Monday, February 18, 2008

The Land of the Curly Oak

Vinnie and the Big Guy are now camped in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Our lakeside campground is located between Solvang and Santa Barbara, on San Marcos Pass is a little piece of winter heaven.

There’s lots of colorful history in the area. Nearby is the town of Buellton, home of Pea Soup Andersons. Stopping at Pea Soup Andersons has been a family tradition since I was five years old. Next is Solvang, a village settled by Danes many years ago. Everyday we see visitors with license plates from all over North America. Up the road is Mission Santa Ines, built in 1802. The tiny town of Santa Ynez is next. It looks like a turn of the 19th century community. In between the small towns is open land, horse ranches, wineries, and even a casino. The road tees, to the right is San Marcos Pass which will eventually meander to Santa Barbara. To the left is Los Olivos, more wineries, and then Highway 101, The King’s Highway, El Camino Real.

We enjoy the solitude of the lake as well as the charm of the quaint villages. We travel back in time and visit Spanish-era Missions or we'll sip liquid sunshine from one of the many nearby wineries. What I like to do best is walk around the magnificent oak trees that dot the hillsides. Many of the trees have crooked limbs, that is why I call them “curly oaks.” To me, they are a visual reminder of “ancient Califia” before anyone discovered this area. I will never see what that California looked like, but I do imagine how it might have looked when I walk among the Curly Oaks.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mexican Riviera

Yes, we went on another cruise! This time we went with our friends, Dick and Phyllis, to the Mexican Riviera! We boarded the NCL Star from San Pedro, CA on 27 January with about 2500 other passengers. While not the biggest ship “out there,” she’s big enough with 3 swimming pools, lots of hot tubs, 16 restaurants, too many bars to count and lots of onboard entertainment. We always had something to do. Chet’s favorite activity was listening to Jana Seale, a singer/guitarist. I enjoyed watching movies in the afternoon and hanging out with our friends.

After 2 sea days, we arrived at Acapulco. There we saw the famous cliff divers. Well, we only saw one cliff diver as we were too late for the “five diver” show and we did not want to wait another hour to see it. Anyway, I don’t think we could have survived the onslaught of folks trying to sell us anything from turtles and t-shirts to tablecloths. Having a margarita at the Princess Hotel rounded out our visit to this city of one million.

The next day we stopped in the twinned towns of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. Ixtapa is the modern “city” and Zihuatanejo is the old Mexican town. We walked to a few shops in Zihua (as the natives call it) but the highlight of the day was sport fishing with our guides Carlos and Pepino on the Whisky 2. The last time I went fishing, I was 15, so I did not really know what to expect! My orthodontist said that I should be prepared for 3 hours of boredom and 4 minutes of chaos once a fish is caught! So after about an hour, a Dorado or Mahi-Mahi was on a line and that's when the chaos started--for about 10 minutes. I had no idea how to bring a fish in, but with Carlos’ able assistance, I "landed" a 5 footer weighing about 45 pounds. Dick, an experienced fisherman, caught a Dorado about an hour later. He brought it in far more smoothly than I did. It was great fun for all of us. (In case you are wondering, this is catch and release fishing.)

The third port was Puerto Vallarta. There we took a city tour. Not too much adventure that day. We learned that Santa Barbara is a sister city to PV and to celebrate that fact there is a dolphin statue there exactly like the dolphin statue at Stearn’s Wharf in SB.

The last stop was Cabo San Lucas. Cabo is known for small yachts, beautiful beaches and Land’s End. We walked along the boardwalk, looked at the yachts and ignored the beaches (I’m not a beach person). As with anywhere in tourist Mexico there are lots of folks selling their wares. Here we were met by folks selling silver jewelry and tourists buying it. I guess the strategy is successful even if I do find it offensive!

Our last day on the Star was a sea day. The weather changed as soon as we rounded Land’s End on the Sea of Cortez and crossed back into the Pacific Ocean. The sunshine went away and gray skies reigned. We had hoped we had escaped the rainy weather that Southern California was experiencing the week we left…but 8 days did not make much of a difference. We were all preparing for more rain as we packed our suitcases and prepared to disembark the next morning. However, when we woke up at Pier 92 in San Pedro the next morning there was sunshine! What a relief! We left the ship, after clearing customs, picked up our luggage, and drove back to our RV in Santa Ynez where we’ll be for the next few weeks. The next cruise starts on 9 March!