Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh I Wish I Were......

Are you hungry yet?
Who can resist a blast from the past?!  Of course we had to stop and pay a visit to the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile when it was parked at the local Yokes Market.  Somehow I remember it as being a BIG vehicle and this one seemed smaller than most RVs.  We spoke with the 2 'Hotdoggers' that were driving this rig and learned that this model is the largest ever for the Wienermobiles.  I guess things looked bigger when we were smaller.  Other things have changed too - no more free hot dogs or wiener whistles.  What you get is a sticker that says you saw the Weinermobile....rather a disappointment.  Do kids even know the tune 'Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, that is what I truly want to be....'  For those of you that can complete the song get out your whistles and remember that your bologna has a first name too!

Some facts for you:  The hotdoggers are chosen each spring from about 2,000 applicants.  In order to apply you must be graduating from college and be a US citizen.  Those chosen go to a 'hot dog college' in Wisconsin to learn all about the history of the company, wienermobile and the job.  Hotdoggers are responsible for finding their own accommodations as well as booking media and events for each stop.  The teams of hotdoggers have the job from June to June and drive in a an area of the country assigned to one of the 7 wienermobiles.  It has been described as a 'PR agency on wheels'. 
Some of the other vanity plates include WEENR, WNRMOBL, OUR DOG, RELSHME and this IWSHIWR

Time to go and find something to eat....maybe a hot dog with all the fixings.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Badger Mountain Hike

We decided to hike up Badger Mountain on a cool and overcast Monday morning.  The mountain is visible from our apartment and the trail parking area is just a few miles away.  Camera, water bottles, hiking poles and jackets...we are ready to go!

A little information about this area - Badger Mountain is one of the last remaining shrub-steppe habitats bordering the Tri-Cities.  Trails are available to hike, bike or horseback ride.  The elevation gain is over 800 ft and the summit is at 1,565 ft (at our apartment we are about 400 ft).  Sagebrush is the tallest plant so the views are unimpeded.  The top of Badger has spectacular views of the Tri-Cities and the Columbia, Yakima and Snake River valleys. 
Top of the mountain
The trails are maintained by the 'Friends of Badger Mountain' group and there are often organized hikes and events here.  There is a nice wildflower identification guide on their website that we enjoyed using.
Silky Lupine
Hairy Seed Fleabane
Columbia Milk-vetch

Snake of some kind, non-venomous

It was interesting to see the area we are staying in from 'up high' and also the vineyards, farms and highways.

There are a few geocaches on the mountain trails which are always fun to find along the way!
Dennis with a cache container

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Prosser, Washington and a visit to Vintner's Village

We decided to check out a few more wineries and chose Vintner's Village.  Prosser is about 30 miles from where we are staying and we had heard good things about this area.  Dennis continues to work the 12hr night shifts with only Sunday off, so we usually don't get started on our adventures until afternoon (so he can get a few hours of sleep first).  It was a sunny day and we headed out around 1 pm.  Most of the wineries are open until 4 or 5, so we had plenty of time.  It's a straight shot down I82 and we got our first look at Mt Rainier in the distance.  This trip won't find us that far west....another place to add to the 'where we would like to visit' list!

Holly & Dennis in front of Airfield Estates
Vintner's Village is a 32 acre site with over 10 wineries, one restaurant and a nursery to explore.  There are a couple of restaurants, gas stations  and hotels at the highway exit if you are in need of those places.  The village is easy to see from the highway and has plenty of parking.  We were surprised how few people were there on a sunny, warm, Sunday. 

Our first stop was Airfield Estates (which we had heard good things about from some locals).  There story reflects the aviation roots when the family vineyard served as a WW II airbase.   Some of their popular labels include: Aviator, Mustang, Spitfire, Runway and more.  We enjoyed the tasting and purchased a few of our favorites.  The building looks like a hangar with large doors and an airplane model made from wine barrels out front.  They have a small outdoor patio with a lovely water feature where you can enjoy the sunshine and a glass of wine.
The water feature is behind this wall
Tiny Tim on the model plane

Gamache Vintners was our next stop.  No special reason for stopping is the furthest back in the group of buildings, so where we turned the car around!  We were the only customers at the time and the woman working was happy to chat with us about the wines, area, restaurants and more.  She explained their wines and even had us taste a few that are not on their tasting 'menu'.  Of course even if we liked them, we couldn't purchase any of the special vintages.  They are for wine club members only!  They have a relaxing patio out back overlooking a small field and flower garden.  Peaceful and relaxing.  This winery is owned by brothers who use their own grapes and hand-craft small lots of estate wines. 

We went to the Winemakers Loft next.  It is a larger building than the rest with multiple wineries sharing the same courtyard.  There were 5 or 6 open on this Sunday, but we chose to only visit one.  Coyote Canyon was our pick and their small tasting area has bar stools to sit and relax.  All of the other wineries we have visited so far don't have stools, you stand at the tasting bar.   There was an impressive display of the wines and medals they have been awarded behind the bar.  Their logo is a howling coyote, a moon and 3 crosses.  I asked about the meaning and she told us that the owner had visited Israel and was impressed how much the landscape was the same as in this part of Washington so used the 3 crosses as a reminder of that trip.   The even offer a wine labeled Tres Cruces.
Half of the Winemakers Loft area with Coyote Canyon at the far left

It was getting late in the afternoon, so our last stop of the day was at Willow Crest.  This winery also offers food to enjoy with your wine on the patio.   'Uncle Bill' was helpful and friendly while giving us ample pours of different varieties.   Bill told us about a new program to support the FFA (Future Farmers of America).   Willow Crest is the first of four wineries to participate in this fundraising program.  This year they are offering a Seva for $30 and ALL the proceeds go to the FFA.  The other 3 wineries will take part in the next 3 years.  If you get all 4 bottles and line them up, the labels will show a sweeping view of the valley and Mt Rainier.  This was the most expensive bottle we have bought so far...but it was for a great cause!   Most fundraisers have a profit margin of 50% or less, so this was a great way to support the FFA.  The vintners of the 4 wineries are all past FFA members!

It was a fun afternoon and we enjoyed the wines and sunshine.   Next Sunday we might have to go to a microbrewery and have a couple of beers!