Well, now that I've spruced things up around here a little, allow me to recount a few highlights of my weekend in Northern California. Kathy and Pete were married on Saturday afternoon under perfect blue skies at Trentadue Winery -- grape vines planted in neat rows as far as the eye could see, with a backdrop of rolling hills and several huge hawks (OK, they were probably turkey vultures, but still pretty cool) wheeling in the air overhead. Amazing! Note to self: when planning a "destination wedding," pick a great destination.

Celia, Tom, Tracy and I stayed in Healdsburg, a sleepy little town with a rather upscale population -- plenty of Land Rovers and shiny antique convertibles parked in the old-timey town square. We spent an afternoon strolling around, and stopped in for a wine tasting at the Kendall-Jackson tasting room. A very nice man named Elliot, who was quite suave despite his gold jewelry, hairpiece, and Hawaiian shirt with big wine bottles all over it, poured us sips of their "Grand Reserve" wines, which are produced on a much smaller scale than their "white label" wines, which are very good too -- that is, they make 13 million cases of their best-selling chardonnay (that's 156,000,000 bottles!), but only 2500 cases of the Reserve. Elliott instructed us to "swish, breathe, and swallow" the wine in three separate sips, and it really makes a difference...and hey, after a few generous tastes we were all relaxes and buttered up, and we each bought a bottle to take home (mine is Syrah), yum yum.

We had excellent travel luck from the get-go -- Celia and Tom and I were on a fairly empty and seriously cheap America West flight together, and then at the Hertz couner we were upgraded from the basic Taurus to the cushy Buick Rendezvous SUV, woohoo! Despite the $2.33/gallon price of gas in CA these days, the car totally grew on us: not too big, not too small, deluxe appointments, smooth pillowy ride...and hey, it only cost $33 to fill the tank 3/4 full at the end of the trip! The drive from SF up to Sonoma County is beautiful, right over the Golden Gate Bridge -- and we enjoyed it even more after stoppin to stuff ourselves at Mel's Drive-In, and walk around Fillmore a little on the way. On Friday night we had a "Twilight Zone"-esque trip to the DoubleTree Hotel in Rohnert Park, aka Santa Rosa, aka the Town With The Disappearing Exit from Route 101. Suffice it to say, we recommend most hotels to try adding lights to their parking lots, and perhaps some signage on the front door, to indicate that they are, in fact, hotels...it helps a lot. We enjoyed a little dessert with the other out-of-towners, despite the surly catering staff. A much better get-together was had the day after the nuptials, at Creekside in the Redwoods, a retreat up in the hills featuring a perfectly placed hammock and a rather tepid hot tub, which the bridesmaids had rented for the weekend.

We rounded out the trip with a few drinks at Zeitgeist, a hipster/biker (as in bike messenger) bar in the Mission District back in SF with Celia's old friend Steve, and then a gloriously authentic taqueria dinner up the street at Puerto Alegre, yum yum yum, sopes and tacos and margaritas, oh my. By the time we got on the return flight and settled in to watch the awful in-flight movie, "Against The Ropes" (which I was able to fully comprehend without listening to the dialogue, and renamed "Erin Box-ovitch" after observing Meg Ryan's ridiculous wardrobe), I was already planning my next trip out there...sigh, you know how the song goes.

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