Wednesday, June 25, 2014
A lot of the waterfront in San Francisco is part of the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Most of the walk was down in this area - we stopped to have a look at folks doing open water swims in the Aquatic Park and agreed this was insane. Just a little further and they were setting up for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon (they ferry you out to the island and you swim back in) - the details of this event also didn't make much sense to us either, but we wish all of the racers well anyway!
The Rock (The Criterion Collection))
After some photography, people watching (a busload of tourists disembarked and started photographing the place from the sidewalk outside of the buildings - they weren't going in!), and a few chats with people who were reminiscing as we were, we headed on through the park and on to Chestnut Street, where we found an excellent little sushi place, Asa Sushi.
I'm going to have to go ahead and recommend Asa, so here's a link to their website: http://www.asasushisf.com - if you want Yelp! reviews you'll have to find them yourself.
The redevelopment of the Presidio is a pretty amazing story, and several friends have had the opportunity to work on it from the National Park Service side. It was a pleasant walk that really tested our endurance, but it certainly had its highlights between the glimpse we had of the old pet cemetery that they are preserving, and then there was the Wild Parrots of San Francisco sighting in a pine tree near the entrance.
For more information, I'll link you to the authoritative Breakfast at Epiphany's blog, where there are no less than 53 posts with the aforesaid label: http://breakfastatepiphany.blogspot.com/search/label/the%20Wild%20Parrots%20of%20San%20Francisco
Now, since I am going to link to the Breakfast at Epiphany's blog again in tomorrow's post, I should mention that I consider it authoritative is because of it's exhaustive coverage of excellent breakfast spots in San Fancisco. If you want the serious low-down on a place to have breakfast - as opposed to brunch - on some weekend morning when you happen to be in San Francisco, well you'd be well served to check in at Breakfast at Epiphany's first.
As we continued this walk, we enjoyed seeing all the locals who manage to come down to these areas and use them on a daily basis - families, bike riders, runners, swimmers, and dog walkers. Dog walking in San Francisco is a pretty serious industry, and I have seriously begun to think of it as a retirement job.
At this point, we were a couple of beaten down tourists, so we headed on back to Pier 39 for the ferry ride back. We worked in some caffeinated refreshments while we waited for our boat.
A pretty solid day of touring altogether. It left us hungry for the Vietnamese food we enjoyed in Oakland that night, and only barely prepared us for the activities we would experience on our second day of touring in SFO!
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
We stayed in Oakland for the Bay Area portion of our trip. I'd stayed in a reasonably good "motor inn" in the Jack London District when I was out in 2010, and I thought Mary would enjoy it, even though the neighborhood was "edgy." It did turn out to be convenient for the most part, and it definitely saved us a little money staying in East Bay for the three nights.
I had a meeting on Friday morning near the federal building, and our plan would be to circle back and catch an early ferry across the bay to San Francisco. This little excursion costs about $6 one way - it's a tourist bargain that everyone should know about. Plus, if you happen to geek out on great engineering, this gives some great views of the Bay Bridge - the topic of this post.
Of course, I have my panoramic image above of the bridge, taken as we pulled into the berth at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. We continued on to Pier 39 - and as it turned out, we finished our day early enough to catch the ferry back in the evening, so I snapped the photo below of the new span, on the east side of treasure island. I'm pairing it with a morning shot of demo in progress of the old span.
If you want to geek out further on this topic, there are some really good YouTubes of the construction and demolition. I've got a couple of them embedded in the post below:
Monday, June 23, 2014
The first photo here is an example of what many of the vineyards in this area look like - there are those brown hills everywhere topped with oaks and pines. The vines are more mature and the trees have grown up; otherwise this is a view we remember from the first time we stopped here in 1995! Nowadays, you often see vineyards climbing these hills - that was a new development for us - we learned that there are a lot of new vineyards in this area.
It was here at Navarro that we first learned about the emerging Pinot Noir trend at the California vineyards, and some of the other varieties like Shiraz and Syrah. Most of the wine here is sold direct, and Navarro keeps an excellent website about their operation - it is a cross between a blog and ecommerce site, in a style that I really enjoy. We used to order cases of these wines, splitting them with a few friends here in Alexandria - the website is here: http://www.navarrowine.com/main.php
We had a little chat with the host, and compared the California wine industry with the one we love in Virginia - certainly, we see goat and sheep as part of the farm in a lot of the Virginia locales (especially our neighbors, Wisteria). But then they told us that Navarro has 1,200 acres in cultivation, and that they are considered a small California vineyard! That would be an immense operation in Virginia!
Once we'd enjoyed the tasting (wine and cheese!) we were back on the way, headed for Oakland. We planned to use that as our base for daytripping over to San Francisco for the last phase of the vacation. Those experiences will make up my last few posts about the trip.
Friday, June 20, 2014
However, last Sunday morning she was right, and we went out for a walk of a mile or so on the Luray Hawksbill Greenway. We got back after and hour or so and I went to work writing - that came easy to me, so I finished earlier than I expected. I decided we might head up to Shenandoah National Park for a short hike.
We did take a little side trail for another tenth of a mile maybe. All totaled, 8 tenths of a mile or so, and then negligible altitude change. We did get to take in a wonderful view of Page Valley, with Lake Arrowhead in the foreground, and she had quite a few good sniffs along the AT.
One thing I've come to enjoy about stretches of the AT in the vicinity of Thornton Gap - that is the construction of the trails. Although the main tread areas can be well worn, often the masonry has held up very well, considering some of it was laid down in the 1930's by the CCC. You can see this along the right side of the trail in the photo above - nicely mitered edge to that border.
This was Tessie's fourth hike in Shenandoah National Park. It's fun to think about this as an actual shakedown for a longer day hike with something that could seriously be called a section - say 10 miles or so. I'll have to think about how we would provision it, and maybe we'll take something like that on in the fall.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
I have seen the V-22 Osprey in the air a few times, in fact there is already a post with them on the blog, showing two sightings: one at National Airport, and the other of a pair in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington.
I may have a post with a couple of B-1s, but I am still looking for it - when I worked in Arlington last, we'd see regular flyovers from Arlington Cemetery.
If there are tactical or strategic aircraft flying over and I can safely do it, I will snap a photo. This goes back to my enlistment in the Air Force - I was stationed at bases that rarely had much of an assigned force all those years. When we made our trips out to West Germany to visit "real" bases, we'd sit in awe and watch the runways.
...and I still like doing that!
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
In a previous post, I mentioned that Mary and I visited Mendocino in 1995 and 2000, and still have fond memories of those trips. Even after this third trip, we haven’t grown tired of it. In fact, it was a lot of fun to simply walk around rediscovering old memories of the place.
The town was the location for other movies and television as well. A favorite among these is "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming" - which also used the similarity to New England as the location setting for the story.
I’ve selected a few of my favorites here – the sculpture on top of the old Masonic Hall (now a bank), a view of the beach from the headlands, a shot of Mary on the headlands with the town in the background, and a shot of the town from a similar nearby vantage point.
This is the last post I’ll write about our visit to Mendocino, as our too short visit quickly came to an end. From here, we headed back through Anderson Valley and on to Oakland, which we used as a base for two days of sightseeing in San Francisco – those posts are next.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
|The sea lion rookery, just offshore.|
When we first arrived in Mendocino on our vacation, since our room was not ready for check-in we decided to head over to the Point Cabrillo lighthouse.
As I mention in the post last week, we learned there was a sea lion rookery nearby, and decided we would make time for a stop before we left town.
There is a private neighborhood there, so no cars are permitted down to the beach. However, there is public parking nearby, and you can walk down the road to public beach for a look. Although there is a little work involved to find it, the walk is fairly easy and some climbing on the bluffs is required.
|A view of the Point Cabrillo light from the bluffs.|
The sea lions are off shore on a little island there – I took the photo above from the bluffs to show the island. I think there were probably several hundred out there on the day we visited. It was a real treat to see them all.
I Googled to see if I could find additional info. There’s no specific page or Wikipedia article, but there are plenty of other references to this rookery. I found this very interesting map of the area on a California agency’s page:
Monday, June 16, 2014
This week I’ll continue with a few more posts from our recent vacation in Mendocino, CA. First up, Glass Beach at Fort Bragg, California –
As Mary and I started researching some of the sites we could visit while we were on the North Coast, I came across the Fort Bragg Chamber of Commerce website, and from there I learned about “Glass Beach,” which is part of MacKerricher State Park. There’s a beautiful traditional beach there, but the surprise is the namesake phenomenon.
Apparently, this stretch of beach was used as the town dump for a few decades. There was an industrial site (I seem to remember some lumber facilities from past visits) there too, which eventually led to closing off the dump. The sea did its incredible, inexhaustible work and broke done everything that was tossed there, leaving only polished sea glass behind.
We made a point to visit and also to hike along the beach there. While collecting the glass is discouraged, and there are signs to that effect, there were several people out there scooping up fragments – it’s a popular complaint that most of the colorful pieces are gone (we heard this in the CVS where we asked for directions, and from a woman we met walking there who is a docent at one of the other heritage facilities nearby).
Mary scooped up a handful to show how accidentally beautiful the place is. There is literally no sand – all polished glass.
There’s a Wikipedia page here, if you want to look into it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_Beach_(Fort_Bragg,_California)
Friday, June 13, 2014
Last Monday I gave an update on how Dan's hopyard is doing over at Beaver Run Brewery in Stanley, so today I'll make a short post on how the ones I have in the backyard in Alexandria are doing. Readers may recall that I have one Willamette bine and two Goldings bines - the Willamette and one of the Goldings are both in their second year, while the other Golding is a new plant started this spring.
|The Willamette bine.|
|Cones starting to form on the Willamette.|
Last year, the Willamette didn't produce any cones. I've been told that they take three years to reach full maturity, so you can't expect full production until then. However, I changed it's location to a spot in the full sun, and it is growing very well, with buds forming already - I'll have a small crop of Willamette this fall.
I can't put an optimally sized trellis up in the spot I have this one planted in because the power line to the house crosses over there. It only goes up to seven feet, and it has reached the top and started to bunch up there. This is where most of the cones will likely be when it is time to harvest.
|The two Goldings bines.|
The Goldings are faring poorly this year. Moving the second year plant probably set it back, and the first year plant is focusing its energy on establishment, so I don't expect much of a harvest over there.
As far as conditions go, for the Goldings bines I have a 10-foot trellis set up, so they have room to grow. As of last Tuesday morning the older plant had made it up to five feet or so - I think the location here is part of the problem. There may not be enough sun on them during the day to get full growth, which compounds the problem I created when I moved the older plant.
I'm still optimistic. Last year I had a half dozen or more little cones on the one Goldings bines, so I hope that it will produce something. I'll reward it by finding a better place for it next year.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Our walk down to the light crossed through the salty meadows of the headlands. When we reached the bluffs, a turn south would take us directly to the lighthouse, but we heard the sound of sea lions nearby and decided to walk north instead. We encountered an incredible tidal pool, but there was no sign of the sea lions.
When we arrived back at the lighthouse, we toured the displays and the building, but you cannot actually go up into the light here, since it is still a working signal. The exhibits explain the history of the lighthouse, and of shipwrecks that have been found in the area. Point Cabrillo was built to guide ships along the coast from San Francisco to pick up the forest and industrial products coming from this region.
We chatted with the docent, and she explained that the sea lions were a few miles further north, on a small island with a rookery on it. She gave us directions, and we decided to come back later, after we went back to Mendocino to check in at the hotel.
We’ll let that thought hang in the air for a while. Meanwhile, we headed back to Mendocino to check in, and hiked around the headlands again before dinner.
Here’s a link to the lighthouse page: http://www.pointcabrillo.org
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
It was a fledgling internet back then, and shipping wine from the west coast was pretty challenging in those days, but we managed to make the connection and we used the Brut for our toasts. The vintner threw in a magnum for us, which he personally signed.
I sent a few emails to Roederer while we were planning this year’s trip, and included a photo of the signed bottle (also shown here). We had opened the bottle with friends to celebrate buying our first house in Alexandria, but we kept the bottle as a memento of the wedding and our California vacations. The folks at the vineyard told me that Michel the winemaker had retired, so we had a rare keepsake in this bottle.
The Roederer website (linked at the end of the post) previews their tasting arrangement, but it also offers a picnic as one of the things you can do during a visit. I thought this sounded like a great idea for a celebration and booked the picnic a few days before we left on the trip.
We were treated to a great selection of craft foods from the Anderson Valley wine region – sausages, goats and sheep milk cheeses, and fresh fruit (peaches were already in out there!). We chose the Brut Rose as an accompaniment.
We stayed for an hour or so, enjoying the scenery and the wine – and the beautiful weather in the Anderson Valley area. Then it was back on the road to Mendocino, still about 90 minutes away at that point.
A link to the Roederer Vineyard is here: http://www.roedererestate.com. It’s definitely worth the stop if you find yourself in their neck of the woods.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
On our vacation, Mary and I decided to cut the drive from Sunnyvale to Mendocino in half by staying in Windsor, a small town just south of Healdsburg. We used that as a base to make our evening stop at the Bear Republic tap room, and since we planned to make two stops on the drive to the coast, it just made sense. I wrote about one stop – the Anderson Valley Brewery – last week, and my next post will be about the second stop, which was the Roederer Estate vineyard.
The drive from Healdsburg to Mendocino follows 101 for a few miles north, then you exit to California Route 128 and drive west. It is one of my favorite California drives – along with the road from Greenfield across the mountains to Carmel, and of course, Mulholland Drive in LA. We rented a convertible Mustang for the drive once, which was great.
I’d received a text from my friends Kelly and Tom to check out a barn on Chalk Hill Road, near the winery, in Healdsburg and told them we would on our way out of town. Turns out that Tom’s parents had a little spread here for a while, and the barn was designed by Tom to be used as a guest house on the property. It was close enough to the road to get a decent photo, but there’s more info on the Kamm Architecture webpage.
From there we continued our drive, with the requisite stops at AVBC in Philo and then at Roederer. The last ten miles or so of Route 128 winds through a grove of coastal redwoods, another California treat, before you emerge on the coast at the mouth of the Navarro River (spoiler alert – we stopped at Navarro Vineyard on the way back).
We went to check in upon arrival at our first night’s hotel – the final photo shows the view from the doorway to the front desk. We’d last been here in 2000, so we were looking forward to getting reacquainted with the incredible scenery in the town and its surroundings.
Monday, June 9, 2014
The first photo is a look across several rows, with most of the view showing Cascades. Of all the varieties in his hopyard, which include Willamette, Golding, Fuggles, and Centennial, these do the best. In fact, that's why I didn't plant them - I want more space for those than I have in the backyard in Alexandria, so I settled on getting some variety instead.
The second photo offers a close up of cones forming, again on the Cascades. But this is the case with all of his plants - they're are all busting out like crazy this year. He has taken to calling 2014 the year of the hop, as a matter of fact.
Later in the day, I spoke to another friend in Luray, Bill, who planted a half-dozen Cascade rhizomes that Dan gave him in his in-town backyard. I used some of his hops in my "Tax-Day IPA" from earlier this year. Bill reported that his plants have gone crazy too - I spied them a little bit from the parking lot when I took Tessie for her walk.
For a long time, Dan has suspected that some pecan trees in the backyard, near where the hops are, were having a negative impact on the Willamettes production. He decided to take a couple of rhizomes and plant them as decoration on their patio. The final photo I have here shows how one of those plants is doing - looking good again this year.
Last year, Mary and I took a week-long vacation at Hawksbill Cabin, and on one of the days we went up to neighbor Dan's for a cook-out. We took a walk through the hopyard that time as well - here's a link to the post, showing the plants at nearly the same stage as what I saw yesterday:
I still have some vacation posts to catch up on, and I'll get back to those tomorrow.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
|Brian, enjoying the day's offering of|
"Hell or High Watermelon"
Today’s post will conclude my three-post series about the brewery visits Mary and I made during our recent vacation to Northern California. This post is about 21st Amendment, which is located in the SOMA area of San Francisco, near Giants Stadium, while the previous posts were about Bear Republic, North Coast, Russian River, and Anderson Valley.
The stop at 21st Amendment was a not exactly but kind of an ad hoc affair, thrown into my friend Brian’s “50-cent” tour of San Francisco. There will be a future post about the tour, and while this stop alone was worth at least 25 cents, he didn’t charge us extra. As a tip, I’ve decided to throw in this photo of him enjoying a glass of “Hell or High Watermelon” outside at the brewery, and also, I’ll remind him: Don’t play in the freeway.
(For a preview of my future post about Brian's 50-cent tour, you can check out Brian’s blog post about the day here: http://breakfastatepiphany.blogspot.com/2014/06/dotties-true-blue-cafe.html)
This brewery is pretty well known, even around my local in Bethesda, because the beer finds its way to a distributor in Maryland and so Jay and Sonoo carry it (heck, I just bought a sixpack of it there last night!). A friend raved about the watermelon wheat beer last year, and I’ve tried some of the other offerings as well – so of all the breweries, this was my “must see” – thanks again to Brian.
When our friend Cathy first moved out to San Francisco in the early 1990’s, she took an apartment in SOMA near where the old Embarcadero Freeway stood. We went to dinner near there – as it turns out, Brian parked on a street we remembered from those old days, so we had a good run of memories going for us during the stop.
|The brew list.|
Apparently, the weekends – I’m assuming these are non-game weekends, since you can see Giants Stadium only three or four blocks away – are a time for the brewers to come out and do demonstrations of small batches. They had a five-gallon set-up going and were brewing one of those trendy beer-wine combinations, and they had samples of a wheat marzen they had brewed a few weeks before, so we tried it.
All good; but while the wheat marzen is not one I am likely to try brewing myself for a while, I do plan to make a watermelon wheat this summer (in time for Independence Day), and I have a kit for the beer-wine combo, which I plan to do during July.
Their taproom has a great urban feel to it, so it would make for a good stop practically any sunny day in San Francisco. Then again, if it happened to be a foggy or rainy day, you could also stop in for one of their dubbels or maybe a stout. The food offerings looked pretty good as well.
|21st Amendment's Taproom.|
Here’s the link to 21st Amendment: http://21st-amendment.com/
This wraps up the brewery series. Next week I’ll continue with selected posts from the vacation – and hopefully, I’ll have my first post of the year on the Luray-Page County Farmers Market.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
|The deckel from AVBC.|
Of the five breweries that we visited on the trip, Mary and I had been to Anderson Valley and North Coast on previous trips to Mendocino in 1995 and 2000. Anderson Valley is conveniently situated about halfway along Route 128 from Highway 101 to the PCH. It’s in wine country, as well, but it made a good stop for us on the way to our destination.
|A row of hop bines along the parking area.|
|A more traditional hopyard out by Route 128.|
I’ve also got a photo of the taproom here, just for a reference for myself and friends, if we ever do finally chase the dream of opening a brewery ourselves. A clean, well-lit place, as Hemingway once said – and that is exactly what I have in mind.
|The AVBC Taproom.|
After checking out the offerings, I chose four to have in the little sample glasses. I picked one of the namesake offerings, a weizen, a saison, and then the Chilean Porter. All were good, but I really enjoyed the Saison and the Porter – both were enough of an inspiration that I might look into them for future brew projects.
Especially the porter!
Tomorrow I will wrap up this series of posts, but until then, here is a link to the Anderson Valley brewery: