Muir Woods, Napa, and More

August 7, 2013 12:13 – 12:13

I just had a beautiful California orange for breakfast. Notice, I said “beautiful” and not delicious. I’ve come to believe that Florida fruits are bred for taste, while California fruits are bred for beauty… and that THAT’S the real reason there are agricultural inspection stations near the Republic of California’s borders. They don’t want citizens to discover what oranges and strawberries are supposed to taste like.

While they don’t win the fruit taste award, California does win the summer coastal weather award, for me at least. Nighttime 50s, daytime 60s, and no bugs beats the hell of nighttime 70s and daytime 80s and 90s, and windshields full of bugs.

This was my second night in Castro Valley. No sign of Fidel. No sign of fidelity in Comfort Suite’s WiFi, either. What they have in terms of speed (30 to 60 Mbps for download speeds) they cancel out in terms of connection stability and proxy routines. Every few minutes, I need to re-enter the password at the proxy server level. And, there’s this proxy popup window that happens anytime I refresh a window or go to new link in Chrome. It gets very old. While streaming from Netflix last night, I lost the connection every 5 or 10 minutes. And… this is WIRED access. The wireless access is even worse.

Yesterday morning, I had two items on my agenda. First, I wanted to go to Muir Woods. Second, I wanted to visit the best winery in Napa Valley. A traffic jam on Muir Woods Road (due to an accident) caused me to reverse the agenda, and I managed to check another item off my to-do list in the process—the over-hyped (IMHO) In-And-Out-Burger.

So, mid-traffic jam—about 1.2 miles and still an hour from Muir Woods—I decided to hit the winery first. At that point, it was noon, so I decided to stop at In-And-Out-Burger for lunch. I’d been to one before further south, and I didn’t recall being all that impressed. I wasn’t all that impressed yesterday, either. I had a double-double. I ordered and expected grilled onions on the burger, but they were raw onions rings, instead—and way too many of them. I’m not fond of raw onions on cheeseburgers, so I ended up pulling most of them off, leaving just a little for flavor. Five Guys does a much better job, in my opinion, and they’re far from my favorite. The best burger I ever had was in 1970 at Marty’s on the Potomac on campus at Georgetown University. It was rare, juicy, and smoky, and delicious. The second best was at a place in Canada—I think it’s outside of Toronto, but I’ve forgotten the name. Both of the best were charcoal broiled. The third best might’ve also been charcoal broiled, and was in Fort Collins at a place near CSU, where my friend and former work colleague Julie and I went when I visited in 1986. Again, I’ve forgotten the name, and they might not exist anymore.

In any case, after lunch, I directed my German chariot towards Napa Valley, to the Joseph Phelps winery, which reviewers said was the best in Napa. It was supposed to excel in reds. Their whites were excellent I thought, but overpriced. Their reds were awful, in my opinion—the worst California Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve ever had at a winery tasting. Maybe they’d work better if paired with food. But, for all the chattiness and personalized attention from the tastemasters, they had no nibblets whatsoever to go with the wine. Not even crackers. And, not even water to clean the mouth between tastes. Just six quick shots. Seven if you include the “our best year ever” taste they gave me of their premium red. The whole tasting, by the way, was $35. And they don’t even give you a souvenir glass. Maybe their best reds they use only for their $70 tasting. The $35 tasting, however, was barely even on a par with Virginia’s $10 tastings.

What the wines lacked in great taste, the venue made up for in scenery. You can’t really tell from this picture because I don’t have a helicopter, but the background part of the vineyard shown here is shaped like a deformed wine glass. Oh, and the final wine—a white dessert wine—was an Eiswein (one they’ve named Eisrébe, which is a completely fabricated name, including the accent), and was the best dessert wine I’ve ever tasted. Go figure.

On the bright side, the fact that I dumped half of each of the reds into the spill bucket meant that I left JP without so much as a buzz, and was serfectly pober for the drive back down to Muir Woods. This time, there was little traffic, and Diana’s ETA was spot-on for my arrival at Muir a little before 4 pm. (Diana is the name I give my Garmin when using the female British accent. I picture “her” as Diana Rigg, from The Avenger.)

Everything changes. I remember my first trip to Muir Woods back in the 1970s, when you could drive in and among the trees. Apparently, there was too much vandalism, so they’ve now added a paved and boardwalked path. It’s very different from how I remembered it even from visits in the 1980s. Even so, it’s still beautiful and majestic. The air there is pristine and delicious smelling from all of the conifers, and it’s one of the quietest places you’ll ever visit… even with other tourists present. One section is called Cathedral Grove, and people treat it with reverence and quiet. Some of the trees here are over 1,200 years old. This one, near the entrance, began life around 900 CE. Some of the redwoods in Northern California (or, NoCal, as I sometimes call it) are over 2,200 years old. None quite that vintage in Muir, however.

And, here I am… standing inside a tree.

And, for perspective, here’s a group of people in the foreground, dwarfed by the tree behind them. I don’t think that’s Clyde Butcher in the picture, though he’s rumored to be in the neighborhood this week.

I walked about 3k into the park, and looped around on a hillside trail. I wasn’t sure where it would reconnect to the main trail, however, so when I hit this narrow bridge impasse, I turned around. I guess I should’ve brought my hiking poles… I didn’t think I’d need them. Fortunately, I didn’t trip and fall.

After Muir Woods, I set a course back to the hotel, all the while pondering the question of dinner. Ultimately, I decided to get pizza and salad from Villa Roma Pizza, which is nearby and in the hotel’s loose-leaf guide to the area. Reviewers also gave them high marks, although they said delivery was unreliable. I stopped at Safeway to pick up some Corona Light (I refuse to spell it as “lite”) to go with the pizza.

Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to order for delivery anyway. I ordered a Greek salad and a medium pizza, the latter with pepperoni, mushrooms, and extra cheese. They guy on the phone said 45 minutes… and 46 minutes later, I heard a distinctive pizza knock on my door.

The pizza was quite good, and too big to finish. I put three pieces into the fridge, but I know it’s going into the trash later, even though it was good. The salad was meh. I don’t know if they screwed up, or what. Instead of feta cheese, it had tasteless mozzarella. And, rather than Greek dressing, they provided low-fat Italian dressing. Excuse me, but salad is sufficiently virtuous without adding the indignity of low-fat dressing. There were odd pickled things on the salad, giving the salad a weird pickled taste. If you order from Villa Roma, skip the Greek salad.

This morning’s plan is to blog and then drive down to San Jose to have lunch with Karen’s cousin, Mary. The afternoon plan is to head to Fisherman’s Wharf. I still haven’t decided whether to head back north tomorrow, or the next day. I guess that’ll depend on whether I get fully sated by the SF area today.

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