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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

the gift of gabbs, nevada

My quest to research the lesser-known fossil sites of the far west led me to Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park, in The Middle of Nowhere, Nevada.

“So this is where it ends,” I said to myself when I pulled up to the entrance. When, after fifty minutes I passed no one on godforsaken, rural highway 361—and then observed that I was the only visitor at the desolate campground—I fully expected to be ax murdered shortly after nightfall.

Imagine my relief to be greeted by jocular Ranger Robin.

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chicken fried steak

How do you tell the quality of a diner? By its chicken fried steak, of course.

Maybe it was just the mid 80’s, when everything was better, but the finest I ever tasted was at Boz Scaggs’ Blue Light Cafe on Union Street in San Francisco. I’ve been chasing that high for three decades. (The Blue Light today, minimized and lost to new management, serves greasy, monotonous bar food paired with Jello shots.)

The award for Second Best Chicken Fried Steak went to a diner outside Grand Coulee Dam. Actual steak, with a bone, real and delicious. The coating, crispycrunchy. The gravy, oh god, the gravy: not too salty, and lumpy with pork sausage.

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the rally

Airstream is but a tiny, shiny star in the RV universe—most are SOBs (Some Other Brand). ‘Streamers I recently polled guesstimate that Airstreams comprise only one to three percent of the market, both new and old.

As it was held in my backyard (Redmond, only thirty minutes from Bend), I dropped in on “The Rally” (sans DWR…no aluminum allowed*), the premier annual RV gathering, to see how the other (more than) half lives.

It looked kinda fun, if you have a White Box.

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burning man

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of Burning Man, the annual art festival slash summer camp for adults in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, Nevada.

In the weeks leading to my departure several fifty-something friends confessed that they’ve wanted to see it for themselves but have felt too intimidated to attend “that thing in the desert”. I concur; it’s difficult to get mentally and physically organized for Burning Man if you’re a grown adult not surrounded by peers who have been or are coming with you.

For the “virgin burner”, shopping and preparing can be daunting and confusing; it’s the packing equivalent to extreme boondock camping, seven day Halloween party, and week-long potluck.

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mountie museum

Traveling to Regina? (What an embarrassing name for a city. Like that Seinfeld episode. “Mulva?”) Don’t miss the contemporary Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre in Saskatchewan where you’ll learn about the formation of the original 300 Mounties in 1873, what the RCMP is up to today (with a force of nearly 5000), and how you’d look as a Mountie in that smashing scarlet tunic and Dudley Do-Right hat.

Back to back theme rooms explore aspects of RCMP history including their presence during the Klondike Gold Rush (when the worldwide image of the Mountie was formed).

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devils punch bowl

Joining the “Most Overrated Attraction” list, Devils Punch Bowl is described in the Spruce Woods guide as thus: “Sand slips and slides down a bowl-shaped depression 45 metres deep and disappears into an ever-moving, eerie pool of blue-green water.” Worth a two-hour hike in the hot sun, right?

After a long uphill slog on sandy soil, we reached an elaborate footbridge and a platform overlooking…some trees. Ralph actually hiked back to the trail marker to make sure we had come to the right place.

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o canada

For those entering Canada from North Dakota: take heed. There will be no gas on the way. We coasted on fumes into Pembina, the last chance for everything before the border crossing at Emerson where the passport guy grilled us with a lot of intrusive trick questions about our personal lives (“How did you two meet?”) and our reasons for visiting. We were already pitting out over the pack of fresh pork chops we were bent on smuggling in and watched in horror as two motorhomes ahead were pulled into secondary and boarded by customs officials.

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flea market

Maybe it’s because I came up in the suburbs of the west coast and have never seen oddities like weatherworn drake decoys and antique muskie lures. Maybe it’s the way said items were displayed. Maybe I just hadn’t been shopping in awhile. But I was positively mad about Shady Hollow Flea Market.

A bit like Les Puces de Saint-Ouen without the newer merchandise and pickpockets, Shady Hollow is not about transients unloading their castaway crap. Here, professional antique dealers traffic hand picked items from teeny, tasty little store-sheds and tables piled decoratively with fabulous junque. Shabby chic people, you’ll go out of your mind.

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vinegar museum

How did Roslyn, South Dakota get to be the vinegar capital of America?

“Yes. Ok,” replied the amiable host at the International Vinegar Museum, who earnestly launched into his docent’s speech. “This fella by the name of Lawrence Diggs,” he said, pointing to the framed articles on the wall at the entrance. “He was living in California and looking for a place different from California. He happened to come through Roslyn and he’s been here ever since.” (What are the odds of this.)

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memories of wally

In 1955, a group of 55 avid Airstream owners—mostly friends of founder Wally—became charter members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club. During that year, the largest Airstream caravan in history was launched to Mexico.

Ralph’s Norwegian grandmother Odne and her husband George were part of the historic WBCCI Western Mexico Winter Caravan of ’55. During our visit to Detroit Lakes, Ralph’s mother—Odne’s daughter—dug through a box of keepsakes and produced Odne’s journals about the trip that winter, handwritten in notebooks she purchased along the way.

Update the cultural references and much of her chronicle could be written about an Airstream caravan in 2010 (though hopefully highway conditions have improved by today).

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