Along for the ride:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Down, Up and Sideways.

(Scroll down for dog story)
250 miles down and 250 miles back up, all in one long day. Throw in a client meeting on a construction site, perched above the pretty valley of  Los Olivos, and a buffet lunch with an interior designer, in an Indian Casino near Santa Ynez, and you'd be surprised we still had energy and an appetite for a late dinner in a restaurant near home, before falling into bed last night. Today we are a bit road-stunned. My knees are stiff from sitting in the same position for hours and I regret that second carafe of wine we shared, but not for one minute the escargot. Any dish that requires one to dip crusty French bread in garlic flavored melted butter is top of my "can I have some more" list.
We hit the road early'ish yesterday morning and passed south, through Steinbeck Country swathed in skeins of mist. Newly furrowed arable land stretched out on either side of the highway. There were richer pockets punctuating the scenery with white post and rail fences and horses, and scrubby bad-lands animated only by the nodding heads of the occasional oil-well pump, watched over by a couple of tanks at the entrance to the National Guard training camp.
The Madonna Inn, garish pink, rococo landmark, marking passage towards Southern California, and all things tasteful (?) flashed by and we were soon driving in sight of the Pacific Ocean. Although the day had warmed to T-shirt weather and the hills were greener than ours, the grape vines covering the rolling landscape were still dormant, holding the hills in place with row after endless row of perfectly spaced brown stitches.
Signs for Santa Maria meant it was time to watch for our turn-off. The infestation of giant toadstools ahead morphed into the rotund silhouettes of citrus trees, as we drew closer. Squat forms, densely packed with glossy green foliage and peppered with day-glow orange orbs.
We like Los Olivos, a small town north of Santa Barbara. There is an affluent community with many who dabble in wine growing and horse breeding and they've been good clients. We were saddened that almost all of the art galleries have been pushed out by wine tasting establishments, attracted by the exposure given in the movie Sideways, and willing to bid higher for rents than more bohemian businesses can afford.
After our construction site meeting, the designer proposed that we go to lunch together. We had planned to treat ourselves to a nice restaurant on our travels and the "all you can eat" buffet in the bowels of an Indian Casino, was not quite what we had in mind. It was interesting, if you like pasty faced retirees indoors on a beautiful afternoon. In a windowless atmosphere, grey with cigarette smoke and churning with the noise of the slot machines, there was certainly no shortage of food. It was cheap too, which may have been her main motivation, although she was very familiar with the molten chocolate brownie dessert.

It wouldn't be right to leave out news of our new foster dog. Emma is a Collie/Labrador  mix who was found running along the side of a busy road. One of the shelter employees sent these sad photos to collie rescue in November and we posted her on the web and all crossed our fingers that she would be adopted. Emma's time was up between Christmas and New Year but they agreed to hold her for us until we could organize transportation. Naturally she was miles from anywhere.

Emma was handed over to me in a Church parking lot two weeks ago. Head shy, stressed and smelly, she cringed when I looked at her and licked my fingers surreptitiously when I turned away. She's estimated to be about eighteen months old. Although still cautious about new things and people, Emma is putting her days in an institution behind her.
Many of the photos I was trying to take were empty as Action-Emma had moved on at the speed of light.
This sweet shot of Emma napping in my office belies the fact that this dog is not inhibited by such things as gravity. My desk is just a hop-up to see out of the window and much of my paperwork is decorated with paw prints. I now stash the computer keyboard when I'm not using it. Emma is a four-paw typist.
Emma has since had her spay stitches removed, she's been vaccinated and tested clear of heart-worm. Bathing her was such a small portion of the work normally involved in grooming her bigger, hairier collie cousins. It was a snap!
This girl is a charming, happy, playful dog. She had a play date yesterday with a neighbor's dog and there was much romping and tearing around the garden. They're thinking about getting a friend to keep their dog company when their daughter leaves for college. It would be great if this works out, but I have to let them think it through. In the meantime, I have a walking partner again.


  1. If I were in the market for a dog I would take her in a flash. I hope it works out with that neighbor of yours.

    Garlic and butter is the food of the gods, but I have yet to swallow a snail. Swear I'll do it some day, but it may take that extra carafe of wine!

    "Sideways" has certainly affected land-buying in OR, where lovely Pinot Noir is produced in spades. I have mixed feelings about the growing number of vineyards, but mostly I like it. But then, I really like Pinot Noir.

  2. I've read you for some time...and you're an exquisite author! "nodding heads of the occasional oil well", "grape vines...holding the hills in place..." Wow! Loved it.

    And I'm delighted that Emma has found a home, be it temporary or permanent. She has the sweetest face.

  3. What a wonderful dog, and how lucky she is to have a fairy godmother like you.

  4. How fabulous for you both! Emma seems like she's adjusting well to your walks, food, love and attention. I hope she finds a home worthy of her.

  5. Oh, Emma looks so sweet! I'm guessing the wonderful escargot wasn't in Los Olivos? We love visiting the area -- one of our favorite places of all time. We go to the Alisal guest ranch every year -- did you stop by there? If by chance you did have the escargot somewhere between Santa Ynez and Paso Robles -- can you tell me the name of the restaurant?

  6. Oh, what a gorgeous girl. I am glad she has found a home. The first two pictures could break your heart.
    I love escargot. I order it whenever I can.

  7. What a sweetheart. She looks so much happier now than in the pound pics.

  8. Kerry, I think the first time I tried snails was right after I'd had four wisdom teeth removed. It was the only thing on the menu soft enough to eat, and so began an addiction. (I haven't seen "Sideways" btw).

    Barbara, you are kind. I haven't felt very "literary" for a while so I'm rusty. Emma's face is not unlike a Grants Gazelle. (I looked it up).

    Stephen, those sad photos haunted me over Christmas. I had to take her in.

  9. e, I don't expect it will take too long to re-home Emma. It will have to be someone who understands that she won't show her easy self until she feels safe again.

    Annette, Paso Robles has three French restaurants. We often stop overnight on our way south. Chez Laurent is on the main square. I can't remember the others but they were the real deal.

    Birdie, We serve escargot at home on special occasions but cleaning all the parsley bits out of the snail shells afterwards is a bit of a deterrent.

    Joanna, Emma is keeping me company and snoring away in her beauty sleep.

  10. You should write more travelogues. This is first class.

  11. Sorry, can't stand snails, although I love garlic!!
    Beautiful dog, hopefully she'll find a good home soon.

  12. She looks so bouncy , happy and secure and will surely be rehoused with ease , when the time comes .

  13. Martin, high praise from one who has a way with words. Thank you.

    Di, I don't expect to have Emma for long. She's young and attractive with no major behavioral issues.

    S&S, I hope to find her a home with another dog. She needs a playmate and that will ease the transition.

  14. Lovely piece, as always. There are plenty of casinos up this way too, all offering cheap food. You put on weight just driving past these ugly places.

  15. We go to Paso Robles often and Chez Laurent is one of our favorite restaurants. Thomas Hill is also very good - and a bisto who's name escapes me. They all have wonderful food. There's a great farm/tack store in town too. What else could you ask for?! If you want to splurge on a nice B&B for a special occasion, you can't beat the Creekside Inn (two rooms in a renovated barn).

  16. Martin is quite right. Very poetic, with a little pathos, and a happy ending.

  17. What a change in Emma's expression from the shelter photos to the pictures of her at your home. Talk about a transformation! It would be great if the neighbors could take her, but I am sure that no matter what, you will see that she is placed in a good home where she will get all the love she deserves.

    For now, enjoy your walks with her. She looks to be a delightful companion.

  18. Wally B, They are indeed a Law unto themselves.

    Annette, Creekside Inn sounds lovely.

    Deborah, just a day in the life of a pony hunter.

    Jean, Emma's getting plenty of exposure. She's greeting all my clients who come out to my car to see stone samples, after I meet with them at their homes.

  19. Emma looks lovely. Hope it all works out for her.

  20. Argent, Thanks, she's blossoming into a super little dog-person. She already has fans.

  21. i'm sure Emma will be very happy with you

    I'm so glad that we gave a home to our cat Giles - mad as he may be

  22. How can you drive for 500 miles in one day as well as work? And have a full dinner afterwards?
    I'd be dead. You must be young. Or incredibly energetic.

    Emma is adorable. At least you'l be able to walk all those garlic bread calories off again.

  23. Beautiful narration of your day travel to Los Olivos, and very eye-catching photos of Emma!

  24. Pixie, Mad is good:)

    Friko, three and a half hours each way on non-commute freeways. We had overnight bags but it didn't seem worth dragging it out when home was just a hop, skip and jump away. We were very lucky with traffic.

    Duta, thank you.

  25. Just getting here... she looks like a sweetheart, miss Emma. Can only sympathize about paw prints on papers. Our cats love to jump on my desk and act like it is their personal romper room up there... scrambling all papers and putting half of them on the floor... Amazing what we will put up with from our four legged friends.

  26. Owen, I now have an un-filed file of "where the heck did these belong?" paw-printed papers. I confess to using a really grubby envelope to mail something today, to someone I wish to disrespect. It was perfect.

  27. Sounds like a nice trip all in all. Emma is so adorable I hope the neighbors decide she's a great idea for them. She looks very sweet and happy now that she's with you. Love the photo of her on her bed.

  28. Grey Horse, Emma and I have a secret. She knows that I know, she sleeps on the couch. Last thing at night I get a sheepish smile from her as she hops up and settles in. She's irresistible.