USA Trip


5th March 2008 - 20th March 2008

Napa, California



With approval, I had of managed to secure a few days of leave and with the good fortune of securing a flight via San Francisco which permitted me a stopover in San Francisco, I arranged to meet up with an old school friend, Barry Dodds,  whom I had last seen in 2005 and prior to that, not since schooldays. Barry lived in the Napa Valley wine area of California. On my previous visit, he operated from the Kendall Jackson Wine Tasting room in the northern Sonoma County town of Healdsburg. Since then, he had secured a post closer to home, at Freemark Abbey, in the Napa Valley. Conveniently, I took a shuttle bus from the airport, upon arrival around 21h00, which got me to Napa about midnight. Though we had not spoken, the power of e-mail communication prevailed and Barry was there to pick me up. Though it was late, excitement got the better of us and we chatted about recent events and my meeting up with old school friends at our Blouberg reunion, on my recent visit to Cape Town.


The most famous and most photographed sign in Napa and possibly in the USA.


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

                                 A1 (Silverado Trail on rhs)                                   A2-1 (rhs)                                                           A2-2

A1 or A2 - one of these is Stag's Leap - what is the other?


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.



I had been invited to Freemark Abbey note: link to Google maps on Saturday, 15th March, for the release of a wine vintage and after getting up, we left around 8h30. The event had been arranged for members of the Freemark Abbey wine club by invitation, though Saturday is business as usual in the wine tasting room. The winery is located on the Calistoga side of the junction of St Helena Highway and Lodi Lane. Before we left, I got to meet Barry's brother, Brian, whom I hadn't seen since the good 'ole days. The weather was sunny and warm and so I loaned Barry's car, driving the length and breadth of the Silverado Trail, taking photographs of the vineyards, returning around lunchtime. And so, on an empty stomach, I spent the rest of the day sampling the truly astounding wine of this estate and the delicacies on offer. A young guitarist Barry had "unearthed", played a selection of well-known folk songs whilst accompanying himself on the guitar - he was good. Inexplicably, I managed to stay sober which can be more than one might say for one young Reiki therapist who got a bit out of it and thought I was only there to photograph her. I got chatting to a fascinating woman who had German roots and an uncle who visited Germany regularly. I mentioned that I had always been interested in researching my own family roots and that she ought to use the opportunity (her uncle) as "a matter of urgency" - this amused her greatly.


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.



Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

A3-1 (LHS)


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

A4-1 (rhs)


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

                            A5-1 (LHS)                                                  A6-1 (taken LHS where cyclist went by)                     A6-2


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

                                                                                                         A7-1 (LHS) Oakville?


We returned home and Barry made supper. Barry's son, Carter, had grown since I had last seen him. So had his hair, in fact, his face barely visible, with a long ginger fringe. One cool dude!  Kim was away on business, winding up an estate in Valejo, as part of her moonlighting activity.  Barry and I watched some English football (soccer) and chatted, washing down the conversation with grand servings of stock from his personal cellar. I enjoyed his company and good humour immensely and I suspect he did mine too. I discovered that Americans have an absolute fascination for Simon Cowell's innovation, American Idol. Personally, I cannot stand the man - I think he's obnoxious. But I can understand Barry's fascination for the show. On Sunday I went with Barry to his local First Baptist Church. It was a celebration of Palm Sunday which coincides with the Jewish Holiday of Purim. Barry's other love is his music and he has developed into a really good musician. Jokingly, I said that his guitar work was better than his singing. He does both for the gospel group playing Sunday morning church services and I thought the songs were really good. Extraordinarily, the pastor had invited a Jewish guest to talk about Purim. It was generally quite interesting but I later confessed to Barry that I found the delivered speech a bit too political for the occasion and being purely and overtly pro-Israeli, rather one-sided.  On that topic Barry and I agreed to disagree.  Nonetheless, the service was quite different to any I had been accustomed to. We returned for lunch and drove to visit Kim in Vallejo. On the way back we stopped to buy groceries, as a barbeque had been arranged. Amazingly, Barry and I bumped into a one Karen Brewster, whom Barry had last seen around Christmas Eve, 2005, also whilst we were on a Napa shopping expedition! The barbeque did not materialise, much to Carter's annoyance, so Barry made dinner. More of that sumptuous Napa wine.


Barry on stage as he loves it, with the band, Free Baptist church, Napa.


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

A7-2 (LHS)

Is A5 Oakville?


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

                                  A8-1                                                                  A8-2                                                                    A8-3

 (A8 group photos were taken off the Silverado Trail heading north,  at turn-off to the left, just before the farm A9 with the USA flag)


Napa County is a county located north of the San Francisco Bay Area. The county seat is Napa. Napa County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood. The word napa is of Native American derivation and has been variously translated as "grizzly bear", "house", "motherland", "fish". Of the many explanations of the name's origin, the most plausible seems to be that it is derived from the Patwin word napo meaning house, although local residents will often cite an urban legend that gives the translation as "you will always return". Napa County, once the producer of many different crops, is known today for its wine industry, rising in the 1960s to prominence with the wine regions of France and Italy. Napa is warmer in the summer than Sonoma County to the west or Santa Barbara County, a wine-producing county in southern California. Thus, the Napa wineries favour varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, while Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are more the specialty of Sonoma wineries and Santa Barbara wineries.


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

A9 (LHS)


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

A10 (LHS)


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

A11-1 (LHS)


Barry normally has Mondays off and does a bit of housework. I had talked Barry into connecting his PC (sound) to his amp, as I had brought along a number of region 2 DVDs which would not play on his standalone DVD player. We went into town and ended up having lunch at the Villa Corona (see website), a Mexican speciality restaurant reputedly serving the best burritos and tacos (yes, Barry, that's "takos", not "take-ohs"!!) in Napa. Barry caught some shut-eye - checked my BT yahoo e-mails - he then prepared a traditional St Patrick's dish of corned beef, potatoes and veggies. More heavenly Napa wine. Corned beef and cabbage is the most common meal eaten in the United States for St. Patrick's Day, even though historically, corned beef and cabbage is an American (rather than a traditionally Irish) meal.  Kim arrived back in time for the meal and proceeded to "grill" me about my private life - the Inquisition personified?


Napa Valley, California - The Silverado Trail.

A12 (this is still on the Silverado trail further on, just after your Lodi Lane turn-off)


So who is this putz anyway?


Barry attending to wine orders at the office; Freemark Abbey tasting room - the staff; Freemark Abbey winery entrance.

Part One - Portland, Oregon: [ 1 ]  [ 2 ]

Part Two - Napa, California: [ 1 ]  [ 2 ]  [ 3 ]

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