Monday, September 2, 2019

What a Wonderful Life - Part One

I've been thinking about what to write since the last post in April. That one ended with my heart on my sleeve. This one will be a lot different, I promise. I have written about the history of Fair Play, the old and new wineries of Fair Play and about how to get to places not that far away from Fair Play. Now I'm writing a history for Lucinda's Country Inn. After fifteen years it's time to let you know how we did it.

For now I'm taking you down memory lane of what has been a 25+ year adventure for Cindy and I. When we moved to Orange County, CA in 1991 we knew we were to return to Northern California in a few short years. Cindy promised here employer she'd be there five years. Nine and a half years later we returned to start Lucinda's Country Inn. Right after we landed in South Coast Metro (the area at the seams of Costa Mesa and Santa Ana, around the South Coast Plaza Shopping Mall) we started talking about what will we do when we go home. I asked Cindy to think in terms of no longer being a bureaucrat, which she had been for 25+ years. Maybe she would like to do some type of entrepreneurial activity. After all I had lived most of my life in the private sector and it wasn't bad. Without going into all the excruciating details, she said let's do a B&B. Over the next few years we went to conferences conducted by the B&B industry and learned a lot. We started looking for RAW land in Amador and/or El Dorado Counties. We knew them both well because many years earlier we traveled them extensively, as young newlyweds.  There was nothing up there but oak, pine and walnut trees and of course rattle snakes. A lot has changed.  In 1997 we found the ideal spot and started our work to make it happen. Just like the pioneers, we cleared the land in order to build; well we did have chain saws, backhoes, graders and trucks. Other than that we did exactly what the pioneers did. (I still can't believe what they did to get over the Sierra Nevada Mountains.)  For our labor of love and the wild ass dream of becoming Innkeepers, we sweated, we worked long hours and cleaned up with a solar shower. We went to the few nearby wineries to get gallons of water (we brought empty milk containers from home in SoCal)  for the shower and the few plants we tried to get started. They all died; maybe because they got water about every three weeks.

We finally decided we had to move back north before we submitted our Special Use Permit plans in 2001. Talking with El Dorado County employees for several years, I knew we needed to babysit the process every step of the way. Everyone I talked to had a different story, so what were we to do but fight tooth and nail to get straight talk and solid answers. Our neighbors were no help. They posted a NO HOTEL sign at the edge of our property and spoke at every meeting the county had for our project. Of course they didn't know what they we talking about, but they told the county the B&B would lower property values, cause traffic jams, and besides we planned on having baseball park lights on our property where thousands of people would attend conferences. We have 11 acres with a steep slope and a seasonal creek. That didn't matter, our friendly neighbors insisted we were going to build on wetlands because one of them had plants from a wetland (the creek in winter). I loved it when a planning commissioner asked where he got the plant. To top it all off, the County had no idea about what regulations a B&B had to follow. Like friendly idiots we gave them a copy of Amador County's B&B regulations. Our County Supervisor didn't have a clue about a B&B requirements. They all were operating by the seat of their pants until a planner from Santa Cruz was hired. She knew what to do and she would tell everyone how to do it. At least that is what she thought. She wanted to be a buzz saw with us until I went from the public counter directly to the Director of Planning and informed him what she had told us and how she would set this department straight and tell the Director how to do it.

It took us one week shy of one year to get our Special Use Permit (#01-025. I remembered that; I didn't have to look it up.) So we got our loan approved and started from the trenches going up in building Lucinda's Country Inn.

The shell of the building takes shape in January 2004

Today, fifteen years ago, we had our first guests at Lucinda's Country Inn. Labor Day is the day Windwalker Winery called to see if we could accommodate some wine club members. We really weren't ready for guests but when Arnie Gilpin said they lived in Roseville and were not able to drive home we relented. Fortunately we had just completed our first Suite, later to be named the Vineyard Suite. They had to stay in the suite because the great room and dining rooms were filled with supplies and tools. They never noticed, but they enjoyed breakfast in bed the next morning. That was the only time we served breakfast in bed. We made our first money as Innkeepers. I still have a copy of the check he wrote for the stay. So a little nostalgia sets the mood for today. We have started our sixteen year of being Innkeepers at Lucinda's Country Inn.

.....To Be continued with Part Two

'Til Next Time......


Friday, April 19, 2019

What an Honor -- A Wish Come True !!!!

I've been thinking of how to say thanks. Luxury Travel Guide (LTG) has just named Lucinda's Country Inn  the Romantic Luxury Retreat of 2018. That is a big deal when you consider all the places in the Americas, North, Central and South, that are considered romantic retreats. Lucinda's Country Inn in little 'ole Fair Play, CA has that distinction now. WOW!!

You can see the publication at  Luxury Travel Guide and paste in this code LTGAmeri18287 in the authorization code box. When you see the publication write 221 in the white box and hit enter, that is the page we are on. Then in the lower right is a four corner box to see it full screen. We have a framed certificate and a lucite award stating we are the Romantic Luxury Retreat of the Year 2018.

We were honored by LTG in 2015 as the Most Relaxing Country Inn – El Dorado County *** Best Upscale Bed & Breakfast – Amador County *** LUX Recommended Wine Country Getaway – Amador County. That was really cool and we were thrilled to be among the best in California. Now we are the best in the Americas, the Western Hemisphere. That is REALLY COOL.

When we decided to do Lucinda's we always wanted to make her a special place for people to call it their "Home Away From Home", and many people have written reviews saying that is what they enjoyed about Lucinda's Country Inn. The design is like no other and for all the appointments we tried to think each element of each item down to the minute detail. Without all that forethought and diligent efforts over the years to keep her spotless and up to date, LTG would never have bothered to have their panel of judges even consider Lucinda's Country Inn.

A man and woman at a patio table with umbrella and working material on the table with wine glasses.
Here Cindy & I are going over some business plans for Lucinda's when we lived at South Coast Springs in Southern California for nine years and spent many an afternoon and evening on the condo deck or at the patio in Metro Pointe Center, sucking on iced mochas and watching kids play in the water fountain.    
We have been fortunate to be recognized by several industry powerhouses: TripAdviser has given us their Award of Excellence, has named us a Diamond Collection B&B, the American Commerce Association has named us the Best of Somerset from 2011 until 2018 and has installed Lucinda's Country Inn in their Hall of Fame, to name just a few. These awards and as I used to say in Jaycess, "Bwards and certificates suitable for framing" have never been things we have sought. These things have been bestowed to Lucinda's without our efforts. They are nice to receive and we appricate the recognition and love to let our guests know what is happening at Lucinda's.

In 1969 living in "College Town", the married student housing, on Sacramento State College campus with my new born daughter in her basinet, I sat at our small dining table writing a life wish list. On that list was I wanted to own an insurance agency. In the last half of the 70's through the 80's I owned and manged Valley-Hi Insurance Services where I wrote general business liability insurance, auto, home, life and health insurance. I also wanted a mountain retreat for people to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. In 2000 we moved back to Northern California to begin serious work to get Daryl's Country Inn started. Well, that's what I wanted to name the place. Cindy & I discussed it for 4 tenths of a second. Lucinda's Country Inn was born and to this day we still enjoy hosting people to My retreat in the Mountains, well at least to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountin Range. That is quite a picture, if I do say so myself. It really is a big accpomlishment. It wouldn't have been possible to make this trek from a wish list to reality without the steadfast guideance, support and love from her namesake. I've called her Cindy since high school, but you know her by her given name, Lucinda. She has truly been more than any man deserves, especially me. I love you Cindy and thank you for helping me make my wish come true. Happy Anniversary, # 53.

'Til Next Time ....


Saturday, March 23, 2019


I’ve been thinking about how to say this nicely. There is no way. GOOGLE is ripping off Lucinda’s. We now use what we call the OTA’s, Online Travel Agencies; Expedia, Trivago, Hotwire, Etc. In order for Lucinda’s Country Inn to get a reservation through one of the OTA’s the public generally use GOOGLE with something like, places to stay in Fair Play. Then a whole host of places appear in the search results. (Figure One)  Not Lucinda’s Country Inn, at least not until they scroll down to the bottom of the page. (Figure 5)  GOOGLE has a “Four Pack” with four pictures and yes Lucinda’s PHOTO is one of them.(Figure 2) T he PHOTO is the only thing about Lucinda’s. All the other information in that “Four Pack” is information from the OTA’s listing for Lucinda’s. The OTA’s have gleaned most of their information from our website so it looks like our website. When someone clicks on the picture of Lucinda's you are taken to another page about Lucinda's, but not our website. (Figure 3)  When you click on the BOOK A ROOM BLUE BUTTON, you are taken to yet another page that has information about making a reservation, but it is not on Lucinda's website. (Figure 4) That is through the OTA’s not Lucinda’s website. So, GOOGLE is keeping people away from Lucinda’s Country Inn's website as long as possible so GOOGLE confuses the public and they make a reservation right then, thinking it is through Lucinda’s website; but it is NOT.

Figure #1: This is the GOOGLE Search Results: Ads appear first

Figure # 2: The “Four Pack” appears next

Figure # 3: This looks like Lucinda's, but it's not our website.

Figure # 4: This is a list of OTA's to make a reservation, NOT Lucinda's website.

Figure # 5: The rest of the GOOGLE Search Results, “Organic”, are at the bottom of the page. Lucinda’s is the third one down and our website is there for you to click on.

I won’t bore you with all the statistics about this scam, but about 75% of the people make their reservation as I just described thinking they are at Lucinda’s, or wherever, instead of on the websites of the OTA’s. But I will explain how the OTA's are not good for our guests. We have had guests that have stayed with us many times who can’t remember our website address and they GOOGLE "Where to stay in Far play?" and make a reservation through one of the OTA’s. The OTA’s cannot change their reservation once it is made and paid in full before arrival. That means if our guests want to modify their reservation, oh well, they can’t. One guest should have received their Friend's of Lucinda's free night, but we couldn't adjust their reservation, as it was an OTA reservation. Shortly they will get their free night when they come again. We don’t have access to the OTA information to make changes. If someone wants Champagne, Flowers or whatever in their suite upon arrival, the OTA’s cannot help make that happen. The guest has to contact us directly and that requires another completely different transaction. NOT CONVENIENT. That is not what we like to do for our guests. 

Here’s how GOOGLE is ripping us off, and the lodging industry in general. The OTA’s pay GOOGLE ad money to get placed in search results. That way the OTA’s appear well above and long before anyone sees Lucinda’s website address, so they can actually get to Lucinda’s website. When using the OTA’s, we pay them a commission, ranging from 15% to 20% for each reservation amount made though the OTA. That is how they are able to advertise on TV, GOOGLE, in magazines, and online via social media. Then they make their GOOGLE ad buys to get better results than us, even if we place ads on GOOGLE. Fair, NO!! Is this collusion? Unlike Trump’s constant denial, you bet that is collusion. OTA’s pay for their ads to appear before us, even our ads.

The lodging industry, including the B&B’s, has launched a BOOK DIRECT campaign to let the public know that they should BOOK DIRECT with the places they want to stay. That way the guests will know exactly where they will be and that place will take care of them. I recommend you bookmark the places you frequent, in stead of using GOOGLE. That way you KNOW you are booking with Lucinda’s and if there needs to be modifications made, I can make them for you. If you want to enhance your stay you can pick those items you want at the time you make your reservation and you don’t have to go through the hassle of extra communication with me, to get those things you want.

Bookmark your favorite places. BOOK DIRECT to save yourself some frustration.

‘Til Next Time ….


Monday, January 21, 2019

New Things Happening in Fair Play

I've been thinking about last April's post I did, "Things are a Changing Here in Fair Play..." Then I mentioned several changes among the wineries, new to the Fair Play family. We have become good friends with all the new ones I mentioned and their wines are all fantastic. Now I want to explain what I meant at the end of that post.

My last line then was "Life is always changing and some of it for the good." Lets start with that, Palissandro Winery has been bought and the name changed to Mediterranean. They are part of a corporate structure named GoldLine Brands. When GoldLine came to Fair Play they also bought vineyards: Palissandro, Peter's Gate & his neighbor, Sierra Oaks, Latcham,  a vineyard on Bucks Bar. There may be more I don't know about. GoldLine has four other brands: 1850 (Tasting room in Sutter Creek),  Myka Cellars (started in Santa Cruz-just recently moved into El Dorado County & named after winemaker Mica Raas),  GoldLine and Coast (an entry wine for those just learning about wines or those who like inexpensive wines from online) Mediterranean will look a lot different when they complete the patio and deck. It will be a first class place to enjoy wine and nibbles.

Single Leaf Winery is now closed. Scot Miller, winemaker & owner with his wife Pam, recently passed away from brain cancer. Pam is selling the property and has returned to live in Nevada, close to family. Speaking of changes, dkcellars has been bought by the Bumgarner family, renamed the winery to Bumgartner Winery, and has their tasting room open for business, Fri., Sat. & Sun. 11-5. The winery on Mt. Aukum Rd. has been bought and plans to be reopened under a new name sometime late spring or summer of this year. We wish them luck to open as planned. We know just a little about what is in store at the hilltop; new owners have been staying with us for years.

Gold Vine Grill is still making great burgers and calamari dishes. Though Greg lost his beloved Mary not long ago, he is staying true to their dream of being restaurateurs. Mary's warmth and leadership in many things around Fair Play, Future Chefs Cooking Competition, and the ROP will be remembered forever. She will be forever loved by all of us. Another loss, we just heard about our good friend and friend of many Fair Play folks, Rod Avery passed away last night (1/20/19). Many of you knew Rod from tasting rooms like Granite Springs, dkcellars and Iverson. His leadership of the Pleasant Valley Grange/Community Center will forever stand as a testament to his giving of himself.  His good humor and smiling face will be sorely missed. 

I find myself in not a very good mood right now, so this post is short.

'Til Next Time.....