Friday, April 13, 2012

Preparing for the WARE

We arrived at the Lodi Grape Festival grounds on Monday morning, along with the advance crew for the rally we’re holding here starting on Sunday. You can see 8 of the 10 rigs in the pic below.


WARE stands for Western Area Rally for Escapees. It’s the first rally of its kind in the western U.S., with several nearby regional chapters and nationwide Birds-of-a-Feather (BOF) groups involved in the planning and implementation of the rally events. Don and I took the lead in selecting a location and putting a team in place to take responsibility for various aspects of the rally. We didn’t know how many RVs or people to plan for, but initial surveys indicated around 200-300 rigs, with about twice that many people (although several RVs are coming with solo travelers in them). Our registration numbers almost reached the 200 RVs/400 people level, but several have had to cancel because of health or mechanical problems. However, this is still a much larger rally than we’ve managed before.

Thank heavens for all the great people we got to join the planning and advance staff! They just see what needs to be done and they do it. For instance, several people volunteered to help Brenda Neil, who recently broke her foot, to gather door prizes from local vendors. Here are Dave Neil, and Frank & Gloria King just returning from a solicitation trip, with their hands and arms full of nice donations.


They’ve collected wine, T-shirts, coupons, wine, ball caps, and more wine! Paula and Carlin Serra got 9 bottles of wine in one morning of asking for door prizes. After, all we’re in the middle of over 80 wineries within an hour’s drive.


On our way here after leaving Susan’s house in Watsonville, she called Don to ask if he missed his BBQ. He had used it in her backyard and forgot to pack it back into the motorhome. So she brought it with her to meet us in Santa Nella where we had lunch at Pea Soup Andersen’s on Wednesday. The Kings came along too, so it was a fun outing for us all.


On the way back to Lodi, Gloria & Frank and Don & I stopped at Hilmar Cheese Factory to buy some goodies.


There are displays showing how the cheese is made.


The gift shop is lovely, with many items that have no relation to cheese. Gloria and I avoided buying some nice, but pricey, skin lotion. But we used a sample and our hands felt so good an hour later that we wished we’d treated ourselves.


Back at the rally site, we’ve had the use of a small building this week, where we could meet to discuss what needs to be done, and to store rally supplies. We’ve also been using it for our traditional happy hour every day when we share experiences and check on what still needs to be done. And last night we had a potluck with lots of yummy goodies.


Today, we gained access to the large meeting rooms where most of the rally sessions will take place. So Don and a few of the men moved the supplies using a golf cart Brenda and Dave rented to make it easier for her to get around with a cast on her leg. We have two more golf carts coming tomorrow for use in parking and security during the rally.


One of the Escapees Chapters provided a huge map of the area. Dave is pointing out the location of the festival grounds.


Kellie shows off the rally T-shirts. This one is for a Big Guy, but we have lots of sizes!


Our main meeting room will seat over 400 people.


There’s a nice kitchen for preparing morning coffee and a few meals.


Another large hall will be used for vendors, registration and information.


With things set up fairly well, we all met at a local brewpub tonight for dinner. Not everything in this town revolves around wine!

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The restaurant was well-setup for large parties, and the food and service were both very good.


Tomorrow is the day when over 20 vendors will arrive to set up their booths, and staff will be doing final preparations for the start of the rally on Sunday. Days will be long and busy for the next few days, but I’ll try to report as often as I can. I know some readers of this blog wish they could be here, and we miss them. So stay tuned and watch for more rally news!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Del Rosario Family and Abalone Farm

Last week we enjoyed visiting Don’s sis-in-law Susan Del Rosario and her family. The three of us had lunch at a nice deli, and the waitress was great at her job, but not such a good photographer.


Don’s nephew John gave us a tour of the Abalone Farm where he’s worked for about 10 years.


The location of the farm is on a sparsely-populated and beautiful unspoiled stretch of the Pacific Coast. It would make a nice background for a movie, don't you think?


Seawater is constantly pumped up the hill to the farm, giving abalones a fresh, natural environment.


We saw the tanks where eggs are fertilized and start their growth from tiny organisms, and where they are moved to larger tanks to continue growing.


This is one of the larger abalone ‘baby’ specimens, some are so small I couldn’t see them.


Here’s one that’s a little bigger.


And this is an extra large adult that will be sold at the weekly farmer’s market. Standard sizes, smaller than this one, which are uniform in size, are typically shipped to restaurant suppliers.


There are 7 varieties of abalones in California’s Pacific Ocean waters. The large shells in the middle of the top row represent the Red type of abalones produced by this farm. Scientific name: Haliotis Rufescens.


The shells are so pretty, especially on the inside. John gave me a few, and I love looking at them. Maybe I’ll do something creative with them someday.


Back at Susan’s house, we saw a Rosary that John made for his Mom from abalone shells. Nice work, Johnno! Now, that’s creative!


John’s talents include being a great cook as well, like several other men in the Del Rosario clan. He prepared an abalone appetizer for each of us at dinner that evening. Lovely and delicious!


Don and niece Lisa enjoyed getting caught up with each other. I didn’t get a pic of the wonderful steamed clams Lisa prepared for us. Or the delicious fresh tuna and beautiful salad that Susan prepared. The women in the family are great cooks, too!


Lisa’s husband Sergio Nell and Don had a good time together, too.


We were so close to the Artichoke Center of the World (Castroville), it was required to have steamed artichokes with our dinner!


What a lovely table!


When it was time for us to move on, we drove inland and northward toward Lodi to do final preparations for the Western Area Rally for Escapees (WARE).