November 10, 2013

Bay Area: Vines, Suds & a Dud

I've been a San Francisco 49ers fan since I was a kid, a bit odd since I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania where the Eagles & Steelers are the fan favorites. I owe my Niners fanhood to my older brother, who back in '78 or so used to poke fun at them for sucking so bad. I think I felt sorry for them, so I started to root for the NFL doormats. Little did I know then that they had just drafted Joe Montana and their fortunes were about to turn.

Fast forward to recent times. I now reside in the Phoenix area and have seen the 49ers play many times here vs the Cardinals. A few years ago I flew up to SF to finally catch a game at Candlestick, but as luck would have it, they sucked then too and were promptly blown out by the Patriots.

This season is the last for Candlestick and I really wanted to check out one more game at The Stick. The 49ers are relevant once again coming oh-so close last year to hoisting a 6th Lombardi Trophy. We checked the schedule and finally worked out a weekend to head north. The Carolina Panthers were coming in and playing well also.

First, we had the rest of the weekend to fill and my nephew lives in the area. I recently had the good fortune to try the flagship IPA from Russian River Brewing, Pliny the Elder. We made plans to drive up to Santa Rosa to pick some up on Sat and stop at a couple vineyards in Sonoma along the way.
Our first stop, B.R. Cohn.
A lady watched in disbelief as her new purchase tore through the to go bag!!

Second stop: Chateau St. Jean.
My next cycling jersey??
We were running a bit late after a hearty breakfast and only made two stops in Sonoma. Russian River Brewing was calling, we soon found out it was calling everyone in Santa Rosa!! Sure, it was a Saturday evening, but a 2hr wait to get a table?!?! We weren't really hungry, so we killed time walking around downtown and browsing a rather large Barnes and Noble.

An hour and a half later we made our way back to RRB, only this time there was a line of 20+ people waiting to get in the front door!! The place was at capacity and even those wishing to refill growlers had to wait. Funny thing is, every other establishment downtown had openings, but the brewery was overflowing!!
Get there early!
By now we had worked up an appetite, hopefully the food was as good as the beer! I also had a recommendation to check out Costeaux's, a french bakery in Healdsburg, but we didn't have time. Lucky for us RRB uses Costeaux's bread on their sandwiches!! I ordered a meatball sandwich and the full sampler of beer.
Suddenly, I'm thirsty.
Too bad I can't trust a growler in checked luggage!!
Full sampler, ready to go.
I'm not really an IPA fan, but this is fantastic!
RRB also specializes in sour beers, very different, but quite tasty. We all enjoyed our meal and drinks, then I picked up a dozen bottles to bring back to the desert. The challenge would be keeping them cold all the way home. We later noticed the bottling date was 11.7.13, we purchased the beer on 11.9.13!! Talk about fresh.

Back at my nephew's place we stocked up the fridge and called it a night.

Sunday morning we packed up for the flight home, got ready for the game then rummaged around the house for a cooler large enough for the 20oz bottles. We found a suitable bin with holiday decorations in it...perfect! Loaded up, we stopped by a 7-11 in Oakland for some ice when it kinda dawned on me that I wasn't exactly wearing the right colors in this part of town!! At least the Raiders fans were watching their early kickoff game as I wore my bright red Roger Craig throwback jersey!!

We slogged our way across the grid-locked new Oakland Bay Bridge and were dropped off at Candlestick a couple hours before kickoff. We walked around outside the stadium for a while then checked out a temporary 49ers Hall of Fame exhibit they erect on gamedays.
He may be heading to the game.
Only in SF.

Vintage helmets inside the 49ers HoF exhibit.
Evolution to the current design.

This guy was pretty good.
Everson Walls, my favorite Cowboy of all time.

Anquan Boldin is solely responsible for making her a 49ers fan! Thanks Q.

Need a few more of these.
Seats weren't too bad.
Sourdough Sam leading the charge!

Looks who's back, TO. He was part of the #4 moment in Candlestick history: The Catch 2.
Lots of this stuff floating around.
Eric Reid interception, one of the few highlights on this day.
I'll take that over a cheesehead!!
Cool jersey: Elway, Marino, Montana & Unitas.
The Niners lost 10-9, brutal game to watch actually. Farewell Candlestick.
It was a little past 4p and we were hoping to make a 7:15 flight out of OAK, but we did have backup tickets for a Southwest flight around 8:30 just in case. We were going to meet my nephew in downtown SF a few BART stops up the line, but first we had to get to the BART. Obviously, the area outside the stadium was a madhouse, 3 express buses later we were en route.

It was now almost 5p and things were grid-locked. Sometime just before 6p we hopped on the BART and soon we were unpacking beer from our makeshift cooler in a downtown parking garage and slipping them, one by one, into a dozen ski socks for our luggage. Back on the road we quickly merged onto the Bay Bridge, it was now around 6:30. Traffic was surprisingly light on the bridge and we were dropped off at OAK at 6:41.

We quickly grabbed our bags, said our goodbyes and hustled up to the ticket counter. I asked the agent if we still had time to check bags for the PHX flight, she said '4 minutes'. Perfect. Bags checked, TSA scanned, seats assigned and we were on board in our seats 13 minutes after being dropped off!! I'm beginning to like flying in/out of OAK!!

It was a fun weekend, hopefully the next trip north to see the 49ers will result in a WIN!! I'm now 0-2 at home games. Back at home we unpacked the beverages and the beer was still ice cold & the wine survived as well. Ski socks, bubble wrap and an extra sweatshirt or jacket is all you need.

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