Thursday, December 23, 2010

California - the wiper blade tour

Kathleen and I returned last night from a week with family and friends in Northern (San Mateo) and Southern California (Laguna Beach)   After several days in genteel, upscale San Mateo, very tony Napa Valley and oh so sophisticated Laguna Beach, it was comforting to get back to muggy, plain old Houston.  Yes our city has a glitzy edge to it, but you wouldn't know it if you had to judge it by Hobby Airport.  The place has about as much class as a city morgue.  Could they not possibly have built it to look more like a government building?  And the security screening process (on the way out on Thursday 16 Dec) was a complete disaster.  It took us nearly an hour to stumble our way through a maze of winding lines, like cattle in an abbatoir, being led to slaughter.  Honestly, if presented with a choice half way through I might have considered euthanasia rather than 30 minutes more in that interminable line, with no information as to the cause of the delay, no attempt at reasonable communication.  Just as well none of the TSA officials in the airport could read my mind, otherwise I would still be in a small cell with no windows.  And several guards.

Our first couple of days in San Mateo were fun - it was great seeing Bill and Debbie again and a day trip to Napa Valley was a blast.  More about that later.  In Laguna Beach we were the guests of our friends Tom and Gwen, sharing a fabulous 2BR suite at The Montage.  About as nice a spot as you can find anywhere, with service and food of the highest quality. Even so, as a whole the trip was marred by practically non-stop rain, sometimes of the cold variety.  In fact we never saw the sun for the entire week, except standing in the (short!) security check line at the superb John Wayne Airport (Orange County) on the way back yesterday.  Friendly staff, exceptionally helpful curbside check-in, even the TSA officials did not have a permanent scowl on their faces.  Memo to Hobby Airport management:  send someone over to SNA, and take some notes.  This is how a small airport can and should be run. 

So with the exception of a couple of short excursions in the rain - one to Muir Woods just north of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, and a few short runs in San Mateo, the remainder of the California trip was pretty much as seen from inside a rented white Camry, with wiper blades moving.  All my best laid plans for taking some really nice photographs came to exactly naught.  I snapped a few pics here and there and tried to make the best of it.  The famed 17-mile Drive from the Monterey Peninsula to Carmel just does not quite live up to expectations in the midst of a downpour.

On the positive side we finally made the drive along US Route 1 all the way from Monterey via Big Sur to Morro Bay (where we spent the night in a delightful small inn) and then on to Orange County on Route 101. We picked up a few good bottles of wine at St. Supery and Trinchero, and had a few more shipped from Hall's.

Here are a few pics from the first few days in San Francisco and the Napa Valley.

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