Pie redux

I got a nice comment on my Chocolate Peppermint Pecan Pie recipe (well timed, since I was just starting to make it for dinner tomorrow), asking for other cooking ideas.

I wish I could respond with some, but this is really the only recipe I’ve ever created (and even then, it was just a variation on the well-known pecan pie recipe on the Karo Syrup bottle). I did make hamburgers with cumin once — but that was widely considered a mistake, not to be repeated.

So I guess the idea is to be willing to experiment — to start from a known base and make small changes. Sometimes they’ll work; sometimes, you get cumin hamburgers.

And home again

We decided to avoid the Grapevine again (though there was nothing on the traffic reports that really indicated a need to do so), and thereby found ourselves in Bakersfield for lunch. Our original plan had been to eat at the Apple Shed in Tehachapi, but they quoted us a 20-minute wait, and there wasn’t 20 minutes worth of browsing in the shop, so we continued.

We weren’t feeling very adventurous, so we waited until we started seeing recognizable signs — I was ready to give up and go to Baja Fresh, but when we pulled into their parking lot, there were a number of more interesting looking restaurants to try. We ended up at Flame and Skewers, which served “Mediterranean” food (in other words, shwarma and kebobs), which was a great choice, especially since we’d spent the previous 90 minutes listening to Israeli music on Radio Hanukkah. After looking at the business cards at the restaurant, I doubt that they were serving Israeli food, but it was quite tasty and certainly in the right spirit.

And then on to home. Total driving for the trip: 2104 miles, most of it spent listening to Radio Hanukkah, which now has 24 minutes left in this year’s edition. It’s definitely downhill from here!

Drive, he said!

We finished our Tucson stay with yet another trip to The Good Egg (one more visit and we get free meals!); then we picked up Diane’s Dad and SO and took them part-way to her son’s house. When we last saw them, they were sitting in the Wendy’s at the Outlets at Casa Grande, waiting to be picked up (this was, of course, according to plan, though it’s still somewhat disquieting to abandon family in the middle of the desert).

From there, we took our chances with Phoenix traffic (although the Jam Factor was Green according to XM Traffic, we sure hit some slow going), but it only took us an hour or so to get through the city. And at 1:30, we were once more seated in Silly Al’s Pizza in Quartzsite for another late lunch. The place was even smokier than last time, but still worth it.

I’m not sure that stopping for gas at the Flying J at Arizona Exit 1 was worthwhile, though — sure, we saved 40 or 50 cents a gallon compared to California prices, but we only needed 5.5 gallons, and there was a line at the pumps.

The rest of today’s driving was uneventful, though we did hit some slow traffic just after CA-60 branched off — slow enough that I tried out the “Detour” function on our Prius nav system. It told us to take the adjoining road, which was what I planned to do anyway.

We’re overnighting at the Dynasty Suites in Redlands, which is a fairly standard 3-diamond motel. The most interesting thing is that they play classical music in the parking lot — I’m almost afraid to ask why.

There are a ton of franchise restaurants near the hotel (Long John Silver’s, Arby’s, Taco Bell, and El Pollo Loco are all within a two-minute walk), but we hoped to do better. So I turned to the oracle — Google Maps. And it delivered Eastern Classic Thai Restaurant, which was a great find. Jeff ordered Thai Green Curry and ate all of it, so I can’t comment on it, but Diane and I traded our dishes. She ordered Mint Leaves Chicken (with sliced chicken rather than the default ground chicken), which was very tasty; I had “Crying Tiger”, which is grilled beef with a hot sauce on the side — delicious. The restaurant was almost empty, which is a shame given the quality (and reasonable price) — I would go back happily if I were ever in Redlands again.

No sightseeing or geocaching today — driving was the priority of the day. It’ll be the priority tomorrow, too. 400 miles if we take the Grapevine.

Low energy, low impact

Today was probably the most restful day of the vacation so far.

We started with breakfast at the apartment; then Diane and I joined her Dad for a “tai-chi” exercise session. We were the only visitors, and were the youngest people in the room by a good margin. It was a good workout — I used muscles which have been neglected for a while (at least for the duration of the trip, and probably longer than that).

Then we talked for a while before having lunch at El Charro Cafe (I now have a $10 credit as a member of their frequent diner club — I guess we’ll have to come back within a year!), then some miscellaneous shopping (including a walk to eegee‘s and a drive with Jeff to Charlie’s Comics) and more talking before having dinner at New Delhi Palace (and I was right — it was better at the restaurant than as take-out). Finally, we watched the DVD that Diane’s Dad had bought at Kartchner Caverns.

Tomorrow, we hit the road for home. It will be a long day, and it will start far too early in the morning. *sigh*

They were right

Many people told us that we should be sure to see Kartchner Caverns on this trip. And it was included in the Tucson Attractions Passport, so we were even more motivated to go.

So, after breakfast at Diane’s Dad’s apartment (two days in a row of The Good Egg was enough for now), we set off for Kartchner Caverns. And it was well worth the trip. They don’t let you take your camera into the caverns (they do a lot to preserve the cave, including misting you on your way in and hosing down the path every day!), so I have no pictures to share, but their web site shows a little of what you’ll see if you go. You do need to make reservations in advance, because they only allow a limited number of people a day through the caverns, again, to help preserve them and keep the cave a living cave.

We’d watched Dark Star a couple of weeks ago; in so far as the movie has a theme song, it’s Benson, Arizona, so I was happy when I realized that a trip to Kartchner Caverns would also give us the opportunity to visit Benson, at least for lunch. Our first attempt at that was at Gallenano’s, but one breath of the smoke-filled air inside sent us reeling back to the car. The AAA TourBook listed three restaurants in Benson, and there was no “smoking section” symbol for the Horse Shoe Cafe, so we drove over there and were delighted to see a sign at the entrance saying that it was completely non-smoking. And the food was good, too. Recommended.

From Benson, we continued to Tombstone. We began our visit with a trip to the Boothill Cemetery (we even found the “Jewish Memorial” way down at the bottom of the hill). By the time we reached the main part of town, it was pretty late, so we contented ourselves with strolling down Allen Street, with a short stop at the OK Corral so that we could log at least one cache on this trip.

Then it was back to Tucson. Diane’s Dad likes to eat at Furr’s Family Dining, but it’s on the other side of town from his apartment, and he no longer drives, so we stopped there for dinner. I don’t think I’d go back on my own.