Since the first summer we spent up here, Tony & Peggy have really enjoyed the county's Wine Adventure
every year. This passport event allows you to try wines from a variety of Lake County wineries over a two-day period and has always been a lot of fun along with a great opportunity to try a huge
variety of wines.
But we've always also wanted to host a stop here at the Featherbed Railroad, too. This year that vision became true as we partnered with Red Lava Vineyards
to host their wines here.
One of Sophia Serhan's beautiful jewelry creations.
At the same time, we're going to be enjoying the jewelry artistry of Sophia Serhan while her husband performs music live outside in his one man band performance style.
The official map of Lake County Wine Adventure 2014 featuring over two dozen wineries pouring wine with music and food to boot.
Bud Lawson inspects one of Red Lava Vineyards fine red wines.
Of course we're going to do our stop up right with Tony making his award-winning peanut butter and jelly chili
while Peggy brings cream cheese and apricot-topped pretzel crisps to the table. Oh, we know that sounds weird but, trust us, it was great during our tasting with Bud & Kristi from Red Lava Vineyards.
They will be bringing their 2010 Tempranillo, their Red Hills Syrah and 2011 Red Hills Sauvignon Blanc.
We hope you have a chance to enjoy this fun event with a designated driver. With over two dozen wineries serving wines, food and music of all sorts this should be a very fun day. And don't forget to mark your map for stop number 20, the Featherbed Railroad. We look forward to meeting you and sharing some wine, chili and pretzels topped with cream cheese and apricots. Trust us on the last one.
As we've found an increasing number of guests are gluten-intolerant we've been using this recipe on an increasing basis. Instead of using bread as the basis for pie crusts, turning to hash browns is a simple and really delicious alternative.
Here is a very simple way to use hash browns for the crust of almost any quiche or breakfast pie.
- 3 cups of potatoes, shredded russets or Yukon Golds work well or even a combination
- 1/2 stick of butter, melted
- 1 Tablespoon of cheddar powder (available in good spice stores)
- 1 teaspoon of Italian or other seasoning - we like Cantanzaro herb blend from Savory Spice Shop.
- 1 teaspoon of salt - - this alderwood smoked salt is our favorite
- 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
- Preheat your oven to 450°.
- Shred your potatoes and then dry them. The drier the better.
- Take your melted butter and mix in the spices and salts.
- Toss your potatoes with your butter and spice mixture.
- Put the whole mixture into a greased pie dish.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
You will have a crust that is gluten-free and really delicious. We've found that fresh spices and exotic salts really add something to any recipe and this one is no exception.
From this point you can add quiche ingredients and have a great breakfast treat. Of course you could also add some freshly-chopped onions or just play with the spices to adjust to your favorite. Either way, we hope you enjoy this crust - and we hope you come visit soon and enjoy it at the Featherbed Railroad!
Being in the travel business, we follow all the ‘trends’ and blogs and such and, supposedly, this summer road travel is way up. According to several travel sites, people are looking to get behind the wheels of their cars and hit the road and with gasoline prices relatively down and airline ticket prices up, this sounds like a great idea. Within the industry, these types of trips are referred to as ‘one tank trips’ meaning that it takes a single tank of gasoline to get to and from your destination and enjoy yourself while you’re there.
Peggy and I love doing road trips to discover all sorts of cool things within a days’ drive from home and are also appreciative when we happen across a local “find.” That’s why we’ve put a lot of hours into this new website here which has all sorts of great suggestions for activities to enjoy while you’re visiting us. Of course we’re always happy to share all the happenings and happening spots while you’re here.
Here are a few highlights - there’s much more going on and you can always look at our event calendar for all the latest and greatest items going on in the area.
- All summer long there are great free concerts on Friday nights in Library Park in Lakeport. With a nice variety of bands and a good variety of food choices this is a fun afternoon in the park. For more live music the Blue Wing Saloon has live music on Mondays as well.
- There are some great places to go hiking in the area from a simple walk in the park to a hike up Konocti. Our new site has both a listing of all the parks in Lake County and a whole page detailing activities in the great outdoors.
- We all love to eat and we’ve compiled a page of restaurants in the area. There’s everything from a great little Thai experience to a Mexican restaurant that serves food overlooking the Lake and a number of choices that will be happy to serve you what might have been on grandma’s table back in the old days.
- Leave the driving to someone else - we’ve got a great company that does fun limousine wine tours in the area with knowledgeable drivers who treat you like royalty.
According to some of these experts who spend too much time looking at this stuff, the cost of driving your newer car is something like 62¢ per mile. This accounts for fuel, insurance, and depreciation plus all the other related expenses of driving a car. With that cost in mind, it runs around $160 for the round trip from the Featherbed Railroad to San Francisco. But here’s a cool alternative.
You can rent a car which means all the depreciation, maintenance and wear costs are transferred to the rental agency. Plus how cool is it to rent something you might have been lusting over, like a nice convertible or sports car? You can leave ol’ Betsy in the garage and drive the rental agency’s spiffy wheels for a few days adding another dimension of coolness to your vacation.
We actually have an agreement with Enterprise Rent-A-Car where you can get special pricing when using our coupon code. This means you’ll save a few bucks and possibly score on a great car that you’ve been lusting after. This is another thing Peggy and I do - we find some nifty ride and then get a great deal on renting it.
Our local rental office had access to some neat rides including fancy luxury cars and convertibles but we could also rent cars that got great gas mileage, which is a nice alternative for us from the 15 mile per gallon truck that we own. And we can only bring so much baling wire and duct tape so the Corvairs don’t make long journeys.
There is also a great post on the Curbside Automotive Blog about tips for saving gasoline
We hope the Featherbed Railroad is on your list of favorite road trips for this summer and we’re always here to help you plan a getaway. Give us a call or head over to our Facebook page and give us a shout. Either way, we hope to see you this summer.
When Peggy and I moved to Lake County one of my first courses of action was to get rid of the Featherbed Railroad's absolutely dated website and put a new site up that reflected modern search and content functions. The old site was so bad that the "for sale" website came up in searches long before the actual site for the property did.
Move forward five years and I've been patching essentially that same site for all this time. While we're still ahead of most websites in the area and still a good example of a website for a local lodging property, the site had become complicated what with years of changes, additions and modifications.
Furthermore, web traffic for the site is about 40% mobile and 60% traditional computer and our existing site was not at all mobile-friendly. While I played around with a few technologies to make the site more mobile-friendly, I knew it was time to start over. And so I did.
Today we announce that a totally new website is on line that is mobile-friendly and features all the latest links to social media and the like. There are also links to web-based review sites and even a booking system that knows how full we are right up to the second. So that booking system you see is 100% accurate as to what's available on the spot.
I've also expanded the resources of local happenings and highlights with dozens of Google maps that I've made in conjunction with Lake County. Our calendar of events is updated by the County Tourism Office so it's always got the latest information on what's happening in Lake County.
The interesting thing is how I did the entire website five years ago in a bubble taking complete control of the content and everything all by myself. Today I used an on-line collaborative tool to create the site and then used other tools to create content that are put up by other organizations. The site feeds our Facebook page, the reservations system is in Austin, Texas and the maps are done in Lucerne and Lakeport. This website truly is a collaborative effort and takes advantage of all the collaborative tools available today.
Who knows what we'll be doing in five more years but today this ability to collaborate without regard to operating system, device or locale is a real benefit of the Internet. Oh, and you can still see some cool pictures of cabooses and get one for yourself.
When we lived down in LowCal half a decade ago one of the things we'd often hear is something like "I've lived six blocks from (insert major tourist attraction here) and I've never been there." It's our goal to see as many of the sights as we can and one of the reasons for that is so we can report back to you about these experiences in Lake County. But this does take some time.
Recently we made the time to put some dirt under the tires of the ol' F-Bomb and drove the entire stretch of Bartlett Springs Road. We packed up Ginger and Zora who love any sort of "go for a ride/go for a walk" type of trip and turned up Bartlett Springs Road for what would be a three-hour tour.
The route that Bartlett Springs Road takes through the mountains above the Featherbed Railroad
Bartlett Springs road is a dirt road that follows the path that early wagons took on their way to the huge Bartlett Springs resort complex. These resorts are what initially put Lake County on the map with the rich mineral water promising all sorts of miraculous remedies for a variety of what ailed people.
In 1870 Green Bartlett and L. Thorpe built several crude cabins in the area after sitting in the mineral waters that flow naturally and finding that they felt much better following the soak. Bartlett brought others back to experience this "miraculous cure" and so it started.
By 1873 the popularity of the area was such that a two-story hotel and about 40 cabins were justified in the area. Business was booming.
Bartlett Springs resort in its heyday.
In those days you'd pack your steamer trunk, which probably held all your belongings, and make the long trip from San Francisco to Bartlett Springs to soak in the waters and cure what ailed you. Often times the wife would take all the kids for the entire summer while hubby would remain busily working for more of this period. Then, the Mr. would come up for some time in the waters. Again, it was quite a long trip.
The fountain/gazebo area today.
Since medical science was more of an art form in those days, it wasn't difficult for the resorts owner to have medical practitioners swear that sitting in this or that water would cure all sorts of maladies. While a nice hot bath in mineral water is certainly pleasant and calming, it's not certain that you're really going to cure anything by doing so and eventually medical science caught up with the these places. While we've heard tales of people who were very sick looking at a summer of soaking as a potential cure, today we know better.
The resorts in the area truly prospered with people returning home claiming miracle cures - probably a better choice than to admit that nothing really happened. As more people came the resorts got larger and larger with Bartlett Springs listed a a first-class resort with five hotels, 350 cabins and other buildings able to serve up to 5,000 guests at a time. Today all the lodging combined in Lake County can only serve a small fraction of that number.
But the dawn of the automobile meant that people's vacations were shorter and closer to home and, by 1934, Bartlett Springs resort burned to the ground never to open again.
On our journey over Bartlett Springs road we stopped at the site of the old resort with a few remnants of the main gazebo's pool facilities still in place. Driving up Bartlett Springs road affords some great views of Clear Lake with the windy, dirt road steadily rising above the the area and snaking back and forth making for ever better views at each turn until you venture inland toward the resort.
Even though the weather was perfect for a nice long drive, few people were interested in sharing the road with us. There was the occasional motorcycle and even one or two other vehicles, but that's all we saw during the drive.
This is also not the road to go on right after you've had a car wash, which is why we took the F-Bomb. After 200,000 miles it continues to serve us well but we certainly don't mind getting the ol' truck dirty or putting it to work when called for. And it still runs as well as it did when we bought it new almost 20 years ago.
While modern medicine may have eliminated the claims made by "doctors" in the olden days, this didn't stop French company Vittel from setting up shop in these hills in 1985 and bottling the magic liquid that continues to pour forth from the mountains to this day. Today the bottling plant that was Vittel, and then Bartlett Spring water, still exists at the base of Bartlett Springs Road and has most recently been known for serving Tulip Hill Winery. Today that building is being used by the Nice Wine Company and predominantly does private crush operations. Apparently lead in the water isn't such a curative thing after all.
Back up on Bartlett Springs Road once you've passed the site of all the resorts the road continues to snake along the top of Walker Ridge until you get to a huge reservoir which happens to be Indian Valley Reservoir. This is a fairly sizable body of water that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says provides a variety of recreational activities including hunting, boating, fishing and such. Apparently they only had one taker when we were there as there was a lone motorhome parked along the banks of this reservoir.
This type of getaway is for someone who definitely likes to be away from it all as it took us over an hour to get to this point and there are no services to be found. In other words, if you forget the can opener or need a tank of gas it's going to be a long drive back to get it. And that's lesson number one, don't take this road unless your fuel gauge starts somewhere near the "F."
After passing Indian Valley Reservoir we continued to bounce along the road and head up. It's surprising to see a cabin or home here and there because, once again, you are away from it all.
Eventually you get to a fork in the road that really isn't marked at all. Would a left return you to the civilized world, or would a right do that? And would it have made sense to bring a paper map along because there is zero cell signal back here in the woods? Oh, and remember that suggestion about having a full tank? That comes from experience as the ol' F-Bomb can hold over 40 gallons of gasoline but we didn't have nearly that much when we started this journey and now the "E" was making nice with the pointer that shows how much, or how little, of the petroleum stuff was left in the tank. Ooops. Bring a map, make sure your fuel tank can withstand three hours of creeping along in first gear.
So after two hours of bouncing along the road at no more than 15 miles per hour we now were hoping to see some signs that our decision of which direction to take in the fork in the road was a good one. Up some more hills past some more trees and other local plant life but no signs of human invasion, other than this road and the now-filthy hood of the ol' Ford.
Finally after getting a little too friendly with that "E" on the gauge we spotted the freeway. Now Peggy's been in the desert many, many times and has even been stuck there for a few days. Tony, on the other hand, thinks that roughing it means a mall without an Apple store or a car show without beer.
But a bit of nervousness aside, it was a fun journey to cross a path that was cut over 150 years ago by a few early settlers looking for a bath. And speaking of baths, the next stop for Tony, Peggy, the formerly white truck and two dogs was respective bathing opportunities to get the dust off.
Recently we entered our very first chili cook off competition. There were six others in the competition and hundreds of audience members tasting and voting on the different chilis. After all was said and done; however, we took the award for best chili in the audience vote.
To me this was a huge honor because there were somegreat competitors including an outstanding local caterer, the local rodeo association and several others who really, really put their best foot forward. After exchanging samples we wouldn't have minded losing to any of these people - their chili was outstanding. So here's the recipe that we used.
There was a lot of "some of this some of that" adjustment as the chili was being prepared.
The inspiration for this chili came from one of the wonderful people who stay with us, our friend Tom. Thank you, Tom! We thought the idea of PB&J chili was nuts 'till we tried it and now we love it, too! Apparently so do several hundred people in Lake County who helped judge the chili competition.
One of the things you'll want to do is find a local butcher shop for your meat - don't go to the big supermarkets. Their rancher's whatever meat is generally one step above dog food. Go to a real butcher shop that only sells USDA Prime and that also grinds their own hamburger. Trust me.
The same is true of spices. The stuff in most grocery stores doesn't have that punch - it's there because it's cheap. Instead, let me recommend a taste bud changing experience in Savory Spice Shop
in Santa Rosa. Fortunately, you can also buy on line.
So, here's how it works:
- 1 lb Italian pork sausage - ours comes from a local butcher shop
- 1 lb ground beef - ours comes from a local butcher shop and 'real' ground beef tastes so terrific as opposed to the mystery meat they hide in packages you can't see through.
- 2 lbs flat iron steak cut into small pieces
- 2 14oz cans of tomatoes finely cut - your choice of brand or style
- 1 14oz can of tomato paste
- 2 onions coarsely chopped
- 1/8 bell pepper finely chopped
- 1 fresh jalapeño finely chopped
- Chili Powder - they have mild, medium and hot - your choice - add this to taste
- Himalayan Sea Salt - fine
- freshly ground pepper
- fresh crushed garlic.
- smooth peanut butter - Laura Scudders is best
- cheap grape jelly
All you need is one big pot for all of this. Fire it up on medium heat and let it get hot enough so that water "dances" on the bottom of the pot
Butterfly your jalapeño and bell pepper, removing all the innards and seeds. Coat them with olive oil and grill them lightly on a hot bbq grill so that they've got nice grill marks on them. Then finely chop these guys as they've got a date with a pot of chili.
We're back to the big pot so in that pot:
Cook your flat iron steak first - when it starts to heat-up throw in the first chopped onion, the bell pepper and some garlic.
lightly cover your flat irons and onion with some chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper
Once the flat irons and onions are beginning to get done stir in the raw sausage.
When the sausage is starting to get browned, throw on your ground beef. This is the time for the other onion and some more garlic. You can't go wrong with too much onion and garlic, at least not to me.
Cover and mix only occasionally until the meat is close to done. Over mixing will destroy the meat's texture and that's part of the equation here.
When all the meat's done nicely drain off most of the fat. You'll have enough fat left over to grease the entire Pacific fleet for a while.
Then throw in the tomatoes and the jalapeño and another round of all the spices to taste. This is why there's no real recipe, you just have to adjust to taste.
Once everything's hot it's time for a nice big spoon of that cheap grape jelly. Trust me, this cuts the acidity of the tomatoes. Also, you can put in a spoon of the peanut butter. Mix these in well.
Lower the heat and just let it sit there - the longer the better. When it's fantastic, you're ready to please some taste buds.