19th Post January 14th, 2018

He’s back. Hello everyone and happy playoff Sunday. I hope your team is in the hunt for the coveted Lombardi trophy. My Green Bay Packers went down in a ball of flames this year, so I decided to rout for the underdog Buffalo Bills. That lasted just 60 football minutes in round one, so who do I pull for now? Perhaps I should just let it go and spend my weekends away from the boob tube for a change.

Hey, that sounds like a New Years resolution. No, no, I really hate doing that. It never works for me. Let’s just say I’ll try being more diligent with my blogging this year, and eat less, exercise more, be more tolerant of jerks who don’t know how to drive, play more golf, drink less alcohol, lose 10 pounds, lose ten more pounds… This is why I hate resolutions, I don’t know where it all ends.

It does feel good to be pounding on the old keyboard again. I had some needed shoulder surgery in late December, and can finally go without my sling occasionally. Yea! No big deal, it is just a part of the aging process, coupled with something stupid I must have done years ago to cause some damage to my left rotator cuff and bicep tendons.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. It’s kind of a holiday, and some people don’t have to go to work or school, but some do, so I guess it is more like a selective day off. These always confused me when I was growing up. There was Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, which is now just Presidents’ Day, Columbus Day, Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de mayo, Sadie Hawkins Day, etc. See what I mean?

Don’t get me wrong. Dr. King was a great man and is most deserving of our devotion and remembrance, but why can’t all of us get a day off. I can’t mail a letter, or check out a library book, or even complain to my Congressman tomorrow, because he will not be working. Need I go on?

I guess I’ll just do my best to think about a super guy who had a dream, and go on with the rest of my day tomorrow.

If you go back to November 2nd in my blog, you will see that I left you with the third leg of my retirement trip. I was on my way to visit the first of four Smith Brothers. Well, I am continuing on to Smith Bro. number two.

*****

But first, in honor of one of the coldest January’s so far, here’s a few one liners:

 

Wow it’s cold out. Granma’s been staring through the window ever since it started snowing. If it gets any worse, I’ll have to let her in.

It’s so cold out I just farted snowflakes.

It’s so cold out I just saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets.

It’s so cold out hitchhikers are showing pictures of their thumbs.

It’s so cold I can’t even get into a heated argument with my wife.

Okay, enough. Stay warm as possible and I hope you enjoy the next leg of my trip.

*****

 

Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again

Dar and I arrived in Portland at about 7:00 P.M. and checked into the Paramount Hotel and had a great dinner at the Swank restaurant. We were beat -up from the drive, so we turned in early. Tomorrow we were going to visit Earl and Dianne Smith in Lodi CA. The second of Four Smith brothers on our list.

I never know what to call Earl, his wife calls him, Smitty, and his sister and brothers call him Butch. It’s kind of like the dilemma some of my friends and relatives have. My Chicago friends and relatives know me as Dick, but in Wisconsin it is Woody. Go figure.

We also have plans to visit Yosemite National Park for several days. I’ve heard the giant redwoods; rock formations and water falls are breathtaking. The Smith’s mother, Lillian ran a small motel, with a few cabins in Yosemite years ago, and it is still in operation, so we have reserved a two-night stay.

It was about an 11-hour drive to Lodi, and we wanted to arrive before dark, so we left Portland at 7AM. Our first stop was Medford, OR. We had been driving for about 5 hrs., switching drivers at the half-way point to gas up and grab a coffee and snack. I searched for a lunch spot and decided on Four Daughters Irish Pub for lunch. It was perfect. The eatery was a two-story bar and restaurant with old-world deco serving Irish and American pub grub.

We only allowed ourselves 45 minutes for lunch, so we split an order of beer battered mushrooms and their signature Shepherd’s pie, which was way more than we bargained for. The pie was huge and delicious. It was filled with all things Irish. Angus sirloin, peas, mushrooms, onions, and cabbage in a thick wine sauce, covered with garlic mashed potatoes and topped with cheddar cheese. Burp! We chased it down with some spring water, got a couple cups ‘o joe for the road, and off we went.

It was my turn to drive, and Dar conked out as soon as we got onto Interstate 5. We still had a good 5 and a half hours to go with a couple bio breaks and maybe supper. The weather was ideal, and traffic was light, so I just sat back, turned on some twangy classic country tunes and cruised to Haggard, Nelson and Jones for the next couple hours.

Dar awoke after about an hour and was able to enjoy the lovely scenery. We passed by Klamath and Six Rivers National Forests. The view of Mt. Shasta was stunning as we entered northern California, so we stopped at a wayside for a short break and driver change. It was Dar’s turn for the music, so it was the entire Mama Mia sound track and Neil Diamond’s greatest hits. “Sweet Caroline, Bom, Bom, Bom”.

We gassed up, in Williams,  and gave Earl and Dianne a call. We told them we would be at their place around 6:30. They knew we would be exhausted, so they suggested cocktails and a cookout in their yard. Perfect. Williams was a small city of about 5000 people. We were anxious to get to the Smiths’, so we didn’t hang around, and were back on the road in about 15 minutes.

We arrived in Lodi at 6:30 on the dot. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? Earl and Di greeted us as we pulled into their driveway. They live in a lovely ranch style house. Lodi is desert country, so they landscaped with barrel cacti, succulents and some colorful flowering shrubs and plants. It was beautiful. When entering through the front door there was a small, private sitting area to the left with stunning foliage and a water feature.

Dar and I threw our bags in the guest room and freshened up a bit, before joining our hosts in the backyard. It was mid-July, so the sun was low in the sky and the weather was balmy with a slight breeze. As we opened the sliders Earl greeted us with a Makers Mark on the rocks and a huge welcoming grin.

The yard was an oasis. They had a lovely pool, and the landscaping was even more pristine than the front. I could feel the 11-hour drive drift away, as I kicked off my shoes, sat back in the lounge chair, and sipped the hardy bourbon. Di brought out some chips and salsa, and assured us that Earl would be grilling some barbecue chicken for dinner.

Dianne gave us the nickel tour, and pointed out a vineyard that abutted their property. I didn’t know that Lodi was in wine country, but then realized that we were in northern California, duh. She said that she had made lunch reservations at their favorite winery for tomorrow.

“That sounds great, I said. Our treat.”

“You’ll have to fight that out with Smitty,” said Dianne.

Earl stepped in and upped the ante.

“Tell ya what Woody. How ‘bout you and I do 9 holes tomorrow morning, loser pops for lunch?” he said.

I found myself at an immediate disadvantage. I would have to rent clubs, and we would be playing at Earl’s home club, not to mention we played together with brother Tom last time Dar and I visited San Francisco, and I got waxed.

“You are on my friend.” I said to Earl.

I figured that I wanted to buy lunch anyway, so this would just be a way to make it a little more fun. We shook on the wager and continued our stroll around the premises. As I gazed out at the vineyard, I heard a splash. When I turned around I found a huge dog in the pool. Indy was a giant yellow fuzzy hug -a-bug.

Indy was yellow lab and he loved to be around people. Dar and I love animals. We took turns playing fetch, tossing a tennis ball into the pool. Indy would fly with all fours flailing in the air to catch the ball in mid-air, then bring it back and soak us with a vigorous shake. What fun!

As the sun started to set, Earl fired up the grill. He had prepared his special, secret, super-duper, spicy barbecue sauce for the chicken, and Di put on some corn-on-the-cob and made an awesome baby-red potato dish in garlic butter and parsley. They paired the feast with an exquisite Chardonnay. Yummy!

As we enjoyed the repast and the company, I turned to Earl and asked if this was Heaven?

He laughed and quoted a famous CCR line.

“It’s not heaven Woody, you’re just stuck in Lodi again.”

“Close enough.” I said as we all clinked wine glasses.

After dinner we cleaned the dishes and had a snifter of Napoleon Brandy under a lovely star-studded sky. It was a perfect end to a very long day. Dar and I were quite tired, so we all said our good-nights and turned in.

Morning came abruptly at about 7:30. Earl and Di neglected to tell us that Indy was adept at jumping up and opening door latches. We were awakened with a flurry of wet, sloppy licks and bashed with Indy’s perpetual motion tail wags.

Breakfast was on the men. Earl crisped up some bacon and tatter tots, as I prepared my famous cheesy omelets. The plan was for Earl and me to golf and Di would show Dar the sites of Lodi, then we would meet up at the winery for lunch.

Earl had reserved a 9:30 tee time at he Woodridge Golf & Country Club. It was a beautiful club that featured 3 separate 9-hole courses. We arrived about a half-hour early, so I rented a set of clubs and we warmed up on the range for about 20 minutes before the starter called us to the first tee.

We decided on match instead of stroke play. This means that the total score doesn’t count, but whomever wins the most holes wins the day, and buys lunch. Earl was a bit smaller than I, but had a perfect golf swing. We were pretty even in length, but he hit his drives stick straight, while I enjoyed some close encounters with the lovely pine trees and foliage off the sides of the fairways.

I hadn’t played in several weeks and it showed. Earl easily took the first 3 holes. The 4th was a par five and I finally got my hips to turn into my drive and stroked a rope down the middle of the fairway and took the hole with my first par. I was still down 3 to 1 with 5 holes left to play but started to sink some putts, and by the 8th hole we were all tied up.

The last hole was another par 5 and we both drove the ball well. Earl’s third shot found a green-side bunker while I was just a few yards off the front of the green, and was able to putt. I lagged to within 3 feet, and Earl was facing a 30-foot sand shot. Things were looking good for the Woodster.

I couldn’t believe what happened next. Earl hit a perfect sand wedge. I hadn’t marked my ball and his struck mine on one bounce and rolled into the hole. Lunch was on me. We were still laughing as we pulled up to the Van Ruiten Family Winery to meet our brides for lunch.

When we arrived Dar and Di were in the tasting room. Earl and Di were members of the wine club so, they showed us around. We tasted several different vintages and I picked up a nice Shira and an earthy cab.

We took a stroll through part of the vineyard and took a table outside under a vine covered patio for lunch. We had some crispy begets, and some delicious cheeses and meats that our server paired perfectly with a fruity Riesling. What a great way to spend the afternoon. Dar and I were having a blast.

When we returned home it was nap time for the weary. After a short respite we put on our swimsuits and joined the yard party. Dar was lying on a raft, so I threw the tennis ball her way. Indy flew into the pool and capsized the raft as Dar rolled over and hugged his neck. What fun we had.

We had picked up a brie at the winery, so Di brought it out with some apple slices and grapes for cocktail hour. Dinner was 2-inch ribeye steaks Dar had bought while we men were out on the golf course. It was my turn at the grill and Dar took care of the sides. She served seasoned asparagus and smashed potatoes in lemon butter. We uncorked the bottle of cabaret, and feasted like royalty.

I once again turned to Earl and asked if we were in Heaven.

“Nope, still stuck in Lodi.” He replied.

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