30 September 2011

California Dreaming - et al

Yea, I know.  Bubble Gum Alley is/was kinda gross (in a fascinating sort of way).  Just imagine the dedication and effort that went into creating that spot...  Nah.  It's still gross. 

I'll give everyone a 2nd shot at Blaze to see if you can discern anything unique. 

 Paso Robles is a very uniqu town with lots of interesting shops.  Oh, sure, lots craft and clothing stores, but does your town have a pet specialty/bakery store with a dog bone shaped cakes and treates?

I will admit to spoiling my two mutts, but not sure they would appreciate a doggie stroller.  BTW - this was right next to the bubble gum alley. 

26 September 2011

Calfornia Dreaming - Part Duex

The road trip out west was short (3 days) but I covered a lot of ground, so I have a few more road nuggets to pass along (things you see or do or experience that are not in the normal tour books).  I do a lot of trips for my company and, if I can control the agenda, I try to get in some local "flavor".  Life's an adventure, if you know where to look for it.

The Hearst Castle was totally off the hook amazing.  Seriously.  If you ever get out to the west coast, you gotta take the side trip out to take the tour.  Allot yourself about 1/2 day to take it all in.  I can personally guarantee it will be worth the effort/cost.  My parental units were out on the east coast this summer and they toured the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina and I hear it rivals this place.  According to Wikipedia, it is one of those placed built back in the "Gilded Age".   

While we were out touring the west coast, we ate/drank at various local venues.  Remember, from my earlier ramblings, I am on a mission to try local breweries wherever I visit.  So far, I ain't been disappointed in my exploration. 

Paso Robles is a nice, if not expensive community about 1/2 way between LA and San Francisco.  In the middle of the upper wine country with a bunch of wineries, it can make for a nice vacation destination spot, but I am not sure I would rate it highly for a family trek (unless you throw in a side trip to Disneyland California).  Nice town for a visit but not convenient to fly into.  We could have flown into Bob Hope airport and drove the 3 hours up the coast but, being the trip leader, I booked my ticket into San Luis Obispo and we drove up the 25 miles from there to Paso.  San Luis Obispo is an interesting little town that boasts the most "livable city" or so the car rental agency guy told us.  Lots of local restaurants and shops.  We stayed in Paso for the two nights, but I would have moved us south to San Luis if I had known the local story.  We drove back down on Thursday to catch our noon flight out of SBO (tiny airport) and had some time to kill.  While touring the "downtown area" looking for a lunch gig, we uncovered a number of shops & restaurants that looked really enticing.  We also discovered that they have a small creek that runs through the downtown area that they built up various shops/restaurants overlooking. 

While exploring the area, we came across a couple of interesting sights (aka road nuggets).  First we ran into a quasi parade with a number of fire engines/equipment.  This had a number of old time horse drawn equipment and firemen on display next to the city hall.  We thought we had stumbled onto some kind of town celebration, but it turns out to be a funeral for a local fire chief.  The entire fire department had turned out for the funeral of an older, much beloved fire chief.  I got my intel from one fireman who was tending to the station Firedog called "Blaze".  A rescued Dalmatian that has been part of the department for 10+ years.  Really compelling story, amazing sight.  I swear you cannot buy this on any local tour.  Bonus points for anyone who can tell me anything unique about Blaze.

 Our second road nugget wasn't quite as compelling.  IMHO, it sorta borders on the gross.  While checking out the local shops, we stumbled across Bubble Gum Alley.  This was a narrow alley between two store that was, ISYN, covered with old, used bubble gum up to 10 feet high.  My coworker wasn't as impressed as I was, but I had to go back to the car to get my camera to document my find.  Where was this site in the Fodor's guide? 

Bubble Gum Alley

Yes, it is what you think it is
Gross or Art?

24 September 2011

California Dreaming

Whoops.  Where did the time go?  Last time we chatted, I was camped out in Austin for some training.  I sorta got busy/sidetracked there for a bit and neglected my duties.  I am making the rounds to everyone's blogs trying to catch up.   

Made it back from Austin with no problems.  Got a chance to visit with junior one night before my training started.  He is doing very well with the new job, new apartment, paycheck.  Training was good, but, to me, it was more of a distraction from work.  I've done a number of training sessions on negotiations and communications, so this was a good refresher for me.  Besides, it got me out of the office for three days on a paid trip.  Can't complain about that. 

Drove back to Houston late in the week.  The fires south of Austin had closed the route I normally take, but that was a minor inconvenience for me.  Nothing compared to the people who lost everything in those fires.  A large portion of the Bastrop area has been burned out including the state park with several old CCC stone cabins that we have stayed in years ago.  
Someone (who shall not be named) has been after me to get off my butt and get back into the game, so I let her pick today's thread - California roadtrip.

Last month, I was back out on the road to California for another supplier audit.  This is my 4th year of doing these audits and my second time out to this area.  They are located in Paso Robles about halfway between LA and San Francisco.  Smack dab in the middle of wine country.  There are dozens of wineries dotted around the hillsides.  If it wasn't a business trip, I would have been tempted to try a few of the local vintages.

Long driveway to shovel

Casa Grande (aka Hearst Castle)

Care for a dip?

The greeting room

Lots of statuary

Neptune Pool

Front door

What a view!

Indoor diving pool
Last time we came here was 4 years ago and we tried to get out to the coast to San Simeon to see the Hearst Castle, but arrived too late to make the last bus ride up.  This time, I knew the deal so I planned our arrival early enough to make the side trip.  A few weeks back, I talked about German Castles.  America doesn't have many castles or fortresses like the old world, but this one is definitely one to add to your bucket list.  Started in 1919, finished in 1947, this was built by William Randolph Hearst (Hearst Publications).  Perched on top of the hills on the California coastline, it overlooks the Pacific Ocean.  It is an incredible place with spectacular views, amazing architecture, innovative designs (for the time), and stunning opulence.  This is one of those places you build when you have more money than god.  If you are ever out west and in the area, you must take the time to tour the place.   

Side note:  if it looks like gold, it is

07 September 2011

Road food

Back out on the road again.  Actually, I have took off last week to burn up some vacation time.  Took my trailer up to College Station over the weekend for the opening game of our football season.  I had to break my vacation time to attend a training session in Austin this week, but I did get to see junior for dinner last night in his new apartment.  He started his new career on Tuesday so he has joined the ranks of taxpaying world.  I dimly recall my first "job" in the Army and how it was the start of my journey into the world. 

From my previous ramblings, one might surmise I travel a bit.  Not as much as others in the company, but it does keep me on the road a number of days.  When traveling, I try to watch what I eat.  Too much fast food, too many hotel breakfasts, too many company lunches, I am stuffed by the time I head home.  I actually run more on the road in the mornings as a pennance to my overindulgence.  I attempt to maintain some sort of discipline, but it is hard to turn down some really exotic offerings.  I have eaten a variety of food and try to sample local foods/restaurants whenever possible. 

That said, I do venture into some interesting venues.  While in College Station for the game, we were planning on cooking dogs & burgers out at the trailers, but, honestly, it was too dad blamed hot & windy.  So we jumped in the land barge and headed 10 miles west of town to the small country town of Snook, Texas.  Not a lot to see in Snook, but they do have a great sausage store (Slovacek) and country restaurant that has some unique specialties.  Got to try some really "healthy food" I have never had before.  Their trademark specialty?  How about:       Chicken Fried Bacon.   

OMG!!!  Heart Attack with Gravy

BTW - I am currently camped out in Austin right next to all the fire activity.  Not close (30 miles east of here), but it is close enough to see the smoke & haze.  Lots of local coverage shows the fires. 

01 September 2011

Turning the page

World travelers
Junior's come and gone.  It has been whirlwind week with him from when he arrived back in town from his world tour until he left to go back to Austin in Wednesday.  One day later than he planned, but momma was happy for the extra time.  We got to spend time with my parents for a some Mexican food (in short supply in Europe) and a post birthday celebration.  I even got to spend some valuable windshield time with him mano-a-mano on our trip across town.  I don't like to grill him for details, momma likes to pry on his plans but I was able to get some intel out of him (without resorting to waterboarding).  He is heading back to Austin to start his new job next week right after Labor Day and is excited/nervous to join the workforce.  Nothing confirmed, but I was able to glean some info out of him and I think that the two lovebirds might be planning a June/July event (but don't quote me).  

Terri has an excellent post to her kids about taking the next step.  Given her exceptional writing skills and ability there is no way I could ever hope to match her soliloquy on leaving the nest.  I agree with her comments/thoughts 110%, even though we are on the other side of the fence.  5 years ago, we drove our only son up to college and helped him set up his room/college life.  It doesn't really seem that long ago.  He has changed over the last 5 years.  Grown up.  Found his own personality.  Got an education.  Earned a degree.  Discovered the love of his life.  When he pulled out on Wednesday, it struck me that he was not leaving for school anymore.  He was heading out to start his new career/life.  This has been long in coming and we are ecstatic that he is doing what he wants to do, but there is some kind poignant moment here.  To paraphrase Terri, he opened the door and stepped through it.  Oh sure, he may be back on the weekends and he will always have a warm bed and cold beer here, but in my mind, he has now embarked on his next big adventure.  Something we have been preparing for for a long, long time, but we are still not ready to accept it. 

Just to drive home the point tonight, when I got home to a pair of needy dogs, I found this on my doorstep...

I guess this makes it official