Our Winter Vacation '05 Highlights - Page 1
We began our vacation on January 5th and headed for the ocean to take part in one of our favorite pastimes, digging for Razor Clams. We ended up at Ocean Mist RV Resort where we spent the next several days. From the window of our motor home we could see the pounding surf, and on one morning we awoke to look out and find it snowing. After a few hours, the snow stopped and then it melted away.
Low tide was scheduled in the late afternoon and that is when we went to locate our friends, Ed and Trish; our new clam digging buddies who were encamped at Pacific Beach. We were all soon walking on the beach looking for the telltale signs of good clam digging spots. It is sometimes quite difficult to determine just where to dig, but once you get the hang of it, you begin to recognize the characteristic dimple in the sand that tells you a clam is located just beneath. But, you need to be fast if you intend to catch the speedy digging bivalve and you need to be careful not to warn the critter that you're in the area, or he'll have a head start in his downward journey to escape your shovel or "clam gun".
Actually, we used an elongated tube with handles that you push down into the sand. It is closed at the top end except for a thumb hole which you cover when you are ready to suck up the sand with the clam as you pull with all your might to get it up and out. Diana is really quite an expert at this and has a lot of experience. She has learned to spot the dimple in the wet sand and to determine whether it might not be a buried shrimp instead. When she finds a promising spot, she carefully positions her catch tube, aims the top of it at a slight angle back from the ocean, and then quickly pushes down with a fast side to side motion that loosens the sand and allows for quicker penetration. Sometimes she moves out to where the seawash is flowing back toward the breakers and then looks for where moving sand has uncovered a portion of a clam's neck indicating just where to penetrate the sand with the catch tube. Needless to say, Diana usually catches her 15-clam limit in short order while others are walking aimlessly down the beach.
Our route next took us down the Oregon coast and into northern California where we found a nice herd of Elk near the highway, except all of these animals had antlers; something hunters don't often see when they are out hunting. We actually saw several herds of these fine animals and they were all busy filling their stomachs on the nice green grass produced by the generous California rains that we were fortunate to miss.
We continued on down the Pacific coast of California until it was time to turn inward toward Napa Valley north of San Francisco. The weather was perfect as we took the leisurely winding scenic route down through the wine country. This was the first time either of us had seen this part of the world and we were struck by the number of vineyards and wineries.
We discovered that you could actually spend months going to each winery and maybe not see them all. There were, of course, the name brands that we recognized, but there were also countless small wineries that we had never heard of. We also discovered that there was no possibility that we could visit more than just a few of these if we intended to do some wine tasting and still have money left in our pockets. What we were amazed to find out was that these places charge $10, $15, $35 and even more just for a person to show up and taste their wine. We only found one small family winery that didn't charge for tasting and so we did buy some of their wine. From where we come from (Washington State), we are used to free wine tasting and we were more than a little provoked to see the prices they charge here. The Chimney Rock Winery required that we pay $15 for tasting a selection of certain products, but after buying a bottle we also got to keep the very nice wine glass that was provided for tasting. One other thing that was a disappointment to us is that all the wines produced here are of the dry variety. There are almost no Zinfandels or Rieslings and none of the sweeter wines are to be had, except possibly in the local grocery stores. Our tastes buds prefer a little more of the less dry variety of wine, so we will stay with our Washington State wines.
One place in Napa Valley that Diana wishes she could spend more time at is in the CIA. This is the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, a branch college of the college in Hyde Park, NY. This location resides at the historic landmark building of the former Christian Brothers Winery, which is a truly magnificent building. This is the premier place in America where students come to learn and practice the art of cooking and then be accepted as chefs in the finest restaurants. Here, you can come to view cooking demonstrations, or browse the marketplace that showcases cookware, bake ware, and culinary tools, or you can taste what world class cooking is all about at the Wine Spectator Restaurant. Or, you can enroll as a student in a wide variety of programs and be taught by the finest instructors available in the business.
A short ways out of Napa valley in Fairfield, California, we stumbled into the Jelly Belly candy factory. What a delightful place this was! As we drove in, they even had places designated for RV and bus parking. They obviously cater to a large amount of visitors and tourists as the whole place was designed to do just that with clean and modern facilities that showcased their candy making process and products. Upon entering the visitor's area your attention is immediately grabbed by the stunning large picture portraits they have hanging from the walls. These include portraits of celebrities such as Ronald Reagan and John Wayne all made up from a mosaic of colored jelly bellies (jelly beans). We took an interesting hour long guided tour of the factory and we became impressed with how complicated the process of making simple jelly beans can be. At the end of the tour we were given free samples to take with us and then we visited their factory store. Here we purchased several bags of their "belly flops"; those delicious finished candies that the packaging machines rejected.