Red, red wine

10 03 2008

After drifting into semi-consicousness early in the monring, I finally woke at 9am! That’s REALLY late for me, so maybe there was still some residual jet lag effect. Suzie had left for work; John had gone to his cardiologist appointment, so I had a shower and a cup of tea. When John returned, we talked geography and maps and history for a while, then we went to Atascadero to the fabric store there (“Sew Fun”).

It was heaven! They had a HUGE range of fabrics and notions, and everything was SO CHEAP. For example, all their quilting fabrics were around the $8-10 a yard mark; in Australia, similar fabrics (and some were the same) start at $20 a metre. Fat quarters were all $2.50; in Australia, the really cheap one start at $3.50, and good ones are up to $7. Even sewing machine needles were cheap – Schmetz Universal were $2.99 (Australia about $6-8); Schmetz Metallic about $6 ($12 in Australia). The quilting books that we pay over $50 for were less than $25.

I could’ve gone crazy if I didn’t have to worry about lugging it back home! Maybe I’ll ship some stuff back…

While I was in the fabric store, John was in the book store in the same strip mall. They were closing down and didn’t have a lot left, but I wandered over to take a look and found two of those $25 quilting books for $5 each. Well, I couldn’t let them stay on the shelf, could I?? More stuff to bring home… And I’m only 3 days in the 3 weeks in the US/Canada.

This afternoon I spent some time trying to figure out what was wrong with Suzie’s computer. I think she has a rash of spyware on it as it basically siezes up when you try and open Control Panel. I could access the internet (she said she couldn’t), but as she’s on dial-up, it was excruciatingly slow. You forget how slow dial-up is when you’ve been using broadband for a while!

Tonight, Suzie’s cooking one of her fabulous meals – I think it’s a Chinese BBQ style pork dish – and she’s having the across-the-road neighbours over too. Some other friends, John and Mary, may pop in late this afternoon as well – they’ve been in San Luis Obispo all day, so we didn’t go out to see them at their property as we’d kinda/sorta planned.

Tomorrow I head out for Monterey. If the weather is as fabulous as today (the fruit tress – plums, apples, etc. – are in FULL bloom), I’ll cut back to the coast and take Highway 1 up to Monterey via Big Sur etc. I’ll stay at David’s tomorrow night, and see Lee in the afternoon, either in Carmel where she works or in Pacific Grove.

Update: Jon and Mary called in, but could only stay long enough for us to knock off a bottle of white. They had icecream in the car that was rapidly melting. Not long after they left, Suzie came home from work, then the neighbours over the road (Susanna and Larry) came over for dinner. Lovely couple. Susanna was born and bred in Tasmania but has been in the US with Larry since 1978. She’s a quilter too! Much red wine was consumed… I think I’ve had more wine the past 2 days than I’ve had in the past 6 months!!

Oh, and Suzie’s meal was as fabulous as ever. She grilled the HUGE pork chops on the BBQ, we had them with some green beans and steamed rice, and LOTS of wine. No-one over indulged – it was just a steady supply from about 5pm on. Of course, it helped that no-one was driving either!

I expect Monterey will be much the same – great food, great wine, and of course, great company.

Mack truck? No, macho truck

10 03 2008

I saw the funniest thing when driving up Highway 101. I passed one of those pickup trucks with the big wheels and raised reasonably high off the ground. Hanging down from the back near the tow hitch was a sack, containing a set of balls! They looked like ram’s or bull’s balls.

Too funny! I laughed out loud, but didn’t have the opportunity to take a photo.

Update (7 April 2008): I’ve since found out that these things have a name—Truck Nutz—and there’s a website dedicated to them where you can buy your own. Go figure. I’m still wondering how my friend Dave had that URL right on the tip of his tongue when I mentioned them at one of our conference dinners…

Ventura Highway

10 03 2008

Yesterday (Sunday, 9th March) I left the Newport Beach area and headed up the 405 to Highway 101 (a.k.a. Ventura Highway). It took about 90 mins to get to Camarillo where the first Factory Outlet mall outside LA is located. The traffic was light (it was the first day of Daylight Saving Time, and I left just after 8:15am), and the weather was fine and dry and sunny after the early morning fog burned off.

I made the Outlet mall in Camarillo just on opening time at 10:00am. Usual stuff – underwear! Some people think I’m mad, but the most comfortable underwear I have ever bought has been in the US, so whenever I come back I stock up on underwear. I can buy the same brands in Australia, but not the particular ‘model numbers’. So now I’m stocked up for another year or two or three!

I grabbed a grilled chicken burger at Wendy’s on the way out of Camarillo. The chicken was nice but the rest was crap. It was small, had those soft sugary hamburger buns so loved by the Americans, and was filled with soggy lettuce and sweet goopy mayo. I forgot to ask them to hold the mayo… The chips that came with it were dry and tasteless and had probably been sitting under the heated lights for too long. And the ‘medium’ Diet Coke was HUGE!

The rolling countryside was green – it’s still officially winter here (spring starts on March 22 or thereabouts). And the drive was fantastic, as always. Once I’m out of the LA area, driving in California is such a delight. Although the speed limit is officially 65mph for most of the time, the actual speed of the traffic varies between 70 and 80mph. But almost everyone is polite and considerate of other drivers – not like in Western Australia where ‘this is MY territory’ seems to be so important to some.

North of Santa Barbara there are many more acres covered in new vines than we saw when we were here only two years ago. And some of the smallish towns have grown a lot – particularly Atascadero, Templeton, and Paso Robles: the ones we know the best.

I landed in Paso (Robles) at John and Suzie’s right on 2pm. They’ve made great inroads on kitchen since we were last here. It’s nearly finished, bar the plumbing, the countertops, and the cupboard and drawer handles. It’s now huge – at least compared to what it was when they bought the place.

Around 3pm, Mark and Sue from Salinas turned up (I’d met Mark in Monterey a couple of years back, but hadn’t met his lovely wife Sue as she in LA at the Jay Leno show that night). We all went down to the local community hall for the Rotary Club’s annual Crab Fest, where we were joined at the table by Joey (female), Keith, and Jim.


Well, I’m not a big crab fan, and let’s just say that my opinion hasn’t changed! The company was good, as was the wine (BYO), but the food was very ordinary for $45 a head. Still, it was for a charitable cause, so I guess that made the price a little more palatable. Jim, Sue, and I went back to John and Suzie’s afterwards. Mark had eaten and run at the Crab Fest as he was flying out to China that night, on business, and had to get to LAX by 9pm.

Lots of laughs, more wine, port, and stickies, and dessert (Boston Cream Pie). Goodbyes were said around 11pm, and I hit the hay.

A 1982 (!) sticky with Boston Cream Pie