The Iowa State Fair Ends

Saturday, August 17 – Monday August 19, 2019

Given our busy Thursday, we expected the final weekend of the fair to be even busier. But it was more like earlier in the week. We’d have busy times, then slower times.

We were visited by a local television station Saturday morning and I gave a tour to the reporter and his cameraman. In a bit of poetic irony, the privately contracted sound-man IMG_2706who’d followed me around earlier in the week with a different cameraman for publicity videos, happened to be at the trailer so his wife could tour it. He tried giving sotto voce suggestions (“Turn around so the trailer is in the background!”) to no avail. But because Dave was giving his wife a tour when the news guys arrived, she ended up being the “random parent” interviewed during the news story. And really, the news guys had no idea she had any connection to the trailer at all. Which she really didn’t, except for her husband working there for a few hours earlier in the week, but it just all seemed to come full circle.

A storm blew through Saturday night, so we arrived Sunday morning to find one of our IMG_2714pop-up shade covers mangled and destroyed, despite having been lowered and secured. At least we weren’t the only casualty. There was a “graveyard” of twisted aluminum by a dumpster.

Sunday passed in a blur of busy and slow. Busy and slow. We packed up everything around 7:30, and headed to our hotel around 8. We were absolutely exhausted. We’d put in 9 days of 12 hours. Our friend Steve did 11 days. Everyone was dragging, not thinking clearly, snappish. We’re 68, 63, and 60 years old. I’m not saying who’s which age, by the way, LOL. We need more recovery time than we used to. But–we survived!

Steve’s flight home was at 6:00 AM Monday morning, so Dave drove him to the airport at 4 AM, then came back to the hotel and slept a few more hours. When we woke up at a sensible time for an August Monday, we had our Holiday Inn Express breakfast of sausage, bacon (yay!! Thank you for bacon!), folded/manufactured omelets, and coffee. Dave headed out to buy some supplies for the new trailer and truck. This was that combo’s maiden voyage. It needed spare tires and a few other things.

I’d been saying my reward after all this was going to be a pedicure. I normally get one every 3-4 weeks. But we’ve been so busy, I haven’t had one since the first of May. Yes. May. Three months, not three weeks, ago. David left for his errands and I worked for a bit, then did a quick search for salons/spas in Des Moines. Found a highly rated place. Poked around their website. They had an opening for a pedicure at noon … My finger hovered over the mouse … I clicked Book Now.

I finished packing, summoned an Uber and enjoyed a wonderful pedicure with Rian at Salon W Spa in downtown Des Moines. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it! Dave picked me up after and we headed back to the fairgrounds to hook-up to the trailer and head out.

This is a new and different trailer than what we pulled in Indiana, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Hooking up was definitely a bit different. The hitch seemed to be lower and everything seemed to be just a tiny bit … off from what we had with the first trailer.

But we got it all hooked up. (A big thanks to the young guy from the Jeep/Dodge corporate site nearby who helped/advised/hydrated us.) We said good-bye to Bryan from Farm Boy Garage whose booth was across from ours. I got to give his dog, Cuda, a last cuddle and scratch and get a little doggie-love from her. Anyone who thinks Pit Bulls are vicious has to spend 30 seconds with Cuda. She’s a love.

Finally, we hit the road. We stopped at an RV place that also had a booth at the fair. Dave bought a few more supplies. We hadn’t eaten since the fake eggs at breakfast and it was after 3:00, so I searched for restaurants. We found Kue’d Smokehouse and even though it was a bit out of our way and we had to backtrack, we went there. It was wonderful, worth every extra minute and mile.

We pulled into Lincoln, Nebraska a bit before 8:00. Tomorrow, our destination is Ogallala, Nebraska. Wednesday, we have an event in Julesburg, Colorado, which is about 30 minutes from Ogallala, just across the Nebraska/Colorado border.

I’ve written way too much and still haven’t talked about the most important things: the fair food! Iowa! the people!

Tomorrow …

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Iowa! They love Corn, Butter, and the Fair!

Monday, August 12 — Friday, August 16, 2019

I feel like a skipping record. It’s been crazy here.

The weekend was pretty busy. Monday was kind of quiet, as was (in hindsight) Tuesday. Dave and our friend and colleague, Steve, gave me Tuesday morning off, so I didn’t get up with Dave at 6 am. I slept until a little after 7, waved goodbye to him at 7:30, and worked in the hotel room until about noon when I headed to the diner next door for a salad for lunch.

I do like Fair Fare, but it’s mostly all fried and I was craving a salad and vegetables. After a healthy lunch, I Ubered to the fairgrounds, and we worked all afternoon.

Wednesday started normally. It was “Older Iowans Day” at the Fair. Steve, our friend and co-worker, was planning to take a few hours off that afternoon for a break and to do laundry. He’s been at the fair since the beginning. He did get his time off, but …

We drive into the fair, set up the trailer. There’s not a lot of set up since the trailer stays in place, but the awning has to be lifted, (Thanks, YouTube!) the stairs/platform put in IMG_2673place, the stanchions with adjustable entrance barriers placed, the generator hooked up so we have lights and AC inside. Once that’s done, one of the guys drives the pickup to a far, far away parking lot and hikes back. As we drove to the fair Wednesday morning, Dave realized he’d left his phone plugged in and charging at the hotel. So after the setup, he went to get his phone, parked, and hiked in.

It was a warm day. He was walking fast. He has A-Fib, kinda-sorta-not-really controlled by medication. (He and his cardiologist are planning a cardioversion procedure to correct it as soon as we’re off the road.) As he was walking, he felt the A-Fib kick in. His heart started fluttering.

When he got to the trailer, he sat for a few minutes. The fluttering didn’t go away, so while Steve gave a tour, Dave and I walked (slowly) to the First Aid tent for a BP check. (I tell you–it’s always something with us! But spoiler alert–everything is fine!!) The paramedics at the tent did a BP check. It was high. We discussed his options. He decided to go to the ER. Just to be safe. The concern with A-Fib is a stroke. The fluttering and uneven heart beat can make blood clots that travel along and cause strokes.

So he stayed at the First Aid room while a very nice fireman gave me a ride in a golf cart back to the trailer. Steve was in the middle of another tour, so I traded places with him. (Dave needed to talk to him before he left in an ambulance for the ER.) The fireman took Steve back to First Aid. The plan was I’d finish the tour, grab my purse, walk to First Aid and go to the ER with Dave while Steve came back to handle the trailer tours.

Except the ambulance arrived before I finished the tour. (Kudos to Des Moines EMS! They are on it!!) It looked like Dave was going to be long gone before I got back to First Aid.

But … the ambulance personnel, the First Aid paramedics, and Dave (who was an EMT when he was on the job) talked. By then, some time had passed, he’d cooled off (it was another hot and humid day–don’t forget we’re Californians! We’re not used to this humidity!) He felt better. So he decided to skip the hospital. He came back to the trailer. He sat in the shade. Took it easy. Within another hour or so, he felt normal again. Steve took his afternoon off. Whew! So that was our Wednesday. And it was pretty busy. Lots of Older Iowans came to the Fair!

Thursday was our busiest day yet! But when it started, we didn’t know it would be. We knew it was Legislator Day. So we expected a few state politicians and the filming/media crew. Side note: After our first day on Saturday, Dave had me order some counter/clickers so we could track numbers. The people in front of the trailer who are giving away tote bags and drug deactivation/disposal kits were estimating the number of people they contacted. We made hash marks on a note pad. As crew “boss” Dave decided we needed more than estimates, so I ordered clickers on Amazon and had them delivered to us at the hotel. Tuesday and Wednesday we gave tours to between 50 and 60 people. The RALI people contacted several hundred people and gave away that many tote bags and drug neutralizing kits.

The plan for Thursday was that after our morning set up, Dave would leave, come back to the hotel, do laundry and have his morning off. Which is what happened. For him.

For Steve and me … a totally different story.

We worked non-stop. By the end of the day, we’d given tours to double the number of people the other days. 110. Those other days, there were three of us giving tours. The majority of Thursday, it was two of us. It wasn’t Dave’s fault he was gone. We had no idea it would be so busy.

Several state legislators came through. I gave a tour to Ann Meyer. She was very attentive and definitely sees the value and importance of what we’re doing. Once David got there, he was all in. He did a lot of the tours and let me rest.

I’m writing this Friday evening. We thought today would be busy, because the fair ends Sunday. We’re into the final weekend. But today was like Monday or Tuesday. We may not have even reached 50 people touring the trailer. Like I said–Crazy!!

Since I was exhausted last night, Dave let me sleep again this morning. I woke before he left, then worked a few hours. Yesterday was the 15th and I have some mid-month stuff to do, so I took care of that this morning, and summoned an Uber ride. I told my driver

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Cuda, the dog who belongs to the booth across the walkway from us. She’s a sweetheart and when I need a doggie-fix and a break from the drug stuff, I go rub her nose and give her some love. But she gives me back even more.

what I was doing at the fair, and–I heard it in her voice–she connected immediately. She said her mom was always straight edge, a non-drinker, no drugs. Until she had hip surgery and was prescribed OxyContin. She got hooked and now she’s an addict. My driver said because of that she personally won’t take anything stronger than Tylenol.

There’s another drug education trailer at the fair and Dave visited it earlier this week. It’s put on by Iowa narcotics enforcement people. When I arrived this morning, I went to the other trailer for their tour. It’s similar to ours, in that it’s a mock teenager’s bedroom. It’s different from ours in that it’s messy (so more realistic, LOL). It also shows secret “codes” that signal drug use between users. That was interesting to learn. There’s some overlap, for sure. The officer giving me the tour handed me a personal safe, thinking he’d “teach” me something, but I twisted it apart because I knew what it was and showed him what it concealed instead of vice versa.

The rest of the day passed pretty quickly. We traded off giving tours. We’re still astounded how quiet it was for a Friday. But we’re also grateful. We were back in the hotel by 8:00, looking forward to a good night’s sleep so we’re ready for the last two days.

Next up when I have a few minutes: Fair Fare (the food!) and other impressions of Iowa: the fair, the people, the weather, etc. And the people who come through the trailers.

One of the tour “points” we make is that addicts use spoons to heat/liquify their drug. A mom today said she’s missing spoons in her kitchen …

This. Is. Real.

 

Iowa!

Saturday – Tuesday, August 10 – 13, 2019

It’s been a wonderful, busy, energizing, exhausting, crazy, full few days in Iowa.

After our recovery day on Friday, we hit it hard Saturday morning. We met our friend and colleague Steve for breakfast then headed to the fairgrounds. We stopped for gas for the generator that powers the trailer lights and air conditioners, bottled water, ice, an ice chest, snacks, and a few other supplies.

IMG_2653We were at the trailer by a few minutes after 8:00 and began the setup. People trickled in and I gave my first tour at about 8:30, to a couple who were working the booth across from us. They’d been told about us and wanted to get a tour before they started work.

Everyone who has been through the trailer is deeply impacted by what they see and learn. There are definite “categories” of visitors.

The “Professional.” This is an educator, or medical, or social worker, or law enforcement professional who believes they’ve seen and already know it all. They often decline a tour, so we say, “Why don’t you come on in and tell us if there’s something we’ve missed or something we can do better? Give us your opinion.” If they come in, by the end of the 15 minute tour, they’re amazed that they’ve learned something and they ask how can they get the trailer to their town/workplace for others to visit.

The “Reformed.” A former recreational drug/pot user who knows all the tricks. Again, we say, “Come on in and tell us what we can do better.” They listen, nod, and by the end, shrug, and say, “You’re doing a great job here.”

Parents who are “In It.” The first day I had two moms on two different tours react with visible emotion. They hid it very well, and I’m sure I was the only one who noticed, because I was the only one making direct eye contact. But they both had a finger hooked over their lips, and their eyes were tearing up.

Parents in “Denial.” A dad told us about his son, who he’s pretty sure isn’t using drugs even though the son has gone through a big personality change, has all new friends, and his girlfriend appears to be stoned a lot of the time. In this case, we hope that what he learned will come together with what he’s observing in his son in the next few weeks.

Parents who are “Open.” Many parents, as soon as they hear the premise of the trailer, hurry to the front door. They listen eagerly. They soak in everything. We had one such family yesterday. I gave the tour to the parents while Dave stayed outside with the four teenage boys. (We don’t allow anyone younger than 21 inside–don’t want to give them ideas! Though we do make an occasional exception.) After the tour, we visited with the parents and the sons for another twenty minutes. This is a family that’s aware of the opioid crisis and is staying educated, and isn’t thinking it couldn’t happen to them.

The “Unaware and Curious.” These people have heard about the trailer, or have a few minutes to kill. Five minutes into the tour their eyes widen and they are giving me their full attention. Sunday morning, one woman at the end of the tour said, “This is terrifying.” Because she had no clue about the extent of the opioid crisis in our country.

Without exception, every single person who exits the trailer has left it deeply impacted by what they learned.

We’re honored and humbled to be here and be a part of this.

In the next few days I’ll continue to share impressions of the Iowa State Fair (Fair Food!), and the people we meet. Thanks for reading!

 

The Adventure Continues!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

We needed to leave San Francisco first thing Thursday morning, because we had a flight out of Fresno at 4:02 that afternoon. We missed our final breakfast with our friends at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, one of our favorite places, but work called.

We got home about 10:30 and threw one load of everything into the washer. The cat insisted he’d not been fed even once in the four days we’d been gone so we took turns feeding and petting him. At 2:00 our friends arrived to shuttle us to the airport and we were off again.

The ticket agent informed us that our connection in Denver was delayed due to storms. They couldn’t land and so our flight was impacted. Okay, not great news, but it would only make us half an hour late into Des Moines.

Well … that was only the beginning.

At our gate, we waited for the boarding call. And waited. And waited. Then came the announcement that the incoming flight was delayed. And delayed. By the time it finally arrived, and we were onboard, we still waited to take off, and we were grateful the Denver flight was delayed. Bottom line: we’d have about 30 minutes to make the connection.

In Denver, that’s risky. It’s such a huge airport. Even if you’re in the same terminal, it can be half an hour to walk to your next gate. But there was nothing we could do except try.

We landed. And we waited again. There was a problem with the jetway. If we’d been able to get off right away, we’d have made the connection. I’m convinced those ten minutes cost us that flight. We ran the half mile to the next gate only to be told we were too late. The flight hadn’t left the gate yet, but they wouldn’t let us on.

So we joined the line of roughly 200 other stranded passengers for customer service. I used the app to book us on a flight the next morning as standbys, but we needed to talk to a live person about other options and also where our bags were. It took two and a half hours to work our way to the front of the line. Because the delays were weather related, all the airline offered us was bottled water while we stood in line and a “Freshness” Kit, of an empty water bottle, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc. The rep also gave us three blankets instead of two, since we’d be sleeping in the airport that night and it was already midnight. 

The best the agent could do for us was to get us on an 11 am flight to Moline, Illinois where we’d rent a car and drive two hours and forty minutes to Des Moines, pick up our bags at the airport, return the car, and finally begin our fair time.

We hiked the mile from B Terminal to A Terminal to the gate where the 8:00 AM flight to Des Moines was scheduled to depart, hoping it wouldn’t be changed to a different gate (and that our standby status would get us on the flight).

IMG_2626Now I can say I’ve slept on an airport floor. And I actually did sleep for a couple of hours. The lights were bright, so I was grateful for that third blanket. Dave let me have it, so I was covered, toes to head, and the lights weren’t in my eyes.  As close to heaven as one can get on the floor of an airport.

In the morning, we shared a breakfast sandwich and had coffee and prayed and hoped. Dave talked to the  gate agent. She said the flight had one empty seat, so we needed just one passenger to not show up. You feel bad hoping someone misses their flight, but … there could be lots of reasons they don’t make it. I think. Maybe.

As boarding began, we watched and waited. Then we gathered our things and hovered near the gate, hoping the agent would see us and have pity. She called for three passengers, “Final boarding.” One woman ran up, huffing and puffing. She swore her friend was right behind her. She squinted and pointed down the terminal to someone running.

The agent kept calling for one more passenger, “Barbara, final call.” She went out the door, closing it behind her and we thought we were headed to Moline and a rental car. I started searching my United app for its departure gate.

Then the agent was back and asking, “Were there standby passengers for Des Moines?”

“Us!” We rushed toward her.

“Come on! Hurry!”

She flung the door open and trotted down the ramp and onto the tarmac, waving at the pilot who was already going through his checklist and not looking up. The runway employees had pulled the stairs away. Dave shook his head. The plane backed away.

The agent jumped up and down, waving two fingers.

Finally the pilot saw her. The plane stopped. The door opened. Stairs lowered.

We dashed up, apologized to the flight attendant. “I’m sorry, they forgot us! We slept on the floor!”

I stopped at the first vacant seat. A man sat at the window. A water bottle and a small bag were in the seat. I indicated I needed to sit there. “Oh, sorry. Your seat?” He picked up the things. “This was my wife’s. I guess she didn’t make it.”

Oops. I guess his wife was Barbara. He had on headphones and it was obvious he did not want to talk, so we sat in silence for the hour and a half flight. Except when we deplaned. I had brought the blankets on board, just in case. Then I left them behind on the seat. As I stood and started to move down the aisle, he said, “Ma’am, your jacket.” I turned around. “Oh, no. It’s blankets from sleeping on the floor.” He nodded. So yes, we shared a moment.

Next, our bags. They should have been on the plane with us. The agent last night assured us since they were tagged in Fresno to Des Moines, they would make it to Des Moines, even if we went to Moline. So we headed to baggage claim, and sure enough, first Dave’s bag came out of the slot, then mine! Finally, things were going right. 

Then I called the hotel. I hadn’t thought to call earlier, but our reservation was confirmed for the day before, so arriving before official check-in time, a day late, shouldn’t be a problem. We just needed to get to the hotel. I called to ask about a shuttle, but nope. So we Ubered to the hotel, checked in, and collapsed.

After naps, we looked around for a place to get an early dinner. Google maps said there was a BBQ place just a block away so we headed out. We found it easily enough, but it was closed up tight. At 4:00 on a Friday. Sigh. Later, we found out they were probably out at the fair with a booth.

There was also a diner right next to the hotel so we returned there, shared some grilled chicken and vegetables. Then we called up another Uber for a ride to a drugstore to buy a few supplies. We had a lovely driver named Veronica. This was definitely a God-ordained appointment. She drives Uber on weekends as a second job, putting the money toward a ministry she’s launching to bring electricity to Africa. She’s also a survivor of a workplace shooting. By the end of the ride, we were all talking super fast, trying to get everything said that needed to be said, before we had to get out of the car. Uber sets a limit on how much I could tip, or I would have given her more for the electricity project.

We had an early night and still fell asleep quite easily. Then Saturday we hit the Iowa State Fair!

San Francisco: The City by the Bay

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Our food walk day. 🙂

We went to Mama’s for breakfast. We were there by 8:30 and only had to wait in line for IMG_2643an hour! Mama’s is a must visit when we’re in SF. The portions are generous and the food is delicious. I had the Florentine Scramble which is scrambled eggs (they must be delicious, since I don’t do eggs, and I reallllllly don’t do scrambled eggs), with spinach, bacon, red onion, and cheese. Also potatoes, and a toasted sour dough baguette. I barely made a dent in all that food. To the extent that the waitress asked if I likedIMG_2645 it when she took away my plate. I assured her it was very good!

After breakfast, we went back to our hotel, took a little rest, then regrouped for the next foray. We rode the bus down to the Sutro Baths. We had visited there a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t able to walk around and see everything up close and this time was my opportunity. The area has some amazing history attached to it.

After exploring and being wind blown, we made our way to the nearby Cliff House where we shared some snacks as a late lunch. Then we rode the bus back to the city center, walked to Lemonade for … what else? some lemonade!

Then to the Marriott Hotel for our usual visit to their View Lounge.  It used to be called the Sky Lounge, (or Skyy??) but now it’s the View. Our waitress there was awe. SOME! She took excellent care of us and was charming and fun! We can’t wait to go back just to enjoy her company. Anyway, drinks, more snacks, and watching the construction of the building nearby took some time. It was fascinating to watch the crane operator. That also necessitated debating and looking up crane operator salaries in San Francisco.

Back to our hotel then. We had leftovers from Luisa’s and snacks from our first night that we put out, but let’s be honest. We’d been snacking all day. No one was really “hungry.” After we ate, we went to the hotel’s restaurant and enjoyed some live music. A jazz group was playing.

We decided to sleep in the next morning, Wednesday, and go to Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, another staple of SF visits, for breakfast. And it’s a good thing I decided to look at the menu first thing Wednesday morning, because I discovered that they’re closed on Wednesdays.

Quick change of plans and we instead went to Lori’s Diner, where we had a coupon for 20% off. The food was good and hearty, the service excellent, but it just wasn’t Dottie’s.

After breakfast, our destination was the Walt Disney Family Museum. Another first for Dave and me. We rode a couple of busses to get there. It’s on the grounds of the old Presidio. It’s phenomenal. We spent several hours there. It’s truly a museum dedicated to the origins of Walt Disney and his family. It begins with his ancestors’ migration from France and Ireland. It’s laid out and organized extremely well. I loved it. I soon gave up trying to read everything, because there is just so much detail. I didn’t realize that Walt was only 65 when he died. What a loss to the creative world …

IMG_2585Another bus ride and we were closer to the Fisherman’s Wharf area and we stopped at the famous Buena Vista Cafe for Irish Coffees. Tony had started a group text before the trip with a link to an article about the cafe and their coffees and the bartender who’s served five million of them.

The experience did not disappoint. We all enjoyed the coffee and shared some fries as sustenance before we walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner at Boudin’s on Pier 39. Dave and I shared clam chowder in a bread bowl and it was as delicious as expected.

Then our little group headed to the highlight of the trip which was a wine tasting bay cruise. Such a fun evening! The cruise was two hours long. IMG_4291It included 5 tastings, plus a bonus “welcome aboard,” taste. The weather was pretty windy and chilly, so we didn’t spend much time outside on the deck. The first 30-40 minutes were pretty rough as we sailed toward the Golden Gate. But once we reached the bridge and turned around, everything was delightful! The water smoothed out. People could walk to the bar for their additional pours. (Instead of having to stagger from post to post, grasping their glass, afraid to let go of either.)

The crew was personable and fun. The customers could join the captain and take pictures behind his station.

From the Golden Gate, we then sailed to the Bay Bridge, to Oracle Park and McCovey Cove. There are blankets on board, if it’s really cold. The whole cruise was wonderful and I highly recommend it!

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We docked at 9:00, walked to a nearby cable car stop and waited for our turn to ride back to the stop near our hotel. By then, we only had about half an hour to enjoy the last of the

night’s jazz musician’s in the hotel restaurant, but it was a great ending to a wonderful day in San Francisco.

And alas, it was the end of our trip. We had to fly out of Fresno at 4:00 the next day,Thursday. Which meant we had to be at the airport by 2:30, leaving our house by 2. We had to do laundry and I had some work to do, so we needed to leave by 7:30 the next morning.

So we said our farewells Wednesday evening, after the jazz musicians finished their set. (Quick interruption–one of them came over to chat–asked us where we were from–turns out he plays sometimes with the Sons of the San Joaquin–Fresno’s pre-eminent cowboy singing group.)

We had a wonderful three full days and two partial days in San Francisco. We loved every minute and we’re so grateful to our generous friends for sharing their lodging with us.

I’m almost up to real time now! I’ll try to get caught up tomorrow. Or the next day …

 

The Adventure Interlude: Home and SF

July 30 – Aug. 7, 2019

We got home on the 30th and kept busy with laundry, my work, and household stuff. We celebrated a family birthday and got to see the grandkidsIMG_2496. We had hired a lawn service and the guy decided we live too far away and quit, so we scrambled to find someone else. Which we did. Whew! My mom and I took in a presentation of Calamity Jane, starring Louise Mandrell. Dave and I hosted a family gathering on IMG_2503Saturday, August 3rd. Our niece, Katie, and her daughters were visiting from Maryland, so we got to see them and get caught up.

Then Sunday August 4th, we left again. This time for a personal vacation in San Francisco with two couples, both longtime friends. Wally and Deb are moving out of state soon, and they generously shared their timeshare points with us so we had very nice accommodations near Union Square.

We went to church Sunday morning, then we had a bit of tidying up to do around the house from the day before, so we didn’t get away as soon as we’d hoped. Let’s just say Dave made up for the late start by driving like he couldn’t with the trailer behind him in Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota. We got to SF about 5, checked in, found our friends, and settled in with drinks and snacks and catching up and stories and laughter.

Monday was a day of fabulous firsts. We went to Sears for breakfast. I’ve already mentioned my issue with eggs. I ordered one egg, over hard. This was the best restaurant cooked egg I’ve ever had. It was perfect! A first! I neglected to get a picture, because the thing with eggs is, they have to be eaten while still hot. There’s a very slim time margin. But trust me. I’m a very picky egg eater. This one was perfect.

After breakfast, we headed to the Ferry Building, then walked to catch a ferry to Alcatraz. Dave and I had never been there. Another first. It’s a fascinating place, with so much IMG_2525history. It was quite breezy out there and Dave’s audio tour/headphones got out of sync, so he missed some parts, but it was still a great experience. We spent a couple of hours wondering the island.

After coming back to the city, Tony researched restaurants. A mention on the tour of spaghetti in the dining hall had several of us wanting pasta for dinner. Tony found a place with great reviews and we headed there. We found it, but there was a problem … they served no alcohol. After walking 10,000 steps, we needed a glass of wine to go with our spaghetti!

The staff there directed us to their second location, which was more of a sit down place, since their’s was more take-out. We conferred. No one wanted to walk the additional half mile. Luckily, we were in North Beach, which is rich with Italian restaurants. I pointed across the street and squinted. The sign said Luisa’s … Something or other. 

We crossed the street. A lit sign in a window said Pizza. Two men sat at a table on the sidewalk. There were lights on inside, but no other indications that they were open. Now we could read the name of the place: Luisa’s Ristorante.

Little did we know the treat awaiting us.

One of the men out front wore an apron so we asked if they were open. He said yes,  stood, and we entered.

A woman was sitting at a table. We asked again if they were open. A waiter said yes,  gestured to us to choose a table, any table. The woman stood, gathered her papers, and shuffled off. The waiter gave us “menus.” Three sheets of 9×12 papers, stapled together.

IMG_2545The woman shuffled back, sat at our table, and introduced herself as Luisa, ninety-one years old, the owner and chef. She proceeded to show us pictures of celebrities who had dined at her restaurant in the past, including Sophia Loren and Guy Fieri. Her accent was thick, her hair very dark (for ninety-one years old), and her attitude presumptuous. I asked what Guy had eaten and she told me he loved her gnocchi.

On the menu, the gnocchi was listed as, “Gnocchi ***** Yelp” followed by a brief description and the choice of sauces. (I figured out that meant the gnocchi has a 5 star rating on Yelp. We also learned later that she’d recently relocated the ristorante to that North Beach location. SF leases and landlords being unreasonable and all that, you know.)

Tony and Dave asked about the wine selection and Luisa reached for a bottle of red, announced it was her own blend and it was an excellent choice, even if the alcohol content was a bit over what was strictly legal-wink, wink. Tony ordered a bottle for the table. Since I stick to white (red gives me leg cramps), Dave ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio for the table as well. It was realllly good. Deb started with a glass of the red, but she switched to the white after she tasted it.

Then. We attempted to order our dinners. As the first person ordered, Luisa not-so-gently corrected their order. “No. You want that with the pappardelle. I make that. I don’t make the spaghetti.” By the end of the ordering, each of us was looking at Luisa for approval. Dave ordered a Napalese pizza. That passed fine. I ordered the gnocchi. Instead of the four or five sauce options on the menu, she gave me a choice of two: the pesto or the vodka sauce. I chose the vodka, a light pink sauce. IMG_2543Wally chose Luisa’s sauce (pancetta, peas, and a few other ingredients) with his pasta and he said it was excellent.

I’ve ordered gnocchi before. I like it. I always think it’s going to be better than it is.

Until Luisa’s.

I will never order gnocchi anywhere else, ever again.

Ah. May. Zing.

Light. Velvety. Delicious! The sauce was perfect with the gnocchi. I don’t care if I ever eat gnocchi again, because I’ve had them as perfectly as they can ever be made. Another first!

Luisa is a true character. While she sat with us, she shared some of her stories. She zeroed in on the men in our party. (Talk about a flirt!) She knew Tony was a salesman. He’s also Italian, so they traded stories about the old country.

While we were eating and chatting, a young woman bounced in, handed Luisa her resume, and bounced out, in about twelve seconds. She wasn’t out the door three seconds before Luisa ripped the resume in half and tossed it aside. Our table hooted. Kim and I exchanged glances and whispered consultations. That was not the way to go about applying for a job with Luisa.

Another customer came into the restaurant. He sat near us. Listened. Ordered. Luisa paid no attention to him. Another young woman came in with a resume. She did sit and chat with Luisa before leaving. Her resume did not get torn up.

Kim and I watched the other customer order and eat. Remember, this was a Monday. And early in the evening. I’m 90% sure he was a chef. He dined alone. He knew who Luisa was. When he was done, he approached her, introduced himself, chatted for a moment. I wasn’t near enough to hear their conversation, but he was invited to sit. They talked for several minutes. I’m quite sure he was either scoping out the competition or applying for a job. And he knew how to go about it, not like the first young woman with the resume that got torn up.

We finally left to catch a cable car back to our hotel. Our whole experience was wonderful. And all because the takeout place across the street didn’t have a liquor license.

I have two more days in San Francisco to talk about and two travel days to Des Moines to catch up on. We are safely in Des Moines. After some delays and excitement in Denver. But this post is already too long. I’ll continue to post and catch up in the next few days. Thank you for reading!!