Road Trip……..day 6, final day
October 6, 2017

20170925_112720r

Just north of Barstow on I-15 we pulled off the road to see Calico Ghost Town. It was an old silver mine from the 1800s. There is a few tours you can take that lead you underground (reminds me of Echo Bay Mines at Port Radium, Canada where I worked for five years), and through different mining operations from that time.

From here we headed through the Morongo and Yucca Valleys home. Our total mileage 1554 miles or about 300 miles a  day. We wanted to see as much as we could in the time allotted. Some areas I would definitely return to and spend the whole time in that place. It’s always nice to be home when you get there. Just recognizing another sign of appreciation when you open the door to home.

Advertisements

Road Trip……..day five
October 6, 2017

20170924_095742r

After the continental breakfast included by the hotel, and frost on the car windows, we were on the road by 7:00am. Even though it was only 42 degrees when we left Mammoth, we wore shorts and a T-shirt because we knew the day would be much warmer in the valley below. Overall  the day temperature was a comfortable mid nineties. We passed Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Big Pine, Independence, Lone Pine and entered Death Valley. Most of the roads we’ve travelled on this trip were either in great shape or newly paved this year. I really enjoyed the topography, ups and downs, ascending and descending from all the different elevations. Our first stop was Father Crowley Point. The view from here was vast and endless with an empty simplicity. Most noticeably, there was an incredible quiet.

Next stop was Stovepipe Wells Village, where we stopped for lunch. Two bread sandwiches (oh, forgot there was a paper-thin slice of meat in it), and a coke came to $18.00. Sitting on the rocking chairs on the porch, outside the general store and eating the sandwiches though, made the experience……actually fun.

After lunch, we headed for Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes (reminded me of the sand dunes on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands where we’d go and slide down on the dunes on our backs or stomach….I was 17, and much younger then) and the Harmony Borax Works.

After this, we headed for Furnace Creek Visitor Center, but being a Sunday it was closed. Next destination the Devil’s Golf Course. The landscape looks like a golfer had left thousands of divots strewn over a few thousand acres. These divots are mostly composed of salt deposits. I took a close-up photo of one below.

Badwater Basin was next on our list.

Artist’s Drive is a one-way road through the mountains that looks like it has been painted with hues of red, green, blue, rust and purples. There are steep dips and turns on the road and Disneyland modelled their car ride in California Adventure after this Drive. This Artist’s Drive is much longer and four times the fun. The scenery of the mountains and colors are outstanding and even breath-taking at some points. Our photos don’t do it justice. A real must do if you get out this way.

Just after this drive we headed back to the main road. Shortly after the junction on the main road, there is the historic Oasis Hotel. It is undergoing a major renovation at this time. It is in the middle of no-where and looks like a mirage oasis brought down from heaven. Exotic palms and trees were being planted around the site and it’s a stark contrast to the landscape. It is going to be the place to stay when it is finished. The photo below is the way it looked before the renovation.

Furnace-Creek-Resort-2-1024x448

Moving on, our next destination was Zabriskie Point.

After this we were going to go to 20 Mule Team Canyon, but the road in was long and not in good shape (very rough gravel). Not worth the damage it might do to the car. So, we headed to our last Death Valley site; Dante’s View. It’s a long way to the top with hair-pin curves and a steep incline. When you get to the top, all you can smell is the burnt rubber and hot oil from vehicles engines.

This ended our stay in Death Valley. We were heading east now to Death Valley Junction and the Amargosa Opera House. It has a long history and I’ve borrowed the link from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amargosa_Opera_House_and_Hotel

Our final destination for the trip is Pahrump, Arizona. We headed east and arrived around 5:00pm. We figured we’d stay at one of the casino hotels, have a good meal and head back to Palm Springs tomorrow. Below is a chuck wagon outside our room in the courtyard and a photo of inside the casino.

 

 

 

 

 

5]

Road Trip…….day four
October 4, 2017

20170923_105348r

We left Denny’s in Merced at 7:00am. Our first stop was Mariposa an old mining town from the gold rush era. It’s present claim to fame is its musical festivals usually held in June of each year on their fairgrounds. We would have stayed here instead of Merced, but we wouldn’t have arrived until much later and the motel prices were substantially higher. Overall, I guess it wouldn’t have mattered on the time basis as we were up most of the night anyways. Something we look back on and just laugh. The town is wonderfully charming with its hanging flower baskets and you should check out the original courthouse.

 

After Mariposa, we entered Yosemite National Park. We decided to head for the furthest point in the park…Glacier Point. It is a long drive with incredible scenery on either side of the road and well worth the trip just for the view. We were lucky, as all the signs in the park said all roads were open, even though they had recent snow and a forest fire. Areas we passed were still smoldering and there was some smoke and haze lingering, but over all the views were perfect. When we came down the mountain, the rangers were already directing traffic away from Glacier Point, as it was at capacity. It was exceptionally busy even though this was off-season. We were glad we went here first and early.

 

You can really see a major portion of the park from this vantage point. Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Half Dome included. It gives you great perspective and makes you feel small and insignificant when you take in its vastness. Our next stop would be Tunnel View with a few stops for photos in the snow. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia was closed for restoration. There is numerous hiking trails, cliff climbing, soaring and trail riding available. Even free shuttles around the Valley. We were here on a day trip so we limited our hiking to about two hours for the area around Mirror Lake.

 

The roads in the park were quite busy with lots of traffic. At some of the sight-seeing spots, we had to drive through the parking lot three or four times to get ‘lucky’, just to get a parking space. The longest wait we had been at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel where it took us an hour to park. After Tunnel View we headed for Bridalveil Fall.

Bridalveil Fall

 

After waiting an hour to park at the Yosemite Hotel, we hiked to Mirror Lake, which happened to have a very low water level. The walk was great and invigorating, and again with endless beauty. We passed a lot of bike riders on the walk and some campers and serious hikers. The creek that flows from Mirror Lake had enormous rocks in it. It makes you wonder how and when they got there. Some were the size of a small house.

 

Back in the car, we drove to Yosemite Village and the Visitor Center. We picked-up a lot of information on the park at the Center and took time to talk to a few Rangers. From this point on we would head out of the park. Next stop, Tioga Road and closer views of Tenaya Lake.

 

The scenery was beginning to change as were the mountains. The passes through the mountains led us up sometimes and down other times. We passed Lee Vining and came to Mono Lake. Mono lake had receded quite a bit also. It was down 40 feet from its original height.

 

On the road again to our final destination for the day….Mammoth Lakes. We arrived at 6:00pm and checked into our hotel. We asked for a good place to eat at the desk and the manager recommended a restaurant a few doors down from our hotel, or we could take the bus, or walk downtown (20 minutes) and go to the Village. He also mentioned that Oktoberfest was on and it was quite the happening. We lucked out again with our timing. We went to our room, settled in, cleaned up and decided we’d take the brisk, chilly walk to the Village and Oktoberfest. When we arrived there was a few large tents with traditional German music and full menus of Oktoberfest food (Yummmmmmm!) and a lot of people dressed in German garb. Beer in authentic steins, schnapps and German wines were available with the food.

 

We filled up on food and walked around the village. By the time we’d done this we were starting to feel the cold and I convinced Eberhard to go to one of the restaurants inside and have a final glass of wine at the bar, so we could warm up before the trek back to the hotel. Enough said. Tomorrow….Death Valley.

Road Trip…….day three
October 3, 2017

centralValley

Coffee was all we needed on our third day start. We left the hotel and hopped on the 101 North. We wanted to make it to the Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur, Monterey and Carmel. From there we’d head east to Merced and stay the night there, so we’d be able to have an early start to Yosemite on the following morning.

 

 

The Central Valley is just amazing. Our route took us through Atascadero, Paso Robles, King City, Greenfield and to Salinas. There were endless fields of every vegetable, nut-tree, fruit tree and vineyard. Just knowing that it supplies over half of all the nuts, vegetables and fruits for the United States is reason enough to be in awe. And we just take it for granted. It gave me great respect and appreciation for such a fragile commodity, just driving through this area. The fields and orchards are an endless sea of beauty. And although, there are plenty of opportunities to take in wine tastings at the many numerous vineyards, we’re saving that for another trip when that will be the main focus.

At Salinas, we headed west towards the ocean. By passing Carmel and Monterey for now, until we returned. We headed to our furthest North destination, the Bixby Creek bridge and Big Sur. Big Sur is as far as we could go on the coastal road because of the landside that removed the road further up, earlier this year.

 

With a short stop in Big Sur we headed back to Carmel, the Seventeen Mile Drive through Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest.

 

Pebble Beach and its famous homes and golf courses are everything you can imagine wealth can bring. Partial views of private mansions hugging the ocean, equestrians on horseback, golfers on the pristine links and beautiful hotels and people make this area all that is written about it real, but distant, at the same time. Got money? We stopped at the Point Pinos Lighthouse for thirty minutes, and listened to volunteers tell us its very interesting history and current use.

 

Ending up close to Monterey, we travelled into the beach area for a bite to eat. We found Lalla Grill, a contemporary waterfront restaurant in Cannery Row. There were breathtaking views of the ocean and surroundings, including a cruise ship moored just off the coast, from the front windows where we were seated.  We treated ourselves to lobster and shrimp rolls. Sounds better than it tasted. The Mornay sauce on the seafood masked the delicate taste and overpowered the lobster and shrimp. A simple lemon butter sauce would have been better. But it was a much-needed break from the long drive so far. By 3:30pm, we were on our way west towards Merced.

Not very good photos, but wanted to remember the unbelievable prices of fruits and vegetables from stands along the roads. We saw large Haas avocados, 6/$1.00, a whole flat of giant strawberries for $10.00 , corn, 6/$1.00, and on and on.

With traffic and only a two lane highway, we ended up at our destination of Merced, four hours later at 7:45pm. This began our one night stay at the Motel (6) From Hell.

Bordered by a one way street in front (next to the freeway) and the loading docks of Costco in the rear of the building, we finally found the entrance to the motel, hidden behind a Carl’s Jr. parking lot. Not yet dismayed, we checked in and asked for a room as far away from the freeway as possible. The manager accommodated us by putting us in the inner courtyard, next to the pool. We weren’t hungry so we settled in and watched a little local TV before bedding down.

It wasn’t long before we were woken by the sounds of someone in the room above us making loud sex, accompanied by the freeway traffic noise. This went on for a while, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, until there was a sudden stop in the noise. And then, a huge THUD on the ceiling above us. One or both had fallen out of bed. It was a Friday night and people have to have fun. Things seemed to quiet down upstairs after this and we heard them discussing getting some ice.  Their door opened and closed loudly, and one person left to get ice.

Now there was a new noise….a train going 90 miles an hour with its whistle blowing. Who knew there were train tracks next to the freeway. It sounded like it was coming right through our room. The trains continued into the night about one every half hour, mixed with the arrival of eighteen wheelers at the loading dock of Costco. Every hour there were the soft sounds of the beep, beep, beep, beep as they backed their trucks into position.

The gentleman returned to the room above us (let’s call him Sam) with ice, but the door was locked. He knocked, but there was no answer. He knocked again, and still no answer. Then we heard “Ruth open the door”. Still no answer. Continued knocking with phrases like, “Ruth please open the door”, and “Ruth, open the door”. Then Sam began to bang on the door, “Come on Ruth, open the f**king door”, and shortly afterwards saying, “Ruth, sweetie, please open the door”. “Ruth, don’t be an a**hole”. “Open this f**king door”. Their next door neighbor upstairs, then came out, a lady with the sweetest voice and she tried to get Ruth to open the door. No luck. Then Sam threatens to get the manager to open the door. Still no luck. Along with the above phrases and some worse ones, accompanied with pounding and kicking on the door, an hour and a half passed. Finally, Sam got the manager (3:30am) to open the door and there was no Ruth.

We managed to get a couple hours of sleep. The trains and eighteen wheelers had subsided and the freeway now sounded life a soft muffle. The saving grace? We found a GREAT Denny’s (who knew?) a block away where we had a breakfast special, great service and coffee and was just a block from the freeway entrance to Yosemite.

Road Trip…..day one
September 28, 2017

ventura-101-freeway

 

As long as I’ve lived here in California, I really haven’t seen too much of its landscape or it’s ‘being’. Last week Eberhard and I took time out ( six days) and travelled around Southern California. Each day began around 6:00am and we travelled or ‘experienced’ until 8 or 9:00pm. Instead of trying to find radio stations to listen to along the way, we took some of our favorite CD’s from the 70’s and 80’s for memory flashbacks. As it happened, Ventura Freeway by the Eagles began to play just as we hit the sign over the freeway. Looks like a trip with synchronicity.

 

Our first stop was Ojai. I’d never been to Ojai and I’d always wanted to go. I heard it was a spiritual center and artist community. It’s a small town nestled in-between  mountains with a Spanish-style arcade and bell tower with a pergola across the street. We walked the downtown area and stopped for a bite to eat. Noticeably there were lots of organic choices from fruits, vegetables and olive oils, all locally supplied. Interesting artwork in the stores and a soft humbleness to the people we encountered. All were very warm, friendly and helpful.

After lunch we travelled out-of-town to an olive oil ranch. Ojai Olive Oil Company is a family owned ( Asquith family ) extra virgin olive oil producer in the east valley of Ojai. They offer tours, sampling and a really informative history of the valley and it’s products. We were greeted quite warmly by Mimi and she spent a few hours enlightening us to the olive trees, olives, growing techniques, right up to the final production of their olive oil. It’s the best I’ve ever tasted, with an extra fine light body, mellowness and smooth silkiness missing in pseudo brands and blends. Their whole story can be read online at http://www.ojaioliveoil.com. Worth the experience and a shopping trip.

From Ojai, we headed back to the freeway and our next stop, Santa Barbara. I had been here three times previously, as had Eberhard, so we mostly wanted to see things we’d missed on our previous trips: The Old Mission Santa Barbara with its history, and a return to the main peer. We were given the background of the Mission and its connections to all of the other Spanish Missions established in California. This one which is in current use by the Franciscan Friars. The video, museum rooms, cemetery and Sacred Garden kept us busy for a few hours.

Solvang was our next stop after Santa Barbara. Another city I had heard so much about and wanted to see. We arrived in the picturesque town and it was like stepping into Scandinavia. All of the buildings were Danish in style with bakeries, restaurants and merchants offering you a taste of Denmark. Replicas from Denmark dotted the city and as we approached our first bakery, we stepped in to have a Danish (of course) and coffee. We only ate two Danish (buy 2 get one free) and the last one we saved for the following morning. We lucked out because they had a farmers market going on while we were there and spent time looking at all the great food and products.

Since it was getting late, we made for the freeway again and to our final destination for the night; San Luis Obispo. We’re staying here for two nights and using it as a base for tomorrow’s excursions. Santa Maria and Pismo Beach were just short stays on our way to San Luis Obispo.

Homeless……..part 3
January 16, 2017

arched-window-overlooking-stairway

Since I couldn’t afford rent and utilities, I gathered up the few possessions I had and moved them into the basement office of Beans and Barley. I was homeless. I didn’t want to admit failure to my family or friends, so I said nothing about my move.

Thankfully, the restaurant had some resources I could use. The staff room was equipped with a washer and dryer (we did our own linens) and a shower. As for storing my clothes and belongings, I came up with an inventive plan to keep them out of sight. Underneath the front stairway which led to the public restrooms, there was an access panel for the underbelly of the stairs.

The front part of the restaurant was heated by hot water radiators which were part of the main building boiler system. During construction it was determined that there wasn’t enough flow to the radiators to provide heat in our area, so a booster pump was installed to push the hot water through our system. The pump and its manual switch were located underneath the front stairway. The pump had to be turned on every winter. This area would be my new closet. I placed clothes hooks on each of the stairs and hung my clothes there. My sleeping bag and pillow fit nicely also. Each night, after the staff had left, ( I would leave with them and walk around the block and then come back), I unscrewed the panel, took my sleeping bag and pillow, set it on the floor of the office and went to sleep. In the morning, I would put everything back and re-screw the panel back in place. The staff always wondered how I beat them to work every day.

I lived like this for a couple of years. The good part was that I learned lots. Eighteen hour days became the norm and I put my heart and soul into the place. There were still bad periods before things began to turn around. Creditors called at all hours and it was difficult to do cooking when the phone never stopped ringing. One day it was so bad, I called the phone company and had the phone removed, (phones weren’t un-pluggable at this time) and a pay phone put in, which had an unlisted number. Finally, some peace! I could still call out when necessary, but I stopped being harassed.

Strangely enough, this action helped the business. It alluded to customers that we didn’t need a phone for business. It made us more popular. This, plus the fact that the food and service was immensely improved put the restaurant on the road to recovery.

By the way, I paid off the loan before it’s due date and never missed a payment.

 

Homeless….part 2
January 14, 2017

buena-vista-building

 

So, I got the loan and I was happy for the moment. Moments pass. Reality set in. By the time I had paid for the contractors to make the place into a restaurant, there was the other incidentals: equipment, food to start up, money for wages, taxes and overhead.

By the end of construction, I had managed to pay for everything except the food which I needed to open. I ordered the food and wrote the checks with absolutely no money in the bank. The bank manager calls me and asks me to come down to discuss the situation. I appear and he tells me he is going to bounce the checks which I had written for the food and supplies. So I said (with my back against the wall) “Go ahead, but all the money that’s invested will be lost”. I had no choice. Pay them or I won’t open, and there will be nothing to recover.” He paid the checks. I was left with an overdraft.

First business was brisk and it covered the checks that I had written. It was new and everyone had heard about the place through word of mouth. Everyone came to try it out.

Well, aren’t they sorry now. Inconsistency, badly cooked food from people who should have known better and canned beans. Business dropped off faster than the recession killed jobs.

After I fired all the cooks and took over, there was not much choice. The few people that visited the premises were new and hadn’t heard of the happenings. I was down to one server and myself. And she turned out to be an alcoholic that stole booze from the storage cabinets in the basement. Not pleasant as she tried to keep on her feet, serving customers. Duh!

Frustrated, I terminated her, hired a new person who cared and we had two to go forward with enthusiasm. At this time I was living above the restaurant in a single apartment for $110./month. No furniture, just a sleeping bag, a lamp, a few pans to cook food with, and a pillow. My meals were consistent. Pan fried potatoes and two fried eggs. It’s still one of my favorite meals when I’m feeling out of sorts. The income from the restaurant was not enough to sustain this. So I gave it up and came to the conclusion, I only had one resort.

Homeless…part 1
January 13, 2017

 

adjusted-center-divider

When I opened Beans and Barley in 1972, I guess I expected instant success. I thought there would be some pitfalls, but I had no idea of how many or for what length of time they would exist.

I started with $3000. cash of my own money and eventually, through a loan I acquired, leveraged it into $50,000. I had some other assets, like my car, that I sold later to bring my total down payment to $5000.

The loan was not easy to get. I had created a formal proposal in a binder during the previous year, and took it to every bank in Edmonton. And, every bank rejected it. I ended up going to a lender of last resorts. A government agency. You had to be rejected by at least three banks before you could apply for a loan with them. The silver lining here was, I was over qualified. I was assigned two loan officers. At first they reviewed the four inch thick proposal and then they called me in for my first interview. When I think back now, I can realize why they were worried. I had no accounting skills…couldn’t do a profit and loss if my life depended on it, never cooked professionally, and I’d never supervised staff before….but I did have an insatiable desire to accomplish this. At twenty-one, I had more guts than brains.

I had already leased the premises I wanted, hired the Dutch carpenters to start the rebuilding of the barn inside and drew up my own blueprints. I had told the loan officers that I had already started the project. I could see them look aghast at the thought of what I’d done. They wanted to see the place, so we arranged to view what I had done to date. They showed up two days later on a Friday and I showed them around. The attached photo is all I have that resembles that first viewing, and it was somewhat more bleak than that. There was a basement, but only a ladder down. No stairway. They volunteered to climb down the ladder where the framing had already been constructed. they could at least get an idea of the floor plan. They didn’t say much. They scheduled a follow-up interview two weeks from that date, when they left.

I went in for the scheduled interview with intrepidation.  They drilled me on all sorts of questions for over an hour. Near the end of the interview they asked me two questions: First one was, “What are you going to do if we don’t approve your loan?’, to which I answered, “Well, I have a friend that will loan me the money (I didn’t), but I prefer not to use him because he will get 90% and I will only get 10%”. The second question was: “What if people don’t come to your restaurant and don’t like your idea. It isn’t the normal type of thing for a restaurant?” I honestly didn’t know what to say and there was this infinite pause, as I tried to think of an answer. Then, I looked at them and said “Well you can’t look at if no one is going to come to the restaurant. I know two friends who said they would come.” They laughed, and laughed and I got the loan.

Growing Old
September 24, 2010

I guess photographs do the most damage. You see a recent picture, and you ask yourself, “Is that me”? “Do I look like that”? “Is that how other people see me”? “I look my age, but I don’t feel that old inside”. “I’m still thirty of forty something on the inside, how come I look sixty or seventy on the outside”?

Our society has created a constant craving for youth. Not to be mistaken as only a current phenomena, it was around centuries ago too. Pasco de Gama was searching for the Fountain of Youth back in the 1600’s. There are always plenty of emails going around that relate to the aging process. They tell you what to look forward to as your years increase. I use to never read them until I noticed the things they talk about were actually happening to me. Health is always an issue. You take it for granted earlier on, until one day you wake up and you say “What was that I felt”? “It wasn’t there yesterday”. And then it begins. The beginning of aches and ailments. Sometimes you get a reprieve for days, weeks or even months, but then they start-up again. Because we live day-to-day, these factors of aging become bearable and acceptable. You deal with them on a one by one basis.

There are positive aspects to aging. Sales people in stores call you “Sir” or “Mame” and if there’s a disaster you’ve heard them say in movies “women, children and old people first”. But the best part about aging is that it happens to everyone. And, sooner or later we really do become equal.

%d bloggers like this: