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2019-05-21 to 2019-05–25 – The Desert Trip – Indian Wells, CA

Our annual trip to Indian Wells, CA, near Palm Springs, began on Tuesday morning… Indian Wells is a one hour drive from Redlands.  For 5 days we sat by the pools, walked through the resort, and had breakfast, lunch, happy hours, and dinner in all the hotel’s dining venues…

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It was freezing cold all week, until Friday.  Most days were in the high 60s.  On Friday it reached the high 80s, so we could finally enjoy happy hours and dinner outdoors…

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After dinner we enjoyed a nice stroll around the resort…

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Saturday morning, as the resort filled up with families for the holiday weekend, we headed back to Redlands…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-17 to 2019-05-20 – The Wedding Trip – Healdsburg, CA

We rose at 4:30 am, locked up the Villa, and we drove the rental car to Nashville…

We had an effortless check-in; 6 hours later, or so, we were in another rented car and we were driving north from Oakland to Healdsburg, CA…

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California hills are a different color of green than Kentucky… in another two weeks or so this green grass will be golden brown, setting off even more the beauty of the oak trees…

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We stopped for lunch at the Wild Goat Bistro in Petaluma…

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Then we put down the top and cruised back roads into Healdsburg…

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Vineyards are always so picturesque…

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The back roads are delightful!

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The town of Healdsburg is dripping with charm…

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We checked in to our B&B, walked the neighborhood for a while, and met old California friends for dinner…

On Saturday we joined 10 other California friends for a day of wine tasting… The top was definitely up as we drove through the rain to Williams Selyem Winery for our first stop…

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We hurried in to the “Tasting Palace”… We waited for our tour to begin…

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Out tasting was in this private room atop the winery…

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We enjoyed the hospitality of the winery staff, tasted many wines, bought a few bottles, and we drove again, in the rain, to Land of Promise…

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Land of Promise doesn’t have a tasting palace, or a winery, or a tasting room.  We were invited into the owners’ house, and we sat at their dining room table while they poured glasses of wine for us… The hosts were delightful and charming, and they shared their story about their journey to this Promised Land…

They showed us into their wine cellar, and we tripped over each other trying to get photos…

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We drove again in the rain to Wilson Artisan Wines…

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We enjoyed a semi-private tasting area and enjoyed a variety of wines.

Saturday evening the parents of the bride hosted dinner for the Like-minded Friends at a local gourmet burger joint… A lovely time was had by all…

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Sunday morning Lynda and I headed out for a drive to Anderson Valley, hoping to find a little dry spell where we could put down the top.  No luck.  The rain continued…

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We returned to the B&B and prepared for the wedding, held at the MacRostie Winery.  The rain was beginning to stop…

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The wedding went off without a hitch, at least after the bride and her father got untangled from her dress…

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Before the reception I was able to catch Lynda in her wedding finery…

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The rain stopped and the setting sun lit up the eastern side of the valley…

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The reception was in the large tasting area of the winery…

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The hills continued being beautiful…

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And the sun finally set…

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The reception moved to a cocktail lounge in Healdsburg, then we walked back to the B&B…

Monday morning we flew from Oakland to Ontario, and we Ubered home to Redlands.  The trip was uneventful, except that the TSA in Oakland confiscated our lovely parting gifts from the wedding – very nice cork screws.  I hadn’t even taken them out of the goody bag… The good news?  I have others…

On returning home I found out what had been delivered to the house and placed in the wine room during the past 2 months that we have been gone…

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I had my work cut out for me today…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-05 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Cinco de Mayo! – Day #11

We had a busy day today, but everything was easy-going and enjoyable.  We began by driving 20 minutes into downtown Lexington;  we attended services at the 2nd Presbyterian Church…

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The 8:45 am service was very sparsely attended; maybe 60-70 people.  I trust the 11:00 am service would be better…  It was a very traditional service; it was a little odd that their hymns had familiar tunes, but totally different words.

We returned to the Villa, and then we walked over to the Horse Park.

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We saw horses.

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The big barn houses the draft horses – Clydesdales and similar hard working horses…

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The Big Barn is supposedly the largest horse barn in the USA…

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There was an interesting display showing the earliest and biggest horse farms and estates.  There was no mention that the horse farms, dating to the early 19th century, used slaves to work the horses.  In fact, all the early jockeys were slaves, and later, former slaves, until the Jim Crow laws and attitudes eliminated blacks from horse racing tracks altogether; this changed finally in the late 20th century…

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We watched a potion of the “Showcase of Breeds”, where we saw four different saddle horses on display…

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We walked through the “Hall of Champions”; this is where former winners are spending their twilight years living in the lap of luxury…

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And we walked back to the Villa…

We drove to the tiny town of Midway, so named because it was at the halfway point of the Ohio and Lexington Railroad; it was the first town in Kentucky founded by the railroad.  It was a delightful town, with railroad tracks running down the center of Main Street… Did I mention that it was laid out by the Railroad?

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This corner building used to house the local IOOF lodge – Oldfellows.  If I ever wanted to move to a small town I would find a building like this to convert to living quarters… What could be better than living in a place like this?

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The former train depot is now a bank…

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We had lunch at the Brown Barrel.  Good burgers (a blend of ground brisket, short rib, and chuck – just like I use at home…), and The Best French Fries Ever!

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The building is a former distillery, but I suspect the roof had caved in, because this roof  structure looks pretty new and pristine to me…

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After lunch we drove to do another bourbon tasting.  We are in the heart of the Bluegrass country – green pastures and horse barns as far as you can see…

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We arrived at our destination:

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Woodford Reserve is a very pretty place!  The distillery was built in 1812, and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.  But Woodford Reserve was founded here in 1996…

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They have a nice deck area where you can enjoy a cocktail or a light lunch…

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We started the tour overlooking the 1812 stone buildings…

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You know the song, “Roll Out the Barrel”?  This is where the barrels are rolled out from the distillery to the Barrel House…

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The traditional cypress wood fermenting tanks…

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The pot stills…

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Woodford Reserve is unique in that they use ONLY pot stills; there are no column stills here.  The fermented mash is distilled three times to get the whiskey to about 168 proof…

The barrel house…

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The tour guide talked about the historic stone barrel house… However, when questioned, he told us that it only holds 5,000 barrels.  They have five other modern barrel houses over the hill, which each contain over 50,000 barrels each…

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Another thing we heard for the first time is that they use steam heat in the barrel houses during cold winter months; they add heat, then turn it off; the result is that the temperature changes from high to low many times throughout the winter.  I was shocked!  This would kill any fine wine; wine needs a constant temperature to mature in the bottle.  But bourbon ages in wooden barrels, and the hot-cold cycle allows the wood to expand, sucking whiskey into the wood, then contract, pushing the whiskey back out of the wood.  This is what provides the flavor to bourbon, and it seems like they know what they are doing…

We tasted the Woodford Reserve and the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.  The regular WR was good, the WR Double Oaked was better.  The Double Oaked is aged in the regular way for 4-5-6 years, then the bourbon is poured into another new oak barrel that has been heavily toasted and charred; the bourbon is aged for another 9-12 months…

Driving back to the Villa we saw even more beautiful vista across the Bluegrass countryside.

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We enjoyed Happy Hours (6:00 – 9:00 pm) with another couple that we had not met at the various GAMs… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-22 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Traveling from Chattanooga, TN to Lynchburg TN, and Jack Daniels, and on to Huntsville, AL…

We prepared to leave for traveling to Lynchburg, TN, this morning.  Then we realized that Lynchburg is in the Central Time Zone and we were still in Eastern time in Chattanooga.  So we had an extra hour to kill.  But we left relatively early, and had a nice drive across Tennessee.  (The highway even dipped south for a few miles into Georgia before it turned slightly north back into Tennessee…)

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We soon arrived in Lynchburg, and …

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This is their fully restored antique truck, from all the way back in 1980…

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Signage on this truck shows Jack Daniel’s motto:  “All Goods Worth Price Charged.”

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The tour began by hearing an explanation of what Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is:

The law defines Tennessee Whiskey as: a spirit manufactured in Tennessee; made from grain that consists of at least 51% corn; distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% abv); filtered through maple charcoal prior to aging; aged in new charred oak barrels; placed in the barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.5% abv); and, bottled at not less than 80 proof (40% abv).

Except for the filtering through maple charcoal, this defines Bourbon.  In other words, Tennessee Whiskey is Bourbon filtered through maple charcoal.  Jack Daniels calls this process “Mellowing”.

We started at the Rick House, where they burn the sugar maple; we moved on to the water source, deep inside this cave:

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Here is a statue of Jack Daniel standing on a granite boulder; you know, Jack on the Rocks…

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This building was the headquarters office used by Jack Daniel’s up until 1958; it was here, in about 1905, that Jack kicked the company safe one morning, broke his toe, and died a few years later from gangrene, at the age of 61.

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The owners of the company in 1958 (four brothers who had inherited the business) sold the business to Brown-Foreman for $20,000,000.  It is still owned by Brown-Foreman today.  Brown-Foreman also owns Early Times, Old Forester, Woodford Reserve, Canadian Mist, GlenDronach, BenRiach, Glenglassaugh, Finlandia, Herradura, Korbel, and Chambord.

This is the Still House; it contains four giant 90′ tall stills, which produce the clear corn whiskey:

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The sour mash waste, after it is distilled, is piped over to this facility, where it is sold to local farmers as cattle feed; it still contains 6-8% alcohol.  Talk about contented cows!

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This is the Mellowing House, where the clear whiskey is dripped, drop by drop, over a 10′ tall stack of charcoal, a process called mellowing…

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The bottling lines are always my favorite part of these tours… This is a small line dedicated to their Single Barrel Whiskeys.  It dates from 1970 and seemed to me to be very non-automated – there is a lot of work done manually, like putting on labels, hanging tags around the neck, and putting the bottles into the cardboard boxes…

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Finally, the tour over, we head to the educational part of the tour:  the tasting.  This is strictly for educational purposes only, since drinking whiskey in this county is forbidden…

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We were given five sample with which to get educated.  It totaled about one ounce; we were told about how each type is made and what the differences are.  The funny thing was that both Lynda and I found the Rye to be terribly sweet, yet the “honey” version had very little taste at all.  Our guide checked it out and found that the two samples were switched!  It mattered little – we didn’t like either of them… I found that I liked Gentleman Jack, while Lynda preferred the original…

After the educational portion of the tour we walked through one of the old barrel rooms…

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After the tour we could return to the Visitor Center.  While you cannot buy whiskey in this county, you can buy souvenir bottles here.  The bottles were filled with some sort of brown liquid…

We walked 1/2 mile into downtown Lynchburg, and enjoyed lunch at Bottle House BBQ:

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We returned to the Villa and drove to Huntsville, Alabama…

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They are building McMansions here, too…

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We parked at an RV park at NASA’s Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville…

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The RV park is very nice.  And cheap!  I wish we had RV parks in California like this for $20 per night…

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For dinner this night we met up with friends we met on the Nor’ by Nor’ East Caravan; they will also be joining us on the Kentucky caravan in a few days…

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Dinner was great!  Pork Belly appetizer and Crawfish Fritters, with a nice bottle of an Oregon Pinot Noir!

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-14 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Tallahassee, FL, and Frank Lloyd Wright

All night long I heard and saw tornado warnings on the weather channel; storms were coming in from the west.  We were up at 6:00 am to hitch up and go; then ambulances and fire trucks rolled in, blocking all traffic lanes in the RV park.  Apparently there was some minor medical issue 3-4 trailers down the row…  But by the time we were ready to go they had all left, and we rolled out at 7:00 am.  We saw lots of lightning as we drove north 15 miles, then, as we turned east we started to get some light rain.  But no tornadoes, no hazardous wind (despite the large flashing signs warning us about hazardous winds…), and the rain soon stopped.  We heard of terrible storms in Michigan and Texas and Alabama, but I think the storm had petered out by the time it got to Florida…

We arrived safely in Tallahassee and set up in a nice RV park.  We walked around and found another Airstream – and found out that it was another couple that we knew from an earlier caravan, and who will be going on the Kentucky caravan with us!  Small world!

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We had an appointment at 2:00 pm to see the Spring House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright house built in Florida.  We had light rain as we approached, but the house itself was delightful.

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Obviously it is in need of repair and restoration… The daughter of the original owner, who grew up in the house, still lives here; she is trying to raise funds on behalf of a foundation (www.preservespringhouse.org) so that they can buy the house, restore it, and open it for philanthropic events…

We met Byrd, the current owner, and heard the story of the house.  Her parents, Mr. and Mrs Lewis, saw an article by Frank Lloyd Wright in a magazine about houses having “souls”, and they were impressed.  They had a chance to meet FLlW in 1952 and they said, “We have a lot of children (4) and not much money; can you design a house for us?”  At the time FLlW was 84 years old and was still excited about his “Usonian” houses for people of modest means, so he agreed.  After a 2 1/2 years the Lewises had found this five acre property with a stream running into a lake.  The house was designed and eventually built, with all the usual FLlW drama, even though he never visited the house…

The house is boat shaped, and it has three curved walls, the two exterior walls being convex, and the interior balcony being concave.  The ends are pointed.  There is a huge two-story tall curved wall of glass facing the forest; all the major rooms in the house face this wall of glass and have a continuous view of the wall of trees a few feet away from the house.  Spectacular!  Unfortunately, interior photos are not allowed…

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The little windows resemble half-portholes…

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The ship lap siding runs through the glass…

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So between talking to Byrd, the other docents, and other visitors, we spent a delightful two hours.

We then traveled to the home of the WBCCI Caravan Director, Jay Thompson, and his wife, Elna.  They were leaders of the Southwest Caravan that we did last year.  We had a nice time catching up, drinking wine, and batting around ideas about how the caravan experience can be improved…

We returned to the Villa about 6:30 and enjoyed a bottle of wine and some pasta…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-24 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 12 – Fredericksburg to Plantersville, TX

Sunday morning we went to the Holy Ghost Lutheran Church.  Having been founded by German immigrants, it is not surprising that Fredericksburg is full of Lutheran churches.  We selected this one for two good reasons: we could walk there, and it had an 8:00 am service…

Apparently Lutherans enjoy 8:00 am services much more than Methodists; this service was very well attended.

After church the mens group was having a fundraiser:  drive-thru BBQ, smoked right here on the church property…

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We walked back to the Villa and headed out for our drive to Plantersville, TX, located just west of Conroe, TX; along the way we stopped at the LBJ Ranch, both the State Park and the National Park…

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The visitor center wasn’t very impressive; they were showing a movie in their theater; it was an NBC TV show that I recall watching in 1966.  It showed mostly idyllic scenes around the ranch with narration by LBJ while driving in his white Lincoln Continental convertible…

We did the driving tour around the ranch, a beautiful place…

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Lynda was able to capture a photo of a Cardinal…

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Some areas of the ranch were awash with colored weeds…

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Free range cattle were everywhere…

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The “Texas White House” is closed for renovations…

We drove on.  In Johnson City we drove by the Johnson family home, but there is not much else to see.

Our destination for the day is Bernhardt Winery…

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This a Harvest Host site, so we parked the Villa alongside the vineyards; we will spend the night here.

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The winery is a lovely place.  Local wine club members come for a picnic and enjoy the grounds.  We did a wine tasting.

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They only grow two types of grapes here on the property.  The clay soil and the humidity do not provide a good environment for growing grapes.  The two grapes they grow are made into white wines – nice nose, but not much flavor after that…

The rest of their wines are made from California grapes.  We enjoyed their port and their “Sarah”, a red blend, but we bought their Pinot Noir made from grapes grown north of Lodi, CA.

We returned to the Villa, and we enjoyed a bottle of their Pinot Noir with our happy hour…

There was a lovely sunset our our door over the vineyard…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-11-10 – Paso Robles – Day 10

Once again it was very cold this morning… But we have our routine down by now…  On our morning walk in the vineyard we had a great view of the Villa:

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At 10:00 am we drove to Turley Vineyards for one of their “pick-up parties” – a fun time where people who have ordered wine on line can pick up their wines at the winery.  We were unsure of our plans at the time of the ordering, so we had our wines shipped (six bottles of Zinfandel from the Ueberroth vineyard…).

But we wanted to join the party since we were in the neighborhood…

The food was good, the band was good, the wine was free-flowing, and Lynda found strangers to talk to…

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After we had had enough fun we returned to the Record vineyard.  The party there was starting to begin.

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Lynda found more hanging grapes…

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Another good picture for my funeral…

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Tables were set up…

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The turkeys were pulled from the BBQ pit, and it was soon pulled and shredded…

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Soon the Friendsgiving was underway…

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As darkness fell we returned to the Villa and watched football!  CAL won a stunning victory over a semi-rival team and is now bowl-eligible!  Go Bears!

An enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-11-09 – Paso Robles – Day 9

We awoke to a VERY cold morning.  It was 48 degrees inside the Airstream, and well under 30 degrees outside.  I turned on the furnace as soon as the sun was hitting the solar panels.  When it was warm enough to get dressed I went out and fired up the generators; fireplace was lit, TV was showing the morning news, coffee was soon ready, and the avocado toast was delicious!

We took a walk in the vineyards and enjoyed the views.  We were here in July and the vines were lush and green.  Now they are lying fallow and turning various shades of brown…

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We drove off about 11:00 am to visit a vineyard and winery recommended by friends.  Again the drive was lovely…

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We soon arrived at Nadeau Family Vintners…

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And this happened!

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Again we went to lunch in Paso Robles, this time at Park Avenue Grill…

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After lunch we again walked around the town for a while, then we returned to Record.

I took a nap to make sure I could stay awake for the late evening festivities;  at 6:30 we joined the other campers (there are about 25 RVs parked around the vineyards…) to watch the bbq pit get lit, grill some hot dogs, and share a bottle of wine that each camper contributed… Although it was cold, we did have a nice time meeting a few new people and just hanging out together.  Finally we were too cold, so we returned to the Villa…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-11-08 – Paso Robles – Day 8

Another cold morning.  But the solar panels keep up the batteries and in the morning we fired up the generator to get the news on TV, make coffee, and, today, make some great avocado toast…

Lynda even took some time to finish the impossible puzzle!

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But first we took a walk along the road fronting the winery…

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We hitched up and left our free camping site at this winery and set out to visit another free campsite in another vineyard…

We drove to Record Family Wines, where we will spend the next three days.  We are here to attend “Friendsgiving” – a Thanksgiving feast with 120 or so new and old friends set in the vineyards…

It is only about a 10 minute trip from Tobin James to Record, so soon we were parked along the (dry) creek by the vineyards…

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They have just finished harvest a week or so ago, and there was evidence amongst the vines…

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We drove into Paso Robles for lunch at Le Cosecha, a tapas and small plate Spanish restaurant… It faces onto the town square and we enjoyed it greatly!

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Our Old Fashioneds were excellent; Lynda had fish tacos and I had paella…

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After lunch we walked through the quaint town – much nicer than Cambria…

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Although we never could figure out what color they were painting this facade…

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We returned to the Villa.  We met up with some of the Record family and happy hours ensued…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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