It’s 7:40pm and the end of the day here in beautiful Los Gatos CA. I’ve been making homemade pizza and tonight had a hot steaming piece with some fresh arugula and an avocado out on my swing watching my birds. What a nice end to the day…💗💗💗💗💗.
Last Sunday I decided to scout out the area that will host the Capay Valley Almond Festival on February 24, 2019. The blossoms are everywhere here in Los Gatos, CA where I live so I figured they would be weighing the branches down up north. We’ve had tons of rain this season. It’s probably normal for this time of year but it always catches me off guard, making me long for the sun. Sunday looked to be sunny so I planned an early departure.
My first tip for any trip is start out early! I can never understand why people leave late when they’re off on an adventure. And by late, I mean 10:00 or past. Why not get there as early as possible so you have time to relax, explore and to top it off, miss the traffic?
I pushed off around 6:30 am as soon as the rain stopped with coffee in hand. The sun was creeping up over the mountains and the air was clean after a night of rain. With the rest of the world asleep – I can attest to this since no one was on the highway – I worked my way north over to highway 680 and then up to 505 north. Before I take you through the trip I’d recommend, let me tell you a little bit about the festival.
The Capay Valley Almond Festival began in 1915 and is the only five town event in Northern California. I image that first year and the excitement of driving along the back roads in a brand-new Detroiter motor car (photo below) with the wind blowing through ones hair, smelling the fresh air while white blossoms would be falling around you like spring snow.
Well, 104 years later the festival is upon us again. This “traveling” festival takes you through five Capay Valley towns including Esparto, Capay, Brooks, Guinda and Rumsy. Here is a map that I got from the Esparto Regional Chamber of Commerce. I used it as a reference when I did my scouting trip and can offer some thoughts if you have the opportunity to go. I marked a few places in red and to make it easy, I’ve provided addresses so you can easily drop them into your GPS. Let me note that because I went a week early there were very few blossoms. So I can’t WOW you with a bunch. But trust me, if you go when they are blooming you’ll be amazed. Here are some examples with some photo credits. (Kite Hill Artisan Almond Milk Foods, GreaterCapayValley.org)
Back to the map:
- Historic Oakdale Ranch: 17785 Country Road 86A, Esparto, CA (Bring breakfast and coffee to enjoy by the lake)
- Country Road (CR) 22: Directions below
- Road Trip Bar & Grill: 24989 CA-16, Capay, CA 95607
- Seka Hills Olive Mill: 19326 Rd 78, Brooks, CA 95606 (Olive oil /wine taste and have lunch outside)
- Western Yolo Grange: 16787 Forest Ave, Guinda, CA 95637
- Early dinner in Yountville: Head south via highway 128
1. Historic Oakdale Ranch: 17785 Country Road 86A, Esparto, CA
This was a little hard to find and there was actually no one there when I went. However, they may have folks at the site the day of the festival. It was very pretty and remote with a small lake, palm trees and a dock. Bring coffee and breakfast with you and sit by the waterside as a start to your tour.
Best way to get there so you take the scenic drive: When you’re on 505 look for 29A and exit left. Make your first right (89) and head north to Country Road 23, then right on Country Road 86A. The ranch will be on your right. The sign is a little hard to find so keep your eyes peeled.
2. Country Road 22
I tried to find the Freeheart Farms and Event Center and never did. What I did find was Country Road 22 and it was beautiful. Lined with almond trees, fields dotted with grazing horses and even a family of peacocks it’s a must see road. From the Historic Oakdale Ranch head south on Country Road 86A and make a right on Country Road 23. Pass Country road 85B and the next road is Country Road 22. When you get to the end of CR 22 drive along CR 87, 14 and 85 as noted in the map above to see more almond blooms.
3. Road Trip Bar and Grill
This is a well-known restaurant / bar with a lovely outdoor dining area. It also has a tribute to Veterans which was nice to see. I would recommend to order their special of the day. When I was there it was a French dip and the couple next to me got it and it looked amazing.
4. Seka Hills Olive Mill
I absolutely fell in love with this place. Make sure you enjoy the trees which line the drive up to the store and tasting room. They have a beautiful outdoor seating area located under olive trees. You can olive oil / wine taste which was great fun. You can also have a glass of wine and order food to eat outside. I’d recommend to have lunch here.
5. Western Yolo Grange
I actually never saw this place but read about it in a blog from last year. It sounds like they have a number of festival events so you might want to check it out. All along the drive you’ll see almond blossoms so take your time and enjoy.
6. Back home along high 128 over to Yountville/Napa for an early dinner at Ottimo
Once you’re explored the festival consider taking an alternative route home and head over to the Yountville/Napa area and have an early dinner at Ottimo where they have the absolute best pizza! The route I recommend is highway 128 west to 29 south. You’ll pass lake Berryessa and drive through the countryside that will make you feel like you’re on a movie set.
Early Dinner at Ottimo: 6525 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
Ottimo is located in the quaint town of Yountville among shops, restaurants and tasting rooms. It’s absolutely charming and the pizza is some of the best I’ve ever had. Michael Chiarello is the founder and a well known chef. Ottimo means “optimal” and it certainly is.
You can either stay the night up in Napa or head home. If you start early this is an easy day trip. Please let me know if you go in the comments section! XO Photogirl.
Here’s a map showing where Capay is in relation to Yountville
As I take off on another completely spontaneous day (I think I will head south east) I wanted to post some of my photos from last night and this morning. I hope you do something completely fun and carefree today!
The aroma of fresh brewed coffee and pastries reminds me of sitting in a cafe in Tuscany, or Paris. You pick from an assortment of exotic salads, or throw caution to the wind and treat yourself to a pastry.
This is a must see market where you’ll find exotic foods including local eggs which have shells that are green, red and blue.
It always starts with a new pair of shoes. A good friend of mine got me back into golf which was not only fun…but yes, required a new pair of shoes. When I first got the invitation to play a round of 18, I promptly made my way into my storage area. I knew I had a set of clubs and a pair of golf shoes. After moving my 50 Christmas decoration boxes (I do love the holidays) – I finally found my clubs. I dusted them off (they could have used a good run under a professional leaf blower). Then, I carefully peaked down into the bag to see if there were any mice peaking back out. I’ve always wondered if you left a bag long enough, would a mouse find it and make it their home? Sure the bag was animal-free; I brought it up to my driveway. Not too bad I thought. 20 years old and still looking pretty good. The shoes were harder to find. After an afternoon of racking my brain…where could I possibly put them! I found them tucked into one of my Halloween decoration boxes. I have no idea why they would be there…but there they were.
I decided a quick run to the driving range was in order before I stepped foot on the course. Donning my east-coast, two-toned shoes and lugging an incredibly heavy bag of clubs behind me, I fed a $10.00 bill into the machine and got a large bucket of balls (this is going to prove to be an expensive sport). At the time, I had no idea the world of golf had changed. I do remember I got a few “looks” as I was whacking away at my large bucket. Was it the cute shoes? My swing? Noooo…I’m sure it was my clubs and antiquated bag that was the cause of all those stares. I was way behind the times. Here is a photo of my shoes that first day back on the range, and my club…
The morning of my first game, I discovered an entirely new world. That day I borrowed a set of clubs and wore my 20 year old shoes. The irons seemed similar but the driver blew my mind. I could not believe how large it was! The photo below shows my old driver next to a new one. It almost doesn’t seem fair….!
Playing with the new driver and a few tweaks as to where I needed to place the ball in my stance, I could see a difference. So what happened? I found myself out looking for a new pair of shoes…and it was all downhill from there. I was hooked! If you follow my blog you know I’ve golfed before. Over the years, I drifted away from the sport but like a boomerang, but I guess I’m now back.
After playing a few times I decided I also needed a new set of clubs. The last time I purchased a set was about 20 years ago. As I mentioned, the drivers used to be the size of a lemon and now they look like a bowling ball. So when I decided to purchase clubs, the guys down at the coffee shop told me about a few places to get my clubs fitted (Thanks Bradley and Steve). And then, I learned about the PGA Superstore from my good friend Susan. Imagine Bloomingdales but all they have are golf items. I’m sure you men out there are rolling your eyes, but it is a golf-lover’s heaven (And the only store I can think to compare it to is either Bloomingdales or Nordstrom’s)
So back to the acquisition of my new clubs. The first time I went into the PGA Superstore I was actually a bit shy. I’m not a really good player and was a little worried they would look at me crossed eyed when I mentioned I’d like to try some clubs. I walked over to the area where they have a long row of simulation booths – where you can hit and a computer will tell you your club and ball speed, trajectory, length of drive, etc. One of the Pros who works there walked up to me and asked me how he could help – his name was Marty Fossum and he seemed very interested in helping me out. From that point forward, I felt right at home.
Marty helped start the club fitting process and not once did I feel rushed. If you get your clubs fitted they will measure, check to see if they need to adjust your lie angle, confirm shaft length, type and brand. The way they check to see which brand you like is by interchanging the different heads – Titleist, Ping, Taylor Made, Cobra, etc. There are a ton of brands, so get ready to hit a bunch of shots. When I got finished, I had a good idea which one I liked but wanted to come back and try it again. “No problem” said Marty. He told me they don’t work off commission so the most important thing they want to do is fit you with the clubs that work best for you…not them. And I liked that.
I came back two more times and on it was on the third time that I ordered my new irons. Below are some photos from the day I purchased my clubs. That day Michael Brown helped me out and he was GREAT! He adjusted a few things including shaft length which I really appreciated, was incredibly patient, and I finally pulled the trigger. Also, Chris Mullane came over and helped me with my swing. Chris is a 37 year PGA teaching PRO and has fitted clubs for over 17 years. Also, the day I got my clubs was his birthday so Happy Birthday Chris! If you’d like lessons I’d ask for Chris. Also, Nathan Brown, who is the Hard Goods Supervisor was very helpful too.
Ok, flash forward about a 1.5 weeks and it’s now time to pick up my clubs. It turned out that my Dad, aka Papa Stan, was in town and we were able to stop by and get them, with my brother and beautiful niece Ally – here is a photo of us picking them up. Thanks for taking the picture Michael, and allowing my Dad and brother to hit a few. We really think you are the best!
And some additional photos I took that day to show you around:
I really wanted to thank the team of people who helped me. They allowed me to hit a ton of balls and try a number of clubs. For me great service means the world and if I find it I’m happy to let people know. Next I’m going to get my driver!
For more information on one of my new favorite stores: www.pgatoursuperstore.com
©2013 Shelley D Spray – No content on this site (including all photography) may be reused in any fashion without written permission from the author.