Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Monterey, CA
Got a rocky start.  No leader.  

Good morning California.  We're off today for one of the most scenic drives in the country ... Seventeen Mile Drive and Big Sur.  It's a beautiful sunny day with the perfect road and perfect driving conditions for our cars.   We were on our own today, as our leader, Gil went to Napa.  Nobody was sure how to get from Monterey to 17 Mile Drive.  We pulled off the road to re-group and elected Chandra and Keith to show us the way.

Our first stop along 17 Mile Drive was at China Rock.  Notice the #12 Yellow car (2nd in line.)
In case you needed a better look at my car.

Our first stop along 17 Mile Drive was China Rock.  We stopped long enough for a few photos and then continued on down the road.   To our right, the deep blue Pacific and rocky shoreline was the perfect panorama.  The view changed with each turn to reveal yet another gorgeous vista.

Our Ferrari Group at China Rock.  

View from Rocky Point Restaurant.

Our lunch spot, Rocky Point Restaurant, clung to the side of a cliff overlooking the sea.  The food was disappointing, but the view made up for the lousy meal.
Our lunch group at Rocky Point Restaurant.

While checking out the  incredible view, I saw an elderly gent, sitting alone, enjoying his lunch at a table overlooking the water.  He had a split of Champagne with two glasses and an 8 x 10 framed photo beside him on the table.  
Phillip Wylly enjoying his anniversary lunch.
This was an invitation for me to get "the story."  Turns out, Mr. Winter was celebrating his wedding anniversary, as he had done for the past 28 years with his beautiful wife.  She died 3 months ago, but he still celebrated with her.  The photo on the table was their wedding photo.  We chatted for a while, instantly bonding as I shared with Mr. Winter that I lost my husband three years ago today.  I would have enjoyed talking to this man for hours, hearing stories about his beloved wife.  How they met, how they spent their years together.  
We shared a few moments of silence and a few tears and then I left Mr. Winter to continue his lunch and his memories of a beautiful life together. 

The ladies brighten Phillip's day.
After lunch, all the ladies came out to take a photo with Phillip.  He seemed to enjoy the distraction and certainly enjoyed the attention.  

I continue to wait for this day to become easier.  The worst day of one's life tends to linger.   It's fitting that I'm sharing today with the dear friend who took over my life and somehow got me through.   The words "thank you" seem insignificant for the depth of gratitude that I feel.  But I'll say it anyway.  Thank you, Sharon.  And thank you for continuing to make me feel that tomorrow will be better. 

After lunch, we continued our drive, stopping along the way at the most photographed tree in the world, The Lone Cypress.  
Lone Cypress
Afterwards, we went to Carmel for a little shopping.  

Dinner at Grasings, Carmel, CA
Several pairs of shoes later, we went to Grasings for dinner with Ava and Jasone.  Grassing was recommended by some Tampa friends.  Since they are in the 

restaurant business, I 

knew it would be a good recommendation. The meal was spectacular, as was the company. 
Cocktails at the Intercontinental after dinner.
We were the last to leave the restaurant, found our way back to the hotel and were the last to leave the bar at the Intercontinental as well.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Yosemite to Monterey

Ok.  It's been a couple of days.  I've had writer's block.  We've been having such a great time.  It's been hard to stop long enough to write.  When I do stop, my eyes are bleary and ready for sleep.   So I'll try to get caught up now.

We left Yosemite Wednesday morning heading to Monterey.  The skies were clear and sunny so the folks who didn't get out in the rain yesterday decided to visit Glacier Point.  The rest of us set out for Monterey.   The drive was long and unexciting.  

Lunch at Espana's.  Los Banos.
We stopped at a little Mexican spot for lunch in Los Banos called Espana's Restaurant and Mexican Grill.  
Catalina's Margarita
The food was decent and, according to some, so were the Margaritas.  

After lunch, a crowd was gathered around the Ferraris in the parking lot.  This has become the norm.  I guess this must be how the movie stars feel when the paparazzi's follow them.  
Parking at the lunch spot in Los Banos.  BEFORE the crowd gathered.
Only in this case, they could care less about us ... it's all about the CAR.  Which is fine - AS LONG AS THEY DON'T TOUCH!!  Some people are so brazen as to even sit on the fender to pose for a photo.  But feisty little Ava puts a stop to that right away.

Sharon and I with new friends, Ava, Rondi and Vince at Intercontinental Hotel.
We finally pulled in to the Intercontinental Hotel in Monterey around 4:30.  First stop ... the bar for a couple of cocktails before getting ready for dinner at Christopher's, a quaint little place in Carmel.  We tried to make it an early evening, but taxis were scarce and we finally got back to the room around 11:00.  

Big day tomorrow.  Seventeen Mile Drive and Big Sur.  BEAUTIFUL areas.  Can't wait.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

We awoke this morning to rain and fog.  The prediction for the rest of the day looked bleak.  So we did what anybody would do ... we went to breakfast.   

Afterwards, we decided we didn't come all this way to sit around a less than stellar hotel, so we set out from the Tenaya Lodge to check out Glacier Point.  I'm so glad we did!!  By the time we arrived (about an hour later) the skies began to clear opening up the view.  

Glacier Point at Yosemite may be the most magnificent thing I've ever seen.  The mountains that stood before us were smoothly rounded solid granite domes, the most famous, of course, Half Dome.  The domes gave way to a deep valley below.  Water falls and Huge Ponderosa Pines accented the hillsides.   

A cloud has attached itself to the flat side of Half Dome.

My new friend, Ava and I check out the view.

A photo of Jasone, Ava and Half Dome without the cloud cover.  
There is really no way for me to explain the spectacular views of Yosemite from Glacier Point, so I'll just post some photos.

We walked around the point to check out the view from various angles.  Simply awe-inspiring.  

Sharon and Ava 
 We took in the site for almost an hour and then set off to the Valley Floor.  We were following our new friends, Jasone and Ava.  Jasone's navigation system was not working properly so we missed our turn and ended up back at the hotel.  By this time, the rain was moving back in AND it was cocktail hour anyway.   So we parked in our reserved parking area and called it a day.   I'll have to come back to Yosemite to see the Valley Floor.  When I do, I'll be wearing my hiking shoes because there are numerous hikes in the area.

We had a lovely dinner at Embers at the Tenaya Lodge.  

Tomorrow we're off to Monterey.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015 - Yosemite

This morning's route.
This morning, we depart for Yosemite.  Sharon and I have never been to this area before and look forward to the drive.  

But first things first.  Breakfast!  Since today's departure was delayed, we decided to have breakfast.  When I ordered my boring eggs and bacon yesterday, our server walked by with a  plate of Huevos Rancheros.  

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast
That's pretty much all I could think about for the rest of the day.  So today ... Huevos Rancheros, here I come!!  The dish did not disappoint!!  With shredded chicken and "drunken" beans, my breakfast was delicious!  Great way to start the day!!  

Prime parking space in the driveway of the Ritz.
After breakfast, the group gathered in front of the Ritz to load bags in our support van and prepare for the drive to Yosemite.  I was determined to NOT be the last in line today, so Sharon and I were in the car and perfectly positioned in the cue.  Just after 10:00, we took off.  

The drive started off relatively tame because of traffic, but quickly changed about an hour later after a fuel stop.  Our pack of Ferrari's easily stayed together passing traffic in a snake like fashion until the four lane road changed to two lanes.  With on coming traffic and winding roads, the group quickly divided into smaller groups.   The phone began pinging text alerts to us of road obstructions, traffic and police sightings.   Sharon and I were scooting along nicely, driving faster, feeling confident with our position and able to narrow the gaps in our group only when we reached passing lanes to safely get around other traffic.  We fell back at one point but I knew a passing lane was coming and we'd be able to get around traffic and catch up soon.  Our opportunity came, I accelerated and zoomed past the slower cars narrowing the gap between us and our group.   I commented to Sharon at that point that we just reached 125 miles per hour.  The Ferrari was purring at this speed.  After all ... the 458 Spider is a street legal race car, right?  Right!  

Something I never thought I'd hear myself say ... "I'm so happy that I got a speeding ticket for going 99 in a 65 MPH zone."

Yup.  No sooner had I remarked to Sharon that we busted 125 MPH  mark when we crested a hill and came face to face with a state trooper in on coming traffic.  No text warning.  No radar warning.  Nothing!!   I didn't have time to process the expression on the trooper's face as we blew by him.   But I'm guessing it was somewhere between disbelief and pure joy.   Disbelief of my speed and joy of the story that he was going to be able to tell tonight over a beer.  We went by so fast, he probably only saw two blondes in the car and had visions of Christy Brinkley and National Lampoon's Vacation.  (Ha!  We fooled him.)  I just put on my brakes and pulled off the road to wait.  The Ferrari ahead of me stopped as well, awaiting his turn for a ticket.

When the trooper pulled up behind me, the radar started screaming.  (Thank you very much.)  I had no idea how to turn it off.  Laser radar detectors (like mine) are illegal in California.  Sharon and I were pushing buttons and pulling cords trying to quieten the screeching detector.  

She finally placed my purse on the console to cover the switch for the radar detector ... my lovely cognac python purse with the black Marijuana leaf stitched on the front.  I was thinking about the charges for which I was about to be charged ... or better yet, hauled away to jail for.  Speeding, reckless driving, illegal use of a radar detector and then search and seizure of the Ferrari for suspected Marijuana possession.  The officer approached the car from the passenger side and of course asked for my driver's license, registration and insurance cards.  He had a very kind face and was as nice and professional as could be.  He also had a hidden smile on his face and in his voice.   He said he clocked me at 112 MPH.  (Ha!  If he only knew!)  He went back to his cruiser.  Sharon and I were on pins and needles.  When he came back to the car, he gave me a ticket for going 99 in a 65.  If he'd written it for over 100 MPH, it would require a mandatory court appearance.  Thus my comment ... "I'm so happy that I got a speeding ticket for going 99 in a 65 MPH zone."

My only regret is that we didn't get a photo of the officer to post in this blog!!  He was such a nice guy, I know he would have gone for it.    Just didn't think about it at the time.  I was so relieved to NOT be arrested.  I love wearing orange, but not when there is a number stenciled on the back.

Word traveled fast throughout the group.  They pulled off the road a few miles down to wait for the two "busted" Ferraris, anxious to hear the details.  As I pulled in, I gave them a double thumbs up.  We had survived to drive another day!!  Sharon said I achieved instant rockstar status.  Of all the previous Ferrari trips, I was the first participant ticketed.  Oh, by the way, the other car did NOT get a ticket.  The officer let them go. 

Stopping for gas.
After all that drama, we set off again for our lunch destination, a renowned Mobil station called Tioga Gas Mart in Lee Vining CA.  The Ferraris pulled in to the gas station and it looked like a NASCAR pit stop.  Ferraris at every pump.  People gathered around snapping photos and offering to trade cars.    This lunch spot was an interesting cross between a truck stop and mini mart with a gourmet fast food restaurant equipped with indoor picnic tables for dining and a first class souvenir shop .  We had a great lunch and were ready to hit the road for the second half of our trip.  When we walked out of the "mini-mart/truck start" it began to rain.  THADDEUS!  How do I turn on the windshield wipers???  

Our afternoon route.
Our line of 12 Ferraris arrived at the entrance to Yosemite National Park and waited to pay the park fees.  Jasone was in the car just ahead of me.  After he paid, he raced away.   The park attendant shook his head and said, "That boy's gonna get pulled over!", making me believe there were rangers around every corner.  I'm a bit more cautious after my police encounter.  We soon caught up with the Ferrari parade and the 45 MPH signs meant nothing to them even on the curvy roads.  We sped around a corner and much to my surprise, we were slowed by an RV.  Sharon and I were high fiving!!  Hallelujah!  
Scenic View entering Yosemite.
The rest of the drive was quite tame because of slower traffic.  Never thought I would be happy about that!!

Thaddeus and Bob McKinney.  Photo taken by Sharon!!!!
We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks to check out the views. Just gorgeous!!  

The rain continued off and on the whole way to our next destination, Tenaya Lodge at Fish Bay.    It's no Ritz, but very comfortable.  Tomorrow, we tour Yosemite.  Can't wait.  We've never been here and are quite anxious to see the sites.  

(More photos for today's blog coming soon.) 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015 - South Lake Tahoe

Today, our drive takes us from the Ritz Carlton to South Lake Tahoe to the Tahoe Keys Marina for a private cruise of a small portion of Lake Tahoe.  

Before our departure, Sharon and I got up early, had breakfast and walked the grounds of the Ritz.  A beautiful hotel, very similar to the Ritz in Beaver Creek and Aspen, The Ritz in Tahoe is a popular ski resort as well.  

We enjoyed the outside fire pit for a few minutes before we "started our engines."

I'm ready for the drive today around the lake.  Even have brand new "driving shoes."  I'm sure they will help keep the pedal to the metal.  

We set off at noon for what should have been just over an hour drive.  As soon as we hit the main highway, we encountered bikers.  Not just a couple, but hundreds of bikers competing in a race.  Some of these folks were really struggling and shouldn't have been on a bike in the first place, much less on a busy scenic highway.  A couple of them looked like Jabba the Hutt (from Star Wars) balanced precariously on their bikes with their bodies melting over the sides and legs struggling to push the pedals.  We buzzed by giving them plenty of room with an occasional engine rev.

With heavy bike traffic AND car traffic, the trip to the marina took longer than expected.  To be totally honest, I was grateful for the traffic because it forced us to drive slowly.  Also, my radar detector, which Thaddeus so kindly turned on for me, was regularly singing like an opera star.  The folks at the hotel told us to beware because  the police support the community with speeding tickets on this stretch of road.  So happy we were driving more reasonably.

When we arrived at the Marina, Anthony, the 1st mate greeted us in the parking lot, showing us where to safely park our cars and then took us to the "Party Boat."  We cruised out of the marina into beautiful Lake Tahoe.  I was not expecting the water to be crystal clear.  I imagine on a day without smoke, it must be a beautiful blue color.  

Our boat captain, Donne, shared some interesting statistics with us. He said that 9 million gallons of water evaporate from Lake Tahoe EVERY day taking the lake down by 1/8 of an inch daily.  The average depth of the lake is 1000 feet, 1645 feet at the deepest point.  The sixty-eight tributaries that feed Lake Tahoe are all but dried up due to the severe drought in California for the past several years.  

Vikingsholm, Laura Knight's "Castle"
The cruise was lovely.  I definitely need to return to Lake Tahoe when the skies are clear.  The rugged mountains encompassing the lake were stunning even with the smoky haze obstructing the view. We cruised to a breathtaking area called Emerald Bay.  In the early 1900's, a woman by the name of Laura Knight bought Emerald Bay for $75,000.00.  Mrs. Knight's property included the only island in Lake Tahoe,  Fanette Island, and the only water fall, Eagle Falls.  The home Mrs. Knight constructed in Emerald Bay, named Vikingsholm, is considered to be one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture existing in the United States.  
Tea House atop Fannett Island
The waterfall is dry today. But the Fannette sland still has remnants of a tea house Mrs. Knight built on the very top of the island to entertain her guests.   Enormous cedars and pines are set off by shear granite cliffs making this one of the most scenic areas in the United States.  
 Granite cliffs and Pines surround Fannett Island 

In 1953, Vikingsholm and the property were acquired by the State of California.  The house is open for tours in the summer months and the magnificent scenery is enjoyed all year around.  This is an area I would definitely like to visit again.  

After a leisurely afternoon at Emerald Bay, we returned to the marina, started up our Ferraris and set out again returning to the Ritz Carlton for dinner at Manzanita.  This was the most delicious meal of the trip.  

Dinner at Manzanita 

Tomorrow ...  Yosemite.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ferrari of Tampa Bay's 5th Annual
Mille Miglia di California
September 12th  -  September 21st 

Well, I'm on the road again.  This time for the Ferrari road rally.  A week long driving trip around California from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe to Yosemite to Napa Valley, across the Golden Gate Bridge and on to Monterey.  

I found out about this trip last summer when I saw a Ferrari of Tampa Bay trailer parked outside the Little Nell in Aspen. When I took my car in for service last October, I asked why the trailer was there and was told about a road rally that they have every year.  So naturally ... I jumped on board and here I am.

My dear friend Sharon flew all the way to California to meet me in Sacramento yesterday where we met up with 11 other couples to begin the rally.  I had no idea what to expect.   

We were greeted at the airport by some folks from Ferrari of Tampa Bay who drove us to the Ferrari staging area, Whitney Oaks Country Club.  

Our cars were strategically placed in a circle drive surrounding a fountain, reminiscent of a beautiful Tuscan villa.  Each car had been labeled with the event's logo and a car number.  My yellow 458 Spider is number 12.  

We had lunch on a terrace over looking the car display as folks meandered around the vehicles, snapping photos and drooling over each one.  

After lunch, it was time to lock and load.  

Sharon and I went to the yellow #12 458 Spider where Thaddeus, the Ferrari expert technician, showed me how to turn on the headlights, how to tune in the satellite radio, AND to my surprise, I discovered that I have a large trunk.  Sharon didn't have to downsize her purse after all.  

Around 3:00, a line of 12 gorgeous Ferrari's set out on our journey to Lake Tahoe.  Gil had the pole position.  I was second in line.  

We made our way from the Whitney Oaks Country Club to the interstate where Gil turned it on.  Apparently Gil has only two speeds, slow and wide open throttle!  The line of Ferrari's raced down the interstate reaching speeds of 105 miles per hour as folks hung out of car windows to take photos of us.  

For those of you who don't know, a Ferrari 458 Spider is really a street legal race car.  The speedometer registers 220 miles per hour.  If one drives over a coin on the road, the suspension is such that you can identify whether it's heads or tails.  Just kidding about the heads or tails thing, but it definitely rides like a fine tuned racing machine.

The views changed dramatically as we drove toward Lake Tahoe.  However, at 105 miles per hour, the only view I was concentrating on were the taillights of the Ferrari directly in front of me.  At these speeds, and with the convertible top down , conversation between Sharon and I was impossible.  I have to give Sharon credit.  She is a GREAT passenger.  If I had been the passenger driving at these speeds, racing down the interstate, I would have had white knuckles AND white hair!  However, she said she felt incredibly confident in my driving.  I'm glad SHE was confident.  I was just holding on and trying to keep up.  How does my racing friend Kenny drive at speeds three times this fast.  I have a new appreciation for The King of Speed!!

The scenery could have been exquisite, but we saw it through a haze of smoke.  Lingering, smelling of ash in the air and burning our eyes, smoke from the California fires hung heavily in the air, giving the appearance of thick fog, 

I haven't driven this car much in the past three years, so I'm still learning my way around it.  I commented to Sharon how quickly the temperature had dropped once we reached the mountains, from 94 to 80.  Even though it didn't feel like the temperature was dropping, I tried to convince myself the air was cooling, when I suddenly realized that I was looking at the digital speedometer instead of the thermometer.  That was a blonde moment.

I had no trouble keeping up with the lead car in front of me and we were running rapidly down the highway when Sharon received a text that we needed to make a fuel stop.  So we all exited the road and pulled into a gas station.  It gave me a chance to catch my breath and break the death grip that I had on the steering wheel.  When we pulled out of the gas station, I politely waved cars along and when we finally pulled out, I realized I was no longer behind the lead car, but rather dead last!   I felt very secure in the middle of the pack, but very vulnerable in the last position.  Sort of  like  when hiking ... the last person in line gets eaten by the bear. I just knew I was going to get stopped by the police, ticketed and hauled away to jail for excessive speeding.  And nobody would have known because as fast as they were driving, they'd be in the next state before they realized I was gone.  Fortunately, there was no police incident.  The other drivers were quite surprised that I could keep up with the pack.   I think I earned some healthy respect from the seasoned members of the rally. We arrived at the Ritz Carlton of Lake Tahoe in record time.

Shortly after checking in to the hotel, we taxied to the Lone Eagle Grill at the Hyatt Regency, for a late dinner.  On the shores of Lake Tahoe, the restaurant offers spectacular views and an amazing dining experience making it one of the top restaurants in Lake Tahoe. The restaurant was packed, the food was great, the surroundings were lovely, but most of these folks arrived today from the east coast.  By the time we finished dinner, it was nearly 2:30 east coast time.  We were all  exhausted, so the 30 minute taxi ride back to the Ritz was very quiet.  

Tomorrow, we're off for a ride around the lake to South Lake Tahoe for a lake cruise.  Hopefully, the smoke will clear.