New Friends, Hard Cider

Social media is a crazy thing. Coming from the generation that has seen it all unfold from the beginnings of MySpace and Facebook, I am part of a dying breed, a breed that knew what life was like before the internet. With the development of social media came a variety of outlets to document our lives and share them with friends, family and even strangers. What started out as a platform for virtual networking has developed into a world of communities and subcultures, where people invest hours of time, sharing trades and self promoting. I can recall the transition stage when online networking, then a rookie form of communication, was becoming socially accepted. It was a time when asking someone if they had a MySpace came with blushing cheeks and a precursor of “I know this is lame to ask but…”. Fast forward just a little over a decade, now people swap screen names as casually as shaking hands. Like so many of my fellow peers, I have seen both the light and dark side of social media. I think by now quite a few of us have heard horror stories of Craigslist exchanges gone bad or witnessed relationships crumble from online interactions, stories showcasing the downfalls of misguided trust in strangers with internet access and cruel intentions. What you rarely hear about are the success stories. Recently, Ryan and I found ourselves guest starring in a success story of our own.

Instagram is my personal preference of all social media applications. It’s free of daily gripes and therapy seekers, like you find on Facebook. It has far less bicker and banter, like Twitter. Instagram is designed to share images, photographs, art. Through hashtags, images can be categorized to help other like-photos collect into filtered groups. I have found tons of lesser known photographers full of inspiration and immense talent from scrolling through specific hashtags. It was through a hashtag search that Ryan and I were linked with our newest friends, a group of guys on an epic journey, the Cali Coast Tour. On a trip that started at California’s border with Mexico and is headed all the way up to the border of Oregon, they are documenting, photographing and videoing the entire way. As they work their way north, Ryan and I, along with many others, have followed their tour through teasers they’ve shared online. Not long after they began, Ryan and I reached out in hopes of meeting up for a short tag along day once they entered the northern coast. We were envious of their freedom to follow a passion project and are curious in the outcome. Eight months in, they finally made it to the Sonoma Coast and our tag along request was approved. We were on our way for a day of serious unknowns.

With backup plan in mind, just in case they ended up being less than stellar, we met up in Gualala, CA at Bones Road House BBQ for a day of beach hopping and coastal cruising. Not too long after breakfast, both sides were confidant that they would not need to engage their back up plans to escape the encounter and decided to mutually tackle the Saturday agenda. Several hours of driving, 3 beaches, 2 meals and 1 lack-luster sunset later, we were finished with dinner and back at the Bodega Harbor Inn for what turned out be a late night of swapping stories and sipping drinks.

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It’s rare in this day and age for people to be as authentic as you hope they will be. It is even more rare for the entire experience to be a genuine success. Fortunately, our day together was full of both rarities. To William, Tony and James, we thank you, for a day of memories including a flip-flopped ninja who lives under a pier, a shady walk to dinner through a hole in a fence and most importantly, for the pilgrimage onto unfamiliar beaches by way of rope climbing and creek jumping. We encourage you to complete your journey, finish your project and share it with all the supporters who have been patiently waiting.

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Oddly enough, my favorite shot I got all day was with my back to the beach and eye on a rock. Stump Beach Cove at Salt Point State Park, I dig you.

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I don’t know a better way to follow up such a fulfilling day of photography and newfound friendship than a cheese conference held at the beautiful Ramekins Culinary School, Events and Inn in Sonoma, CA.

Feeling rejuvenated from a night of ocean air, we made it home in time for a quick rest and change and then headed inland to the 12th Annual Sonoma Valley Artisan Cheese Conference. To be really honest, we had no idea what the Sonoma Valley Artisan Cheese Conference was. Having an email from your husband pop up mid-workday with two tickets to a cheese show has random written all over it. Having an unhealthy love for cheese and a unique ability to make the most out of any situation, it sounded like a mysterious land of good and plenty. I was immediately down for the cause.

Upon our arrival, we were overwhelmingly excited to learn that not only would we be tasting cheese, wine, beer and cider all afternoon, but we were also expected to taste test the six macaroni and cheese contenders. My heart felt so much joy. Ingredients included spinach, sausage, mushrooms, sausage, bacon, breadcrumbs, hot sauce, sausage, and a huge variety of cheese. To wash it all down we enjoyed wines from all over Sonoma and Napa Counties and beer from a handful of microbrews. I have now had Sriracha beer as well, thanks to Rogue Farms. It was surprisingly refreshing. As Ryan proclaimed, “I would order that.”

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To finish off the afternoon, we joined a sit down, cheese and hard-cider pairing in the kitchen. A panel led by Tom Wark of The Cider Journal, walked us through the variations of tastings. Cider is still somewhat foreign in our household but with the knowledge and history gained I have become more open to stepping outside of my traditional beer or wine mindset. All the cider was supplied from local Sonoma County cideries. All but one cheese sample was locally sourced including my personal favorite, Tomme from Pug’s Leap Cheese. My top two favorite ciders were Tilted Shed’s Graviva and Devoto Orchards’ Cidre Noir.

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Taking a risk on a day up and down the coastline with a trio of guys we had never met turned out to be an irreplaceable twenty-four hours full of new stories and unexpected friendships. Taking a risk on an event that we had no idea what to expect from turned out to be a rewarding afternoon of sipping wine and eating mac and cheese, fireside.yum

Cheers, to the rewards still left in the risks, to the good, still left in the unknown and to the journeys still left to be taken.

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