October 28, 2009

Twelve Days in Palo Alto

Press HERE to see
Photos from the Bay Area to Oregon

Rajas and Chicken,
My Mexican Hot Dish

Rajas and Chicken Cassrolle
Bill and Betty
at the Gates of Hell

We arrived at Dain and Marleta's home in Palo Alto on Sunday evening, the 11th of October. We came mostly to hang out and enjoy their company. This means we did not do a lot of things during our twelve-day stay. Dain and Marleta moved to Palo Alto in February after Marleta was laid-off. Dain had not been working for a couple of years. We called it a sabbatical. He visited Palo Alto in January and he walked away with a couple of job offers. He took the offer from Ning.com where he is doing his usual programming thing. Ning allows users to freely start their own social network, like your own private network, or to join one that you are interested in. Their biggest clients are fan clubs for music groups and Vampire lovers.

Dain and Marleta are taking an evening class one day each week at Stanford on particle physics. Their professor is Leonard Susskind, who wrote the first paper on string theory more than 30 years ago. Believe it or not, I am very interested in science and physics. I asked about going with them and they agreed. Betty chose to tag along. We walked the mile to campus. Betty did not enjoy of the lecture, but I got a lot out of it. Dain suggested that I watch a PBS series, the Elegant Universe, on the revolution in particle physics that evolved from string theory.

John, Betty and Bill
John, Betty and Bill
In the Hills of Los Gatos
In the Hills of Los Gatos
Wine Tasting in Napa
Charles Krug Tasting
Daniel Susott, Betty and Bill
Daniel Susott, Betty and Bill
The Swami Family and Betty
Swami Family and Betty
Javier, Betty and Bill
Javier, Betty and Bill in PA
Bryn and Maya
Bryn and Maya
Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta

I made a Mexican hot dish that I love one night. It is made with rajas - fried onions and pablanos - and chicken. We took a bunch of photos, while I made it. Tasted great!
One afternoon we went back to Stanford to see their Rodin collection at the Cantor Arts Center. They have the largest collection of Rodin's sculptures outside of France. Many of the best pieces are outside on the museum grounds. Entrance to the museum is free. We spent a couple of hours looking at the works of Rodin and other artists and craftsmen.

On Thursday Betty, Marleta and I visited Betty's brother John. He has been living in senior housing for a number of years. But he has taken to opportunity to buy a real house again. The house was a bank repo, which he was able to buy for the unheard price of $65k. I believe that the previous owner paid more than $300k for the place; such is the fallout of the recent economic crisis in the USA. While the new house needs lots and lots of work, he and his good friend Matt Richardson have been making great progress. One of the properties best aspects is its yard. It is unusual to get a good-sized yard, but this place has one. The house and yard will end up being quite the steal. After an inspection of the property, we spent a warm, sunny afternoon barbecuing and eating sausages while chatting away and downing several beers. All in all, it was a lovely day.

On Saturday we drove down to Los Gatos, which is a little southwest of San Jose. Los Gatos is another of the wonderful little villages in the Bay Area. We arrived in the mid afternoon. We visited a few wineries in the hills above the town. The wine was OK; Dain even bought a couple of bottles.

We got a much earlier start on Sunday. We drove to the Napa valley. We started at the Beaulieu Vinyard (BV) winery, which produces an excellent variety of wines. We bought many bottles and Marleta joined their wine club. After all the sips we thought lunch was in order. We ate barbecue sandwiches and ribs. Next to the restaurant was the Freemark Abbey winery. The ambience was nice and the folks providing the tasting were very friendly and helpful. Next we visited the Charles Krug winery, which I did not care for and we stopped at the Beringer winery, but did not stay for the tour. Our last stop was the Merryvale winery in St. Helena. Again the tasting was fun and the wines were good.
The last time I was in the Napa valley to taste wines was about 35 years ago. The experience changed my life, because I finally got to taste some very good wines. I have loved drinking good red wine ever since then. When comparing our current experience to my visit in the mid-70s, the current tastings were quite a let down. Then the numbers of tasters were few and the vintners just wanted us to try their wines. Now it is all commercial. They charge at least $10. They will usually refund the $10 if you buy a bottle of wine - but who is to say they will have a bottle you like or can afford. Most of the wine they sell costs more than $15 per bottle and the good ones costing $30 to $50 per bottle. None of this went on in the 70s. We have heard that it is a lot of fun to visit the newer wine growing areas, but this stuff of charging for a tasting probably is the same.
A couple of days after our visit we saw a good movie about the Napa valley in the 70s. Bottle Shock is a well worth seeing. The movie centers on the first blind-test comparison of French and California wines that took place in France in 1976. The California wines took first place. This spelled the end of French dominance of wine making and the beginning of the people taking serious notice of wines from around the world and not just in California.

Dain was not feeling well on Monday, so we skipped the particle-physics lecture, and by Tuesday we were planning our departure. We still had not visited Gay Lynn's daughter Krista and her family. My last BLOG entry drew a response from a distant cousin, Dr. Daniel Susott, whom I have never met but have been in contact with for several years. I thought that he was living in Hawaii, but no - he was living in the Bay Area. Finally, serendipity struck; my best friend in Buenos Aries, Javier Burgos, was being sent to California for work and he would be in Palo Alto on Thursday and Friday. How would we squeeze it all in, in just three days? Somehow or another we did it all.

Thursday my cousin Daniel dropped by Dain's home. We talked and talked and really got to know each other. He does a lot of volunteer work in other countries and he has had an amazing life. To learn more about my cousin, check out Dr. Daniel Susott's Blog.
Later in the afternoon we caught up with Javier. We drew him a map so he could find Dain's place. We talked for a while and agreed to meet the next morning.

On Thursday night we visited with Sanjiv and Krista. We only got a glimpse of their beautiful children, Janna and Kirin. We shared a very good bottle of red wine while we got caught up on each other's lives. Both had changed jobs since our last visit and Sanj had finished a MBA program. It was a fun visit. We should have connected with them earlier, so we could have spent more time with them.

Friday morning we arrive at Javier's accommodations, the Cowper Inn. The inn was created by the remodeling of two old houses with magnificent redwoods towering over them. He needed to change hotels, we drove him to his new digs, then continued into San Francisco. We were headed for Fisherman's Wharf, but ended up at Pier 39 where we had a magnificent lunch. We talked and talked and talked; it was so good to see Javier again. Lunch over and tourist souvenirs purchased, we drove the few blocks to Lombardy Street - the windiest street in the world. Back and forth on the two blocks of switchbacks, it was a great ride. From there we drove up to Coit Tower, and old San Francisco tourist attraction. We had to leave Javier here. It was late afternoon and we needed to be 200 miles away before dark.

We drove to Chico late Friday afternoon. Betty's niece Chistina and her family live about 16 miles outside of Chico. We had brought their girls one of their favorite things: books. They love to read. On Saturday we all went into Chico. Betty and I visited the local farmers' market and walked around the city center. Then we went to Bryn's soccer game. After the game we took them out for lunch. Then we made our way back to their home. Christina and Campbell were going to a fundraiser dinner that night and we were going to join them. Christina's mother Ruth came over to babysit the kids. We had not seen Ruth for a couple of years and it was nice to see her again. The dinner was great. They had roasted a whole pig. All the extras were great too. And the desserts were simply wonderful, which for me was apple pie with real whipped cream. There was music and dancing and a silent auction. It was lots of fun.

So, Sunday we headed north to Eugene, driving all the day. We were staying with a couchsurfing host, Victoria. We had actually hosted Victoria and her partner Michael in August. So, it was nice to see here again.

Well that is enough for now. We will be in Portland for the next ten days or so. I will be writing about that soon enough. Until then, ciao.

Posted by bill at October 28, 2009 05:05 PM

Hi all.......Hey if u r going to be in Eugene Wash. that,s a hop & a skip to Edmonton.........R u going to Vanc??
What are ur plans.........Funny to read that u r coming North.lol.COME & SEE OUR SNOW!!!!!
Your Grandaughters r Beautiful.......Jim & I have enjoyed all entries..
We Celebrated ....45 yrs of Marriage.GULP...& Finally went to Paris!!
Jim is winding Buisness down...love to go to Mexico for a month.any IDEAS??
miss uxxxxxxx

Posted by: Lise at November 1, 2009 08:30 AM