Tag Archives: California

Travel: Napa Valley

Head north from San Francisco for about an hour, and you'll come to this lush region of rolling hills and more than 450 vineyards. Uploaded by theworldofwine.com.

It goes without saying that the Napa Valley in California is an American wine lover’s paradise.  People come for the colorful, rolling hills, the breathtaking views, the world-class hotels and restaurants – and, of course, the wine.

Oh yes, the wine.

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The Valley is about 30 miles long, and devotes about 45,000 acres to grapes. That’s only about an eighth of the size of the Bordeaux region in France. Some 450 wineries call the Napa Valley home, and most of them are open to the public. About 4.5 million people visit the area each year, and it was named “The World’s Best Food and Wine Destination” in the Trip Advisor 2010 Travelers’ Choice Awards.

A drive of about an hour north of San Francisco will bring you to Napa, and you’ll pass through scenic vineyards along the way. As you might expect from a region catering to wine lovers, things are a bit expensive in the area. But a little planning can turn up a charming bed and breakfast, or a modest bistro, or even a perfect picnic. (If you’re looking for auto parts, you’ve come to the wrong NAPA.)

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Architecture: Golden Gate Bridge

The original plans for the Golden Gate Bridge were rejected for aesthetic reasons. Irving Morrow fixed that by designing the towers, lighting, and adding the distinctive orange paint. Uploaded by wallpaperdojo.com.

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges not just in America, but in the world. No wonder it placed number five in the American Institute of Architects’ list of America’s favorite architecture.

Until the bridge was completed in 1937, the only way to cross the Golden Gate – the strait between San Francisco and Marin County – was by ferry. By the way, the area received the name “Golden Gate” from explorer, and first senator from California, John C. Fremont.

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A number of individuals contributed to the bridge’s design. Joseph Strauss came up with the original plan… architect Irving Morrow contributed the shape of the bridge towers, its orange vermillion color, and its art deco elements… while Charles Ellis and Leon Moisseiff were primary engineers on the project. It took a little more than four years to complete, and cost about $35 million.

The bridge carries six lanes of traffic, and the toll to cross it is now $6. Walkways are open to the public, one reason why the Golden Gate Bridge has more suicides than any other location in the world. Even so, the American Society of Civil Engineers has named it one of the modern Wonders of the World…

Travel: Venice Beach

Compare the number of people on the boardwalk to the number actually on the beach. That's because at Venice Beach, the scene is the thing. Uploaded by fanpop.com.

Technically, Venice Beach is…a beach. It has the Pacific Ocean, three miles of sand, and palm trees. But in reality, the beach is a prop, a nice addition to what Venice Beach actually is: a scene.

On any given day you can find thousands of people at Venice Beach, at least a hundred of whom have found the sand. The number of weightlifters who choose to work out here lends the area one of its nicknames – Muscle Beach. You can also find courts for volleyball, handball, paddle tennis, shuffleboard, and basketball (made famous in the opening of the movie White Men Can’t Jump). Venice Beach is considered by some the birthplace of the skateboard movement. And the boardwalk is a natural draw for dining and shopping establishments.

And then there’s the street entertainment. At any given time you might see a chain saw juggler, a roller skating guitar player, dancers, jugglers, comedians, acrobats, mimes, fortune tellers, and preachers.

When you go to Venice Beach, you become part of the scene. You’ll enjoy some good food, watch some fascinating people, and maybe even see stars in the making. And who knows, you may even go to the beach while you’re there.

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Travel: Big Sur

Photographer Stephen Oachs captured the fading sun as it sent a beam of light through a rock portal to illuminate the waves beyond. Almost too gorgeous to be real.

Big Sur stretches along the central coast of California and isn’t a town, but a roughly identified region covering 90 miles of coastline whose northern boundary is about 120 miles south of San Francisco.

Big Sur is all about its natural beauty. It has no real towns, and Route 1, an American National Scenic Byway, is its backbone. Here you can see whales migrating off the coast in late fall, see dramatic cliffs plunging into the Pacific, while mountains as high as 5,100 feet tall rise a mere three miles from the ocean.

And as unspoiled as Big Sur is, it boasts some of America’s finest inns and restaurants. It was named the number three destination in the USA by Trip Advisor. Smart Money magazine rated Big Sur number seven in its 30 Trips of a Lifetime. And National Geographic Traveler called it one of the world’s greatest destinations.

There’s a lot more to be said about Big Sur, but really, what more can I say that these photographs don’t say better?

Another view of the portal shown in the photo, top. By Patrick Smith Photography.

Bixby Bridge, uploaded by redwoodhikes.com.

Garrapata State Park. By Patrick Smith Photography.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. By Buck Forester.

Uploaded by deetjens.com.

Uploaded by MikeLevin.com.

Highway 1, uploaded by motorcycleclassics.com.

Sports: The Play (Cal vs. Stanford)

The Stanford band thought the game was over. Bad band. Bad, bad band. Uploaded by cdn2.ioffer.com.

Of all the plays in all the football games ever contested, why is this one known simply as The Play? First, it happened in a major rivalry game, California vs. Stanford. And second, it came after future hall of fame quarterback John Elway had led Stanford to a field goal with four seconds left that everyone thought ended the game.

Stanford squib-kicked the ball down the field, and Cal’s only choice was for a player about to be tackled to lateral the ball to a teammate, keeping the play alive. They did that; in fact, they lateraled the ball five times.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to play trombone. Uploaded by 3bp.blogspot.com.

Meanwhile the Stanford band, all 144 members, thought the game was over, and started onto the field. The last lateral was completed in the midst of the band, obscuring the view of the officials. And then, in one of the most memorable moments in football history, Cal’s Kevin Moen scored the game-winning touchdown by knocking over a trombone player.

A couple of interesting notes. It was John Elways’ last regular-season game for Stanford. Cal only had ten players on the field. If Cal hadn’t scored, Stanford would have been penalized for the band coming onto the field. And as exciting as the play is visually, it’s made even better by the radio call of Cal announcer Joe Starkey.

Well, you can talk about it all you want, but you’ve just got to see The Play to believe it. Here’s Starkey’s call of the last minute, “Only a miracle can save the Bears…”: