Sunday, May 21, 2017

Old Haunts and New Discoveries

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

Another 2700 miles in the books, another trek to Olympia, WA, and in keeping with our usual practice, we of course shunned the normal routes. Since we hadn’t done Nevada in a long time, the eastern leg up was in order. But not 395, and not Death Valley. Instead, it was up the I-15 to breakfast in Barstow, then towards Lost Wages, but at Baker (still home to the World’s Tallest Thermometer-which they got working again!) and up towards Beatty, NV. 

Constant Reader may recall the Drive we hosted a number of years ago that used Beatty as it’s hub. We found a good Jerky Place there, paused for a pee and headed further north to our goal for the night, Tonopah, Turquoise Capital of the World. Constant Reader will also recall Marianne’s lust for the blue-green jewelry. 

We got to town early enough to take in the sights and get the Big Disappointment of the trip. The Royston Mine had closed! Seems the scion of the family passed away and the kids were squabbling over what was to be done. Hence, no mine, and worse, NO GIFT SHOP! The Horror! 

Deeply depressed, we had lunch in the hotel cafe (quite good, by the way) and went in search of what else the town might offer. Sadly, not much. Other than a very good mining museum. This was a great place. Tonopah has an amazing history, centered on silver and gold (and later copper) mining. And as a mining town, its share of tragedy.

In 1911, there was a massive fire in one of the mines. Twenty-seven miners lost their lives, among them, Big Bill Murphy, the town Hero. Big Bill went back into the mine several times to rescue miners, but was killed in his last descent. There’s a stature and mural to his, and the other lost miners in front of the local post office. 

Now, the hotel we chose was, as suits our taste, an old one. As in 1908. The Mizpah Hotel is the oldest in Nevada, and at a whopping five stories, once Nevada’s tallest building. The Earp brothers stayed there often, and Jack Dempsey worked there before the fame of the boxing ring took him off to greener pastures. And, of course, it has a ghost. The Lady in Red, a murdered lady of the evening, was stabbed and strangled on the fifth floor, leaving her ghost to walk the halls. No, she did not make an appearance. 

The Big Find in town was the Tonopah Brewing Company. Excellent craft beer (the Irish Red is outstanding) and great BBQ! We shared the Burnt Ends with beans and cornbread. It’s also a short saunter from the Mizpah. 

Back on the road again, we headed to some of the longest, loneliest roads in the country. East for a bit on US 6, then north on Nevada 376. They say US 50 is America’s Loneliest Road. I’m not so sure. Hwy 376 is REAL desolate. The scenery is spectacular and varies from sweeping sage plains to snow capped mountains, to dead lake beds. Even in mid-May, it was still green. It was a wet winter there as well. Several times I could set the cruise control on The Ton and let the miles slip away. It’s not all straight line, however, a couple of climbs through the mountains keep everything entertaining. 

In Winnemucca, we found another New Treasure. the Martin Hotel, ca. 1911. This is a Basque hangout now, and we all know that means great food. This time it was Garlic Soup and a Solomo Sandwich. As in French bread, sliced pork loin, and MOUNDS of GARLIC! YEAH BABY! You gotta try this place. 

Sated on garlic, we headed towards Burns, OR for the night. Up US95, and across OR 78, this is another long lonely drive. At least Oregon has gotten somewhat sensible. Last time up, the 95 in Nevada went from a 70 MPH “speed limit” to FIFTY-FIVE in Oregon! Somewhat happily, they’ve upped it to 65. You DO want your radar detector in Oregon. The Statzpolizei do a lot of revenue gathering all over the state. 

In Burns, we stayed in the decent Best Western (actually in Hines, but who’s counting) and dinner was at the Apple Barrel. We’d eaten there before and enjoyed it. This time? Not so much. “Hot Off the Griddle” waffles topped with apple pie filling were cold, took 20 minutes to get there and when I sent it back, had only improved to tepid. Marianne’s vegetable beef soup had stewed too long and again, was tepid. Not sure if we’d chance it again. 

From there is was off to Bend, OR, then, by way of  US 97 and US 26. These are great roads, up and over the shoulder of Mt. Hood. Oh, and should I mention that it SNOWED ON US IN MID MAY? Pretty crazy. No, the climate’s not changing. Nope, not at all. 

In Oly, it was family and friends (and a nice brunch with Pam and Joel!) for a few days, then, back south. Naturally, we took veered off the I-5 in Grant’s Pass to the 199 and then the 101. Always a great drive. A brief stop at the Trees of Mystery (of course) and then to another new find, the Requa Inn. 

What a gem! Dating from 1911, and now (for the first time) owned by a member of the Yurok Tribe, this wonderfully restored inn sits at the mouth of the Klamath River. Filled with antiques and history, this is a “must stop” place. It ain’t cheap, and neither is the dinner (but at $38/per person it ain’t bad, but wine and tip will jack up up!). The food was fantastic. Served family style and a fixed menu (vegetarian options are available but limited) we were stuffed on starter, salad, veggies, pork loin, and dessert, all overseen by the son of the owner who’d trained in New York. Really fine fare! 

Constant Reader will also know how much we like Family Style eating. We sat with two other couples (one of whom was also a travel writer!) and swapped lies as the wine and food flowed. After dinner we sat in the lobby’s comfy leather sofas and carried on as only vacationing couples will do. 

The others went off to bed and we were attracted by more conviviality back in the dining room. We stuck in our heads and were invited to sit with Jan, the owner, and a couple of regular guests as they finished off a few previously opened bottles. What a great evening! 

After breakfast, we headed off to Clearlake to see our old friend Bill, his lady, Dannie and Bill’s son Casey. For this stay, we opted for a place I pointed out on our last trip through Clearlake, the Featherbed B&B in Nice, CA. We booked the “Casablanca” themed caboose (of course) and were delighted. Lots of neat touches inside, from the piano with “As Time Goes By” sheet music, to a hat rack with a trench coat on it, to “Here’s Looking At You, Kid” etched into the mirror, it was great stuff. After dinner with Bill, et al, at the Boat House up the road, we settled in to the hot tub INSIDE the caboose and watched THE movie. Breakfast next morning was excellent. Ham and asparagus and cheese crepes with banana/Nutella dessert crepes. Yum. 

The original plan was to head home, but we figured “why push it?” From Nice, we hopped over to Hopland over CA 175. WHAT A ROAD! I understand The Melee (NoCal’s version of the Iron Bottom) uses this road. It’s spec-freakin-tacular! Winding through solid oak covered hills, it tops out with a great view of Clearlake, then down to the 101 in Hopland. From there is was down south, skirting Frisco on the freeways, then to Paso Robles for the Night. Dinner at Pappy McGregor’s of course, then home. 

So, some well remembered roads and sights, some new discoveries. That’s what Road Trippin’ is all about.