Bamboo for the Pandas

A few weeks ago I got a call from the Sequoia Park Zoo, asking about bamboo.  I had apparently let them know that I had some and they were interested in getting some for the little red pandas. Who could say no?

When I bought my place back in ’93 I planted five black bamboos in the far corner.  I got them from a place called Bamboo and Maples that used to be  sort of inside the nursery that used to exist where the Safeway is now.  I used to love going there.  It was like an arboretum  and I miss it dearly.  Then they moved over to Hubbard Lane but didn’t last long.  The fellow who sold me the bamboos even planted them for me! They were only 4 or 5 feet then;  now they’re 12 feet or more. They are a lovely addition that turned a boring corner into a tropical  paradise if it were ever warm enough to sit on the bench and relax out there. It never is.

Anyway, the young people from the Zoo do a great job of harvesting the bamboo and it always looks better after they’ve been there.  The last time they came, they said the incessant rains had created a bamboo emergency. If you want to do your part to make sure those cute little devils have enough food and if you have bamboo in your yard, give the Zoo a call at 441 4263. They can use the help.

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Shopping For Weed In Denver

Those of you who read our account of our road trip may be forgiven for wondering why there was a black hole between Salina KS and Salt Lake City. We thought Denver deserved its own post.

Due to cowardice, we had endured our travels on Amtrak and driving West without any weed at all. The prospect of Colorado and legal weed loomed up before us, a shining city  of indulgence and relief.  Hicks that we are, we thought there would be a phalanx of weed shops at the border,  kind of like the signs at Smith River warning you of your Last Chance for cheap booze. Well, there was nothing like that.  The little town of Burlington,  with its high sidewalks and Western style storefronts, was devoid of any type of weed commerce. We asked a lady at a store who informed us “You have to go to Denver” for what we had in mind. We found a lovely little park a block from the downtown,  complete with restrooms and picnic tables and finished our Chinese  leftovers.

Chris’ GPS started directing us toward a place called “Peoria”.  I had my doubts but a couple of hours later we pulled up in front of an undistinguished building in an office park.   Peoria, it turns out, is an area near the Denver airport.  The building was clearly signed Light/Shade.  From the outside you might think it was a home decor store,  featuring window treatments. Once you go inside, it was a beehive of activity.  Someone takes your ID and you take a place in the line. There must have been thirty people working there. Compared to my usual shopping at Heart of Humboldt, this was like going to a Safeway. We fumbled though our selections.  I got some high CBD stuff labelled with the grower’s name, which I thought was interesting.   Chris got something called Golden Goat, which I think I’ve seen at HofH. I got some CBD salve.  We dropped $260. The prices for small buds were almost exactly the same as in Arcata. I was so overwhelmed  by the variety, I had to get out of there.  Te salve I bought came in a mini-mason jar with wood shavings as a cushion, like something from ULTA.

So here we were, at 5 in the afternoon  with a  horrendous traffic commute starting.  We had thought about trying to drive a couple more hours,  but in view of the fact that there were a number of motels right in the area, we  oped to stay where we were.  There was a Rodeway Inn just across the street  with a sign that said it had recently changed hands.  It was one of the nicest motels I’ve ever stayed at,  and the breakfast was excellent. ($79) For dinner we consulted the GPS and found there was a  Pizzeria Uno just a few doors down from Light/Shade.  Neither of us had been to a Uno in years but it sounded good.   Chris came back reporting that the restaurant was busy and the bar was lively and he’d had a good time.  The pizza and salad were great.  So much for Denver.

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ROAD TRIP 2016-PART TWO

The reason we decided to drive back from the East Coast was that a) I figured we’d be tired of trains and buses by that time and b) I got a killer deal from Enterprise thru Kayak that amounted to a coast to coast rental for ten days for $220.  My only previous experience with Enterprise was the Eureka office stiffed me when I rented a car for a trip to the Bay Area.  I waited awhile for them to come up with a car,  then ended driving  my own car. I can only report that this time our experience with Enterprise could not have been better.  Here’s where we drove to/through.

Albany NY-  An old but somewhat majestic small city. It was at  this point that the GPS on Chris’ phone became really useful. We located a place to stay -a Motel 6 on Watervliet Avenue run by a nice Indian couple- clean and basic for $64- and then we got overconfident and decided to try a Chinese/Japanese hybrid on the main drag called ( I think)  the Ichiban, although when you Google it  it comes up Takara.  In any event, it was AWFUL- the worst meal of the trip. My tonkatsu was like pieces of wood and what Chris got was equally horrible. Be forwarned!

Erie PA-We had been debating whether to try to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland but stopped short of Cleveland to check out Erie PA.  We drove for several miles along the shore of Lake Erie, the drove into Erie, which seemed to be a nice town down on its luck.  Lots of empty storefronts and homeless folks- this is the northern edge of the Rust Belt-but when you go down towards the harbor, there is nice development and a Sheraton with harbor views that was totally sold out on a Monday night. The harbor 

cruise wasn’t running, this being October and all- but there were a fair amount of restaurants and I would definitely consider Erie if I were to go back. We found a hotel (we were using Trip Advisor at this point), the Avalon Hotel and Conference Center which was a real deal at $86.  Super hotel, quiet with every possible amenity, big rooms, and a nice breakfast. We got good Chinese takeout too, but I can’t recall where.

 

Terre Haute IN-  Indiana was the WIERDEST place on the trip, hands down. The state as observed from Hwy 70 is a jumble of billboard advertising  for fundamentalist churches, porn shops and Republican candidates.  We were enchanted to find a  place called Brazil IN which supposedly had three motels but when we got there we couldn’t find them. We asked at a store where the clerk said they were three or four miles down the road but she’d never seen them and couldn’t say how they were.  We decided to continue on to Terre Haute, but when we got there and inquired at the Hollday Inn, we were told the entire town had been sold out because of a training conference for the local prison.  The only place that had a vacancy was a one-star outfit called the Statesman, which, luckily, had just changed hands and was trying to improve itself.  It really wasn’t too bad-  the main flaw was a noisy heater and also the faucet which had just been installed was too short for the sink and discharged its water all over the counter instead of into the sink. The Indian proprietor was very pleasant but his English was really bad.  When we commented about  the shortage of rooms in town, his version was that there was a festival and that the vendors had taken all the rooms.  On the road into town there was a high overhead sign advertising something called the Tokyo so we took a chance.  Chris was still indignant over the horrilble meal in Albany, so when we entered  the Tokyo  he interrogated the hostess and the other staff about  where the chefs had learned their trade,  in other words, were they Japanese.  We had a very nice meal but oddly, the salad was the star of the show-  chilled, fresh, crunchy.  Terre Haute being a college town, there were some amenities, like a Borders,  so it passed the “survivable” test.

Salina KS-  Chris came up with the fact that Salina is the geographic center of the US.  All I can say is that the PEOPLE in Salina were the nicest we met anywhere, cheerful, helpful. We even found decent Chinese food! Though we can’t remember where.  Our lodging was at a Baymont Inn and was very satisfactory although they are bcoming infected with the high-bed syndrome. At least this one I could get into. We have stayed at Baymonts before in Ohio. They are all new and have a small pool that no one uses because they don’t expect to find a pool there.  Good breakfast, room $77.

Denver CO- to be addressed in a separate post.

SLC UT-  We had a very long day driving to Salt Lake and I have little memory of the drive. My receipts indicate that we stayed in a  Ramada on South State Street for $77 but I couldn’t tell you much about it.  The fact is, that we had no complaints.  Chris came up with some good Chinese takeout  and we were both extremely road-weary by that time.

Reno NV-  A long boring drive across the high desert.  Somehow we got to talking about Mexican food and the fact that Chris had never enjoyed itl.  Being a good sport, he agreed to try it once more and we found  ourselves eating a late lunch at a jolly little place called Mariscos Del Rey in Winnemucca. The bar was busy at 2pm and the food was darned good,  though not good enough to entice me back to Winnemucca or to entice Chris into trying Mexican again, though he was a good sport about it.

Reno NV-  As we approached Reno I had visions of us staying in the area near the Peppertree but the GPS guided us to Harrah’s. It was cheap ($60) but not very relaxing. The parking grage is apparently on or near the train station and when the train goes though, the noise is absolutely terrifying, like being beneath the El in Chicago. Adding to our gloom were a lot of scary stories on the TV about a first winter storm and not being able to get through the mountains the next day. The tawdry casino didn’t entice me out of the room and  we got takeout from an in-house noodle place, not bad at all. We got up at the crack of dawn and ran into torrential rains -HEAVY rains- all the way from Truckee to Sacramento, where it let up a little.

SF- We decided to spend the last night in San Francisco even though we had vowed to spend no more nights in overpriced SF but Chris came up with one of those coupon books they have at the rest stops which had a coupon for the Royal Pacific for $89. We’ve all stayed at the Royal Pacific, right?  It was MUCH nicer than I remembered, nice shower, spacious room.  It had been so long for me that my memory of the neighborhood was ‘way off;  I had thought the Yank Sing was across the street and I couldn’t find Enrico’s on Broadway where it used to be.  (Once I got back to my computer I discovered that Yank Sing has two locations now,  both south of Market,  and Enrico’s closed in 2006.)

The next day we returned the rental car to Enterprise at its Moscone Center location which was a short walk from the Transbay Terminal.  The return went smoothly although I’m still waiting for a bill for the approximately 14 toll booths we whizzed by. We parted ways -still friends- me to the 145 bus to Eureka, him to the 4pm bus to LA.  I got in after 10pm on Hallowe’en night.  The City Cab picked me up as soon as they could but I’d make other arrangements next time.   The McDonald’s closes at 11 and there’s no safe place to wait unless someone lets you in.

It’s good to be home.

END

 

 

 

 

ROAD TRIP 2016- PART ONE: Chicago; NYC; Philadelphia; Boston

The following is offered for those who may find it helpful or amusing. My Traveling Companion, Chris,  and I were on the road for almost a month -which was about a week too long- so here is the record of our journey.

We left Eureka on Oct 7 on the Greyhound to San Francisco,  since we have no direct access to AMTRAK,   The trip was uneventful and the bus stops at McDonalds in Willits as aways. We ate many McD’s meals  on this trip, especially for breakfast.  It’s cheap and it’s edible. Once in SF, we had to get to our hotel on Lombard Street and I had my first experience with Uber,  which Chris had joined just a few days before. What can you say about Uber?  IT WORKS and I hope they have it here soon.  Our hotel, the Redwood Inn, on Lombard near Gough, was totally forgettable –  fridge but no microwave -and cost us $179, making it $200 with tax.  We found a great Chinese restaurant just two blocks away on Gough.   It was empty and turned out to be one of those joints that lives on takeout. It was delicious and I wish I had noted the name.

One reason I had picked the Redwood Inn was  that I was worried about connecting to the AMTRAK bus which would take us to the train at Emeryville. Our Uber picked us up on time at 645am and got us to the temporary Transbay Terminal at 200 Folsom.  From there we took an AMTRAK bus to Emeryville and we settled into our compartment.  The fare  to Chicago was $615 which included three meals a day.  The FOOD WAS GOOD, a lot better than I had remembered from our last AMTRAK trip which must have been ten years go, on the Portlend-Chicago ‘Empire Builder” with its spectacular scenery. Our current train, the California Zephyr,  was equally scenic and the views from our roommette were so good we didn’t feel the need to spend much time in the Observaton car.  The schedules have improved since I first took this train back in the ‘Seventies.  Back then I recall having to get up at the crack of dawn to enjoy the ascent ito the Sierras. This was much ore civilized and we spent the afternoon ooing and awwing and watching for wildlife, which we didn’t see.  Saw lots of mountains, though.

The beds in these compartments have to be pulled down, either by a staff person who will want to do it too early or by YOU if you are agile enough to pull yourself up to the higher level. When you’re all set up and tucked in, it’s definitely cozy and you definitely don’t have trouble sleeping.

Over the two and a half days aboard we sampled everything on their menu and discovered that the steaks and the burgers were truly outstanding.  I didn’t try the steak until the last night which was dumb since it’s all included. We had a few meals in the dining car but I found the lurching of the train unpleasant enough that  I took most of my meals in our car. Our fellow passengers were an affable group, which is usually the case on AMTRAK.

The  views outside had gone from mountains to prairies to farmland  to the industirial dreariness of thhe  long approach to Union Station.  What a beautiful station!   Can’t rememberi we took a cab or Uber to the hotel,  the City Suites in Boystown, where we’d stayed before;.  I like Boystown because I feel so safe there plus it has every kind of food or amenity  under the sun.

The Suites is on busy Belmont,  practically on top of the El station, but manages to be a charming retreat from the noise.  There was a problem with our  TV which the help couldn’t fix right away so we  were moved  to another room, twice as big as the first. It was a true suite with a separate bedroom and definitely roomy.  Our total for four nights was $794. Not cheap but not a rip either.

I love Chicago so much I enjoy just being there,  not to mention that everywhere you look there’s something interesting.  Dinners included a Thai noodle place called Cozy Noodles and Rice on Sheffield, Blaze Pizza and Potbelly Sandwiches, and an Austrian dinner at Julius Meinl, an outpost of an Austrian chain of coffeehouses  oddly located just down from Wrigley.  We had a great meal also at Sylvia’s, a Polish place ‘way down Belmont.  We loved the Blue Man Group again and also a visit to the Annoyance Theater and Bar, where the show included young comics and  a stripper (!).  On our last morning we took a bus to Oak Park where the Architecture Institute led a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright houses;.  It was a beautiful morning and a great way to end our Chicago visit.

New York- the Lakeshore Limited train to NYC is only about 24 hours and doesn’t have the spectacular scenery of the California stretch.(Departs at 930 pm and arrives in NYC at 630 pm.  $573 for the two of us,)  We got into Penn Station and found our way to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) downstairs. It really was only a fifteen-minute ride and our hotel, the Asiatic,  was a ten-minute walk. Flushing is the San Gabriel Valley of New York, about a million Chinese in the vicinity. If Chris had’t been there, I would have found it terrifying because English street signs are in short supply. Our room at the Asiatic cost us $125 on the Saturday and $116 on the Sunday and Monday, including an okay breakfast.  A room in Manhattan would have been at least three times as much.  I hate subways so I stayed close to Flushing but Chris checked out Greenwich Village and brought me a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s. It was remarkable. The Asiatic is a few doors down from the famous  Shanghai Joe’s, which may or may not be the inventor of the famous Soup Dumplings which have to be tasted to be believed. (They chill broth and construct the dumpling around it, then boil it.  They are unbelievable and I don’t know of anyplace in Eureka that has them.)

Philadelphia-  a brief train ride through New Jersey brought us to Philly, which was THE BEST PLACE WE VISITED, BY FAR.  We had good weather for the three days, which helped. We stayed in the  Center City area which is close to the Independence Hall and close enough to the hop-on-hop-off bus that we got free pickups at our hotel, The Alexander Inn, at 12th and Spruce.  The Inn was built in 1900 but has been lovingly renovated and I can’t recall a better stay. All the while we were traveling we were rushing “home” each night to catch up on the latest chapter of the soap opera I came to think of as “The Sins of Donald Trump.” Philadelphia was satisfactorily festooned with Clinton/Kaine signs, in fact the folks at the Alexander Inn were stashing signs in the lobby for the folks who were tabling on the corner. I can’t say much about the Inn except that it was WONDERFUL and the location couldn’t have been better, just a few blocks from the Reading Terminal Market, a kind of uber food court that takes up a whole block. Our room was $129 a night and I would definitely stay there again if I should  be lucky enough to return to Philadelphia again. The city is green, charming, lively and historic with delights on every corner. I realize were were probably in the best part of town, but it was great.  Let me close with a note about the food. We ate a couple of takeout meals from Giorgio on Pine Street, a couple of blocks away. and both their pizza and their pasta was excellent. A short bus ride took us to the Sakura on Race Street, a Chinese-Japanese hybrid of the type I usually avoid but this was  great.  Soup dumplings! Everything was excellent and we would have gone back  if we had had another day. Anyway, FIVE STARS for Philadelphia.

Boston-  I didn’t see much of Boston because  we only stayed two nights,  and it rained the whole time.  And I hated the hotel , the Omni Parker House,  which we were really jazzed about staying at (I don’t often go for fancy hotels).  The fabled Parker House , where JFK proposed to Jackie,   has a beautiful lobby and plenty of obsequious staff but the rooms are in a nine-story tower, not in an old building. For a “bargain” rate of $269 for a Senior ADA room, you get a room with a couple of grab bars as their concession to accessibility  and a bed that was so high off the floor I couldn’t get in!  I won’t describe the contortions I went through to get into that bed.  I’m 5’2″ and the bed was at chest level.  I ran into this once before , at a elegant antebellum B&B in South Carolina,  but there they gave you an elegant stepstool to climb in with.  But at the Omni, no stepstool, no paper, no breakfast, no nuthin’. As for food, I tried a lobster roll, my first, and was vaguely disappointed. It was from Luke’s and  while lobster itself was good the roll was too sweet  for my taste. This was very close to Chinatown and Chris came up with good takeout  fro a place having its grand opening,  called he Taiwan Cafe or something like that. The food was very good.  I  didn’t  want to go out in the rain but Chris wanted to see Harvard so he took a subway ad came back to report that he hadn’t been able to access  the library there because  he was not a Harvard student. He found his way to the MIT campus, which had looser rules, and ended up taking a dump in the basement bathroom of the MIT library. He was properly energized after this experience and ready to move on to the next phase of our trip.

Will Someone Please Buy The Eureka Inn?

You don’t hear much about the Eureka Inn these days. When the current owner took over, the whole town turned out to welcome him but since then things have been pretty quiet.  There hasn’t been much promotion, the service clubs that used to meet there have gone elsewhere and only the occasional music performances seem to be bringing people in.

I had a friend stay there over the Fourth .  Her room was fine, the cold breakfast was acceptable but check this out:  there is NO TELEPHONE ACCESS to the Inn from 8am until around 930!!!!  I was calling to reach my friend and kept getting transferred to another number that no one ever answered.  I finally reached her on her cell but by that time I wondered what would people do in an emergency.  I called back about 930 and the woman who answered told me nonchalantly that, yes, there was no telephone response during  breakfast hours because they don’t have enough staff to answer the phone and serve coffee, rolls and hard boiled eggs at the same time.

So this is where they’re at after several years.  The owner’s lack of ambition and , apparently, money, have left us with exactly  the kind of operation we dreaded upon hearing that his background consisted of owning a Day’s Inn, I think it was in Monterey.

I’m sure they are nice people but PLEASE GOD LET SOMEONE BUY THE EUREKA INN who knows how to run a fine establishment. It can limp along forever but what a damn shame.  This is the place where Shirley Temple and Cornelius Vanderbilt stayed (not together).  If only someone with smarts and money would take over this wonderful place, which used to be the heart and soul of the community.  Light a candle.

END

HARBOR GROUP TO MEET WEDNESDAY JUNE 29- THA to present

The Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group is having its monthly luncheon on Wednesday, June 29 at the Cookhouse which will feature a presentation by the Timber Heritage Association. Those are the great folks who bring out the speeder trains on holidays and are working on a round-the-Bay tourist train.  

The flyer for the event is HERE.   Pork steak! See you there!

END

FREE hospitality classes

From the Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau:

“All front desk staff, concierge and visitor-serving employees in Humboldt County’s hospitality industry are invited to attend a free concierge classroom at the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center.

According to the release, the class will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on both Monday, May 2 and Monday, May 9, and include a free lunch. The tourism center is located at 205 G Street in Old Town Eureka.

The release states that the courses will feature Paul McNally, the manager of the Ingomar Club, who will talk about hospitality etiquette, including dress, grooming, speech and behavior to provide “World Class Service”; Cari Shafer, manager of the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka, who will discuss front desk customer service issues and service recovery for “Making It Right”; and Alegria Sita, wedding officiant and owner of Gala Weddings & Events, who will provide tips on how to make referrals, assist guests and convince them to “Stay Another Day.”

Participants will also get a free Humboldt canvas tote bag, according to the release.

Call or email the Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau at 707-4435097 or admin@redwoods.info to reserve a spot in one of these classes.”

I am delighted to see another of these programs come along.  They are needed periodically. I blogged before about taking a visitor to the old Seafood Grotto where she asked the waitress what there was to do in the area and the waitress answered “Nothing”.  Then she asked about the oyster stew and the waitress wrinkled her nose and said “Eeeww! I wouldn’t eat those things!”  They closed shortly after.  Wonder where she’s working now?

END