21 Roadtrip Tales for ‘22 (Part 3)

(Part 2 of these 21 Roadtrip Tales can be accessed at the following link)

15) The Old Man and the C(ook) – my parents’ are definitely not getting any younger; I can see it every time I manage to visit them on the West Coast. One of the few things I really miss since moving out to the Midwest is seeing them in person on a regular basis. Obviously, that feeling applies to my siblings, in-laws and their children, as well as the myriad of uncles and aunts and cousins that I have on my side of the family. But odds are, time will claim my parents first before almost any of the latter.

My spouse is a great cook, and I can whip some Filipino staples when I’m in the mood, but I miss my Dad’s cooking also on a regular basis. My old man has been hobbled a bit by various physical ailments, but one thing that has always seemed to give him life is being perched in front of an oven. His first big paying job, if you will, was working as a cook for a variety of US Navy ships and facilities, a job he did with aplomb for most of the 20 years he served our country. It’s the one place I almost always can expect to find him, either cooking up a simple garlic fried rice and easily fried protein for breakfast, or making sure the roast beef or lasagna was baking up perfectly for one of our bigger shindigs.

I secretly took a nice long look at him in action preparing for our family Christmas dinner. He may be slowing down, but in front of those four burners and stove, he’s like a maestro. I’d like to think a perfect afterlife for him is doing the exact same thing, cooking up delicious dishes and making whatever heaven he ends up in smell absolutely wonderful, but without the sweat and creaky body that this kind of job generates.

16) Where Adam & Jamie Crashed Out: Like many people, I was a huge fan of the Discover Channel produced “Mythbusters”, where special effects specialists and all around geeks Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman and a whole cast of others tested out various urban myths, common beliefs and other random questions of interest. Much of their testing involving automobiles took place on the runways at the old Alameda Naval Air Station, a victim of the 1990’s round of closures of military bases deemed outdated or unneeded.

One might think the economy of the surrounding community of Alameda might have been severely damaged by the closure, but I can safely say this city of roughly 76,000 has done much better than most, and is something of an underrated place for a tourist or local to visit. Downtown Alameda has a nice collection of restaurants and shops to browse in (a used book store we found on the fly, Rocket Reuse, included a whole host of interesting book titles) and the western Bayshore near the ferry terminal offers a lovely view of the San Francisco peninsula, the Bay Bridge, and airplanes taking off from nearby Oakland and San Francisco Airports.

On the old air station, a number of businesses have taken root, including our one lone Bay Area brewery visit in Almanac Beer. I had heard that Almanac, which started up in 2011, was a brewery that did a solid job with all styles, and the flights we had seemed to verify that. Their space is also attractive, making good use of a former airplane hangar to allow for plenty of space for guests to visit both inside and out.

Rocket Reuse | Address: 1218 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 | Website: https://rocketreuse.com | IG: rocket_reuse

Almanac Beer | Address: 651 W Tower Ave, Alameda, CA 94501 | Website: https://almanacbeer.com/pages/menu | IG: almanacbeer

17) The Compassion Chronicles (Pt. 1) – A field trip to the San Francisco Zoo in my childhood provided me with a memory that still hangs in there with me even now.

The Zoo back then was far more the impersonal affair that many zoos were, with animals in cages and very little natural adornment. Perhaps that’s why I remember so little of the animals back then versus what I and a couple of other classmates found in a bathroom that day.

A man, clearly out of it, perched in on the floor in front of a toilet. The smell of alcohol permeated the air. Once we overcame our shock, we tried to ask if he was okay, but he seemed little aware of our presence.

We clearly didn’t know quite what the proper protocol was, but we knew enough to try to help – seeing the random coins scattered around him, and we scraped together what we could to add to the pile, and then told our field trip monitor what we saw…

18) The Compassion Chronicles (Pt. 2) …I know not what happened to that poor soul. However, I think of that incident now as a microcosm of how society treats those who are homeless, especially nowadays. The people who do care enough to do something about it are insufficient in number and woefully under-resourced; the people who would rather not acknowledge it or have little to no compassion for their plight would rather keep the issue (and people) out of their sight and minds.

As far as the place where I first experienced it, the San Francisco Zoo, things have changed for the better. Like many other zoos, this place, which looks like it could’ve been carved out from Golden Gate Park land a few miles to the north and airlifted to its current location just south of the Sunset Neighborhood along the coast, now has a far more naturalistic feel to it, with more spacious habitats with better sight lines and a far better strolling experience. Safety improvements were implemented as well after a well-publicized and controversial tiger escape and attack happened in late 2007. It’s a pleasant distraction any day of the week, but is especially attractive on holidays (the zoo is open year-round.)

Also, if you go on a weekend, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to stroll along Ocean Beach (as we did) as well as the Great Highway – as of now, the Great Highway is closed to auto traffic on weekends until 2025, making the road a pedestrian and bicycle-rider paradise. A petition to make that a permanent status can be found at the Great Highway Park website.

San Francisco Zoo| Address: Sloat Blvd &, Upper Great Hwy, San Francisco, CA 94132 | Website: https://www.sfzoo.org | IG: sanfranciscozoo

19) Peet’s and Re-Peet’s Were Sitting In A Boat – When the announcement came through that the owners of Caribou Coffee had decided that many of those stores in the Midwest would be rebranded as Peet’s in 2013 I thought it to be a curious move. Even though both were chains, you generally don’t mess with a region’s chain without some sense of backlash. I admit I am a fan of Peet’s over most coffee chains – their operating hours often made them an easy choice over that other omnipresent chain with the mermaid brand when that was the dictating factor.

This might have been the first trip in where we didn’t explore any of the local Bay Area coffee scene – we ended up hitting up our parents’ Keurig machine more often than not, and our two outside coffee excursions were at Peet’s (one in downtown Alameda and coffee-to-go on the way out of town.) However, exploring local is the still generally the way to go, and we did that at numerous places during our road trip, such as La Finca in Eureka, MO; Chimera in Tulsa, OK; Stimulant Coffee House in Upland, CA; and Espresso Cielo in Santa Monica, CA.

Interestingly, Caribou Coffee announced earlier last year that they are returning to Central Ohio. Nothing has come to light yet after that initial announcement, and in the meantime another chain coffee place (the Michigan-based Sweetwaters Coffee, which has done a good job of collaborating food-wise with local vendors) has become a favorite when no local coffee purveyors are convenient to our travels. Whether Caribou makes a repeat (or is that rePeet’s) appearance here is still to be determined.

20) Moving On To The Flipside: I do love how Columbus has become home to a number of international grocery stores, including a couple of small Filipino stores.

For me, however, there’s still nothing like wandering through a full-sized market geared toward Filipino or mostly Filipino goods like 88 Ranch or Seafood City – as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to appreciate these moments I just took for granted as a kid.

If anything, my latest jaunt through there was a completely Filipino holiday experience. In the Philippines, the “-ber” months, starting with September 1st, are when Christmas is celebrated; Seafood City is only happy to go along with this tradition, with plenty of Christmas oriented decorations and lots of last-minute gifts ready for purchase. On the airwaves, two very Filipino alternative rock Christmas tunes came on in a row: “Fruitcake” by The Eraserheads (a group that some have called The Beatles of the Philippines and was massively influential for getting alternative rock into the public conscious) and then “Hosanna Ngayon Pasko” by Parokya ni Edgar, who similarly plowed that ground. Finishing off my purchase, we copped a style of calendar that I’ve seen both at home growing up and a number of relatives’ houses. Who doesn’t love free stuff, right?

The Christmas party was unique this year: due to family commitments, my side of the family got together the day after Christmas versus Christmas Eve. However, the usual food favorites were there from my Dad’s Roast Beef with Gravy to my Mom’s Fruit Salad, my auntie’s Polvoron (those in the know stuff a few pieces in their pocket or purses because they WILL disappear within a half-hour or so.) Lumpia, pancit, menudo and mechado over there, and on that table pan de sal (including a home bakery version with cheese that was one of the hits of the meal), dinner rolls, and other sides, and all the desserts either on that table or the kitchen island in the middle. Some of the various seasonal bugs going around cut down the numbers some, but the company was still plentiful and very much welcome.

We ended up the next morning ending our California time with one last dose of Filipino treats – Vallejo’s Starbread is proof that a simple concept done well can anchor a successful business. Now a mini-chain, Starbread started off in the 1980s under a variety of names before settling on its current moniker. The name refers to its signature treat: Senorita Bread, a roll that is really simple in nature (yeasted dough, butter, sugar, and breadcrumbs) but is stupidly addictive. Other handhelds like donuts, siopao, and lumpia are available depending on the day of the week and location, but to leave WITHOUT ordering a few pieces of Senorita Bread is almost a crime.

Seafood City | Address: 3495 Sonoma Blvd, Vallejo, CA 94590| Website: https://www.seafoodcity.com/store-locations/vallejo/ | IG: seafoodcitysupermarket

Starbread | Address: 3718 Sonoma Blvd, Vallejo, CA 94590| Website: http://www.starbreadca.com/about-us.html| IG: starbread_bakery

21) You Make Me Meal Mighty Real – Burmese cuisine is a mandatory get when we’re in the Bay Area, and Walnut Creek’s Burma 2 fit the bill. The second location of Burma Burma in Dublin, CA opened in 2019, Burma 2 offers up Burmese food with a slew of upscale cocktails and a staff that boasts two decades of restaurant experience. This eatery fits well in its suburban Downtown Walnut Creek locale, and our salads (both Burmese Tea and Rainbow salad) were the tasty, funky hit of textures and spices we were really craving, and the Crispy Tofu was especially good…The fast food burger chain debate will seemingly go on forever, and one of the most debated ones is In N Out, which is based out of Southern California. You’ll get as many craving their burgers as you will saying they’re overrated. Our meal (after a good session of bowling) hasn’t changed my mind about their standing in my mind – their burger is very good for the price, but the fries are on the lower half of the scale. For a fast food meal, it’s still higher up on the preferred list, but the novelty may not be as high anymore now that they’ve announced plans to expand out East…Regional Chinese restaurants have made their mark on the Columbus scene lately: places like Chilispot, NE Chinese, and Xi Xia producing some of the most interesting dishes in the metro. Maybe that was on my mind when I thought of Old Mandarin, whose Chinese Muslim dishes are unique even for a city like San Francisco. Hot Pot dishes are the specialty here – a number of large groups enjoying what turned out to be a gorgeous Christmas Day weather-wise were sharing such as we made our way in. Our dishes – Cumin Lamb Stir Fry, Mixed Cucumber Salad, and Sautéed Spicy Shoestring Potato – seemed simple, but their spicing and preparation were both uniquely novel (and delicious) to us…Finally, a place that didn’t really fit in conveniently in a geographical sense but still worth mentioning: Bakersfield’s Temblor Brewing offers up that large industrial space atmosphere not unlike Mother Stewart’s in Springfield, OH, and Warped Wing in Dayton, OH. Temblor features better than average burgers and fries paired with solid beer, it also features a nod to the area’s brewing history with a collection of bricks from the pre-Prohibition Bakersfield Brewery.

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