Friday, November 26, 2010

My Fun in NEVER, NEVER LAND. . . . . .Part 2

Okay, here is the continuation of my week, since I am having trouble saving the entries. Guess am having too much fun!

Thursday morning I stopped at a local store to pick out a couple congratulations cards for my niece and nephew and some pink roses for my brother and sister-in-law. Wow, two grandkids in less than 4 months.

This morning, we had breakfast at a place called Rialto's, also in downtown Fullerton - actually right next door to the Tea Room. Afterwards, I went with my brother to walk around the campus of my high school and I pointed out to him the buildings that were there 50 years ago and then the new ones. My goodness the "freshman tree" has really grown, which was in the area we referred to as the bullpen. Is that politically correct to call it that today? Jan met us for lunch at a place called Polly's Pie Cafe, then I went with Jan to an Art and Craft show where I bought a few things for Christmas presents.

Dinner that night, was the 3 of us at Mitsu E Shabu Shabu - a Japanese restaurant, located in downtown Fullerton. Shabu Shabu means "swish swish" and that is what you do with your food - in a pot of boiling water that is seasoned with a strip of seaweed. You are brought a plate of vegetables that will cook for a few minutes in the water. They are dipped in a sesame seasoned sauce for flavor. You are also brought a plate of razor thin meat - I chose beef and you "shabu shabu" your meat for 7-10 seconds in the boiling water to cook it and then dip it in another seasoned sauce. I had to use tongs as haven't mastered chopsticks, but am bringing some home to practice with. You can see my brother's arm in the background with the chopsticks. That was fun too as I had never done that before. My gosh am going to be too worldly for my little town now.

Friday, we had Dustin with us as his mom and dad were not feeling well. We went to The Original Pancake House, located in Anaheim, where I had a Dutch Baby (German) Pancake. Oh my, oh my was that ever good. Jan had a regular German Pancake and that thing must have been 14 inches across! It is served with lemon slices and powdered sugar. I am going to learn how to make these when I get home - so be ready kids to try a German pancake.

I took the afternoon, since it was my last day, to make a run to Trader Joe's and stock up on a few things and get some La Victoria Hot Victoria Salsa at a local grocery store. I use to be able to buy La Victoria Salsa at home, but not any more. That night we went to La Palma Chicken Pot Pie Shop. This was my mom's favorite place and so the folks brought my brother and I here more than 50 years ago - in the same place - many times. I didn't have a chicken pot pie, but the biggest and juiciest cheeseburger. Oh that was good one. Sabrina was able to join us but Jeremy had to work that night.

This was my last night with family and it was a tearful one for me. Sure don't want to make it another 5 years before we see each other. Okay bro?

Saturday I am off to San Juan Capistrano and to spend some time with a high school classmate.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Fun in NEVER, NEVER LAND. . . . . .Part 1

Where do I start? Guess had better start at seeing my brother (been 5 or so years) and sister-in-law. It was wonderful seeing them in their own environment.

My drive in from Needles was pretty uneventful. Next time cross that desert from Needles to Barstow, think will bring my own porta potty as that is a very long drive with rest areas closed. I did pass a "Korman Woman on the Go" pink semi. I waved as I drove by and the driver honked (I have KS Driving for the Cure plates on my truck).

They had just finished an extensive kitchen remodeling and it is beautiful - so different from my last trip out to see them in 1985, when my brother turned 40 (that was a fun time with stupid birthday presents). So most of the stuff that had been in the kitchen, laundry room, etc was still stored around the living room and in a POD storage. It was just a beautiful kitchen.

I got there in time for lunch and then my brother wanted me to see what had happened to Imperial Highway we use to drive back and forth to school and town. The spot where I ran out of gas one night and tried to turn around blocking lanes, he likes to point out, is now - you guessed it - malls, stores and more malls. We drove by the house we use to live in Yorba Linda and then went to Trader Joe's - one of my favorite stores.

Nephew Jeremy came over with his son Dustin, whom I had not met. Since my brother was getting a new storage shed put in the back yard, we took their Airedale dog Skye down to Camp Bow Wow for the day. The Camp is a doggie day and overnight care facility. Skye just loved going to the Camp and running and playing with the other dogs her size. She was so excited in the car, she couldn't contain herself. After lunch, my bro drove me around to other places we use to frequent. For dinner Monday night, we went to Benihana's - a Japanese restaurant where they cook the meal in front of you. I had never been to that kind of restaurant before and was just thoroughly enjoying the entertainment and the food. And, it was good too.

Tuesday we went to Disneyland. Nephew Jeremy works there and he gets a certain number of guest passes each year. His son, Dustin, myself and my brother and sister-in-law all went for the day. I had a ball, got myself a souvenir Mickey Mouse sweat shirt and just got wrapped up in the whole day. Prices certainly aren't like they were when it opened in 1955. I remember when we got in for under $10 each and had a coupon book with A, B, C, D and E coupons. Now to go one day, by the end of this year, it's $101 for 10 years old and up and that's for Disneyland and California Adventures; for 3 thru 9 years it's $91; and if you just want to go to one Park it's $76 for 10 years and up and $68 for under 10 years. They are doing lots of restructuring in California Adventures as it hasn't been very popular. The only ride I really liked there was California Soaring - gliding over various scenic sights of California. I could have done that 3 more times. It wasn't crowded so we didn't have to really wait for rides. Wow, how do families afford it? And then you eat and buy souvenirs inside and $14 for parking. My Monte Cristo sandwich was around $25 at the Pirates of Caribbean restaurant. That fun day will be with me for the rest of my life.

Sabrina, my nephew's wife, met us for supper at Anita's New Mexico Style restaurant that night. She is expecting in mid-April. They were both going to find out the next day what the sex of their baby is. My brother is hoping for a girl.

Wednesday, I slept in and then met family to have lunch at Tranquil Tea Room in downtown Fullerton. That evening we went to Costa Mesa to meet niece Jennifer and be introduced to her husband Mike. Jennifer and Mike were married last June and were very happy to "officially" announce they are expecting in July. We waited for her brother to show up and when they did, we peppered them with wanting to know. My brother got his wish - a girl. We all went to dinner at a locally owned Italian restaurant called Soprano's. While we were waiting for dinner to be served, I gave Jeremy and Sabrina a family heirloom that belonged to their paternal grandparents and to Jennifer a special ceramic piece from her paternal great-grandmother. I also gave them ribbon windsocks I had made. I had selected a pink one for nephew before I had left and before everyone knew the sex of the baby. Jennifer got a yellow one - is that more female then male? We'll see. Dinner was very good by the way.

By the way, my brother has 5 cats. Here are a few of them:
The others didn't want their pictures taken. Anyway, more in the next blog entry. Having trouble saving this whole week in one entry, so splitting it up. Will start with Thursday's activities next.

California Here I Come....... Part 2

My brother is waiting for his sister to show up, so I had better move on with my trip westward.

I left Socorro, headed north on I-25, took a cut over to I-40 using NM 6 to avoid going thru Albuquerque. It is known as the "Pre-37 Hwy 66 section. It is the time of snowbirds and hunters as I counted 47 RV's heading south on I-25 between Socorro and Los Lunas - I did see one Casita and one Scamp travel trailers in all those units. The drive on NM 6 gave me a view of BNSF freight trains stacking up waiting to go through Albuquerque and points east. The five I saw made quite an impressive sight. The highway takes you through part of the Isleta Reservation and comes out onto I-40 about 35 miles west of Albuquerque near the Laguna Pueblo Mission. I always loved seeing that white Mission perched on top of the little hill.

As a family, we use to live in Gallup for around 8 years and we made many trips back and forth between Albuq and Gallup - son and daughter were born in Albuquerque. So from Exit 126 to Gallup I saw many segments of Hwy 66 that were very familiar as well as segments of the new Interstate, at that time, that was taking place. One had to drive through Grants and Gallup in those days - often a driving nightmare for the traveler. Now Grants has 4 exits and I lost track of Gallup's.

As I was getting closer to Gallup, I saw a sign for Earl's Family Restaurant which brought back some memories as we use to eat there when we could afford to eat out. I chose to have my lunch there on this day. The Restaurant is 4 times bigger and located across the street. I had a very friendly waiter who knew some friends of ours from those days and said they come in 2 or 3 times a week but they weren't there today. Around the entrance are vendors selling authentic crafts. During my mealtime, they come into the Restaurant and walk around the tables hoping to see some items. Some things I saw were very beautiful, some had reasonable prices but I wasn't in the mood. I later learned that these vendors must be registered with Earl's, wear a badge, and their items must be made of real stones, material etc. At this time, not to sound insincere or biased, but I was impressed with the work ethic of the staff at the Restaurant, none were white - very unlikely 40+ years ago when we lived there. Sure there are still those that ask for a handout and have other problems, but not anything like when I lived there. It was a much cleaner downtown. And safer from the many trains going through town, as there is a big wall between the sidewalk and the railroad tracks going through downtown and no more open crossings to accidentally get stuck on.

I went downtown to see if our friend Louie was at their place of business. Sure enough he was. He called Diane and she would come downtown to see me. Meanwhile, Louie showed me around the expanded business: City Electric Shoe Shop, which has been in the family and in Gallup since 1924. I met his oldest son Tony, who is in business with him now and has brought a hand made moccasins business in with him as well as a tooled leather belt making department. When Diane came in we went to a local coffee shop, caught up on families and then went over to Zimmerman's to see their newest acquisition along with it's improvements. I remember the store being quite dark and now it is bright and open. It was so good to see them again and know they are doing great. A nice break in my trek across the State.

I got back out on I-40 and headed westward towards my next nights stay. It either had to be Holbrook, Winslow or Flagstaff. I made it as far as Holbrook, checking in at a Holiday Inn Express (other choices but was tired & knew this would be clean). I had budgeted around $225 for lodging on my westward trek and now out of $160 left, the $129 took a big chunk out of my allotted amount. The next morning, when returning my door card, I complimented them on a very nice room and breakfast and my only complaint was the smell of hamburger and french fries (thought of Mickey D's) when I first entered the room the evening before. It quickly dissipated after walking thru the room several times. My room charged was reduced and now was left with $60 left for my next night's lodging at Needles.

I enjoyed the trip across Arizona, stopping at Flagstaff touring the NAU campus there. It was ASC (AZ State College) when Jim and I were students there. Was a waste of time as only recognized Old Main and the Observatory! Won't do that again. Somewhere a few miles west of either Holbrook or Winslow, there is an old campground located on the old 66 highway. It has tepees, a trading post and the camping area was across the street. As I drove by I could see the old buildings and each campsites "tepee" picnic table shelter all filled in with weeds and sagebrush now. Use to drive thru there when I was in college. Even Twin Arrows (think that is the name) is there. Ahhhh, memories.

I stopped in Ashfork, which is the Flagstone Capitol and Seligman
and looked at all the Hwy 66 stuff. Had to have a real A&W frosty mug of root beer while there too.

I spent the night in Needles and just under the budgeted amount I had left. It was a couple hours drive to Barstow and knew I wouldn't last that long. Okay my fourth day was critical to me. These last couple of hours driving in California on these busy freeways was why I said I would never drive in to see my brother. Okay, I know - never say never. Okay, I made it in one piece, made only one wrong turn - took the I-215 instead of staying on I-15 to CA-91, but I made it. Went straight to my brother and sister-in-laws house. Oh wow it was so good to see them. It had been soooo long. I was finally in NEVER, NEVER LAND.

Friday, November 19, 2010

California Here I Come.......

I am currently at my grade school friend's place in Palm Springs, spending a nice leisure week and enjoying the warm weather while family and friends back home are basking in the throes of the beginning of winter.

I am headed homeward but not for another couple of weeks. Am stalling as long as possible hoping that a blizzard at home delays my arrival. This trip I did not take my little trailer - mainly for that reason. The thought of arriving just after a blizzard, with the trailer, turned me off. I had visions of trying to get the trailer parked in a snowdrift and setting up the trailer on floor jacks and leveling in the freezing cold. Brrrrrrrr.

Am having a hard time sitting down long enough to write. Gee, maybe if I would go outside. . . . . (snore, snore, snore. . . . )

I left on Wed, Nov 3rd heading westward. I stopped in Oakley to see Mary at the RV Park where I worked this summer. She was sick and didn't want to give me what she had. I picked up a few things I had left and then headed south on US-83 to US-40 west. I had lunch at Sharon Springs KS. I was hoping to see some piles of milo (a grain sorghum used in livestock feed) before they were covered up as they are so pretty with the swirls from the different colors of milo. I was successful.

South on US-385 where at Sheridan Lake, on US-385, I explored some old buildings there, turned west on CO-96 towards Eads, south on US-287 to US-50/400 thru Las Animas; then US-350 to Trinidad, where I spent the night in my first motel in years. When one has stayed in state and federal campgrounds or even RV parks, paying over $60-70/nite is a bit of a shock. I had a very delicious dinner at Tequila's Mexican Restaurant. Nice atmosphere too.

On the way in Colorado, near Chivington, I passed the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. I would like to return to this Site to learn the history. This is where Chief Black Kettle died.

Since I had only budgeted $225 for lodging on my way out, I emailed my son in Socorro if I could bunk out on his couch for one night to help save $$$'s. After leaving Trinidad, I headed south on I-25 towards Santa Fe. Because I still have my "traveling with trailer" mentality, I decided to change course at NM-3, just 10-15 miles west of Las Vegas (Exit 323 or 325) and headed south towards I-40. It was the most beautiful drive as the aspen, cottonwood and poplar trees had turned into brillant yellows & oranges. The road from the north is very windy and narrow in some spots, going through some villages that time has missed. I'd take my trailer down that road, but not if I had a 5th wheel or bigger.

At the little town of Spanish village of Villanueya, I encountered the Villaneuya State Park and decided to have my lunch there alongside the Pecos River. This is a state park I am going to take my little trailer to in late October sometime. It was so peaceful except for the sounds of nature.
I stayed longer than I had planned, but that's okay when you are traveling at a leisurely pace, taking 4 days to get to California.

I continued traveling south on NM-3, which ended up being a straighter and a bit wider road once you got up on the mesa. At I-40, I drove west to Clines Corners, south on on US-285 to US-60 west. I love the little town of Mountainair and wished I had time to stop and explore, but since I had spent so much time at Villanueya, I needed to keep moving.

I approached I-25 and the Rio Grande River. I had never seen the changing trees along the Rio Grande at this time of year before. Oh my gosh, when i came over this mound and there were all those beautiful trees below me, I almost stopped dead in the middle of the highway (I could have as there wasn't anyone behind me). My jaw just dropped. Too the north is was an array of yellows and oranges and some greens; is was the same to the south. What a glorious sight Mother Nature had created. My picture taking ability would not have done justice to what I was seeing and feeling. I called my son to let him know I was within 20 miles but it might take me 45 minutes to drive there because of the color. It almost did!

I was really disappointed to see the increase of settlements along the last 10 or so miles of US-60. It was so trashy and junkie. A real bad eyesore.

Son and I went to one of my favorte eating spots in town, Socorro Springs Restaurant and Brewery (see my list of favs to the right), where I had my favorite pizza Elfego - a pepperoni pizza topped with Hatch chile, chased down with Pumpkin Patch Ale. That was a good night.