Friday, August 26, 2011

Wine Traveler’s Travels part 4 (From the archives)

Tuesday 19-SEP-2000

This morning I am winging off to Oakdale, California, via San Jose on Alaska Airlines.  I specifically booked this flight due to the listed equipment was a Boeing 737-400.  I arrived in plenty of time with my wallet and new pager.  I parked my van at the MasterPark lot where you get to drop your vehicle at the door they cart your bags to the waiting bus then whisk you off to the entrance of the airport.  They know me so well here they will tell me how fresh the coffee is as soon as they see me.  Well the first change this morning was the gate, not much of a change, from D-1 to D-3.  They started boarding the plane after about 2 minutes they stopped and made an announcement that the type of plane had been changed and that the following people had to come to the desk for new seat assignments.  “Uh oh” I thought Here goes my luck and sure enough it was an MD-80 and all those people who were in the D seats now had seats in the rear of the plane.  The MD-80 is narrower and longer than the 737 instead of two sets of three seats in a row they have one set of three and one set of two and the rows are much closer together.  Using my laptop is next to impossible without getting cramps.  The one saving grace of this flight was that Alaska always serves Seattle’s Best Coffee, which is so much better than Starbucks.  We were also served our choice of a raspberry coffeecake or an orange and currant scone.  I chose the scone that was very flavorful but a little too moist to be called a scone. 

Despite the Travel Agent’s assurances that San Jose was closer to my destination than Sacramento which I requested (67 miles verses 77), the neverlost system in my Ford Taurus from Hertz told me it was 98 miles.  But the Drive was very interesting I passed through the hills where all the power-generating windmills are, it was such a site.  This is one of those trips I really wish I had a digital camera to capture the sites with.  I have thought of bringing my 35-mm camera but I have about 45 rolls of film at home that need to be developed, so that wouldn’t be worth the space it would take up.  I keep watching the prices are getting better and so is the quality.  Then I passed through the farming area of the Central Valley of California.  Almond and Pistachio orchards, vineyards and strawberry fields forever. 

Oakdale is a quaint little town that claims to be the Cowboy Capitol, it seems the national rodeo circuit starts out here, though I saw no cowboys, Central Florida had more cowboys than this.  I had to go straight to the hospital to start work I was there until about 6pm.  I had booked my lodging at the Best Western Rama Inn, a nice hotel I have stayed at before.  As I walked in the lady at the counter smiled.  I said, “I’m here for one of your fine rooms.”  She said she had just the room for me, it was to be a suite which she said because I was a business traveler I could have at the same rate as a regular room $59.  Well this room had a King size bed a desk and full closet and a Jacuzzi right in the room.  After the flight on the MD-80 and the two-hour drive then having to work I was ready for the tub.  I filled it up with real hot water and soaked for about 20 minutes with the jets on full.  Feeling much refreshed I looked out my window and noticed a new Mexican restaurant next door.  I walked over and was very pleased with the generous portions and great service.  I had the Chicken Mexicana, which was strips of chicken tenderloin with onions, green peppers, and Jalepenos.  Served with refried beans, rice and tortillas.  I left very full.  Back in my room I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed.  The next day was another full day at the hospital with return trips at 7:30 PM and 12:30 am to do some trouble shooting.  If it hadn’t been for the Pizza I bought for the staff at lunchtime I wouldn’t have eaten at all this day.  When I got back to the hotel at 9pm I was too tired to wait for the tub in my room to fill so I went to the indoor pool and hot tub there at the hotel and was pleasantly surprised to find it was hot.  It has been a common occurrence to find hotel hot tubs to be cooler than my pool was in Florida.  When I mention it to the staff they usually say that too many people complain that it is too hot when the set it at the mandatory 103-104 degrees that most Health Departments require for sanitary reasons.  This is also where it is most therapeutic.  The only disappointing thing about this stay was they charged me long distance for my local calls to my ISP, this will be credited after I showed the manager the phone book, which listed the exchange I called as a toll free local number.  This occurred when I checked out Thursday morning.  That day at the hospital with the help of Tech support we were able to get their system functioning better though it took all day.  I had to reschedule my flight for later that night.  Then we ran into a problem that required me to stay over another night.  The hotel I had just checked out of was now full so I had to drive about thirty minutes to the next town of Modesto.  The caveat here was there is a great restaurant here called St. Stan’s.  They have their own microbrewery and great food as well as live entertainment Weds-Sat.  I sat down and the barmaid came over promptly and asked what I would like to drink.  They had 9 of their own brews on tap.  I was undecided between the Amber and the Virgin Amber.  She explained that the Virgin Amber has less of the yeast filtered out so I tried that one it was very full bodied with good hops taste.  I ordered Wiener Schnitzel, you would think with a name like Schessler I would have had Wiener Schnitzel before, I had always assumed this was some sort of sausage.  Well this was some very lean pork finely breaded and sautéed in butter and lemon.  It was served with fries, which were lightly battered potato wedges, and a vegetable medley that had broccoli, carrots, beansprouts red peppers and snow peas.  The veggies are perfectly cooked, not too soft not too crisp.  I had a second beer while listening to the band which consisted of three guys two with guitars and one vocalist though all three sang. The Barmaid informed me that the band’s name was Chandler-Pratt.  Two of the guys are 16 and one is 22.  They did some classics from Jimmy Buffet to Leonard Skynard. 

The travel agent had gotten me a room at the Courtyard that was very nice but not as welcoming as the Best Western, not to mention the lack of the in room Jacuzzi.  The next day I ended up not finishing till after 4pm this just left me enough time to get back to San Jose.  Well it seems that due to construction it took over 45 minutes to get in the entrance of the airport and through the car rental return.  I missed my flight, fortunately they were able to get me on the next flight.  To my delight a 737 pulled up to the gate.  The flight home was uneventful though roomier than the fight down.  I got in about 11pm I had to stop by the office on the way home to drop off some papers and pick up some things for my next trip.  I left the office about 1AM.

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