Martinis, Ribs, Wine and Slots.

“I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around…Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson, look out Jackson town..”

Leaving Canada on the edge of autumn with leaves turning gold, we headed for Jackson with Johnny Cash & June Carter singing along, although our destination wasn’t in Tennessee but in California and just for the record our “fire hadn’t gone out”!

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Our August trip continued with two weeks visiting our Puerto friends Willy and Susan. This lovely couple absolutely live our dream life. 6 months a year they live in Puerto Escondido, Mexico and spend the warm 6 months of the American summer in their northern Californian Jackson home.

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We first met Willy and Susan 18 years ago on our first trip to Puerto. We meet lots of wonderful people in Puerto who snowbird winter there and return to Canada or America in the spring, sensibly avoiding cold and snow. Now when people say to us ‘you must come visit’ the Evans totally take up their offer!

In May 2002 we arrived on Willy and Susan’s doorstep in Santa Cruz, California where they lived at the time…but we turned up on the day they returned from driving back from Mexico! Oops we misplaced the dates, but never the less this considerate couple welcomed us with open arms by throwing a ‘Cinco de Mayo’ party for us and their friends. We tasted tri-tip BBQ beef and ate artichokes for the first time, not to be outdone we introduced the Americans to a British desert favourite – apple pie and custard!

Since then we keep in touch and when in Puerto have Wednesday beach days and dinners out in our favourite restaurants. So while we have opportunity and time available, we took up their offer to visit them in California.

We like nothing better than spending time with good people, drinking fine wine and eating delicious food, we did all of this with Willy and Susan and then some!

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On the way from Sacramento airport pickup to their house, we stopped off for some Californian wine tasting. They set the benchmark out for the two weeks and this was certainly the main theme. We bought Raspberry Champagne and Zinfandel for sunny Sunday afternoon poolside sipping with Cayenne the happy havenese puppy sat on our laps.

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Over the course of our first week, Willy and Susan showed us some historic gold mining towns, we visited a few vineyard estates and wine tasting rooms where a sip or two or three can get you quite tipsy!

Susan is an excellent host, producing the tastiest foods to accompany meat cooked to perfection on the BBQ by master grillman Willy. We really were looked after extremely well.

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Lake Tahoe was our next destination. The lake is incredibly beautiful, clean and clear with 3 colours of blue from aqua lakeshore to emerald blue in the deep centre. After taking the Heavenly gondola to the top of the mountain, the views are spectacular at 9580ft.

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Nevada gambling starts at Stateline, literally just over the border of California. We stayed for two nights at the recently renovated Montbleu Hotel and Casino. Beautiful scenic mountains surround the lake with casino’s for nightlife entertainment, it’s a popular holiday destination. In the snowy winter the area is a major ski resort.

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Mr E celebrated his birthday at The Chart House with delicious appetizers, cheesecake and cocktails, thanks ladies of Facebook your birthday messages were just wonderful!

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From the clean fresh mountain air of Lake Tahoe, Willy drove us to Reno and into the smell of BBQ smoke wafting under our noses to make our taste buds tingle. The ‘Best in the West BBQ Rib Cook Off’ event was held in Sparks, Nevada. 24 BBQ teams from all over America competed for the coveted title and overall best rib winner.

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The event also hosted the Rib Eating World Champion Competition. This event was highly amusing and yet also totally gross the same time. The tiny winner ate 10.5lb of ribs in 12 minutes. Suffice to say we didn’t eat ribs that evening for dinner.

At Roxy’s Bar in the Eldorado Casino and Hotel, Reno we continued with our traditional afternoon martini happy hour with option to choose from the 102 martini menu.

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In the adjacent casino Silver Legacy, there is a huge gold mining rig in the centre, unfortunately we didn’t strike it big on the slots!

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Foreclosure on properties has hit Reno hard over the last decade and the city is a bit down on its heels. The Biggest Little City in the World is fighting back though. The casino’s are great, they book high class acts to lure in customers, who all of course will have a flutter on the slots or tables in the hope of that giant jackpot win. If we stayed a while longer we would have certainly gone to watch Duran Duran, Hozier, maybe even Ricky Martin for some ‘Living la Vida Loca’ booty shaking!!

After 3 days of lip smacking meat eating in Sparks, it was time to head back to Jackson ready to fly back to Mexico. We had a wonderful two weeks spending time with Willy and Susan getting to see places in Northern California and Nevada that we hadn’t visited before.

Willy and Susan, you were super generous letting us tag along on your annual ‘rib cook off’ road trip. Love you guys and hopefully puppy dog Cayenne isn’t missing us too much!!

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