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Go-To Flower Girl; Paso Robles; Wine!; Two Graces; Camp Roberts; Gilroy Garlic; “What-a-Bank?”

I would like to thank Loyal Reader and Go-To Flower Girl Colette Sasina back in Florida for identifying the two wildflowers in Saturday’s blog post. The tiny red flowers are a member of the buckwheat family called Turkish rugging (Chorizanthe staticoides). The Latin name derives from a word meaning “to suck”, supposedly because Romans would suck on the leaves of this plant to allay their thirst.

The bright yellow flowers in the past blog are California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and are in fact the official state flower. The petals close at night or in cold, windy weather and open again the following morning, although they may remain closed in cloudy weather. By the way, this photo of the California poppy was shot in Cambria, CA, where one solitary flower makes its home in a crack in a sidewalk.

Under the heading of Interesting but Useless Trivia, you may be interested in learning that the California poppy’s scientific name was given by German botanist Adelbert von Chamisso after a fellow scientist, Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz, when both visited California aboard the Russian ship Rurik in 1814. In researching the ship’s name, I found that Rurik was also the name of a Rus tribe warrior of the 8th/9th Century who may have actually been a Viking king named Rorik of Dorestad, whose Very Manly Portrait shows that he may not have been a sensitive, New Age kind of guy, unless that spiked club (mace) he’s holding was just for show. (You may remember that the Vikings left Scandinavia because their wives kept serving lutefisk, now the state food of Minnesnowta).

Back to our California Adventure… we recently survived our first winery tour(s) in Paso Robles, where we sampled some excellent wines from the J. Lohr, Eberle and Tobin James vineyards. Our good friends Bill and Gayle Hancock from The Villages had given us several recommendations, and they were spot on, but we only had two days in “Paso”, so we will have to return some day to try the other 247 vineyards and tasting rooms there, such as those with really interesting names like Frolicking Frog, Seven Oxen and Tooth and Nail. Speaking of frolicking, this lovely lady was holding down the bar quite well (or was the bar holding her up?). For a “short ball hitter” who usually has only a half glass of wine with dinner, she did quite well in our tastings. 

While driving around the area, we passed this appropriately named, lovely hilltop villa, Casa de Vina, which is actually a vacation rental surrounded by vineyards. Suzanne wanted to see what they charged, but I assured her it was out of our price range… 

The Eberle Winery’s mascot is a small boar, which reflects the German meaning of Eberle, and rubbing the boar’s nose is said to bring good luck. Coincidentally, the founder, Gary Eberle, is from Pennsylvania (Suzanne’s home state), and attended Louisiana State University (my alma mater), where he developed an affinity for wine (yep, probably in The Library, that student watering hole that has a branch on every college campus). 

While in Paso Robles, we also visited Grace Pucci and her mother Grace at their beautiful Victorian home. The younger Grace is the president of the local Historical Society, so we were able to learn a lot about the city and its preservation efforts over lunch at Panolivo Cafe. These two lovely ladies are relatives of our good friends Elizabeth Magee and Joseph Valentino back in The Villages, and had hosted Suzanne, Elizabeth, Bev Garlipp and Ann Lavelle during a visit they had made to Paso Robles a few months ago. (On the food front, I was impressed by Panolivo’s chicken and pork boudin blanc, reminiscent of the Cajun variety we had enjoyed just a month ago in Scott, Louisiana, Boudin Capital of the World. It was served with spicy Dijon mustard and the best roasted potatoes I’ve ever had, an altogether yummy meal.)

Our campground was at our second National Guard base in a row, Camp Roberts, 13 miles north of Paso Robles. It is a functional, no-frills Army training center, rather than a fancy, well-appointed facility like you would find at most Air Force bases. But the price was right, $10/night, as opposed to the $55-75/night that commercial campgrounds charge in wine country. This was the view from our campsite; I was a bit startled early one morning while walking Rudy and Gretchen to see a large coyote watching us hungrily from about 50 yards away. We never let the dogs off lead, and I always carry a knife when we’re outside of towns (and inside some), so I wasn’t very worried, but I always take a look around with a flashlight at night before bringing them out for a walk.

We have also seen many deer, hawks, wild turkeys, owls and one striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). I definitely steered well clear of Pepe le Pew… skunks can be highly accurate up to ten feet away with their shots of mercaptan fluid, which can stop a bear in its tracks. The only animals known to attack skunks regularly are dogs (who don’t know any better) and great horned owls, the skunk’s only natural predator. Skunks are also crepuscular, being most active during twilight hours. 

We departed Camp Roberts enroute our next stop, Gilroy, California, the Garlic Capital of the USA, where we set up camp in another Elks Lodge RV park. There are only two other RVs here, and we are shaded by a cell phone tower disguised as a tall tree, a very clever ruse that doesn’t fool birds and squirrels. We passed on sampling the garlic wine and ice cream that local businesses offer, but the garlic odors emanating from several restaurants was enough to whet our appetites for heavier servings of that delicious, pungent bulb that is a relative of the onion. Gilroy’s upcoming Garlic Festival in July will be the 37th such event, and over 100,000 visitors are expected to attend. There is a competing Garlic Festival on the Isle of Wight in Hampshire in the United Kingdom, but English cuisine being what it is, only 25,000 attendees will be there, mostly (I would suspect) Italian, Greek and Spanish immigrants. 

Finally, there are probably many banks around the country that I have never heard of, but this one has a most unusual name: “Rabobank”. We laughed the first time we saw the name, and wondered what brilliant marketing person had thought up the name, which is pronounced like an invitation to “stick-em-up.” Turns out it is a primarily agricultural-oriented bank headquartered in the Netherlands, is one of the largest banks in the world (assets of $900 billion), and is rated one of the safest banks in the world. If its name wasn’t quite so weird…

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