Coming Home to Capri

What a wonderful sight we see when the blue Pacific pops up out in the horizon after four months of Caprise fighting her way up and down the mighty Rockies.  We did give her 3 months off, parked at my brother’s house while we caroused in Florida with the grandchildren and put on an ungodly number of pounds eating fantastic Mexican food in New Mexico.

We booked a slot in a campground at Pismo Beach, right behind the sand cliffs that well up from our old friend the Pacific Ocean.  At Pismo Beach, you can pay $5 and are then allowed to drive your car (Americans drive pick-up trucks) onto the beach for the day.  Her people unpack their picnic tables, weber grills, shade tents, light fires and enjoy the water.  For $10, you can camp on the beach.  There is a limit on how many can camp and the sites are reserved many months in advance.  Since it is Valentine’s Day weekend, everything is booked and we are forced to make do with spending the day on the beach, sitting in the shade of Caprise.

Aside from Valentine’s Day, the American Super Bowl is played in February.  As Carsten has noted previously, now that I understand the rules, I’ve begun to like watching American football, although it is still a mystery to me why it is called “football”.  There are only a few times during the game when any kicks the ball (it is also called a “ball” even though it bears no resemblance to a ball whatsoever).  Go figure.

The above notwithstanding, Super Sunday rolls around and we made our way into a local bar to see the game.  This year, it is between Cincinnati and Los Angeles.  Since we are only about 200 miles north of the City of Angels, everyone here is a Los Angeles Rams fan.  Even the bar owners dog is wearing a Rams uniform shirt so how could they lose?

We really enjoyed the game and so did everyone else.  Despite being diehard Rams fans, everyone in the bar showed good sportsmanship and applauded good plays, even they were made by Cincinnati.  No booing here.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Los Angeles.  The next day we read about near riots in the city after the Rams won.  I simply can’t understand that type of behavior.

Pismo Beach was quiet aft her game- our only concern was whether we had been infected with Corona.  We did sit in close quarters with about a hundred people for 5-6 hours.  It isn’t possible to wear a facemask when you are drinking beer and eating a burger (damned good burger by the way).  A week has gone by and neither of us has any symptoms, so apparently we got away with it. 

We looked at the map and noticed that the Danish village of Solvang was only 30 miles south fo here – how could we be so close and not visit?

Solvang (Danish for Sunny Fields)

One of USA’s Top Most Historic Towns

California’s Denmark

The above is from the tourist brochure.  It also says, “No visit to the beautiful Santa Ynez valley is complete without a visit to Solvang, this little Danish inspired village, famous for its bakeries and architecture – here you can get an authentic taste of Denmark.”

OK, we are rather expectant regarding just how much “Danishness” there is over the village, but first a bit of history.

Solvang was founded in 1911 by Benedict Nordentoft (a Lutheran minister), Jens M. Gregersen (another minister) and Peder P. Hornsyld (Professor).  They were determined to establish a true Danish village and traveled throughout California until they arrived in the Santa Ynez valley.  Here they found a green hilly terrain with a mild climate and lush, fertile soil.  More Danes arrived as word spread.  They built their homes in the southwestern American style – Adobe.

In 1947, however, a magazine changed all that.  The Saturday Evening Post published an article about Solvang, proclaiming it; “A spotless Danish village that flowers like a rose in California’s charming Santa Ynez valley.”  The article put Solvang on the map as the American capital of Danes.  The inhabitants were qujick to realize that they could capitalize on this unexpected publicity.  They quickly rebuilt the facades of the house from mud Adobe to Danish Tudor, adding fake straw thatched roofs and a couple of white windmills.  The Church was also quickly rebuilt to look like a typical Danish village church.

The article, plus the inhabitants ingenuity to exploit it mad Solvang a tourist attraction and a (very) commercial village.  Today the entire town is centered around tourism and the many ways to separate a tourist form his/her money.

Note the Little Mermaid behind Carsten

We started our wandering tour of Solvang at the tourist office where we met a very friendly and informative woman.  She claimed to be half Danish, on her fathers side, although she didn’t Danish.  Her father never taught her.  “He still speaks Danish,” she said, “although it is what you would call “old Danish”.”  She laughs and says her father has lived in California for many years.  She also says that there aren’t very many of Solvang’s inhabitants that speak Danish any more.

A charming little tourist office in the center of Solvang

We spent the next couple of hours wandering around the town.  The historic museum was unfortunately closed, but the town’s antique bookstore was open and they had a small H.C: Andersen museum on the first floor.

A little further down the street we stopped by “Julehuset” (Christmas Shop) where they celebrate Christmas all year long.  We were very disappointed.  The store did have a (very) few Dansih Christmas decorations, all more or less hidden away in the corners.  All the decorations that were out and featured were American.

At the end of the street we found a store that sold all the furnishings and Danish design goods that our country is famous for.  Georg Jensen silverware, Stelton and PH lamps and the rest.

This sign is in The Copenhagen House (design store).  Whoever wrote it can’t spell Danish.

Copenhagen Drive and Atterdag Drive are the only two Danish street names we could find (there might be more back on some sidestreets).  We did walk by many hotels with Danish names, Kong Frederik Inn, Kronborg Inn, The Landsby, Red Viking, Royal Copenhagen Inn and Hamlet Inn.  There are also no less than six (6!) Danish bakeries here in town – and they all do bake like the bakeries in Denmark.

We went in and perused the sumptuous goods, but didn’t buy (as always we are trying to lose a couple of pounds).  Mortensen’s and Olsen’s Danish Bakeries were particularly tempting.  Americans like their sweets.  The café tables were filled with Americans eating whipped cream cakes with auspicious delight.  We drooled a bit in Ingeborg’s Homemade Chocolate Store, which had everything a Danish chocolate store has.

We were set on having a real Danish lunch at one of the restaurants.  Most of the restaurants here serve American or even Italian food, few of them have any Danish items on the menu.  A couple of places serve “æbleskiver” (a Danish treat served mainly at Christmas with afternoon coffee), but here they are served for breakfast as a substitute for pancakes.  The woman at the tourist store recommended that we eat at “Bit o’ Denmark” that has the most Danish items on the menu.  We had marinated salmon (Grav Laks) slices with a dill sauce. A poor substitute for what is served in Denmark – but we haven’t had it in a long time so it was OK.  Weirdly, this restaurant did not serve Danish beer.

After walking around some more, our cravings finally got the better of us and we decided to ignore our diets for the day and go to a bakery.  This time the Danish Mill Bakery and our mouths were watering as we bought a couple of the most decadent whipped cream cakes we could find – if we’re going to get fat – we’re going to do it right.  We ate later back in the RV and ended up with a sugar high and distened stomachs.  We skipped dinner.

Arvid Petersens Danish Mill Bakery

Our friends in Denmark had sent us some pictures of whipped cream cakes but these were just as good.

Here is a slide show from Solvang

Fess Parker Winery

Carsten and I really like Fess Parker’s Pinot Noir.  Mr. Parker wasn’t just nay guy.  Those of you that are older will remember him as an actor (Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett) in movies and television series in the early 1960’s.  When he retired as an actor, he moved to the Santa Ynez valley and started making wine.  He died in 2012 over 80 years old, but his children and grandchildren still own and run the vineyard.  Since the vineyard lies only about 25 miles from Solvang, we visited.

$50 for wine tasting for 2 people

The wine menu

None of the five wines are available in stores.  A couple of them can be found in some chosen restaurants, but the vineyard only produces 3-400 cases of 12 bottles per case per year.  All five wines can be purchased here at the vineyard.

Carsten enjoys the wine in the afternoon sun.

We are tasting our last wine when three middle-aged ladies show up and sit at the table next to ours.  They unpack a tablecloth, porcelain plates, silverware and then dish up a sumptuous lunch of antipastas, cold chicken and a couple of desserts.  Even the vineyard personnel are a bit surprised.  They are members of the Fess Parker wine club and that means they get 10 wine tastings per year.  As a member you are allowed to bring your own food.  These ladies came faithfully 10 times per year, each time bringing a huge picnic lunch.  What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

To everyone’s surprise, these ladies set the table for lunch al fresco at the vineyard.

We need to start heading home to our beloved Capri, she is over 1500 kilometers form here.  We do have just one small issue – Caprise has started leaking brake fluid.  We simply don’t dare drive all those miles when we have to fill brake fluid on her at least once per day.  We find a campground at Pismo Beach and also find a mechanic that is willing to fix our aged RV.

He claims he can fix it, orders a new brake master cylinder which will take a souple of days to come since it is the weekend. We come back on Monday, the cylinder is installed, but the ports are not the same size as the tube fittings for the brake lines.  The new one is taken off, the old one put back on and we wait for another new brake cylinder to arrive.  This time he installs it and switches the tubes around, but the brakes still don’t function as they should

Now the mechanic decides to give up.  But he claims he does know of a true brake specialist that can fix them, he, however, lives in Bakersfield, 300 kilometers away.  The specialist won’t order parts until he has seen Caprise so he is sure of ordering the right parts.  There are no empty spaces in the Bakersfield campground so we will be looking at 2 round trips (one for him to look – one for him to fix).  Ok, the drive over the mountains is a pretty one, just expensive in gas.  But this specialist is a specialist and he orders the correct cylinder.

Because we are tired of Pismo Beach, we moved to Laurel Lake and spent the weekend trekking around in the hills overlooking the lake.

Trekking through sand on top of one of the high hills

The view over the lake

I can’t remember the exact name for this phenomenon solar corona?

Three days alter we are back in Bakersfield, Caprise gets a new brake cylinder installed and we go for a test drive.

Ah hell, the brakes still are function correctly.  It seems the hoses are shot.  No problem – right?  Well yes, a big problem since on one has those hoses and it is not possible to press some new ones.  The mechanic doesn’t give up though and after a number of phone calls he announces that he has found some that he can rework that will fit.  A couple of hours later (and several hundred dollars poorer) Caprise rolls off his lot with perfect brakes.

Since everything is now working, we start making our way northward through California, Oregon and Washington.  An unforgettably beautiful trip that leads back to Capri.

The Great American Road Trip across the western USA has been an unforgettable experience

We’ve driven over 15,000 kilometers in 5 months, most of them mountainous.  Our 42 year old madam of an RV has done well.

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