Before driving our second day on the trip from Portland to Yosemite National Park, we stayed at the Sacramento Marriott Residence Inn on a Wednesday evening and as we walked into the lobby, we saw quite a few people with “Blue Angels” insignia on their apparel. Sacramento was having an air show that weekend and the Blue Angels were obviously, the featured flyers.
Given the number of Navy personnel in the hotel associated with the prestigious military program (logistics, mechanics, flight and maintenance and marketing besides the five pilots), it prompted me to check out the estimated cost to taxpayers each year for this group. And it ranges from $40 million to $120 million assuming no aircraft is lost.
And flying for the Blue Angels can be a hazardous occupation. According to a June 27, 2016 opinion piece in the Pensacola News Journal http://www.pnj.com/story/news/2016/06/26/viewpoint-cut-blue-angels-federal-budget/86404042/.
They have lost 66 pilots/crew in training, air shows or transport accidents since inception in 1946, the last of which was this year. Notwithstanding all the positive aspects of their performances and that of the Thunderbirds, their Air Force counterpart, it does raise some interesting policy questions about whether this part of the national defense budget could be more effectively deployed.
On to Yosemite through some beautiful country. Once we left I-5 in Corning and traveled the 256 miles to Rush Creek Lodge – not actually in the Park because all of those options were filled even though it was after school had started in September – but a beautiful new lodge just outside the west entrance.
Even with the throngs of tourists and Yosemite being in the midst of a road construction process that required multiple detours, seeing the majestic natural beauty was memorable. In our two and one-half days there, we hit most of the highlights, El Capitan, the Half Dome and a hike down to the Tuolumne Sequoia Grove.
Then another two-mile hike up (that’s no exaggeration) to the beautiful Vernal Falls. We did that after our hike to the Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls revealed that during the summer and fall, these beautiful cascading waterfalls captured in many of Ray Atkinson’s beautiful photos dry up!
We also enjoyed eating twice in the Rush Creek Lodge Bar where based on the bartender’s recommendation I tried two pilsners – one from California’s Firestone-Walker Brewery which was watery and very disappointing and the second, which was excellent, from the nearby Dust Bowl Brewery.
This picture of the famous Yosemite Majestic Lodge is evidence that the name is justified and they also have a very nice bar.
Janet acceded to my plea that even though the scenery had been beautiful , that we travel a different route to return to I-5 and the long drive north to Portland. That proved to be a great decision. We drove California Route 4 through what has been described as “The Next Napa” – numerous vinyards and wineries in a beautiful rural setting.
And then we went through Angels’ Camp, a little burg of 3,835 and the only incorporated city in Calaveras County, CA.
It’s where Mark Twain resided temporarily in 1865 when he wrote the short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calevaras County,” his first success as a writer.
A few miles farther and we came to Murphys California, another small town (or according to the Census Bureau, a CDP or “Census Designated Place”) with only 2,200 permanent residents. Our timing was fortuitous, because it was the first Saturday in October and that means thousands of people converge on this colorful little town for the 23rd Annual Calaveras County Grape Stomp.
Main Street was closed down and the throng inspected the booths lining both sides of the street ranging from artists and craftspeople, to wineries to advocates for the State of Jefferson – right across the street from a booth housing the Calaveras County Democratic Central Committee. Jefferson seeks to form a new identity for northern California and southern Oregon.
A stop in the historic Murphys Hotel and Saloon – first opened as a stagecoach stop in 1856 – and the Murphys Irish Pub – just opened in 2016 – showed that they were filled to capacity with those celebrating this festival which was the epitome of Americana.
We had lunch at Murphys’ Pour House and tried our second Dust Bowl Brewery – the Son of Wrath Double IPA, which as was the Dust Bowl Pilsner the night before, a good beer and one of sixteen the Pour House had on tap.
Check out this link which gives background and history of the Grape Stomp (http://www.calaverasgrapestomp.com/) and plan to make this a stop on a future road trip. You won’t be disappointed……
This one was Woody’s Brewing Company and our server, Naomi, although she had only worked there for about six months, was a wealth of information about their sixteen beers on tap (five of which are brewed in their 10 barrel operation on site at the brew-pub) and the history of the brewery.
Woody’s is another of the examples Thebeerchaser has chronicled and never tires of – a family (three brothers – Pat, Scott and Andrew Wlodarczyk) who fulfilled their dream:
“Woody’s Brewing Co. is a dream of many decades that finally evolved from a love to consume and brew beer, to all other activities involved with it. We are a brewery that started out with three men’s passion to deliver good beer in a great atmosphere. We are believers of the do it yourself attitude and feel that mantra shines through in our high quality and artfully perfected ales.”
They started brewing in 1984 and although still a small operation, from what we saw, they’re still going strong and do good work helping Redding non-profit organizations.
I had an Asian chicken salad and Janet had fish and chips – both of which got very good ratings. And we definitely liked our beers – mine was Woody’s Apricot Wheat Ale and Janet tried their Teacher’s Aide – a robust amber ale.
Their food gets great ratings on social media and we echoed the sentiments of these two recent Yelp reviews:
“Good beer, quick friendly service, bar style food.
Nice “hidden gem” of a brewery”. (September 29, 2016)
“Wonderful local brewery and eatery. IPA is awesome! Great atmosphere downtown Redding and wonderful staff. A Redding must visit.” (October 21, 2016)
After the drive through Shasta country, the Siskiyou Mountains and up I-5 with a short stop for a large ice-cream cone ((although now somewhat diminished and more expensive than what we remembered on long ago road trips) at the infamous K & R Drive Inn at the Rice Hill I-5 exit in southern Oregon, we made it back home.
And while Thebeerchaser is officially done with political campaigns and election results, I feel compelled to offer my own comment about our road trip in response to those who rile people up by denigrating America with negative bloviating about how we need to remake the US.
“While the US has many challenges and has not done an effective job in resolving a number of problems, we traveled more than 2,500 miles in five and one-half days through incredibly beautiful countryside on both interstate highways (with clean and impressive rest stops) and well-maintained state roads and county by-ways.
We visited another one of our renowned National Parks – one of sixty-one in the Park system’s Centennial Year, a national treasure and where we interacted with citizens from many countries there to gasp at the splendid scenery.
We marveled (in Yosemite and the other National Parks we have visited in Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Montana, South Carolina and Washington in the last three years) at the the vision of leaders, politicians and citizens to preserve this bounty for future generations. We even saw a pay-telephone in Yosemite.
Mugs were raised at small breweries – the end result of the dreams of young entrepreneurs that grew into thriving businesses through hard work and business acumen. We ate at bars and restaurants which demonstrated the enterprising talent and creativity of their owners and which employed hardworking and friendly people dedicated to serving the clientele.
Wineries, rice and wheat fields, dairy and beef cattle ranches, and orchards stretched for miles outside well-designed cities with urban growth boundaries preserving this agricultural resource. We joined about 10,000 other people in a showing of pure Americana as we celebrated a local festival in a rural California community.
And, of course, we cannot forget the wonderful people we met from Savannah, the restaurant manager at Caldera Brewery, to the National Park rangers, to the couple visiting from the United Kingdom who raved about the beauty of Yosemite, to Amanda, our outstanding server at Woody’s Brewery in Redding.”