Vespa Tour

Don't you think the news is too full of bad things? Well this story is full of good things. Crazy good things.
​It's the story about 2 sisters, 2 scooters, and 2 weeks.

In 2011, I embarked on the most amazing journey with my sister Anna: a ride from Seattle to San Diego via Vespas. In other words, riding scooters. Yes, you read that right. Two sisters, two scooters, two weeks on scooters. I luckily had a smidge of experience riding scooters in the scooter capital of the world, Vietnam. Anna had barely (as in, not technically) gotten her official motorcycle license. Did that deter us? Hell no! But we’re just girls? So what! Why do guys get to have all the fun?

While the full adventure is captured via blog below, you can see all the videos on our YouTube channel.

May 10, 2011

anna with brinata gina with mimo

My sister lives up north, I live down south. We both have scooters & we both love to travel. Hmmm... sounds like an opportunity to us!

WHO: 2 sisters
Anna lives in Seattle with a Vespa 150s she calls Brinata (“white morning frost” in Italian)
I live in San Diego with a Vespa ET4 I call Mimo (fab French fromage called Mimolette)

WHAT: 2 scooters
from Seattle to San Diego
visiting cheese makers & finding good things

WHEN: 2 weeks
July 18-31, 2011

WHERE: off the beaten path, anywhere we find inspiration

WHY: to live our dreams - to have no regrets - to seek out opportunities - to keep moving forwardto inspire people - to be inspired - to experience the world - to have a kick-ass time

Everyone has a dream & everyone wants to be inspired. Our parents came from Russia & Austria to America, the "land of opportunity." They learned the language, had a family & built an amazing life. We believe we'll discover inspiration everywhere we scoot & we'll share those inspirations with you.

May 19, 2011

proposed route
Anna (aka Rand McNally) is excellent at navigation & has thus mapped out our route @ 200+ miles a day.

June 9, 2011

I contacted 18 cheese makers today & have already gotten confirmation that we can visit four of them:
Cowgirl Creamery
| Harley Farms | Nicasio Valley Cheese | Bleating Heart Dairy

​Also booked a room in a converted airstream trailer, at the Pescadero Bed & Biscuit. How cool is that?

June 10, 2011

From a friend & cheese maker who herself rides a Vespa, "Whatever you do, don't wear lip gloss!" Remember the movie "Dumb & Dumber?" Enough said.

On another note, got confirmation to visit two other amazing cheese makers:
Rogue River Creamery | North Valley Farms

June 11, 2011

my sister

Unless you have a sister, it's hard to describe how it feels. Sometimes you want to share your shoes, sometimes you want to whack her over the head with your shoe. In the end, you realize she's like your favorite pair of shoes - cherished & indispensable, no matter how scuffed the soul.

June 12, 2011

scooter hero

I dropped off Mimo for a full service tune-up with my friends at Scooter West. They gave me some excellent tips on gear & such. Talked me into getting a windshield for comfort (I was more worried about the bugs in the teeth thing). I was laughing my butt off because they had fragrances you could add to the gas tank, like cherry, vanilla & the ever-popular weed. As in reefer. As in, "No officer, I swear we haven't been smoking weed." I passed on that accessory.

Also very happy to say that thanks from a referral from Ted at Scooter West, we have confirmed transport of our scooters from San Diego to Seattle & back with the help of D Best Transport. I was thinking I was going to have to bubble-wrap & ship FedEx. Now I'm off to read stories, travel & gear recommendations at ModernVespa. I hope to entice some scooterati to join us along the route.

June 15, 2011

beecher's

People who hear about this adventure fall into two camps: those who think it's crazy & those who think it's cool. Mom is in the crazy camp. Husband is keeping cool. My head says it's crazy, but my heart says it's cool. Heart wins every time.

Got another great tip from my friend Gisela at Curds & Wine regarding the opportunity to milk an animal, "Make sure it's a girl!" Plus advice from one long-time Venissimo fan & friend (LK, you know who you are), "Be sure to pack lots of Preparation H." Check and check.

Also confirmed a few more visits at Beecher's (where I get to make cheese at 4 a.m.), Willapa Hills (one of the few sheep milk dairies) & Cypress Grove (home of Humbolt Fog, California's most popular fermented curd).

June 18, 2011

vespa socks

Exactly one month from today, Anna & I are off on this fun / wild / insane / kick-ass adventure! Thanks to my great friend Lynn, I have special socks for the journey. These socks were made for scooting. I may have to wear them every day as good luck charms.

June 23, 2011

edna from The Incredibles

There are so many decisions yet to be made, including, "What am I going to pack to wear?" If I were in an Italian movie, I would have a beautiful long scarf wrapped around my neck, a sexy pair of heels on my feet & certainly no helmet hair. But alas, while that dream is lovely, I suppose it's not practical. So I have confirmed that I shall have a jacket (I know, Edna, not a cape), jeans, a rain slicker, my cool socks, gloves, shoes for the scooter, shoes for cheese touring, shoes for going out & a hat (for that helmet hair thing).

On the technology side of the suitcase, we'll have an iPad, MacBook, PowerShot & iPhone to help us shoot, record, edit, post & share. Anna is a human GPS system, so she is in charge of all things directional. Between blogging & tweeting & friending, we shall make time for eating & drinking & exploring.

June 28, 2011

what mom sees

"Too many dreams are cast by the wayside in deference to opinion and tradition. Too many ambitions have been postponed for the wrong reasons. Too many lives have been lived for a tomorrow which never came. Do not dwell on the fear, but consider your opportunities." ~ Alan Cohen

I love that quote. If I would have listened to people that thought that a shop selling just cheese was just plain crazy, I wouldn't have Venissimo today. If I hadn't tried to make it in Hollywood (my childhood dream), I would still be wondering if I could've. But I'm very happy to not think that I should've because I gave it a try. I'm a firm believer that you regret the things you don't try much more than the things you do try. I refuse to reach my golden years wishing I would've when I could've, regretting that I should've.

So mom, we understand that to you, we are still your little girls. But please know that we will be VERY careful because we love you so much for always giving us your support as we reach for our often crazy dreams.

July 6, 2011

happy holstein

Who wouldn’t love this face? We have just confirmed another cheese maker visit with Tim Pedrozo of Pedrozo Dairy & Cheese. This means we get to see happy California cows. Tim will be showing us around the farm, then heading down to Sacramento with some of the herd for the California State Fair. His Northern Gold & Black Butte Reserve are supercalifragilistickexpialidocious in lobster mac & cheese (yes, cheese is perfectly acceptable with shellfish, as you'll learn in my cookbook someday).

July 8, 2011

burrata

I am happy to report that the Italian cheese genius who brought burrata to Los Angeles, Vito of Gioia Cheese, has agreed to let us visit. Burrata is based on the Italian word "burra," which means butter. It is out of this world & I can't wait to see how he gets the creamy deliciousness into the delicate center. Would it be presumptuous to show up with tomatoes, basil & forks?

July 11, 2011

water buffalo

Wooo hoooo! Just confirmed another stop on our tour, to California's only buffalo mozzarella cheese maker, Ramini Mozzarella. Owner & cheese maker Craig will give us a sneak peak into his venture, including meeting some of his family of 16 Italian water buffalo. Hope I can give at least one of them a big kiss for producing milk that creates the most remarkable mozzarella on the planet.

July 17, 2011

seriously small shirts

Ahhhhh Seattle - land of hippies & hipsters, Pike Market & pizza. Upon my arrival, we bee-lined from the train station to Serious Pie, one of the emerald city's most talked about pizza joints, because serious butterflies require Serious Pie. We enjoyed about how seriously good the pizza was while lamenting how seriously small our tour t-shirts are. We both agreed that butterflies had invaded our stomachs. Would we get lost? Run out of gas? Get hacked to bits by a crazed gang of scooter haters?

We decided that my experience driving in Vietnam unequivocally qualified me for the lead driver position on the tour, because if you can drive one there, you can drive one anywhere. For hand signals, we are going to try:

  • left thumb up means "oooooo, cool thing coming up, let's stop"
  • left thumb wiggling sideways says, "caution ahead, keep your wits about ya"
  • left thumb down means, "uh-oh, trouble ahead, proceed with caution"

We're going to test our idea this afternoon, possible adding some horn signals as well. We continue to ask ourselves, "Are we dumb & dumber or brave & braver?"

July 18, 2011

no helmet is complete without cow ears

We started the day with a 4-mile hike through Discovery Park, hoping to clear our heads & firm our buttocks. As we strolled by a flock of seagulls, which I tend to think of as sea pigeons, I wondered, "If pigeons have become squab in fine dining restaurants, why haven't the gulls become something?" A thought to ponder as I ride.

Thanks to Seattle doing what Seattle does best, I got to test my rain slicker & nifty eye goggles. Huge success! The goggles kept drops out of my eyes & the windshield kept drops from spraying up my sleeves. The weather channel claims that tomorrow will be sunny in both Seattle & Seaside. The weatherman is always right, right?

Day 1: Seattle To Seaside
​July 19, 2011


Three words for this day: daring, delicious & delovely.

I bounded out of bed at 3:30 a.m. ready to ferment some curd. You'd think my mind would have been sharp, but three things happened to make me question my early-rising brain functionality:

  • I pulled out into the quiet morning streets sans helmet (took me three blocks to notice)
  • the bungee strapping on my luggage wasn't too good as my bag fell sideways when a took a sharp turn
  • I parked on a steep hill, back-end first, which put the heaviest part of my bike facing downhill, where it literally almost tipped over & rolled into the Puget Sound

​Beechers: Adam & Jamie were my patient cheesemaking guides. Talk about a hands-on adventure. They had me cutting curd, cheddaring, salting, milling & packing. Once again, blessed are the cheese makers who work so hard & so early to bring us the best food on the planet.

Willapa (pronounced WILL-uh-puh): Cheese maker Amy & her 150 sheep were so gracious to show us around. The milking was done for the day but the kids were yakking it up. What an inspiration to see a couple completely change their life to pursue their dream of living on a farm & making cheese.

Not even 200 miles in & we've already ditched the thumb method of communication in favor of beeps. Three beeps means, "pull over, sister." We plan on using that a lot tomorrow as we scoot through wine country & farm country. Luckily, not a drop of rain until after the bridge over the Columbia river in Astoria. Who builds such a hill on a bridge?

    Day 2: Seaside To Eugene
    ​July 20, 2011


    Day 2 was a pure riding day. Cannon Beach was ultra-charming. Haystack Rock was crawling with tufted puffins & curious peeps. Had it not been drizzling, we would have loved to join them. But alas, the drizzle really slows us down, so we were off again.

    THANK GOODNESS we packed spare gas in gatorade bottles (a handy trick I learned in Vietnam). We knew that our trek through Oregon might be challenging on the fuel tanks & challenging it was. Both of our gas indicators were mocking us for miles when we finally pulled over & emptied one bottle of our secret stash. Of course, a gas station then magically appeared about 5 miles later, but we sure felt better. Can someone explain to me why in the heck can't you pump your own gas in Oregon?

    THANK GOODNESS Beechers sent us off with tubs of fresh curds. They have been our sustenance for many a long, lonely stretch. I'm glad the Vespa boot only warns us "no pets," not "no cheese."

    Eugene is a beautiful university town (quack quack). When we arrived, Anna zoomed straight to the local scooter shop for a quick windshield installation (too cold & too many bugs without one). Then we scooted to a charming B&B where the rooms are named after famous composers. We are in the Robert Schumann room. Being of Austrian heritage, we think we should demand the Mozart room. But at this point, we've had a few great drinks & it's 8:06 & time for bed. Ciao for now.

    Day 3: Eugene To Grants Pass
    ​July 21, 2011


    Suffice it to say that we have learned that the "estimated arrival time" on google maps is definitely NOT intended for scooters, as our drive times have been way longer than expected. We have also learned that little gray lines listed as roads may or may not be paved. Today was challenging, trying to make it south without getting on I-5. We were 95% successful, but had to suck it up for about three miles. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be, but it definitely wasn't fun (equally as un-fun as the bee that flew under my helmet). What has been fun are the random, curvy roads where we are alone with the deer, elk, raccoons, rednecks, cows, goats, chickens & sheep. Where the air is filled with the smells of freshly cut lumber & green, green grass.

    The drive was more than a bit chilly for about three hours, so chilly that we resorted to blowing hot air from the rest stop hand dryer up our sleeves! It actually worked quite well. After snaking our way south around The 5 for another three hours, we made it to Rogue Creamery in wonderfully warm Central Point. I learned that Ig Vella himself, the true pioneer in the cheese world, used to live in the house that is now used as offices. For 75 years, they have been making some of the best blue cheeses on the country. They have a big wall of blue ribbons to prove it.

    Another half hour & we arrived at the Weasku Inn. Say what? The we-ask-u inn, get it? Apparently Clark Gable loved it here so much that he often helped make pancakes & do the dishes. Frankly, my friends, I think that's grand.

    Day 4: Grants Pass To Eureka
    ​July 22, 2011


    I shall remember today as our ravishing redwood day. We started with a stroll around Weasku (Itellu, it was gorgeous). Every day starts with a visit to the gas station, as each tank only holds 1-1/2 gallons of gas, good for about 70 miles. A huge shout out to Mary at Shell who washed our windshields & decided that Anna should rename her scooter "cream cheese." Mary was thrilled to chat about the tour & was milking us for information (hardee har har).

    Right at the Oregon-California border, my odometer hit 5000 miles! We had heard that about 10 miles into California we would find a hidden bog with prehistoric pitcher plants. And find it we did. These beautiful but creepy plants trap insects in their pitchers/heads to eat them. Yum.

    When passing over the bridge of the Klamath River (guarded at each end with golden bears), we saw a mama whale with her baby swimming up the river. "Wrong way, mama," I yelled, using my best whale voice. Hopefully she heard me.

    We then stumbled upon a hiking trail called the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Apparently she loved redwoods & felt at peace every time she saw them, as did we. While sitting on a bench amongst the mighty giants, nibbling curds I made at Beechers & blueberries we found in Oregon, breathing the eucalyptus & salt-filled air, we couldn't help but feel completely at peace.

    But then we had to take the busy part of the 101 into Eureka at rush hour with high winds. So much for peace. My knuckles & butt cheeks were gripping so hard I am sure to be sore tomorrow. But we made it to the inn, filled our bellies with pasta & I am at peace once again.

    It's funny, with roughly five hours alone on a scooter each day, there is a lot of time to think & reflect. I was thinking today how I felt so much trepidation before the trip: should we do this, could we do this, what if this happens, what if that happens? And the reality is that you just don't know until you try. And once you do, you'll figure it out. It's as simple as that.

    Day 5: Eureka To Redding
    ​July 23, 2011


    From 57 degrees to 97 degrees, this was a wild day! It started with me springing out of bed in anticipation of our visit to Cypress Grove Chevre, one of California's most famous cheese makers. It started a little slower for Anna who hopped on her Vespa, only to find it was deader than disco. So I zoomed off for the cheese tour while Anna waited for help. Luckily the Cypress folks knew a cycle expert & thanks to connecting on Facebook, he was helping Anna with a new battery within an hour.

    Hats off to the entire team at Cypress Grove who really went above & beyond to make our visit fabulous. I learned so many things, including that they use the same French pine ash as found in Morbier to create the lovely lines & color in Humbolt Fog. They toss whole truffles into the fresh curd & mix & chop to create Truffle Tremor. And master cheese maker Mary developed the method of packing drier curds into molds that can be pressed then aged right away. They will introduce a couple of new groovy products in September, one called PsycheDillic & one called Sgt. Pepper (Venissimo will be sure to carry them).

    Just when we thought it would be smooth scooting to Redding, we stopped for gas on the pass & Anna's bike, once again, wouldn't start. Booooo! Kick starter? Wouldn't work. Booooo! We were standing there scratching our heads when Colin on his 8000cc Harley pulled up (no, that is not a typo). He suggested jumper cables which worked splendidly. He was heading toward Redding as well, so he shadowed us to make sure we got started & going for our final stretch. Thank you, Colin. I won't type the words that Anna was using during all this, as for the most part this blog is PG-13.

    Coming over the pass into Redding was like opening the door on an oven - hot, hot, hot. But stunningly beautiful. We met our dear friend Joe, the most interesting friend in the world, for dinner at Moonstone Bistro, truly an amazing restaurant with a menu, to quote Joe, "to commit suicide for."

    Day 6: Redding To Sacramento
    ​July 24, 2011


    From the mountains to the valley, what a change in scenery & smells. We left Red Bluff (a 2-Starbucks town) bright & early to avoid the heat (ha ha ha, no chance). In the valley south of Redding, I immediately noticed smells of olives & hay. I don't know if the solitary time on the scooter is messing with my brain, but I find myself mooing - very loudly - at every herd of cows I see.

    Anna's poor Brinata was losing power with every mile traveled. We pulled into an AutoZone & had the luck of meeting Ben, who himself knew the many problems scooters have with batteries. Come to find out the first battery Anna bought was dead dead dead, so we bought another one. Two down, hopefully no more to go.

    Just before getting to Orland, I got the first bee sting of my entire life. I'm zipping along, mooing at the cows, & a bee crashes, apparently butt-first, into my upper arm. OUCH! I pulled over, plucked him out & decided he had it worse than me. Luckily, I learned I'm not deathly allergic. Onward to Pedrozo to visit cheese maker Tim. While his is a smaller operation, his grass-eating cows produce the rich milk that goes into his raw milk farmstead cheeses.

    Pulling into Sacramento, I was reminiscing about all the great times here (we lived here for about eight years). Right away I could smell the blackberry brambles & orange blossoms that I love so much. The trees are remarkable, the river is beautiful & the heat is hot. We made it to our friend Laurel's house just in time for happy hour wine & cheese. Then it was off to my favorite sushi restaurant, Mikuni, where I managed to constrain myself & consume only three oyster shooters. Had we not been scooting the next day, I would certainly have enjoyed at least three more, hangover be damned.

    Day 7: Sacramento To Sebastopol
    ​July 25, 2011


    Day 7 already? I really can't believe it. We've traveled so far but there is still so much to see. We know that for VT2 (vespa tour 2.0), about 100 miles per day would be perfect. That would give us time to randomly explore some of the places we've passed. Sad we couldn't do that this time, but that would have been 2 sisters, 2 scooters, 4 weeks.

    By 10a, we were scooting out of Sactown. Because we didn't want to add yet another hour of travel time to our day, we had to hop on I-80 over the causeway to Davis (about 4 miles). AHHHHHH! Not fun. I felt like a donkey racing against stallions. We made it across & stopped in Winters to check our tires & oil. I wondered, "How are the summers in Winters?" Hot, hot, hot. And my oil was low, low, low. So while Anna filled the tires, I filled the oil. Then, once again, Anna's poor girl wouldn't start. I jumped her with the cables & away we went, winding our way through Napa Valley, which is every bit as beautiful as Tuscany if you ask me.

    Another stop for gas & another jump, then we made it to Seana & Dave's house, cheese makers & founders of Bleating Heart. Dave deducted that something was wrong with Anna's charging system, so he found a portable charger for her to plug in every night. Between our mobile phones, computers, cameras & now Vespa, we are sucking the electricity out of Northern California.

    Bleating Heart is truly a labor of love. Between buying, caring, housing, feeding & milking the 50+ sheep, leasing creamery space to make the cheese, maintaining & managing their aging room (all of which are located in different places), they are working their tails off to create their raw milk beauties. Every single wheel is made 100% by hand, making each wheel 100% unique. Hats off to both of you for creating something special, something to genuinely be proud of.

    P.S. Their weiner dog, Seymour, helped himself to a gorgeous cheese plate that Seana had prepared. The plate was left unattended on the patio table & those little legs didn't stop Seymour from hopping up & devouring everything except the grapes.

    Day 8: Sebastopol To Point Reyes
    ​July 26, 2011


    What is it about smells on the Vespa? Today was filled with eucalyptus. This was our short-distance day.

    We started at a brand new creamery that hopes to produce its first batch of fresh buffalo mozzarella next spring, called Ramini Mozzarella. Water buffalo are just too cool! Who knew these gentle giants would be so inquisitive & friendly, almost like large (extremely large) dogs. Cheese maker Craig Ramini was super gracious in bringing in his herd of 17 Italian-bred water buffalo so that we could see them close up. I mean, REALLY close up. As in one of them was licking my side.

    Next stop was the Lafranchi dairy farm & creamery in Nicasio Valley. The holsteins seemed at first slightly annoyed with me & my vespa, but soon returned to chowing down on the abundant grasses. I first fell in love with their Nicasio Square, a washed rind similar to Taleggio. But I just tasted their alpine style raw-milk Reserve which is wickedly wonderful, full of the flavor of the grasses on which the cows graze. Amazing. And can you believe I met a young lady in their little shop in the middle of this vast valley that has visited our shop in Belmont Shore? She apparently saw the logo on the vespa & had to tell me she shops at our store at the shore. Emma, thank you so much!

    Finally, a quick visit to the original ultra-charming original Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station (population 350, elevation 33 feet). The creamery now produces Red Hawk exclusively, as they have another creamery in Petaluma for their other cheeses. We arrived at the end of the cheese making session, but could peer in & drool at the racks of aging Red Hawks, one of my absolute favorite washed rinds.

    Then with a crystal clear afternoon staring us in the face, we took a hike to Pierce Point, the very tip of the Point Reyes peninsula where the Pacific Ocean meets Tomales Bay. We saw two herds of elk who I believe have never seen a vespa as they would not take their eyes off us. Cowgirl has a cheese named after this point that is dusted with about 16 herbs found naturally in the area. Brilliant. We finished the day with our best meal yet, at Osteria Stellina. The use of all great local ingredients made us want to order everything on the menu.

    Day 9: Point Reyes To Pescadero
    ​July 27, 2011


    Fog, fog, fog. Those are the words to describe our journey today. Zipping around the hairpin curves of "dramamine drive" near Stinson Beach, I fully expected to be attacked by fog creatures around every turn. Luckily, creature-free, we made it to the spectacular Golden Gate bridge. We had to do about 1/10th of a mile on the 101 (literally, from one exit to the next), at which time some crazy freak woman almost pushed Anna off the exit ramp in her need to cut in front of her. How rude! But then, scooting over one of the seven manmade wonders of the world, even in the thick fog, we couldn't help but be overwhelmed with the beauty of it all, crazy drivers be damned. Down the coast, more fog. So much that we had to pull over a couple of times to wipe down our windshields. We stopped in downtown Pescadero at Duarte's (DOO-arts, not DWAR-tay, as the locals will tell you) which has been a working saloon/restaurant/barber shop since 1894. We had their truly world famous dungeness crab cioppino & green chile soup (so famous, they are recognized by James Beard himself).

    Once we made it to Harley Farms, the sun poked out & we were in chevre paradise. The herd of goats was friendlier than a pack of dogs. They literally tried to open our jacket pockets & eat our clothes. The guarding llama luckily refrained from spitting on us. Adriana was our lovely tour guide & took us through the gardens, the pastures, the barn, the milking parlor, the creamery & the shop. Did you know that the goats drink the whey from the cheese making process? Did you know that the longer the beard, the older the goat? And did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?

    After our most excellent tour, we arrived at the Bed & Biscuit to check in to our aistream trailer room. Fantastic! We played a little bocce ball, drank a little wine, then headed back to Duarte's for dinner, because a) it was delish, b) it has wi-fi, and c) it's the only place open at 8p on a Tuesday.

    Day 10: Pescadero To Solvang
    ​July 28, 2011


    My bum hurts. 300 miles is just a wee bit (just a helluva bit, actually) too long on a scooter. Note to selves: no more than 150 miles per day. Period. End of story.

    We pulled out at about 8a in the thickly foggy Pescadero morning. Then there was more fog. Then more. Then, a bit more. The fog was so thick that we often couldn't see the mighty Pacific, less than 100 yards to our right. And on our left? Crystal blue sky taunted us (ha ha ha, come & get me) almost all the way to the Hearst Castle. Curses! It honestly looked & felt like Scotland. I shan't be scooting through Scotland, it's too damn cold.

    On one of our three warm-up stops, we stumbled upon the Whale City Bakery. I used to believe that the Bellagio in Las Vegas had the best croissants outside of Paris. That may not be true anymore, having tasted Whale City's croissant. A side-by-side tasting is in order. For lunch, we ate cherries on the roadside along with a hunk of leftover cheese from Nicasio Valley, which paired perfectly with piping hot green tea.

    We again bit the bullet & jumped on the 101 for about 60 miles. Seriously cars, must you follow so close when there is a passing lane? It's a good thing we did, because it was still about 5p before we arrived at the Wine Valley Inn in charming little Solvang. We immediately made our way to the bar for two-for-one glasses of local wine. Then it was off to a fantastically modern dinner on the patio at Root 246, which included a killer watermelon + tomato + mint + mozzarella salad.

    Now it's 9:30 & I'm beat. Ready to embrace L.A. tomorrow.

    Day 11: Solvang To Los Angeles
    ​July 29, 2011


    The last couple of days have been more sightseeing than anything, as there are fewer cheese makers in Central & Southern California.

    The Santa Ynez valley was absolutely clear & breathtaking this morning. Then, as our luck would have it, crossing the ridge into Santa Barbara brought us right back into thick fog. Nooooo! After a brief stint on the fast-n-furious 101 (ugh), we enjoyed a pleasant ride down PCH / Pacific Coast Highway / Highway 1. The sun came out in Oxnard & we made it to the Reel Inn in Malibu. I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the fish taco. But the atmosphere is great. In the meantime, to keep my veins running thick with fermented curd, we stopped at Pizzeria Mozza for the burrata caprese. At Mozza, it feels like you are in Italy. You completely forget that you are in L.A., across the street from an EZ Lube & 76 Station.

    After inhaling burrata & more at Mozza, it was up into Laurel Canyon to our great friends Gary & Joel's house. Amazing how you can be only 10 minutes off the Sunset Strip & feel like you're in the wilderness. So much in the wilderness that they have four chickens. These chickens produce 2-4 eggs a day. They also have a great garden, growing corn, tomatoes, squash & pumpkins. Right in L.A. Gotta love it.

    After much wine & an excellent dinner, it's time for night night. This is our last night on the road & while I'm anxious to get home, I'm sad that this journey is reaching its end.

    Day 12: Los Angeles To San Diego
    ​July 30, 2011


    We did it! With a combo of back roads, raindrops, sunburned knuckles & jumper cables, we made it to our final destination of San Diego.

    Gary cooked us up fresh eggs from his urban chickens & we were off to South El Monte. Why? To visit Gioia Cheese, makers of our fresh mozzarella & burrata. I must say it's quite a secretive operation & my camera was prohibited. But through the looking glass, I observed about a dozen folks hand-crafting these fine fresh cheeses. It started with a machine that looked like a candy taffy puller that stretched the mozzarella curd to a shiny, smooth texture. Then the curd was almost pressed through a type of pasta machine to make flat sheets. Then there were people hand-stuffing squares of the mozzarella with a creamy concoction, then expertly pinching them shut. I saw them make dozens of one-pound burrata & smaller 1/4-pound burrata in a matter of minutes. They sent me home with four balls of glory, three of which we promptly inhaled once doused with olive oil, balsamic, salt & pepper.

    Getting out of L.A. without resorting to freeways meant only one thing - traffic. Oh, two things actually - traffic & stop lights. As a licensed motorcycle rider, my two favorite words are now "lane splitting." The ability to squish between cars to make your way to the front of the line is truly a wonderful California thing. The most beautiful parts of the drive were definitely the hills of Fallbrook (reminiscent of Tuscany) & the beaches between Carlsbad & La Jolla (reminiscent of Positano). Made me forget about all that silly traffic.

    We were greeted with flowers, signs, baloons & cheers from great friends back at our shop in San Diego. I was happy to be home & sad to be done at the same time. What a ride!

    Day 13: As I Put Together Final Thoughts
    ​July 31, 2011


    As I sit here trying to put some final thoughts into type, I have to start with sharing the greatest reward from this journey - getting to spend two weeks with my sister. Maybe she doesn't know it, but to me, it was a precious time that I will cherish forever.

    Day 14: The End Of One Journey
    ​August 2, 2011

    starting odometer ending odometer

    2,157 miles. That's a lot of asphalt & gravel & dirt to traverse. To put it in perspective, it's about the same distance as a crow flies from San Diego to Atlanta.

    So what can I say? VT1 (vespa tour 1.0) is done. My bum feels fine & my head feels alive. It was an adventure I wish everyone could take. I'm thrilled to share that I got a call from Bud who, upon reading the blog, decided to scoot from San Francisco to San Diego. Bud is en-route as I type & I hope he is having an amazing ride. Remember - wherever you may live, there are beautiful places to see, interesting people to meet & dreams to come true.

    Will there be a VT2? Yes! You'll get an invitation to join us for sure.

    In the meantime, raindrops on roses & schnitzel with noodles... isn't that what life's all about?

    ​And remember "It's never too late to shoot for the stars, regardless of who you are." -- Nickleback​​​​​