Category: California

Rental Car Blues

The first time I ever rented a car it was the strangest feeling. I spent extra time making sure all my mirrors were correct and that my seat was just right. I was also terrified of having an accident in it; my company included the damage waiver on rentals, but it was my first job out of college and I didn’t want to have to call my boss to tell her I’d hit a wild hog in South Texas that turned my car into an accordion.

Now, renting a car is just business as usual, except for what I call the “Rental Car Lottery.” I typically reserve a standard sized car, but that is apparently the size car that most people rent. Chances are, when you arrive at Enterprise you will receive an automatic upgrade to a different class of car, or something completely different than you expected. This can work for or against you. For example, I had the pleasure of getting a Hyundai Accent at O’Hare airport, and had to road trip that thing up and down Michigan before dumping it in Cleveland. I’ve never been happier to get rid of a car, except maybe three weeks earlier in Ft. Lauderdale.

Because of Hurricane Irma, Enterprise had rented every available car except for white utility vans or minivans. The agent threw in a free tank of gas for my troubles after noticing the look of horror on my face. The poor elderly couple in front of me had just selected their minivan, and considering they almost ran over an employee while trying to exit, I’m betting they wished they didn’t have to drive one either.

I had room for 8 imaginary friends in my Dodge Caravan, and cruised into both Miami and West Palm Beach looking like the baddest bitch in town. The most humiliating part was the valet-only option at my West Palm Beach hotel. At least it had leather seats?

Of course you don’t always end up with a terrible car. Two years ago in Ft. Lauderdale I lucked into a convertible Camaro, which was the perfect car to drive up the Florida coast. The free BMW upgrade I got one other time made for a fantastic trip across Texas. However the Kia Soul I got in San Diego? My only request was that it did not come with hamsters. I’m sure the agent never heard that one before.


Last Call

I’m headed out to Los Angeles right now for my last work trip this fall. This is flight number 8/9 since September, and I’m exhausted. My fall schedule usually allows for more breaks between trips, but this year has been non-stop travel for over a month. I’m sure I’ll miss it when it’s over, as I always tend to do. 

In spite of the horrendous traffic, the trip to LA is one of my favorites every year. Although I have yet to spot a celebrity anywhere, there’s always plenty of things to do. I’m staying in the Burbank area with lots of walking-distance activities for when I’m not working or sitting in traffic. Last year it took me two hours to get from West Hollywood to Anaheim, and this year I’m  making a day trip to San Diego Saturday. With all the time I’ll be spending going 10mph in my car, I’m really hoping I win the rental car free upgrade lottery at Enterprise once I arrive. 

Cheers from 30,000 feet!

The Best Flight I Ever Had

With all the stories I’ve had so far about wine, I’m sure you think that must be all I ever drink!  Do not be fooled; apart from at least 50 ounces of water per day, I also like a good beer.  I am not a typical Budweiser drinker (though I have been to their factory in St. Louis and it is impeccably  maintained with those fancy Inbev dollars), but I love a good craft beer.  Texas has become one of the fastest growing craft beer states, and it’s always fun to go visit local places to try out new brews.

The same goes while traveling.  We always try to visit a local place or two so we can try beer we can’t get at home.  We’ve been to a lot of different breweries on our trips: Cayman Island Brewing, Cigar City Brewing, and Skagway Brewing Company, to name a few.  I may even have brought Cigar City’s Jai Alai home in my checked luggage multiple times from areas where it is distributed, but luckily the TSA only looked in my bag and didn’t pop one open.  Each brewery has their own system of beer flights, and typically we will each get a flight and decide from there which beer deserves to be enjoyed in a full pint.


While we did have our fair share of wine in the Napa and Sonoma area, we went to visit Bear Republic Brewing in Healdsburg, and had plans to go to Lagunitas. However, the man pouring our samples at the Seghesio Vineyard recommended we stop by Russian River Brewing Company on our way back to the hotel.  Since they do not distribute to Texas, we decided to give it a try, and when we both said that we wanted a flight, we found out that it was actually a twenty-one sample flight including every beer they brew.  Of course, we had to get one, and of course we definitely shared it.

I really enjoyed most of their beers, and we ended up choosing our favorites for an obligatory pint after we had finished the flight We also thought a good layer of cheesy pizza bites would be a good purchase too.  I don’t typically like sour beer, but their Consecration, which was aged in Cabernet barrels, was excellent, so maybe someday we will luck out and they will distribute here.  And I’m pretty sure other breweries need to catch on to this flight system; not only does it look impressive, you get a little bit of everything.  What’s not to love?


You CAN Cry over Spoiled Wine

California wine country can be an overwhelming experience for a novice.  Between the growing regions, varietals, and the sheer number of wineries, there are thousands of options for a person who just wants to drink some wine.  When we decided to honeymoon in Napa and San Francisco, we were still new to wine appreciation.  Rather than take our chances on our own, we ended up booking two Platypus Wine Tours and had a great experience in both Napa and Sonoma.  For our return trip years later, we decided to go the “choose your own adventure” route, and picked a few wineries to return to and new ones whose wine we had discovered since.  Since we weren’t with a tour group, we had the freedom to call an audible and visit unplanned locations that we spotted driving by.  And that’s how we ended up at Sebastiani.

Sebastiani Cabernet used to be our go-to ‘expensive’ ($12) bottle of wine.  Three jobs ago, I had to spend two and a half weeks in South Texas for work.  One of those weekends, Mike flew down to visit and after a fantastic dinner at House Wine and Bistro (one of my favorite places to eat when I needed a break from eating fabulous Mexican food at every meal), we decided we needed to continue drinking wine and stopped by the local grocery store to pick up a couple bottles.   That’s when we noticed that our dusty bottle of Cabernet was actually a 2007.  We were new to wine, but knew enough to know that 2007 was an excellent year for California wines, and there were none left on the shelves at home.  Naturally, we bought the five they had, but without a plan on how we were getting them home.  We solved part of the problem by drinking one bottle immediately, but Mike couldn’t take them on the plane back with him without proper packaging. Thus, they had to stay with me for the rest of my trip so I could drive them back. This normally would not be a problem, except I was changing hotels twice, and heat spoils wine. Specifically, South Texas heat in September.

I did what I had to do: those four bottles of wine went everywhere I did.  They were pretty easy to hide in all my materials, except for the last place where I stopped, a small Catholic high school.  When Brother Herrick asked me why I was bringing so many materials in for so few students, I explained the perilous situation my 2007 Cabernet was in by leaving it in the car.  He approved.

After hauling that wine across South Texas, when we drove past Sebastiani I knew we had to stop for a tasting.  IMG_1767The winery is gorgeous, and we were visiting midweek, so the crowds were non-existent.  I jokingly recounted the story above to the lady who was pouring our wine, and before I realized she was gone, she reappeared with another bottle of wine.  While it wasn’t a 2007, she opened up a 2005 for us to try that had aged perfectly and was as good if not better.  It was a reasonable price, so it was a easy decision to purchase one and have it be one of twelve wines we brought home.  And unlike the trip to South Texas, we had the proper shipping container to get our wines home as a (free) checked bag (thanks, Southwest)!  Because I would definitely cry over spoiled wine.