Sunday, February 28, 2010

Harpin' Boontling

3239 - 3570 (13634 - 13965)

Today I decided not to follow the coast so as to avoid getting snarled in the Bay area (Cheri loves San Francisco, so we will visit together some other time).

There are many famous attractions in Monterey, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row amongst them, but I went the natural route. I covered part of the famous 17-Mile Drive, passing the Pebble Beach golf courses to see Bird Rock, replete with seals, sea lions, pelicans and cormorants.

As I passed through Seaside, California, I spotted this Vietnamese restaurant and could not help but laugh. Apparently the owners know they somehow slipped one past English censors; their motto is..."It's Pho King delicious!"

I blue highwayed into farm country, where these Californians are obviously very proud of their cash crops. For instance, Castroville, California is the Artichoke Capital of the World. Here I am at the World's Largest Artichoke, at a restaurant/vegetable stand in Castroville. I stand by the sign that advertised Fried Artichoke Hearts. While many believe that frying anything makes it better, I can't imagine it doing much for the artichoke.

Up the road I arrived in the Garlic Capital of the World, Gilroy, California. Signs abounded for items like Pickled Garlic, Garlic Juice, and even Garlic Ice Cream. Only seemed natural to stop at Garlic World and see the World's Longest Garlic Braid. I saw an appropriate T-shirt there: "May the Stink Be With You."

I ended up up missing San Francisco altogether, going instead through Oakland. It felt a bit odd being on interstate again, and I was consequently happy to return to Route 101 north of the Bay. Looking back, I should have at least gone over the Golden Gate Bridge.

In Santa Rosa, I made a stop at the Charles Schultz Museum. The Peanuts were a favorite of the Jones family; I had dozens of Peanuts books as a youngster. Here there were a multitude of statues of Peanuts characters around; this one of Snoopy on park bench (easy for posing) is outside the Warm Puppy Cafe, across the street from the museum at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena (supposedly Schultz ate here all the time on the way to his studio). No beer, so the Warm Puppy will not be in competition with the Happy Puppy.

The Museum was fabulous. I most enjoyed the Tile Mural covering an entire wall of their Great Hall and featuring an image of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. It is composed of 3,588 Peanuts comic strip images printed on individual 2- by 8-inch ceramic tiles. Charlie Brown and Lucy stand out because of the use of strips with black backgronds.

Looks like they had some left over tiles, because there were even some in the rest room!

I was in wine country; there were grapes growing everywhere. But as we all know well, I am a beer guy. I was headed on Route 128 for Boonville, California, home of both the Anderson Valley Brewing Company and an area that had their own distinct dialect.

Boonville, in the Anderson Valley, is in the middle of nowhere. Well, if it isn't, it's nearby. It is so removed that in the 1880s, some of the Anderson Valley children created a few slang words to use in their private conversations, both for their own amusement, and to confound anyone who might overhear them harpin’ (talking). They created new words as they went, trying to shark (stump) their companions. Over time the vocabulary grew, as did the number of people familiar with it. Eventually, every resident of the valley had at least some knowledge of Boontling (Boonville Language), as the lingo came to be called.

I stopped at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, hoping to hear some Boontling. Lisa, the gal pulling beer, only knew a few terms, and unfortunately their chief engineer and Boontling expert was not there on Sundays. But here he is in a Boontling MP3 Sample.

On the Anderson Valley Brewing Company labels they have this bear with antlers. I bit, asking "So what's the story with the bear with antlers?"

"Oh, it's not a bear with antlers," said Lisa. "It is a cross between a bear and a deer. Which makes it a..."

I thought a moment. Then it hit me. "A beer...," I said, groaning.

"Yes! The Legendary Boonville Beer!"

The picture of me with the stuffed Boonville Beer at the bar turned out poorly, so you get this one instead. She is far better eye candy than me, anyway!

Oh, the beer... I enjoyed their signature Boont Amber Ale (Boont = Boonville). Or in Boontling, it was bahl hornin' (good drinking).

Back on twisty, turny little Route 128, I really felt like I was in the boonies (maybe Boonville is where that term comes from, or vice versa). The trees created a tunnel effect that was a bit disconcerting as I worked my way back up to the coast. Or maybe I am just becoming a codgy kimmer (old man)...

I arrived on to the Pacific Coast Highway at dusk. It was great to rejoin the ocean. I noted that the terrain seemed more rocky here. Maybe it was just because I was much closer than in Big Sur.

I made my way through Mendicino to my final destination of Fort Bragg, California. It became a multi-beer tasting day, as Fort Bragg is home to the fine North Coast Brewing Company.

As I was finished driving for the day, a sampler was in order. The Red Seal Ale and Scrimshaw Pilsner were excellent, but it was the Old Rasputin Stout that was superb. And not just because of the name (my friend Walter Tunis back in high school was nicknamed Rasputin); it is actually award winning (91 Points, Rated "Exceptional"). My fourth in the tasting was the Brother Theolonius Belgian Style Ale. It is named for one of my favorite jazz musicians, Theolonius Monk, and some of the proceeds of its sale go to the Theolonius Monk Institute of Jazz. Coincidentally, Walter was instrumental in introducing me to jazz and to Monk. BTW, it's an unusual beer, very spicy.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to a foray into the Redwood Forest.

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