Vacation

Another summer gone. Man, that went by fast! Cooking these past four months has been interesting and fun, although very hard work. There was one period when I didn’t have a day off for seven weeks. But now I am halfway through a three week staycation- doing as little as possible.

The restaurant closed for the season on Labor Day. Then there was an employee party for which two of us cooked, followed by a few days of cleaning. So my last day was Sept. 11.

I have been rehired by Amazon to work Nov-Dec in Kentucky but I have also been offered a job at one of the other resorts owned by the couple who own this place. It’s only a six hour drive and it’s on the Pacific Coast Highway, one hour south of Frisco. I’ll be cooking but only part time. With the photography opportunities of the coast, plus being able to take day trips to SF, I’m going to give it a try. I leave here on Saturday 10/1. My only concern is Internet coverage. But I am planning on being there until April, followed by a month of travel, then returning to Shasta for the summer.

Here are some scenes from recent walks around Lake Siskiyou (mid-day light and no tripod, so keep that in mind). Click for larger view.


Now that I am not working, I like to make a thermos of coffee and sit outside while I read my e-mail and catch up on RSS feeds. The cat sits outside, too. To keep him from roaming off, I thought I would put out some bird food close to the trailer. It worked like a charm! He will lay only a couple of feet away while only occasionally pouncing. He hasn’t caught anything yet! Here he is observing:

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First, the finches and sparrows show up:

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Then the chipmunks:

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Then the squirrels:

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Then the jays:

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The everyone:

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And here’s the cat’s reaction:

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Work & Beer

Things have gotten interesting here at the restaurant. Some poor workers have left, some reassigned (off breakfast/lunch shift, at least). One guy who cooked here for eight years is back. He had some personal stuff going on and couldn’t start until recently. Plus the main prep guy quit, so I’m doing all the prep myself. But we have a tight crew, so it’s all good. I also take care of the inventory and ordering for the restaurant, two snack shacks, and the ice cream stand. Oh, I also cook for any catering events we have. Luckily, those are few. There’s a group of 60 next weekend, so there’s lots of OT in my future. Only about seven more weeks, though. Then I have two months off!

I’m trying to get some bike riding in but it wasn’t working trying to do it after work. So now I’m getting up around 5:15 AM and riding before work. Here’s a couple of sunrise scenes from the boat launch here at the resort:

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Sunrise, Lake Siskiyou

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boat dock at sunrise, Lake Siskiyou

I’ve also gone back to the auto junkyard I found. I did some asking around and that area was the city dump at one time. There’s a guy who comes in for breakfast now and then. His house was where the restaurant sits now. It was taken through eminent domain when the government wanted to build Lake Siskiyou. Next time I see him, I’ll get more info about the dump. Anyway, here’s a shot with the new-to-me Olympus E-1:

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One of the nicer aspects of Northern CA is the beer scene. I love IPAs and here’s what I’ve tried this summer:
Speakeasy Tallulah Extra Pale Ale
Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA
Mendocino Brewing White Hawk Select IPA
Mad River Steelhead IPA
Ninkasi Total Domination
Six Rivers IPA
Mt. Shasta Mountain High
Stone IPA

No clear favorite- just enjoying them all!

The current reading list:
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron
Styron’s true account of his descent into a crippling and almost suicidal depression
The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case Against Life After Death, edited by Michael Martin & Keith Augustine
A series of contributions that redress this imbalance in the literature by providing a strong, comprehensive, and up-to-date casebook of the chief arguments against an afterlife.
Paris Was Ours, edited by Penelope Rowlands
In thirty-two personal essays, the writers describe how they were seduced by Paris and then began to see things differently.
32 Yolks, Eric Ripert
Story about the making of a French chef, from the culinary icon behind the renowned New York City restaurant Le Bernardin.

Cooking

I know it’s been a long time, but wait until you hear what happened! Well, not much, actually. That’s why it’s been a long time…

I’m here just a few miles from Mount Shasta CA until Labor Day.

I’m cooking breakfast and lunch at a 60-seat restaurant. It’s very hard work but very enjoyable. Plus it pays really well! I am doing mostly prep work and some line cooking. I much prefer the prep work. Each day, one or two of us prepare most of the food that will be served at all three meals. So we might roast 24 half- chickens, cook a couple of pork shoulders for pulled pork, cook ribs and tri-tip, make salsa, BBQ sauce, mac & cheese, refried beans, corn bread, baked beans, turkey chili, plus slice tomatoes, onions and cukes… Like I said, lots of work but fun.

They have pulled pork on the menu but they weren’t cooking it properly. I made one my way (not in a smoker though) and the other cooks and the managers liked it so much that now I get to cook all the shoulder and ribs. And I’ve talked them into trying out a smoker. So I’ll get to be a pit master! I’ve already told them I’m returning next year.

I bought a bike. I haven’t had one since I left Buffalo over a year and a half ago. I use it to make short trips around the park. I hate to make half mile trips with the car- it’s not good for the engine. I also got a camera bag so I can use it on my days off. But, man, my legs are weaker now!

Speaking of cameras, I also got a new camera. Or rather, another camera. I’ve been using an Olympus E-10 since 2000. It’s starting to have some problems and is becoming a PITA. So I upgraded to a 2003 Olympus E-1. It’s really a good camera. I love the Kodak sensors that Oly used back then much more than the Sonys in use now. Plus the sensor dimensions of the E-1 are double the E-10’s, giving it four times the sensor area. I hope this camera lasts as long as the E-10. I got it on eBay and it’s like new with only 1200 shutter actuations. Most of the pictures in today’s post were taken with the E-10, as I just got the E-1 today.

Here’s some recent pictures taken in the area:

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mushrooms

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Lake Siskyou

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one for Luber and the Big Dog

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plaza with my supermarket and hardware store

I was hiking through a canyon when I came upon this barrel:

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After I took the picture, I turned around and saw something I have been looking for for years. Old junk cars. I’m talking ’30s and ’40s. Dumped down the side of a hill and left for decades. Here’s a few photos I took but I’m going back over the next few months to do an extensive photo project of the junkers.

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Dillinger slept here

Summer Stop

Well, my two month stint in Myers Flat CA ended last week and I am now in Mt. Shasta CA. The drive here was brutal. At something like 150 miles, I figured it would be easy but it was almost all mountain driving- hairpin turns, climbing thousands of feet, dropping down a curving mountain road, all with a ton of trailer pushing me from behind. It took five hours! Plus the cat got car sick and yacked. But we made it and got set up. I’ll be staying here for the summer.

Speaking of the cat, he had some problems back in Myers Flat. I was sitting outside with him one sunny day. He had his harness on but I had his leash off. He was sitting near me while I was reading but, as I got engrossed in the book, I didn’t notice he wandered off. I spent a half hour looking for him. He finally emerged from the bushes. He had gotten into a fight with one of the resident feral cats. I’m not sure what happened to the other cat, but Shithead had a mouth full of fur. His harness had a rip in it and some punctures from bites. When I looked him over, I could only find one scratch under his left front leg. It appears that the harness protected him to a large extent.

A few days later, he started to limp.I figured he must have hurt himself when jumping off one of the counters. I took him to the vet for an x-ray. But the vet examined him and said nothing was broken so no x-ray was needed. She shaved the area where the fight wound was and showed me a lump. So it was a soft tissue injury from the fight, not anything broken or sprained from a jump. She said if the tumor didn’t reduce in a couple of weeks an operation would be needed. So after an antibiotic injection, we went home. So far, the tumor has reduced by 50%, so it looks good. Here he is stalking a bird:

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stalking cat

Here at Mount Shasta, the weather is still cold (we’re at 3600′), although it’s supposed to go into the 60s and 70s this week. There are nobody else within a quarter mile of me in every direction, so it’s nice and peacefull. I saw a wolf the other day, too. Here’s the view from my bed:

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bedroom view

Lake Siskiyou is a five minute walk. Here’s a photo with Mount Shasta in the background:

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Lake Siskiyou

I’ve been reading a lot. I try to have four books going, depending on my mood. Usually a work of fiction, one non-fiction (biography, history, politics, philosophy), something food related, and maybe a travel book. Of course, I always have Hemingway’s complete short stories available and Bukowski. Right now, I’m reading these:

  1. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. It recounts Theroux’s four-month journey by train in 1973 from London through Europe, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and his return via the Trans-Siberian Railway.
  2. Spider, Spin Me a Web: A Handbook for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block. The short essays were culled from Lawrence Block’s long-running monthly column about fiction writing for Writer’s Digest magazine.
  3. American Wino by Dan Dunn. A professional booze writer whose life spins out of control tries to piece it back together by embarking upon an epic wine-fueled adventure that takes him to every corner of the U.S.
  4. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman. An introduction to the field of textual criticism of the Bible.

Birthday

I recently had a birthday. Makes me think about what the Beach Boys would write if they started at this age:

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older,
than we wouldn’t have to wait so long,
to DIE!

I’m at the senior tween age- too young for Social Security but too old for pretty women to notice. Go ahead, use it. I’ll take credit when it spreads into common usage!

Yesterday, i noticed a lump on the cat’s tail. My first thought was cancer so I got out the flashlight and removed my glasses (I told you I was old). Turns out the fleshy protuberance had legs! Aw, his first tick. Ain’t that sweet. So onto Google I go. Honestly, what did I do before the Internet? The knowledge of the world at your fingertips! Well, as long as you have the critical faculties to get through the BS. Final result: me 1, ticks 0.

Of course, it’s raining today. What else. But the last two days have been nice, so I went for a couple of hikes each day. I found a trail that’s five miles away. It’s not very long but there are some elevation changes that make it interesting. Yesterday, there was nobody else around. Being alone in a forest of redwoods puts one in a Thoreauvian state of mind. I mean, I’m no Druid nor was it a Road to Damascus moment, but it was nice.

Here’s some pictures:

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redwoods along the Eel River

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along the trail

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A couple of shots of the port at Eureka CA:

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California redux

Well, I made it. Wednesday, leaving an hour late, I hit my goal of 515 miles. Thursday put on another 715 miles, leaving only 300 for Friday. But the last day was the hardest. I-5 is in terrible condition. Add the early morning drive through San Francisco and then a couple of hundred miles of twisty mountain roads, pulling a trailer and driving in intermittent rain, and you have a recipe for fun! But I arrived safely at Giant Redwoods RV where I’ll be until April 19.

The manager was nice enough to have me start on Monday, so I had a couple of days to unwind after that drive. Now, the first week is done. I work four days: two outside (6 hours each) and two inside (8 hours each). This week’s outside work involved shoveling wood chips into some sites and putting in some irrigation lines. I was pretty stiff by Wednesday morning! But then I spent Wed. and Thursday in the office, learning the POS system for reservations and the retail store. It’s the slow season now, so I will get some reading done. I finally replaced the Paperwhite that got stolen last summer. This looks to be my standard schedule now.

Here’s some pictures of the area. The first shows my trailer parked under a redwood:

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trailer under redwood

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trailer under redwood

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view from campsite

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another flower

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still another

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campsite view

Today I drove to Eureka CA, about 45 miles on the coast. It’s my second trip there. There’s a nice food co-op, some restaurants, and a decent bagel shop. The co-op has local, grass fed beef. And 80% ground hamburger is only $4.99 a pound (4.59 if you buy 10# or more). They also have 90% and 95% but I think a fat-free burger makes no sense. Anyway, I bought some of the 80% last week. Made a six ounce patty and some mashed potatoes and a side of peas. I nailed the temp on the burger and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. Next week, I’ll get some 95% and do a taste test.

I also got some beef liver at $2.99 a pound. I haven’t had liver and onions in ages. So I tossed a couple of bacon strips in a pan and, when they were ready to turn over, I added some sliced yellow onions. When the bacon was nearly done, I seasoned the liver and then gave it a dusting of flour before adding it to the pan. Only a few minutes on one side and then a couple on the other is all it takes. But as i was finishing, I realized I had no lemon juice. This dish definitely need some jazzing up with a shot of citrus. So, what to do, what to do? I looked around and spied a bottle of dry vermouth. Glugged about half a cup into the pan, scraped up the frond, and let it reduce. Man, that was great! That’s how I’m going to do it every time!

I stopped for lunch at Mike’s:

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Mike’s in Eureka CA

Garlic fries since 1943! How could I not? I had a chili burger, garlic fries and a chocolate shake. The fries were great- made from scratch inside, not frozen. Maybe a little too much salt, but I’ve cut back on salt, so I think ‘normal’ salted food seems over salted to me now. The burger is available with 1, 2, or 3 patties. I went with the single but I was afraid the chili would overwhelm it. Not to fear, the chili was not the Texas Red Hot style but much milder, so it worked out. I’ll definitely return to try the hot dogs.

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single burger with chili at Mike’s

Here’s some pictures I took on the way to Eureka:

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road bridge

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stream

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bridge

Scared

Well, no pictures of Bottomless Lakes State Park, as promised last episode. I didn’t stay there as long as I wanted because I was way behind in my eBay work. So I went back to Oasis SP, where there are fewer distractions.

Shithead, my cat, does love it here, though. A few days ago, I put him in his harness and took him out for a walk around sunset. He likes to hunt rabbits. He never comes close to catching one, but seems to enjoy the stalking. We stayed out a little longer than usual and it got dark. All of a sudden, he stopped and sat down. I didn’t think anything of it since he does that occasionally. After a few minutes, I felt him back into my legs. That he’s never done. I shined my flashlight, which had been off, around a bit and alighted on a pair of eyes about 20 yards away. This animal didn’t even flinch in the light. So I figured a retreat was in order. I picked up the cat and he was shaking. That has never happened! He’ll growl, or get his fur up, but I’ve never seen him scared. We took a wide berth around whatever it was and went straight home. Needless to say, he didn’t want to go out anymore that night. Of course, two days later, he was meowing to go. I’m not sure what it was, probably a coyote. Or maybe…

Anyway, I am leaving tomorrow for California. I got a summer gig as a breakfast chef at a lakeside resort near Mt. Shasta. It runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day but they said I could come up in April and help get the place ready for the summer rush. Meanwhile, I found an RV park looking for someone to start right away and work for a couple of months, helping to get that park ready for the summer. I was offered the job and gladly took it. What’s great is that it is only a couple hundred miles from the cooking job. So I leave tomorrow for a 1600 miles drive to redwood country. I’m excited- I’ve never been to northern Cali and never saw a redwood before.

After Labor Day, the plan is to return to New Mexico until the beginning of November, when I return to Kentucky for the Amazon gig. I hope to spend a few days in San Francisco and a few at the Grand canyon on my way back to NM. Then, after Amazon, I’ll head to Cajun country for a week and then on to New Mexico via San Antonio.

Here’s a couple shots of tonight’s sunset in New Mexico:

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New Mexico sunset

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New Mexico sunset