Monday, July 18, 2011

Rev it Up! 4-Wheel-driving the mountains of Colorado

Old slough used for mining.
So, my dear friend Gayle gave me a delightful book Guide to Colorado Backroads and 4-Wheel Drive Trails as a going away present.  I was actually very excited about this book since my husband is 1 part city boy, 1 part BBQ master, and 27 parts "backroads and 4-wheel-drive trail lover."

We were looking for a mountainy thing to do this weekend, especially to get away from the 100 degree weather, so we turned to Gayle's present.  This book categorizes trails as Easy, Moderate, and Difficult. Since the descriptions on most of the Difficult trails included terms like "probable roll overs and body damage"  we decided to try the trails marked Easy then work our way to the death trails.
We followed the Snake River a lot of the way, but this is a
creek that we had to cross twice.
However, according to the book Chihuahua Gulch trail looked amazing even with it's Moderate rating and TWO water crossings.

To be honest I'm not a huge 4-wheeling hobbyist.  I never saw the temptation of riding around rocks and cliffs while being tossed around the cab of a pick up like an old yogurt container. The kids and Kurt LOVE it so I usually just went along.  I was so clinched that I feel I ran a marathon instead of sitting in John Rambo (Kurt's truck).

Harp in John Rambo.
Yet after this trip I am hooked.  The scenery was breathtaking.  The thrill of water crossings and riding the edge of cliffs is like the ups and downs of a rollercoaster.  Next time we are finding one with a campsite and maybe even THREE water crossings.  It's an amazing way to see the glorious mountains of Colorado.

And if you don't buy it, just look at the pictures:
Indian Paintbrush
View from the top!
This is one of the wildflowers  we saw along
the trail.  Rocky Mountain Columbine
(the state flower).
One of the water crossings.  When we waded through it
reached up to Kurt's knees.  This did not deter my mighty
4-wheel companions.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lakeside Amusement Park

While our cousins came over to see us all the way from Georgia, we were stranded at our house, trying to find something to do. We nearly hung ourselves, when I remembered a little amusement park called “Lakeside Amusement Park.” Built in 1908, it's only 2 miles from our house so we decided to set off right away, and after a short car trip, we reached the parking lot and paid the 2 dollar admission. After purchasing our tickets to the rides, we each set off. I spied a go-cart track, and immediately headed over. It was just a circular track with four carts and I swear they go at least 20mph. It was my favorite ride.  
There were two roller-coasters, and they were pretty fun. One roller-coaster was a traditional, 6 car, two-person-per-car, metal-track, roller-coaster.  What about the other one?  Its name was The Wild Chipmunk, which should tell you what decade it came from, and it was the weirdest roller-coaster I have ever seen. It’s just one-car, and you can only fit two people in that car. This ride was NOT fun. You feel like you’re going to fly off the track, and that’s before the first actual hill.
Next, we headed over to the area with the “Zoom.” And that’s basically this park’s version of the Panic Plunge. I was too scared to go on, but everyone else went on at least once. It wasn’t very fun for my Mom, who was crying the whole time.

After the Zoom, I went over to the Bumper Cars, which were definitely the best bumper cars I ever been on. You could only go one way, and they were FAST! After crashing into Mom a few hundred thousand times, the rain picked up, thus concluding our visit. All in all, it was a lot of fun.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Do I Sense a Chaaallennnge?
The ten minute walk with ten bucks lunch challenge

There are so many excellent looking restaurants in the Berkeley neighborhood we decided to throw down a $10 lunch challenge to see who could get the best lunch in our ‘hood for ten bucks or less. We figured it would not only help us decide on a new lunch spot for the fam, but also allow us to try 4 new restaurants. All of the restaurants were on Tennyson Street except for Tacos Jalisco, which is on 38th, and are no more than a ten-minute walk from our house.

We started the challenge with Amanda’s choice at Swing Thai, .2 miles away from our house – about a five minute walk.

Walking in we noticed it very clean and classy with a modern Asian feel – in other words, no cheesy paper lanterns or metal chairs with red vinyl seats. We were greeted by a smiling hostess and seated immediately. The rest of us sat around like a bunch of sad-sacks while Amanda decided what to order. She decided on the Pad Thai and while it took quite a while to prepare, it was extremely hot and fresh when it arrived.
Amanda said it was the best Pad Thai she’d ever had. It had a nice hint of peanut and unlike most pad thai, was not overly sweet. She did order the mild and it could have used a little more kick – next time she’ll try medium.

Next we moseyed our way across the street to the Cozy Cottage. It was also .2 miles from home and google maps said it would have only taken us four minutes to walk here.

We were met at the door right away and Ainslee decided she wanted to sit outside. It was starting to get a little hot out, so the hostess moved a table into the shade for us.

This place had a huge menu, with tons of options under ten bucks. Ainslee narrowed it down to two options, the Cozy Blintzes with fruit and cream cheese and a classic cheeseburger. After a protracted pros and cons session – longer than death-row inmates take to decide on a last meal – she went with the burger.

The burger was big and dripping with juices, Harper (who was looking a little famished by this point) said it made him start foaming at the mouth. The burger had a big, beefy flavor that tasted more like a homemade patty than a bland restaurant hockey puck. Ains loaded it up with tomatoes, onions and lettuce and dug in, juices running down her chin the whole time.

Harper and I were feeling peckish by this point and couldn’t wait to dig in to our own lunches. Harper chose DJ’s Berkerly Café, which we mentioned in an earlier blog post. It was .4 miles and 8 minutes from the homestead.

DJ’s is a breakfast and brunch place, with lunch items limited to a few sandwiches. Inside, the exposed brick walls and humming duct work overhead give it a relaxed, loft feel and I can imagine this place being popular in Portland.

The waitress remembered us from our earlier visit and was as perky and Rachel Ray-like as ever. Harper went with the strawberry stuffed French toast, which is sort of a misnomer because it’s actually stuffed with strawberry cream cheese.

This was definitely the best tasting meal of the challenge. The French toast was deliciously sweet, without being cloying and the tangy cream cheese inside kicked it a few rungs up the flavor ladder.
By this time I was hungry enough to, as my step-dad from Maine likes to say, “eat the ass-end of a skunk and use his tail to wipe my face.”

We walked around the corner from DJ’s to Tacos Jalisco, also .4 miles and 8 minutes from Casa de Workman.

Walking in was like walking in to a restaurant that had been frozen in time in 1974 and was just thawed by a team of paleontologists. The cheesy décor, the placemats that try to make us bilingual, the booths that were a little to close and a little too high. Needless to say, I loved it.

I ordered the taco plate with two steak tacos and two tongue tacos. The waitress, who was a little surly but showed a lot of cleavage so I didn’t mind, brought us a basket of warm tortilla chips and an assortment of delicious salsas.

My tacos arrived steaming and sizzling, each one on two little corn tortillas – just the way they’re supposed to. They were very basic, meat, onions, cilantro and a lime to squeeze over the top. The steak tacos were a little more flavorful and tender than the tongue, but both were excellent.

The Winner

So, this challenge did have a winner and a loser. We devised a complicated criteria consisting of eight elements ranging from taste and presentation to price and distance from home. We assigned points in each category and chose the winner based on the results.

First place – Cozy Cottage
A combination of atmosphere, service, choices and distance from home made this the narrow victor.

Second Place – DJ’s Berkeley Café
Great service and delicious food made this a tough decision.

Third place – Swing Thai
Good atmosphere, excellent food and proximity to home made this an excellent choice.

Fourth Place – Tacos Jalisco
I totally lost it when I ordered the tongue tacos. The kids were too creeped out to give it high scores.

Winners – us!
For having so many excellent food choices within walking distance of our house.  The best part was freaking out the wait staff when only one of us ordered and the rest of us looked on drooling.