It is 7:52 AM on Monday, Labor Day, of September 6th 2021. I’m writing from my favorite new perch, my standing desk on the second floor overlooking the street. The sun is almost to the point where I must roll my desk to the small wall space between two windows so it is not shining directly in my eyes. I’ve got my Samsung ear buds in listening to classical music which drowns out much of the noise from passing cars. I’m also very happy that I’m able to open my windows again as the smoke from all the wildfires has been blown inland by a cool and refreshing ocean breeze.
I’m also very happy that the major project to update this blog is completed and I can start writing again instead of doing monotonous editing and cleanup. I had a few adventures this summer but due to the desire to finish the cleanup didn’t have time to write. I’d like to get a few of these memories down here.
The summer of 2021 was different in that due to the pandemic there was no trip to Japan for me just like in 2020. My family was able to return this year after the 2020 haitus but foreigners were not allowed in and even if I could go I wouldn’t have been able to do my favorite activities. I like to spend a few days in Tokyo on my own revisiting a wonderful chapter of my life that took place 20 years ago. Realizing it has been 20 years is quite shocking to me, life truly does pass by in the blink of an eye. I’ll meet up with old friends and we’ll go drinking and catch up. As time goes on there are still a few around from the old days but many have also moved away.
My family and I will also take a trip somewhere interesting which in the past have been Kusatsu, Karuizawa, Nikko and Nasu. We’ll stay at a nice ryokan (Japanese hotel), soak in the hot springs and visit the interesting sights. But, none of that could happen this year due to the pandemic so even though my family went they just stayed local. I have always written about past trips and you can find them in the Japan category or by clicking here:
Since Japan was out of the picture I’d be on my own and came up with a few trips and activities.
The first trip I took was back to Ohio. Due to the pandemic I really just stayed local and could be found either on my parent’s or sister’s porches usually with a wine in hand enjoying the peacefulness of what I call “pleasantville.” The vegetation is lush, the weather was perfect and it is just a nice and relaxing place to be. I miss sitting on front porches as here in the Bay Area front porches are definitely not a thing. I’ve just realized that perhaps one of the reasons I like being here on the second floor and looking out the window is that it is a subconscious second best for a front porch. Anyway, I don’t need to rehash the trip to Ohio since it can be found here.
After returning from Ohio I started on my projects. The main one was updating my four blogs by getting rid of unneeded code, ensuring there were no broken links, adding categories and tags as well as updating all posts to Gutenberg, the new WordPress block editor. Going through each post and doing all that took months and I just finished a few days ago.
Being home alone is quite enjoyable for the first couple of days but as I’ve mentioned many times in the past, the mood in my mind suddenly changes. I become lethargic, losing the will and energy to get out and enjoy myself. Instead I find that I’ll sit around on the couch and just watch TV. It is as though a strange spell permeates my house and completely zaps all the excitement and enthusiasm I had when thinking of all I was going to do while alone.
The good news is I’m experienced in this having spent most of my summers alone for the past 7 years and so I make a list of things to do and places to go. Since I couldn’t go to Japan I had toyed around with the idea of going to Spain. Unfortunately with the pandemic, restrictions and slight possibility of getting stuck in Spain I shelved the idea. Instead of going somewhere far I went somewhere near and that was to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
I ended up going twice, rode my favorite rides over and over as well as indulged in oversized pretzels with cheese and large slices of pizza. My favorite ride is the Fireball which is like a pendulum swinging back and forth as well as rotating. It is the scariest ride in the park and something I enjoy tremendously. The Beach Boardwalk is a wonderful place for me in that it is small enough to be very manageable unlike the mega-parks which can be overwhelming. It is also a slice of California history having been opened in 1907. I often think about the generations of Californians who have passed through its gates. It was also featured in movies such as The Lost Boys and more recently, US. I never have to wait more than 20 minutes for a ride and am usually in and out in under four hours.
The Beach Boardwalk took up two days of my summer but that left many weekends to figure out. These were often spent with my two friends whose families were also in Japan. They are older yet more enthusiastic about getting together and doing things than I. Like I said, a strange spell depends upon my house and makes me lethargic. Many of the activities involve drinking wine which is fun, but I cannot overdue it because wine makes me even MORE lethargic the next few days and staying productive makes me happy. However, I did participate quite a bit and we had fun.
Most of our activities involve a cookout at one of our patios, wine and a sunset. We also took a trip together and decided on Healdsburg which is wine country located in the same region as Napa and Sonoma.
The wineries we visited were:
This was our first stop and was a bit mis-timed because rumor has it this is a major draw for bridal parties. Unfortunately we got there too early and the bridal parties didn’t show up until we were leaving. Also, a bummer for all the wineries was that due to pandemic regulations we had to remain seated at our table and so I couldn’t make my way around the room meeting people. I’m a people person and like to meet people but instead, staying seated and catching a buzz was on the menu.
This was a smaller place but with some very good wine. The scenery was pleasant but as with most places in California dry as a bone. Not too much to say about this place except that the wine was good.
We then went over to Chalk Hill which was right across the street. We were on their patio which had a spectacular view.
We were close to another table and saw that the reservation tag had a Japanese last name. This was exciting as finally maybe we could finally make a little conversation with someone since we’d have something in common which of course is Japan. We had all hoped it would be a bridal party of course, but perhaps it might be international students, or even just a regular day out like ours and their ancestry was Japanese. In any case I was dying for conversation. Unfortunately our hopes were dashed as it appeared to be, um, let’s say a “unique” group from L.A. I don’t think we would have much in common with them and the fact that one had a Japanese last name, well, I don’t think he would have been too interested in speaking about Japan so any attempt at conversation was aborted. Disappointing!
The final, and most inebriated stop that day was deLorimier.
Visiting four wineries in one day was certainly a lot, some may say too many. We spent this time seated as well and I was determined to make conversation come hell or high water, regardless of what kind of group was next to us. It turned out to be an authentic old hippy from Humboldt county! Everyone knows that San Francisco was a place for hippies in the ’60s but that was 60 years ago! Any remaining hippies from those days have fled to Humboldt county which is known for its strangeness as well as excellent marijuana.
That evening for dinner we went to Brava a Spanish tapas restaurant. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures but do have a link to Google Maps.
That wraps up the wineries on the first day. The second day involved some hair of the dog and then another pleasant day.
VML was pleasant enough but the scenery is nothing to write about so I won’t. The wine however was nice and I even got a great poster from this place that currently is hanging in my shed.
I always take pictures of the wine I drink and it goes into a Google Photo album. After a decade of drinking wine with friends in wine clubs I have a pretty large collection of photographs grouped in alphabetical order. The main benefit to doing this is that when I visit a winery I can show that (usually) I have had their wine before, sometimes many bottles, and in doing so they will often pull out the reserve wine, go off menu and pour much more than usual instead of treating us like the usual tourists. This is what happened at Ridge since I had a many pictures of Ridge wine throughout the years thanks to Peter who used to be a member. We had our fill and Peter even ended up becoming a member again.
As we were seated I also got a picture of this really colorful little guy.
Seghesio Family Vineyards
Next it was to Seghesio for bocce ball and finger foods for lunch next to the court. My buddy Brandon is in a bocce ball league and in usual fashion bet us on the match. I usually lose when Brandon wants to bet but what fun would it be if there were no money on the game. I started out with a strong lead but he had a spectacular comeback and I was down mid-match. It was at this time he looked down (literally because he is much taller) on me and gave me “the eye.” Well, I think it was that “eye” which sharpened my focus and I ended up winning! It felt good to beat Brandon at his own game and I could tell he wasn’t too pleased about it.
Next up was MacRostie. There were quite a few people here but again, we had to remain seated due to COVID so couldn’t talk to anyone else. I don’t have much to say about this place except that our server was new and the wine was decent.
To end the day we had dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen. I did finally end up making conversation with a few people and it turns out that one of the couples were from Ohio! I ended up talking to them and the manager of the restaurant – a gruff German – told me he’d be happy to set up a seat at their table. I didn’t need him to do it as I could do it myself and had a pleasant 10 minute conversation with that table. It was a bit out of protocol for a restaurant but after having been stuck at tables all day some good conversation was very welcome.
And that concludes the Healdsburg trip. It was nice to visit so many wineries and I’d say the only disappointment aside from being stuck at tables and not being able to converse with others would be the hotel. You can really tell that due to COVID they have been struggling like many businesses. The pictures online looked great but it was a bit run down, the jacuzzi had cold water and it could have been a bit cleaner.
The rest of my summer bachelorhood was uneventful until the family came back. Once they did there was one more adventure and that was to Yosemite National Park. We joined a couple of our friends who used to live in the Bay Area but now live in LA. They really are an outdoor type of family where mine is not. However, it is always good to try new things and hiking was on the menu. I was very impressed that my family was able to do a pretty long and stressful hike without any trouble!
The only downside on this trip was the smoke from the wildfires. The air was deemed unhealthy on the first day but cleared up to just modest pollution on the second day, and that was the day we did the big hike. We also saw a lot of burnt forest from the previous year’s wildfires. The reality is wildfire and the resulting smoke will now be the norm in California due to climate change. In fact, we’ve had smoke for the past two weeks due to the Caldor fire and I’m very grateful that I got that expensive air purifier over the winter in preparation.
We’re now in September, the kids are back in school and we’re back to somewhat of a routine even with the pandemic. There have been some COVID cases in school and I think it is anyone’s guess how things are going to go as the school year progresses.