Eating in Southern California

Start with breakfast in Huntington Beach at The Sugar Shack

The Sugar Shack

Sun, scrambled eggs and perfect crispy hash browns. Is there a more perfect breakfast? Take your time. Hang out. Have another cup of coffee and then wander down to the pier and watch the surfers catching waves. This is Southern California breakfast at its finest.

There are a couple choices for lunch starting with Sankai in Costa Mesa

San Kai

Yes it’s in a strip mall. I know. Go anyway because the fish is fresh and you can sit outside. Plus sushi is the prettiest food you’ll ever put in your mouth.

But maybe tacos are more your thing? Then head south to Carlsbad and go to Cessy’s Taco Shop

Cessy's Taco Shop

The thing I love most about the Southwest and Southern Cali is that you can get better Mexican food off a red plastic tray in a glorified taco truck than you get in most sit down restaurants up north. Cessy’s has great tacos. Get lots of salsa and go to town on the fresh hot chips. Lunch. Bam!

How about dinner by the water on Harbor Island?

Island Prime - C Level

That’s macadamia nut encrusted baked brie from Island Prime – C Level. Yum. We had a table overlooking the water where we could see the boats sailing in the bay and at night you can see the San Diego city skyline. Island Prime serves classy food in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s classic California.

Stop at the Hotel del Coronado for drinks before you head home.

Hotel del Coronado

A historic landmark with 125 years of rich California beach history, Hotel del Coronado has beautifully landscaped grounds and a gorgeous bar so it’s worth a visit.

End your evening by watching the sun set over to the ocean. Because that’s why you came to California, right?

Pacific ocean

Driving in Spain

Having driven all over the states this year, I figured it might be time to try driving in a foreign country. So far, every country I’ve been in where a rental car was involved, the driving’s all been on the “wrong” side of the road and I didn’t do any of it. Thank God. I have enough to worry about when I drive without also turning everything I know backwards and upside down.

Given that, I determined that Spain drove on the “right” side of the road by looking out the airplane window at the traffic as we landed in Madrid and heaving a sigh of relief. Note to self, might want to check that out slightly further in advance next time. Other things I might want to consider in the future include the purchase of a Tom-Tom or GPS device to which I can download maps. God bless Corey for leaving his Tom-Tom with me or I’d still be in Barcelona going around and around the roundabouts.

Even with a Tom-Tom, it’s tricky to get places. The Spaniards like to repeat names of towns, streets and plazas and half this country was built 1000 years ago so a generously sized one lane roads looks like this:

And my little Audi (Anika) is a compact car so… you can only imagine how petite the roads are when they allow parking on  both sides and someone’s driving a full sized anything. We’ve definitely parked Anika in some spaces where we couldn’t open both doors to get out and exited a few tight corners by way of 25 point turns. When there were two of us to read signs and look for stuff it was a bit easier. Now when I go down the wrong road or there’s a dead end, I have a strong temptation to just park the car and get out because the idea of reversing for a quarter mile or executing another 25 point turn seems a bit daunting. However, I’m getting really good at estimating my car size to within half an inch and so far, so good. Everyone please knock on anything wooden in your vicinity.

However, when I rented this car I forgot the cardinal rule of rental cars on vacation which is that they make you think you can do more and go further than you really should, which results in half the vacation time spent in a car.

This trip is no exception.

Also, PS: Spain is huge. It’s big for Europe but it’s also just big. The fastest legal speed is 120km, which isn’t that fast although it feels like it when it’s a two lane mountain road with constant switchbacks. Plus the fast direct toll roads carved straight through the mountains are frighteningly expensive (approximately 8 Euros per 100km). This all means that the best way to put the vacation back into the rental car experience is to ditch the toll roads, take the two lane roads, accept that everything will take forever (food service, travel times etc.) and save my mental energy for figuring out the road signs because there are a bunch I still don’t understand.

Here are the ones I recognize:

SpainTwo lane road going each direction, which is good information to know because you can’t tell this information from the size of the road or the way it’s striped down the middle.

SpainThis sign means “Technically two lanes but feel free to create a passing lane in the middle if the guy ahead of you isn’t responding when you tailgate him.” Corey figured this one out.

One of my favorites. I think it’s a cautionary tale about going too slow and/or going too fast or possibly about the dangers of driving a car that has eyes and a propeller.

And finally:

Yield to stick figures on seated lawn mowers.

Speaking of seeing the unexpected, I drove past a guy on a Vespa today who was chugging down the shoulder doing about 20km. He had a chest of drawers strapped to the seat behind him and he was smoking a cigarette and wearing shorts and sandals. I definitely yielded to him and I think he should get his own sign.

Stories for Later

I’m not sure what this means, but I’m pretty sure the words Alien and Fresh and Jerky don’t belong on the same sign:

The pool at the Golden Nugget, with a minimal representation of the fat old ladies in regrettable swimwear:

The show we saw. I have a lot of opinions about Cirque de Soleil, I’ll get into them later. Maybe tomorrow?

The old strip, I think this was “American Pie” but it looks more like Mick Jagger:

Lorien’s “C’mon, seriously?” look:

The kind of pictures that get taken in Vegas with strangers at midnight:

People that aren’t KISS…:

with boots that I love:

Lorien tried to take a picture of me and then said “You never smile in pictures! Will you at least flirt with me or something so i can get a good picture of you??!”

It’s 3AM. That seems like a good time to go to bed in Vegas. Don’t you agree?

Driving into Nevada

It always looks a little like this, though I wouldn’t recommend trying to take this picture and drive simultaneously…

It looked a lot like this for most of the drive through Idaho:

And then I saw this sign and had to check it out, because of, you know, the rocks:

I’m pretty sure this is someone’s garage. But maybe that’s as good as it gets in Hagerman, ID, population 768:

In Nevada, they had snow fall last weekend and the snow line is still really low on the Ruby mountains:

Things I forget about Nevada until I’m reminded:

Coke ovens built in 1870 by Italian masons and used for hard wood charcoal, now unused but still beautiful:

My beautiful sister, Lorien:

Cave Lake:

The scene of Ice sculpture competitions and beautiful hiking trails winding up into the mountains:

And further up:

And even further up…:

We had no idea a 5 mile hike would take us so far up, but the view was worth it.

Tomorrow: Vegas.

Brace yourself.

Things I said I would never do

I drove out of Wenatchee and through the mysterious cloud shrouded Columbia River basin today.

I spent the subsequent 7 hour drive through the Blue Mountains thinking about what to do next. Up until this week, I had a kick-ass plan that involved several weeks in New Mexico and a road trip to Honduras. But then the “strange and sometimes warty hand of fate” (EVM) intervened by 1. Denying me reasonably priced housing in NM and 2. Making a Honduras road trip nigh impossible because of time frames and money considerations.

Fortunately, I don’t HAVE to be anywhere or do anything at the moment, which frees me up to be anywhere. While that’s a privilege a lot of people never get, sometimes having too many options is as paralyzing as having too few. But that’s how freedom works. It can look all vast and scary or it can look like an open door.

Once I remembered that, I focused on what kind of open door I needed and where I could get it and realized how much I really really really need to stop moving for a minute or two. I also need to figure out how to write things that other people will buy. Plus I need quiet and stasis for a while. This means I need my own place.

NM isn’t working out but Arizona is right there with a lot of my friends and all my stuff. Even though it’s hotter than all nine circles of hell, it feels like the place I should be for the month of July. I wish I needed Arizona in April when it’s reasonable and beautiful. But maybe I’ll stay inside and write in July because I’ll burst into flames if I go outside between 6AM and Midnight.

Ergo and forthwith, I’m looking for housing and I’m driving south. I’ll be in Nevada with my little sister tomorrow, in Vegas on Saturday, in Globe to see my brother on Sunday and in Tucson by Monday.

Curious how Tucson Part Deux goes? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it.

All together now:

Welcome back to the desert, little rat…