3. Northern California…3.2017

Thursday morning brought just a tiny bit of eye leakage as we were up early hugging Pete good bye as he left for work.  Then it was time to say bye to Leia, Luke, the dogs, Leia, Luke, the dogs & Luke…again (Pete was spared too many multiple hugs…I think it was only about three before he had to leave for work!). I can’t say too many times, how wonderful it’s been to spend time with the boys, Leia, meet some of their friends for the first time & see old friends of theirs again.  They are happy & that’s what we all wish for our kids.  I know they will never move back near home…their home is out west…where it’s beautiful & amazing; the people are diverse; the mentality is liberal; & fun is everywhere.  Their world is very different from most everything here in the midwest…I’m so proud of them for who they are (& I can’t blame them for wanting to escape the midwest!)  I will always miss them ---OH NO!  flooding the keyboard with eye leakage---so never mind what I was going to say next, the screen has gotten blurry & I know when I need to move on.

And so we did.  We headed south under clearer skies than when we drove up here last week. Danny snoozed on & off…he’s forever short of sleep.  But I just looked around as much as I could & took it all in.  I’m ALWAYS so melancholy when I have to leave my kids…not knowing when I’ll see them next.  So I put on my “driving in the mountains” music & looked at all the magnificent sights, being so thankful for the trip out here with Danny & amazed by the constant beauty of this place.

We were onto our next adventure!  We had planned two days of brew tours…some new, some old, but all good!  Our first stop after about 3 hours of driving, including twisty, curvy, narrow roads but filled with huge redwoods on each side.  It was fantastic!  And, we were lucky to even be able to get where we were going!  So many roads are closed, or down to one lane because of the rains causing mud & rock slides; this was the only road open to Ft. Bragg.  Home of North Coast brewing & Glass Beach!  We ordered a yummy lunch & a couple of flights of their amazing beer then headed to the beach.  The skies were gray & overcast & the water was disappearing under the fog rolling in.  I’ve been here twice before, but there didn’t seem to be as much glass on the beach as before.  One of the beaches was blocked off so we couldn’t even get to it.  Danny wasn’t very impressed, but I was just happy to be outside climbing over the rocks & sand & I love that this beach has turned trash into tiny glass treasures in the sand. 

(I had this long one-way conversation with him when he woke up on the way down here…actually it might have put him back to sleep, because I don’t think he ever responded. But, I told him of an article I’d read about people who are ‘easily fascinated’.  I definitely fit this description….IN EVERY SINGLE WAY!  I can get sooooo excited about the littlest things.  But, while I’m sure it’s silly to most people (especially serious smart people, I call them “hard customers"), I’m really grateful for this innate deeply imbedded part of me.  I love being curious, amazed, question-filled, starry-eyed & wondrous!)

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After the walk on the beach, we drove south on the magnificent Highway 1….I WAS SO GLAD TO BE BACK HERE!  I think this drive is one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL I’ve ever been on.  I’d originally wanted to skip the brew tour & just take the last two days to go to Big Sur…my second fave place on earth.  But, Danny wanted to do the breweries & as it turned out, the bridge on Highway 1 was out to Big Sur…we couldn’t have gone anyway.  Thinking about it further, I’m not sure it’s a place Danny would love as much as I do anyway.  So I think I’ll just keep it to myself (I have a plan in mind when to come back on another solo trip!)  I love, love, love this  place!  We too-soon turned off the 1 & headed east back through curvy roads lined with Redwoods…never get tired of this either!  Our next stop was Anderson Valley brewing, where we had some super good bourbon barrel aged beer.

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The ‘Biggie” of breweries on the tour was our stop for dinner & the rest of the night.  We checked into our hotel room (yes, Danny isn’t camping this trip.  Even in our soda can-sized rental car ---it’s so small it only has one windshield wiper--- I offered to pack our sleeping bags…but he said he’d rather not).  We were headed to Russian River brewery.  We scored a seat at the bar, in spite of the restaurant being crowded.  A conversation between Danny & his bar-seat neighbor quickly happened & it was pretty interesting & enjoyable.  Of course all the while we were drinking some fantastic beer, visiting with the people on the other side of me & the always entertaining bartenders.  The pizza was super yummy too!  We had a little less than a mile walk back to our hotel, but the night was beautiful, dry, & just barely cool.

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Friday we were lazy & in no hurry to leave the sweet little hotel room I’d booked for us.  But, not too much time goes by, until I’m ready to get moving & keep enjoying our time left in California.  I found a short hike in Sonoma Mountain Park about 10 miles away.  We drove & hiked in some really nice weather…the rain looked to be gone, the sun was out & the sky was blue.

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We re-routed our original plan & headed farther south to Moylans Brewery.  Neither of us had been here before or heard of it until a brewer rep, Peter, from Ska, in Colorado, a regular visitor (bringing beer) to the Burger Stand (our fav place at home to eat) suggested it.  He said they have one of the best Triple IPA's in the state.  It was really good! (But, I think I’ve had a couple I like better…I’m not a triple-expert, but I’m close to one!)  

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Then it was time to go to one of our favorite breweries!!  Lagunitas!  Making great…hop-heavy, out of the box, rule breaking, fun awesome beer.  We sat at the bar & drank some flights!  We’d recently discovered a new Lagunita’s beer…a big barrel aged stout called High Westified.  We’d managed to find a four pack back at home right before we left.  We sadly learned they won’t be making it in the same exact way in the future…they're not using the same distillery anymore so the future recipe will be different.  The word was…if you see any, buy it all! (And I tried once we were back home…calling & calling liquor stores from Lawrence to KCMO, but it’s all gone.)  We enjoyed the afternoon with the WARM temps both inside at the bar, then moving out to their dog friendly patio to hear the band start playing.  We weren’t hungry, so we just drank more beer!  It really is a fun place to hang out…I would so love to live near a brewery like Lagunitas.

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I had yet to book a room for the night (I don’t enjoy making hotel plans at all!) so we sat in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do next.  We had an early evening flight out of SF tomorrow, but the traffic is always so crazy you have to plan extra, extra, extra time to get to the airport.  Our ‘planned’  brew tour was over, night was falling & Danny was already dozing (he is no help in hotel planning).  I found a room on the Bay, started up the soda-can, & took off south hoping night time would deplete some of the traffic woes.  

We went to check in about an hour later & I thought we were done for the night …(Sad face).  But we were welcomed by an excited happy friendly hotel clerk!  He’d asked if we’d eaten (not since lunch…our only meal today) & joyfully recommended a place right down the quiet street on the bay.  It was the original Trader Vics….home of the MaiTai.  I have good memories of the Trader Vic’s we used to have in Kansas City from when I was a little girl.  He sounded so thrilled with the place, telling us all about his favorite dishes & drinks, we quickly agreed & decided to go there, even before heading up to our room.  He called the place & put our name in & then he even waived our parking fee!  

Dinner was soooo delicious!  Danny & I almost ALWAYS split a meal..we just don’t feel good if we eat that much & we’re both usually drinking a beer.  But tonight, we each had a different entree & drinks & shared just to try everything.  It was all so good…the drinks were delicious too!  It was quiet & nice & even though it was dark out, you could see the reflection of all the lights over the water.

We were pretty tired by the time we got back to the hotel room…both a little too full of food, but I’m so glad we took the advice of the friendly hotel clerk!

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Now we had no plan…except to return the car & catch our flight…but we still had some hours to kill.  Near the city now, with only a couple of bridges to go, we found a park near the old baseball stadium to enjoy the beautiful weather!

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We wanted to get something to eat before we left SF…it was going to be a long day.  Our flight left at 5:50pm; landing in KC at 12:45am Sunday morning.  Danny gets the A++ on finding our next excursion…a brewery just south of the airport.  We shared a wood fired pizza, tried more good beer & met another friendly bartender!

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Soon we were at the airport, turning in our tiny car & gathering our backpacks.  Security was no-wait (awesome!)—even for Danny who didn’t score a Pre-check boarding pass.  We discovered our flight was delayed, which might interfere with our connecting flight in Vegas (I was hoping for Southwest vouchersI could sleep in the airport overnight to take a free trip to see Claire!) so we were put on a stand by list for an earlier flight out.

There was only one more beer Danny wanted to try & that was a draft of Anchor Steamthe original craft beer company.  Wed tried to get into their brewery, but the schedule just wasn’t in our favor.  I doubt the airport was the best place to try one, but it was his only choice.  He wasn’t too impressed but he’d tried one in the place of it’s birth!

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Soon, we were called as stand by passengers, only to find out they only had room for one.  We passed. (I was still hoping to miss the connection in Vegas & get vouchers!)  We boarded our regular flight about an hour later & as we soared up into the air, leaving this fantastic state, I looked at the beautiful sky & again said Thank You to the universe for this trip with Danny, the time spent with Luke, Pete & Leia, meeting new people, drinking super good beer & always….always, always, loving the breathtaking scenery here.

We landed in Vegas & made it to the gate about 5 minutes before they began the boarding process (no free flights for me!)  Back home….we landed in the cold, in the dark, & with bits of snow on the car.  I missed my cat, but it doesn’t take long for me (about 48 hours) to want to be traveling again. Brown, brown, brown!  As I write this, we’ve been back 4 days…filled with cold winds & more snow.  This is the place it’s so hard for me to be content.

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I’m already planning my spring trip.  I can’t say for sure if it will happen or not….but if I can make it happen, I will.  The winter has been filled with snow, snow, snow in the mountains, leaving some to say the thaw will be about a month later this summer…which puts it on the door step of when it begins to start snowing all over again. The rivers will be furiously raging & scary when the melt happens.  I’d hoped to spend a bunch of time in the PNW; in the Cascades or go WAAAY out of my comfort zone & hike a long distance trail.  I’d been looking at the Tahoe Rim trail, since it’s a loop hike which would make the logistics for a solo hike so much easier.  But, neither of those things are going to happen this year.  So, moving onto Plan B.  There is always another plan; always another place to go; always more of nature’s beauty to experience & always the desire to explore.  

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