Archive for October 2013

Ranch House Restaurant, Gorman CA

October 23, 2013

I’m a little bit late in getting this written. Last week we traveled up to Fresno to attend Cal Grand Chapter of OES. By the way, California OES has a great new website that went online recently. Take a look at oescal.org for more info on the Order of Eastern Star.

This post is more about the journey than the destination. It’s about 250 miles from San Pedro to Fresno. I am sort of getting used to traveling up and down the state of California. On this trip, we got off to a somewhat late start. We got on the road at about 11AM. The hope is that the traffic will have eased a bit either on the 405 or the 110 through downtown LA. It seems that there is always traffic in LA.

So after about 2 hours of driving we were ready for a stop for lunch. 2 hours into our drive gets us to somewhere on the Grapevine. If you recall from some of my previous posts the Grapevine is a stretch of road between the San Fernando Valley ( aka “The Valley”) and the San Joaquin Valley (aka, Central Valley).

So how did the Grapevine get its name? Common thought is that the name was related to the many switchbacks one had to traverse on early versions of the road. In fact, it was named for the grape vines growing along the canyon. Here is an excerpt from an article about building the roads through the area.

The first white man through this area was a Spanish officer and acting governor of Alta California in 1772, Don Pedro Fages. He noticed an abundance of Cimarron grapes growing wild in the area north of what is now Gorman. He named the place Canada de Las Uvas, or Grapevine Canyon. Grapevines were so prevalent the wagoneers and soldiers had to hack their way through. Wild grapes still grow on the sides of I-5 in the pass. 

Another association of the name Grapevine was established during early highway construction. The engineers had to abandon the original wagon road up the canyon from the valley floor when Grapevine Creek overflowed during a torrential cloudburst in 1914. The highway alignment was rebuilt on the east side of the hill with a series of switchback loops to gain elevation. Thus the appearance of a grapevine.

Here is the pointer to the entire article.

As you can see from the map, the Grapevine is pretty much straightened out on the current I5.

grapevine

So we decide to stop at a restaurant in Gorman CA named the Ranch House Restaurant. The restaurant is a bit unusual in that it is not a big franchise restaurant like Denny’s, McDonalds, etc. Here’s a picture of the exterior.

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The menu is somewhat similar to what one would see at Denny’s, Typical breakfast menu, lunch menu is burgers, sandwiches. The food that we had was excellent. Service was excellent. Not too crowded. Here’s the review on Yelp.Com

One of the reasons that we stopped here is that Paula remember stopping here back in the fifties. Her father was a part time ranger at Lassen National Park. As soon as school ended for the year. The family would drive from San Pedro up to Lassen. As Paula tells the story, they would get to Gorman in the evening and she had to be wakened so they could get a piece of pie and some coffee. Then they would continue their journey and stop overnight in Bakersfield. Remember this was pre-interstate. Getting to Lassen was a two day trip. Some times they were pulling a small travel trailer. Pulling a trailer over the Grapevine was (and still is) a stressful activity for a passenger car.

Now here is where it gets interesting. We were talking with the waitress. I think that she had been working at the restaurant for many years. She seemed to think that this building was at least the third incarnation of the Ranch House. Earlier versions had to either be moved or demolished to accommodate road construction. According to Paula, the interior of the restaurant is much like how she remembers it from her days as a child going to Lassen with her mother and father.

Until next time,

Joe

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Octoberfest – Los Angeles Style

October 14, 2013

We meant to do this last year but never got around to it. So yesterday afternoon we went to the Octoberfest at Alpine Village in Torrance. This has been an annual affair for the last forty some years in Torrance. During the months of September and October, Alpine Village puts on Octoberfest on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.

The Sunday afternoon affair is a little bit more family friendly. People bring their entire family from infants to grand parents. The rest of the year Alpine Village runs a restaurant and gift shop. But on the weekends they move to the huge tent. My guess would be that it is the size of a couple football fields.

Get your tickets on line. This will save you waiting in the long line to get in. They encourage appointing someone the designated driver. I was selected for the job yesterday. They put a green wrist strap on you. This gets you all the soda and spring water you can drink for free. People are encouraged to come wearing lederhosen or Bavarian Dirndl dresses.

So we loaded Mary K and Paula into the Jeep and picked up Mike up in RPV. And off we went. We had some sausage and bratwurst for lunch along with the usual sides like sauerkraut and potato salad. Tables are rugged picnic tables capable of supporting a tuba player in addition to the food and beer. So Mike lines up for the beer while Paula, Mary K and I line up for food. Lots of fun;

Here are some pictures:

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Las Vegas NV

October 5, 2013

Today is the last day of our trip. Yesterday we travelled from West Jordan UT to Las Vegas NV. we had a short visit with Neil and his family. So now we are heading home to LA. SLC to LA is about 750 miles give or take and is a bit too long to make in one jump.

Las Vegas is a natural spot to stop for the night. This is the third time that we have made the trip from SLC to LA. We have been searching for a good place to bed down for the night. We didn’t want to go to downtown Las Vegas. I despise staying at casino-hotels. All I want is a QUIET hotel where we can rest overnight.

Last time we stayed at a hotel in Primm NV which is at the CA NV border. There are three worn aging casinos resorts there. Last time we had reserved two rooms for Paula, myself and my mother in law. Reservation screwed up they only had one room for us. I am NOT sleeping with my mother in law. The time before that we stopped at Jean NV. Similar aging casino hotel.

So we thought we might be forced to either stay up in St George UT or continue on down the road to Victorville CA. Nothing in between but desert, sage brush and coyotes. St George to LV is about 150 miles. LV to Victorville about the same. So we’re stuck with Las Vegas. St George was too soon to stop and Victorville too far.

So back to the travel hotel web sites. Lo and behold we found a Double Tree by Hilton near the LV airport. It has no casino, reasonable price (about $100). It has a bar and restaurant. It is quiet. I can hear some aircraft noise but it is not outrageously loud. I made the reservation through the Hilton Honors iPhone App.

They put us on the 5th floor. Top two floors are the Hilton Honors floors. When we checked in they gave us two warm chocolate chip cookies. This was so much better than Primm or Jean. We were also told that happy hour was in progress. Woo-Hoo!!!

So we came down to the hotel bar and had a few drinks and watched the end of the LA Dodgers Atlanta Braves game. We missed the Red Sox thumping of the Rays. We had a few drinks (Gin and Tonic for Ms. Paula, Martini for me), then light dinner and back to our room. We watched Bill Maher’s show on HBO. We give the Double Tree 5 stars. We’ll definitely stay here on our next trip to SLC.

One idea that Hilton has started is recycling in the hotel rooms. They have trash cans that have two inserts. One for regular trash and one for plastics. Clever idea. Here’s a picture.


So thats it for Las Vegas. Today, once we finish breakfast we are off for LA. We’ll probably stop in Mojave rest stop (right after the CA NV state line.) This time the colors are alive in the desert. The sage brush seems to be pollinating. Lots of yellows and orange. The mountains are alive with color. Here is a picture I took last Saturday in CA. imagine what a whole hillside would look like with flowering sage brush.


No place to safely stop along yesterday’s route to take a picture. So back to LA. We will have about couple of weeks home before we head back north to Fresno CA for CA Grand Chapter OES.

Joe

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Location:Pollock Dr,Paradise,United States

Peppermill Resort & Casino

October 3, 2013

In my last post, I talked about the routes from So Cal to the north. It was pointed out by my wife (a native Californian) that there is a fourth route that exists. That would be the inestimable Rt 101. Rte 101 follows the coast from LA to San Francisco. This is the ultimate in scenic routes. You go through Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Carmel and a host of other photo ops along the way. One of these days we will do the 101,

So we arrived at the Peppermill last Saturday for the Nevada Grand Chapter of OES. OES is the Order of Eastern Star which is a fraternal organization for men and women. More about Grand Chapter later.

The Peppermill is a huge facility. Large Casino operation plus meeting and banquet facilities, Checkin went pretty smoothly. There was a short line, but it went pretty quick. The parking was valet parking though you could self park if you insisted. The bellman unloaded all of our stuff and got it up to room real quick.

So far so good. The room was good size. It had king size bed, couch, desk and chairs. Included coffee pot, wifi and all of the normal amenities. Wifi was fast when you could get a signal. It was intermittent at best. One strike for crappy wifi.

The decor was a sort a Queen Anne motif along with paintings of Tuscan motif. Even a painting in the bath room. It seemed a bit odd to me.


We attend four banquet meals during our stay. All of the meals were absolutely fantastic. Feeding a large crowd all at the same time can be a real challenge. The Peppermill wait staff were absolutely fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about them.

Okay now lets talk about the casino. Nevada is the only state in the USA that stills allows cigarette smoking in public spaces. I don’t really blame the Peppermill for this but the place stunk of cigarette smoke. They did have a small non-smoking gaming area. This was the first time in over 25 years that I saw a cigarette machine. $9 for a pack of cigarettes.

Casinos are designed to be a disorienting space and the Peppermill is no different. It takes a good long while to figure out your way around. I don’t gamble so I just had to make my way through the casino section. The noise is deafening.

We are looking forward to a trip in November to Las Vegas to a non-smoking, non-casino resort. Betcha didn’t know that such an thing existed in Vegas.

Overall, it was a decent experience. All of the events were in one place. We didn’t have to go anywhere else during our stay. If you don’t care about OES, then stop here.

Nevada OES is certainly much smaller then either CA OES or MA OES. About 20 chapters spread out around the state. Several chapters around Reno and the same around Las Vegas. Getting from the chapters in the north to the ones in Vegas is not so easy. There is I80 running from Reno to Wendover in the East for about 400 miles. There is no interstate between Reno and Las Vegas. So going from Reno to Vegas is a challenge.

That’s pretty much it for the hotel part of this post. The rest is about OES in general and Nevada OES in specific.

The folks that we met at NV GC were very friendly. They made our stay very enjoyable.

The registration process was oh so very easy. They had a single spreadsheet on their web site where you could select our hotel accommodations and the banquets that you planned to attend. Fill out the spread sheet and send it in with one check for the banquets. One stop shopping, so to speak. In CA and MA, one has to download flyers for each banquet. Write a check for each banquet and send it to the chairperson.

Elections were an interesting process. There were five women running for the office of Assoc Grand Conductress. None of the candidates were allowed to give a campaign speech or to campaign during the months leading up to Grand Chapter. The process took four votes before one candidate finally got a majority.
Candidates were asked if they wanted to withdraw, but were not required to do so. In MA the bottom vote getters would be required to withdraw.

Also Grand Sentinel is an elected office like in MA but not in CA. We think the GS goes up the line as in MA. Grand Sentinel in CA is an appointed office and does not go up the line. We met people from CA, AZ, ID and WA. Our thanks to Linda (Grand Representative to MA in NV) for being very gracious host.

So now we are in Utah to visit Neil. We are going to visit the Utah Museum of Science and Industry to see the Leonardo exhibit.

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Location:Reno NV