California Road Trip: The End Result

In Summary

Please to share that my parents had a successful research trip down to California, Oregon, and Washington. They took copious tasting notes for all the wines and beers that they sacrificed to their livers, for the sake of my brother’s fine wine and craft beer store: Point McKay Wines.

The photo below is of my brother, Marek, smiling from ear to ear as, in two weeks time, my parents are doing a road trip out to Calgary to share their findings (written and liquid) with him.

Parkdale Week of April 6-April 12

From what I gathered, all the wineries in west Paso Robles were a huge hit, and the wines fantastic. My parents particularly found the customer service in the various wineries there superb, because as soon as people found out that my parents were tasting for a cause, additional wine samples were provided, and an enthusiastic reception to cultivate relationships with interested parties in Canada. I will try to get my mum to provide me a list of wineries that she would recommend visiting.

Favourite craft beer was Deschutes in Portland, both for the beer and for the atmosphere of the brewpub.

All in all, a successful wine tour and road trip down south.

Part 8

California Road Trip Part V

California hotels, California, Little RiverHotels

Usually we try to stay in one of the Marriott hotels, that is, Courtyard, Residences, and  Fairfield.

In Eugene, Oregon, we stayed in  the Courtesy motel. An old but clean and simple place, located in the downtown area. Actually, this motel had 6 brewpubs within a radius of 1 kilometer. Since our assignment from Marek was to visit wineries and breweries, this motel was ideal.

In Redding, California, we stayed at the Fairfield, the best hotel so far. Not only was the room exactly according to our wishes, no feather pillows and a fridge, but the staff was friendly, accommodating, and knowledgeable. When we asked if any brewpubs were located in the vicinity, the lady behind the counter gave us a printout with the name, address, and directions to the pub.  The manager of the hotel invited us to an evening of micro brewery beer or wine, and  a choice of two soups with a bread roll.

In Salinas, we stayed again at a Fairfield, nice and clean hotel with a friendly staff but the furniture showed its age and the carpet was a little worn.

In Palm Desert we stayed at the Marriott Residence. Of course, this town being a chic town, used to chic tourists, we expected the hotel to be chic. It was not.  As we walked to our room, we noticed the room maid in front of our room with two pillows on the floor outside the door.  She placed the pillows on the floor so she could open the door.  We walked into our room together with the maid.  She proceeded to replace two feather pillows withe the pillows that she had placed on the floor.  We noticed that there was no fridge in the room so we asked that a fridge be put inside the room.  This was done. However, in such a 3 star hotel the fridge should have been in place prior to our arrival, and certainly there should not have been any feather pillows in the room and no pillow should be placed on the floor, especially since we had booked the room 4 weeks prior to our arrival.

When I checked the bathroom, the sink had a large and obvious crack,  the ice bucket had something that looked like a large bird dropping, something found in a no star hotel.  We went out the next afternoon for the birthday party. When we came back,  our keys could not open the door. We went to the front desk and asked for help. We were told that our keys were demagnetized and that is why we could not open the door. The desk person gave us another set of keys.  We went back to our room. The second set of keys also could not open our room door. Back to the front desk. This time the lady came with us. She tried our keys, her key and finally she phoned the maintenance man who, after a few minutes, was finally able to open our door.

The next day as I went out of our room to get some water from a cooler, I noticed on the hallway floor a bag with two small bags of chips and a bottle of water.  I returned the bag to the front desk. The lady thanked me and said ” we give these bags to our special guests”.  I thought all hotel guests are special but we did not get a goody bag, therefore we were not special.

The following morning, just before we left the hotel, I went to the bathroom. On leaving, I could not open the door. With cool panic in my voice I asked dad to get me out. He could not, but he said ” don’t worry, I’ll get the maintenance man” . the maintenance man worked for 5 minutes before the door was opened, and I was released from the bathroom.

In Pasadena and Atascadero we stayed in a Best Western Plus.  Both hotels were very good and the breakfast was very tasty.

We are now in Sunnyvale in a Quality Inn. The room is clean, the pillows are synthetic, and a fridge and microwave oven are also in the room. The only complaint is the bathroom. There is no tub, only a shower stall which is so small that it is difficult to rinse the soap off our body, especially the nether regions properly. Now I have to be very discreet when I fart, in case I blow soap bubbles.

Part 4     Part 6

California Road Trip Part IV


California drought photo from NBCThe TV news keep telling the people in California that there is a major drought happening now in this wonderful and eccentric state, and politicians have picked the lovely almond as a major culprit for the water shortage.

I don’t know why this animosity towards the almond. I love eating almonds, in all its different preparations: raw, salted and roasted, hickory smoked, and salted, almond butter and, my favorite, marzipan.California almonds

The politicians tell the general population of California that the innocent almond drinks 1 gallon of water. I don’t know if they mean on a daily basis, weekly, or monthly, or even yearly. Yet, if you squeeze the almond , no juice comes out of it.

However, take the grape. Squeeze a single grape and notice the juice squirt out of it. An orange when squeezed releases a copious amount of juice. Any fruit grown in California has more water, juice, than the maligned almond.

California orangeIs there one politician who mentions the amount of water a single grape, orange , or any fruit uses in comparison to the almond?

I understand that politicians are loathe to criticize the grape, as their favorite drink is made from that fruit. They can’t say anything against the orange since a county in California is named Orange county. To disparage any other fruit in California would be political suicide since so many Californians are on a health regime that requires fruits as a staple, vegetarians who eat fruit as a major part of their diet ,and the politicians probably will have a member of their family who dared not be offended by vilifying fruits.California, winery, grapes, wine grapes

So, who will stand up and protect the orphan almond? All brave almond lovers make sure you buy almonds and support the almond growers.

Part 3    Part 5

California Road Trip Part III


We arrived in Atascadero, which is very close to Paso Robles. We are staying at a Best Western. Once we unpacked we went for luck and we hit a bar that had happy hour. This always makes us happy. When we finished eating and drinking not water, we headed towards Morro Bay. When we arrived in Morro Bay we drove towards the beach area  but it does not have a beach. It has a bay where very many yachts moor. There is a nice board walk with cute shops and many restaurants. We took a short walk as a very cold wind was blowing, so we left for our hotel.

Drivers, Driving, and Signs

This is an alert to anyone who wants to drive in California.

You know how the speed signs at the side of the road usually give you the taste of speed you should be driving? In California, these speed signs are considered decoration of the side of the road.  Drivers are very good at being blind to any number on the signs.

Most often the freeway speed is 70mph. Except for the lone Canadian driver daring to go 71, and feeling very brave, Californian drivers go 80+mph. In work zones where the speed is 55mph, with the fines for breaking the speed limit is $400.00, California driver’s average 70mph.

I think, actually I am sure, that all the road signs are nothing more than make-work projects. Groups of out of work people are given the job of making road signs. Some persons paint the 70 signs, others  the 65, and yet others the 55 signs.

Street lights are unfortunately another street decoration. We have seen so many drivers going through red lights that before we proceed on a green light we make sure no one is driving on a red light.

Left turning lanes are used as passing lanes. Left turning lanes are clearly marked with arrows but, again, nothing more than make-work projects.

My advice to anyone from Canada is to leave the driving to Californians, and to take a plane instead.

Part 2     Part 4

driving, California, California road rules, driving in California, bad drivers


California Road Trip Getting from Part 1 to Part 2

My mother sent the following erroneously to another email account so it should theoretically be Part 2, and we can consider it Part 1.5.

Eugene to Palm Desert

We are in Palm Desert. We are doing this journey not only to celebrate Paul’s [my uncle’s] birthday, but to search for the holy grail of wine and beers. We are very dedicated to our mission. Eery day, after we get to our hotel and disembark from the car (which does  8-8.3 liters per 100km), we immediately head to a brew pub where we get samplers plus the only food that goes with beer, nachos.

In Eugene,Oregon, we stayed in a very mediocre hotel. Its saving feature was its proximity to 6 brewpubs. We picked the one called the Steelhead Brew Pub. Excellent beers and great T-shirt for Marek. We walked back to our hotel. The hotel offered free breakfast but, after one look at the antique bagels and danishes, we decided to eat at a bagel bakery that offered fresh items.

Next we headed towards Redding, California, with a lunch stop in Ashland, at a Mexican restaurant where O [that’s me…my Polish name is ‘Olenka’] and I had dinner the year of M’s [that’s my brother, Marek] wedding. No change to the food, very good, or to the decor, very orange.

It was so wonderful to arrive in Redding, where the sun embraced us and the warmth took us in its arms. Our hotel was a Fairfield Marriott. The manager welcomed his guests with beer and wine and soups with rolls . All this was served between 6-8pm. We partook in the beer drink ,but we still had our mission to fulfill.

So we headed to Woody’s Brew Pub started by a young man with the name Wlodarski. Polish grandparents contributed to his gene pool. We loved three out of the six in the sampler. In Nova Scotia, the samplers were the size of a thimble. In the USA, the samplers are a good healthy size so we can really get the full flavors. However they had no t-shirts smaller than xl; the x’s just kept increasing.

The next day we had a very good hotel breakfast and headed south. Salida was our destination. On the way we stopped at an olive oil tasting place in Corning. We left with a box of 6 olive oil bottles and 4 balsamic vinegars and I would have bought more but dad said”and where are we going to put the wine”. Sadly, he was right and, with a sigh, we left.

As we were driving I spotted a huge sign advertising wine tasting promoted by Gnarly Head old vine zin. We had to take the detour to the tasting. A very handsome and outstandingly personable man helped us taste some superb wines. We bought 2 bottles, although we could have bought more but “where are we going to put the bottles” ruled out any extra bottles.

I think we should rent a moving van then we can fit all the bottles we would love to buy. Next time we will drive our 4Runner. It has more capacity.

Today we drove to Palm Desert.

Part 1     Part 2

beer, nachos, Steelhead Brew Pub, Eugene, Oregon, Redding, California, Ashland, Corning, Salida, Woody's Brew Pub, Gnarly Head, Old Vine Zinfandel, Old Vine Zin

California Road Trip Part II

Palm Desert

Palm Desert is such a pretty town but strange.  The majority of habitants are only part time dwellers. When I asked what percentage of the people in this town live here on a permanent basis, I was told about 20 per cent. The rest are seniors with the median age being about 75.

It is so strange to walk into a restaurant, look around and see a reflection of your aged face. This face can be plainly old or “glamorous.” To see an old face framed by a mane of blond hair, with enough make up that a drag queen would be proud is an amusing sight.

I remember once reading a science fiction book where the old people were put in just such a town only to be eliminated after a period of some months.

The actual town consists of enclaves of fenced and secured houses or condos. These secured places are often called clubs. These have at a minimum, a golf field. Often the clubs have tennis courts and, of course, all these gated communities have swimming pools.  All the enclaves are meticulously maintained. The entries are artistically landscaped with desert cacti and plants, and sculptures; the most expensive clubs have ostentatious displays of water fountains and cascades.

The streets are very clean. The bigger roads have landscaped  medians featuring a variety of cacti,  from round pillow-shaped to agaves to  spiky tall cacti. And of course, palm trees. The outside of the fence of the gated communities is also landscaped and maintained.

Such perfection in a town is unnerving. It is a Disneyland for seniors.


Among the many things that to me seemed odd or unusual about Palm Desert are the lawns; specifically the lawns in the golf areas. The grass is not only without weeds but is of such a vibrant green emerald color that it leads me to believe that a group of cards from Alice in Wonderland, brush and paint in hand go to every golf course to paint the blades of grass in green.

Another oddity are the bus stop benches. They must have been designed by an award winning architect since they are pieces of public art, each different from another and each designed in an unconventional form. It is easy to spot these bus stop, partly because of the unusual design, and partly because no one is waiting at these bus stops.

Are there buses in Palm Desert? Yes. In the three days that we stayed in Palm Desert, we saw a bus, once. Sort of like the elusive desert road runner.

One more thing to mention about this unreal place: for all its tennis courts, golf, spas and other places of rejuvenation and well being, no one walks. Very early in the morning, there may be the few eccentrics who go for a walk but, after 7am, they all disappear. I realize that after 11am it does get hot, but til then you ‘d think more people would be walking around. People are either shopping where it is air conditioned or eating or home. All these places are air conditioned.

I have a hunch that the entire city is under a germ and dirt free dome. It seems as real a town as Velveeta is to cheese.

Part 1.5     Part 3


California Road Trip Part I

Introduction: My parents are driving down to Palm Springs for my uncle’s 70th birthday, and have taken the liberty of expanding the trip into a wine and craft beer tour in order to help my brother source some potential new beers and wines for his store in Calgary, Point McKay Wine. My parents are, of course, Very Sad that they have to do this Difficult Work, and are taking one for the team.

My mother is sending back the occasional email update, and I have received her blessing to share her whimsical reflections on the trip. With no further ado, I warmly introduce you to Part 1:


As we drove through the growing area from Redding to California by way of highway 99 and I5 I noticed something odd with a few orchards. Skeletal trees with branches raised in supplication stood in a patch of land of about 5 acres. But just next to this dry acreage, new plantings were budding green and people were busy tending the plantings. On the other side of the dry lot were mature trees in full green splendor.

To me, it looked as if the irrigation was turned off that one dry patch of land. I looked around at the hills that were not cultivated and they were covered with green vegetation. And yet, I remember when we drove through that same area in the seventies and eighties, that same hilly area was yellow in color.

So, why did a farmer turn off the water from one patch of land and not another? All the orchards are irrigated along the ground, not sprayed from the top. The farmers have a very efficient way of watering their crops. Were some farmers paid to turn off the water? Was that one particular patch of trees chosen because the trees were too old and not producing enough crop?

The news on the TV choose one of the few dry patches with the dried up trees to show the dire lack of water but the TV avoids showing right next to the dry area, the cultivated green areas which are more abundant.

We did stop to buy some almonds, those nasty almonds that drink so much water. And I say keep on drinking the water dear almonds.

Part 1.5

California almond groves