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Road trip to California and back…

August 14, 2010

There are no recipes in this post.

I’ve been out of the kitchen since August 4 because we were on an enjoyable road trip to see friends and family in California. I decided to chronicle our trip in my blog, mostly for myself so I can remember some of the more memorable places for future trips.

If you’re ever traveling on the northern California or Oregon coasts, you may find this post helpful. If you’re just here for the food, I promise I’ll be back in a day or two with a new recipe! :)

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We left on  August 5. The first leg of our trip was 639 miles to Corning, California. We have always stopped in the Sutherlin/Roseburg area of Oregon for lunch on the way. It’s about halfway. Our regular restaurant had let us down the last few times so I searched for something new. We chose Charley’s BBQ in Roseburg and found a new favorite spot. Everything is smoked over a wood fire and they offer a variety of BBQ sauces. I tried the pork sandwich and Bob had the brisket sandwich. The pork was the better choice; it was delicious! I will always choose the French fries for my side dish because they were possibly the best fries I have ever had! They were homemade, fried perfectly – not at all greasy or soggy. The location of the restaurant is perfect for a road trip. It’s an easy off and back on I-5 at Exit 124.

After about 11 hours we made it to the Southern Cross Ranch in Corning.  It’s always fun to visit Mike and Liz on their ranch. They have gorgeous quarter horses and sheep; we had the BEST roast lamb on our first night. I’ve never had lamb as good as the lamb that they raise; it’s always a treat!

After a good night’s sleep we all drove in to Chico, which is a beautiful college town. There are lots of trees and interesting homes. We had a coffee break at Grilla Bites; we weren’t ready for lunch, but they have a fabulous-looking salad bar. It’s a good place to remember.

On Saturday we drove to Dublin to visit Bob’s brother, Mark, and his wife, Erica. We were also glad that we had a chance to see our nephews, Matt and Russ. It had been too long.

Erica is an excellent cook and a gardener extraordinaire so we were treated to some delicious feasts at their house. Erica and Mark made their special grilled salmon, and we enjoyed tomatoes, basil, and green beans fresh from the garden. Erica also made her famous mile-high apple pie. Delicious!

Mark and Erica are avid cyclists; Bob got a lesson about bicycling on a modern bike and went off on a 16.6 mile ride with them while I went for a walk around their lovely neighborhood.

Bob, Mark and Erica:~

A highlight of our visit with Mark and Erica was the opportunity to fly in their Cessna 182 to Columbia, CA.

Mark and Erica and their Cessna 182:

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Here I am enjoying the ride:

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Columbia is an old gold-mining town; it’s now a California State Park and a well-preserved gold rush town. It was very interesting to see; there’s lots of history, a historic hotel, shops and restaurants. We had an excellent lunch at Bart’s Black Skillet. Bob said his Reuben sandwich may have been the best one he’s ever had.

After seeing Columbia, we took the short hike back to the airport and went off for a San Francisco Bay tour. Mark had checked with the weather, and found out that it was clear at the San Francisco Airport. It was clear at the airport, but most of the city was blanketed in fog. It was still a lovely flight and we loved the experience of flying with Mark and Erica.

The next day we left for Half Moon Bay to see our friends, Jim and Kay. Their lovely home is just a short block to the beach; it’s a beautiful spot for walking. Kay made a fabulous dinner that included barbecued ribs and okra! Kay knows how to cook okra; it’s the first time I have ever enjoyed it. I know that she tossed it with cornmeal and sautéed it, but I didn’t catch any other details. I think it may be difficult for me to find okra as fresh as the okra that she had found at her farmers’ market.

Jim and Kay introduced us to an excellent seafood restaurant, Barbara’s Fish Trap in Half Moon Bay. The scallops I had were very lightly breaded; they were tender and cooked perfectly. They don’t take reservations, but this is definitely a place that is “worth the wait”. They also don’t take credit cards or checks, so you will need to have cash.

From Half Moon Bay we left on a cool and foggy morning to drive up the California and Oregon coasts.

We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and took California Highway 1.

The Golden Gate Bridge in the fog:

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It’s a very scenic drive; I had never driven up the Northern California Coast and I highly recommend it. It’s so remote that it’s not at all “touristy”.

The drive from Rockport to Leggett was much twistier than we had expected. It’s a beautiful drive over the mountains (summit 1894 feet) to Leggett where you connect with Highway 101.

From Leggett we headed north on 101 to Eureka, where we stayed at a Super 8. It was a typical Super 8; it was OK. It was only for 1 night. We did find, however, the perfect place for dinner.

Driving through town I spotted an interesting little place called Bless My Soul Café, the home of Sweet Mama Janisse. It is there that we had one of the best meals of our trip.

Bless My Soul Café

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Marie Janisse’s Creole grandmother taught her how to cook when she was growing up in Louisiana. After a successful catering career in the Los Angeles area (serving dignitaries, and stars and crews of the movie industry), Sweet Mama Janisse moved to Eureka and opened Bless My Soul Café in 2001.  We had the pleasure of meeting her and talking with her about her food and her journey from Louisiana to Eureka. It was a very memorable meal. Her soul food is the “real deal” and it was absolutely delicious! We brought home some of her Chili Pepper Paste, and now we’re afraid that it will be gone too quickly.

From Eureka, we headed north up 101. It was still cloudy, cool and, in some areas, foggy, but it was beautiful, nonetheless.

We stopped at Samuel H Boardman State Park, just north of Brookings, Oregon, to enjoy the scenery. It was beautiful, even if it was a bit foggy.

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Bob is dwarfed by the big rocks:

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In Gold Beach, OR, we found a great lunch spot—The Port Hole Café, located on the south side of the mouth of the Rogue River. The building was originally a cannery (you can still buy local canned tuna and salmon in the adjacent shop). The restaurant has a great view of the water and has an interesting menu. I think Bob picked the winner; I tasted his “Blackened Fish San” (grilled Pacific cod with Cajun spice piled on a bun) and it was excellent!

We continued north  past the famous Oregon sand dunes; we stopped in Florence to see the old site of Bob’s aunt and uncle’s home and restaurant on the southwest shore of Woahink Lake. There’s a vacant lot where the restaurant once stood, and the area that was a gravel parking area is all grown over. Bob was surprised to notice that there are still a couple of pieces of the dock left that Bob’s dad and uncle built. He has fond memories of the summer he spent visiting when he was 15; he and his cousins, Paul and Carol, had many fun adventures on the lake and in the surrounding woods.

Continuing north, we headed up to Lincoln City.

My AAA book recommended the Nordic Oceanfront Inn; the desk clerk informed us that they had no reasonably priced rooms available.

We checked out The Sea Horse next door and got a great room for only $1 more than we had paid at Super 8! The motel is a couple of blocks off of 101 and perched on a bluff above the beach. Most of the rooms have fabulous views and there are stairs that lead down to the beach. There are a few 2 and 3 bedroom houses available for families, or for 2 or 3 couples to share. The rates are very reasonable; this is a place to know about if you’re ever staying in Lincoln City.

A Viking pointing the way to the Nordic Oceanfront Inn, but we stayed at The Sea Horse right behind him.

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We had dinner at Kyllo’s which was good, not great. It is, however, located right on the beach, so after dinner we walked on the beach a bit. There were a few bon fires and a couple of fireworks.

On our last day, we headed up 101 to Tillamook; we stopped at the Tillamook Creamery for breakfast and a tour. I have always wanted to see it and was not disappointed. We got there at about 9:30; by the time we left it was getting really crowded. It’s best to go early. They open at 8:00am.

Cutting 40 pound loafs of sharp cheddar into 2 pound loafs at the Tillamook Creamery:

Just before we got to the Creamery, we spotted the Tillamook Air Museum. After our cheese tour we headed back to check it out. It’s housed in a hangar that was built in 1943 for K-class blimps used for anti-submarine coast patrol and convoy escort. Today it’s the home for all kinds of interesting aircraft. I enjoyed seeing a PBY-Catalina; my dad was a PBY Navy Captain in WWII. We spent the better part of an hour at the museum; I highly recommend it if you are in the area.

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PBY-Catalina:

We continued north along the coast; we found that the northern Oregon coast has a lot more traffic, shops and restaurants than the southern Oregon coast. It feels a bit more “touristy”. Perhaps it’s because of its proximity to Portland and Seattle.

We saw Haystack Rock (the world’s 3rd largest monolith) off Cannon Beach but bypassed the town to continue on to Seaside where we enjoyed razor clams for lunch at The Buoy’s Best Fish House. The weather was beautiful and we sat outside at a wooden bench and table overlooking a small river. The razor clams were available deep fried or “grilled” (they actually seemed lightly sautéed); we opted for the grilled and they were quite good. It was a very pleasant and quick lunch stop.

After lunch we drove on 101 to Astoria and then on Highway 30 to the Lewis and Clark Bridge that crosses the Columbia River at Rainier, OR. It was a short jaunt east to connect with I-5 just south of Kelso, and then it was I-5 all the way to Seattle.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    August 14, 2010 6:27 pm

    I remember seeing that dock in Florence :) I also remember Dad’s OBSESSION with finding razor clams when we traveled down the southern Oregon coast–he had to try and find them everywhere!

    • August 16, 2010 3:54 pm

      Razor clams really are good! Grandma and Grampa used to go clamming for them on the Washington coast.

  2. August 15, 2010 7:32 am

    What a lovely trip! I love traveling on the West Coast, and it seems like you had a wonderful time. With the heat we’re having in Texas, Northern California seems especially appealing! I just found your blog this morning, and I’m glad that I did!

    • August 16, 2010 3:56 pm

      Thanks for your kind words, Monet, and welcome to my blog!

      We’re actually having a heat wave right now in Seattle–it got up to 96 degrees yesterday. It will only last about 3 days, though, and then we’ll be back to normal. :)

  3. August 15, 2010 9:36 am

    great pics! Although I’m living in LA for the present (Native) I miss No. California – lived there for 15 years and will move back next year – a beautiful place to be!

    • August 16, 2010 3:58 pm

      I can see why you’re anxious to move back, Debbie. It is spectacular country and so peaceful compared to the scene in LA!

  4. August 15, 2010 9:36 am

    That looks like loads of fun, I recently moved to California and I’m still discovering its wonders. Thank you for your tips.

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