Monday, September 17, 2007

Vacation '07, Chapter IV

Out of the hotel at the crack of 11-ish, we head down highway 80. To Fairfield, home of Nellis AFB and, more importantly, the Jelly Belly jellybean factory. We buy 6 lbs. of "belly flops", jelly beans that didn't make the final cut, as it were. We ate a pizza that's shaped like a jelly bean. They should 'stick' to making candy.

Onward to Napa and Calistoga, through the fabled valley that produced, among other things, our friend Teresa. In Calistoga, we go to the shining winery on the hill, Sterling. To visit Sterling, one must take their aerial tram, then follow a self-guided tour with a few video stops and tastings along the way. It's a gorgeous view south, over the Napa valley. Sam's not having such a great time. As we're leaving, an employee down the hall from the gift shop drops an entire rack of glasses, and everyone's attention shifts. What a horrible, yet incredibly funny sound to hear at an expensive winery. I softly hear the announcement in my head, "I'm sorry, all current discounts have now been cancelled. We apologize for this inconvenience."
We make one more stop down in Napa, where I wait in the car with antsy Emma and sulking Sam while Vicky shops. I watch a skinny, yet well dressed older man tool into the parking lot in his new Bentley. The man's shoes are probably worth more than my Honda. We head back South and West toward Novato and Vicky's cousin Alex, his wife Linda, and Jack and Davey. On a two-lane highway, we encounter about 5-7 miles of completely backed-up traffic heading the other way. Then we find out why. It's Sunday, RACE DAY, and we're headed toward the track that just disgorged it's patrons onto this one and only way in or out. We find our way into line heading our direction - a traffic jam seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
We make our way to Novato, and find friends.
My wife is part of a great family. There were three brothers. Jack Miller was a professor of physics and astronomy in Claremont, CA, Oxford degrees. Probably the smartest man I've ever met. Gaylord Miller was the head of NOAA for the Pacific, they lived in Hawaii. He died before I could meet him. Vance Miller taught high school Math and science. Vance died the day after Elvis did, about 4 months after I started dating his daughter.

Alex is Jack's son,the middle son of three. Alex and Victoria have always been buds. Linda is great. Davey has autism. We didn't know this until my neice's wedding, about 18 mos. ago. It was strangely fun to sit around with them talking about ER visits and cleaning up stuff. . . you know, the usual. They have two dogs, and Emma spends much of our time there swapping spit with Nellie. Alex, among other things, is a book collector/dealer; he showed us some signed, first editions, and gave Sam a set of The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings books. Sam was duly impressed. I'm always happy to hear stories of Vance and the rest of Vicky's family, this visit includes Alex's spot-on imitation of his father's voice - a man I was enchanted with, even as he really wanted very little to do with me, a long-haired psychology major. Sam bunked with Jack, Vicky, Emma, and I stayed in the "PMS Shed", a shed that's carpeted, has TV, and a bed. We set up an air mattress for Emma, and turned the TV back on after Vicky heard rats scampering and chattering on the roof. I, as usual, was blissfully unaware of this until we were in the car, heading south for San Francisco.