California or Bust

Lisa and I took a week-long trip to the California wine country to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Our anniversary is actually August 5, but I’m always in the middle of the beginning of school, so we decided to celebrate a month early. 

We flew into Sacramento on the third of July, hooked up with my sister, her husband, and my two beautiful nieces and decided to spend our Fourth of July in one of our nation’s most beautiful parks, Yosemite. We chose to rent rafts and float down the Merced River to view the spectacular view of the polished granite mountains, canyons, and the dynamic waterfall. The temperature got to 106, as we were leaving to head back for fireworks, steak, and locally-brewed beers to cap off a beautiful day.

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Yosemite falls

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Friday began with a tour of my brother-in-law’s cherry distribution plant. They weren’t on line while we were there but it was amazing to see the process by which they clean, sort, package, store, and distribute, 200 tons of cherries a day. Here is a picture of all they have left in their coolers.

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When we finished our tour of the cherry plant it was time to do some wine tasting in Lodi. It was amazing to see so many grape, cherry, walnut, and olive orchards wherever we drove. We visited six wineries that day and came home with seven amazing bottles of wine and one bottle of jalapeño/garlic olive oil! We met some interesting people along the way and made some new friends too.

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We drove to San Francisco Saturday morning. Wow, what a temperature change! The highs during our three days in the Bay Area barely got out of the sixties with lows in the low 50s during the early morning hours with a good breeze and very low humidity. Yeah, we get maybe three days a year like that down in south Louisiana. Total!  We got to do all the tourist stuff, like ride the streetcar, visit the wharf, visit Chinatown and take the ferry across the bay. Chinatown was an amazing experience for me. I enjoyed the markets, especially the poultry that was freshly cooked and was hung in the windows with the melted fat still dripping from them. It was a little weird though to still see heads, beaks, and even bills still attached to the bodies of cooked poultry.  On a sad note, it was on our trip on the ferry across the bay that I noticed black smoke in the distance. One of the people next to us got the tweet that there had been a terrible crash at the airport. We found out later that evening on the news about the terrible plane crash.
Well, we ended up taking the wrong ferry. We went to Oakland instead of Sausalito. Everything you hear about Oakland being the armpit if the Bay Area is…well…true. However, I did manage to spend some time in California Canoe and Kayak. I was even able to help a couple solve a problem they were having with excessive noise with their car-topped kayak. 

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Chinatown

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After another ferry ride back to the wharf, we enjoyed dinner at Scoma’s Restaurant. We had a great crab cake appetizer and shared a crab risotto entry. We stayed at the famous Fairmount Hotel. 

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Sunday began with Mass at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral and a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito.

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We walked the wharf and shops there. It seemed that everyone there owns a yacht, sailboat, or touring kayak. We ducked into a bayside bar and drank another local brew and made some new friends. Come to find out, the lady had graduated from LSU and they were the owners of the two very long touring kayaks that we saw in the parking lot. Here’s a picture of the amazing kale pizza.

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After our day in Bay Area, we took the winding road that would take us to Muir Woods, a national park dedicated to the preservation of the giant redwood sequoia patch located there. The trees were tremendous in size and we couldn’t help but entertain a certain reverence as we strolled through the canopy of ferns, clover, and redwoods. Some of the trees there were estimated to be over 900 years old! 

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Monday began with an amazing breakfast in San Francisco that consisted of Crab Benedict and lemon meringue pancakes!

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We checked out of our hotel and headed to the Sonoma/Napa Valley wineries. We spent the day sampling wines and touring wineries.

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Many of the wineries contained rich histories including one that was built on an old Franciscan Mission. The wines were great but not all that much better than the Lodi wines we had tasted over the weekend. However, the scenic views were spectacular! It’s hard to express in words the feeling of sitting in a perfectly manicured garden area of a winery that’s tucked  up on a hill overlooking acres and acres of vineyards while you sample exquisite wines in a cool breeze. So, I won’t try to.
The ride back to Lodi was also beautiful as we drove through the delta area. In addition to farming every kind of fruit and nut, Californians have also learned to farm the wind. Image
We certainly enjoyed our week. I promised Lisa that since we were celebrating our anniversary, I would not bring my fly rod. I stuck to my promise and even passed up a fly shop and a fly fishing camp in Sonoma. By the way, we saw some beautiful rainbows and carp in the Mercede River during our float trip. I did sone research before leaving and saw that there are some great fly fishing streams, creeks, and rivers along the Sierra Nevada foothills and my next trip to this area will find my six piece, 5wt. neatly packed in my suitcase. 

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