Monday, September 23, 2019

One more sweep alongside California’s colorful shores!

There are trips we take where we just going through the routines and where the time away from home is dedicated to working with our clients. And then there are other trips where we continue to be very much business focused and yet the scenery we pass is inescapably beautiful. Margo and I spent many years living in California – both in the surrounds of Los Angeles and San Francisco – where the simple beauty of California’s coastline never failed to delight us. Of course, it helps when the weather lends a helping hand and for this trip, the ocean fog left us alone. 

Coming from Australia naturally enough I discount the beauty California affords those who visit its shores as there really is nothing that comes close to the golden beaches of Sydney, but then again, I am sure there are those who will argue fervently that California has everyone beat. However, with summer coming to a close, this trip was as much about where we dined and what we dined on as it was about taking in the sights, but then again, they proved too hard to ignore! As we made our way along the California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway, it became perfectly clear to both of us that this was scenery you could never tire of witnessing!

We had a busy schedule all laid out that involved us meeting with clients as well as attending a major HPE-sponsored event put on solely for the HPE NonStop vendor community. After more than four decades and following the decision by HPE that NonStop would be core to its future software offerings, there have been major investments made in NonStop, but this is not the post to talk about that aspect of our business trip. No, as the company planning division so vital to the functioning of Pyalla Technologies came to conclude, if we bookended our business activities with weekends, we would have time for a couple of leisurely meals with business colleagues and friends.

One of our dearest friends for many years now has been the Kennys – Brian and Jan. Even as our time would be spent almost entirely in Northern California, on this occasion we were going to make sure we had time to celebrate an early birthday with Brian and we started early with breakfast on the beach. As for the venue for such an occasion, the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach proved an excellent choice (and one we can recommend) even as it provided the backdrop that we never tire of, no matter what the events of the week had delivered.

Birthday with the Kennys has been featured in previous posts as in 2010 we were on track with them at Nürburgring, Germany and in 2013, we again celebrated, but that time, on the beaches surrounding Sydney, Australia. And tradition has dictated that celebrating Brian’s birthday wouldn’t be complete without a birthday dinner followed by cake! As we returned to spend more focused time with our clients in the Bay, I have to thank our company planning division which by now, if you haven’t guessed, is headed by Pyalla’s own Cofounder and COO, Margo!

If there was a theme that developed during this latest excursion to the West Coast it began on California’s beaches. Yes, this trip certainly became one where food and wine were the highlight. Up and down the coastline there are numerous villages you just have to stop in and check out … for no other reason perhaps then to sample the freshly roasted coffee many of them still take time to do despite the ever-present Starbucks green-umbrella flanked stores. One such little township we always find time to visit is Cambria as it represents the starting point for any tour along California’s most picturesque coastal highway 1 or, as it just happens to be, the best part of the Pacific Coast Highway.

In Cambria you will find Linn’s of Cambria that happens to be a combination restaurant, coffee shop and patisserie. It’s famous for individual serving sizes of various fruit based meringue pies. Lemon, raspberry and on this occasion, along with a traditional Rasberry Meringue Pie they were serving Olallieberry Cream Puffs so we chose one of each. If, like Margo and I, you aren’t familiar with the Olallieberry, it happens to be the marketing name for the 'Olallie' blackberry that is a “cross between the 'Black Logan' (syn. 'Mammoth'), developed by Judge James Logan in California, and the youngberry, which was developed by Byrnes M. Young in Louisiana.” Today, it’s cultivated by Linn’s of Cambria and if you want to taste one of their pies together with this puff, you will just have to pay them a visit.

For many years, a drive to Cambria was something we did frequently when we lived in California and the town changed little over the years. The eastern end of the town has come on a lot through the years but it is still the old part of Cambria we like the most and while we have only stayed there once, it is the Rigdon Hotel we can recommend – the rooms are massive particularly if you select one of the king size rooms! But Cambria is really only the start of highway 1 and it’s most famous home happens to be just up the road – the Hearst Mansion or should we say, the Hearst Castle!  

However, it’s not the towns or the castles that are the main attraction but the highway itself. As has been so often said in posts to this blog, it’s not the destination but the journey itself and to that end, it all comes down to the path chosen and while this is a reference to California Highway 1, it can never be referred to as the path less chosen. On any given weekend it is a major tourist attraction and following an extended period where it was closed to traffic, it’s recent reopening meant the lines were long but for all those in vehicles making this highway the feature of a day’s outing then yes, it was always about the vistas that kept on changing with every turn on the road.

And did we mention the bridges? They too just have to be seen to appreciate the work that goes into keeping this highway open for all. The trouble with this highway is that it is built on the very edge of basically sand hills and with each winter storm, each bushfire and yes, mudslides that inevitably follow bushfires and winter storms, devastate the road. On our last trip down under, we drove on a highway south of Sydney that routinely was affected in the same manner to where the solution became one where the highway was rebuilt on stanchions anchored to the seabed and away from the coastline itself. Unfortunately, this is California and I can only guess at the uproar that would come should California Highways try to do something similar to mitigate the usual almost annual rebuilding of this fabulous highway that is California Highway 1!  

Following my move to California in 1989 that eventually proved to be permanent, there wasn’t any opportunity lost or excuses made whenever thoughts turned to spending a day in Monterrey or in having lunch in Carmel. I have to admit early on it was always a stop by Carmel’s mayor favorite jaunt, Hogg’s Breath Inn. Clint Eastwood sold it back in 1999 but up until then, there was always the chance to catch a glimpse of the “Man with No Name!” The food wasn’t that good but as for the atmosphere, the pub certainly had its charm. But on this trip, we stopped by a pub that was down in the basement of a local mall off Ocean Avenue – Yeast of Eden. 

There is always a sighting or two of an interesting car and this time, parked outside an art gallery was an Aston Martin slathered in paint that for some looked artistic but to Margo and me, absolutely ruined the Aston. Then again, there was the usual mix of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bentleys – the last mentioned in racing livery and representative of a time when Bentley was better known for its racing heritage. Then again, just up the road was Monterrey’s most famous attraction, right? I am talking about the road course at Laguna Seca that would be the home for a weekend of the last race on the Indy series calendar.
With business wrapped up in the Bay and the time with HPE at its new San Jose headquarters behind us, our drive back home to Windsor, Colorado unfolded without incident. For this trip we had elected to drive our recently leased BMW M4 Competition and while this car lived up to its own racing heritage, it wasn’t quite the grand tourer we expected. Removing as much sound proofing as BMW had done to help lighten the vehicle meant that on many of the concrete interstates we encountered we couldn’t hear each other talk. Then again, this had the effect of letting us take in more of the scenery as we did take roads a little less travelled as we made our way home via South Lake Tahoe – a return to driving parts of US Highway 50. 

We overnighted in Park City, Utah, which also allowed us time to walk along Main Street and to check out the restaurant scene. This time – yes, it was only our second time to Park City having zipped past it on previous trips along Interstate 80 – we found The Riverhorse on Main. A round of old fashioned followed by filets and then topped off with a blueberry cobbler well, what can we say? We have found our new best steakhouse in Utah! It’s going to be hard to plan future trips across Wyoming and Utah without stopping in at this Park City steakhouse. Even though the tables were all full, we enjoyed ourselves eating at the bar which surprisingly isn’t all that strange for us and a style of eating we have now replicated in our Windsor home. Stop by, when you have an opportunity and we will provide you with a round of old fashion cocktails as well!     
Before wrapping up this post it wouldn’t be fair or indeed appropriate given our travels if we didn’t mention what transpired for the Kennys immediately following our time in California. References to racing heritage without a pause for a quick update on the Hertas, the Kenny’s son-in-law Bryan as well as grandson, Colton wouldn’t be a good way to end this post. Needless to say, throughout the course of 2019 there has been numerous references made to Bryan Herta and his son Colton or, as they now are saying, Colten Herta and his dad, Bryan, but with Colton an emerging star on the Indy Car racing scene, it just happened that his star shone very brightly this past weekend.

From the time they rolled his Indy Car #88 off the trailer for testing, it was fast. Colton topped the timesheets in early testing sessions even as fellow Indy racers were a bit concerned about their own rides. Famous racers like Australia’s own Wil Power struggled initially, but not Colton. By the time official practice sessions began, Colton was in full control of his car and set times to match. But even so, testing and practice aren’t the real deal as teams test different setups and tire combinations. However, comes the time to qualify, Colton topped the time sheets again and landed his third pole position of the year.   

I will be writing a more complete post of Colton’s first year as a full time Indy Racer shortly, but suffice to say that in a year when the Rookies made their mark – four of them battled each other throughout the year – as this final race at Laguna Seca got under way, Colton was the only Rookie with a win and the only Rookie with three poles. P1 is important as starting at the very front of the grid means first sight of the very first corner and a chance to escape any chaos that might erupt as the adrenalin kicks in. While there were no crashes at the start, Colton demonstrated that he was going to be a force to reckon with during the race as he held his line and forced Kiwi driver, Scott Dixon, into the dirt. Not this time and yes, remember the Texas Speedway!

How did it all turn out? Well yes, Colton won his second race of the year – the only Rookie in his class this year to win a race, let alone two and yes, the only Rookie to be on pole and he managed that three times. So what was the reaction from grandparents Brian and Jan? Perhaps it was a fitting exclamation point to our time in California for them to send us a photo taken as Colton sat with his car and the winner’s trophy. And as the weekend news cycle continued, Colton is now part of the Andretti racing team and with that, who knows what will transpire next year. As for Margo and me, we still have a couple more trips to complete before 2019 comes to an end and yes, there are still many more restaurants to sample, but for this most recent trip, we definitely enjoyed times where we had our cake and yes, ate it too!