Sunday, August 28, 2011

Drive-cation 0-11 Day 1 and 2

Drive-cation 0-11 begins! Our ultimate destination is Portland, where we will arrive after a two-day drive. We will spend a few days there visiting some friends and seeing what the city has to offer, will then amble slowly toward San Francisco via the 1 with planned and unplanned stops for landmarks, vista points, and any spontaneous adventure that strikes our fancy.

The first day we stopped off at the deliciously technicolor assault that is the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield. The factory tour is free and a must if you are nearby. We happened to be there on Friday, and any weekday is preferred since you will have an opportunity to see workers on the floor. A weekend will yield a view of static, lifeless machines, and a work floor devoid of humanity.  And it may smell fine, but the amazing power of having a glorious cloud of juicy pear envelope your entire being is akin to staring through an oven door, drooling over the baking cookies as the scent and anticipation of burning your mouth on 400 degree molten chocolate takes over your rational mind.  The smells are amazing, which is why Jelly Bellies are amazing.  If you disagree, you are insane and I can't talk to you.

The drive got much nicer too as the trip up 5, an otherwise straight and boring shot from L. A., the missionary position of California highways, the landscape became more hilly and tree-y. And as we arrived in our hotel just south of Redding, it began to get dark.

The Hotel Gaia was really nice and we would definitely stay there again, if in the area.  There was a restaurant attached to the hotel and the front parking lot was full, with more cars arriving exclusively for the place, which told us, if the locals are making it a point to come to the hotel restaurant, it is a good sign.  Was it ever! The menu made me want one of everything and I settled on lobster ravioli.  Gregory had prime rib.  We tried to power through to a table-side-fired Creme Brûlée, but we were just to exhausted after the drive and wanted to sleep.

The second day we set out through the Northern California / Southern Oregon leg of our trip, back tracked to the hotel to pickup our almost forgotten swim trunks, and set out again.  Luckily we had only traveled a few miles before the revelation hit us.  A couple of hours later, we stopped off at a little cafe in a rest stop for lunch.  Mid afternoon found us walking through Ashland's Lithia Park where I envied the many festival attendees.  If I had proper foresight, I would have booked us to see at least one play that day on our way through, since the Shakespeare Festival was in full swing.

We stopped at a few sights along the way, including the Winchester Dam, which also featured a fish ladder.  We saw a few small fish struggling against the current.  Our drive into Portland was pretty uneventful, as a book on tape kept us awake and laughing.

We stopped by our hotel briefly to drop off our bags, and were instantly off to visit Meagan and Jim, for us, two of the best reasons to visit Portland.  And by a lovely coincidence, Beth happened to be in town visiting them, and we had an opportunity to see her as well.  We hadn't seen her since May and it was so nice to catch up.  Jim and Meagan were in the midst of making one of their incredible meals and canning.  Jim was brining pickles and preparing steak, meat, and vegetables.  All were of the highest quality and the chicken nearly made me cry.  The wine they chose complimented the steak in spades.  It is sensationally unfair how incredible is their insight over food.  Meagan had prepared a macaroni and cheese casserole that blew everyone away, and made an amazing dessert earlier in the day that looked like what you would receive in Dubai if you ordered a Pop Tart.  Thinly sliced apple over a thin pastry dough with marzipan filling and topped with an apricot glaze.

And it all pales in comparison with just getting to be in the same room, to talk and laugh and hug my friends again.  We have missed them so much and the conversation, love and laughter filled every corner of their home.  It has been an incredible start to our vacation.

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