Saturday, November 15, 2014

Palm Springs Parties, the Central Valley Dustbowl, and Napa Valley Splendor

Days 18-22 (Friday, November 6 - Tuesday, November 11)

Palm Springs is one of our favorite places to visit.  People are friendly, the pace is relaxed, the food is delicious, and there is always a party going on somewhere!

Our hosts, Trey and James, were warmly hospitable (as always!).  On Friday, we enjoyed lunch at Jake' long nap...then dinner with new friends in Cathedral City.  Such good conversation (and some good wine, too!--thanks, Patrick!) and a pleasant evening.

On Saturday, we woke up to a delicious breakfast Trey prepared, then readied ourselves for a "garden party" at the former William Holden estate, benefiting the Human Rights Campaign.  This "intimate" party was attended by about 1000 folks!  The grounds were amazing and the home itself was remarkable.  The entire home is stark white, inside and out, with exterior walls of glass looking out onto the spacious, lush lawn and pool.  I found myself wondering what it must have been like back in the 40s and 50s to be entertained there with the Hollywood elite!

Our group had dinner later at Tropicale, where we got to know new friends, Stan and Michael, better. It's always great to share good times with friends, both old and new!

We had an early start Sunday for our long drive north to Napa Valley.  We wanted to leave early to avoid any possible traffic delays in Los Angeles (even though it was Sunday, you just never know). No problems there--before we knew it, we were over the foothills and mountains and descending into the vast central California valley on I-5.  As we dropped down before Bakersfield, we noticed a cloud of haze in the distance, appearing like a smog blanket like you'd see over a major city.

Soon, we realized it was not smog at all, but dust...a hundred-mile long dust cloud resulting from the water shortage over this supposedly abundant agricultural area.  The once-rich soil looked like desert sand, and almost every farm had posted angry political signs bemoaning the "politics of water," claiming that their representatives in Sacramento and Washington had implemented policies resulting in the farmers' payment of millions of dollars for the delivery of water they never saw.  There are many sides to every story, I know, and I don't know the details; however, I do know the cloud of dust was not a good sign for California agriculture or our food prices!

Arriving in the Bay Area west of San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, we took the northern route around the big cities and soon saw that we were almost in the promised land...

Almost immediately upon taking the Napa Highway, the brilliant fall colors began to show in the trees, and then, more brilliantly in the vineyards themselves!  I had been to Napa in the Spring and thought it was beautiful, but this was incredible!  Dark reds, maroons, bright oranges, vibrant yellows, all depending on the variety of grapes.

These road-weary travelers were renewed as we wound our way through Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and on to Calistoga, where MB's son and his wife live.  The views from their home before and at sunset were awe-inspiring!

On the front porch, I thought they had decorated for Fall with bright, orange pumpkins...only to realize they were growing on a vine emanating from their box garden and circling the porch!

Early the next morning, our daily walk in the brisk autumn temperatures yielded more opportunities for great photographs of the Fall colors...

...and a greeting to visitors enjoying an early-morning balloon ride!

Later, MB's son took us for a few wine tastings, including Chateau Montelena (have you seen the movie Bottle Shock?)...

...and Summers Estate, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch and a bottle of their charbono (for all you Cher fans, that's not Cherbono or even's charbono!),,,vinted from a varietal grown on less than 100 acres in California.

We had a delicious dinner and much good visiting with MB's kids, then were off for another long haul on through Redding and into the mountains of far northern California....past Mount Shasta...

...and into the dense and colorful forests of southwestern Oregon.  There have been some long driving days lately, but the views have been well worth it!

Next:  Wintery Portland and Wonderful Whidbey Island

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