Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Weekend in Gold Country: Virginia City, NV

With a few days off for Memorial Day Weekend, we decided to take the new Subaru Crosstrek (named Black Panther, and affectionately referred to as Panthy) for his first trip through the mountains to test out that AWD. Since we had never been to Virginia City, we thought this was a great opportunity to do some exploring in gold country.

We headed out Saturday afternoon, hitting horrible traffic due to a combination of the holiday weekend and the BottleRock festival in Napa. We planned to break up the 4.5 hour drive with a stopover in Sacramento, and checked into our accommodations near the freeway around 7:00 PM. With such last-minute plans and our dachshund Dave with us, lodging options were limited, and we ended up at the Red Roof Inn & Suites. While the lobby was very nice and the rooms newly renovated, it pretty much lived up to our expectations of a shady motel. The floors hadn't been cleaned and there were long dark hairs in the bathtub, the bed was hard and the towels scratchy, but they had a big screen TV and air conditioning, plus pets could stay free and there was even a discount promotion for the month of May. A free breakfast included cereal and waffles, and even though the location wasn't in a nice area of town, it was immediately off the freeway for easy access to our route, and right next to a Starbucks for convenient caffeine. This almost made up for finding hypodermic needles discarded on the ground just outside of the parking lot!

And that would be a discarded needle...

For dinner met with up my friend Kami at River City Brew Co., which is located in the Milagro Center, a dog friendly venue that has some really cute outdoor seating areas surrounded by restaurants and cafes. We ended the night with some red velvet gelato that tasted exactly like a cupcake!

On Sunday morning, we headed out early and made our way through the winding mountain roads to Nevada. We rolled into Virginia City around 1:00 PM and checked into the Virginia City Inn, which was a significant upgrade from our previous night's stay. While still a small, locally owned establishment, this historic motel was wonderfully clean with each room decorated in a theme appropriate for the region. We had the Miner's Room, which sported old maps and photos on the walls and a blue and white quilt that seemed to bring you right back in time. We were located right on the main road with a view of the valley below, and our assigned parking spot backed up right to our room for easy unloading. The sheets were truly some of the softest sheets I've ever slept on, and the towels were also soft and fluffy. Dave even had a huge patch of grass with a beautiful view to run around on behind the hotel. I would definitely recommend staying here, especially if you enjoy immersing yourself in local culture. 

We spent the afternoon walking around downtown, checking out some of the saloons and souvenir shops. Many places allow dogs inside and even have bowls of water out front for your pooch. Dave absolutely hated walking on the wooden planks that made up the walkway, and frequently gave up and refused to continue. We carried him around in his travel bag, which also kept people from trying to touch him too much (he hates being approached by strangers...it really stresses him out). The places was absolutely packed, with such an interesting mix of people there for the weekend. It was fascinating to see those dressed up in clothing to fit the period integrated with modern cowboys and your average tourists in yoga pants and flip flops. 

Next we went to check out the old cemetery, which is rumored to be haunted. Also dog friendly, we spent some time checking out the old graves dating back from the mid 1800s to as recently as 2016. As we were leaving, we saw some wild horses grazing nearby. This was a fun surprise; I'd never even thought about the possibility of running into wild horses! 

We drove around the town to see some of the interesting architecture and historical sites, which is easy to do in a few minutes. Wild life is abundant, and in addition to more wild horses, we encountered big lizards, rabbits, deer, and birds of all kinds. 

By the time we were ready to eat, we headed back to the main strip to find that most of the restaurants had closed at 4:00 PM. I suppose they do most of their business with day visitors who come through, as pretty much everything was closed down by the time we arrived around 4:30-5:00, with the street almost deserted. We decided to have dinner at the Cider Factory since they were a) open, and b) allowed dogs on their outdoor patio. 

We read about the restaurant's interesting history as a cider factory, award-winning restaurant, and inn (Marilyn Monroe stayed there!) while eating our Chicken Saltimbocca and drinking honey apple hard cider. It was a nice way to end the day!

Once it got dark, we headed out to see the downtown area at night (maybe we'd see a ghost?!) and in hunt of dessert. Let me tell you, there is nothing open at 8:30 PM in this town at all, not even a gas station. We eventually found a vending machine in the lobby of one of the more modernized hotels. You definitely want to do your shopping early here. 

On Monday morning, we cruised through downtown for a final look before heading out for the day. We stopped in Reno for some breakfast, and dueled with holiday traffic the whole way home, stopping briefly in Old Sacramento to stretch our legs and grab some mini donuts. Again, the amount of people out was overwhelming and with temperatures near 100, we kept our visit short.

Overall, Virginia City is definitely a fun and quick trip worth a visit.. Since the museums and tours do not allow dogs, if you plan on bringing Fido along, make sure you have someone you can switch on and off with to make the most of your stay. You can easily do everything you want in Virginia City in a day, and skip the holiday weekends if you want to avoid the crowds.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Maui Christmas Day 8: Bikini Bellinis & Double Rainbows

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday morning, we got up and made sure we were all packed and ready to check out by 10:00 AM. With the resort at 100% capacity, there were no late check outs available, so we had some time to kill before our 3:30 PM flight home.

As if in a final, glorious farewell, that morning we were greeted with a massive and full rainbow just outside of our window. This is one of those moments that photographs will never do justice to how magical it was.

Heading a few establishments down, we opted for brunch at Duke’s, another beach front restaurant at a nearby condominium resort. The food was AMAZING. I had a Bikini Bellini with Applewood smoked bacon and homestyle potatoes while Todd went for the incredible banana and macadamia nut pancakes. A perfect last meal, and I highly recommended if you are in the area.

We had extra time before our flight, but all of the activities we were interested in and in the proximity of the airport were closed on Sunday. I suggest planning ahead to avoid a similar scenario, as the Kahului Airport is not the most thrilling to kill time at.

Searching for dinner in the koi pond

Overall, it was a wonderful trip. I think everyone should take a nice week-long time out, especially during a traditionally hectic time like the holiday season, to just relax, connect with nature and/or your loved ones, and disconnect from the hustle and hurry of your day-to-day. Fly Hawaiian Airlines if you can. They treat you like you are on vacation from the moment you step on the plane. Their premium seating is FANTASTIC—we had our own little alcove with enormous leg room and it was fairly secluded; not quite first class, but certainly a major upgrade from economy. They also provided warm sandwiches on par with Starbucks paninis and those Hawaiian Sweet Maui Onion chips for meals, with complimentary rum punch. It’s like the Happy Hour just continued on the plane! I would say certainly a step up from traditional plane food I've had in the past on other airlines.

Things on our list for next time:

  • Hidden petroglyphs and village ruins over on the Hana side
  • Makena Beach
  • Bamboo Forest
  • Makawao
  • Koki Beach

Until then, Aloha!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Maui Christmas Day 7: Dragon's Teeth & Labyrinths

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday was our last full day on the island. We started with a beach adventure at our resort—Todd rented some snorkeling gear from the activities counter, and I accompanied him into the water with Orangina II for her maiden sea voyage.

Lei washing up on shore. It seemed like a metaphor.

The ocean in front of our place is usually very calm with minimal waves and clear water, which makes it ideal for swimming. Combined with the reef just yards from shore, it's also ideal for snorkeling. Despite my paralyzing fear of sea life, I braved the depths in my innertube, holding onto Todd’s ankle as he propelled us around while looking at the fish swimming below. I only had one panic attack during this excursion so we will consider this a win, though I may not be eager to get out there again any time soon.

We wrapped up the afternoon in the swimming pool, taking Orangina for one last spin and hitting the waterslide, saying our final farewells.

It seemed as if the island knew we were leaving. We had been keeping an eye out for whales all week (mostly so I could avoid them!), which during this time of year can be seen easily from the safety of the shore or our balcony. We had spotted a few blowholes spouting periodically, but no breaches or exciting displays so far. Having almost given up, we were amazed to see what we called a “Pod Party” as we were cleaning up after our beach day. Whales were frolicking and splashing and breaching for hours, and in a huge group! It was fascinating to watch, again I must emphasize from the safety of our balcony. You could not have paid me to be on a boat during this episode.

An early dinner/late lunch brought us back to Pailolo, the beachside bar and restaurant, where I had literally the best burger of my life. I highly suggest the Trophy Burger at this establishment, which comes on a pretzel bun with super tasty French fries. The kitchen is in a food truck parked next to the bar, and as we know in San Francisco, food trucks are often the best suppliers of tasty delights, and they certainly did not disappoint. Far superior to Cheeseburger in Paradise this time around.

For sunset, we decided on one last adventure and headed out to see the Dragon’s Teeth at Kapalua, which are lava rock formations along the ocean. 

Technically called Makaluapuna Point, these interesting formations were created when lava flowing into the ocean were opposed with waves and wind, cooling into shapes that resemble dragon's teeth. 

You have to walk through the edge of a golf course near the Ritz Carlton to get there, but the view is well worth it. 

Sunset in my shades

Tortuga rocks!

It sort of feels like stepping into an ancient, enormous dragon mouth! I kept envisioning stories of the dragon coming back to life when the sun hits a particular rock in a specific way, which only happens every 1000 years or so. Maybe I should shop that idea to Netflix!

Maybe when the sun shines through this hole and hits a rock on the opposite end in a certain way, the dragon will come to life?!

On the top of the hill, there is a huge labyrinth overlooking the sea, which, to Todd’s chagrin, I insisted on walking in its entirety. I guess the most interesting photos of a rock labyrinth don't include your wife walking around in it.