Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Highlights from a Mad Dash: California...

When I saw the Welcome to California sign, I actually cheered. Why? Because of good phone reception and a time zone I could get behind (seriously, what’s with the sun in the north – is it afraid of the horizon?) and, well… work.

Yes, you read that right. I wanted to get back to work.

So, sue me.

But I should have realized something was wrong when we stepped into our room in the Crescent City Quality Inn and found that the light switch by the door turned on the bathroom light – on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM! (Their electrician must have been high…)

Then, of course, we hit crazy traffic in Frisco, trying to get to that magical garlic of Gilroy before the shops closed.

And then, there was…

The desk clerk at the Adelaide Inn in Paso Robles recommended Cool Hand Luke’s to us. I know it wasn’t meant as a great, bit middle finger to our last night on the road but it might as well have been. (Which is to say nothing against the Adelaide Inn; that was very nice.)

Cool Hand Luke’s is where dining goes to die. It is the kind of restaurant that makes you long for McDonald’s. To say it’s shitty is to bring insult to the largest swamp of pig shit with a mountain of human excrement possible.

It’s bad.

The servers, who we saw so little of I wondered if it was my breath, had very few other tables to tend to but when they did I overheard them complain about being so busy. Before we could order drinks, about fifteen minutes after we got there, we were brought a basket of rolls and… a pot of beans?

Yes, a pot of beans – with a single spoon. What’s the point of that? I mean, I was there with Vicky. We could share but… really? Did they expect this from a family of four? Or two guys who weren’t really looking to swap spit?

So, we order our food and a half hour later are presented with something mildly resembling playdough. I had the Bacon Macaroni and Cheese, which was overcooked noodles in a bland cheese sauce. A few pieces of shredded cheddar were laid on top to make it look real and then the whole mess was sprinkles with bacon bits. Classy!

I thought I saw whip marks on my steak from where the rider rode it to death but then I realized they were marks from when the veterinarian patched it up. I’m not saying it was dog… it was probably cat.

When we finally reached Los Angeles, I gave a big, deep breath, happy to be back home.

I think I’ve outgrown the road trip. As much as I love spending time with Vicky, two people like us just should not be cooped up in a car for two weeks. Our next vacation should be somewhere we can relax, be served drinks, and possibly have more drinks.

For now, I’m just happy to be back home.

Highlights from a Mad Dash: Oregon...

This entire trip began as a business excursion for Vicky. I just tagged along for the ride… for the very, very long ride.

So, we ended up in Portland, in a lovely room at the Hilton Downtown. I didn’t really care for downtown because it was mostly businesses and homeless – no bueno.

But I got out for a jog on my first morning there and had a nice enough time. When I came back, Vicky was busy – she’d be working while we were there – so I went off to find what was – nay, is – perhaps the finest speedy sandwich establishment ever created…

Holy shit, folks. Have you been here? Go! If there’s one nearby, go! And then, order me something. Like their Italian sandwich. Then, mail it to me. I don’t care if it doesn’t make it! I’ll lick the envelope! My god, I have wet dreams about their sandwiches!

… and that was pretty much Oregon.

Oh, wait. Um… I walked up to Northwest Portland to see a publisher and just fell in love with the Northwest district. It had what I missed about Downtown - that hominess, niceness, pleasantness that made me want to just move there. I mean, it’s awesome.

But after Portland, for all of its pleasures – did I mention we were at the Hilton? It’s pretty nice – I just wanted to go home. I missed my puppies, my computer, my TV – everything!

Vicky and I took a long – perhaps too long – drive down the Oregon coast on the 101. Hey, Oregon folks, can you put some speed limit signs up for crying out loud? When we saw that Welcome to California sign, I practically cheered!

More on that next…

Highlights from a Mad Dash: Washington...

Vicky and I took the long way into Washington… which, granted, was a terrible mistake and the less said about that the better.

We stayed with Vic’s friend, Jenn, in Redmond and, after all that driving, pretty much just stayed put.

Mind you, I got a little jogging in. Jenn lives enviously close to the Sammamish River and someone put a lovely, little trail alongsideof it for jogging (and a million other things, apparently). It’s like the Santa Ana River Trail but… greener… nicer… better… the bastards…

Fortunately, we were able to fit in a little family time, too. My brother, Richard, and his wife, Teri, welcomed us in their home and their cute, little tornado, Hayden, burned enough energy to light a small town… for a decade. That was fun.

Then, of course, we had a day to ourselves and I made the terrible mistake of suggesting the Snoqualmie Falls. Mind you, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Snoqualmie Falls (except the fact that they had closed down the trail to the bottom – way to go, guys!) but to get there we had to drive through Fall City.

… where I was once married…

I don’t know if Vicky was being kind or evil when she suggested we have breakfast there. I mean, I was doing everything I could to ignore the significance of the place and Vicky was like, “Hey, this is nice! Let’s have breakfast!”

… ugh.

Fortunately, we went to…

Best breakfast of the entire trip. No kidding. Vicky’s crab benedict was amazing and I had a Strawberry Stuffed French Toast that, well, it’s all I can remember. I’m still stupefied by how good it was.

Washington was pretty nice. Last time I was there, all I could see was my ex. This time, it just had to be my dad. He was everywhere and I missed him terribly.

And that’s it.

Of course, before we left Vicky and I had to get into a fight that… let’s just say I should be out of the hospital soon.

And then, we went to Oregon.

Highlights from a Mad Dash: Idaho...


For the state with the lowest self-esteem, it ain’t that bad.

I hadn’t been back to Idaho in a few years and as we drove through eastern Idaho to our destination, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow. This is utter shit.”

I mean, there I was surrounded by right-wing, anti-wind-energy signs (seriously, kids?) and fireworks warehouses opened all year long. I felt like I was driving into a Republican’s wet dream!

But then, we reached Cascade, Idaho, which was rivers and mountains and deer and fresh air and blue skies and open meadows. Turns out, that’s also a Republican’s wet dream; they can’t wait to tear it down.

The irony here is that right about that time, I was JONESING for some pavement. Seriously, I was getting really home sick. I wanted a Starbucks and a freeway… sigh…

Cascade was our first prolonged stop. We spent a couple of days with Vicky’s family inside their lovely, little home. It was quite nice.

Our first morning there, I hit the road for an eight-mile jog. Little did I realize that at about 5,000 feet up and eight-mile jog is just about the worst thing you could do. And it was probably the cause of my migraine the next day that kept me in bed and in the dark. Fortunately, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of that day.

We lunched in a little place called…

Gramma’s. Great name, huh? And that’s just what it’s like. It’s a little family place that serves a pretty good burger. What more can you ask for?

We trotted around town a bit until the 1950s-ness of it all wore thin. I mean, really, kids selling lemonade from roadside stands and teens hanging out at the soda shop. I felt like giving them heroin; it was just TOO CLEAN!

Then, someone got the idea we should go see The Lone Ranger, which was about the worst decision imaginable. The Lone Ranger is a movie with so much wrong with it, the crappy acting ain’t that bad. It shits on the source material, on logic, on taste, and on its viewers. It’s not a movie. It’s a sentence. It’s punishment. It was to movies what Cool Hand Luke’s was to food… I’ll get to that later.

The Lone Ranger may also have caused my migraine… odds are, it did.

We soon left Idaho, on our way to Washington…

Highlights from a Mad Dash: Wyoming...

Wyoming came at the end of a very long drive through four states.

Vicky and I pulled up to the La Quinta Inn with nothing but contempt for a world that would make us drive all that way – and whose idea was that, anyway? (I’m taking the fifth!)

I saw some “bikers” trucking in their motorcycles, probably to Sturgis – the bastards. Listen, I drove a bike for seven years and did not once truck it anywhere. Motorcycles are for riding and if you’re too old and your back won’t take it, fucking retire and get a golf cart!

… I’m sorry. Where was I?

Oh, right. Wyoming.

Vicky and I were exhausted by hungry and decided to eat and the nearest place… oh crap. It was an Applebee’s. But, heck, it was all we had. We sat down at our table and found out our waitress was about as tired as we were. We ordered sliders and a couple of salads, and barely ate that.

We barely had enough energy to get back to our hotel room and ignore the horrible bed. (Seriously. What circus left the trampoline behind?)

Highlights from a Mad Dash: Utah...




Something nice to say about Utah…




Oh! We saw some prairie dogs – I may have this way out of order but I had to think of something – who were quite adorable but terribly stupid. Of the handful of sweet and cuddly live ones we saw, I also witnessed dozens more of them squished in the road.

Not nice.

Certainly not worth a picture.

We got out of there as quickly as possible.

Highlights from a Mad Dash: Colorado...

Would I say that Colorado was my favorite state of the trip?

Yes. Yes, I would say that Colorado was my favorite state of the trip.

I mean, damn, it was beautiful! The gorges! The peaks! (The stores! The chores!) The sky was a kind of blue you never see in the real world!

And then, we entered Silverton, Colorado, a little strip of heaven just pretty as a picture, so pretty it should wear a bow. Vicky was a bit peckish and Silverton sprang up in the middle of some tedious mountain driving – so we stopped.

Ate at a joint called…

Two words: Pork Sundae. No shit. Pork Sundae. It’s like BBQ heaven – which is not where pigs go when we eat them, sadly enough.

I didn’t want to leave Silverton. I wanted to move there. It’s just so beautiful.

But we couldn’t wait. Utah was calling… on an old phone… collect… because it hated us.

Highlights from a Mad Dash: New Mexico...

There wasn’t too much to like about New Mexico.

This isn’t to say that there’s nothing there to like. I’m sure there are plenty of… I’m mean, something… you know… decent. Maybe.

The El Malpais National Monument is a thing of beauty. It’s really out of this world wonderful. Vicky and I stopped there for some shots and I knew it was the kind of place I’d like to return to and hike. Sadly, however, the road called.

We were welcomed into Albuquerque with a sand storm, but unlike the one in Arizona this included rain as well. It was kinda fucked up, to tell you the truth.

I just wanted to get out of there.

So, we hit the road the next day and drove northwest to Colorado…

Highlights from a Mad Dash: Arizona...

Arizona greeted us with sandstorms, 120 degree temperatures, and some of its lovely scenery, which is to say it made us want to leave.

But we had just arrived. So, we kept driving to our first stop, the home of my step-mother Blanche. Though we had the air conditioner cranked to 11, heat bled in through the metal skin of the car until there was just a small pocket of breathable air towards the center – what we called “comfort”.

When we saw Blanche, she said she could feel heat coming off our bodies – so much for the air conditioning – and we ended up just spending time in her living room, under the cool vents of her air conditioning.

But then, dinner came and we drove to a place called…

The great thing about Joe’s is that even though they were busy – and they were busy – they were still helpful and the food was good and the service was great. What’s not to like? On top of that, the portions were so amazing we had to leave food at the table.

Hold on.

Look at me.

This is not a boy who leaves food lightly. Okay?

We had a great visit with Blanche. It was just so lovely to see her after so many years apart.

Sadly, though, we were back on the road the next day, continuing east along the 60 to Show Low and then along the 36 to El Malpais National Monument… Fun!

Highlights from a Mad Dash: California...

So, Vicky and I decided to go on a road trip recently because we forgot what two weeks in a car with another person will do to you (hint: it rhymes with bomocide) and we thought driving for two weeks would be fun.

We were wrong.

But there were some good times, some fun times, some beautiful sights, some great food… and some horrible food. (Skip to the final entry and Cool Hand Luke’s for further details on that.)

So, now that I’m back home and can say with some certainty that I survived, I thought it might be fun to take the trip apart, state by state, and give you the hightlights!

Before we began our mad dash around nine states (I’ll be hitting California twice but counting it once), we decided to stop by a little Mexican place in San Diego called…

We first heard of El Indio some thousand years ago or so on Food Network and have wanted to go ever since. I’m happy to say we were not disappointed. The food was fresh and flavorful. I especially liked the Horchata, which is one of those things that when it’s bad it’s awful. Theirs wasn’t. Vicky and I shared a dish and that satisfied us quite nicely. We agreed to do more of that kind of sharing on the trip – this was the only time it happened…

After El Indio, we hit Highway 8 and took it east into Arizona…

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

So Dream Something takes the Pacific Crest Trail...

Mindy Dunham hiked the Pacific Crest Trail at 58! Listen to her fascinating story in this month's So Dream Something...