Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Going coastal – I hear the call of the sea, yet again!


The sea has held a special hold on me since childhood. As children, my sister Judy and I would spend long summer days on the beach at the southern end of Avoca, just north of Sydney, on the other side of the Hawkesbury. Days spent doing little other than splashing around in the surf, walking the rock-shelf that went for a mile alongside the ocean and just building sand castles was an idyllic time in my life. It was way back in November, 2013, when I last visited Avoca and I made reference to that trip in the November 12, 2013, post to this blog, Two golds and a red! But America is now my home and trips to Australia only happen occasionally and with my new home residing far from the Pacific Ocean, it takes very little to get me heading that way, no matter the occasion.

Walking down to the beach at Carmel is always a time for reflection. I first started to take time to visit Carmel when I joined Tandem Computers in the late ‘80s. No matter the time of year, there is always something taking place and during those early days I did stumble onto the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. No such luck this time, although we did stop by the Lodge at Pebble Beach’s famous golf course. On the other hand, the wonderful Cypress Pines that make Carmel as famous as it has become are everywhere and the presence makes for good photo opportunities. 


Before we made our trip down to Monterey and Carmel we first had to drive to San Francisco. Crossing the Bay Bridge just as the sun was setting was just another reminder of how much we miss the place. On the other hand, this San Francisco is far removed from our beloved city of just a decade or so ago. For our overnight stay we elected to bed down at the Griffin Hotel right alongside the Bay Bridge which placed us just a few steps away from the Boulevard Restaurant – the site of our “Welcome to GoldenGate Software” all those years ago.

It isn’t that we want to dissuade any of our readers from visiting this most magical of cities but should your plans include a visit, be careful. There are a number of sights that you just don’t want to take in. Nevertheless, our arrival meant that we had made it once more, safely, and that our few days away from the office would be time spent with business colleagues, acquaintances and friends and for that, we will always put in the effort and simply enjoy the ride! 


As with all visits to the coast this trip involved a little business. Margo and I find very little time for vacation these days as we have a digital magazine to publish and numerous wonderful clients looking to us for content for their own publications and social media sites so it’s always a case of taking a working holiday at best. These we have been calling BizCations and looking at our calendar 2020 is going to be a very busy year for us both. Adding a little spice into the mix we have now taken on a major Silicon Valley vendor as a client so this trip was as much about looking at sites and campuses (for an update on what’s really going on in Silicon Valley) as it was thinking up new storylines.


To that end, this BizCation met its goals. And no trip to Silicon Valley should start anywhere else than with a stop by the offices of Kleiner Perkins on Sand Hill Road. That is, after stopping by Buck’s Restaurant for breakfast back up on Highway 84, Woodside. Like to look at an Apple 1 motherboard – well it’s framed and hanging from the wall. It’s rumored that more tech deals were concluded in this café than anywhere else in Silicon Valley. Then again, we arrived in Silicon Valley to unbelievably perfect weather and for the rest of the week, barely a cloud scampered across the sky. Perfect; want three perfect days on the coast well, you missed them!


If Kleiner Perkins was the catalyst for Silicon Valley’s explosive growth than what can we say about the Hearst dynasty? When it comes to publishing Randolph Hearst was among the very first American media moguls and his ranch atop the hills at San Simeon became a beacon that attracted everyone in the media, including the film industry – Hearst owning two of the movie companies of the time. However it is this architectural marvel that continues to pull in the crowds and it was something we just had to do! We had guests with us from Australia and it’s always fun to include a trip to the Hearst Castle whenever called upon to hit the high spots on a trip along the coast.



For Margo and me, being joined on this trip by Dieter and Chris Monch, with Dieter being my former boss during my time with Nixdorf Computers, was a delight. But no, it wasn’t a case of there being a strong wind blowing in from the west but rather, someone shouted that we needed to lean in! Time together gave us many opportunities to discuss the past, even as the tour of Silicon Valley was a revelation for them both – who knew that the vendor campuses would be as large as they were? Dieter is now an investor with interests in almost everything technical and so the conversations covered a lot of territory. In so doing, Margo and I came away with an abundance of potential story lines and for that we are very thankful for the chance to continue conversations that began decades ago.


We had driven down California Highway 1 from Monterey to Cambria before turning inland to visit the wineries of Paso Robles. We drove the 17 Mile Road past the many mansions before we made it to Carmel. But then it was on to Big Sur with a very short detour into the Nepenthe restaurant before arriving at Lucia. Yes, that was my drink – the Diet Coke to the right of the frame! It was hard not to be impressed with the view down the coast just as it was hard not to be impressed with the road itself. To say that it was hard to tear ourselves away from this place would be an understatement, but we still had miles to go.

It was a simple case of heading down to Cambria where we would be spending the night and where we would have the opportunity to dine at Madeline’s where the steaks proved to be an excellent choice. It would be the following morning when we circled back to San Simeon and the Hearst Castle but we didn’t leave Cambria before taking coffee and cake at Linn’s Restaurant where once again, the single portion meringue pies proved irresistible.    


We stopped by a couple of wineries in Paso Robles but none better than Justin Winery where the Justification and Isosceles wines were available for tasting. However, it was their Reserve Cabinet Sauvignon that scored with our small group. Throw in a small plate of cheese and deli cuts and you had all the ingredients necessary for a quiet afternoon of relaxation by the vines. Margo and I have been taking the roads north of Ventura that led to the wineries every opportunity we had when we lived in Simi Valley. It was perhaps the bright spot on an otherwise dreary calendar from those days – dreary, that is, except for the opportunities to spend time racing cars on road courses. On the other hand, driving through the vineyards of Paso Robles meant we had the opportunity to catch up with Cowtrina!



Yet, whether it was the vineyards of Paso Robles or more often than not, the vineyards of Santa Ynez – the location featured in the movie, Sideways – back then, there was nothing better to do than to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon tasting wine. This trip with Dieter and Chris and with meeting up with Brian and Jan brought back so many memories that it wasn’t all that hard to think up new story lines for future articles and posts. It’s almost as if with the beginning of 2020, there was a sense of expectation that our time together would only get better even as we took every opportunity afforded us to pursue working holidays whenever the opportunity presented itself.


There is nothing quite like Santa Barbara on an early January morning. Once again, not a cloud in the sky! We planned a two day break on its wonderful shoreline and that meant breakfast first at the Boathouse seaside at Hendry’s Beach followed by breakfast at Summerland Bach Café. In the meantime being in Santa Barbara meant we had an opportunity to catch up with the Kenny’s and to introduce them to Dieter and Chris and so it just had to be at Brophy’s Seafood Restaurant in Ventura for dinner. Starting late afternoon had initially surprised our guests but then, it was the only opportunity to look east as the sun set over the Pacific and see the colors of the surrounding hills change from gold through reds to deep purples. We would be ending our trip along the coastline by driving inland to Desert Springs which would be our last stop where we would end our time together over steaks at LG Prime Steakhouse.


Almost the complete opposite to what we experienced on the coast, the mountains we traversed on the way back threw everything at us. It was winter after all so what should we have expected that would have been anything different? On the way to the coast we had driven through light snow, yet again, as we drove across Wyoming and then, descending the Sierras just east of Truckee we encountered snow but the Rockies can always turn on a show. Or snow, to express it more simply. Severe weather always sounds ominous and while it slowed us down, the contrast in conditions couldn’t have been more extreme. Clouds? Well, they were everywhere and nasty looking! Golden hills? The scene was monochromatic with nothing by white atop black visible everywhere you looked!

Once again we had chosen the Range Rover and even as our model was the baby in the range – an Evoque two-door ragtop – it handled the conditions admirably. Never stepping out of line and not once communicating to us a loss of traction. We encountered a couple of icy patches and it just sailed on through. There is much to be said about the Range Rover and while it has its critics and it’s styling leaves some to shake their heads, I cannot imagine driving in winter as confidently as we have done so far this winter in anything else. And remember, previously we have owned Jeep Grand Cherokees and Cadillac Escalades, but the Range Rover’s capabilities exceeds both of them.


We may look back at this BizCation a little later in the year and think again of Silicon Valley, the wine districts and even the Hearst Castle, but it will be the coast that will feature more often than not in our conversations. To put it bluntly, I just love the coast and any chance of “going coastal” is an opportunity not to be missed by my books. So, who knows? The year and indeed the decade are quite young and there is much more Margo and I would like to accomplish. Already we know we will be in Warsaw, Poland this spring and then a few weeks later, in Berlin for our annual European HPE NonStop event, so we will not be missing out on too much.

And yet, both of us can’t stop talking about where to next – living here in Windsor, just outside Ft Collins, Colorado, is only a temporary situation we are coming to appreciate. Or is it? No matter where our travels take us I continue to hear the call of the sea. Vacillation has never been either of our strong points, so who can tell where Margo and I will end up next? Again, if we cannot return to Avoca Beach and America is now our home, going coastal opens up many opportunities so stay tuned. The story has only just begun …



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