Monday, August 06, 2007

The Getaway

It never hurt anyone to take a vacation, to pack up your troubles into a box and leave them on the front porch as you say good bye to all that is comfortable and routine and venture out into the world and see something new and different.

The Canyon Villa, at the top of the hill, with deer grazing in a barley field in the foreground. We saw 23 deer; of course, it could have been these same five deer five times...but it was still cool.

In a couple of days, Kara and I will be saying “Happy Anniversary” to each other, probably right before she leaves for work and maybe again before I slog upstairs to continue my never-ending project (which is why this page has been so bleak the last couple of weeks). Maybe we’ll share a smile over dinner that day, a briefly distracted memory of some bygone romantic thought that may have happened somewhere in the last 10 years of our marriage, a thought probably snatched away by Matthew trying to spit his juice across the table or by Natalie seeing how much butter she can put on her bread. Other than those brief moments, that will probably be the extent of it. We may exchange cards in that sleepy time after the house falls quiet, right before we both want nothing more than to curl up under the covers to recharge for the following day. A lot has changed since the days of staying up all night to see how many times we could wake the neighbors.

Here is a picture of Kara at the fountain, enjoying a glass of wine before dinner.

We had decided about four months ago that the best thing we could ever do for ourselves would be to celebrate our anniversary on a mini vacation. Since there was no way I was going to shell out the big bucks for some jewelry that she probably wouldn’t wear and I didn’t expect her to wrack her brain looking for just the perfect gift to sum up 10 years of shackled love, we felt that the best way to spend it would be on a trip.

The exact location was something to be debated. We didn’t want to bother with the logistics of flying. We weren’t interested in Vegas or Laughlin. Catalina was a contender for a while, but Kara didn’t want to suffer through the boat ride, so we opted on wine tasting, a much loved pastime that we had abandoned roughly when Kara got pregnant. We’ve hit most of the hot spots in California, but haven’t spent a lot of time in Paso Robles, a small town at the junction of the 101 and the 46 highways, right smack in the middle of the state.

Breakfast. This is some sort of egg and sausage quiche that was really good, and I contribute our stamina to visit 13 wineries that day to this little absorbant dish.

We researched the area, looked at a few bed and breakfasts and decided on The Canyon Villa, kind of a crap shoot for us, as we have never stayed in a B&B. I always carried with me some trepidation about staying in one, because I’m a private person. I like my space, my freedom, and I hate to impose. I’d rather do without then task a host with my needs. Plus, I figured it would be as if we were staying in someone’s house, invading their space, putting them out. On top of which, I don’t ever eat breakfast…and that’s half the place right there. Now if it was a Bed and Dinner or Bed and a Movie, I might have been more easily swayed, but all in all, I’m very glad we did it. Thanks to the couple that owned The Canyon Villa, the feelings melted away soon after we got settled in.

I don't remember where this was taken, but I'm going to guess Opolo.

They always say getting there is half the fun, and after sitting in nearly three hours of traffic through LA, I would have punched anyone who so much as breathed any part of that mantra. It was horrible. We had decided to take the 101 north because it drives by the coast and is a much nicer drive. If anywhere else in the state is over 100 degrees, the 101 is about 30 degrees less. Well, it was bumper to bumper soon after we left our house until roughly past Oxnard. I was wishing that my truck came equipped with a gun turret to clear the way; however, it was one of the rare times I’ve actually been able to spend time with Kara lately without the distractions of the children.

Paso Robles, even in the worst weather of the summer, where the grass is dry and crunchy and the heat is oppressive, is very beautiful. There is always a breeze and the sun seems to always shine through a deep blue sky. But boy does one side of the town vastly differ from the other. If you were to get off the 101 before the 46 West, just north of Templeton but on the southern outskirts of Paso, you might think you were in any ritzy upscale suburb in LA. Trendy antique shops (where there probably isn’t an antique to be found), upscale dining, and lots and lots of wine. However, go about five miles north or east, and you might just find a Subway to eat at (we did) or the Mid-State Fair, which is conveniently located across the street from Big Daddy Bubba’s BBQ, which we would like to have eaten at.

The owner of the B&B called on our ride up and asked if we wanted her to make some dinner reservations for us and since we didn’t know the area, we left it up to her. Dinner at the first restaurant on Friday night was $130 for the two of us. We knew we were in for trouble when the waitress asked us if we’d like some water. Sure, we responded, who doesn’t like a glass of water. “Would you like, sparkling, mountain spring, bottled water, or house water.” House water? That’s just water, right? With lemon please. On a good note, they were shooting pictures to go with the restaurant review for the LA Times and since we were sitting right in front of the wine cellar, we got in a host of shots, so check Wednesday’s Food section for a review of The Artisan. You might just see us gawking at the price of a freakin’ brownie, or me wondering why they only brought out a quarter of my dinner… What? That’s it?

You’re right, we weren't made for fine cuisine, and I’m okay with that. Spending a ton of money on food seems rather silly, especially when there are so many other things you can buy when you’re on vacation.

This was taken right outside of Donati, where I bought a really nice Decanter.

The nights were clear, cool and quiet. Nobody cried when they went to sleep. Nobody wanted any juice. There weren’t any diapers to change or schedule’s to keep. We had a couple of glasses of wine and some hors d’ oeuvres back at the Canyon Villa and sat by the fountain and watched the stars come out. Then, for no good reason what so ever, we took a bath… and we didn’t even have to clean out a tub full of toys.

The next day, we visited a few wineries and spent a great deal of money on a new wine collection. Since we have been without good wine in the house for so many years—the best wine we’ve seen around here was a giant three-dollar jug of Livingston’s Kara’s mom gets when she’s in town—so, it was time to replenish the assortment. I made a habit of buying two bottles of wine from every winery we visited, sometimes more, sometimes less, and after 18 wineries in the two days we were there, the bottles do stack up. Of course, the doctors and their wives who were sharing the Bed and Breakfast with us were loading up the back of their car with cases instead of singles like us… but we did alright with nearly three cases of wonderful wines. We certainly out paced them when it came to tastings. Amateurs.

Oh well. It hurt to come home. Sure, I missed the kids, but after the first night, I was getting over the feeling and was almost ready to just keep driving north. But sadly, we had to return. B&B’s are not cheap and I don’t think The Canyon Villa needed a new dishwasher or someone to turn down the four beds at night.

The view from our back door.

On the long drive home, we took the 46 east to the 5 Freeway which ended up being just as big a mistake as taking the 101 north. We left at 10:30, hit a few wineries on the 46 and got to the 5 just after noon. We didn’t get home until after 6:00. I had to go to the bathroom so badly during the drive that I pulled off the freeway and into an almond orchard. It was actually pretty cool. I had never seen almonds up close like that before.

There was pizza waiting for us when we got home and a nice comfortable bed, not to mention two small kids, dazzled at the stories of our adventures. “I wanna see the pictures of the deer,” buzzed Natalie. “Did you take any pictures of a moose?”

Maybe next time.

Look, almonds!

Special thanks to my folks who agreed to come watch the kids that Friday, and who, thanks to a major communication glitch on my part, had no idea they were spending the night with them until the subject came up as we were walking out the door… and thanks to Joe and Julie who kept them well entertained for the rest of the weekend.

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