Tuesday June 26. 2012
Got off to a really late start due to the unexpected need for a drug store run, but with Jon at the wheel, we should make up the difference in no time. They don't call him "Leadfoot" for nothing. Brought my entertainment center along which includes a Kindle, a portable DVD player, a couple of books on tape, and assorted mood music. Apparently the GPS----we call her Gertie---fried her brain in all the heat. She has been announcing, ad nauseum, that there is a "traffic jam ahead" for more than 100 miles. Jon says she will be correct when we finally hit downtown Las Vegas but as for now---"shut up, Gertie!" We found inexpensive lodging at a hotel called Cannery Row. The first thing we noticed is that the piped-in music was all Sixties stuff. Then we looked around and noted that the average age was around 65. It's a Boomer Paradise. Every Saturday, a different tribute band appears---next up is Zep Again. Jon and I caught their act at the Port Hueneme Cultural Center. Since the steakhouse was closed, we partook of the buffet. Always an iffy proposition---the buffet. We were delighted to find that the raw veggie deli salads were fresh and the prime rib was perfect. Years of experience in buffet dining taught us to choose wisely---quality is always more important than quantity. We found one woman who piled up several plates on her walker---very resourceful sexagenarian. While I should have skipped the dessert island, who can pass up French pastries or bread pudding? I went to sleep dreaming about the fantastic cream puff that found its way on my plate.
Wednesday June 27
We were up at 6 AM. Two people and one bathroom makes for terror or togetherness. Today is going to be jam-packed with unique sights to see. Jon plans to visit Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Escalante National Monument and Dixie National Forest. We had a delightful Southwestern skillet at the Victory Cafe---decor included orange box labels and art deco furniture. I told Jon to give the waitress a big tip because she thought I wasn't old enough for the senior (55 years) discount. We filled up with gas that was priced a record-breaking $3.39! As soon as we hit the road we noticed the colors of the rocks---much Sedona sandstone--- were spectacular. There were Ohhhhs and Ahhhhs around every corner. Our travels today took us through three different states---Nevada, Arizona Utah. Noted many ranches with cattle but also an ostrich farm as well. The photo is an impressive sandstone sculpture entitled "Earth Mother" in Springdale River Park that reminded us of the work of sculptor Fernando Botero. We also took Chloe for a walk across the bridge which crosses the Virgin River. We found Zion to be cool but Bryce is twice as nice. We were especially knocked out by the color combo of the green mesquite growing on cliffs of red sandstone. Found an interesting portrait of an ape man on the face of one of the cliff walls. Formations reminded us of cathedrals, pipe organs, or castles. Jon asked me to pop "Cantacles of Ecstacy" by Hildegard von Bingen into the music player. We listened to the eerie soprano of (are you ready for this?) a nun. She was definitely singing in the dog whistle range as we went from one fantastic vista to another. We loved the 1.1 mile tunnel that was completed in 1930 t. Every 100 feet or so, you got to look out a "window" t at the cliffs below. A tunnel was necessary because there wasn't enough room for a two-lane road as it neared the top of the mountain. We saw all sorts of gem shops along the way and I found out I couldn't live without a 13 lb. sample of Blue Ice. It's a type of natural glass that was formed by a volcanic reaction. The color is a dazzling aquamarine blue. We figured it would be quite a conversation starter out on the lanai. We also decided to take the scenic byway (Escalante Steps) to Torrey, Utah. At times there was a one-mile sheer drop down on either side of the road. We had to laugh when we saw a cow crossing sign that high up. How in the hell would a cow get up there? Dinner was also an unexpected treat. Who would have thought that a 5-star restaurant called the Diablo Cafe existed in such a small town as Torrey, Utah. Foodies from everywhere seemed to know about the place. Apparently, Dialo Cafe's southwestern cuisine was written up in the New Yorker. We enjoyed wine and complimentary tapas---marinated veggies like onions, jalapeno pepper, squash, and a few things we couldn't identify. We shared a citrus salad with a most subtle oil and rice vinegar dressing. Jon ordered a Mayan Tamale and I had a dish called Turkey Chimole. Unbelievable. The pastry chef was eating at the table next to us, so we were persuaded to order two desserts--one was a flourless chocolate cake with homemade Chunky Monkey ice cream and the other was a pear and peach torte with Chai Tea ice cream. Heaven and it's only Day 2.
Thursday June 28, 2012. 2012The sheer scale of the rock formations we have been seeing for the past few days has been incredibly humbling. Everywhere we looked, another Kodak moment would appear but no geological structure really fit inside my camera's viewfinder. There were few houses along the way, but we found a modest ranch in Hurricane, Utah that had been painted with a desert wildlife scene including a hawk and a coyote. Public art like that reminded us of Santa Fe, New Mexico where every sculptor displays his or her art in their front yards. Apparently all three of us are not dealing well with the altitude. Last night we were at 6200 feet and felt dizzy and nauseous. Chloe didn’t even want to go for a walk after dinner. One of the things Jon and I noticed with the change in altitude, is the change in vegetation. Yesterday we saw whole forests of birch trees---many were stripped bare, probably due to the high winds. Today we found ourselves among conifers as we kept climbing up into the Rockies. Jon wanted to take a little side trip to Goblin Valley State Park this morning. His guidebook claimed the detour was worth the time. It was. Of course we had to have the right mood music for our tour. I picked out Vaughan Williams “Fantasy on a Theme by Thomas Talles.” Perfect. We read that the rock formations were formed via erosion in the tidal flats of an ancient sea. A couple of cowboys chasing some errant cows discovered the valley by accident and since the formations resembled goblins, they named it, cleverly, Goblin Valley. Small groupings of “goblins” greet you as you ride along the red dirt road through the state park. At the overlook, you can see an entire army of them, very reminiscent of the terra cotta warriors in Xian, China. Jon actually hiked down to get a better look. Chloe wanted to accompany him, but since Gila monsters and scorpions reside down there as well, she was ordered to stay up top with me. We also got a chance to visit Capitol Reef National Park. One of formations actually resembles the U.S. Capitol building in Washington DC. We noted that this area is a much deeper red than Zion probably because the color results from volcanic action rather than typical sandstone. Although we usually skip lunch, breakfast at the Comfort Inn was not quite as comforting this morning, so when we hit Grand Junction, CO, an eatery called the Rib City Grill seemed to call out our names. The management offered a wonderful little BBQ pork plate with garlic toast and fries for six bucks. Chloe got her picture taken with the pink pig that greets visitors at the door. Thunderstorms made the rest of the Colorado drive interesting. We arrived at Loveland Pass, which is the highest either of us has ever been---nearly 12,000 feet. Jon wanted his photo taken next to the sign so I obliged him although the wind, rain and altitude sickness presented quite a challenge. Colorado should really supply oxygen masks up there. Dinner was at a cash-only family style place "The Family Restaurant" with out-of-this-world banana cream pie.
Friday June 229. 2012Started out the day fortifying ourselves with Wheatridge America’s Best Value mini-donuts. Expected some rainy weather but it was hot and dry. We added to the road kill tally with a sparrow that flew into the windshield. We are assuming there was a proper wake and memorial service by his friends and relatives. Speaking of road kill, Jon claimed to have seen a dead kangaroo but nobody believed him. It was probably a deer. We had a near miss with a deer in the mountains near Denver as well. Why did the deer cross the road? Stopped for lunch @ Montana Mikes in Colby. Chloe made friends with the carved wooden beaver in the ladies’ room. This is definitely beef country and the lunch special was six-ounce steaks with potato and salad for $6.50. Montana Mikes is a Chloe-approved establishment. We hope to make Kansas City by dinner time so we can spend some time with Jane Zieha. She’s Angie’s mother and we are both so jazzed that we are becoming grandmothers in early December. We got a room at the east end of town so we could get an early start in the morning. Jane said she didn’t know any restairamts near there so invited us to be her guests at the Blue Bird Bistro (she's the owner) on Summit and 17th. Angie and Trevor’s wedding reception was held there four years ago. All the food is locally grown and creatively prepared. I had the most incredible pork chop and Jon had a tofu curry. Dessert was Sugar Pie, something Jane invented, when she had too much sugar in the pantry. It’s a variation on Shoo Fly Pie with fresh grown blackberries. It is to die for. We had so much fun trading stories about our children and their lives together. It’s a shame we don’t live closer to each other but we will both be together and pretty busy in December. The funniest thing Jane said that evening was when she introduced herself to Chloe as “Hi Chloe, I’m Emmy’s Grammy.” The waitress wrapped up my still meaty pork chop for Chloe to gnaw on at the motel. Jon picked probably the worst motel room ever . He always asks for No Smoking but this one had an ashtray filled with butts on the television and a no smoking sign on the door. We tried airing out the room but it was still pretty stinky. Fortunately, when we got home around 10:30PM, we were both exhausted and fell asleep holding hands.
Saturday, June 30, 2012. 2012Got a phone call from Nat this morning as well as a text from Naomi. The power went out in almost all of Virginia with no estimated time given for restoration. Apparently the last time this happened, it took a week to regain electricity. We sympathized with Naomi's fear that all the food she had bought was going to spoil. Fortunately, their friend Matt and his wife had room in their refrigerator, and they were on their way to transport the perishables when they called. Naomi will be picking up Brendan at the airport since we won’t get to Virginia until Sunday night. Jon let me sleep in and went to MacDonalds for coffee and a pancake sandwich for each of us. He had risen at five, walked and fed the dog, and already showered and shaved. It only took us 20 minutes to get on the road. Noticed lots of open bed trucks carrying everything from bags of onions to wheels/tires to an UFO covered up in a custom tarp. We decided not to stop in St. Louis even though we both craved a Drewes' frozen custard. It would have added a half hour we didn't have. We enjoyed lunch at DQ Grill and Chill in Okawville, ILL. We were going to get a nice healthy sandwich at Subway, but the picture of the Apple BBQ burger seduced us. We are going to have to do a lot more walking on this trip. The temperature on the road ranged from 100 to 107. Chloe was a very hot doggy. Tried to get her to run a little at the park near Ferdinand, Indiana but she wasn’t having any of that exercise stuff in this heat. Ended up at Lexington KY where we dined at Cortlands, a restaurant that specialized in Southern cuisine. I tried a local favorite called the "Hot Brown." It’s a sandwich in which turkey, ham bacon and cheese is piled on sour dough bread and then smothered in Mornay sauce. If that wasn’t enough, the bread pudding was individually steamed and drowning in the best bourbon sauce I’ve ever tasted. We have been so impressed with the food we have enjoyed on this trip. So glad there is no scale in the bathroom of any of these motels. One more day on the road and then we will be in Springfield, Virginia for a week, staying with Nathan, Naomi and Max.
Sunday, July 1, 2012. 2012When we departed from Lexington Kentucky, we were expecting more thunderstorms but enjoyed overcast skies and much cooler temps than the day before instead. A welcome relief to all this heat. We just had to pay a visit to Sharkey, Kentucky even though it was a little out of the way. Sharkey is literally a one-horse town with perhaps a dozen or so houses. We figured originally there had to have been at least one Sharkey family but the big building in the town was a Baptist church. The congregants were just streaming out as we stopped the car. Jon got out and posed in front of the sign as they scratched their heads. Note the sermon topic for the day. We got on the road after filling up with gas---a commodity we had been taking for granted, until we were forced to face the real possibility that we might not be able to get to Washington DC lacking petrol. The power outages in the nation's capitol caused a ripple effect that radiated out to include several surrounding states. Lack of power caused a subsequent run on gas in stations that did---in all directions. Fortunately we were able to fill up again in Lexington, Virginia after visiting something like 6 stations that had either run out of gas or still lacked power to pump. We spent 23 minutes in a line that snaked along for six blocks. Very reminiscent of the Carter Days. Naomi assured us through phone texts that someone would come out and bring us gas. Fortunately we didn't need to resort to that. The trip today took ten hours but was mostly on the turnpike. We loved the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and of course have been singing songs appropriate to the environs. Still can't get "Almost Heaven, West Virginia" out of my noggin. All those tree-covered ridges. Stopped for a Subway sandwich in Marmet, Kentucky. The gas station, of course, was out of fuel. The GPS sent us a different way than the map Jon had highlighted. We figured the difference was only about 20 miles. In addition, it was a much better road, albeit, a toll road. We actually arrived in time for dinner and what a Mexican feast it was---tacos and homemade rice and bean and guacamole and chips. Maxwell gave Chloe two squeaky toys--a miniature hamburger and fries. She loved them. We also got to hear Maxwell play his cello. It was the first time for Maxwell as well. He did a great job of finding some harmonious notes with his bow. We could only imagine how he will perform after a few lessons. Are we proud grandparents or what?
Monday, July 2, 2012OUr Breakfast burrito was just wonderful with homemade guacamole and salsa. Today we decided to take the Metro to the International Spy Museum downtown DC. Didn't know what to expect but the actual experience was even better that anticipated. Every vistors starts out with a cover story and actually learns the spy business from the very beginning. Each of us chose a cover story appropriate to our ages. Mine was a Vietnamese molecular biologist who was traveling to Bonn, Germany for 30 days on business. Her mission entailed getting some experimental data home which she was supposed to do by mailing the coded material to herself. We learned all about picking locks, breaking codes, dead drops, disguises, etc. The entire museum was interactive in one way or another. There were lots of archival pictures and film as well as artifacts. American spy history started with George Washington and ended up with the cyber-crimes being committed by terrorists. The video in the last exhibit had to do with---very timely---bringing down the country by bringing down the electrical grid. In the gift shop, I brought Max the James Bond car he has been coveting and Brendan a Spy Museum commemorative tee-shirt for his collection. After consulting Yelp, we decided to dine at a rather upscale Turkish/Greek restaurant called Zytinya. We were just going to order cold cucumber soup and little plates of lamb kabob type dishes in different sauces but the clever waitress managed to upsell us into getting the six dips that were served with an unending amount of pita. The bread was rather light and fluffy--unlike anything we had tasted before and the dips were all very good---including baba ghanoush, yogurt herb, caviar, red pepper, tzatziki, and hummus. We knew Naomi (who stayed home sick) was making dinner so we texted her that we were going to be too full for another meal and to just let the meat marinate in the frig for another day. We did bring Naomi a pita filled with tzatziki and a kabob. Everybody was pretty quiet on the Metro ride home. Even though we hadn't walked all that far, it was very hot that day and we were exhausted---especially Jon. There was an incident at the museum that illustrates how on-edge tourists are in DC during these days of record heat combined with the power outage. I am back with my cane these days, since I haven't been able to work out in the pool. We were waiting at the elevator with a line of people behind us. When the car came down to collect us, a little boy about 7 or 8 rushed in front of me from the other side and almost tripped me. I said, quite sarcastically, I admit, "excuse me." Well the mother went off on me. Her gripe was that I spoke to her child. Apparently only she is allowed to do that. She was so completely in the wrong, I was staggered, but said very politely, "all I said was, 'excuse me.'" Then my protector Jon decided to get involved. I finally just said to Jon, "stop." I could see that the woman just wasn't sane at the moment. I guess her husband had a few words with her, and every time we crossed paths, she would glare at me, but the next time her hubby had the opportunity, he offered me his seat. What could have been a great teaching moment for her kid, she used, instead, to continue teaching her kid how to be a thoughtless jerk. Interesting.
Tuesday July 3, 2012July 3, 2012 After a great breakfast buffet at Naomi's Cafe --we essentially cleaned up all the leftovers which included pizza, pasta, rice, beans, ground beef, scrambled eggs with cheese), we drove to Suitland, Maryland where Nathan, who is a captain in the Air Force, works for NOAA (national weather service). After Nathan conducted an amusing tour and introduced his work colleagues, we headed up to Baltimore, Maryland. Brendan and Naomi had the Hon Cafe on their must-see lists so we decided to lunch there. The owner Denise Whiting became famous on "Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares" because she had tried to copyright the word "Hon." The good people of Baltimore were not pleased with this plan, and in retaliation, boycotted her restaurant. The decor is quite kitschy--big statue of Elvis, leopard covered booths, pink flamingos as centerpieces but with great food. We were not disappointed in the crab cakes which were 100% crab and to die for. We also availed ourselves of the memorable desserts which included an outstanding bread pudding and a blueberry cherry crumble. I had a salad with the most wonderful dill dressing and chicken which I shared with Chloe. From there, Naomi programmed the GPS (Stella but she has a male voice) with the address for the Howard Peter Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens---located in Druid Hill Park near the lake. The architecture is Victorian and dates from 1888. It's really a lovely old building that sits on acres of gardens. From there we traveled to a Frank Lloyd Wright house that was built for Joseph Euchtman House on Cross Country Blvd. You could really see the Japanese influence on Wright. We thought it interesting that the linear gray house was located in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Next was the Baltimore Basilica or The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (built from 1806-1821) on Cathedral Street---which, according to the sign, was the the first great metropolitan cathedral constructed in America after the adoption of the Constitution. Two prominent Americans guided the Basilica’s design and architecture: John Carroll, the country’s first bishop (later Archbishop of Baltimore) and a cousin of Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; and Benjamin Henry Latrobe, father of American architecture, and Thomas Jefferson’s Architect of the Capitol. Brendan loves railroad roundhouses and had already visited the B & O Museum but didn't get a photo, so we stopped there after checking out Edgar Allan Poe's house on Amity Street. Unfortunately the Poe museum was not open. Then we headed down to the inner harbor to see the Aquarium but nobody really thought we could do it justice in the 1.5 hours we had before Brendan needed to be dropped off at his cousin Ben Kelley's house for dinner. Naomi and Chloe and I hung out at B. Dalton--which had a great view of the harbor from the second floor. The guys walked over to the World Trade Center Building and got some great panoramic shots of of Baltimore from the top floor. After Yelp-ing for a dinner spot , we came to the conclusion that Ruth's Chris Steakhouse was the best bet---despite knowing and feeling guilty that Brendan was going to miss his all-timefavorite restaurant. We did save him a doggy bag of rib-eye steak and potato casserole. The service was superb even though a smart-ass waiter named Scott did blurt out "Oh, old school!" when I ordered a Mai Tai. Nathan drove us home through a scary thunderstorm. Did a great job. Can't believe that tomorrow is the 4th of July. Had to file my column from DC. I was trying to write in the car but the glare from the sun kept me from finding the curser, so I draped my hoodie over my head and the computer. Must have looked crazy to the other drivers---especially when it was over 100 degrees. Jon later rigged up a shaded space in the back seat by securing our dirty underwear to all the rolled up windows. We must have looked like the Joad family---that is the Joad family with a Crown Vic.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012My column appeared in the online Ventura County Star and generated quite a few emails. Always good to hear from readers. We awoke to a sunny and hot July 4th. Naomi's Cafe served another wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs and turkey bacon and cherries. The guys (Jon, Nathan, Max and Brendan) decided that they just had to blow something up today so they went out and purchased a supply of barely safe and sane fireworks. Naomi and I decided we would hang out most of the day and recover from all of the activities we have been pursuing non-stop. Their friends (Max and Amanda and kids) agreed to join us for dinner. Jon hadn't seen Matt for 15 years (Tempe) and never met Amanda. The couple now have a nine month old named Morgan and a 4-year old named Madden. Madden has quite a vocabulary and is full of questions and comments. He really idolizes Maxwell. I was happy to get my hands on baby Morgan. He loves to look at clocks. He was especially intrigued with the boiling water for the hot dogs so he was quite easy to entertain. They are an interesting couple. Matt is an attorney for the government dealing with HR issues and was also, until quite recently, a JAG for the Army Reserve. Amanda handles marketing for United Way. We were so enjoying the visit, we didn't realize how late it had gotten. The guys decided to drive out to the Air Force Base to see fireworks while Naomi and I were quite content to comfort Chloe and watch a Capitol Fourth on PBS. We could see how crowded a the audience on the National Mall was for ourselves. There must have been 10 stages set up---so most of the audience ended up watching the etntertainment on huge video screens. The fireworks exploding behind the Washington Monument definitely would have been better in person but it just didn't work out that way. I loved that Nathan, Naomi and Max had red, white and blue tee-shirts so we forced them to pose for a portrait.
Thursday, July 5, 2012Today we breakfasted at Naomi's Cafe Homemade waffles with cottage cheese, blueberries and strawberries. Destination for sightseeing was the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Totally a guy thing but I really enjoyed myself as well. Naomi stayed home with Chloe. This is the companion to the museum on the National Mall. A new space had to be found since there was not enough roomthere to house all the really large artifacts such as the Concorde. Designed by Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, who also designed the National Air and Space Museum building, the Center required 15 years of preparation and was built by Hensel Phelps Construction Co. The 760,000 square-foot facility was made possible by a $65 million gift to the Smithsonian Institution by Steven F. Udvar-Hazy, an immigrant from Hungary and co-founder of the International Lease Finance Corporation, an aircraft leasing corporation. The building features three levels with aircraft and space vehicles also hanging from the arched ceiling. Among the aviation artifacts on display are the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet in the world; the Boeing Dash 80, the prototype of the 707; the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay which dropped A-bombs (Little Man and Fat Boy) on Hiroshima; and the de Havilland Chipmunk aerobatic airplane. The Gemini VII space capsule; the Mobile Quarantine Unit used upon the return of the Apollo 11 crew; and a Redstone rocket. The space shuttle Discovery is the centerpiece of the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar which also houses the Echo 1 Communications Satellite, Gemini Paraglider Research Vehicle 1-A with wing, Gorgon IV Target Drone and Mercury Capsule 15B, Freedom 7 II. In addition, the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower was a great place to observe air traffic at Dulles Airport. We came home to a terrific pork roast dinner complete with oven roasted potatoes and steamed beans. Dessert was a chocolate chip cookie sundae. After it got dark, we traipsed down to the end of the block to shoot off Max's collection of firecrackers. It was too windy and rainy on July 4th. Fortunately the cops didn't catch us, and none of the explosives were duds. Had an unintended but interesting effect when I took a photo of Max with his "fountain" fireworks. The flare looked like he had his hair styled in a super 'fro.
Friday July 6, 2012. 2012Today Brendan treated all of us to breakfast at Bob Evens. We had a great time chowing down on eggs, sausage and biscuits. The more adventurous among us enjoyed grits. There was a bit of a special blueberry crepe for dessert. Alexandria was on the schedule for today. We wanted to take the Potomac Monument Cruise at 11:30A. The name of our boat was Matthew Hyes and it was uncrowded. It was hot but breezy near the wter. Before the boat departed we had enough time to tour the Torpedo Factory which is now an art gallery. Jon purchased a target-patterned tee shirt in the colors of the Lithuanian flag. Seeing all the major monuments from the water was a unique perspective. The Washington monument was pretty much visible during the entire trip but we hadn't realized that the Lincoln Memorial was also accessible from the water by water stairs. Same was true as well with the Jefferson Memorial. It was fun riding under all the bridges---especially the Georgetown bridge that Jon and I had walked over so many times when we stayed at Riverwalk in Rosslyn. You could get off the boat and wander around Georgetown but it was pretty warm and we needed to get back in order to make our reservation at five o'clock at Nat and Naomi's favorite Chinese restaurant. Alexandria is also one of those places you could explore all day long. When Jon and I visited there a few years ago, we ate at a restaurant called Gadsby's Tavern in old town. George Washington enjoyed the hospitality provided by the tavern keepers. In fact he twice attended the annual Birth-night Ball held in his honor at Gadsby's. Other prominent patrons included John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette. The waiter, dressed in 18th Century garb, stayed in character the entire time he served us. When we told him we were from California he said "that's funny, I don't detect a Spanish accent." Unfortunately we didn't have the address or we would have tried to visit Gadsby's with the group. We did, however make a new friend at the Asian Grill (Nat and Naomi's fav) where we ordered six dishes and polished them all off. Chloe didn't, however, care for the Crispy Beef.
Saturday July 7, 2012. 2012We gave our wonderful cook the day off and breakfasted at the Silver Diner---an old school diner with carhops only the food isn't greasy. It's a farm to table effort with fresh produce and meats. All six of us really enjoyed our food which ran the gamut from banana-filled French toast to the California Omlet with home made guacamole. After that we headed toward Mount Vernon---which is only 12 miles away from the Sharkey residence in Springfield. It was a very hot day and nobody really wanted to leave the orientation center, which housed some beautiful stained glass depictions of the key events in George Washington's life as well as a doll's house of Mt. Vernon complete with lights and period pieces. There were two films to see---one told you about the estate and the other was a reenactment of Washington's military career where you get to see Washington's courage even when two horses are shot out from under him. Guests approach the mansion from the bottom of a huge green. On each side are lots of shade trees so that part of the journey isn't so bad. Chloe enjoyed smelling everything. We remembered the unusual colors of the walls in both the living and dining rooms from a previous visit. It was interesting to learn that most of the furniture is original. The antique-lovers were really in heaven. The front porch was fitted out with dozens of rockers so people could enjoy the view of the Potomac. I actually found a spot in a side yard that had a breeze from both directions while allowing for a magnificent view of the river. Chloe was happy once she was cool again. Washington was very clever in the way he preserved meats and farmed and bred livestock. The guys walked all the way to Washington's tomb and the slave monument. When we all got back to the orientation center, we went in an adjoining building where Naomi had been hanging out. It housed an education center and a museum which we hadn't seen before. We especially enjoyed hearing about the love story between George and Martha as well as the recipes she used at Mt. Vernon. We will have to try the sturgeon stuffed with crab---all which would have been abundant in Washington's time. It was said you could walk across the Potomac on all the sturgeon swimming in the river. On the way back, Brendan asked us to stop at the Pope-Leighey house on the Woodlawn Plantation in Virginia. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the 1200 square foot house in 1940. When we returned, Naomi made a special dinner for Brendan--including baked ziti, salad, and garlic bread, and, Bren's fav, cheesecake for dessert. Brendan actually asked for seconds on the salad. We are so glad that Naomi got him to try new veggies and fruits while he was visiting. He would like to be strictly a meat and potatoes guy but now he has gone way beyond lettuce and tomato on a burger--- although Cesar salad is still his only salad selection so far.
Sunday July 8, 2012. 2012This was a day to sleep in and take it easy. Naomi's Cafe served a very fine breakfast. We were all taken with Naomi's Hash Brown Casserole. We also had fresh strawberries, scrambled eggs, turkey bacon and coffee cake. Brendan packed up his stuff and we took him to Reagan National Airport. We took a rather circuitous route because Jon forgot to bring the GPS. We eventually found the airport and dispatched Brendan with lots of hugs and kisses. He wasn't looking forward to returning to "the grind." We relaxed by watching a Hallmark movie called "Wedding Daze" with John Larroquette as the father of three brides. I offered to treat to Red, Hot and Blue---one of my favorite restaurants. Th first Red Hot & Blue restaurant opened its doors to rave reviews in Arlington, VA just a few blocks from where I stayed in Roselyn. Two of the founders of RHB worked on Capital Hill: then-U.S. Rep. Don Sundquist of Memphis, who served 12 years in the House of Representatives and eight years as governor of Tennessee; and the late Lee Atwater, a blues musician and legendary political figure who managed George H.W. Bush’s successful presidential campaign. They wanted to eat good BBQ, listen to some good rhythm and blue tunes and make new friends in the process. Although Red, Hot and Blue was a musical by Cole Porter that premiered on Broadway in 1936 and introduced the popular song, "It's De-Lovely" sung by Ethel Merman, the name of the restaurant was taken from the title of DJ Dewey Phillip’s radio show that aired on WHBQ-AM in Memphis, Tennessee during the 1950’s.and introduced the world to Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash as well as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Robert Cray, and Rufus Thomas. You see the influence of these blue musicians in the memorabilia and the classic rhythm and blue tunes playing in the background. This is probably the best BBQ in the country---if not the most authentic. Of course we had the ribs, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato fries, cole slaw and cornbread muffins. We ordered a banana pudding with five spoons for dessert. Our last supper with the Nathan Sharkey family was memorable.
Monday July 9, 2012. 2012Breakfast at Naomi's Cafe was wonderful as usual. It was a buffet of breakfast leftovers plus fresh raspberries and either yogurt or cottage cheese. We didn't get everything packed in the car until 10:00AM but the sky threatened rain all morning. We finally got to the Shenandoah National Park around noon. The views of the Blue Ridge Mountains were awe-inspiring. Every turnout offered another magnificent vista. We found a rest stop half-way through the park where we met Ranger Sally. She was going to be speaking about the park but we needed to get on the road. She met Chloe and introduced the dog to the bobcat pelt she was carrying around. Chloe would have grabbed the skin if she had been able to jump a little higher. We also discovered a number of wildflowers growing along the roadway including thistle, mountain laurel, columbine, pink azalea and Queen Anne's Lace. The blue-flowered variety of plant in the photo is called wild chicory. The trees were also an interesting mix of conifers with hickory, oak, maple and ash. If we had been able to take a hike along the trails, we would have found blackberries, huckleberries, strawberries and raspberries. Earlier during the day we found a dead raccoon in the middle of the road that we successfully avoided flattening for a second time. In the park, however, we nearly ran over a chipmunk that decided to cross the road. We didn't bother to ask him why. As we exited the park, the rain started to fall as we made our way to Highway 81. It really came down hard and was pretty scary. Lightning, thunder, and rooster tails churning up from nearby cars were pretty awesome. The monsoon finally quit around the airport at Roanoke, Virginia, Jon chose a Comfort Inn--high end for us. We also had a delightful dinner at the Longhorn Steak House. I shared my prime rib with Chloe while Jon had a bacon-wrapped sirloin. Our room on the fourth floor held a wonderful view of the mountains. We hope to stop at an optometrist tomorrow to get my glasses fixed. Superglue--while it did a great job fixing my purse couldn't replace the screw I needed for my bifocals.
Tuesday July 10, 2012. 2012Chloe was right. Comfort Inns do provide the best breakfasts---eggs, bacon or sausage and waffles. We filled up our tummies and then headed over to the Tubman Art Museum where we were pleasantly surprised by this little treasure in Roanoke, Virginia. First of all, the architecture is more than faintly reminiscent of Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The guide told us the architect was a student of Frank Gehry. The collections included Dorthea Lange photographs from the Great Depression that were striking documentation of the suffering felt by just about every American from farm owners to migrant workers. The next collection included more than 100 objects created by Russian artist-jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé (1846–1920) and owned by American collector Daniel L. Hodges. Objects ranged from photograph frames, tableware, desk accessories, boxes, clocks, and jewelry to cigarette cases and smoking accessories. I couldn't wait to tell Naomi about the Judith Leiber evening bag collection. Rosalie Shaftman collected "pocketbooks" as they are called in this part of the county. Each is worth thousands of dollars. The architect designed the display space to look like the purses were sitting on dew drops. The designer of the purses only made them big enough to hold a compact, lipstick, comb and a $100 bill which is all she thought any lady would need. Many were in the shape of animals and made with lots of rhinestones and glitzy touches. We thought of our grandson Max when we came to the Big Lick Boom which was an installation with all sorts of moving parts to delight little kids. There was also an art room for kids to do a little hands-on artwork. We imagine the space on the first floor being used for wedding receptions. The grand staircase with lighted crystal steps would make for a most dramatic entrance by the bride. We also browsed the gift shop but the prices were a little steep. The work of interesting local artists was for sale. I really liked a pewter bracelet but not $40 worth. On the way to Ashville, we did enjoy viewing the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. In fact, on this day we went through three states: Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. We got to Sandy and Mike's house around 3:30P. They showed us the cutest little two-story cottage with knotty pine paneling and all sorts of artistic touches, courtesy of Sandy. I just love the pair of griffins on the fireplace mantle. We would be staying in the cabin but not before we enjoyed a glass of wine, a fantastic pulled pork BBQ, brownies ala mode and an Italian licorice drink call sambuka. Sandy dropped in three coffee beans and lit them on fire. The result was really delicious. We sat out on the deck under an extra large umbrella so we were able to remain dry while the rain kept up a relaxing pitter-patter. The oaks, maples, blue spruce and ash trees in their back yard are home to blue jays, cardinals and and chickadees. A couple of raccoons dropped by w but were extremely camera shy. Sandy and Mike have also spotted deer and even a cinnamon bear in their back yard. We didn't get to bed until 12:30 so we all slept in the next morning.
Wednesday July 11, 2012. 2012Mike and Sandy prepared a wonderful breakfast for us and then took us on a tour of the grounds, including the art studio/hair salon. Not only does Sandy make wonderful jewelry (she gave me a necklace) but she also designed the cottage, refinishes furniture, creates whimsical bird houses, paints in oil and tiled the shower. Mike owns his own construction business and is able to help Sandy realize all the dreams she dreams architecturally. I tried to set her up with a Wordpress site for her businesses. Her computer is really slow but I promised I would be in touch via email to help her transition into the 21st Century. We really had to get on the road or we would still be there, talking and eating together. We loved the drive, even though it was raining most of the time, as we overlooked Great Smokey Mountain National Park. We stopped at Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort to pick up a few souvenir tee-shirts. Then we began navigating the infamous Tail of the Dragon which is an 11-mile stretch of road with 318 curves. According to Jon, the road was a "well engineered road with perfectly cambered turns." A couple on a motorcycle in front of us was videotaping the entire ride. We stopped at the Cracker Barrel for dinner and made the acquaintance of Vanessa who was quite a trip. We asked for the half and half which is a drink that cp,bomes raspberry tea and lemonade. Really refreshing. When I tried to order a frilled chicken salad for the entree, the following conversation ensued.
Vanessa: You don't want to do that
Beverly: But I really need to get a salad
Vanessa: You really need to get the cheese-broccoli-chicken casserole. You can get a salad as one of your sides. What do you want for the other side?
Beverly, now intimidated: What do you suggest?
Vanessa: the green beans aren't bad.Jon: I'd like to order the chicken and dumplings
Vanessa: Did you just hear what I said? You don't want the chicken and dumplings. You can get that 365 days a year. You really need to get the cheese-broccoli-chicken casserole.
Jon: Okay, with a salad?
Vanessa: Sure and the other side?
Vanessa: Okay, if you must.She also introduced us to everybody in the restaurant who was from or who had ever been to California. We did visit the general store and purchased some Moon Pies to give as gifts when we returned. Took us a couple of hours to make it to Nashville but we found a bed at the Sleep Inn and have been enjoying Wifi one again.
Thursday July 12, 2012. 2012This was definitely going to be a day to put on our traveling clothes and music. Waking up in Nashville is quite a trip. After tucking away what is now our favorite breakfast of do-it-yourself waffles and sausage patties, we headed out to see the landmarks, even though it was pouring rain. Speaking of rain, we noticed that all the corn stalks were hardly as high as an elephant's eye for this time of year. Apparently the drought has not allowed ears to fill out with kernels and the experts are now predicting 1/3 loss of corn nationwide. This is more bad news for an already depressed economy which will also affect the prices of meat and ethanol. Since Nashville is known as the Athens of the West, the good citizens built themselves a Parthenon with a bronze statue of Athena inside. Memphis, which we will hit around noon, built itself a Pyramid that doubles as a stadium. We also saw Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Old Opry and the lower Broadway honky tonks, where all the CW wannabe superstars hang out or try to get discovered. Went through showers all the way to Memphis where the weather cleared up and we made it to Beale Street. />Since I was such a fan of the TV show, Memphis Beat, we had to eat lunch at The Pig (Pork with an Attitude). Not only had the restaurant been voted as Best Ribs but also at the Memphis in May cook-off---Best Whole Hog for two years running. Those judges were not wrong. Enjoyed pork nachos and Jon, a rib dinner and a Big Ass Beer. We entered the state of Arkansas via a beautiful bridge over the mighty Mississippi. Since we were taking county roads, we didn't make great time but we did get to see the pretty country leading up to the Ozarks. Lots of showers on and off. We stopped at a Sonic for a milkshake in Searcy. OMG, neither one of us could finish off this extravaganza with whipped cream and a cherry on top. Chloe did help me with mine. I used the straw and she used the spoon. We didn't make it to Bentonville as we had planned, but since Crystal Bridges doesn't open until 11:00A AM, we decided we had had enough of car time and found a very nice Quality Inn.
Friday July 13, 2012. 2012It must be Friday the Thirteenth. This is the second time I've had to write this post. The initial effort just disappeared from the screen without a trace. Also a Facebook entry was inadvertently deleted as well. Couldn't have been me! The morning started out pretty well despite the ides or omens or whatever. Last night I stayed up late to write my column but this morning we had plenty of time to sleep in. I wanted to take a swim but unfortunately the pool gate was locked. It would have been heaven to do a few laps without having to defend myself from rambunctious kids who have been locked up in a hot car all day. At any rate, breakfast was outstanding. We had biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage, blueberry muffins and fresh fruit. Chloe gave it a paw's up. We are making a "best" list and the Harrison Arkansas Quality Inn may get best breakfast. Although most Quality Inns have the same food, this one also had plenty of room between tables in the breakfast room. Stay tuned. We got on the road and decided before Bentonville, we really had to visit Christ of the Ozarks. It's a monumental sculpture of Jesus located near Eureka Springs, Arkansas, atop Magnetic Mountain. It was erected in 1966 as a "Sacred Project" by Gerald L. K. Smith (who is buried with his wife nearby) and stands 65.5 feet high. We met a woman there who visited 45 years ago when sculpture first went up before there was a passion play and all other tourist stuff. We also took the scenic tour of Eureka Springs. You know you are in the middle of an artists' colony when you see sculptures planted in the front lawns. Eureka Springs boasts all sorts of crafty gift shops, trendy restaurants as well as Victorian houses serving as B & B's. We had been looking forward to seeing Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas and were not disappointed The stunning space funded by Alice Walton and designed by Moshe Safdie only officially opened last November. Admission is free. American artists from Gilbert Stewart to Mary Cassatt to Andy Warhol were represented. This is a portrait of the Marqis de Lafayette painted by Samuel Morse---the same guy who invented the telegraph. I love the way he captured the subject's emotion. We had hoped to get all the way to Amarillo, Texas but Jon said Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was the minimum mileage for the day. We had spent more time walking through Crystal Bridges than we had intended. Chloe was banished to the car so we left her in the underground parking lot. She almost tore out our hearts with her wailing. When we returned, she was perfectly fine---cool and calm. We showed her the books of postcards we bought so she didn't have to feel like she missed anything. We found a Comfort Inn which I think deserves a best view nomination but Jon is still voting for the Comfort Inn in Roanoke. I was in charge of finding dinner. An Italian place was just adjacent to the hotel property but Yelp gave it a bad rating. I found a little Mexican treasure about a mile away called Casa Juanito. Really inexpensive but authentic food. Great salsa and guacamole. I had a taco and a chicken and beef enchilada. Jon had a chili rellano. The dessert---an awesome fried pastry called sopapilla---was gratis. When we asked the name of the dessert, the grandpa came over with honey and showed us how to eat it. Yummy. All the staff was family and job No. 1 was making sure guest got everything they needed for a great dinner. The place was packed but people rotated in and out without much ado---or time. We were both very impressed. Yeah Yelp!
Saturday July 14, 2012. 2012Three states (Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico) in one day---we were really peeling off the miles. We carbo-loaded this morning at the Comfort Inn. Jon had a waffle and cereal and I had eggs, sausage and English muffin with peanut butter (first time offered on the trip). Also tucked an apple in my purse for later. Didn't have a salad last night, so felt the need to eat something raw. I won't further that with an explantion. The big event today was dining at the Big Texan in Amarillo. Two years ago I wrote a piece on this guy who was taking the 72 oz steak challenge on his 21st birthday. It all started when I had gotten a call from my editor, who was on deadline and hadn't received my column from Chicago. We were at a gift shop in Alanreed, Texas---where there was no wifi. Billboards along Route 66, however, advertised that in addition to great food the Big Texan provided a wifi hot spot, so we decided to stop there for lunch and avail ourselves of their internet. I was still using my coal-burning MacBook computer with a non-functional battery---if you wanted to use it you had to plug it in. The staff at Big Texan was nice enough to seat us next to an outlet and my column sailed off into cyberspace while we enjoyed a big steak dinner. Needless to say, my next column was about Daniel Burkholder, the young man who vied for the 72 oz steak challenge that day. The account of athat momentous event was published in the June 23, 2010 edition of the Ventura County Star. Here it is:
He was slight, scrawny and his closely cropped strawberry-blond hair not only framed his forehead but also continued on down under his nose and over his chin---with a great deal more promise than panache, I might add. Daniel Burkholder drove from Dallas to Amarillo in order to take on the Big Texan Steak Ranch challenge on his 21st birthday. If he consumed a 72-oz. steak along with a crisp salad, buttered roll, baked potato and three shrimp in one hour, his meal would be on the house. When I asked Burkholder why he would attempt such a feat, he shot back, “Why not?” At the 30-minute mark, he had devoured all the side dishes and half the steak. Burkholder was holding his own. According to Bob Lee, a Kansas City native who opened the Big Texan in 1963 on Route 66, it’s not usually some extra-large dude who prevails in the “clean-your-plate” contest---it’s a skinny college kid or diminutive truck driver. I don’t believe Burkholder was motivated by greed, gluttony or even glory. If anything, he typifies the sense of adventure that infuses Route 66. Willingness to tackle a job despite impossible odds is the operational definition of the American “can-do” spirit. It’s the same confident courage that a bride donning something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue exhibits, even though she is fully aware of the depressing statistics concerning divorce. Route 66, these days, is that bride. Never mind the time saving speed of the interstate and/or the comfort level provided by the predictable chain hotel or restaurant located on the next off-ramp, folks choose to travel Route 66 because they realize that a renaissance has come to the Mother Road and they want in on it. The something old is still there. You can sleep in a 1930 Harvey House in Winslow, AZ. You can pick up a bottle of Illinois “maple sirup” (sic) in Funk’s Grove---it’s been the family business since 1890. You can chow down on a Lindy’s (1929) chicken fried-steak in Albuquerque or lap up a Drewes (1929) frozen custard in St. Louis so thick you can turn the container upside down without spilling a drop. Finally, you can pray for protection at the shrine of Our Lady of the Highways, created in 1959 by a Raymond IL farm girl. She also hand-lettered Burma Shave-type “Hail Mary” signs now being stubbornly protected by her father and the First Amendment. The something old is also something new. Elk City, along with 25 other repositories of Route 66 memorabilia---gleaned from the closets and garages of local residents---are attracting well-heeled tourists to a variety of burgs once on the verge of death by bypass, back when the interstate threatened America’s Main Street with extinction. The something borrowed is taking the form of ambitious restorations, often accomplished with only volunteer elbow grease including the Chain of Rocks Pedestrian Bridge, the Round Barn in Arcadia OK, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ, and an 1898 schoolhouse in Goffs, CA. The something blue describes the emotions of Route 66 aficionados who mourn ghost towns that couldn’t be saved, America’s Main Street icons demolished in the name of progress, and the anecdotes about American highway history dying out with the Route 66 pioneers---who started out in 1926 right along with the Mother Road. Next year, Route 66 will be 85 and the first wave of Boomers will be 65---ready, willing and able to travel the Mother Road via bus, motorcycle, rental car or family automobile. They won’t proceed, however, until they’ve studied the relevant and expensive magazines, books, videos and maps. Furthermore, the number of domestic “road warriors” is being swelled by hordes of international tourists seeking the “authentic” America. The Federal Government managed to pony up $10.5 M for preservation, local 66 associations are investing heavily in signage and information centers, events are scheduled monthly nationwide, icons are being saved by historic place registry, and teachers are employing their travel experiences to jazz up their power points. So what ever happened to Burkholder? Remember him? Well, apparently his eyes were far bigger than his stomach. When I asked him if he knew the penalty for failing to finish his mouth-watering rib eye, he said, “Yeah, I am going to have to pay a lot of money.” He paid one dollar per ounce ---$72 in all. Burkholder joins a staggering 87,000 eager eaters who are estimated to have taken on the Big Texan challenge. Did he realize his chances were only one in six? Try again next birthday, Daniel. And as you make your way to Amarillo, try a stretch along Route 66. Maybe you can catch a little bit of the can-do spirit from the Mother Road.The day after the article was published, I got an email from Danny Lee (co-owner with Bobby) thanking me for the mention and inviting me for a free steak dinner the next time I was in Amarillo. Well today was the day to collect. Neither Danny nor Bobby were there but the manager honored the invitation and treated both Jon and I. We had thought it would be just me, so Jon didn't hold back on his order--including a couple of beers and dessert. There was no bill---although we left a big tip and stopped to say thank you on the way out. In addition to the biggest Brownie Sundae (on a Saturday, no less) complete with fudge and caramel sauce and whipped cream, I was given a special 32 oz cup to bring home which tells the history of the Big Texan and such fun facts as: the shortest time needed to finish the entire Texas King meal is held by competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut. He finished the challenge in 8 minutes and 52 seconds, breaking Frank Pastore's 1987 record on his March 24, 2008 visit. The unofficial record is held by a 500-pound Siberian Tiger, who ate the steak in 90 seconds. The goal for tonight was Santa Rosa---making the drive to Winslow, Arizona and the Harvey House only six hours long. We should arrive just in time to check in at 3:00PM. We look forward to relaxing and watching a little TV. No dinner necessary---still full from our Big Texan feast. The photo is a sort of "Where's Waldo" only it's a "Where's Jonathan?" Hint: it's the guy with the mustache.
Sunday July 15, 2012. 2012Light breakfast at the Quality Inn in Santa Rosa, NM ---bagel, cream cheese and hard boiled egg. Thought about a waffle but tonight we will be dining at the Turquoise Room at La Posada so didn't want to be too full. We kept expecting rain but nothing but dry desert heat. Around 1:00P, we decided to stop at a historic hotel called El Rancho in Gallup for lunch---mostly to break up the drive and because we were going to get to La Posada before we could check in. The building was erected in 1937 by the brother of D.W. Griffith. All the menu items pay tribute to 30s/40s movie stars. Jon ordered a WC Fields (chili cheese burger) while I had a Patti Page ( patty melt). The John Wayne ( guacamole and cheese burger), Katherine Hepburn (BLT), Robert Taylor (Club sand), Anthony Quinn (chili with beams and tortillas) were pretty tempting. The Ronald Reagan bacon cheeseburger came with a side of jelly beans. We were amazed by the massive amethyst geode in lobby. There are autographed photos of dozens of '30s/'40s movie stars on second floor balcony. I was helping an older guy identify some of them for his children. Apparently, TCM addicts make it a point to register at this hotel. As we came within 25 miles of Winslow, we hit a major thunderstorm. It was coming down in buckets and the streets were really flooded. We had to wait for a lull in the storm so we could rescue our luggage and check in. Our room was very special. Jon knows how much I love this place and he went first class. Our sitting room alone was huge. There's also a King bed and jacuzzi. This 1929 Harvey House was designed by Mary Coulter who also designed the Harvey House pueblo and lodge at the Grand Canyon. We are staying in the Albert Einstein room and already thinking lofty thoughts. Can't wait for dinner in the 5-star Turquoise Room. PS If you look closely at the sofa you can see a very pampered pooch in a red t-shirt. This is the very first hotel she has been "legally" registered. The charge was only $11.17, if you can imagine that. To tell you a little about this place, it's the “last great railroad hotel.” and was built for the Santa Fe Railway by Fred Harvey, who “civilized the west” by introducing linen, silverware, china, crystal, and impeccable service to railroad travel. He was so legendary that MGM made a movie called The Harvey Girls starring Judy Garland. In the 1920s, Harvey decided to build a major hotel in the center of northern Arizona. “La Posada”---the Resting Place---was to be the finest in the Southwest. Construction costs alone exceeded $1 million in 1929. Total budget with grounds and furnishings was rumored at $2 million (about $40 million in today’s dollars). Although famous for her Harvey Houses at the Grand Canyon, Mary Colter considered La Posada her masterpiece. Here she was able to design or commission everything from the structure itself to the landscaping, furniture, maids’ costumes, and dinner china. Our window overlooks the sunken garden with its magical waterfall and fountain. Our time here is even more romantic with the gently falling rain. Jon just told me that Albert Einstein did stay here as did John Wayne and John Ford. David Lamb wrote an article about La Posada for the Smithsonian Magazine that explains what a miracle had to occur for this phoenix to rise from the ashes:
The last time I traveled the road, crossing the open range and Painted Desert of northern Arizona in 1995, Winslow was a dying town. Route 66, which had become 2nd and 3rd streets, was a shambles of closed shops and nasty-looking bars. The magnificent La Posada, last of the famous Fred Harvey hotels built between Chicago and Los Angeles for rail and Route 66 travelers, had been closed in 1957 and converted into offices for the Santa Fe Railway. The Posada’s splendid murals, depicting desert flowers and Southwestern landscapes, had been painted over. The soaring timbered ceiling had disappeared under tiles fitted with fluorescent lights. The lobby was turned into a dispatch center for trains and the ballroom partitioned into cubicle offices. The original museum-quality furnishings, designed or selected by the building’s creator, Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, regarded by many to be the Southwest’s greatest architect, had been auctioned off or given away. In 1992, even the Santa Fe Railway gave up on the place, reportedly offering it to the city for $1. Winslow said no thanks. Then in 1994, Daniel Lutzick, Tina Mion and her husband, Allan Affeldt—friends who had attended the University of California at Irvine together in the 1980s—showed up in Winslow. Residents viewed them with a mix of suspicion and hope. The three talked about taking over La Posada and restoring it. What the town didn’t yet realize was that Lutzick was a sculptor, Mion an accomplished portrait painter and Affeldt a successful preservationist. After three years of negotiation, the Santa Fe Railway sold them La Posada for the price of the land, $158,000 for 20 acres. The hotel was thrown in free. The trio moved in on April Fool’s Day 1997, shooing away some hobos, and set to work. Seven months later, La Posada reopened with five meticulously restored guest rooms. The new owners operated in the red for five years; sometimes they met payroll with Affeldt’s credit cards. They scrambled for grants and put everything they made back into the project. Now the 53-room hotel is booked to capacity virtually every night. Its Turquoise Room is regarded as one of the Southwest’s top restaurants. The grounds are landscaped with towering cottonwoods and hollyhocks. With a paid staff of 50, La Posada is the largest locally owned employer. Winslow has awakened from a 50-year slumber with a revived downtown, new shops, sidewalks and streets.We had cocktails out on the veranda, watched the trains and the rain, and then returned to the Turquoise Room to eat an unbelievable meal. The chef finds interesting local produce and whips up some mouth-watering dishes. We started with the signature appetizer called organic squash blossoms. They are something like poppers but with a sweet squash taste to the cheese. My salad was a southwestern variation on a Caesar that could have been an entree in itself. Jon had a bean and corn soup that was served like a ying/yang symbol in the bowl. He ordered the lamb sampler and it must have been good because he forgot to save a bite for Chloe. I ordered the carnitas---no knife necessary but still crispy on the outside. Didn't have room for dessert but when the waiter mentioned rhubarb pie, Jon had to have it. You could taste the cinnamon and it was not too sweet, even with the homemade ice cream. We retired early but not without taking a jacuzzi. We awoke a couple of times when the lighting seemed to strike somewhere very near to us but the gentle rain lulled us back to sleep.
Monday July 16, 2012. 2012I woke up early and greeted the dawn in the mystical sunken garden where all dreams promise to come true @ La Posada. We fell asleep with the rain and woke up with a symphony of birdsong. Breakfast was incredible. I had Breakfast Bread Pudding with Prickly Pear Cactus Sauce while Jon enjoyed Arizona Green Chili Eggs. I wish we could have remained for several days---just to decompress. But alas, we were off to Rancho Cucamonga and dinner at the oldest restaurant on Route 66---something we didn't have time to do in 2010. I am treating to celebrate Jon's 63rd birthday. Before we left Winslow, however, I did purchase the La Posada's Turquoise Room Cookbook by John Sharp, the unbelievable chef. I actually got to meet him and shake his hand. Believe me, I told him how impressed we were with his cuisine. He was very shy but wanted to thank me personally for buying his book. This drive to Rancho Cucamonga was supposed to be the most grueling but we got lots of rain and were finished in only eight hours despite taking a lunch break in Flagstaff at the Subway Eat Fresh and a rest stop near Daggett where the bus from Bakersfield or somewhere dropped off everybody for a pee break. The line was so unbelievably long I figured it would take 30 minutes before I got a chance at a stall so we just got on our way. It was so hot that Chloe wouldn't step on the asphalt--she jumped toward my breasts and (probably) just hoped that I would catch her. I yelp-ed motels near the Sycamore Inn and found a Best Western about a mile away. I don't even get nervous anymore when Jon tells me the fine for harboring an illegal canine is $100. Chloe is invisible in the purse and conks out every night even before we do. Sometimes she is tempted to growl if there is heavy foot traffic or loud drunks outside our room but we can usually get her to stop with a Cesar Milan "shhht." We found the Sycamore Inn which was established in 1848 and, as a restaurant, would be considered really old school---dark paneling, red upholstery and dim lighting. We had wanted to eat at the Sycamore Inn at the end of our Route 66 trip but when we got there the restaurant wasn't going to open for several hours. Although we wanted the check out the oldest restaurant on the Mother Road, we were also in a hurry to get home. Tonight, We thought it might be more fun to sit out on the large veranda and enjoy the cool breeze. Unfortunately I didn't notice the party of four women behind us, a party which kept growing every few minutes. One of the women was blessed with really raucous laughs and the more drinks she had, the more raucous her laugh became. One thing I will be grateful for however is that the "ladies" insisted the manager lower the volume of the music (30s and 40s standards). Jon was most pleased with his rack of lamb and I ordered a Grand Marnier souffle for dessert. The food was great---classic French sauces on everything from the meat to the veggies. Jon raved about the homemade minestrone soup that's been pleasing guests for 50 years. After the souffle was served, a waiter came out with a flan-type pie slice with a candle he couldn't light since the wind had kicked up. Jon loved his second dessert too but agreed to take most of it home in a doggy bag. Yes, there was a frig at the motel. We also travel with a mini-ice chest for Chloe's food). It was very romantic evening and I won't be telling you what I really gave Jon for his birthday.
Sunday July 15, 2012. 2012We were looking forward to breakfast since Best Western always has waffles. I wanted to try mine with yogurt and fruit this time. We got down to the breakfast room around 8AM and the place was overflowing with Japanese and Chinese teen tourists. We had seen a couple of buses pull in the night before, but figured it was a big hotel and we would never have to deal with them---other than try to get around them and all their friggin luggage when we needed the elevator. Oh nooooo. When we got to the food, tt was like a swarm of locusts had come through and devoured everything edible. When I finally got to the waffle bar, I made one for Jon and one for me. Then this little Japanese brat tried to take both of them away---figuring I had made them for her. I told her that "this is America and we all make our own waffles at Best Western." Then there was this boy who had his chair pushed out so far, you couldn't get around him. Finally, this kid who wasn't looking, whacked me with his backpack. I gave him a piece of my mind. This black lady who was watching everything told me how ticked off she was with the kids. I speak up when I see bad behavior---once a teacher, always a teacher. Nobody had taught these kids basic etiquette--whether it was boarding elevators or navigating breakfast rooms. We got to laughing at how self-absorbed these kids were and what a sense of entitlement they had. Hopefully American kids are not that obnoxious in Japan or China. Obviously, their parents could afford to send them off on a tour of Southern California but too many of them were just plain spoiled rotten--especially the males. Too bad I'm not teaching anymore. There were great examples here of real world intercultural conflict. We took our time driving home---it was a picture postcard day on the PCH. The water was this amazing blue-green and you could see the islands quite clearly. We stopped for lunch at Neptune's Net. In all the years we've lived in Port Hueneme, we have never dined there. Frankly it looked too scary, like The Wild Bunch or something, with all those motorcycles out front. Actually the eating area was crowded with guys from Magu as well as tourists and cyclists. We tried the fish and chips and weren't disappointed. No waitstaff--you just line up after picking out a bottled or canned beverage from a refrigerated section and gave the woman at the cash register your order and paid her. There were two stations where you can pump tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, vinegar or catsup. We got a table with a great view of the ocean and chowed down on some very fine fish and fries. The last 15 miles were the hardest because once we had finished them, we had to admit that the trip was finally over---not to mention all the laundry, mail, etc we were going to have to do to re-acclimate to real life. We are pleased that Donna and Doug agreed to have dinner with us tonight at Yolanda's to celebrate Jon's birthday. ************************************************************************************ Road Kill Tally:
1 deer, 1 kangaroo (if you believe Jon), 1 wood chuck. 1 sparrow (whose death at the hands of our windshield still wounds us), 4 raccoons, 1 dog, 1 coyote 1 dead sofa pillow cushion***********************************************************************************