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.