Summer Road Trip 2019 – West Coast

This last summer my husband and I embarked on a 40-day road trip, packed to the gils in our SUV – angling northeast from Arizona, through Las Vegas, Yosemite National Park, Sonoma County and on up the west coast. Making stops in Bandon Dunes, Portland and Seattle before heading across the border into Canada. This second leg of our trip included stops in Whistler, British Columbia and then across the water (Strait of Georgia) to Vancouver Island to spend time in Tofino and Qualicum Beach. Our third leg took us back stateside where we made our way back down through Seattle, east to Coeur d’Alene and into Billings, Montana. Then we began our southernly descent towards home going through Jackson Hole, Colorado Springs and Durango.

Golf, although not the main driving force of this trip, played a major role in how we organized this trip and deciding where we were headed. Our intent was to see as much of our amazing country, and new destinations in Canada, up close and personal, taking major highways only when time was of the essence. We had to pre-book certain parts of the trip, so staying somewhat to a schedule was imperative, but overall the total number days on the road was left to play out however it played out.

A single write-up of this trip would be labeled a novel, so as not lose my readers attention, I will break the trip up into the three different legs so I can share more details of each amazing stop on this bucket-list filled journey.

FIRST LEG – West Coast

Choosing which way to make our way up to NorCal was a challenge coming from the Phoenix Valley. Not many routes across the national forests that line the eastern border of California, from almost the northern tip down to Bakersfield, north of LA. We wanted scenic – so we meandered our way taking in the following amazing destinations on the first part of this leg.

Las Vegas:

Day 1 – Southern Highlands Golf Club was the first stop on our trip to play this beautiful private club. One of only four courses co-designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Robert Trent Jones, Jr.  RTJ, Sr. passed away during the construction of this course and there is a plaque on the 12th hole commemorating his passing – the last hole he finished. For the first time in our 33-year marriage my husband, a 14-hdcp, played really well and beat my score (I’m a 5-hdcp) – so this is now his favorite course!

Southern Highlands – a lush green oasis in the Las Vegas desert, with amazing views. Every tree was planted during the build process.

Day 2 – Ever wanted to put the pedal to the metal and go as fast as you can – legally? Drive whatever your dream sports car is at Exotics Racing in Las Vegas. A track with multiple turns to test your maneuverability and one long straight away to ‘let it out’ and see how fast you can go! Exhilarating – or so my husband said after driving his dream car – a Porsche. He was amazed at how physically demanding it was driving these cars – for just 7 laps, can’t imagine the exhaustion after driving 500 laps for the pros.

We finished off the day, our 33rd- wedding anniversary, with a fun whimsical dinner at Lakeside restaurant at The Wynn – singing frogs et al!

Exotics Racing – Las Vegas – Porsche 911 GT3 RS – powerful – fast. Bucket list item – check!

The Lakeside restaurant in the lower level of The Wynn sits on a man-made small lake, where you are serenade by singing frogs, bouncing balls and flittering butterflies.

Yosemite National Park:

Day 3 – We hadn’t been to Yosemite in over 30-years, so we were anxious to return. There is no easy direct route into Yosemite National Park. Due to narrow, windy, single lane roads – the last 80 miles took 4 1/2 hours, the last 20 miles took 2 1/2 hours. But with the beauty surrounding this whole area, one hardly notices or cares that you are forced to drive slow and take in the overwhelming aura of this park. El Capitan stands majestic to your left as you approach The Ahwahnee Lodge, Half Dome looms large in the distance, a multitude of massive trees line the roadway, rushing waterfalls thunder in their descent. A magical mystical place.

El Capitan – makes Alex Honnold’s free solo ascent even more impressive when you see this iconic rock structure in person.

Half Dome in Yosemite draws in your with it’s unique shape and just out of reach location.

Day 4 – Up early to drive to a high point in the park to witness the sun rise along El Capitan, bathing the Half Dome in sunlight. Driving out of the park, we stopped to walk through one of the many Giant Sequoia groves that dot the park. Standing at the base of these looming, behemoth trees is mind-blowing.

A high vantage point in Yosemite presents a sunrise show with the sun rising behind El Capitan bathing Half Dome in the morning sun.

Giant Sequoias – aka Redwoods – stand out with their size and robust red color.

Sonoma County:

Visiting Sonoma wine country was another bucket-list item for us. We have been to the Napa Valley multiple times and wanted to see what it’s quieter, smaller sister had to offer. We stayed at the new boutique hotel, MacArthur Place – 5 blocks off the main square in Sonoma. Spacious, well-appointed rooms, a great bar setting, an amazing eating experience at their top-notch restaurant Layla, and friendly attentive service throughout the whole complex warrants a return visit.

MacArthur Place in Sonoma is great new boutique resort that has brought service to a whole new level.

The next two days we were treated to full days of wine tasting and seeing the sights of Sonoma, organized by Val & Mike Marino, of California Wine Tours. Top notch service and wine tour experience!

Day 5 – Wine tours at: Hanzell, Deerfield Ranch and Repris. All had very unique wine caves.

Hanzell, Sonoma – going into it’s seventh decade of making wine, specifically Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, uses a holistic ‘farming’ approach in caring for their vineyards by growing veggies and fruit trees along wine rows, allowing farm animals to mow, dig, and fertilize the cropland. By appt. only.

The rustic stone barn tasting room at Hanzell offers panoramic views of the Sonoma Valley.

Deerfield Ranch, Kenwood – Red Blends are their speciality, with a focus on low amounts of sulfate and histamines, creating a smoother tasting wine while using less tannins, but also reducing additives that many people are sensitive to and can hamper their wine tasting enjoyment. Open to the public.

The wine cave at Deerfield Ranch opens up into an inviting, well lit, living room style setting.

Repris, Sonoma – wines 125-years in the making, is a well-hidden gem – not even known to most locals. The climate of this Moon Mountain Vineyard creates some the highest quality grapes in the region. Their 18,000 sf cave reveals the natural stone walls left behind the big dig to create this natural wine cellar. By appt. only.

No matter how bad the fires got, the wine cave at Repris would safe coat a major portion of their wine supply. Great place for fun wine tastings too!

Day 6 – Wine tours at: A. Rafanelli and MacRostie.

A. Rafanelli, Dry Creek – sits on some of the most pristine property in Sonoma County, focusing on Zinfandels, Cabs and Merlots. Shelly Rafanelli, 4th generation, is the winemaker and her sister, Stacy, runs the financial side of the winery – continuing the Rafanelli legacy of great winemaking. By appt. only.

The Rafanelli family has been on this property for four generations and it shows! Absolutely gorgeous setting!

MacRostie, Healdsburg, is in the Russian River Valley, the go to AVA for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The property sits with an expansive vista that allows you an opportunity to contemplate life of maybe one day opening your own vineyard or winery. Open to public, but reservations highly recommended.

MacRostie Winery – a great place to contemplate life and take in the amazing vistas.

Bandon Dunes:

Day 7 – Back on the road to make our way to our first golf bucket-list destination, Bandon Dunes. The American version of Irish golf links. Upon our arrival at our cottage that sits at the edge of a lily pond, frogs were ‘croaking’ out their mating calls and on cue a momma deer and her two fawns appeared at the base of our balcony. A great start!

A momma deer and her two fawns made an appearance at the base of our deck at Bandon Dunes, right on cue to our arrival.

Day 8 – Up and at em’ early for our first round at the original Bandon Dunes golf course. The cool breezes off the Pacific had our attention quickly with no trees to break the blustery winds.  With 7-holes fully are partially along the ocean, our attention was focused on those stinger shots to keep our balls low and in play on this naturally created course winding through dunes and natural vegetation.

Are we in Ireland? It’s hard to tell the difference – Bandon Dunes does a great job of pulling off a true links golf experience.

Day 9 – Pacific Dunes became our favorite course at the resort. It was more captivating with its layout – challenging, but not in a quirky way. A playable distance, but an emphasis on shot making. With 7 holes fully or partially along the ocean, the 3-club wind had our attention today.

Probably the most photographed hole in Bandon Dunes is the 10th hole at Pacific Dunes.

Day 10 – Old MacDonald only has 4 holes that are directly affected by the ocean, but with some of the world’s largest greens and deepest bunkers there is no shortage of challenges. We were taking full body turns on some of our putts and hitting backwards out of several bunkers.

Our caddies walking off the back of one of the monstrous greens at Old McDonald. I needed a wide angle lens to have been able to capture the whole green.

Only way out – is backwards! Brutally tough and deep bunkers at Old McDonald.

Portland:

Day 11 – Our first trip ever to Portland – lush green rolling hills welcome you as you wind along the Willamette River and it’s tributaries, which make it very challenging to get around. There are no direct routes to cut through rivers and hills, but tour circuitous route allowed us to experience the beautiful Oregon countryside. We were treated to play on an old course – circa 1896, Waverley Country Club, along the banks of the river. A tight, heavily treed course with wrist breaking rough.

The picturesque 16th hole at Waverly Country Club – aptly named the Punch Bowl. Long shots end up in the Willamette River.

Seattle:

Day 12 – Seattle is similar to Portland in having to work your way around waterways and hills. We stayed at The Edgewater where we were upgraded to The Beatles room – where apparently they stayed back in the 1960’s. After walking to get our morning coffee at the original Starbucks, we headed to our second golf bucket-list experience – playing the famed Sahalee Country Club. Even the greatest players have been brought to near tears with fairways tightly lined with thick stoic stands of woods and greens harder to hold than my living room glass coffee table. Some greens were so tough to hold we just picked up our balls and walked to the next tee.

Evening view from our room at The Edgewater Hotel in Seattle, show cases the Seattle highlights with Mount Rainier lurking in the background.

Does anybody have a chainsaw?? As if the greens aren’t hard enough, they have to line the fairways with these monstrous trees, just to test your golf mettle a bit more.

Can you say tight? It’s hard to envision trying to pipe down the tight fairways at Sahalee CC, just outside of Seattle.

Almost a third of the way through our road trip, my husband and I were still talking to each other, we had already experienced enough amazing adventures to fill a life-time, but were energized and excited about the next two legs of our trip to visit new destinations and revisit old favorite destinations.

Check the Global Gallery in the near future to see more pictures from the first leg of our summer 2019 road trip. And stay tuned for ‘leg two’ of Summer Road Trip 2019.

 

New England fall colors

To continue on with the road trip theme from my previous post, today I will take you on a journey to New England. I am 50-years-old and this is a trip that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember – even before I could drive. Fall is my favorite time of year: I love the crisp fresh air and the vibrant hues that fill that air. I love wearing worn out jeans, cozy baggy sweaters, and boots made for hiking – my favorite fall activity, besides sitting by a roaring fire reading a good book and sipping a glass of wine.

My first annual road trip with my daughter took place two years ago. My daughter is a lover of fall and all the activities mentioned above as well, so this is a trip we sank into with ease and intent. It was an easy first trek, with my daughter living in NYC. I flew into JFK on a Friday and she met me at the airport where we rented a snazzy black Camaro to help us navigate the back roads of Vermont, New Hampshire, MaineMassachusetts and back to New York.

New England

We set out at Friday afternoon rush hour, which meant in our first 3 hours we made it all of 10 miles. But we persevered with good music, a hot cup of Starbuck’s Chai Tea and great classical music – rock and pop. We were in no hurry this weekend, and in the dark of night we finally made our way to the Windham Hill Inn, in Townshend, Vermont. A quaint Inn tucked into the hilltops of Vermont off a windy two lane road. After checking in, we climbed two flights of stairs up to our one-of-a-kind room and fell into our comfy king bed, with a fire roaring creating a low glow paired with a soothing warmth.

The Windham Hill Inn - our room was the triple windowed upper level.

The Windham Hill Inn – our room was the triple windowed upper level.

We awoke to a beautiful sight. A light rain was falling, but it didn’t dull the vibrant colors that filled the hillsides spreading out in every direction from the Inn. We raced downstairs, oh that’s right we weren’t in a hurry – we ambled downstairs to find a hearty breakfast menu fill with amazing food choices to fill our bellies and energize us for an adventurous hike around the grounds of the Inn. Apparently most of the other Inn’s guests were adverse to a little rain as we had the hiking trails to ourselves. We slipped and slided our way along the wet and leaf ridden paths, giggling as we looked for the colored arrows guiding our way as if we were on a treasure hunt.

The rolling hills of Vermont alight with vibrant fall colors

The rolling hills of Vermont alight with vibrant fall colors

Upon our return to the Inn we took up residence in front of the main house fireplace and read while warming our hands around a mug of cider. This left us sufficiently relaxed and ready for our next excursion – a massage in the refurbished barn on the grounds of this old estate, that also housed more rooms and a rustic one room spa. There was only one thing left to do after a day like that – take a nap!

Our room at the Windham Hill Inn, Vermont

Our room at the Windham Hill Inn, Vermont

Waking refreshed after an hour of deep, unfettered sleep, we changed and made our way down to the dining room. But first we made a stop at the two-seater bar and ordered up a couple of Manhattan’s – I’m a bad influence on my daughter, but it’s fun to share passions. Another hearty meal of New England fare, and we were down for the count after all that fresh air and exercise, a relaxing massage and the warmth from the fireplace food and drinks. We awoke to a sunny day, and after a lighter breakfast we headed out to explore other paths around this Vermont countryside Inn.

By mid-morning we hit the road to our next destination – the White Barn Inn, Kennebunk, Maine. We wound our way through the New Hampshire countryside, popped into the lower quadrant of Maine and took in the sights and sounds of Portland, shrouded in fog. We indulged in a lobster roll – not quite what I thought it would be. It’s like a lobster salad on a soft white bun – a little less mayo and a lot more lobster would’ve better suited my tastes. We walked through the streets of this quaint historical town, watching a big cruise ship takeover the harbor.

Checking into the White Barn Inn, Kennebunk, Maine

Checking into the White Barn Inn, Kennebunk, Maine

After our bite to eat it was time to head on into Kennebunk – which sits across the Kennebunk River from Kennebunkport – home to the Presidential Bush families. The White Barn Inn is a sister Inn to the Windham Hill Inn in Vermont, but they were very different experiences. The White Barn Inn is right on a main roadway through Kennebunk, within walking distance to the ocean. We stayed in a single level cottage, but had our meals in the main dining room at the Inn.

After checking in at the Inn, we headed across the street to walk the grounds of a working Franciscan Monastery – lush and quiet with lots of little private praying areas. Then we made our way down Beach Avenue, which appropriately took us to the beach. We walked along the seaboard, feeling very out-of-place because we had to be the only people there without a dog. We decided that somebody should offer a ‘rent-a-dog’ service for those of us just popping in for a quick visit. It was so fun to watch the dogs frolicking around in the waves, chasing after balls and sticks and their masters.

The waves crashing into the beach along the Kennebunk seaboard - could that be the Bush compound in the background??

The waves crashing into the beach along the Kennebunk seaboard – could that be the Bush compound in the background??

Back at our room we changed and headed over to the main house where we tracked down the sitting room. It had a roaring fire (seems to be a New England theme) where we sat and read for a bit, but then our eyes settled on a glass chessboard. We grabbed a glass of complimentary wine and settled into a heated competition of chess moves while we waited to be called to our table for dinner. Of course we had to dine on live Maine lobster! It was sweet and oh so delicious.

The restaurant at the White Bar Inn serves up their live Main Lobster all decked out

The restaurant at the White Bar Inn serves up their live Main Lobster all decked out

After dinner we returned to our room where a bottle of champagne was sitting on ice in our sitting room, the fireplace at the foot of our bed was stoked and lovely music playing softly in the background. We settled into bed with our glasses of champagne, our books and chatted about the highlights of our trip so far. It wasn’t long before the long day of driving and fresh ocean air found us fast asleep.

In the morning we enjoyed a wonderful complimentary full meal breakfast in the main dining room. Our time was ticking away and we had to have the car back to New York by evening, but first a stop in Boston to see my niece/my daughter’s cousin on her dad’s side. We took Highway 1 as far south as we could trying to stay as close to the ocean as we could, but eventually we had to pop over to the main highway to get to Boston in time for lunch.

This was my first time to Boston and my daughter’s second. What a an amazing engineering wonder Boston is – the way it winds around the waterways connecting different parts of the city. We wish we would’ve had more time to stay, but we figured Boston is a destination spot that someday we will take a road trip to and spend a long weekend in and around the city and down to the Cape maybe even Martha’s Vineyard. It was a beautifully sunny crisp fall day and I can see why so many people fall in love with this city. The food was great and the streets full of life, but in a very different, more laid back way than the busy streets of NYC.

It was a weekend chockfull of miles, great eats, vibrant fall colors and a multitude of new memories. As we wheeled the road weary black Camaro back to its stall at JFK, we proclaimed a new-found desire to repeat this kind of weekend to a new destination annually – at least. Thus endeth our first annual mother-daughter road trip!

Taking a pit stop in fog shrouded Portland, Maine on our New England road trip

Taking a pit stop in fog shrouded Portland, Maine on our New England road trip