Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 1 - Nightmare on I-5

The four of us left on time and ready to go! We’d told our friends so much about these places and were eager to finally show them. Our excitement lasted about an hour. Traffic was horrendous. A parking lot. Worse than that Thanksgiving Day trip that took us 12 hours instead of 6. Was it a holiday? No. Did a baseball game just let out? No. Accident?

Yup. A large crane, the big, city kind, had caught fire and was a melted wreck on the highway. Now the temperature is creeping up too, but we expected that. Traffic is still crawling. Another accident, this time a city bus was on fire, the whole thing a charred mess. Now the temperature is 100.

We crawl along at a snail’s pace in the unbearable heat until we pass another fire! This one looks like a vehicle caught on fire, then started fires on both sides of the highway. They had just re-opened the road or we would have been at a stand-still the whole time.

What should have taken an easy 4 hours took 7 but we finally arrived. And there is no parking. I mean there are so many people here (4 weddings per day plus conferences) that they had to direct us to park in a neighboring field! I didn’t think to drop everyone off at the door with our bags so we lugged them across the field in the 105 degree heat. But we made it and cold beer is only moments away! (below, side entrance and the Black Rabbit Restaurant)

We check in, dump our bags and practically run to the basement pub where we assume it will be coolest. Wrong! It’s a stifling coffin down there. We’re hungry too but at least we have beer in hand now and we go in search of a cooler spot.(And you can wander the entire estate with your beverages!). At last we find a seat in one of the bars, directly underneath a wheezing, dying AC unit. Heaven at last!

Let the good times roll! We polished off our fantastic dinners in record time and washed it all down with more deliciously cold, handcrafted beer. Part of our room package included a bottle of wine and a cheese tray in the winery so we rushed off, with full bellies, to consume it before they closed. Our server was cranky at out late arrival but we showed her what we were capable of and devoured it in the 15 minutes we had left. Deeeelicous! A cool chardonnay with brie, grapes and crackers.

Afterwards we wandered the property, showing our friends the sites and enjoying the slightly cooler nighttime air. There was the Jerry Garcia bar (their fav, see weather van above), a tiny little cozy, hippy den that played Grateful Dead videos all night. Then we went up to the Distillery for a cigar and a shot of whiskey. It’s at the edge of the property near the golf course and you could feel the cool air from the sprinklers coming down the hill. Everyone sat outside on the benches near (but not too close!) a large bonfire. Incredibly, one of our party actually worked up an appetite for a midnight snack so we hit another restaurant and helped him polish off a sandwich. My memory gets a bit hazy at this point but I don’t think any of us lasted much longer. (Here is one of the many balconies available for general settin' and drinkin")

Off to bed! We have most of the next day to see everything in the daylight and do everything we missed because of our late arrival.

More pictures here!