Just Give Me a Plate of Hash and Eggs

20750606 - a frying pan with corned beef hash and eggsI seem to be a food peasant. A plebeian. Totally lacking in culture, even if do have a master’s degree.

I splurged on a slightly expensive hotel on my way to California two weeks ago. It was about a thousand degrees out, and I was exhausted from planning, packing and driving all day. I dreaded what lay ahead in San Jose, and hell, I deserved it. Too beat to leave the building, I ate dinner in the adjoining restaurant. Mostly I just wanted cold air and a cold drink.

A hostess dressed in a silky black dress and wearing far too much makeup for off-stage led me to a small table against the far wall, one of those places they put people who dare to come in alone wearing faded jeans and a T-shirt promoting a literary magazine.

A waiter dressed in black and packing a snooty attitude handed me the menu. Holy smokes. All the entrees cost at least $20, nothing included. And there was nothing ordinary. All chipotle this and cream sauce that. As I pondered, a different black-suited waiter brought me a basket of cold French bread, a tiny bowl of ground nuts, and a plate on which he poured olive oil and a swirl of balsamic vinegar. How are you supposed to apply them to the bread? Where’s the butter? Yes, I’m a peasant. The oil made my lips feel greasy.

A couple specials were written on a blackboard in chalk. I couldn’t read them. Glare, plus half the words were in French.

When a third black-suited waiter arrived to take my order, I asked him to tell me about the specials, and I chose the steak and linguine after asking, “How much?” $22. Fine. It came with steak slices carefully arranged in a half circle, the odd-tasting sauce decorated with peppercorns, bits of red bell pepper and flakes of aioli cheese. Laid across the plate was the big spoon in which I was supposed to swirl my noodles, something I never do at home.

Folks at the next table were all dressed up and raving about the food. I savored the memory of the hamburger I had eaten for lunch at the Apple Peddler in Sutherlin, Oregon.

I hate to admit it, but on the road I usually seek out the familiar chain restaurants: Denny’s, Apple Peddler, IHOP, Black Bear Diner, Elmer’s. I already know what they have and know I can read, write or stare into space and not feel out of place. Plus when you order pasta, you get a salad, too, even off the senior menu. Sometimes you even get dessert.

Maybe it’s how I was raised. Mom was not an adventurous cook. Slab of meat, potatoes, canned veggies, white bread. We went out to eat at the Burger Pit or got takeout raviolis from Pianto’s. I never tasted any kind of Asian food until I was in high school. A lot of foods—Swiss chard comes to mind—I never saw until I got married. Heck, I had never used a salad bowl. Kabobs? Tofu? Quinoa? Are you kidding? Homemade bread? Why? And booze? At our house, it was canned beer, screw-top wine or highballs, and only for special occasions.

As an adult, I like to create with food. I make some weird salads and Boboli pizzas and freely adapt recipes. But apparently, I’m not as sophisticated as I thought.

At the fancy restaurant in Redding—Redding, off I-5, where the locals still wear cowboy hats—you can watch the flames as a chef deglazes a pan with his favorite liqueur. You can order almond-encrusted halibut with apricot horseradish, pan finished pork tenderloin—free range, of course—with creamed pan jus, apple burrata crème fraiche and fresh sage, or pulled chicken with smoked gouda, carmelized bacon and onion jam on artisan bread. They’ve got peach bourbon bread pudding for dessert.

Can I just get a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with lots of mayonnaise and a scoop of vanilla ice cream?

Sigh. I have such a plebeian palate. On the way back to Oregon, I stopped at my usual place in Yreka, a little cheaper, best bed ever, and across the street from Poor George’s. The lone aproned waitress, limping with a broken toe, served me hash and eggs and biscuits and gravy–$11—and told me the saga of her pit bull who ran away and just came home. She even showed me the dog’s picture on her phone. That’s my kind of restaurant.

***

For those following the Dad saga, I helped my father move home from the nursing home and hired a homecare agency to help him with meals, cleaning, errands and such. So far, he’s not getting along very well with his caregiver, but he’s happy to be back in his own house, walking very carefully with his walker.

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Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017

Photo Copyright: markstout / 123RF Stock Photo

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Telling Those Little Green Lies

43624345 - green apple with water drop close upShortly after I cross the border into California, I come to an agricultural inspection station. All vehicles must stop. There’s no way around it. Back in the days of the 1989 Mediterranean fruit fly scare, I trembled at the thought. I can remember having to open up my ice chest for the inspectors, who proceeded to confiscate my produce. I remember having to throw out the vegetables my grandfather had just gifted me from his garden. I remember hurriedly eating an apple so it would be gone before I hit the border.

But when I drove to California after Dad broke his leg in March, I packed a cooler full of produce from home so I could eat it at my father’s house in San Jose. Zucchini, corn, tomatoes, apples, grapefruit. I refused to let it rot. And I did eat it, except for a golden delicious apple that I carried all the way to San Jose and back before consuming it back in my own kitchen.

I hid my red and white ice chest under blankets and grocery bags in the back of my Honda Element. I held my breath and put on my most innocent smile. But it didn’t matter. The inspector neither looked nor asked if I was carrying any produce. He just wished me a nice day. Ma’am.

If he had asked, I would have lied. On other trips, I have driven through with apples in my bag on the seat beside me, smiled and said, “Nope,” when asked if I had any fresh fruits or vegetables.

Shame on me. It’s not good to lie.

But here’s the thing. I buy my produce at the grocery store. I don’t pick it off the trees or out of the fields. It does not have bugs. If it had bugs, I would not buy it. Most of it was originally grown in California anyway.

Usually, they take one look at me and wave me on. Aging white lady privilege. Or maybe it’s that I’m coming from Oregon in a relatively small car as opposed to an 18-wheeler from Texas or Tennessee. On my last trip through, I saw inspectors going through a long, low sedan driven by a group of young Mexican men. Trunk open, doors open, stuff out on the pavement. Why are they any more likely to bring contraband food across the border than I am? Racial profiling?

The California Department of Food and Agriculture website reveals some facts I didn’t know. The inspectors are looking for all plant life that might carry invasive species they don’t want in California. That includes things like firewood and hay. Also critters like ferrets and livestock. I suppose if I were carrying some of our legal marijuana that would deserve a look, too. In this article from a Las Vegas newspaper, the writer says sometimes they inspect the vehicle itself for hitchhiking bugs. Thank God Oregon is not a buggy state.

I thought the inspections started with the medfly crisis. Wrong. They’ve been inspecting vehicles at the borders since the 1920s. There are 16 inspection stations in California, located at all the major highways coming into the state. CDFA claims California’s plants are relatively bugfree and they want to keep them that way. The inspectors are not law enforcement agents; the worst they can do for you is take away your produce, but it’s still a worry for drivers passing through.

Most other states don’t have inspection stations. Florida does. Everything leaving Hawaii goes through an agricultural check. Coming into Oregon, folks bringing boats and commercial trucks have to stop, but the rest of us just ease on down the road.

Gosh I feel guilty now about lying. But I will probably continue to smuggle fruits and veggies from the J.C. Market across the border. If I start bringing hay, trees or baby goats, I’ll let them look. And if my dog joins me, she’ll be hanging out the window, ready to spill the beans. If she hasn’t already eaten them.

***

Speaking of the dog, Annie’s incision is healing well and she’s walking on all four feet more often than not. Her fur has started growing back. She is scheduled to have her staples removed tomorrow afternoon. I have been counting the hours since last week. She still has to take it easy, but once the staples are gone, I can remove the inflatable collar, which will make her a lot more comfortable and allow her to go through the doggie door on her own. She will fit in her crate again. Best of all, I can leave the house without her. Hallelujah.

As for my other patient, Dad is still in the wheelchair in the nursing home and itching to get out. His doctor appointment is a week from Tuesday. At his age, healing is not guaranteed. Pray that he gets some good news.

On my next trip to California, I definitely won’t be carrying any fruit. I’m flying, and you  can’t get fruit past the security checkpoint. Wouldn’t it be nice if they served apples or strawberries on the plane instead of those bags of nutritionally worthless pretzel snacks? Come on, Alaska Airlines.

***

Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017, photo copyright: klaikungwon / 123RF Stock Photo

Walking through Yreka history–illegally

IMG_20170507_193817487_HDR[1]I didn’t see the no-trespassing sign until I had walked across the decaying platform, feeling the wood give under my feet as I snapped pictures of the old Yreka Western Railroad station and the abandoned train cars covered with graffiti. The sun was about to set, and there was no one around. I had had a long hard day and should have been relaxing in front of the TV at the Best Western instead of wandering around alone.  I considered ever so briefly that I might break my neck, but the writer in me couldn’t resist.

Yreka, near the California-Oregon border, is the halfway point on I-5 between San Jose and Newport. After seven hours of driving, I needed a walk. Usually I walk in town, looking in the windows of the shops, all closed by the time I get there, and the restaurants I might go into if I weren’t traveling solo. I say hello to the brass sculptures, nod at the firemen in the fire station, and study the sign at the Catholic church, thinking I might go to Mass in the morning, but I never do. I’m too anxious to get back on the road.

IMG_20170507_193905186[1]This time, I headed the other way, across the freeway, away from “town.” Up a hill lies an old cemetery where I walked among the graves, reading names and dates, imagining their stories. Taking a different path down the hill, I wound up close to the train station. The 1910 station building looks as if it just closed for the night, but it has been out of business for several years. After its citizens learned in the 1880s the Southern Pacific Railroad/aka California & Oregon Railroad planned to bypass their town, they built their own railroad line to connect up with the main line seven miles away in Montague. They moved the station in 1910 to avoid seasonal flooding at the original site. Trains used that line for passengers and freight for nearly 100 years. Starting in 1986, the city of Yreka operated a summer excursion train called the Blue Goose. But times change, and the Blue Goose went out of business. The station has sat idle for the last few years.

IMG_20170507_194120720[1]Imagine the stories that crumbling old platform could tell. I’m so glad I didn’t see the sign until I had walked all over the station, my only company a couple of crows cawing from the roof.

For more info:

http://yrekahistory.blogspot.com/2008/05/yreka-rail-station-1888-1910.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yreka_Western_Railroad

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMJFNK_Western_Railroad_Station_Yreka_CA

By the way, the origin of Yreka’s name is not what you might think, not what I thought. Here it is, courtesy of California City News:

Yreka comes from the Shasta Indian word “wáik’a’,” which roughly translates to “white mountain,” in reference to nearby Mount Shasta. An article from 1876 in the Yreka Journal said that the city was intended to be named Ieka, but through some kind of mistake, it was called “Wyreka.” The name stuck and the error continued (other than the dropping of the “w,” which officials considered superfluous.)

***

This was my third trip to California since March 25, when my 95-year-old father broke his leg. He will be riding the wheelchair and I’ll be doing the I-5 commute a while longer. Bones that old take a long time to heal. I have made the journey back to San Jose at least 50 times since we moved to Oregon 20 years ago, but I always see something new.

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On the Road to California Again

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Humboldt Bay at Sunset

 

Last week didn’t turn out quite as expected, especially for my dad. He fell and broke his leg above the knee. It was a bad break, requiring surgery and an extended stay in a care home after the hospital. He has survived heart surgery and a broken hip in recent years, and he will survive this, but for a person one month shy of 95, this is not good. My brother rushed over from his mountaintop home near Yosemite while I hit the road from Oregon. I didn’t know how long I would be gone or how well Dad would recover, but when these things happen, you do the best you can to tie up loose ends and go.

Winter lasting forever up here, the Siskyous were still loaded with snow, so I took the coast route down. After nine days, I returned up I-5. It’s an all-too-familiar 1,400-mile round trip commute. But I took pictures of some things I thought it would be fun to share here.

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This homemade camper at a coastal rest stop caught my fancy.

 

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I saw the peanut mobile way back near San Jose and was amazed when it pulled up at the Black Bear restaurant in Willows where I stopped for lunch.

 

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Dinner on my last night on the road was big enough for three dinners.
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Poor George’s in Yreka, where I had the massive pancakes, ham and eggs, is an old-time diner.

 

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I don’t do a lot of selfies but here I am on the coast highway.

Dad seeming relatively stable, I came home to get back to work, Annie, and taking care of my own house, but I will be going back soon, I’m sure. It’s not easy having your heart torn between two states. Meanwhile, please keep my father, Ed Fagalde, in your prayers.

 

 

All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017

 

From Jesus to Weed: signs point the way

img_20161121_1608453881I’ve been driving back and forth from the Oregon Coast to San Jose, California for 20 years. My late husband and I left “Silicon Valley” in 1996 for a better life in a small town by the beach. It is a better life. But the family is still back in California, so several times a year I hit the road. Unless it’s snowing in the mountains, I take I-5.

When you drive the same route so many times, you notice the little changes. Also, your mind wanders, especially when you’re sick of the CDs you brought and the radio offers nothing but talk shows and evangelical preachers.

Today I’d like to share some of the signs I saw along the road during my September and November trips:

Politics: There used to be a lot of anti-Obama signs. They’re all gone, no point now that his term is about to end. As I traveled through San Joaquin Valley farm country for Thanksgiving, the signs said, “Make America Great Again” or simply “Trump.” Post-election, one sign had an addendum: “Thank you.”

Also in farm country: “Pray for water.” California has gotten some rain lately but not nearly enough.

“Guided goose hunt. Call now.”

Near Delevan: “The gift of God is Jesus Christ our Lord”

Mt. Shasta: More than a peak experience.”

For Rolling Hills Casino, located in Corning, The Olive City: “Eat! 3 restaurants.” “Tip Top Pit Stop”

Approaching the town of Weed: “Weed like to welcome you.” Not a typo.

Five miles south of Yreka, there’s a metal-sculpture cow, now with a calf. For Christmas, someone usually drapes a garland around the cow’s neck.

The State of Jefferson sign. At one time, folks in southern Oregon and northern California were planning to create their own state. Considering how things have been going lately, they’re considering it again.

In a pasture just south of the Oregon-California border, black-faced sheep gather around a big white cross and a hand-painted sign that says, “Forgive them.” I wonder who and for what?

The road goes up and up, signs marking the altitude in 500-foot increments to the peak of 4,310 at Siskyou Pass. Other signs tell drivers where to chain up or take off snow chains. Hope I never have to. I have chains, but I have no clue how to put them on.

Northbound just before the Oregon border: “Puzzled? God has answers.” And just past it, a giant liquor store sign.

Also approaching the border, a green and yellow billboard: Need Weed? Take Canyonville exit. Ah, we’re back in Oregon.

Honk the horn at the Welcome to Oregon sign and watch the milepost numbers start fresh with Number 1.

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Maybe we should change I-5 to "Dry-5"

Weed after the fire, Mt. Shasta in the background

View of Lake Shasta from the rest stop–no water

As I sit here on the Oregon coast with rain looming in the weather forecast, it’s hard to believe that I was in San Jose a little over a week ago, that the sun was shining every day and forecasts of rain were met with laughs because actual rain was so unlikely.

I spent 28 days back home helping my father, who broke his hip in late August. Dad, who is amazingly resilient, is healing well. Now we’re back to comparing weather over the phone. Those 700 miles make a big difference.

Me: It’s cold. I had to light up the pellet stove and turn on my electric blanket.
Dad: It’s hot! 91 degrees right now outside, and about 85 in the house. I’ve got all the fans going.
Me: They’re predicting rain here.
Dad: Hah. We don’t know what we’re going to do if we don’t get some water pretty soon. Send some down here.
Me: I’m trying, I’m trying. I keep telling the rain to go south.

Most of my trip between San Jose and South Beach takes place on Interstate 5. It’s a nice wide road with lots of rest stops and plenty of places to eat, sleep or shop. It’s also loaded with trucks and RVs.  I keep awake by playing “dodge-truck,” passing the slow-moving 18-wheelers, muttering when they try to pass each other and block all the lanes.

Traveling I-5 in the fall, it’s usually hot. But this year, the heat and the drought have had dramatic effects. Fire is a big problem. Watching the news, it seems as if half the state is burning. While I was in San Jose, one of those fires destroyed a large section of Weed. This town of 3,000 at the foot of Mt. Shasta is a place where we have often stopped on our trips.We have stayed in its motels, eaten in its restaurants and walked its streets. The news reports were awful. Homes, schools, and churches destroyed. Was anything left? I had to see. I also had to see Mt. Shasta, where it was reported a glacier at the top was melting, causing a giant mudslide.

As I headed north last week, tearful from saying goodbye to my father, the reporter in me was anxious to see what had happened while I was gone. Most of the way, nothing had changed. The hills and fields were brown. The cows still grazed and dozed in the sun. The road was still lined with trucks. It was still hot. Lake Shasta was still nearly empty, vast areas of exposed dirt between the road and the water.

Then I rounded a bend after Dunsmuir and there was Mt. Shasta. When I drove south in early September, the mountain was brown, except for a small area of white on the very top. Now it looked like someone had taken a giant knife and spread that white thinly down the sides of the mountain, almost to the base. It had melted like frosting on a cake left in the sun.

Then came Weed. I expected to see exits closed and signs covered, but no. I exited and found myself passing the usual restaurants, motels and businesses. Where was the fire? I drove a few miles north before I came upon charred hills and police cars blocking roads leading into the hills. Only residents were being allowed in. About two weeks after the fire, all I could see of what was left was . . . nothing where a whole neighborhood used to be. The ruins had been cleared away. What happened was tragic, 157 homes were destroyed, along with numerous commercial properties, including two churches, the library and part of the lumber mill, but most of Weed was still standing, still in business. They will rebuild. Meanwhile, I needed to drive on.

I spent the night in Yreka, the next town up from Weed, exactly halfway on my San Jose-South Beach run. Room 30 at the Best Western Miner’s Inn, dinner at the Purple Plum, a walk through the old gold rush town, some Internet, some TV, some sleep, and back on the road toward home.

Once I crossed into Oregon, the landscape turned green and clouds dotted the sky. Go south, I said, go south.

I stands for . . . I-5

Photo courtesy Photobucket.com (Can’t shoot when I’m driving!)

I stands for I-5, the interstate highway that stretches between the California-Mexico border to the Washington-Canada border. It’s the road that seems to connect everything for western Oregonians heading for Portland, Corvallis or Eugene, and for me, it’s the road home to San Jose.

We don’t have a freeway here on the Oregon Coast. We have Highway 101, maximum speed 55, mostly one in lane in each direction with lots of curves along the ocean and through the redwoods. You can get to San Jose that way, but I-5 is more efficient. The trick is getting to it. From anyplace on the coast, it takes at least an hour of windy roads over the coast range to finally get to the open farmland of the Willamette Valley and the freeway. I have driven it in sun, snow, rain and fog, and I’m always glad to finally enter I-5 Suddenly I can drive fast, with multiple lanes to pass the many trucks, Rvs and slow-movers. I can just hear my car saying, “Hooray!”

I-5 is designed for long drives. It has rest stops every so often where one can use the restrooms, walk the dog, and eat a picnic lunch. Sleeping is also good. At many of the stops, people sit near the bathrooms holding signs asking for money. Some play guitar. many have dogs with them. They claim to be homeless, out of gas, in a jam. I never know whether or not it’s true.

The freeway also offers lots of billboards and informational signs that tell us how far it is to the next cities and what restaurants, gas stations and special attractions can be reached off the next numbered exit. The road is so straight most of the way that we need something to keep us awake. Radio stations in the rural areas tend toward Christian and right-wing talk shows. One could listen to an entire audio book–or write one–while cruising I-5.

It’s 700 miles from South Beach to San Jose. I spend most of those miles on I-5. I know the landmarks well: the Apple Peddler restaurant in Sutherland; the wild animal park in Winston; the casino and antique stores in Canyonville; the great Best Western in Roseburg; the Heaven on Earth restaurant; the truck stop with the porn theater; the rest stop at Rogue River; the series of mountain passes leading to Siskyou Pass, elevation 4310; the Welcome to California sign with its yellow poppy on a blue background; the agricultural inspection station; Yreka;Weed; Mt. Shasta; Lake Shasta; Redding; Corning; Willows where I eat at the Black Bear restaurant; Sacramento, where the traffic clogs up; Stockton, and Tracy, where I exit to 205 to 580 to 680 to 280 to Dad’s house in San Jose, arriving exhausted from fighting the Bay Area traffic.

It’s a long drive, which I have made approximately 40 times, mostly alone, since we moved to Oregon almost 18 years ago. That first trip with the rental truck that kept breaking down was something to remember. It occupies a whole chapter of my book Shoes Full of Sand. And when I went back the first time to visit, I brought so much stuff, my mother thought I was leaving my husband. I don’t pack light.

These days, I go back two or three times a year. I fly sometimes, but it takes so long to get to the Portland Airport that driving seems more efficient, and it’s definitely more fun. Sometimes I think I actually live on I-5. When I drag my suitcase into my room at the Best Western in Yreka, which is exactly halfway, I often feel that I am finally home.

I stands for I-5.

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge, and I is for I-5. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:
 
A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon
G Unleashed in Oregon
H Childless by Marriage
I Unleashed in Oregon
J Writer Aid
K Unleashed in Oregon
L Unleashed in Oregon
M Unleashed in Oregon
N Childless by Marriage
O Unleashed in Oregon
P Writer Aid
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
W Writer Aid
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Unleashed in Oregon

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Visit Writer Aid tomorrow to find out what J stands for.