Hotels California

I spent two weeks making my way up the coast of California.  After a few days in Los Angeles, where I survived an earthquake that was felt by me and and only handful of other insomniacs, I hugged the coast almost all the way up the state.  Along my drive, I stayed in a lot of different places— a few dumps, a co-op, and my three favorites…

The Madonna Inn

San Luis Obispo, California

You may’ve heard of this fantastic vintage hotel on the west side of US Route 101 in San Louis Obispo.  The 110 differently themed rooms and their cave showers—- showers made feel like you’re bathing in a

My Cave Wall

cave— are something to see.  There’s the Cave Room, The Safari Room, The Pony Room…it’s more than you can imagine.   I stayed in Currier and Ives which didn’t have a cave shower but it did have a cave wall.  I was a little disappointed about my room sans cave shower, but my friend Desiree said she and her hubby left with near-concussions from their dangerous cave shower experience and somehow that made me feel better and worse at the same time.   The on-site Gold Rush Steak House is a five-year-old’s dream birthday party setting, yet full-grown adults make reservations well in advance to dine in this pastel wonderland.  Pink leather bankettes circle the white tree blooming faux flowers in the center of the room.  Five different five-layer cakes sashay their way through the dining

Which one does your inner five-year-old want to order?

room balanced on the finger tips of young servers who want nothing more than to make your experience the most it can be.  The mens’ restroom has a line out the door waiting not to use it but rather to gawk at the waterfall urinal. My favorite part was not my crazy room or the waterfall urinal, believe it or not, but the dance floor.  It’s a place where the over 70 set go to get loose.  For real dance— jitterbug, tango, foxtrot, swing.   I hung around watching and listening to the big band and was shocked when a self-proclaimed “stag” in his 80th decade asked me to dance.  It didn’t occur to me that anyone would ask because I was so incredibly out of place.  But, I always say yes to a dance so the stag led me to the floor.  I was as

The Stag

nervous as a 7th grader– terrified I would step on his foot and send him to the hospital.  So, I stared down at our feet.  He asked if it’d been a while since I’d been dancing.  I told him it had.  He said, “Yeah, you seem a little tense.”  Within an eight count he pegged my overall disposition.  After our one dance together, I watched the stag work the room and marveled at the moves out on the floor.  It’s definitely a couple’s dancing scene but no one’s left out—  three people danced together in a way that made them look like two and one woman tore it up on her own.  But this couple in particular caught and held my attention for a long time.  They reminded me that common interest is the golden thread of a relationship.  There is indeed, as my friend Michelle likes to say, a pot for every lid.

*Tres Sabores

St. Helena, California in Napa Valley

Tres Sabores Vines

If I could stay here for year or more I would.  Julie Johnson, the owner and wine maker at Tres Sabores will treat you like family as soon as you arrive.  Their adorable Labs, Moose and Boozy Rouge, welcome you at your car door before you can even put it in park.  Moose can spot a dog lover in a second and gives a weary traveler as many excited tail wags and non-slobbery kisses as you’ll let him.  There’s a cute guest cottage about 40 yards from the main house that doubles as their tasting room.  They’re in the process of building a separate tasting room but being part of the action was really fun for me.  It’s private and cozy but also in the center of it all.   If you stay up late enough, which I do, you’ll  hear Julie open the cottage’s barn doors to let the night air in to cool the barrels.  I did a little tasting around the valley but found that tasting alone isn’t as much fun as sampling Tres Sabores’ bone dry Rose and reading under their

gorgeous oak tree.  I relaxed under their olive trees too, sunned by their pool, wrote some posts for this blog,

The Best Reading Tree Ever

plotted my path, and delighted in doing nothing.  I cannot recommend this quiet, refreshing off-the-beaten-path guest experience enough.  You’ll leave your stay with enough wine to round out your collection for the rest of the year.  Promise.

If you want to see/taste more of the action in the valley, some recommendations from locals:

Frog’s LeapMondaviDomaine CarnerosSt. Supery Vineyards

*Thank you Ash and Chip for sending me to this wonderful place.

Shelter Cove Inn

Shelter Cove, California

I loved Shelter Cove and I loved the wonderful little apartment right on the water at gorgeous, Shelter Cove Inn.  I’d never visited a black

Little Black Sand Beach
Shelter Cove, CA

sand beach before and that’s the main reason I wanted to see this rural, undeveloped, secret of a spot on the coast.  First of all, you have to have a plan to go there.  This isn’t a place you just find while you’re driving up 101.  You go through the southern part of the redwood forrest and then hang a left at the Shop Smart in Redway and take the gorgeous, two-lane-sometimes-one-lane road to the coast.  There’s another store that sells wine at the bottom of the hill where you can pick up what you forgot at the first supermarket.  In case you forgot to buy wine.  I forgot to buy wine.  Then Shelter Cove Inn is around the corner.  There are four units and you have to call in advance because they are booked most of the year with regulars.  I got so lucky and was able to sneak in on a Friday and Saturday night.  My suite had an enormous balcony and a full kitchen where I cooked all meals for myself for the first time in a month or more.  The owners, Richard and Margaret, are the epitome of hosts.  They made sure I felt comfortable and safe and knew where everything was.  Richard made sure I knew that the water down at the beach was really unpredictable and powerful so that I would be careful on my hikes.  The black sand beaches did not disappoint, either.  It’s so remote that I saw only 4 other people there the entire day— and one was meditating.  It was the perfect place to experience California’s rock face cliffs, jagged shoreline, and booming  Pacific waves.

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Categories: Stays on The Strech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Just Jump

Bigfork Bridge

There’s a bridge in Bigfork, Montana that stretches over the Swan River as it lets out into Flathead Lake.  To some, jumping from the bridge into the deep part of the river is a rite of passage.  For me, this jump is a taunt.  A calling I can’t answer.

While enjoying a cocktail on her boat on Flathead Lake, my friend Edie asked if I wanted to jump from the bridge while I’m in town.  Lemme tell you something about Edie, she’s all about having fun which is a why I love being with her.  So, when she offered to jump with me it seemed like the best idea ever.

The water from my jumping point.

The drop from the bridge to the water is no more than 12 feet.  The water below is still and clear.  It’s easy to find the deep spot.  The rocks practically clear themselves out of the way.  Cars cross the bridge once every ten minutes.  The septuagenarian who lives below my parents dives off  on a regular basis.  I’m telling you, everyone has done this.

I’m not a particularly daring person.  New experiences are great but if they involve danger I can make a mountain out of a mole hill real quick.  A seat belt is my best friend.  I know how to cut it off my body and shatter a car window and have mentally prepared my escape if my car is sinking.  When I check into a hotel I ask for the room closest to the emergency exit.

I’m not sure why jumping off of this bridge seemed within my repertoire.  I wasn’t scared until I started climbing over the railing.  Then the gremlin voices began their chorus.

No one has ever gotten hurt but there’s always a first.

That water is really cold and it could be very disorienting once you submerge with that kind of force.

You could hit your head on the way down and knock yourself out then bleed out in front of your family.

Edie with her husband, Bob. Bigfork’s Ambassadors of Fun.

Edie demonstrated how to get to the ledge.  She gave me one hell of a pep talk.  She ran to get a life vest for me.  She jumped.  She jumped again.  A crowd gathered.  The crowd cheered.  I rallied and screamed, “Ok…1…2…” and chickened out.  Young men who promised they are certified life guards treaded water right below me for safety and moral support.  I asked the onlookers to come closer and tell me positive things.  Then I asked them to move away because they were crowding me. A kindergarten child said he would jump if I promised him I would jump.  I promised.   He jumped.  I broke my promise.

My point is  the only thing holding me back from taking the step off of the bridge, free-falling for .5 seconds, dunking in the clean river, and coming up victorious to applause from the crowd was ME.  This fear, of what I cannot pinpoint exactly, has been with me my whole life.  Most loyally, I’m sorry to report.

I meditate. I visualize success. I journal. I plan.  I pray.  But, this fear and I still take it to the mat on a daily basis.  I have five more days in Bigfork and that bridge is 200 feet from my front door.  I want to jump while I’m here— to pin that nasty fear.

But what if I freeze up again?

What if I messed with cosmic timing and yesterday was the best day to jump and now the water level is too low?

What if lightning strikes the bridge while I’m on the ledge?

What if…

Categories: People on The Stretch | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Spirit of 76

The Spirit of 76.

This week my father turned 76 years old.  I’m a lucky daughter to be able to spend his birthday with him in Bigfork, Montana.  We’ve spent a portion of almost every summer for the past 11 years together taking in the charm and quirk of this beautiful little village.  He and my mom introduced me to the last great place on Earth, Montana, when he retired and decided to be a guide on Flathead Lake.  This employment period was short-lived once he realized that working for someone else while in retirement wasn’t his vision after-all.  He ditched the work but stuck with Bigfork.

This terrain is unchartered for us native Floridians.  There’s a stretch of road between here and our friends’ house about 10 minutes away.  We’ve driven that road a countless times and he points out the same distant mountains and the same hay fields and says, “Isn’t that just beautiful?”  Every single time.   I love that.

From the last paragraph you may believe he’s something of a mellow guy.  That’s not the case at all.  I inherited my temper from him, although we both try very hard to keep it cool, sometimes the diplomatic route is the road less traveled. Maybe it’s because he’s my dad, but I believe he’s the perfect combination of loving father, football coach, CPA, storyteller, problem solver, AAA caller, justice defender, and best friend.

When I need a good laugh these things about my dad come to mind:

*When a cocktail is spilled, he shields his eyes and says, “Oh, I’d rather see a church burn.”

Handsome Devil

*His usual explanation for the inexplicable: “Well, I think you’re dealing with a person with a terminal case.”  Terminal case?  Terminal case of what?  “A terminal case of dumbass.”

*The way he winks at himself in the mirror and says, “You handsome devil, don’t you ever die.”

Things that melt my heart:

*The way he talks about how smart his grandchildren are.  He thinks even the mundane is amazing.

*He signs his letters, “I love you more…..POP.”

*The time he played I’ll Be Home For Christmas on his trumpet.

The reasons I’m lucky he’s my dad:

*The morning after one of our numerous conversations about the worst thing in the world happening, he calls to see if they sun came up where I live.  I always say that it did.  Then he says, “I told you it would.”

*He taught me that it always works out.  It might not work out the way I want it to and it might take a while but it will work out and it will be ok.

Pricher Clan

*He has been a devoted and loving husband to my mom for almost fifty years.

*He kept the ball moving down the field for our family no matter the circumstance.

*He’s always been there for me and there’ve been times when I wouldn’t blame him for ditching me.

This road-trip is a fantastic experience for so many reasons.  But, one of the best things is that I talk to him almost every day.  I promised him that I’ll stop driving when it gets dark and let he and my mother know where I am staying every night.  A reasonable request but proves difficult where there’s no cell signal.  He’s the first person I recount my day to and he thinks each story is better than the last.

Pop, I wish you a year full of joy and surprises.  Thank you for giving fatherhood your all.  I wish I could say your job is over and I can take it from here but if I did I’d be a cold-hearted liar.  I love your humor, your grumpiness, your logic, your understanding, your sense of adventure, your generosity, and most of all that you are my dad.

Enjoy 76!  That’s the spirit.

Sunrise/Sunset

Categories: People on The Stretch | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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