Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wine Traveler’s Travels Vol. 14 (From the Archives #13 missing)


            This fine Monday morning I am headed to a city I have been to a few times before, Modesto, California.  There are two hospitals in this area that have our software and I am making a courtesy visit to both of them.  My only choice of airlines is United, the first leg is on a 737 and since this is actually Shuttle by United, we board in “zones” The 737 is roomier than an MD-80 and they have an entertainment system, audio only, which makes this hour and forty five minute flight zip right by.  We are offered the usual complementary soft drinks and juices, and breakfast on this 7 AM flight is a tiny shortbread cookie. 
I connect in San Francisco to United Express, which only flies turboprops into Modesto.  They used to have an earlier connecting flight but that has now been discontinued and I have a two-hour layover.  I checked out the snack bars in the San Francisco airport and decided I wasn’t hungry enough to pay $3 for a bagel.  I once tried the closest city that flies jets and it was about three hours away.  While the only beverage choice is bottled water, the snacks on this short flight are much better than the big jet; they offer a choice of nuts, snack bars, cookies and pretzels.  After only twenty minutes in the air we arrived at Modesto.
Hertz surprised me with a Sebring Convertible; the surprising part was that because this is a non-billable trip I had to book an economy car.  I guess the new Five Star gold card I got last week from Hertz really does get me automatic upgrades.  Unfortunately it is January and I tried putting the top down and running the heat but that just didn’t feel right.  It was still a joy to drive.  I’m staying at the Holiday Inn again, which has a wonderful restaurant that offers 50% off to hotel guests. 
I checked in just past noon and changed clothes before going up to the hospital.  After a few hours there I head back to the hotel.  I ordered the Rosemary Chicken, this was half a roasted chicken superbly seasoned with rosemary and cooked to a tenderness just this side of heaven, I even ate the dark meat.  It was served with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.  The vegetables were these little yellow squashes sautéed with little baby carrots that still had a bit of the stem on the top and strips of red pepper, obviously cooked to order as they still had a light crunch.  The posted price for this meal, which included bread and soup or salad, was $17; I was charged $8.50.  Modesto is the home of Ernest and Julio Gallo wineries and the Diamond Walnut Company.   
Tuesday morning I stopped by the restaurant to pick up my complementary breakfast of coffee and a huge muffin, banana nut.  While working with the nurses who were stressing over the new system I decided to buy them Pizza for lunch.  They recommended a local place called Mountain Mikes.  I ordered six pizzas; two combinations, two pepperoni, a cheese, and a vegetarian.  The Combination had more toppings than I have seen ever on a pizza.  And the Vegetarian looked like it had a whole chef salad on it; large slices of tomato, artichoke hearts and other veggies.  The Nurse manager asked that I visit the night shift so I went back to the hotel and slept for a couple of hours, skipping supper since I had the pizza for lunch, then returned to the night shift, for these nurses I brought some microwave popcorn and Sam’s Choice cookies from Wal-mart.  I really love the quality of Sam’s choice products, their chocolate chip cookies have more chips than any other cookie I know and they really taste like chocolate. 
Wednesday morning I grabbed another muffin and coffee to go and headed in to the hospital.  The nurses here are just wonderful and much more comfortable with the software after I helped them with a few shortcuts, and re-enforced the training I had given previously.  This evening I ate at the hotel again trying their Cajun Barbee, this was a skewer of Cajun spiced shrimp and vegetables with a side of rice and fresh vegetables.  The fresh vegetables this time were those little squashes again with fresh spinach and onion lightly sautéed.  These little squashes are about the size of a large grape and the shape reminds me of the stones in Wilma Flintstone’s necklace.  I chose the Cream of Broccoli soup to go with this meal. I ordered desert Tiramisu and coffee.  Again I was not disappointed my cost for this meal was $ 12.50
Thursday I had to visit the other hospital, which is in the town of Oakdale, California.  This quiet little town claims to be the cowboy capital of the world they have a cowboy museum as well as a Hershey Chocolate factory.  I did not have time to visit them on this visit but have in previous visits.  The drive to this little town takes you through grape vineyards and almond orchards.  I have yet to see a cowboy or any cows here, but they do have a yearly Rodeo that I have seen advertised.  I returned to Modesto later that night and ate at the Holiday Inn again; this time I tried their Kansas City Strip Steak.  This was a generous cut of perfectly prepared beef.  Cooked rare by the true definition, well grilled on the outside and tender red on the inside.  I have had Filet Mignon that was not as tender as this steak; it came with a baked potato and fresh veggies, those little squashes again with grilled onions and yellow pepper slices.  I finally had to ask about these squashes they are called Russet.  I will have to look for these they taste like yellow summer squash, only bite size.  This meal listed for $21; hotel guest price $10.50.  I skipped lunch each day to make sure I had room for these meals.  This Holiday Inn also sports a large indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and weight room.  All for a great price of $80/night. 
My trip home Thursday morning was a reverse of the trip here first the little prop plane with the great snack choices then the big plane with a tiny bag of pretzels for lunch.  United Airlines has left me less than impressed but the service was great and while I appreciate the complimentary audio entertainment they do not provide clean headphones to listen to it with I would think this would be some sort of health violation.  I’m sure those foam earpieces would be a great transmission vector for lice and other infectious diseases, maybe it’s just the nurse in me. 

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