Taking up the most recent adventure..... 900+ miles over 4 days at an average speed of 60 miles per hour with Torshia (the '96 Porsche Twin Turbo with the 571 horsepower, 527 foot pounds of torque) averaging 22 miles per gallon, for the weekend! More than you wanted to know, but really rather remarkable, in that, on the trip from Santa Ana to Larkspur, in Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, I was averaging 22.4 mpg @ 72 mph. To do that, I was traveling about 80 mph most of the time. Lin and I left at 5:20 AM and took a little more than an hour off near Coalinga, about the halfway point, for breakfast of Mediterranean omelets at the fabulous Harris Ranch, and we still rolled to a stop at daughter, Becky's apartment at 12:45 PM, reasonably fresh, despite showers intermittently along the way. Becky, Peter, my son-in-law, and children, Haley and Zachary, had just moved into an apartment from their home in Corte Madera so that an extensive remodel could be done on their house, over the next six months.
We were house guests and discovered the pleasures of a trundle bed in Zachary's room, while he shifted into his sister's room without objection. They are six and three years old, and Becky has the luxury of being a stay at home mom, after a short, but meteoric, career as a pharmaceutical representative, and before that, a job councilor for a welfare program. Peter does something in the world of institutional bond sales and is part of the Panzer Parade (BMW's and Mercedes) crossing the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin into the financial district of San Francisco in time for Wall Street's Opening Bell. Early to bed and early to rise. They are great parents and the kids are gorgeous, and sweet, and smart.... well, I'm a very proud grandfather.
Saturday afternoon was the tee ball game for Haley, one of two girls, on the Aquanuts, I think, baseball team, along with her best friend, Sydney, or is it Sidonie. Two girls and a whole bunch of six year old guys, trying to learn the game, and having a lot of fun. They play on the school grounds of Reed Elementary School in Tiburon. Wow! What a school! Just about the greatest I can imagine. I think the kindergarten has 5 computers for the kids to learn on. And Haley, in Kindergarten, is reading at a level that looks like third grade to me! Her teacher discovered that she had learned to read all on her own.... no one made any conscious effort to teach her, before school. (Like you already know, I'm her proud grandfather.)
At the game, we met Sydney's grandfather, who just happens to be the newly appointed California secretary of State, Bruce MacPherson, who had a distinguished political career as a moderate Republican from Santa Cruz. In fact, his daughter went to the same high school as my daughter-in-law, Jeanie, and they knew each other, thus making the world an even smaller place. Bruce is respected by his Democratic colleagues, and is a real gentleman, and a constructive politician who gives that field a good name. We need more like him.
From the game, we took off to the main event of the weekend, a visit to our friends, Phil and Morgan, a stay at Phil's family home, a plantation mansion recreated by a silent movie actress from a design of an antebellum mansion located near New Orleans.
This was acquired by Phil's father, an enterprising automobile salesman who turned a Vallejo gas station into a Cadillac agency, just after WW II and long before the discovery of the value of the California Wine Country. So Phil, who grew up on the ranch property, is now the sole owner of 760 prime acres of wine country, with a stream running through it. Phil would be a story all by himself. As usual, no time to do justice, but I must tell how we met. It was over a 1994 BMW M3 which he coveted but could not find in Northern California, and sought at a dealership in Santa Ana. I had just bought one of the first brought into the country and the saleswoman who sold it to me asked if I minded talking with a customer who had some questions. What questions! Phil knew far more about the car than I did, and I was driving it. He was meticulous and his questions were penetrating and revealing. Eventually he bought the car and we met for dinner and one thing led to another, and Lin and I were invited to spend an evening on his houseboat in Sausalito. We invited Phil to Becky's wedding. Although he never mentioned what he did, eventually we asked and learned that he ran a hedge fund, and after investigation, I invested some money with him, and he is a major reason why I'm able to practice the kind of medicine I do, including my participation at two free clinics. Due to his business acumen, I can practice what's left of my profession. I owe him, big time! Of course, I don't understand exactly what he does or how he does it, but he does it very well. He does everything, very, very well. So, sometimes, a love of sports cars can lead to a profitable association, and more important, a fascinating friendship.
We were two of a total of eight guest invited for a dinner and wine tasting at Vineyard 29, at 2929 HighWay 29, in Napa, hosted by Chuck and Ann, the owners, and won at a bidding auction on behalf of the Napa Valley Symphony Orchestra by Phil's high bid. The chef was the winner of an award for rising young chefs, and is probably the brightest star in San Francisco's galaxy of wondrously fine chefs. He cooked for us, exclusively, that Saturday night, and we had multiple varieties of wine, after champagne, and a meal of perhaps seven courses, after five appetizers. I will only describe one, because I don't have the menu handy. A very thinly sliced smoked salmon with a very thin film of foie gras! I love sashimi and sushi. This so outclassed anything that I have ever eaten, that any future trip to a Japanese restaurant, among my favorites, will face a withering comparison with a new and unapproachable standard.
I would like to tell you more about the wine adventure, but I'm a wine wuss. I don't know one wine from another, although I tripled my knowledge in that one evening. Chuck has been a venture capitalist, after a career as a marketer and electrical engineer for Intel in the 1970's and 1980's. He then turned his talents into wine making, and what we saw was probably the most modern winery in existence with a capability to measure just about everything, and a system of caves dug into the hills that looked like an updated Maginot Line, without the armament. The wines were, largely, wonderful. Ann has a special interest in horticulture as a tool for stroke rehabilitation. Chuck is on the Board of Directors of the regional community hospital and is trying to overcome the usual reluctance of physicians to embrace the latest advances available in computer technology.
The other guests were Dennis and Denise from the Stockton area, and Gene and Judy, from Sonoma and San Francisco. Phil had assembled a most compatible group who fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, although none of us had ever met before. All were partners in Phil's venture. Dennis does asparagus farming for fun, operates gun clubs in the Stockton Delta, and flies a twin engine aircraft. He also drives a British Racing Green Jaguar. Phil has a Ferrari Daytona, and, in the thin atmosphere of Napa-Sonoma society, the anti-Range Rover, POS, more politely labeled, a Kia Sportage, for ranch off the road work. Gene is a San Francisco real estate broker and Judy is from the south side of Chicago. Really, very compatible and diverse people, and dare I say, much above the interest level I encounter in boring Orange County, where mostly, I work, anyway, and attempt to grow sunflowers of amazing height and diversity.... sort of horticultural diversity, .... and make bad puns!
Lin and I slept in the Jean Lafitte room, as honored guests. We had the time of our lives. There is just no equal for the lavish treatment we received, and even if it was a fantasy trip, food, friends, wine and a taste of a very different life style of which we could only imagine, it will provide an unapproachable standard, in so many ways.
Lin has just brought me the menu and I can give credit to Chef Daniel Humm of the Campton Place Restaurant in San Francisco. The date was May 7th, 2005, and to show you just how much of a wine wuss I am, my favorite was 2005 Bottling Aida Late Harvest Zinfandel, and I did love 1999 Schramsberg "J. Schram," the champagne that opened the evening.
I hope to post pictures, probably on my iMac Homepage.... sometime between planting tomatoes, sunflowers and the call of medicine!