I would like to go on the record as being aware that I am insane. I had to be in order to agree to trap myself in a car with my mother, Dawn, and Dawn’s Dude Jerry. For some reason, we all decided some time ago that we wanted to get out of town for a day. Escape the mundane, make some art, etc. For this particular trip, we decided to go to Napa Valley. Our current location in Sacramento meant that we would be driving for about an hour and a half in both directions. We’d hit Castello di Amorillo, Sterling Vineyards, and generally muck around.
Our first clue that it would be interesting? The weather. California’s valley is in the middle of a loooovely little heat wave. Sacto was estimated to hit 107, and Napa wasn’t going to be much better. Okay, no problem. Slather on sunscreen, wear hats and shorts, and crank the air-con. WE HAD THIS.
Until Mom forgot which freeway would take us to Dawn and Jerry’s place. To those who don’t know Sacramento, this is NOT an uncommon problem. I-5 and SR-99 both go north to south, and a chunk of SR-99 going north is actually traversed via I-5. We have two freeways with 80 in the name (I-80 and Business Loop 80), and we also have a US-50 that cuts through the city as it connects the West Coast to the East Coast. No, really. There’s a sign that shows 1000+ miles to Ocean City. To get to D&J, we needed to take I-5 to US-50 and then jog onto SR-99. We just kinda forgot the ‘get off I-5’ part. Since everything connects in this city, it wasn’t so bad. We just took regular streets until we finally found our partners in crime. We then grabbed coffee and hit the road.
FYI, if you want a great navigation app/GPS, get Waze. It is AWESOME. And free!
Somehow the conversation in the car over the course of the day managed to rove between World of Warcraft, Everquest II, an old chat RPG system we belonged to, the upcoming 4th of July BBQ at another friend’s house, Lindsey Stirling music, and then eventually we got onto anime (including Sailor Moon, Slayers, and assorted CLAMP). We’re an ecclectic bunch.
Arrival in Napa was underwhelming at first. Believe it or not, we had trouble finding the castle. Yes, we couldn’t find a CASTLE. It would probably have helped if it hadn’t been up a long winding drive and hidden behind copious grapevines. Finding it made the trip worthwhile. SO beautiful! A real, authentic Tuscan castle that I would happily explore every corner of if the weather hadn’t been set Broil and it hadn’t cost $35 a person. (Ouch!) We settled for the $18 self-paced tour that included tasting five different wines of our choice. I kinda just wanted the tour, but I agreed to taste some wine though I knew full well I was about to be the amusement of one and all. Y’see . . . I have a low tolerance for the taste of alcohol. If you’ve ever heard of a bitter beer face, well, I’ve got a spectacular bitter wine face that involves full body flinching and barely withheld gagging depending on the strength.
The castello surprised the hell out of me, for sure. I let Mom pick the wines since she’s the resident snob. (Love you.) I tried two whites, one of which caused a Flinch and the other that was–surprisingly–pleasant. We tried one red, and it was a Flinch. By that point, D&J had joined us, and Dawn quite obviously enjoyed making me try her wine as well just to see how I reacted. I swear one of those tasted like I was drinking liquid ashes and day-old juice. BLECH. The real surprise came when Mom and I tried some of the ‘dessert’ wines. There was a relatively new one called La Fantasia that specifically said it had a low alcohol level. SURPRISE! It’s damned tasty wine, and I barely taste the alcohol. (It’s reaaaaallly low. Like ‘one step removed from grape juice’ low.) I nabbed a bottle, and Mom got her Sympatico. (Me = minor flinch.)
Outside the Booze Bar was a fenced in area with sheep, goats, emus, white peacocks, and chickens. The emus were the Exorcists of the animal kingdom with the way they bent and rotated their heads. I’m not sure they had spines. Tour complete, we scrambled into air conditioning and hit the road again to Sterling. We wanted to go there because of the tram. To be honest, that was really the only interesting thing about the place. The tram carried us from ground level up the mountain to the winery, and the view was incredible. It also brought us back down for another great view (where we saw sleeping sheep! too cute). The place itself was okay, but by that point we were all melting faster than the Wicked Witch in a storm, and we were starving.
We refueled on KFC and decided Napa was done. We still had plenty of time to the day, and somehow we decided to go to Lake Berryessa just because. We saw lots of pretty scenery, but I don’t think Dawn noticed it since we were currently going around steep mountain curves and she has this thing about heights. I don’t mind them as long as I’m not driving, though I had a few moments where I wanted to yell at other drivers for going too damn fast and taking up both lanes. The lake was eventually reached, and it was quite lovely from a distance. We found a nice beach area to enter, and the Dept. of Reclamation gents working the entrance gave us a free garbage bag, rules and advisories for the beach, and offered free life vests if needed. (Park safety: doing it right!) We had spotted an area we wanted to go hang out at to get our feet wet and take photos, and we headed to find parking.
Yeah. Park safety was great, parking . . . not so much. You could only go one way through the areas, and if you hit the end without finding parking, you had to go out and come back in the entrance. The Rec guy laughed at us. We found a different spot, parked, hoofed down to the shore . . .
Annnnnd discovered that getting our feet wet was out of the question because it REEKED. The lake smelled like rotted fish, day old bread, and some unmentionable things. Since we were more on a Bake setting than Broil, we hastily went back to the car to go home. It was a fun, awesome day with snarky, slightly impolite people (all of us), and it was a great day off.
And despite my mother’s and my pasty German complexion, we did not sunburn. Huzzah! She blames the spray on sunscreen she attacked the rest of us with, but she got me late in the day. I’m thinking I might be returning to my teen days where I browned like a potato in the sun rather than burn. (And here all I thought I got for my 30th birthday was more white hair.)
Our next tentative trip plan might be to an actual beach, providing Mother Nature remembers to turn off the oven before she overcooks the state.