House hunting, frustration in any language!

Over the last couple of weeks we have been diligently working on improving Casa Madera.   When we bought the house, it needed work.  A lot of work.  But there were reasons we chose this house over the others we looked at and it was while I was painting our bedroom I started to think about some of the houses we looked a couple of years ago.

January 2009 – The condo was up for sale and attracting some interest.  This meant we should get our butts in gear and find a house that would be suitable for a bed and breakfast.  We called our friend and exclusive realtor, William Michael from Vallarta Escapes.  He knew what we wanted and set about to see what he could find in a reasonable price range that would meet our needs.

It was about a week later that he some houses to show us.  So off we went with the typical excitement you have when you are looking for a new house.  We were stoked!

Well we came down from that pretty fast.  Our problem was we were not really sure where we wanted to live.  We thought we wanted to live in Puerto Vallarta so that is where the houses that he had for us to see were located.  The first house was located back behind Fluvial which is a new district.  It was nice house but it was a little far away from all the tourist amenities which was going to be a problem.  That and there was just not enough room for a pool which had become a must have for me.

Sometimes pool's come in a variety of colours!

After the first day of looking Heather and I decided that we needed to make up our mind where we want to live.   Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias, Nuevo Vallarta, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Sayulita?  There were many choices so we started driving out to various areas just to try to get a feel for everything that they each had to offer.

Bucerias is a nice town.  It has all the services you would want and a great beach.  Ok, lets look there.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle was small fishing village that had started to grow up with large condo projects and had an interesting feel to it.  We thought we could look there too.

Nuevo Vallarta was a planned residential tourist community that gave us a Beverly Hills feel when we drove into.  We decided that we can look there but we were not sure about it.

Sayulita is a great town.  To me it had a sixties California feel to it.  A surfing beach, great waves that still allow you to swim.  It’s drawback was it was on the other side of the mountain.  We will think about it but it was just too far out for me.

That left us Puerto Vallarta.  The reason we moved here.  We loved the town.  Friendly people, all the services.  It is great.

After all the discussion between to the two us we told William Michael our preferences.  He did his best to come up with something that would meet our needs and make us happy.

The next house was a 3 storey affair next to the Rio Cuale in Old Town.  It was a nice place.  Currently being operated as a small hotel and doing reasonably well.  The rooms all had some kitchen facilities, they were comfortable and the house had a great view but there was just no room for a pool.  We decided to keep it in mind but I really wanted a pool.

Shade and sun at the same time!

There were many that day, some worth looking at, some not so much.  Some out of our price league but fun to look at anyhow.

The next day we went out we went to see a house in Bucerias which we quite liked but again there was just no room for a pool.  The other thing we found odd about Bucerias is that most of the houses were two bedrooms.   At least those were the ones which were for sale.

From there we went to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle where there were two houses to see.  One was definitely a fixer upper according to William Micheal.  We walked into the house which was a one storey and it had the oddest feature.   A knee-high rock built into the floor.  WTF?  No one could tell us why it was there.  The house was being lived in at the time.  It was not finished.  No bedroom doors or jambs, just curtains.  They had not sprayed the house for bugs in a while as we were stepping over cockroaches to get into the house.  It was when we walked into the kitchen that William Michael calmly told us to step to the right as there was one coming right for us.  We both take direction well so we did and watch it stroll on by.

From there we went to a house which was actually set up for and being run as a bed and breakfast.  It was a nice place but was located across the street from the Sonic Gas propane station which played a whistle and shouted gas every few minutes.  We liked the house but not the location.

After 3 months of frustration of trying to find a house & setting up a pre-approved mortgage we were getting a little jaded.  It was a that point that William Michael reminded us that we had yet to look in Nuevo Vallarta.  Ok, let’s go see what Beverly Hills south has to offer.

Nice houses, that is what it has to offer.  Every house we looked at was gorgeous.  Immaculately kept, nice grounds.  They were beautiful.  Unfortunately they also had a nice price tag to go along with all that great stuff.  We were not going to denied though.  After 5 months in Puerto Vallarta we thought that living out in Nuevo might not be that bad.  It will be quiet and it really is not that far out from town.

It was then that he took us to what would become Casa Madera.  Wow.  It was perfect!  3 bedrooms downstairs with their own doors and livable space on the second floor for us.  A pool!  A nice size pool and a hot tub!  Man how could we be so lucky! And at a great price too.

However, we were still not sold on Nuevo Vallarta so we did not do anything that day.  We did talk about the house a lot though.  So we talked to our mortgage broker to make sure it would fit into our budget and he discussed it with the bank.  After a few days he came back and said that yes it would work.

We let it sit for a while because we were not going to rush into this one.  We did once already and were let down.  A couple of weeks went by and we decided we needed to look at it again.

The second viewing was not as good.  We then saw all the warts that the house had.  It needed a lot of work.  The bedrooms were going to have to be gutted.  The palapa over the garage was shot as was the one just outside of the kitchen.  And the kitchen, crap it was awful.  Well, now we are going to have to rethink this.

I have a screwdriver, we can fix it!

Again we discussed and discussed.  Can we do the repairs that it needs within a reasonable budget amount.  Especially since we are such handy kind of people.  Eventually it came down to one thing.  It was a perfect house for what we wanted to do.

So we jumped with both feet.  And then the fun began…..

Just think Steve Austin, you can rebuild it! Hopefully it won't cost you 6 million

The Journey to Casa Madera – The Run to the Border

November 23, 2010 – I was sitting in the traffic line up waiting to cross the last remaining bridge over Rio Ameca with 300 of my closest friends to come home after buying a fridge and stove for one of our rooms.  Now there is not much you can do when you are sitting in traffic but sit there and think.  I was thinking about how nice it is that the government is running the reconstruction of the washed out side 24 hours a day.

7 inches of rain in one day throughout the basin took this bridge out

Because of those efforts the bridge should be open early in new year instead of April which was the original estimate.  This wash out has made a quick 15 minute jaunt to Home Depot a 2 hour ordeal.  We only go when we absolutely have to.  It reminded me of the daunting task of leaving Anaheim, California on our way to Tucson, Arizona at rush hour….

November 12, 2008 – Our original plan when leaving Anaheim was to spend the day and night in San Diego.  We wanted to see the San Diego Zoo.  I had seen it before but it is always nice to go to a world-class facility.  Unfortunately we had been on the road for over 2 weeks and were getting tired of hotels, shuttling in all our of possessions into the room every night, and substandard food.  That day we decided the heck with it we will skip the zoo and head for Tucson.

Freeway to San Diego not far from the border

We had long ago decided that we would cross the US Mexico border at Nogales, Arizona as it provided better access to the toll highways in Mexico.  The toll highways would be faster, safer and it was a more direct route to Puerto Vallarta.

We set out  from Anaheim after the worst free hotel hot breakfast that was served to us on the trip.  While it is nice that they do that, this hotel should have stuck with bagels and cream cheese!  We had done some internet research the night before looking for a place that would sell a gps map for Mexico somewhere on our route and there was a store that listed Garmin maps in its advertisement in San Diego.  The best part was that it was just off the highway so that was our first destination for the day.

The traffic on the freeway to San Diego was absolutely brutal.  All 5 lanes were full and traffic was moving at least 15 MPH over the posted speed limit of 75.  While that’s fine in some situations, when its bumper to bumper it is a little hard on the nerves.    We made it to San Diego without incident and the steering wheel recovered from the nail marks in time.  It was time to find the Map store.

A turn here, a turn there, another turn here.  Well it should be here somewhere???  Finally located the address.  Out of business.  Damn.  However, we are not really surprised as the location sucked.  Oh well maybe in Yuma or Tucson.

Off we went on Interstate 8.  While we wanted to go to Tucson it was 410 miles and it was already noon.  We were realizing that we may have to stop somewhere else.  We would play it by ear which is the way we like to travel anyhow because it gives us the opportunity to stop and see things that might be worthwhile.   We were about to cross the Mojave Desert so we were not sure if we would see anything or not but we would make time for it if there was.

Climbed all the way from San Diego to 4000 feet

The drive was nice, especially after the hectic drive from Anaheim to San Diego.  Traffic was light and the highway was great.  It was a good thing as this was a spectacular drive.  Who would have ever thought that there would be so much scenery to enjoy crossing a desert. This is a high elevation desert so there were lots of mountains, big rock faces and Serrano Cacti by the thousands.  They were unbelievable. 

Serrano Cactus as far as the eye can see

We arrived at Yuma at 4:00 pm as the time zone had changed and decided that we would stay there the night.  After touring a few hotels and deciding that Yuma and Santa Barbara should start a most expensive lodging club we finally found one that was ok and close to our budget.  This took almost an hour and a half.  Yuma is a very oddly laid out town and it was difficult finding the hotel zones.

We unloaded the car and went outside to enjoy an absolutely beautiful desert sunset.  The one thing about touring looking for a hotel was we also saw a great many restaurants.  We decided on BBQ.  It was good but not exceptionally good.  We realized that this was a chain so it was cookie cutter formula food.  We have since been to Texas and found out what proper BBQ should be, but that is a story for another day.

Sand around Yuma, just need a buggy
The Snowbirds were already there

We spent the evening planning our route in Mexico using the paper map we bought earlier in Windsor, California.  It was important that we planned it out as we had no intentions of driving at night and wanted to make sure that we knew which towns or cities we had to stop in.  We knew that when we crossed the border that we would take 3 days to do the remaining miles.

We were up in the morning and off to Tucson as we had located a store there that did sell the Garmin map for Mexico and they had it in stock.  241 miles of desert, mountains, more desert and Serrano Cactus.

The black line in the distance is George Bush's wall

We found the store, bought our map, grabbed some lunch and headed for Nogales, Arizona.  The border town.  We thought it would be better to stay the night on the American side then try to find a hotel on the Mexican side.  That way we could get up early and hit the border before it got busy.

It was an hour to Nogales.  Driving into town was different.  This was a border town, no doubt about it.  Very rough-looking.  They had three hotels.  A Super 8 built in probably 1960, a Best Western that did not look like it was in the best area of town and a Holiday Inn that had just opened.  We tried the Holiday Inn.  No go, fully booked.  Super 8 it was.

It was early in the mid afternoon so it gave us some time to do some laundry.  Heather was doing that while I was downstairs checking email in the lobby.  I was on my way up the stairs when I heard this blood curdling scream (one that I was going to get very familiar with over the next few months) coming from our room.  I dashed up stairs trying not to drop my computer and there sitting on top of our freshly washed clothes was the biggest freaking bug I had ever seen.  Really this thing could have carried away small children.

We brought it to the attention of the desk clerk who calmly came up and killed it.  We know it came out of the dryer and was not in the room because the hotel was spotless.  It was at that point we went to Safeway and bought a bottle of wine as we had the sneaking suspicion neither one of us would sleep all that well tonight.

It was during that drive around town that we saw that the town was not really that bad, it is just old.  We hit the mall, did a little shopping and asked people for suggestions for dinner.  We were directed to a little mexican place downtown.  We were not disappointed.  The food was delightful, the people were friendly and we left well fed and watered.

We retired back to the room both with apprehension as the big event was here.  We were about to cross the border.  The scary border that we had heard so many bad things about.  What will happen?  What about all the goods we are carrying and dealing with customs?  We just could not turn back now.  It had to happen.  So we climbed into the bed whose mattress was probably not manufactured in this decade and drifted off with visions of the new adventure starting in about 8 short hours.

The Journey to Casa Madera – Los Angeles

November 15, 2010 – Tonight I gave Alfonso a ride home as he lent his bicycle to Marco whose bike had broken and lived farther away.  We were told last week by our insurance agent that Mexicans are not allowed to be on foot in our neighbourhood after 6:00 pm unless they live in the neighbourhood.   Otherwise they run the risk of being picked up by one of the many police patrols that run through the area.  I am pretty sure that is not a ride any of them wanted to take so I loaded him into the jeep and ran him over to Jarretaderas which by car is only 5 minutes away.

The man loves to talk and he loves to talk about music (no wonder I like him).  And he really likes to talk about english music.  It was very strange his first day here when he turned his ghetto blaster up to about 9 (so he could hear it over the smashing concrete) and into our home flowed Can’t buy me love by the Beatles.  This was followed up with many other Beatles classics.  Throughout the day we were treated to Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles, The Bee Gees and finally the one english music radio station in town.  CKUA stayed silent in the house that day.  Mainly because there was not a snowball’s chance in Puerto Vallarta that we could hear it!

But I digress, all the way to his casa he talked.  Trying to find the right english word for this and that.  Asking me for the proper word in english for this spanish word.  Now this would be just fine and dandy if my spanish vocabulary was more than about 200 words!  I fear that he is going pick up the wrong english from someone who had no idea what he was asking me in the first place.  It was quite the enjoyable ride.  Reminded me of many of the rides we were on in Disneyland….

November 10, 2008 – when we checked out of the hotel in Santa Barbara (who knew it was an elitist playground? apparently everybody but Heather and I) after we coughed up the ridiculous amount of money they wanted for a very average hotel room we asked the desk clerk about the Monarch Butterflies.  We had been reading that there is a park where the butterflies rested in Santa Barbara on their migration to Michoacan, Mexico for the winter.  The desk clerk told we where the park was and said it was very close.  He gave us directions and we set out to find it.  After driving in circles for what seemed like hours but probably was only 45 minutes, we said the heck with it and headed for the freeway to LA.

The Freeway to LA

Our plans were to hit a few high spots in Los Angeles on the way through and spend the night in Anaheim so we could hit Disneyland the next day.  We figured that we were there so we should make a stop at the Happiest Place on Earth.

One just never tires of seeing that

First stop, Beverly Hills. What can you say about Beverly Hills that has not already been said.  Rodeo Drive

I would like to actually see this at night!

is kind of cool and they have chandeliers for street lamps.  Had no plans to actually shop on Rodeo Drive or shop period as we could barely fit a bag of chips in the car as it was so we just drove the street.

On to Hollywood and Hollywood Boulevard.  Checked out Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the walk of fame and moved on to the La Brea Tar Pits.  Those were interesting and worth checking out if you are stuck for something to do in LA.

The largest lagoon at the Tar Pits

Over the years we have heard so much about Venice Beach so we decided it was a nice day we should check it out.  We were 2 of maybe 6 people on the beach.

This would be something to see in the summer

Not much going on but what a beach, goes forever.  The water however is not the warmest in November.

The Venice Canals

The day had been full so we thought we should mosey on to Anaheim before the traffic really built up on the freeways.  I have driven the freeways before with a map and made out ok but man the GPS makes things so much easier.  The little voice tells you a couple of kilometers ahead that you will be exiting right instead of the passenger (does not matter whether it is Heather or me who is the passenger) saying I think that was our exit we just blew by.

Thank god for Garmin!

It was a nice comfortable drive to Anaheim, found a reasonable hotel (100 bucks cheaper than the night before in SB) and relaxed for a bit before heading out and finding some dinner.

The next day we awoke to an absolutely perfect Southern California day.  Sun was shining, temperatures were warm but not too hot, all in all a great day to visit Disneyland.  We did every possible thing we could do there.  Watched the parades, listened to the Barbershop Quartet, watched some of the shows.  It was great.  We especially enjoyed the evening show, Fantasmic.  You had to be in place early but it was worth it!

It had been a long day and we had a lot of miles to cover in the morning so we said our goodbyes to Mickey and started the walk to the hotel.  It was a beautiful night and enjoyable to be walking without a coat in November.  We were hoping we would never need a coat in November again….boy were we wrong!

The Journey to Casa Madera – The Pacific Coast Highway!

Thursday morning 7:50, November 11, 2010.  Heather and I have just come back from walking Alexa and there is Alfonso, Roberto and Marco waiting at the gate to get to work.  They are into the third week of what we thought was a minor renovation to build a new kitchen and improve the air flow and light in that area of the house.  There is still a pile of work to do before they can start to put on the new roof.

this was only just the start

They are their usual selves, smiling, happy, ready to start their long day.  As Alfonso goes through the gate he says, yo tengo desayunos por ustedes.  For the readers who don’t understand spanish, he brought us breakfast.  We told him we would get Alexa settled away and would meet him in the black hole that would one day be the kitchen.

Man it is so much bigger without cabinets!

Now as a background, we noted the day before that the boys had brought their own hot plate to heat up their breakfast as they don’t eat before they leave their respective houses.  We come into the kitchen after filling our coffee cups and Alfonso tells us that he got the food from people who live by him who own a lunch truck.  The truck goes by our place twice a day with food for the people who work in the area.  They serve full meals at a reasonable cost.  And man is it good but more on that later!

Breakfast with the boys, Alfonso Jr., Marco, Alfonso Sr., Roberto, Me

First off Alfonso offers us both Cokes.  Ice cold right out of his cooler.  In glass bottles so you know they are delightful but we just cannot drink Coca Cola at 8:00 in the morning so we stick with coffee.  Coca Cola is the national drink in Mexico, most people may think it is Corona but it is not. Its plain and simple, Coke.  I am pretty sure it outsells everything else 4 to 1.  Even though you can buy Pepsi cheaper everybody in this country drinks Coke, a lot of it.

Need I say more?

But on to breakfast.  He offers us a choice of loaded tacos, one type is arrachera (a personal favourite) and the other is lengua.  Affectionately known in english as tongue.  Never a real high point in my menu but its a taco and we must be polite so we go for the lengua first.  Now I have never liked tongue, tried it a few times but it never did anything for me.  This taco was unbelievable.  It was absolutely delightful.  Everything had been mixed to perfection and everything just melted in your mouth.  The flavour was fantastic.  It reminded of some grape tomato’s we bought at a farmers market outside of Marina, California as we were heading for the Pacific Coast Highway.

We left our hotel in San Francisco on November 9, 2008 at 8:03 AM dressed in shorts and light shirts as we were looking forward to a hot day in the car.  The sun did not disappoint.  At 8:00 it was warmer than it had been the entire day before when I seriously considered putting on my Saskatchewan Roughriders sweatshirt.  It was a very much appreciated gift from Mr. Cook and his cohorts and has come in very handy here on the cold mornings but I would rather no one who knows me ever sees me in it!

We worked our way out of the city into the California farmland.  There were farms everywhere.  We are used to seeing farms but being Albertan we are used to seeing waves of wheat, rye and canola, not lettuce, tomato’s and other vegetables.  We were rolling into Marina, California when we spied a fast food chain where we could grab a coffee and use the bathroom.  Off the highway we went and lo and behold weren’t they having a farmers market in the parking lot.  Well that had to be checked out and check it out we did.  We found some fresh picked grape tomato’s that quite simply were the best tomato’s either one of us have ever tasted.  They were sweet and juicy and well we could go on but then I would lose the G rating.  The 2 pound clamshell that we paid about 2 bucks for was gone before we got to Monterey.

We thought we might stop in Monterey to sightsee but realized that it is a long way to Los Angeles and even longer on the PCH so we kept right on moving.  The Pacific Coast Highway is a nice drive.  The road is narrow, twisting, hilly and very slow. It was the perfect road to drive to get us ready for what lies ahead in a few more days.

It may be a winding road but it is beautiful

Traffic was not bad, the scenery was spectacular and the road was fun to drive.  At 1:25 we had been driving for 5 hours and had managed to go 291 kilometers.  The average speed after we left Monterey was 35 miles per hour.  We had a long, long way to go yet.

The California Coast

We stopped at Piedras Blancas which is just north of San Simeon.  There is an Elephant Seal Rookery there and you can get pretty close to observe them.  It was pretty cool.

The face says it all

Still driving, lots to see on the road.  Looked a lot at the water and vistas, decided to pass on Hearst Castle.  Maybe next time.  Still 236 miles from LA.

We drove and drove and drove and drove.  Just when it seemed like we would never see civilization again at about 5:00 pm we rolled into Santa Barbara.  We decided at that point it was time to pack it in for the day.  We spent the next 45 minutes looking for an acceptable hotel.  We finally decided on a Best Western.

I parked the car and we went in to see if they had a room.  Yes, $170.00.  Man I almost swallowed my tongue!  We had seen some of the other hotels and they were not that great.  170 bucks, man we only paid a 100 in San Francisco!  Oh well they had nice bathrobes.

The Journey to Casa Madera, Chapter 2

What happens when you have a sledgehammer and you know how to use it!
Alfonso's Handiwork

We are into the second week of the kitchen reconstruction and Alfonso is still pounding.  8 days he and a helper have been pounding, chipping, sledgehammering concrete and brick.  The dust is everywhere, Zorro our cat spends the daytime in parts unknown

Zorro and Alexa
Leave my plant toy alone!

and Alexa our dog just tries to hide under everything.  We would like to hide too but there is more work to be done that we can do while Alfonso just keeps pounding away.  From 9:00 AM to 8 PM he is pounding….very reminiscient of the waves pounding on the rocks by the Oregon and California border……

Oregon Surf
Not the place to kayak but man is it beautiful

On November 4, 2008 we were on the road heading for Crescent City, California.  It had been raining it seemed since we left Tsawwassen, British Columbia on October 31st, it hadn’t of course as we did see a little sun here and there in Seattle but for the most part it was either drizzle or pouring.  Today was no different.  Raining when we left Newport, Oregon but by the time we got to Bandon, Oregon the sun had come out and the weather started to warm where we actually took off a sweatshirt!

Stopped for lunch at a shack in Bandon which was simply called “Fish & Chips Restaurant”.  Obviously that was their specialty so that was what we had.  They had one table and 5 counter seats.  The food was delightful and the place was very, very busy.  Nothing like a good feed of fried battered fish to get you heart started for the rest of the days drive!

Lunch
Great food from such a small little shack!

Arrived in Crescent City late afternoon and spent the night at the Lighthouse Inn.  A quaint little motor inn that had already set up their Christmas display in the lobby.  Apparently the businesses in town use their lobby for pictures with Santa.

Christmas display
Halloween was just 4 days before!

Hit the road on the 5th at 8:00 am and in my best Gomer Pyle imitation, surprise, surprise, surprise…it was pouring.

We were heading down the Del Norte Coast looking forward to seeing the Redwood Forest, hoping the weather would lighten up so we could actually see a tree when we got there!  We arrived in Eureka, California and were shrouded in rain, wind and cold.  We didn’t see anything there that necessitated us getting out of the truck for in that weather so we continued on.  (I am sure there are many things to see in Eureka but the weather was awful so we kept going).

There had been a Ranger Station near Big Tree, California that we stopped at for a highlight map of the North Coast and in it we found a reference to Ferndale, California that made it sound interesting so we decided we would go there and see what we could find for lunch.  The town is spectacular.  They have done the town in a Victorian style and the buildings are gorgeous.

Ferndale
Eagle House Inn in Ferndale
Victoria Inn, Ferndale
Victoria Inn, Ferndale. Next time we may stay here.

It was about 10 miles off the main highway but it was worth the drive.  Not to mention it actually stopped raining while we were there!  I would highly recommend stopping and having a look if you are in the area.  Saw our first palm tree in Ferndale….ahhhhh.

Redwood Highway
Note the wet windshield and how dark it is at !0:38 am

Heading south on the 101, also known as the Redwood Highway looking for Humboldt State Park and the Avenue of the Giants.  Great scenic area and again worth the visit.  The trees are phenomenal.  We did stop at the standard tourist trap, The Drive Thru Tree,

Drive Thru Tree
Well we paid our 5 bucks, we had to drive through the tree!

near Standish-Hickory State Park.  There we saw a sign to say how far we had come and how we yet had to travel!

the signpost
Apparently someone decided they did not want to know how far Canada was

Oh and look, it’s pouring again.  Well, at least it is not snow.

That is one big tree
Pretty big tree
Paul Bunyon
Not everyday you get to take a picture of a blue ox!

At 4:38 pm we were out of the Redwoods and heading for Ukiah, California to spend the night.  It was then we spotted our first vineyard.  Now we’re talking!

Vineyard
Clouds rising out of the first vineyard.

November 6th, the United States had just elected their first Afro-American President and we were going to tour vineyards while heading to Sonoma!  It was a truly spectacular day, now if it would only quit raining.

For the first 30 minutes on the road we were driving in clouds and drizzle but we crossed the Sonoma County Line and the clouds parted, the sky was blue and the sun was shining brightly.

The first city we came across was Windsor, California.  It was a beautiful town and suburb of Santa Rosa.  We went looking for a map store as we needed a Mexico map for our GPS.  We found the map store but no gps maps.  We bought a paper one in case we were unable to find a software plug-in.  This town was nice, they had Peanuts characters all over town as this was where Charles Schulz lived a good part of his life.

Snoopy
One just has to take a picture of Snoopy!

It was also time to change the oil in the car.  So off we went to the local Chevron oil center.

Oil freshly changed we were back on the road and heading for Benziger Vineyards.  We managed to make it there in time for their 1:30 tour and off we went.  A beautiful spot, they had worked hard to be a bio-dynamic vineyard to maintain their vines without chemicals.

Benziger Vineyards
Benziger Vineyards

It was worth what we paid to take the tour.  Oh that’s right it was free.  The wines were nice but not within our budget so we moved on looking for another.

Which way to go?
So many choices!

We ended up in the Eric Ross Wineries Tasting Room and a lovely time talking to the manager and trying a few wines.  We were there for at least an hour and bought a few bottles to enjoy on our trip.

Eric Ross Winery
We picked this one! It was a great choice!

From there we ended up in Sonoma at the Best Western for the night.  The center of town is very nice with a lovely square and lots of restaurants.  The man from Eric Ross had told us about a great Italian place that was near the hotel and we did our best to find it but if it was there it was invisible.  So instead we bought a pizza and enjoyed it in our room with an excellent newly purchased red.  We would have liked to see more wineries but the wharf in San Francisco was calling!

The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate