Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Mexican Restaurant Survey

Marty and I have made it our mission to try all the Mexican Restaurants in North America. We’ve got a ways to go but we’ve made a dent. Recently, we took a road trip to northeastern California and south central Oregon. For a long time I had wanted to show him the largest escarpment fault in North America. I call it the Church of Abert Rim. Most people just call it Abert Rim but it’s a spiritual place for me. It’s a place that makes you think of the Creator and you come away a better person just for looking at it. The Church doesn't look so impressive here because the top is shrouded in clouds. Trust me. It's an awesome piece of geology.

I also wanted to show him Ft. Bidwell. It’s a dinky town on the eastern side of the Warner Mountains. Whenever I would feel stressed in my previous existence as a production manager for a publishing company I would think “I wonder what the people in Ft Bidwell are doing now?” and I would feel peace. It’s a peaceful place. It isn’t “no where” but you can see “no where” from there.

While we were in nearby Lakeview we had Mexican food at a little establishment on highway 395. The people were warm and friendly and their pico de gallo was the best thing going. We ate copious amounts of it on chips and asked for more. I put it on my rancho beans and my rice announcing “This is my salad”. My tacos were good but not great. But the cook was flexible enough to bend the rules and let me have chili verde on them. I forgot to specify soft tortillas so they came crispy and already folded into that “U” shape I detest. The best tacos we have around here are the fish tacos at La Corona in Orland. They’re big and the fish is flavorful and if you say go light on the ranch dressing they will and they are pretty darn good.
But back to the trip. We like to drive so we headed over to Crater Lake on the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway, Highway 31. We met a new friend who didn’t have much to say. She was nonetheless colorful and macabre.

From Highway 31 we went over to Crater Lake. We had come for “very different” and we got it. Back home the thermometer is heading up to 107 degrees. At the rim of the caldera it was in the 50’s and blowing cold and wet.

Crater Lake is very special. But there aren’t any Mexican restaurants up there so we headed for Klamath Falls and the Lava Beds National Monument. Here’s where Kintpuash - also known as Captain Jack, a Modoc Indian - held off the US Calvary for 5 months with 60 warriors. There had been trouble over at their new home with the Klamath Indians. Kinda like the Israelis and Palestinians. The Klamaths said this isn’t our idea and we don’t want you guys here so we’re going to pester you until you leave. The Modocs tried to tough it out but then the government didn’t give them the supplies that they had promised. This put them over the edge. They went back home and holed up in the lava beds waiting for the army to come and try to take them back. They probably wished they had a Mexican restaurant because having only enough wood to cook with and not enough to keep warm finally made them leave. They got pretty far to the south and the cavalry caught up with them. If there had been a Mexican restaurant they might have all gone in for Margaritas and guacamole and forgiven each other. There’s something about great Mexican food that really makes people forget their troubles.

I had to come back and add an addendum. I realized that my summary might sound flip and insensitive to the plight of the Modoc people. By way of explanation, I would like to offer here that I believe that people in general take the issues before them much too seriously and if they could only meet in a spirit of generosity and compassion that many of the world's problem would simply melt away. We are all nations caught on this beautiful green and blue sphere. We're all worthy of respect and consideration. Animal, vegetable, mineral.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What's Up With the Red Trucks?

What’s Up With The Red Trucks?

I was in Iowa recently. Iowa is my home state. When I go back I always like to look around and compare what I see to my adopted home state California. In California white trucks are “de rigeur”. I’ve been told that white reflects the sun, keeps the cab cooler and the paint doesn’t look crappy so fast. So imagine my surprise when in Iowa I see one red truck, then another, then another and then yet another. It seems to be a conspiracy. There are red trucks all over the place!
Here’s some evidence. You’ll just have to trust me that it’s not just my imagination.

An average Iowan getting into his red truck
A good red Iowa truck waiting patiently at the light
A red Iowa truck zooming out of the picture

Stealth capture of yet another red Iowa truck
I could paste more but you get the idea. Now I just have to ask. Why do you think there are so many red trucks in Iowa?

You Don't See Stuff Like This in Iowa

You Don’t See Stuff Like This In Iowa

You don't see a junked up yard like this in Iowa. Yards like this are common in California. Iowans are neat to the point of being scary. I can’t figure out why they’re like this. I have some theories. Dave (from Iowa) says it’s because they’re so prosperous they don’t need to keep a lot of junk machinery around their place. But I’ve also seen them out mowing the ditch and it doesn’t matter how much machinery you have it isn’t necessary to mow the ditch. They seem to LIKE to do it. I was just back in my home state. I kept looking for junky farms like you see in California but I never saw one. Even poor people in Iowa are neat.
I used to take pride in the fact that Iowans and therefore me are neat to the point of being scary. I’m starting to loosen up on that. I’ll never be a slob. It’s impossible. But I might be able to let dust build up on the furniture if there’s something really fun to do outside. If I can’t have a fantastically green and manicured lawn at least I can have a neat dirt lot free of star thistle. I can rake the rocks and dirt and wait for the rain to turn it green next winter. I entertained the idea of astro-turf but chickened out. Astro turf is nothing like a cool green lawn. Maybe I should turn the whole back yard into a slip and slide. That would be excellent on a blisteringly hot day. Everything here is a shade of tan. Except the trees. They’re deep green but dusty.
If an Iowan came here they’d still be mowing the dead grass. I’m pretty sure. I’m kind of surprised that Iowans don’t ride mowers in the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). Iowans are very comfortable on lawn mowers and probably spend more time on their mowers than in their cars. Alvin Straight rode his mower over to Wisconsin to visit his brother. Check out "The Straight Story". It's a very heart warming movie by David Lynch and Mary Sweeney. (Mary convinced him to do it I'm sure. It'd too heart warming) All Iowans have at least a quarter acre lawn if they live in town but more like 3 acres if they live in the country.

Maybe they’re so neat because it’s easier to mow. Can you imagine how annoying it would be if they had to mow around a bunch of junk? So when you go to Iowa you see these vast unencumbered tracts of green grass. Lucky Iowans. They have plenty of rain to make that grass grow, good soil and NO rocks. Out here in dry land California it’s almost as if we’re cultivating rocks. You can’t mow after a certain point in the year because the blade will clip a rock, throw up a spark and burn the place down. It’s happened. Even in the relatively lush coast range you’ll see someone clearing coyote brush with their bulldozer and the next thing you know you’ve got helicopters hovering over your head with big water buckets.
So there you have your Iowans busy, humming away mowing their huge, neat, and manicured lawns with alacrity and complete confidence. I’m a little jealous. But I’ll take California. Iowans have to suffer through interminable days of gray skies and freezing winter. It’s not worth it to me.

An Uncomfortable Sight

An Uncomfortable Sight

Nothing strikes terror into the heart of a grassland rancher more than the sight of a large plume of smoke up wind from you. Especially if conditions are hot and windy. The other day we had an electrical storm. Later the weather service said there had been up to 6,000 lightning strikes. It was pretty impressive. The day after the storm we needed to go into town. As we were driving back we saw a large plume of smoke up in the National Forest. We weren’t sure where it was located until we got close to home and could see that the fire was generally up wind from us. Dang! We were now beginning to get concerned but not panicked because we knew it was far away and that the conditions weren’t conducive to it traveling fast and far.
We got a call that Cal Fire wanted to stage at our ranch but by the time we got the call they were staging at our neighbors. That served to loosen our concern because we knew that fire fighters always stage where they think they will be safe. So we settled back to watch the progress and take pictures.

Of course that made us start thinking about evacuation procedures. I’ve got our valuables within easy reach and I know where the cat carrier is. Our neighbors are about 10 miles from here and are agreeable to us taking our horses over there. As long as they, too, are out of danger! Otherwise, they say we’ll be in a caravan going somewhere together! Sara says “don’t take fire for granted!” Once a fire started at the Nye Ranch out on 162. In 20 minutes it blew all the way to highway 20 which is 30 miles to the south. That’s about 75 miles an hour! Of course, that’s in perfect fire conditions – high wind and low humidity. Still and all one wants to be prepared. If we ever got caught in a Nye Ranch situation maybe I’d gather up all that I could carry and jump in the lake. There’s no way to imagine what it would be like. In the movies the scenes are doctored. In real life it’s awfully smoky and embers are flying all over the place with debris. You have to experience it to know what it’s like.