After talking about it for quite some time, Mo & I finally teamed up with the Irvings and took a trip to the northern California wine country, specifically the Sonoma Valley.

On our drive to hotel in Windsor, CA, after arriving in San Francisco, we conferred with our cellphones to find a place for our first meal, and eventually (inevitably?) stopped at…In N Out Burger.

We had our first evening to kill, and found nearby the Williamson Wines in Healdsburg. While the wines were good, what really made them memorable was the cheeses/spices/spreads expertly paired with them, which really brought out the nuanced flavors. Also impressive: free tasting.

The next morning we left for the first of our two winery tours — Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford. We were immediately struck by the quite beauty of the flower/vegetable garden which was a centerpiece of the grounds behind the main building. Our guide Seth was knowledgeable and passionate regarding the vineyard’s sustainability commitment. Meanwhile, the harvest was in gear during our visit, so we saw some of the related activity.

frogs leap
a beautiful loaded grape vine at Frog’s Leap

Later that day we toured Cakebread Cellars also in Rutherford. While it was an impressive operation, I think we were just a bit let down after the earlier stop at Frog’s Leap.

The next day happened to be my birthday, and also the high point in our vacation: a guided tour by Sonoma Segway. Yes, that’s right — Segways! Hunt, our guide, set us up, and after ~10 minutes of practice around the parking lot to familiarize ourselves with the operation, the four of us and two others followed him on our four hour scenic “stroll”

After winding our way around the back streets and quite countryside, we stopped among the grapes to discuss sugar content and to sample a couple. Our first tasting was at one of the area’s few German vineyards, Gundlach Bundschu Wineries. It was nice to have a break from the primarily French wines to find some more similar to our Missouri wine country, although we found them to still be a bit drier than our liking.

We next stopped at Buena Vista Winery for a delicious picnic lunch followed by wine tasting and siteseeing at the fascinating grounds of the winery. The owner is definitely a bit of a showman.

Our last stop on our Segway journey was at the Vella Cheese Company. Besides learning about the cheesemaking process, we took advantage of refrigerated rooms to cool off, as the temps were in the mid-to-upper 90’s. We tried several variety of cheeses made here and took home a wedge of Mezzo Secco cheese, a partially dry Monterey Jack, which we shared with friends (to favorable reviews).

vella cheese
among the cheese wheels at Vella Cheese

After turning in our Segways (I named mine “Buck” btw!) and saying our thank yous, we stopped back at our hotel, then went for supper at nearby Kin Restaurant in Windsor. The atmosphere was neat, and the food very good. And a birthday rhubarb crisp for dessert as well!

On our way back to San Fran the next day, we stopped for a bite along the water at Barrel House in Sausalito. The food was great, and the view was outstanding — a fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz island, with layers of houses hugging the nearby hillsides.

the view south from the Barrel House

From our hotel near SFO, I contacted my cousin Mark & his wife Amy, and we met and drove down to a supper at House of Nanking, in Chinatown portion of San Francisco, just over a block from the Transamerica Pyramid. Upon hearing that we had not eaten there before, the matriarch of the restaurant replied, “I take care of you,” and for the next half hour one platter followed another a few minutes apart. We did an admirable job emptying them all (see photo), and it was delicious.

house of nanking
Diners 6, Food Platters 0

We said our goodbyes and thanked our gracious hosts and the next day we wended our way home, wined, dined, and rested.

198? Uno!

With yesterday’s mail, my collection of unique Twins players cards with certified autographs is now up to 198. Who was card #198? Delmon “swing at the first pitch” Young, who only has a Twins autographed card in two different 2008 sets: Upper Deck’s UD Premier and Topps’ Triple Threads. Does the gang at WGOM miss posting “Uno!” in the game logs after each of his at bats? Not one bit.

A few updated stats regarding my AU Twins collection —
Most Different Cards: Glen Perkins (65), Lew Ford (45), Jason Kubel (25), Boof Bonser (21), Jacques Jones (21)
HOFers: Bert Blyleven (3), Rod Carew (1), Harmon Killebrew (3), Paul Molitor (2)
Non-players: Mark Wilson (scout – 1)
Certified AU Twins card players (that I know of) that I don’t have: Earl Battey, Reno Bertoia, Billy Beane, Brian Dozier, Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Gordon, John Goryl, B.J. Hermsen, Tom Kelly (manager), Ralph Lumenti, Hal Naragon, Bill Pleis, Kirby Puckett, Terry Ryan (general manager), Roy Smalley, Frank Sullivan, TC Bear (mascot), Jesse Ventura (fan), Dave Winfield

Several of the cards I need are Heritage Real Ones or All-Time Fan Favorites, and most all of these players are only in one set of cards — the main exception being Puckett ($$$). These pop up on eBay periodically, but not quite in my price range. Still, makes for a fun scavenger hunt!

auto-relic 98
clockwise, from top left: 2008 Upper Deck UD Premier Stitchings Signatures #PSTI-DY Delmon Young [03/25] (manu-patch/auto); 2007 Upper Deck UD Premier Premier Stitchings #PS-71 Johan Santana [04/50] (manu-patch); 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes Light Blue #101 Joe Mauer [100/200] (jersey); 2007 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ultimate Star Materials #SM-JU2 Justin Morneau (jersey); 2008 Upper Deck SPx Winning Materials Limited SPX #WM-JM Joe Mauer [04/99] (jersey); 2004 Bowman Heritage Threads of Greatness Gold #TG-JM Joe Mauer [49/55] (bat); 2015 Topps Career High #CHR-JM Joe Mauer (jersey); 2005 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes Memorabilia Bronze #34 Harmon Killebrew [03/50] (jersey)

New Horizons

Back on January 19, 2006 — what seems like ages ago — the New Horizons probe was launched. Fellow listener SpaceC at happened to be a launch worker at the time, and she posted a beautiful photograph of New Horizons just as it was leaving Earth:
New Horizons
This has been the wallpaper background image on every home and work PC, laptop, and cellphone that I’ve had since that date. Way to go, NASA!

(New) Hipster

It’s been just six weeks since I had my hip replacement surgery. Not long ago I was diagnosed with femoroacetabular impingement (cam) in my left hip, a condition I has born with that combined with 50+ years of activity had reduced the cartilage to pretty much nothing. Instead of walking with a limp due to my faulty hip joint, I now (barely) walk with a limp due to the muscles around it, which my physical therapy continues to address.

I was sent home the morning after my surgery, and the recovery progress has been pretty amazing; after a rough first week, I was able to ditch my walker on day nine, and the cane was gone less than two weeks after that. Mo & K (and Belle) have been a huge help. The initial follow-up with the doctor went well, and everything hit home when I saw the post-surgery x-ray. The new hip looks something like this.

I put in a mile on the track at the Y a couple weeks ago, and was able to help Jay (who’s also been a big help) mow the lawn a bit. I’m currently working on climbing stairs without favoring my hip, and continuing to stretch the very tight quadriceps on my left leg.

one of my ever-present helpers maintains vigil nearby early on in my recovery

Not sure when the ligaments/tendons around the joint have tightened up enough that I don’t have to worry about the new hip dislocating when I bend over to tie my shoe, but slowly that range of motion is returning and I’ll be better than before. Thanks everyone for the thoughts and prayers!

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Stuff And Things

Thought I’d clear out a few photos, etc. in a post prior to my surgery tomorrow…

While doing a bit of last-minute mulching in the back, I came across this little guy, below. Plume moths are cool, but they’re small and hide in the grass, so photographing them is difficult. This one was okay with settling on my hand, and stayed there while I went to get my phone and find a little fading sunlight to take the picture. I haven’t added to my insect photo pages lately, so this will be a nice addition:

6091 - Grape Plume Moth (Geina periscelidactylus)
6091 – Grape Plume Moth (Geina periscelidactylus)

Memorial Day weekend took us up to Chicago area for a wedding, and at the last minute I realized that the Twins would also be playing in Chicago the same time. I was able to take in the Friday night game from the third row of right centerfield at The Cell on a clear, cool evening. While it was a good game, the only runs the Twins scored were in the first inning, when I was still a couple stops away on the “L” red line. The Twins ended up losing 3-2, but haven’t lost a game since.

The Cell
action from the bottom of the second inning

I’m still actively collecting Twins baseball cards, but things have slowed a bit. Lately I’ve managed to add a few new players to my certified autograph card collection, among those Jim Perry, shown below, along with another Bert Blyleven AU, my 62nd and 63rd different Glen Perkins AU, and some Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer jersey cards.

stuff things
clockwise, from top left: 2005 Topps Pristine Legends Personal Endorsements #PEA-BB Bert Blyleven (auto); 2005 Upper Deck Artifacts Autofacts #PE Jim Perry [298/599] (auto); 2007 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ultimate Write of Passage #WP-PK Glen Perkins [13/60] (auto); 2015 Topps Heritage Clubhouse Collection #CCR-JMA Joe Mauer (jersey); 2006 Topps Turkey Red White #TRR-JM Joe Mauer [94/99] (jersey); 2008 Upper Deck SPx Winning Materials SPX die cut #WM-MO Justin Morneau [090/150] (jersey); 2008 Upper Deck A Piece of History Franchise History Gold #FH-30 Joe Mauer [67/99] (jersey); 2007 Topps Chrome Refractor White #348 Glen Perkins [003/200] (auto)

Ft. Myers Spring Training — Third Edition

This year, MLB caught us off guard: we had to make our condo reservations early, and when the spring training schedules came out, the season was starting later than usual. This would call for some strategic planning…

During our Ft. Myers stay, one thing I could plan on was dropping by the practice facilities, so I picked a nice morning, fought traffic off the island, and hung out at CenturyLink Sports Complex with many other Twins fans.

team gathers on the big field for drills

It was great seeing the young ballplayers — Sano and Vargas definitely stand out, size-wise.

3rd basemen
third basemen practice fielding, including Miguel Sano

The new coaches were very involved and hands-on in the drills I watched, particularly Molitor, Mientkiewicz, and Guardado. Alumni were also visible all over, including Carew and Oliva.

Coach Guardado works on fielding with the bullpen

So, what ballgame did I eventually get to? The only Twins games played in Ft. Myers while we were there were either the home opener, or against the Red Sox at their home opener the next day. There was also a road game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park up in Port Charlotte just over an hour away, though.

The ballpark was quite nice, and the weather was sunny and beautiful. When I bought my ticket earlier in the year, I looked for my traditional spot just past the dugout on the third place side, and I found a nice seat in the fourth row with a great view of the action.

in-game action

Only one extra base bit in this game, but overall play was pretty clean and still had its share of action. The Rays ended up winning 2-1.

I was able to get three autographs on my program: Max Kepler, catcher Dan Rohlfing, and extra catcher Mitch Garver.

game program

Barring a rainout, you really can’t lose when attending a Florida spring training game.

Yes, Florida Again

Mo and I had been to Ft. Myers, FL on two earlier occasions, although it had been a while, and we decided it was high time to return. Doing things differently on this trip, Mo reserved time at a condo on Ft. Myers Beach, plus we had a bit of time on each end of our vacation to see other areas of Florida.

This time around it was more cost effective to fly into Tampa and rent a car there, so we chose to spend our first three nights at the beach in Clearwater, staying at Pier House 60. Unfortunately, we couldn’t choose our weather — the temps were cool and it rained off and on.

On one of the days we took a leisurely drive through the south end of the island and down to Ft. Desoto, taking in the military ruins and strolling the park.

ft desoto
the guns of Ft. Desoto

We walked out on the pier, and there we saw a fisherman reel in this puffer.

porcupine fish
porcupine fish

Our other notable outing in Clearwater was to visit the Florida Aquarium in Tampa…you know, to get out of the rain. Lots of interesting things to see there, and $2 off if you order your tickets online.

By the time we leave Clearwater for Ft. Myers Beach, we also leave the rainy weather behind, too. We stayed at the Cornerstone Beach Resort, and our condo was wonderful, with direct access to the beach and a beautiful view of the gulf from our lanai.

Cornerstone Beach Resort

We found several nice places to eat, and I took the opportunity to take in a Spring Training practice and game (more on this in a later post). Like Sanibel or Captiva islands, there were plenty of shells to be collected here as well.

cockles & mussels, not alive alive-oh

We toasted the sunset each night, the final night being the only one with clouds, and those just at the horizon.

the view from our lanai

Did we have a good time? We’re booked for next year…