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December 30, 2017

Best Wishes for a Magnificent 2018 – from San Diego

We were abandoned for Christmas!  First time ever!  The grand-girls, Kg and Aj, spent the Christmas week with the grand-son, Jm, at his new house in Kirkland WA.  However, we did enjoy the company of a couple nieces and their families.  J arrived with husband and their great kids, such an awesome family, they really are the best!  Then niece L arrived from Dayton with her friend A.  So we were abandoned, but not alone and never had a dull moment!

Our family members were not the only ones escaping the cold winter weather elsewhere, a walk along waterfront in Pacific Beach showed there were more tourists then locals.

On a crowded beach how to tell the locals?  Hint these kids are locals …

Locals do not wear jeans on the beach.  The two couples on the left are dating - he is carrying her sandals.  At first I thought the fella on the fat tire bike was a local, nope the bike is a rental – check out his socks.


Locals have wet suits that fit, we’re not comfortable in 60 degree water waiting for the perfect wave.

The surfers are locals.  Any parent would carry shoes so their child could be barefoot on the beach.  But the family in the second photo are tourists, but almost have it.  The dad is carrying his daughter’s sandals, he’s wearing cargo shorts and his socks are below the ankle, mom has flip-flops – but jeans?  The real give-away … they are walking on a clam bed!  ARG!

Yupper – clams stretch all along the shore at low tide.  The tiny colorful Coquina clams are exposed at very low tides.  They are also called ‘bean clams’ because of their diminutive size, not bigger than Kg’s little fingernail.  The little clams are indeed edible, just need a tiny clam fork and an itty-bitty bowl of garlic-butter, or are more often used to form a broth for other dishes.

PB does not have a decent tide pool area to explore, so the Coquina are pretty unusual.  The low tide staple is under Crystal Pier barnacles and muscles cling to the pilings.  The barnacles are light colored while the muscles are a dark violet.

The kite man was out showing off his wares.  The circling kite at the bottom of the first picture is an ouroboros being held aloft by the large sport kite.  The two triangle conventional kites are a pair as seen in the second picture.

Almost fooled me, thought they were locals as I snapped this picture at a street crossing, but nope tourists.  The girls are wearing slip-ons from Belmont Park, not flip-flops, but dad does have a nice tan, the daughters do not.

If you are wondering what do Fran and I do with the sandals … I don’t want to carry hers, if I am carrying mine, and neither of us want to deal with it anyway – so we leave them at home!, and go bare-foot’n.

With the little ones heading back home before New Years, we were able to kidnap L and A for the day.  She had not been to Coronado before, so that became our destination.  We arrived at the Midway parking lot before the first ferry to Coronado was to leave.  Easy to park here, and it’s really a bit of a bargain at $10 for the day.  Again we'll take the Broadway Ferry to Coronado and will return via the Convention Center Ferry.
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The 20 minute ride always seems to go too fast.  For this trip around the island we have decided to rent eBikes at the Ferry Landing.  At $10/hr for a 3hr rental allows more than enough time to show the newbies the island.  Our first stop is a bit early as one of the bike seats is slipping.
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The world’s first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas Tree is at the Hotel del Coronado.  The hotel no longer lights the historic tree, which is just outside the main entrance.  However they still have a unique upside-down Christmas Tree in the main lobby.
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We explored The Del for a bit before continuing the ride up to Coronado Beach, where again we were surprised to see the colorful Coquina clam beds exposed.  As far as we could see, the little clams remained calm awaiting the return of the tide and hoping not to get stepped on.
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Do these Ohio kids look to be happy to escape winter for a couple weeks?  Gotta work on their ‘beach appearance’ a bit, but so good to have them here!, even for a visit.
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eBike review – the Motiv bikes have a great beach cruiser style and ample twist’n’go power to supplement pedal power or to take over completely.  Very comfortable and easy to use, but IMHO the quality is not there.  Our snifters were different, the bell did not work, keys bent, baskets damaged/missing, but the biggie was the difference in battery life.  OK they are rentals, but do predict what long term ownership might be like.  We may rent the Pedego bikes next time we go, just to compare.

December 16, 2017

Bonita Cove - Mission Bay

I joined ‘I Love a Clean San Diego’ for 'Movies Over Messes' community cleanup at Bonita Cove on this overcast Saturday morning.  Bonita Cove is on the ocean side of Mission Bay, a bit out of my east side neighborhood.  The ‘movie’ was an incentive for some, a free ticket to the preview screening of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, not really interested in the movie, but a worthwhile time was spent outside ... and I avoided having to rake the leaves in front yard for another day.

Bonita Cove

Altho Bonita Cove can be considered a fairly large area, the bright orange tent of ILACSD is pretty easy to find.  I usually bring my own supplies, but they are also available at the check in tent for those who drop by.  The black bags are for trash, white for recyclable and HD buckets for the misc along with single use plastic gloves.  I wear my own plastic gloves underneath my leather gloves – the plastic protects my hands while the leather protects the plastic.
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After a brief welcome meeting, most of the folks head to the shore line.  The beach is high profile and more fun for sure, anything along the water is more fun than a parking lot.  Since I don’t make it over to this area often, and I may not have done this if I had a cleanup partner, but ... I figured who knows where the trash is better than the local residents at this end of the park.  So I asked this group of fellas if they had would like me to take any trash they might have as part of the bay clean up.
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And they did, filling my recycle basket with a couple beer bottles and this combination of rum and coke.  When I asked about the diet cola, I was told he was wanting to keep looking good.
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He also kept a very nice homesite, one of the better ones.  I was also told it was ok to clean up this abandoned site.
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Despite all of the bags of trash that were brought in ... guess who brought in the single heaviest bag full?  Easily 4x the runner up, perhaps asking the homeless encampment for their trash is cheating, but I don’t look at is a competition, it’s about keeping the bay reasonably clean.
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OK it’s not a competition, but I’ll keep the T shirt anyway.
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Here are the summary stats as posted by I love a Clean San Diego:

· 180 volunteers! At 2 hours of work per volunteer, we logged over 360 hours of cleanup time!
· 178 lbs of trash collected! A TON of it was tiny straws, cigarette butts, and confetti!
· 41 lbs of recycling collected! You helped clear the area of a ton of glass and plastic bottles!
· 3,596 cigarette butts collected! Inevitably, some butts weren’t sorted out of trash bags and counted, so it is safe to tell your friends and family you collected NEARLY 4,000 BUTTS!  <note: I did not separate my butts, not very nice to do so in front of the folks who helped me pick them up>

December 12, 2017

Wine Time in Baja

My kid brother, Marty, teaches English in Mazatlan, where he has a nice house just off the malecon and where he spends most of the year.  His friend the bonita senorita Juanita was not approved for a visa to travel to the US.  Less than 10% of visa applications are approved, and none are approved without the applicant having a compelling reason to return to Mexico.

Hence for us to meet Juanita it would have to be in Mexico.  For them it’s an easy flight from Mazatlan to Tijuana and a short drive from there to the pueblo of Tecate.  And for us it’s an easy drive from home.  We decided to meet up there for a long weekend at Rancho Tecate.
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More on the rancho and the region, but let me introduce you to Marty and Juanita.  Her English is on par with my Spanish (nearly non-existent), but Marty is fluent in both.
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From the square we head over to the main shopping mall and the adjacent stalls, called the Swap Meet los Encinos (the Oaks).  We were looking for a few bargains that Juanita could take back to Mazatlan.  But alas most items were new and more expensive than they would be in Mazatlan.  But it is still a very popular local destination for the locals.
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The services offered include hair stylists, manicure and pedicure, makeup, etc.  Most of the shops seem to offer clothes or toys, some cater to the higher end, like boots and suits.  Still there is lots of repetition here, but there was a single craft winery offering tastings of various fruit based wines from the valley.  The blueberry was ok, the pineapple awful, but the date wine was one Juanita liked.  Date wine ??? hope we do not have to share Smile.
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Not just mirco-breweries are popping up around Tecate so are craft wineries.  Tecate has seven small wineries that are trying to make a name for themselves.  We returned to the square for lunch at El Inicio (the beginning), where we can sample the local wines over lunch.
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The lunch menu is either a wrap or a panni sandwich.  The local wines are all craft blends, with nothing really jumping out at us.

The following day we followed the Ruta del Vino (the wine route) south to the Guadalupe Valley and the heart of the Mexican wine industry.  And the home of the real El Inicio – Monte Xanic, which was the first to provide an excellent commercial wine from the valley.  BTW - it is still our favorite of the estate wineries in the valley.
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Monte Xanic translates from the local Indian dialect (coral?) for the first flower of the spring rain, or commonly called the morning flower.  For me, I say it is the maker of the premium Mexican wines.  Their policy statement is on proud display in their bodega which is an above ground warehouse.  Looking close at the side of the warehouse that is hemp rope hanging to provide additional shade, but not enough to allow the air conditioners to get much rest.
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At the high end they offer a well reviewed Ricardo, but at $47 a bottle, I’ll have to trust the reviews!  I do pick up their world class (IMHO) Merlot whenever I see it.  To that I add their Selection, a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet – and signed by Hans Backhoff himself, I've never tried this one before and it’s still too young to open now.

Hardly worth mentioning is the small Bodegas Entrevez and the restaurant La Casona not far away, where we planned to have lunch.  But we found the bodega a fun small place to just relax a bit and with a platter of breads and cheeses we really didn’t need a lunch.

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Adding to the charm of the botega was a private tour of vineyard and access to their underground aging room.  The ultimate definition of a botega!  An awsome way to spend a couple hours.
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Back to my Rancho Tecate review.  The rancho still belongs to the original family, since its founding in 1893.  The cattle grazing lands have been reduced, with the addition of the vineyards.  Homesite lots are also offered, as are campsites. 

We booked a room in Casa Mayor (main house).  The rooms here can be hit and miss, our room was huge but very dated with quirky furnishings.  Marty and Juanita had a much smaller room but clean and modern.  We did have a corner room with nice views out the windows over the vineyards to some of the older sections of the rancho.
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I’m a morning person and each morning I’d pick a distant view out one of the windows and walk the vineyards for an hour or so.
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The rancho has its own bodega where it ages and stores its estate wines.  Entrance is down a staircase of a realistic old wine barrel.
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The dusty bottles at the front of the storage room are under locked glass.  These are for the personal use of the dueƱo (owner).  Altho we did meet the owner he did not offer to share!
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The bar is above the Wine Cellar.  The Reserva #2 was a favorite of the housse wines and the bar munchies included calamari ceviche, chorizo sausage and ahi.  Almost like AM/PM with too-much-good-stuff!

In the older section the vines were not trellised as they typically are now.  But left alone to grow into some pretty grotesque shapes suitable for a Harry potter movie.
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In addition to meeting Juanita, we were here for tastings and we do have a winner!  The winner is ….

Since we are only allowed to bring back a liter of alcohol for each person of legal age….  There must have been couple stow-aways, that are now illegal alien wines.  I know there was a 2015 Monte Xanic Merlot (not in the picture), that went to Hans and Lisa of Metamorphosis Road, who I enjoyed meeting this evening, and Lisa thanks for introducing me to the TJ Beet Crisps, I’ll be looking for those.
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BTW – Monte Xanic is sometimes available at the Wine Bank downtown.