Monday, October 30

Highlights

So I'm slacking off on blogging as usual. I thought I better share some thoughts on California before I forget everything about the trip!

First things first, I have come back with a true passion for wine, something I thought I already had, but I guess hadn't truly developed. Out of the entire trip, wine country was definitely the highlight (which is saying a lot since Yosemite and San Francisco were also amazing). More than anything, I learned far more about wine and winemaking than I had imagined, and almost every winery we visited poured incredible wines. I have a renewed interest in continuing to educate myself about wine, different wine regions, how to differentiate tastes and aromas and anything else you can imagine. I should have a lot of practice since I came back with a case and a half of wine and have bought more since I got back (the ones we knew would be available back here, which is a very small percentage).

The one downside to all of this of course is that wine as a hobby is pretty expensive. I have been daydreaming about ways to move out to California and work in a winery tasting room, or as a sommelier at a restaurant. There is a sommelier course offered by an instructor Dave and I have taken classes from in the past. The class is over $400 and I never actually considered taking it, but now I am. The fall class has already started so I have some time to think more seriously about it (and start saving the money!).

Anyway, if anyone is ever headed out there and wants some recommendations on places to go, I'm happy to assist. One place I can tell you to avoid is Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco. By far the disappointment of the trip (perhaps aside from freezing temps, snow, and a rockslide on the road to our campsite in Yosemite), exceptional service, but food that isn't always memorable and outrageous wine by the glass prices. Overall not worth the money we spent, which is unfortunuate. Loved San Francisco though, tons of character, very neat place to just walk around. And Muir Woods (another highlight) is not far outside of the city.

I'm about to post a few photos in my photo blog (link on the right) so check it out when you have time. I hope to actually post a good number of the pics soon, but we know how good I am at that!

Anyway, sucks to be back here although I was of course happy to see my puppers, who managed to do quite well while I was gone. If anyone knows of any good wine pouring jobs, let me know!

Thursday, September 28

California here I come!

So everything is pretty much set, car is rented, airplane tickets purchased, hotels booked, restaurant and winery reservations made. I leave on Wednesday, working until noon, then dropping Neyla off and heading to the airport. Thanks to Dave we're flying Jetblue - bigger seats, direct TV, DIRECT FLIGHT, and a 3rd checked bag (read: case of wine on the way back). AND we're on budget - $800 for everything, except eating and buying wine of course, but even there we're doing well. A few of our hotels have kitchenettes or at least fridges and microwaves so we can save some money on meals.

I really can't wait. For those who want to live vicariously, or just be jealous (c'mon, I'm allowed to be a snot, I don't get to travel that often), here's our itinerary:

Wednesday - Flight out, pick up rental car, quick stop at grocery store and early to bed
Thursday/Friday - Hiking and seeing major sights in Yosemite National Park
Saturday - Big Crush Festival in Amador County - basically we're spending the day tasting huge zinfandels (pretty much our favorite style of wine) at the wineries, including barrel and vertical tastings
Sunday - Sonoma Harvest Festival (are you getting the gist that it's harvest time yet?) - tasting wines from various wineries in Sonoma County
Monday/Tuesday - Sightseeing in San Francisco, including one nice dinner out to either Gary Danko or Michael Mina's (anyone been to either, we're having trouble picking???)
Wednesday-Friday - 3 more days touring wine country (Russian River, Dry Creek, Glen Ellen in Sonoma, and Napa)

I'll regale you with stories of what I can remember when I get back, and pictures as well. I'm really so excited - some of the wineries have some really neat things to offer (beyond wine that is, who knew?!). One example to give you an idea - Mumm Napa, who is known for Champagne, has a gallery of Ansel Adams photography.

I really can't believe it's here. We were definitely scrambling at the end to finalize some plans and we did miss out on appointments at a few wineries on our list, but the good news is there are so many great ones to choose from that it doesn't really matter!

I'll try to blog again before I leave, but it will probably be about 2 weeks before you hear from me again. I know you'll all miss me very much, try not to shed any tears. :>)

Thursday, September 21

Camping and the debut of my new photo blog

So we made another trip to Shenandoah this past weekend. It was my first trip with both dogs since I adopted Zuri (he did come with us to Maine, but he wasn't my dog yet). We stayed in another PATC cabin, Rock Spring cabin this time. It was very similar to the last one I stayed in, but I didn't like this one quite as much. The major difference was that Rock Spring hut, which is a shelter for thru-hikers was right in my backyard, which was actually cool as I got to chat with a few. What wasn't cool was the group of boy scouts camping there when I got in Saturday night (it's not supposed to be used by anyone except thru-hikers, pretty disappointing that the boy scout leaders wouldn't be teaching them to be respectful of that).

So as you may be able to guess from that info, the trip didn't start off exactly as planned. In addition to that, I somehow managed to overpack to the point that my pack was just ridiculously heavy. I also had the cooler with the dogs' food. I basically had to stop every minute or so to rest or switch hands, cursing myself the entire way. Then, right as I approach the large group of people at the hut, I slip. In case you didn't know, slipping with a large pack on your back scares the shit out of your dogs, which causes them to take off while you are trying to regain your balance. The result was me being dragged partway down the hill, holding onto their leashes for dear life and trying not to fall either (which I managed somehow to do).

Finally I manage to get to my cabin, where the boy scouts have started a fire and are eating dinner at my picnic table - nice! They did quickly clear out and were nice enough to leave their fire for me. Good thing too, b/c I left my stove fuel in the car! Thankfully one thing that was weighing me down on the hike in was the single Sierra Nevada I had put in the cooler. At this point I am ready for it, so I crack that open and sip it while getting a pot of spring water on to boil so I can make dinner and have clean drinking water. While it took a while to get it boiling, it finally did. However, when I went to pour it into another container, I discovered that the glove at the cabin to use for the fire did not actually offer any sort of protection. As the handle of the pot burned my hand through it, I scrambled to put it back on the uneven grate. In the process I spilled half of my water, some of that onto my hand. While I did have burns that hurt pretty badly until the following morning, they were only first degree, no blistering, and thankfully I had added some burn pads to my first aid kit which offered some relief.

After I bandaged my fingers up, I did manage to enjoy my dinner and read for a while before going to bed. It was cold as hell, but I was at least prepared for that and after getting myself out of bed midway through the night to put my down booties on, I slept pretty well. Things did turn around the next morning. We got up and hiked to the car to get the fuel, then I boiled some water (safely, on my stove) to make oatmeal and hot chocolate. After relaxing all morning and reading, we headed out for a relatively easy 3 1/2 mile hike to the highest point in that part of the park, Hawksbill Mtn, where we enjoyed some nice views and chatted with some nice people. Then we hiked back and relaxed for the rest of the day until it started to get dark and we hiked back out.

While I'd like to end on a positive note, I have to say that the weight of my pack caused a recurrence of my ITB tendonitis like I haven't had in years. We hiked out at a crawl, with me near tears at points because of the excruciating pain in my knee (this was after taking anti-inflammatories since I knew what was coming when the pain started on our earlier hike). Thankfully the bath I took when I got home, followed by icing and heavy doses of Celebrex seem to have cleared it up.

So while it might not sound like it, it was a good trip. Every time I go I become more confident in my abilities, which is a really good feeling (even when I'm fucking up, hey at least I was learning). And I am proud to say that I didn't get nervous about bears even one time!

Anyway, that brings me to my second topic, my new photo blog. I decided to start posting photos from trips on a separate blog so visit Neyla the Wanderer to see some photos from this trip. I do still plan to post some from our last trip soon, and of course when I get back from California mid-October I'll post those as well. The link to the blog is on the right, or click here.

Monday, September 11

Zuri

Zurich's new name is officially Zuri. Just thought I'd let you, you being the internet b/c no one reads my blog, know.

Thursday, September 7

Inbox inventory

HOORAY! For the first time in a long time, my inbox has less emails than will fill my screen. I used to keep it this way all of the time, but lately it has been out of control, quite similar to my life. Today I took some time and cleaned it out. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come in other areas as well. Ah sweet inbox.

Thursday, August 31

Neyla has a brother

Well, Neyla has several male littermates, but now she has a brother at home too. On Tuesday I spoke for a second dog, a male named Zurich (soon to have a new name though). I'll be signing the adoption contract tonight - new toy and treats from the doggie bakery are already at home waiting.

Hopefully I'm going to get some better pictures soon, and will post more then, but here are two pics from his GW page for now. He's the ideal second dog for us, Neyla gets along really well with him and while he's a total sissy, he's smart, food motivated, playful, and just a whole hell of a lot of fun. Hopefully everyone will meet him soon - come visit me in DC if you don't live nearby so you can!







Wednesday, August 30

A warm welcome back from the drag queens

Back from Maine, it's hot as fuck here, and humid too. After crying that it was going to be too cold in Maine, I'm wishing for that weather down here. Actually, I'd like one more pool weekend this coming weekend and then that's good for me.

Anyway, Maine was relaxing as usual. Never long enough, especially given the amount of driving, but still worth it. Unfortunately, with the long, late night drive back and my night out last night, I am exhausted again.

Speaking of...last night was cheetah happy hour followed by drag queen bingo. MY GOD! How have I lived here for 7 years and never experienced drag queen bingo before?! For anyone in the area, or anyone who wants to come and visit, this is where we're going for my birthday in January. Sadly, I didn't win anything (I never do), but Craig was happy to pass along the gay porn he won to me.

That actually brings us to what had to be the best part of the evening, which is that Craig got bingo on the diagnal that was picked based on the way his dick hangs. That's right my friends, the drag queens had a look, determined it hung right, and we then played bingo from the top of the B's to the bottom of the O's and Craig was the first and only person to get a bingo! That just cannot be topped in my book. Although it was pretty funny when Xavier grabbed his dick a few times while giving him a little lap dance.

Guys, don't be scared off - the crowd was primarily straight women, then straight men, then gay men and a handful of lesbians. And really Craig got picked on, a lot. And you can avert your eyes when they play the gay porn dvd to show you what you're gonna win! :>)