department
Hotel Jeffery House on Fire

Peoples Choice Chili without beans
Knoth Properties Jamaican Chili
Chris Avery Cross Country Chili
Ranch House Chili Company

Peoples Choice Vegetarian
Pine Mountain Lake Country Club Vegetarian Chili
49er Chili Leaders
Hotel Charlotte Pixie Dust Chili

Judges Choice Chili with Beans
49er Chili Leaders
Groveland Fire Department
Groveland Hotel Victorian Room

Judges Choice Chili without Beans
Hotel Charlotte Call of the Wild Caribou Chili
Knoth Properties Jamaican Chili
Ranch House Chili Company

Judges Choice Vegetarian
Hotel Charlotte Pixie Dust Chili
49er Chili Leaders
Pine Mountain Lake Country Club Vegetarian Chili

Best Decorated Booth
Knoth Properties Jamaican Chili
Hotel Jeffery House on Fire Chili
Groveland Fire Department

Parade Results
Best Walking Adult – Guns of the Chosen Few
Best Walking Jr – Museum Day featuring Tenaya 4th graders
Best Mounted Adult – Cocina Michoacana
Best Mounted Jr – Perry n’ Kids
Best Motor Vehicle – Ron and Carole Smith
Best Community Service- Helping Hands
Best 49r Theme – Guns of the Chosen Few
Best Theme – Sage Maddelena
Best Float – Ed Connery
Best of Parade – Cocina Michoacana

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Where have I been? is always adding new features. One that I find particularly interesting is the "Where has she been" map that lets me put a push-pin in locations I have been to and the map saves itself as an image file so others can see where we have been. Kind of fun to share with family and friends. I randomly came across my own map today on the internet and found that odd, but neat. I wonder how many folks have done this and if they have push-pinned the Hotel Charlotte in Groveland or not.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Roadtrip Adventure: Sacramento, Eldorado Hills, Groveland....

We did it again, another one day adventure. This time to Sacramento. If you think living with "Maguiver" is fun, perhaps this little getaway story will show a downside to living with someone who can fix just about anything.

As is often the case, we decide at the very last minute if we can get away or not. This time, it looks good and Victor wants to go to the State Fair. I am not sure why, but if anything grabs his attention, I like to do it. We also have to pick up some stuff from SF and decide to leave Tuesday afternoon for the California State Fair, spend the night on the Delta King in Old town Sacramento then hustle off to San Francisco in the morning and back to Groveland by the evening.

So off we go, leaving the hotel at 2, we plan to be at the fair by 4:30. We get as far as Oakdale before stop at the busy Beacon for gas. Getting the gas is no problem, but the van won't start again afterward. Victor reminds me that he thought he told me we needed to change the alternator. So now I have, for the first time in my life, enjoyed the pleasures of pushing a vehicle to affect a rolling start. Once the vehicle is going fast enough that you think you can't catch it if it gets away, Victor jumps in and pops it into gear. We aren't successful. It's 100+ degrees, the road is flat or slightly uphill and cars constantly flowing into and out of this gas station around our stalled and now wrong directioned vehicle. This is not the funnest moment of my life. After a few failed starts we get some help pushing from some very nice gentlemen who may have themselves been in this position at some point in their lives. Success!

Now we are headed through Oakdale and Victor suggests a stop at the Kragen Auto Parts shop, and asks that I remind him NOT to turn off the van. I do. I remind him again and again and he doesn't turn the van off. We get the part, toss it in the back of the van and start rolling towards 99. We like the back roads and "shortcuts" and so head into Stockton via the central valley maize maze.

Finally on highway 99 and under an hour from our goal Victor mentions that all of the gauges seemed to have stopped working and the van isn't driving right. Oh...maybe we should stop? Do you know the emptiness north of Stockton, before Elk Grove? This is where we roll into a commuter parking area and blessedly find a big tree to provide shade while "Maguiver" replaces the alternator. I reread a previously read magazine.

I hear mumbles over the next hour and a half such as: "where's my something or other tool" and "$#@!" but am confident that eventually we will head somewhere....I have triple A.

There really were only a few moments when even Maguiver lost his confidence, like the moment he couldn't find the right tool and couldn't think of anything that could be rigged up to fill in for the missing tool (not that this was any reason to not try!) and when he fussed for half an hour trying to get the new alternator to push into position and it wouldn't until he jammed his little finger up there, then it popped right in, but his finger wasn't all that happy.

We are finally ready to go, but we have to do another one of those fun running starts, this time with no hope of helpers. But we do it and he is all a grin and I file away my AAA card for the next time.

Did I mention this van doesn't have air conditioning? So the only release from the 100+ degree heat we have is driving with the windows open and the breeze cools as it dries the sweat. Well, now its rush hour and the road is bumper to bumper, stop, roll a few feet, repeat. No breeze to cool!

I suggest we just head to the hotel for a refreshing shower and nice dinner. We can skip the fair. This is when the "motivation" for the fair as a destination makes itself clear: Wine! I should have know it wasn't the midway, the rides, the music, the screaming kids....Victor wanted to see who medalled at the fair and if there were new finds to be had. I saw no need to argue with this.

Off we go, along with everyone else just off work, to the Fair. This is such a huge venue, I can't imagine how many people are inside the gates at one single moment. The attractions are endless from the performance stages to the motor cross route to the rides, games of change, the County building, the farm displays and the list goes on and on. We never felt crowded, but we knew we weren't alone.

We wander our way to the wine center and get up to the bar for our overview. We are an easy couple to work with, as we are only tasting whites and are looking for specific items to fill out our Cafe Charlotte menu. We taste some Chardonnays, very sweet this year. We try a Sauvignon Blanc, more sweetness. Seems to be a theme running through the show. Sweeter is better? Not for us. Best of Show was 2-buck Chuck, the Trader Joe's exclusive Charles Shaw, Chardonnay. This has brought about a great deal of interesting speculation on the process, the judges, the wine....but isn't our choice for tasting today.

For parking, two entrances fees, two little glasses of wine each, the wine guide, 3 bottles of water and $70 later, we are out of the Fair grounds and headed into old town Sacramento where the Delta King rests on the river for a shower and dinner. As we are parking the van I note to Victor that his front tire is low. By the time we are completely parked, it is sitting square on the ground—flat. Okay, and yes, the spare is in the garage, of course. This doesn't really bother me since we discovered fix-a-flat a few years ago.

We check in and have the reception call us a cab to take us to the nearest auto parts store where for $37 we get a nice roundtrip "tour" of downtown and two cans of the trusty spray. Dinner on the Delta King is delicious. We order the calamari to start and the sauces are both wonderful. I get the seabass for dinner, Victor orders the steak and we are both pleased with our choices. We have an after dinner glass of wine on the veranda and very much enjoy the outdoor setting and privacy that is so often missing from our Charlotte life. The next morning we head back into the restaurant for breakfast only to learn after a great deal of discussion that breakfast is no longer part of the Bed, Boat & Breakfast formula. Odd, it was last time we were there and conspicuoulsy not mentioned upon reserving and checking in. I don't mind that they aren't including breakfast, I do mind that they failed to mention this to a repeat guest who might be anticipating an included breakfast.

We head out to take care of our flat tire and find some good coffee and a bite before taking off for SF. Vic whips out his can of fix-a-flat, attaches the hose and we both watch as the air rushes right back out through the gaping crevasse in the tire. Thank goodness I have that triple A card! We call and are soon on our way with two new front tires.

We change our plans and just decide to go home, it is too blazing hot for 7 hours on the road and well, there is just a lot of stuff to do. So off we head south on 99. I am reading the wine guide when Victor asks me if he should take Grant Line Road. I really don't care. He says it comes out at Manteca. So Easterly we head for about an hour. Seems longer than it should be without any identifying features. I am almost done reading the wine guide. Looking up I see a sign that says Freeway left. That isn't possible. The freeway can only be behind us and in front would be highway 49 if anything....Hmmmm, so where are we? Eldorado Hills. Guess what, we are headed to Tahoe. Great! I suggest maybe we just go, head over the Sierra, hit 395 south to 120 and over Tioga Pass. Victor thinks I am crazy. Instead we head to Placerville and get on 49 South. All is well.

Until we hit Shingletown and miss the 49 left turn. We figure whatever road we are on will loop around, based on the direction of the shadows, it looks to be going in the right direction.....Driving, driving, and we finally reach the next town...Eldorado Hills! Isn't this exciting! Perhaps we should buy some property here, it seems to have some sort of natural draw.

We are now both tired and hot and have 3 hours to go. Maybe we should have gone to SF! We finally make it home and settle into our usual tasks of keeping the hotel up to snuff. I have agreed with myself that I will never take a distance ride in That Van again. Living with the creative skills of a Maguiver is wonderful, but my Maquiver has developed a level of quiet confidence such that troubles others tend to avoid with simple, but regular checks often become our next fix-it challenge.

I will always carry a triple A card in my wallet.

Road trip! Sonoma Coast

We write these little itineraries to help guests with suggested routes and stops for their trip to/from Groveland and Yosemite. Oddly, it seems our best time for getting away for a few days seems to fall around the 4th of July. Last year we went over Ebbetts Pass to Minden and back and had a grand time. This year we chose to go to the Sonoma Coast.

I have a little file here at my desk and when ever I see a place I might want to go to, I cut it out and put it in the folder. Once we settled on the dates, Victor was suggesting Death Valley. I thought not. Just too hot, and out came my little folder. Right on top was a great picture of the Sonoma Coast and a full page advert for the Timber Cove Inn in Jenner. Stunning! So we agreed to go and I booked the nights. Until this trip, I had almost thought the Sonoma Coast was too far for an interesting one day drive to or from Groveland, but we had a fantastic route in both directions and neither was too long.

We headed out Monday morning, July 2nd, just before 10 am with no holiday traffic in sight and followed 120 through Escalon where we turn off to cut through the cow fields to Stockton and then took Highway 4 west across the Central Valley and to Highway 680, over the Suisun Bay through Benicia to 780 and west to Highway 80 and north to Highway 37. We followed 37 to a little short-cut road called Lakeview, with no lake to view, into Petaluma. Turn left on Washington Street and this becomes Bodega Road which in turn takes you out to Bodega Bay. With one stop for breakfast, this was a 4 hour trip. Very doable. I would choose to stay in Bodega Bay area as traversing the coast, while stunningly beautiful, becomes tediously slow with curves twists and turns and is not necessarily more beautiful as you head north.

Take time to enjoy Bodega Bay, there are oodles of restaurants and things to do here including a calm-water protected beach. We continued north to Jenner, again quite awesome. This is where the Russian River spills into the ocean. We were there as the tide was turning and it was turbulent and neat! We went even further, they say only 13 miles but it seemed to take forever and the road was far more curvatious than our own Priest Grade!

We finally reached Timber Cove Inn and it is perched on the edge of the cliff and again, dramatic. After check-in we sat at the bar for a bit and nursed a glass of wine as we relaxed from our trip and took in the ocean views. I soon felt some discomfort as I realized the room had several cats roaming about and I am sadly allergic to these lofty creatures. We headed back to the room and all was swell again, but dinner is in the same area as the lounge and while I was able to make it through dinner, by the end, it was difficult breathing. We moved back to our guest room before dessert and checked out the next day. The cats and place were clean, I simply have an allergic reaction that forced us to cut our stay here short by one night.
Our room, #37 was a corner room with extra windows and appeared to be recently remodeled. The spa tub and shower were actually in the bedroom and not the bathroom, which for tubbing was nice as it had an expansive window looking out to the ocean. Everything was clean and seemed new.

We drove up to Sea Ranch enjoying more curves and views and then headed back inland via Jenner, the Russian River and Guerneville where we had a great breakfast at Pat's in downtown. We toured Rio Nido where we once considered an inn for purchase and then headed towards the West Side highway for some wine tasting.

Our First stop is Korbel, you can't miss this flowered palace—huge as wineries go and just a bit outside Guerneville. We arrived just in time to jump into an already-started tour and learned a bit about the Champagne process of "fermented in this bottle" and a lot about the Korbel family history. The tour completed with a tasting on one of many patios and we thought the pricing very good at under $10 a bottle with more than half dozen choices.

We found the West Side road and followed it up to Davis Bynum. Here we tasted the best Chardonnay of the day and will look to adding it to our own wine list for the restaurant.
Our next stop was Hop Kiln, a favorite of mine since my Karen Brown days. This is my 4th visit and each time improvements in the winery, surroundings and the wine itself are notable. We buy the 1000 Flowers, a chardonnay based blend. We served this wine last spring, but were then unable to get it again. I think we must!

We continue down the road to B.R. Cohn, a popular stop noted by the many vehicles in the parking lot. The grounds look lovely enough to host wedding receptions, concerts and the like. We enjoy a tasting and buy a pair of flip-flops from their gourmet and gift shop. These kooky "shoes" have a bunch of grapes across the flip part of the flop and called out to me. This was our last stop in the wine country and we head across the central valley on Highway 12 towards Lodi where we had heard they had a cute downtown with a central square. We are slowly driving now in what must be holiday traffic through the Delta region. When we get to Lodi, we see lots of signs for wineries, but when we follow the roads, we never find the actual winery and figure they must not really welcome visitors or they would be far better marked.

We enter the town of Lodi in search of a square, often dominated by an old steepled church. Following signs such as Central Street and Downtown did not end in the discovery of a cute square and we were never sure if we even found downtown. So, with the swiftness of two freebirds on a road trip we decide to head into Jamestown and see if our friend Stephen at the National Hotel had a room available for the night. Either way, we are assured a great dinner and conversation. After dinner we roamed the cute downtown, doing a little window shopping and stopped at the new Azzo's restuarant, oft recommended to us by friends. We found we had a lot in common with Azzo and his wife in the love of vintage rock & roll. Their menu looks tasty and we promise to return to test that theory out. (209) 984-1173.

We return to the National Hotel and find our selves in the cutest room with all the amenities one can think of from lovely antiques to warm bathrobes. The bed was just right comfortable and we both got a good nights sleep, not something we often experience! The National Hotel serves excellent coffee in the morning and it was waiting for us seemingly, just outside our door. We enjoyed a cup before breakfast was served and then took the short trip home to Groveland.
The return trip from the coast on this route did take us all day that second day, but for most of it, we were "touring" and not really just driving. With a handful of winery stops, this is a very pleasurable route to take from the coast to Groveland, Yosemite & beyond.

* Remember to do this type of "touring" with a designated driver, light taster. It takes eight tastings and drinking the full pours to equal one standard 6 oz glass of wine.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Musings of a busy innkeeper

Wow! We must have had a busy summer, I forgot all about the blog!

Check out to get your news out there!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Groveland Quilt Stroll (GQs)

Whoooo Hooo! How colorful can a town look? Just dress it up from end to end with hundreds of home made quilts and then invite the world to come and see them! Groveland's Quilt Guild, a suprisingly 85 member strong group in this little mountain village, pulled off a wonderful show this last weekend and we hope they will do it every year!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sorry, We're Closed

This is the hardest part of my night. In a business where we really do try to please everyone, there comes that moment at the end of the evening when you are certain to disappoint the late diners arriving just as you are closing the restaurant for the evening. The question is do we disappoint because we sat more dinner patrons and are unable to provide the top level service and food we do for earlier guests, or do we not seat them so their only disappointment is they didn't get sat.

We generally choose to go with the don't seat rule, then nobody can say they had a bad meal. But this does leave folks hungry.

I definitely dislike these moments!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

They still want to be linked from Hotel Charlotte

Can you believe it, the gentleman last written about actually has a Yosemite Falls Foutain and a great deal of content about famous waterfalls, including Yosemite Falls. So guess who is linking to the that it's legit.

I made my first advertising sale. $50 for a link....Cool!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

They want to pay to be linked from Hotel Charlotte?

Imagine my surprise when I received a post from a complete stranger earlier this month asking if I might link to his site and he would pay me $50. I was thrilled! How fun to have a website where folks are offering me money for a link from. Yipppeeee, Hotel Charlotte goes big time, look out Google!

Since I was in the midst of a remodel, putting a new face on the website and updating the content I waited until I was finished to add this new link. As I reviewed the inquiry I found that the gentleman wanted me to link the text: Yosemite Falls on the Hotel Charlotte Yosemite page to his page about water fountains. Instead I gave him a link on the left by the highlight and navigation bar and sent him a lovely post with the link included. Well turns out he only wants a link where he said...again came that generous offer of $50.

It has now been a week of pondering this link positioning problem and I just wrote my new link buddy back and said no....I know what I would think if I was researching my Yosemite trip and the link for Yosemite Falls took me to a fountain sales page. I would think the owner of the site wasn't really that interested in providing relevant content and I would leave for somewhere else on the www no longer trusting this sites integrity.

I hope that the visitors to the Hotel Charlotte website always feel they are getting good information. Please let me know if you are looking for a fountain, I do have a good resource for this.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A pleasure

It is always such a pleasure when someone does something unexpected that is of great benefit to you. Thanks Kevin for your blog post about the Hotel Charlotte!

Those of you who might be unfamiliar with Kevin Saitta's Photography, take a moment to see what he's up to. His work is all black and white and often brilliant. Take a look particularly at his portfolio pieces, one on Bodie and one on Trains. If I had the right architecture, I could easily see both of these in my home.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

There is ART in Groveland, on the way to Yosemite

This quaint gold mining town at the edge of the Sierras has much more to offer the passerby than a node on the history ruler. Groveland is fast becoming known as a cultural Mecca for quality art, music, theater and food all served in a setting that could be described as off-off-Broadway! We hope that this series of articles starting with "Art" will entice folks to stop for a bit, a bite or an overnight.

Where is Art in Groveland?
In search of Art, we start with our new gallery in town. Opened less than a year, the White Wolf Gallery is popular with artists and art aficionados for their ever rotating selection of pieces from photographs to sculptures and nature oils with homemade frames that are as much about the piece as the picture itself. They carry works from every price range from under-a-$1 postcards to sculptures in the 4 figures. In season White Wolf Gallery is open later on the weekends providing a great pre-dinner activity for those staying the night. You can contact the gallery at 209.962.0342.

Mountain Sage, on the west side of town, is not only the home gallery for owner-artist, Rob Hirsch and his brilliant photographs, but the business itself a work of art. Rob, with his wife Regina, has dedicated five years to creating a setting that is a rightfully a destination; from the eclectic Hammock Garden to the natural outdoor amphitheater, the map room, crafts center, book nook, free WiFi access, organic coffee impromptu sing-a-longs, movie marathons and so much more. One can quickly lose themselves nestled here with vision of Rob's photographs, a few daydreams and a Frisbee. 209.962.4686

Another place you could look for art in Groveland is at the Hotel Charlotte. Lynn and Victor don't just care for overnight visitors and dining guests but now attend to providing pleasing visuals to accompany your Charlotte experience. Local artists have come to find the Hotel Charlotte "The Place to Hang" for exposure and sales. Guests who have dined at the Charlotte will recognize the crisp photographs of local scenery by Terri Metz. Terri regularly rotates her images to match the seasons. Last week she retired a series of winter snowscapes and installed an aerial pictorial that follows from Moccasin through Groveland and over Pine Mountain Lake.

The Hotel Charlotte is the permanent gallery of Sierra Professional Artists. The monthly rotation in the front lobbies of works by various member artists of the Sierra Professional Artist association has yielded some lovely original watercolors, oils and collage pieces. The Hotel Charlotte website,, provides a sampling of the artists' works and background information on those who have shown and those who are coming up in 2007. 209.962.6455

Expanding on Art in the Charlotte and with the backing of the Yosemite Chamber of Commerce, Lynn orchestrated the first Groveland Art Stroll (GAS). This event was held on the Sunday of 4th of July weekend and matched local artists with retailers and with a good marketing blitz, got folks out and about mingling, browsing and buying. The event was given 5 stars by participating retailers, artists and participants. In 2006 the program was expanded to include all the Sundays of our big holiday weekends: Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.

For the 2007 season this tradition continues on the Sundays of May 27th, July 1st and September 2nd. With White Wolf Gallery, in their unique position of drawing on a broader field of artists, visitors can expect more artists, bigger canopies & tents, refreshments and specials from local restaurants and retailer discounts. Interested artists, crafts persons, jewelers, sculptors and retailers are encouraged to get involved. Please phone 208.962.0342 for an information packet.

The Sierra Professional Artists have long held their annual show at the Groveland Hotel, now scheduled for Sunday, July 1st, which balances nicely with the Groveland Art Stroll. The garden space provided by the Groveland Hotel is a perfect setting for the many pieces you will find on display and for sale. Funds from the art raffles benefit the local school's art programs. The Groveland Hotel provides a warm setting for lunch, art, music and wine in the garden. 209.962.4000

The success of the Art Strolls has fostered an additional downtown event using the retail district to display quilts. On June 9th the Quilters guild is hosting their first Groveland Quilt Stroll (GQs). The 80+ member group has enough artistic quilts to hang the town from end to end. What a colorful day this will be. Demonstrations and food will also be available at the lower section of Mary Laveroni Community Park. 209.962.4950

Put Groveland on your list of things to do, either as a special event day or on the way to Yosemite and remember, when strolling through downtown Groveland, Lynn and Victor invite you make a stop at the Hotel Charlotte to see what's hanging; on the walls, in the halls, around the dining rooms.

Writing articles on Groveland and the Region

So, while this blog has languished without entries for a while, it doesn't mean I haven't been busy writing. I found a new marketing idea and have been trying it out of late...writing articles. I have 10 submitted and 9 approved. I think the 10th is a big deal so they are really checking it out closesly. It is very rewarding to write, post and then find your article out over the internet in neat new places. Viral Marketing. Cool stuff. Feel free to check out the articles, mostly Groveland/Sierra related.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cabaret Charlotte returns in April

Same great director, same great singers, all new songs and menu! Join us on April 15, 22 and 29 (all Sundays) for Cabaret part Deux featuring songs from our favorite Broadway Musicals.

The $49 price includes tax, tip and $20 donation to Pine Cone Singers, this time for new concert wear. The menu includes:
  • bay shrimp stuffed avocado,
  • cream of asparagus soup,
  • lamb shank cabernet OR
  • grilled salmon
  • tiramisu for dessert.

This event qualifies for our stay & play pricing.

Have you seen our trip blog?, follow along with us on our adventures and misadventures!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Recipe Research Jan 9th, 2007

While we have left the hill, we haven't left the USA yet and I can only hope this is the worst hotel we will experience! We are likely the only guests here that have rented for the whole night. Don't ask how we ended up here, a wrong turn would be the best answer and I don't know why I didn't insist on leaving.

We did enjoy some great tastes of Lousiana at Creala in San Carlos for dinner. We speculated that this might be our last "American" meal.

I will start a new blog that is specific only to this trip, adding pictures as we gain access to the internet, which until today...almost two weeks into our trip, has been rather difficult to find. You can find the details online at