Mexico or Bust Week Two

Well here I go again... Believe it our not this is the second time I am writing this blog… I was around half way through and I deleted the entire post thinking that I was just deleting a block in the post. Unfortunately there does not appear to be any way to recover this! Crap!

So the last time we left off we were about to head out from the Redwood Forrest region of northern California on out way to Calistoga in Napa Valley. We were up at 6:00 AM that morning and we left the campsite by 7:00. It was a very picturesque and scenic ride down the 101. We did the obligatory stop at the big Paul Bunyan statue and then basically high tailed it to Napa. Here is the route http://goo.gl/maps/v4Vlk

 

Day Nine - We arrived in Calistoga in the late afternoon. After all those hours in the car I was itching to get out on a ride. I chose a short ride but it was a steady climb up just past the Robert Louis Stevenson Park. You can click here for the route. http://goo.gl/maps/pIoRC . It was an amazing scenic ride and it wasn’t for the asshole California drivers who could not stand to have me on the side of the highway, I would have put this in my top climbs. I have to give the drivers a score of 1 out of 5 in Napa. It is simply amazing. These people are driving through this beautiful area but it means nothing. Also, a cyclist on a mountain coming up to a blind corner is a big delay to their day. So it means hit the gas on that corner and if a big truck comes around the other side, no big deal, you can just hit the cyclist. All that being said, I would do the ride again, but on a Saturday or Sunday morning when people are not so anxious. Unfortunately, the California drivers in the Napa region get a 1/5 from me on this trip. They need to smarten up.

After I got back from the ride we all got on our bikes, did a little shopping and then went to a local Italian restaurant called Boskos (http://www.boskos.com ) . Boskos does not sound too Italian to me but the food, especially the pizza is very authentic. Jillian and I started with a little flight of local beer. I can’t recall the actual brewery, but we had a nice IPA, a hefferveisen and a summer lager. All work quite nice. For dinner NJ, Jillian and I went straight for the pizza and Adi had a pasta alfredo. Jillian and I paired our pizza with the Cult which is one of our favourite every day Cabs that we would buy at J.Webb Wine Merchant back in Calgary.  You can find some information and tasting notes at http://www.totalwine.com/eng/product/cult-cabernet-napa/112543750.

Day Ten – I was up at the crack of day ( 6:00 AM) to do a nice long ride. This was a beautiful ride up the 128 to Geyser road. Since I left pretty early in the morning traffic was minimal. Once I was on Geyser, I did not see one car until I was on my way back and a couple of trucks passed me in the opposite direction. You can check out the ride here  http://goo.gl/maps/Ggg8F . Geyser is a tough ride. After about KM#2 it really starts to kck up. I was hitting grades up to 18% and the average over 10 KM was around 8%, which rivals many of the European climbs. I would have loved to keep exploring this area as it was simply amazing. However, I needed to get back to cook breakfast and then the family and I were off for a bike wine tour!

After a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs we all got on our bikes and went to the Calistoga Bike Shop.  Check out www.Calistogabikeshop.com  for information. Jillian and I did a tour with them when we were in Napa on our 10th year wedding anniversary. At that time they provided the bikes, the map, little wrist bands that allowed complimentary tastings at all the participating wineries. Since we were looking at only doing 3 – 4 tastings, and since we had our own bikes, it did not make sense to do the tour. However the good folks at this shop gave us the map and offered to pick up our wine for us so that we would not have to carry it on our bikes. In the end, when it came time for us to pick up the wine, I made a call and asked the guy if he would drop it at our camp site on his way home. He said “no problem dude”.  Really great service and I totally recommend that you see this company if you are in Calistoga and have them set you up for a cycling wine tour!

Now to the good stuff. We really did not know what to expect when we were dragging our kids along on a bike ride that basically had nothing for them to do other than see their mom and dad enjoy wine. The way I positioned it to them was as follows: “Listen up kids. Today were are going to go on a nice little bike ride together. Tomorrow we are going to Disneyland and mom and dad are going to spend two full days doing all the things you want to do in that magical kingdom. While I am sure we are going to like most of it, there are definitely going to be times where we will want to be somewhere else, but at the end of the day, we won’t complain. You know why? Because it is your time to enjoy and that is fun for us. Well… a bike wine tour is mom and dad’s Disney. You will have a little fun riding and there might be some interesting things, but you are going to get bored but remember… this is our Disney and I don’t want to hear a peep! Got it!!!?” We also gave them the duty of filming and taking some pictures. In the end, they did get a little bored at times, but for once… no complaints!

Here is our self-guided tour! http://goo.gl/maps/IwnAe


Our first winery was Twomey which is point A on the google map and pronounced (too-me). I kept calling in (twow me) but was eventually corrected by the host. Twome had some great selections of wine. The tasting was $15 per person but the fee was waived if you made a purchase. We started off with a nice little rosé, which was new for this winery. A matter of fact, I am enjoying a glass of it as I write this blog! The nose is quite refresing with hints of apples, peach and even strawberry. On the palate, you can really taste the berries which, really lingers for quite some time. As I type it is about 36 degrees outside and I am enjoying the appropriate rosé in the safe and comfortable confines of our RV!

The second winery was just a few hundred meter away, which is point B on the map is name Clos Pegase. You can find out more about this winery at http://clospegase.com . Close Pegase was started by Jan Shrem, a self made publishing millionaire who fell in love with art and Bordeaux. You can find out more about him at http://clospegase.com/about.php . The tasting fee at Close Pegase was steep at $30 per person for the reserve. While it had one white wine on the tasting menu, the rest were all big reds. I was a little hesitant at going for this one as it was 100+ degrees outside and Jillian and I were both craving rosé , sauvignon blancs and chardonnays. Nonetheless, I was excited to try as the host was boasting about how Mr. Shrem wanted these wines to be all about old world. He even went so far as to say that it was Close Pegase that allowed him to come back to California Chardonnays that all became big and buttery. This Chardonnay, he promised, was elegant and more about fruit and rich texture on the palate with balanced minerality reminiscent of some of the great French chardonnays. This was our first wine to try and we were not disappointed.

Unfortunately I do not have much to say about the reserve reds. They were fairly underwhelming. I am not sure if it was the weather and the intense heat, but they failed to strike a core with either for us. That being said, once we finished, our host allowed us a taste of their rosé and pinto noir. The rosé was wonderful as explained above. The pinot reminded me of the pinot noir produced by Blue Mountain Winery, which is one of our favorite Canadian wineries. The wine had lots of fruit and hints of spice. This pinot was very subtle and soft on the palate. All in all this was just a yummy wine. After our tasting finished we bought two of each of the chardonnay, pinot and rosé. While we were only to have one tasting fee waived, our host graciously waived both and we were on our way.

The final winery, point C on the google map, which looked like it was around 1KM away on our little hand held map, that did have a disclaimer that it was not to scale, was in fact around 4 Km away and all climbing. So suffice to say, the family was not too happy about that. I have to give everyone high fives though as they pulled through and we got there with smiles on our faces! You can find out more about Dutch Henry at http://www.dutchhenry.com/wines/  Dutch Henry is a typical Napa winery that has a good selection of wines. We don’t have anything extraordinary to say about the tasting other than it was good. We were super happy with the pinot and the rosé. Similar to the Clos pinot, it had very prominent strawberry on the nose and a little bit of spice. The finish was soft but lacked a bit of the finesse of the Clos. The rosé, again, was similar to that of the Clos. They had a special if you bought 12 wines you would get 50% off. The host allowed us to mix a case so we bough 6 of the rosé and 6 of the pinot which was a phenomenal deal.

The final stop was a nice little diner called Mary’s Home Plate Café, which is located a point D on the google map. You can find out more at http://maryshomeplatecafe.com .  Jillian and I had a beer, the kids enjoyed a burger, fries and onion rings. This was a little stop Jillian and I made back in 2010 when we visited. While Mary’s is not something that you are going to rage about for years, it will satisfy any craving for a good burger and a side of fries. It also has a nice selection of beer, which is great when you are done tasting wine.

Day Eleven -  Once again we woke up at 6AM to depart by 7:00 for the long journey to Anaheim for our Disney adventure. The trip was pretty uneventful and we passed the time listening to Sirius Satellite Radio, which has been awesome. We did have some issues with it in the mountains as it would cut in and out. But once we got on the open road, we rarely lost the signal.  This was a great purchase for the RV and our trip. Here is our route http://goo.gl/maps/8UmsC . My only complaint was getting from Los Angeles to Anaheim. If you have been to California and have had to drive near the big cities, then you will know what I am talking about. The traffic is FRICKING BRUTAL.I have been stuck in that California traffic before, but like a bad dream, I blocked it out of my mind. The distance from LA to Anaheim is 26 miles or so. It should have taken us around 30 minutes. This part of the trip took us close to two hours! We were literally bumper to bumper for most of the trip. The crazy thing is that people who live there do this every single working day of their life. They commute in and they commute out. While the weather in California is great, you could not pay me to live here. NO THANKS!

The RV park we booked was great. It was super close to Disney and was on a shuttle route that had a bus come by every 20 – 30 minutes starting at 7:00 AM up until 12:30 AM. You can find out more at http://www.anaheimresortrvpark.com . We arrived quite late in the afternoon. So we basically checked in, parked, made some dinner, did some laundry and went to sleep. We woke up at 6AM the next day to catch the first shuttle to Disney!

Day Twelve - Our first day at Disney, and sorry to be predictable, but it was magical! First off, we got there before the gates opened. This allowed us to get in to the park and hit the rides right away. A matter of fact by 11:00 we managed to get on every ride the kids wanted to go on without any major lines! Secondly, we were totally blessed by the weather. It was overcast and it did not get over 72 degrees. The Disney gods were smiling upon us! For lunch we ate in the New Orleans section. I had the rice and beans, Jillian had a Caesar chicken salad, NJ a French Dip beef sandwich and Adi had the Mac and cheese. While the food was not out of this world award worthy, it was good value. The prices were less than what we would pay at Earls in Calgary and the quality was about the same. All things said 4/5 for what it was.

After a quick afternoon nap we headed back in to the park. We had a dinner reservation at Caltal. Catal is basically a Spanish/Mediterranean inspired restaurant located on Main Street in Disney. Jillian and I started by sharing a pint of local beer with our appetizers that consisted of olives, patatas bravas and little grilled manchego sandwiches. We were pleasantly surprised. For the main course Jillian and I shared the suckling pig, NJ had the lobster paella and Adi … now get ready for this everyone… you will never guess in a million years…. Adi had a BURGER (note… now for those who know Adi, Adi almost always has a burger…). Jillian and I paired our meal with a fabulous 2002 Chateau Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac). Again, while I cannot say that this was the best restaurant I have ever been, it was good. The service was great, although the manager was super nervous opening our Pichon and we actually had to request that he decant. Nonetheless, there is no way we would be able to have that meal in our native YYC at the price that we paid. It is surprising that even Disney is cheaper than Calgary! Food 3.5/5 Service 4/5 Overall 4/5

After dinner we headed to the California Adventure. The coolest ride that we hit was California Soaring. It was a flight simulation that had us flying over California. This ride was like no other. I really, and truly fealt that I was on a glider taking in the majestic views of this epic flight. It was incredible and I did not want it to end! The evening ended with us heading back to the RV park and catching the fireworks from our campsite.

Day Thirteen – This was our last day in Disney. We planned on awaking at 6:00 AM again so that we could catch the first shuttle. For some reason I turned my phone volume down and we all slept in to 7:40 AM. Can you believe that??? We ended up missing the first shuttle but we got the next one. It all worked out. We got to the park early, hit every ride that we wanted to see in California Adventure. The first ride we hit was the California Screaming, which is a super cool rollercoaster. The line was non existent. We waited 5 minutes. The next ride was water adventure ride, then we did the “single” line for the Cars ride and got through in about 15 minutes, although we were all separated except for Adi and I. The ride started out kind of hokey. I’m like, OK, this is kind of cool but been there done that. Then after doing this tour around Carlsland, you pull up to this start line and you race a car beside you. It was pretty fun. I smiled the whole time. As it turned out, Jillian was in the other car and her car won! While it would have been nice to have had done the ride as a family, it would not have been worth the 75 minute wait.

After we finished with California Adventure we had enough time to head back to Disney, do the log ride, come back to California Adventure and have a hot dog at “Award Wieners” and then get back to our RV site to leave in time to make it to our friends house in LA before the rush hour hit.  While we thought we were leaving with time to spare, it does not matter. Every hour is rush hour. While it did not take us two hours to do a 30 minute drive, we were around 90 minutes taking the “fast route”.

We spent that evening with some good friends in La Canada, which is just outside of LA. Our hosts made us an amazing meal of Gazpacho, rice with black beans, marinated tri tip steak, and grilled endive. It was our BEST MEAL of the whole trip. We paired the meal with some Twomey pinot and a great Bordeaux selection by our friends. We spent the first night of our trip in an actual bed that night outside of our RV. What a great treat!

DAY 14 – Day 14 we slept in until around 8AM and then had a slow start to the day. We spent our morning with our friends and then we all went for an early lunch to a local pizza place called Georgie’s. You can find some Yelp reviews at http://www.yelp.ca/biz/georgees-pizza-la-canada-flintridge  We ordered a few pies, Jillian and I shared a beer, we said our good byes, and then we were on our way to Chula Vista RV Resort to spend the night before we headed in to Mexico. The Chula Vista RV resort is located just outside of San Diego and within 10 minutes of the Mexican Border. You can find out more about the resort by clicking here http://www.chulavistarv.com. This was a fancy dancy RV park with all the bells and whistles and the price to boot. The cost for one night was $70 which was more than double the average cost of any of the places we stayed before. All that being said, it was close to Mexico, it had a nice pool for the kids. That night we ate leftovers, drank one of the worst wines ever (Copa White Zinfandel), but then promptly chucked it enjoyed a couple of beers. After food was done we started the God Father series as a pre-bed video. We were all exhausted and we fell asleep within 30 minutes.

Day 15 -  Another early morning. Tijuana is known as one of the busiest border crossings in Mexico. We purposely planned to cross on a Sunday and do it early. We got to the crossing just before 7:30 AM and drove straight up to the crossing. A lot of times they will just waive you through with not much of a glance. In our case, being in a RV and towing a trailer, the boarder officials are more curious. We were pulled aside and they did a search. The agent was very friendly and professional. It helped that I spoke fluent Spanish. He really warmed up when I told him that we were going to spend a year in Mexico and that our kids were going to go to school in Bucerias and learn Spanish. After about 10 minutes, we were our way.

Originally we planned to cruise down the Baja and then take a ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan. We ended up changing plans last minute. First, we could not confirm space on the ferry by internet or by phone. This concerned us. Second, it was going to be and extra $1,500 to make the ferry trip. We had to ask ourselves if it was going to be worth it. We can always hop a flight or take the ferry (without car) during our year in Mexico and check out the Baja. So in the end we bailed and decided to take the most direct route to Bucerias.

One thing I did not talk about too much in the blog was our GPS. This has been a life saver, especially when driving in nutty California. Well, the GPS did not work to well for our Mexico destination. We tried to program Puerto Penasco from Chula Vista but it wanted to take us on a longer route through the US and then another boarder crossing. So we then programmed it to take us to Tijuana. Once it Tijuana we tried to reprogram it to take us to our final destination for the day. Again, the damn thing wanted to take us back out of Mexico in to the US and then back to Mexico! Anyway, long story short, we took a few long turns and got a little side tracked. We lost about an hour but eventually we were on our way.

Now you have all hear the horror stories about driving across border and that you need to worry about drug lords and gang shootings, kidnapping etc… well it is all bunk. Basically, drive during the day. Stick to the toll roads and major highways and you will be just fine.

A few things I have to say:

1.     The highways have been fantastic. Great condition. Easy driving. I felt safer driving on these roads than I do on some stretches of the Trans Canada. Now there has been some construction but they are definitely doing more to make these great roads even better.

2.     Military Check Points are quite prevalent. Some people would find these stops very intimidating and scary. I think they are great. You stop. They ask you some questions. You show them around your RV. They check or open some luggage and they send you on your way. So just so you know. These fellows are looking for BAD GUYS, not tourists or people like us on a life adventure. We were in and out of these stops in five minutes or less. I always thanked the guys for what they are doing. They are an important part of keeping Mexicans and tourists safe.

3.     The scenery has been awesome. We did one stretch along the #2 and went through some amazing topography. The canyon was something to been seen. We passed through desert and then places where we fealt we were in Jurassic Park. These are the things that Americans do not see in Mexico when they hold themselves up in a stale all inclusive. 

Here was our route

http://goo.gl/maps/sg0IK

We arrived in Puerto Penasco in the late afternoon and stayed at The Playa Del Oro RV Park. The playa (beach) was far from what I would call a beach of gold. The RV Park was tired and a little beat up. Our expectations were a little higher and we thought we would spend a few nights there. You can find out more about the Playa Del Oro at http://www.playadeoro-rv.com.

We were hoping that the park would be close to restaurants and the town. It looked a little closer on the map in the guide book. Again, beware of maps not to scale. Anyway, we got the bikes out and did a little ride in to town. We ate at a typical beachside Mexican restaurant. We had fish tacos. The value was great. It was $1.00 per taco. The quality was ok. Nothing to brag about. After dinner the sun was already down and we had to ride back in the dark. We kind of lost our way and took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. There was a slight moment of panic when we all wound up on the road heading out of town. That quickly diminished when we stopped, took a breath, and backtracked to a place we recognized. After asking a couple of locals, who were enjoying an evening beer, where the RV park was, we quickly found our way and were back safe and sound.

Day Sixteen – We slept in until 8:00 and then we were on road around 9.:00. We originally planned on stopping in Hermosillo but instead we pushed on to San Carlos. You can see the route here. http://goo.gl/maps/RMcXA

This was another long day on the road. We arrive in San Carlos around 5:30. Jillian and I have found that a great way to pass the time is listening to Talk Radio. Our kids are normally in the back of the RV with the curtains zipped shut ( there are a set of heavy curtains that separate the driving area from the RV living space) so we can usually listen to Howard Stern with impunity. Now not all of Howard Stern is for me. I like to listen to the old repeats from Radio when it was just a little cleaner. We also like a lot of the interviews.

Favourite commercial on Howard Stern www.Fresh Balls.com. This is got to be the funniest commercial I have ever heard… check it out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8ieomJnvig

Interview with Jim Breuer. Jim Breuer is a comedian and writer. He once was on Saturday night live. He does a wicked “Joe Pesci” imitation. You got to check it out.

http://www.trilulilu.ro/video-haioase/joe-pesci-show-with-robert-de-niro

After our arrival in San Carlos I took a quick spin. Here is my route. I started slow and then did a pretty good TT effort for most of it then a 15 minute cool down… It was hot. I really felt it at the end of the ride.

http://goo.gl/maps/X3FMf

After I got back we all got ready to go for dinner. We did a walk in to town. Got some cash from the bank and then came back toward our RV park where there is a restaurant called Charlies Rock. You can find out more at http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g151933-d1510047-Reviews-Charlie_s_Rock-San_Carlos_Northern_Mexico.html

It was a decent and typical Mexican seafood restaurant. Service., prices and food were good. Jillian and I shared the Mahi Mahi. NJ had the Mejillones and Adi had the Chicharron de pescado. Thankfully we were not on our bikes too far away so we found our way home quite easily. We then settled in and finished the first God Father movie. We start the second one tonight!

Day Seventeen – Seventeen days we have been living in this RV (minus the one day we stayed at our friends. We got up this morning around 7:00 AM. We awoke to a bit of an ANT infestation. It seemed that I parked the RV on an anthill yesterday so the little bastards were hell bent on revenge. We eventually got it all sorted and moved the RV to a site that was without an anthill. This has been a bit of a lazy day. We had aspirations of doing a bike ride and getting a nice breakfast. Instead, Jillian and I took a quick walk to the store, bought a few supplies, came back home and made a couple of ceasars and have been relaxing in the cool air conditioning ever since! Now that I have finished the blog and am up to date, we are getting ready to think about dinner.

So keep in touch with our blog folks… until next time

The Goralski Family powered by Bici Bucerias

PS… I think Blogs should be written and not edited that much. Whatever comes out of my head goes on to the paper or in this case the keyboard. I take a cursory look at post it. So mind the grammar and don’t expect any Pulitzer Prize material here ok?

Joel

PS, PS… 17 days in the RV???? I can’t believe it…

One more year in Mexico????

My god it is sinking in!