Lonely Days

Lonely.  Now there is a word.  How many pop songs used it over the years?   Hundreds, many of them my favourites because they were just great songs.   The allmusic.com website lists over 1300 occurrences of the word in a song title.  Song writers love it and for good reason.  We can all identify with being lonely. 

For Heather and I at Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast, it hits us every once in a while but very rarely.  When it hits though, it hits.

 The nice thing is that family does come to visit.  My son, Brendan is coming next weekend with a buddy to celebrate his 21st birthday.  I cannot tell you how excited we are over that.  Not that we don’t have friends here.  We do, and they make sure we are never lonely. 

Christmas this winter was a special treat.  My brother, Larry and Heather’s mother, Barbara were here.  That made Christmas extra special this year.  Christmas for both of us revolves around family and having family here this year was wonderful. 

That and our friends kept us busy. 

Christmas Eve at Robert & William Michael’s, Christmas Day dinner at Bill & April’s.  To be surrounded by good friends and family makes it so special.  It was so far removed from our first Christmas in Vallarta.

December 24, 2008 – Christmas Eve.  A totally different Christmas Eve than either one of us has ever experienced.  One it was 26 degrees and there was no snow, ice or threat of slush.  Two, our families were 2ooo miles north of us.  This was the first Christmas either one of us had ever spent alone.  Ok, so we were not really alone but I am sure you get the idea.

We decided that we were going to do the day up right.  Christmas Eve was the day that my family had dinner.  It developed a long time ago as the family grew, people got married and had their spouse’s family to satisfy as well.  That and the 24th of December was my parents anniversary.  It just became THE day. 

This Christmas Eve was going to be obviously different.  We knew three people in town.  Robert and William Michael who were gracious enough to invite us to their Christmas Day dinner the next day.   We knew Marco, but he was in Guadalajara with his Mother and Father.  Other than them we were alone. 

The strangest part of the whole experience was that we were having a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit.  For one, it was warm.  The air conditioner was running in the condo.  We were sweating when we went outside.  Where was the snow?  For many of us, even though we hate it, the first snowfall was what jump started us into Christmas mode.  Well no snow here except for the frost layer in our freezer. 

We noticed when we first arrived in town 6 weeks before that Christmas trees were for sale.  It seemed odd to see all of these trees basking in sunshine.  If you took one home you did not have to wait for it to thaw before cutting the trunk and sticking it in water.  Crazy.

We did not buy a tree.  One, where the hell would we put it.  No space in the condo.  We settled for a couple of artificial trees about 18 inches tall and decorated them with some small glass balls that we bought from Mega.  They got set up in the stairway.  There, we were decorated for Christmas. 

Our trees

This brought us to dinner.  What were we going to have?  We did not have a proper stove or oven so we could not cook a turkey.  We could go out but what is open on Christmas eve?  We had never been here before at that time so we had no idea what would be open or closed.  We finally decided on an old favourite as they were just down the street.

Christmas Eve Dinner 2008

Yep, that’s right.  KFC.  The Colonel.  It was a taste of home, what can we say.  I can say, it was freaking great!  It was without a doubt the best KFC I had tasted in years.  Well cooked fresh Mexican chicken done with the 11 herbs and spices.  I could go on and on but lets just say we ate there more than once because it was so good. 

Christmas morning for anybody with children always starts early.  We had been lucky as my children were old enough that they were past the getting up at 5:00 am stuff.   So I was looking forward to a nice relaxing sleep filled morning on Christmas Day.  I could not have been more wrong.

6:00 am I awake with a start to the sound of a bang.  What the hell was that?  Then there was another bang, followed quickly by another.  Well I had to go see what was going on.  I had noticed that Heather was no longer lying beside me so somehow she was involved.  And involved she was, chasing a cockroach around the floor with a hammer!  Bang, missed, bang, missed, bang, missed.  Needless to say she eventually got it but by then I was up for the day.  So much for the sleep in.

Coca Cola Christmas Tree

We had been invited Robert & William Michael’s for dinner Christmas Day and asked to bring a green salad.  We had the lettuce but Heather wanted a salad spinner, something that did not fit in the car when we moved.  It was christmas day but to our surprise all the major stores were open so after we made all of the phone calls home we ventured out to see what we could find.

Nothing, that’s what we found.  No such thing as a salad spinner in Mexico.  One of the stores, Mega, has helpers who double as time share salespeople.  Well the gentleman we talked to that day told Heather she needed to become more Mexican and just whip the lettuce around in a towel like everybody else! 

Two months later we found one in Lans Department store.  It has been followed by many others.  Apparently not all Mexican women want to whip their lettuce around in a towel either!

Dinner at Robert and William Michael’s was divine.  The food was excellent and the post dinner entertainment provided by Los Bambinos was phenomenal.  If you are ever here and get the chance to see them it is well worth the price of admission!  We thank them for making that Christmas special.

Our Christmas presents from home arrived on Boxing day.  It was a nice way to finish the Christmas season and promptly caused Heather to cry. 

Were we lonely.  Yes we were lonely but fate was going to change that very quickly the next day when our doorbell would ring….

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