It’s been an amazing trip. I’m back at the casa now, but I’ve still got a little bit of vacation that I need to cover here. I’ve had time to reflect on what I got out of the vacation too, so I’ll also get into that at the end. But let’s start things off how we usually do at this point, with some Updates and New News.

It’s becoming very interesting how often these spontaneous parties are springing up. I had intended to put this together last night, but my roommate came to me with the proposition of a party, out of the blue, and I was quite game for it.
The roommates and I went down to campus today to seek out our classes, since they start tomorrow. Now that the search team has gone to investigate, I think we’re all ready for whatever tomorrow has to bring for us.

Alright, lets now pick up where I left off with my last post. Our plan for Saturday was to wake up leisurely, then drive out and tour wine country a little bit. It’s a little bit fuzzy at this point, seeing as it’s Wednesday now, but I think we headed out at about 11 or 11:30. It took about an hour or so to get into Napa Valley, but once we got there, it was so gorgeous!

So, I’m outside of my zone here. I don’t really know what to expect when we walk into the first winery. I’ve only heard people describe wine tasting as being fun, no real concept of protocol or procedure. Now, I can imagine a couple things that would definitely be considered no-no’s. You probably shouldn’t start chugging. You probably shouldn’t ask if they have any boxes or bags of wine. Don’t mention you’re a fan of Arbor Mist. I hear there are pots filled with dregs. You probably shouldn’t attempt to drink that.
With those thoughts filling my head, I follow my parents in. My dad hands the guy behind the desk a few bills, and out pops 3 glasses of wine. I decided I was gonna fall back a little and watch how my parents tackled this before diving in. I learned pretty quick that there is a procedure for wine tasting.
1. Smell – Take a sniff of the wine. Let the vapors get in your nose so you experience the full body of the wine.
2. Aerate – Introduce air. Swirl it around a little bit, adding air will bring out more of the flavor
3. Savor – Let in linger. Hold it in your mouth a little longer before swallowing. Let your tongue examine all the different flavor profiles.
4. After-taste – Wines have an aftertaste that can be taken advantage of. After you’ve swallowed the wine, suck in a little air and concentrate on the flavor that lingers on your tongue and pallet.

You learn a lot through observation. It may not be how you enjoy wine on a regular basis, but it will certainly increase the quality of every glass. Ha ha, what the hell do I think I am? Some kind of expert. Jesus, don’t take my advice, I’m just observing and rambling over here, ha ha.

We ended up being able to make it by 4 wineries before it got late. We had to pay to play at 3 out of the 4 places, but the 3rd place we went to, Sutter Home, they let us just walk in and start drinking. No down payment or anything. That was pretty sweet. The last place we went to, Charles Krug, had a real nice selection, and also gave us some bonus tastes in addition to what we paid for. There was this bonus dessert wine that we tried here that tasted amazing. So good in fact, that we had to pick up a bottle and take it home with us. I believe it was their 2006 Voltz Vinyard Port Zinfandel. Delicious.

Well, an afternoon and 4 wineries later, I was feeling it. I probably had the equivalent of 2 or more glasses of wine at each stop that we made. So 8-10 glasses of wine, at…15-20 percent alcohol per volume over the span of 3 or 4 hours. I was a little drunk. Wine drunk. Anybody that knows me knows that wine is kind of my kryptonite. For most people, it’s tequila. Not me. Wine doesn’t get me confrontational, or angry, or anything like that…wine gets me adventurous. I’ve gone on expeditions while wine drunk before. This time was no exception. I was begging my dad to make a little detour and head out to Las Vegas. My reasoning at the time…hey, we’re a lot closer to Vegas now than we are in Texas.
Sidebar – My arguments are pretty weak when drunk. Not as bad when wine drunk, still still ineffective against my sober father, so I won’t continue spewing the logic that I tried to pass on my dad.
I was disappointed that we weren’t going to go to Vegas, but that’s why I wasn’t in charge of this trip. Wine drunk, it gets me in trouble.

We decided to grab dinner while still in Napa Valley, a place my parents were familiar with from their last trip to wine country. I ended up getting a steak, and it was one of the better steaks that I’ve ever had. Now I obviously can get some pretty dang good steaks at places like Del Frisco’s, but for a moderately priced steak, this was really good.

The night ended with dinner. After the ride back from wine country to the hotel we were ready for bed, and I was happily tipsy. I slept well that night.

Sunday was going to be a much more sober day. The action plan for Sunday was to head up past Sausalito and go check out the Muir Woods. This is where those giant redwoods are that you can supposedly drive through, they’re so large. After a quick and satisfying brunch in Sausalito, we continued north in search of giant trees. The drive up to Muir Woods was very scenic, and I got some pretty good shots.

Everything we’ve done on this trip has worked out pretty well up to this point. But today was the exception. What we wanted to do was take a driving tour through Muir Woods. It turns out that not only have driving tours not been done since the 1980’s or earlier, but all the parking was full up, and the side of the rode was filled up for several miles. In other words, Muir Woods was a bust.
That doesn’t mean the day was ruined, there is still plenty of cool stuff further north to check out, so we decided to keep moving. We talked about it a little bit and decided to keep heading north, past San Rafael into Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s more scenic driving to find more scenic views. I don’t mind that at all. Scenic driving is the the best kind around.

It really was a pretty drive up into this area. But once again we found ourselves snake bit by a another parking situation. There was this lighthouse that was talked about when we went to get information from the Park Rangers office. We thought that it would be pretty cool to go out there and check it out. But when we got up there, we found the same parking situation that we had in Muir Woods. Cars stretched on along the side of the road for about a mile, or at least for longer than we were willing to walk. Ugh, not cool people. Well, I guess I can’t fault all these people for having the same idea that we had.

There were some other cool places to pull off near there, and we ended going back to this scenic overlook area and do a little light hiking on a nearby trail. We called it a day after we all made it back to the car.
It sounds like we didn’t get much done on this day, but this actually took up most of the afternoon, and it was nice to still have some energy left at the end of the day to be able to pack. This was our last full day in San Francisco, so it was nice to also have that extra time at the end of the day to reflect on the week.

And now our time in San Francisco is done. It really didn’t feel like 8 or 9 days. It went by far too quick. That’s not to say that an impression wasn’t made, and that I didn’t leave with a greater appreciation and knowledge of certain things that I didn’t have before.
So what did I actually get out of this trip? What am I going to take away with me? For one, I have been developing an appreciation for knowledge that can only be gained from getting outside of your comfort zone. That little slice of life that I used to have in my parents house is not representative of how the rest of the road works. I need to get out and go exploring once in a while to figure out how what I know about the world differs from the reality of the world. This is why I have more respect for people that left the womb after high school, people that actually wanted to put roots down somewhere away from home and take themselves out of their comfort zones to see how they can make it on their own. I don’t understand people that don’t ever want to leave their hometowns. There’s a lot more out there beyond the front yard and the mail box.
I used to think that Texas was unique from the rest of the country, in respect to all the different cultures that we have co-habitating within the space of our borders. It’s clear to me now that I’d never really been to a big city and examined the culture of that city. Everything that I thought Texas was great for multiculturally, I found within the borders of San Francisco. That city bus tour that I took showed me how many different cultures actually existed within just the city limits. And the Chinatown tour showed me how rich these individual cultures can be.
Another thing that I came away with is that everybody has a story.  Most of those people don’t need much convincing to want to tell their story. Some people have stories of profound experiences that can teach great lessons. I need to start taking much greater advantage of the lessons people have to teach just by talking about the kinds of stuff they have gone through. To put that simply, it would be much to my advantage in life to be a much more social creature. It’s in my blood. My grandmother, before she died, used to enjoy coming up to random people and striking up conversations with them. Sometimes this would at strange times, such as eating dinner at a restaurant, but the point is, she wasn’t shy. My dad has absolutely no reservation about striking up a conversation with a perfect stranger in the correct social settings. It comes natural to the VanderSleen bloodline. I need to tap into this if I want to get more out of life.

In this past week or so, I’ve had life experiences. I’ve encountered things that have challenged the way that I think, and challenged my pre-conceived notions on how the world works. I’ve grown, I’ve learned, and changed the way that I think and see the world. I’ve left San Francisco a better person, and look forward to putting my new knowledge and decision making paradigms to work for me.
As I have with the rest of my posts from this vacation, I’ll leave you with a drink. School starts tomorrow…or later today I guess. The next chapter continues.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw

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