Monday, April 12, 2010

Days One and Two, On the Road

We got a lateish start Saturday morning, but being a weekend the traffic through LA was light and we made good time. In Gorman, the flowers are blooming. I'd call it a good year for the wildflowers, but not a great year. You judge. We love seeing the colors, especially when for much of the year this stretch is just desert.  All those bright yellows are mustard and poppies, the purple of the lupines isn't so obvious, but it's there to the naked eye. 
Then there was a long loooooong stretch up the 5, through the San Joaquin valley. This is the heart of California's productive farm land, and the primary impression this year is that a Water War is being waged between the farmers and the government. The underlying desert has never been more obvious. Much of the farmland is fallow or uncultivated, just lying there bare. The grapes (mostly raisin grapes here) seem to be doing well. Most of the nut tree orchards (almonds and pistachios) are doing well, particularly the mature ones. But we saw quite a few acres of abandoned orchards parched to death. There was no sign of former cotton crops (a notorious water-sucking crop) and little other than the grapes and the trees.   Oh, and the feedlots, full of cattle. We always make sure to close the car vents when we see those on the horizon, otherwise we Travel with Manure for miles. 

What there were signs of, on nearly every farm, was "A Congress-Created Dust Bowl." I'm not sure what that was about, but it was widespread.

They tell us in Long Beach that we've got a water crisis. It isn't obvious to us in the city, because actually the city has plenty of water. We throw away all the rain that falls in storm sewers. But the real crisis is in the farmland. I wish there was a way to get that through to people.

One nice item I noticed...throughout the southern part of the valley, nearly every freeway overpass has a large colony of swallows that has built mud nests under the roadway. They swoop and glide through the air, a joy to behold. And any help thinning out the masses of bugs that hit our windshield was appreciated!

We got into San Jose fairly early, and located The Garage, the restaurant that I saw on Diners, DriveIns and Dives.  San Jose actually has a nice downtown, and is a compact little town that's pretty easy to get around in. We found out the restaurant wasn't open until 5, and in talking to one of the staff who was setting up, we got his recommendation to get there early, as it could pack up quickly. It was a Saturday night, after all.  It's in a lovely neighborhood, too. Right down the block from San Jose State University. 

So we drove around near the airport looking for a hotel. I suspect we were on the wrong side of the airport, because the pickings were slim. John (and yes, I'm going to blame him for this) picked the Wyndham. As noted in my previous post, there wasn't much about the room that wasn't broken, dirty, worn or just wrong. Oh, wait. The climate control was excellent, for a hotel room. When the complaint card is only a third of the size it needed to be, you know you shouldn't stay at that hotel again. Word to the wise, eh?

But we got into the room in good time to change and go to dinner. Oh my. We each ordered the steak, which was marinated in something citrusy. So flavorful and tender! I got the roasted brussels sprouts, and John the Mac & Cheese. I got all the sprouts, because John won't eat them. I shared the M&C, which although not as good as mine, was perhaps the best I've ever had at a restaurant. Needs more crisping & breadcrumbs on top.  The sprouts were flavorful, roasted with whole cloves of garlic and bacon bits. 

We sat outside on the patio, which was a bit breezy but with the outdoor heater on, was very pleasant. The indoor part of the garage is very small, only 5 tables, as a good part of the kitchen is behind the counter. Everyone lines up at the counter to order, which takes a while. It's odd ordering food good enough for a fine-dining place at a counter, but we went with it. 

Then we had the vanilla bread pudding. They also serve chocolate BP. We should have gotten one of each, actually. The pudding part was smooth, infused with vanilla, warm, light, oh so good. It was covered with good whipped cream, slightly sweetened, and crunchy bits of nuts & what seemed like nougat bits or something. I don't know. If there's an ultimate bread pudding, this is it. I should have gotten several more of them. If you're ever in San Jose, do not miss this. Their other menu selectioons were very tempting as well. Next trip. We promise.

Then back to the Hotel Of Doom, to sleep. Oh, first we drove around looking for a Bed, Bath & Beyond to buy an air mattress. No, it doesn't make any sense. But we found one, purchased it, and packed it away in the car. It kept us out of the hotel room for another hour, so I call it a net win.

Day Two, to be continued....

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