Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Fantastic Day in San Francisco!

We were in the Bay Area over the weekend and spent Sunday in San Francisco with Kelly and Jon.  They flew out for Matt and Sierra's wedding on Saturday.  More on that on another post…

If you had only one day in San Francisco and had never been there, what would you see?  We have visited a few times and decided to take the Alcatraz Cruise over to the island.  We bought tickets online a few weeks ago.  We got the 10:30 ferry.
First was finding parking (A).  We found a lot near Pier 33, paid our $40 for all-day parking and walked over to the ferry.
We arrived right on time and had very little wait.  It was a pretty short ride on the ferry.
And it was a beautiful day to be out in the bay.
The spectacular Golden Gate Bridge poking through the fog
And to the east - the Oakland Bay Bridge

Once on Alcatraz, we heard a Park Ranger give a short overview of the history of the island and then walked up to the top to begin our individual audio tour.
The audio tour was fantastic.  Once you have the headsets, you can move along as directed from point to point on the grounds, or you can pause and take your time.  It was very well done.  Full of stories, history and anecdotes about the people who ran the place and those that lived there.

Originally the island had a lighthouse, then in 1868 became a military prison.  In 1933 it became a federal penitentiary and was closed as one in 1963 by then-Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. Over the years, infamous characters such as Al Capone, Robert Stroud (Birdman of Alcatraz), Machine Gun Kelly and Doc Barker were housed there.  Today it is a National Recreation Park and run by the National Park Service.  

The return trip on the ferry I may never forget!  We had to wait because they were running the last race of the day for the America's Cup.  Yes - THE America's Cup.  The ferry got underway after the last race between the Oracle (USA) and the New Zealand boat.  We learned what was going on and Kelly started following the events on Twitter to get a moment by moment update.  Sure enough, the USA boat won both races of the day and were finishing up. 

Meanwhile, we got some good photos -
And front row seats!  All the support and official boats were nearby after the race.  And as far as I could tell, we may have been the closest spectators.  We were stunned!  People pay big bucks and hope to see this up close and personal.  And it happened on our return ferry ride!

We made our way down the wharf and stopped for some lunch.  Mine was a chicken club sandwich on sourdough bread.  
Then we walked along the wharf and down Embarcadero Street to see what we could see.
After a while, we made our way back down to our car which was only a couple of blocks from the area where the America's Cup was set up.
It was getting late, so we made our way out of the city by way of Lombard Street and Chinatown.  Then we got into the traffic and made our way out to Redwood City.  We found a great Chinese Restaurant there - The Crouching Tiger.  I don't know if I have every had better Chinese food.

It was a beautiful day in San Francisco and one we will remember for a long time.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  And thanks for your comments ~ we always enjoy them.  Until next time.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Day in Napa Valley

Last week we had a chance to spend the day in Napa Valley.  Better yet - we got some great ideas from Elena on what to see while we were there.  But one day in Napa Valley is not enough, there is way too much to see.  It's on the 'Go Visit Again' list.

I like this map of the area from winetrain.com.  We began or day starting from the lower part of the map.   We drove in a clockwise direction first stopping in Yountville.  Then we went to the Robert Mondavi Vineyard for a tour.  And we made a stop in St. Helena before heading just north of St. Helena on Highway 29 before heading east for a few miles.  Then we drove south through the valley on Silverado Trail to see that side of the valley.
Yountville - our first stop.
Elena gave us some great tips of where to stop and what to see.  We began our day at the renowned Bouchon Bakery for some coffee and pastries. And people watching.
Then over to the Blue Heron Art gallery to see if we could meet water color artist Betty Jo Marsh.
Yay! - she was there (on Tuesdays) and was very gracious and showed us some of her work.  It was getting close to noon by now and we drove just north and easily found the Robert Mondavi Winery.
We checked things out and bought tickets for an early afternoon tour.  Then went went to find some lunch.  Not very many fast food places in this neck of the woods…  So we decided to try a market and hope they had a deli.  Turned out to be one of the highlights of the day.
Wow!  What a great find.  Fantastic burrito and chicken quesadilla!  Can't get more local than that.  Right in there with lots of vineyard workers.  And it is harvest season so it was busy.

Then back to the Robert Mondavi Winery.
What a great tour!  At $30 a little pricey but worth every penny.  Bill was our guide.  He really knew his stuff and made it fun and very interesting.
Napa Valley had about 20 vineyards in the early 1970's.  Now it has over 500! In fact up into the Sierras and into the northern part of the state, we have seen more vineyards than we imagined.  I think wine has become California's cash crop.

Robert Mondavi began his vineyard in 1966 and traveled to Italy and through Europe to learn from the best.  He brought that knowledge back to Napa Valley and shared it will all the other vineyard owners hoping that the valley would become a world class source of top notch wine.  He got his wish.
We walked through the vineyard and Bill explained the whole growing and cutting and trimming process and talked about white and red wine.  And the difference between the $150 dollar bottles and the lesser labels.

Then into the building where the grapes are crushed and processed and put into large and not so large French Oak barrels.
Then on into the private dining room for some wine tasting.
We started off with 2011 Chardonnay Reserve, Carneros.  This wine, "has the intensity and balance to cellar for 6-8 years, but it is enjoyable today with dishes such as roasted chicken".  Retail: $50/bottle.
Then on to 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve, Carneros.  The writeup says, "Aged 12 months in new French barrels, this silkey wine has aromas of baking spices and red cherry." Retail: $60/bottle.
And another - 2010 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon.  "The wine mixes power with elegance, as aromas of blackberry, roasted herb and graphite mingle with supple tannins."  Retail: $90/bottle.

Well I gotta say, after all that - This Place was a Hoot!  I am a very casual 'Two Buck Chuck" kind of guy so this was foreign territory to say the least!  But it was interesting and fun!  It was an hour and a half well spent!

St. Helena
After the winery tour, we stopped in St. Elena and found the 'house' where Elena grew up.
It has since been turned into office buildings and the area doesn't resemble the hometown of years ago.

It was getting late in the afternoon, so we headed east across the valley and drove down the Silverado Trail.
We had a great time on our first trip to Napa Valley.  We don't know when, but we'd like to go back and spend more time.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Roadrunner Financials - August 2013


This is one of our busiest travel months ever.  The cost of diesel fuel reflects that.

Roadrunner Recap
We made 10 different stops along our route from Boise Idaho, along the Oregon Trail and Columbia River, to the State Capitol in Salem.  Then we headed for the Pacific Coast and spent some wonderful days along it before we saw the Redwoods and ended up in Travis AFB, California.
All told, it was about 1170 miles.  Here is a list of places where we camped:
  • Boise, ID
  • Wildhorse Resort and Casino RV Park, Pendleton, OR
  • Le Page US Army Corps of Engineers (USCOE) / John Day River Park, Rufus, OR
  • Cascade Locks, OR
  • Salem, OR
  • Newport, OR
  • Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, OR
  • Crescent City, OR
  • Redwood Empire Fairgrounds, Ukiah, CA
  • Travis AFB FamCamp, Fairfield, CA
Good News Areas Under Budget

We have our diesel fuel back in line after a couple of months of big mileage.  We were also pleased to see the decrease in eating out.  Those expenses can really add up!

Biggest Expenses
One of our largest expense was gas for the car.  But even when we add up diesel and gas, together we are under budget.  Campgrounds were a little high - we had 31 one days in the month at $20 so we were a little over.  In the 'Misc' category we bought gifts for Christmas and some sandals which amounted to about $150.
Large One-Time Cost Items
Gifts in the 'Misc' category was the biggest.

Monthly Average
After three months in our new 'Fiscal Year' - I am pleased with the results that show us to less that $65 over budget.
And we have traveled from Texas to Wisconsin to California in those three months.  But the next three we intend to be in California and Arizona so we expect a lot less spending on diesel fuel.

That's brief recap of the finances for August ~ Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Habitat for Marty

We went up to Marty's cabin in the Sierra's three times over the last month.  It is located about 2 1/2 hours east of Fairfield CA (Travis AFB) where we had the Roadrunner parked.
We like to do projects around the house and the first time we were there, we power washed about 50 2x10s that will be reused for the trellis on the deck that is being rebuilt.
Pam and I and Marty got a system going so it only took us a couple of hours to get them cleaned up.
Another day we started tiling the sauna bathroom downstairs.  The floor had to be swept and then mopped and then we laid down some of the Saltillo Mexican tile.  Marty has kept extra boxes for 25 years for this room.  The first floor upstairs has the same tile throughout.  We wanted to see what they looked like with the spacers and get a feel for any issues we might have.

The task for that day was to lay down the square ones.  Another time we would get the tiles that had to be cut.
We started in with the thin-set mortar by putting water in a bucket and adding until we had enough and at the right consistency.  After mixing it with a hand trowel, we had to let it set up for 10 minutes and then we got to it.  We ended up using the whole 50# bag of mortar.

I got to lay a few but my job was primarily to get the mortar to Pam so she could put it down.
She started out in the far corner and it was pretty steady from there.
Before you know it we had a few rows down.
And then we were done for the day.
The tricky thing about these bad boys is that they are all hand made.  And not necessarily the same size.  Or thickness.  And some are warped a little just to make it interesting.  I guess that is the whole idea - the uniqueness.

We let it dry and came back a few days later.  This time, we needed some more supplies and a tile cutter.  We went to Home Depot and got one more bag of mortar and three bags of grout and a sealer to mix it with.  And a stir rod attachment for my electric drill.  And a few other things.
I was a little leery of the tile cutter.  I had never used one.  Five or six years ago, Pam and Kelly used one to tile our laundry room in our stix-and-brix house.

Home Depot rents them for $68/day.  Arnold Tool Rental had one for $55/day.  Since it was a couple of miles from the cabin, I rented from there.  It has a separate stand and we got it loaded into the back end of the CRV.  Then I unloaded it at the cabin and got it all set up in place.   It took a minute to hook up the water and get it flowing to the blade but it was really pretty easy.
I became the tile guy and Pam did the measuring.  I took us another half bag of thin-set mortar to put down the rest of the pieces we cut.  And then we wiped it down and let it dry overnight.
Then another final wipe down to get the sheen and remove excess mortar and streaks.  In the process, it was a little brutal on the fingers, but after a couple of hours slowly going over each and every edge of every tile, it was finished.
We were done there and returned to the Roadrunner which is parked at Travis AFB.  After we got home, I made a quick trip to Home Depot and returned a few things that we didn't use.
One bottle of sealant, a bag of grout and a stirrer amounted to a refund of over $42, so it was worth it.

That was our 'Habit for Marty' Saltillo Tile project.  We figured it was 20 hours between the two of us and a fun project.  We learned a lot and hope we can do another one.  A couple of things we learned had to do with the equipment

  • Kneel pads are essential.  We had the expensive and the cheap (foam type).  Foam type worked best.
  • The stirrer attachment for electric drill is a must.  We hand mixed the first mortar batch, but then got a small stirrer attachment.  It made a big difference in the consistency.
  • A tile cutter is required.  We wouldn't attempt the project with out one.  
That's it for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Thanks for joining us today.  Until next time...