Monday, July 21

30 Days Of Vacation

It seems everyone I know is taking a summer vacation. For the first time in 10+ years, I won't be. I will take one by myself after the remaining kids go back to high school, but it's not the same as the family week-long summer vacation in a rented house, or motels, or camping. Plus, with starting up two new radio stations we purchased in the last five months, I really couldn't get away anyhow. I've been overwhelmed with helping steer our corporate ship. It's been rewarding, to be sure, but I haven't had much time to reflect on just "me" stuff. What could I possibly write about that's of interest to anyone, if I'm not interested myself?

Then, while quietly jealousizing over
Tiff's and others' vacations, it hit me. Time for a change-up, and set myself a challenge. Every day for the next 30 days, I will visit a favorite place I have found on family vacations or private wanderings. Some are lifetime favorites, others are pleasant surprises you won't find if you look for them. Please join me on a virtual vacation. Heck, write about some of your own so we can all relish in the wonder of places unvisited!

Day 1: Samoa Cookhouse, CA

We start our trip with a meal at the
Samoa Cookhouse near Eureka, California. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Take your pick, but bring your appetite, because the Samoa Cookhouse serves food like nowhere else I've ever been. Dating back over 100 years, this old building was used to feed the lumber industry employees, many of whom lived in the tiny company town of Samoa just down the street. The appetites of lumberjacks and sawmill workers are legendary, so it's no surprise that the Cookhouse continues in that tradition.

The first thing you notice upon entering is the chalkboard menu. The second thing you notice is the wood-floored hall with rows and rows of picnic tables. If you are the linens and sommelier type, this is your first and only clue to hightail your pretentious butt back south to San Francisco. Because, here? You're gonna sit where you're put and eat what you're given. On Wednesday night it might be fried chicken and potatoes with green salad and bread and butter. On Friday it might be fried fish with corn on the cob and minestrone soup and bread and butter. On Monday it might be thick slabs of pork or beef roast with mixed vegetables and bean salad and bread and butter. All washed down with icy frothy milk and the best black coffee in the history of history. Don't like what they're serving that night? Tough. Go hungry.

Oh, but what you will miss. Plastic table cloths laid out with thick cream-colored ceramic plates and bowls. Giant salt shakers and creamers and coffee cans stuffed with napkins. Silverware you could used to repair an RV engine. Sharing your bench with a coupla Harley dudes. Rubbing elbows with a shy lanky teen. Helping the kindly senior lady across the table to servings of apple pie. Chatting across, down, behind you with folks you've never seen before, and probably have next to nothing in common except this desire for REAL food, dammit, and the desire to share in our most primal ritual with others of an extended tribe. And all around you little kids chase each other around the lumber-era museum pieces, babies bounce on laps, grandparents revel in the closeness of their families, tourists recount the day's escapades, and always always always the super efficient and strong waitresses pass huge stainless steel pots and melamine bowls back and forth from the huge kitchen, everything steaming and clanking and clattering and giving rise to aromas that make you want to eat twice your weight in simple stuff you never thought could taste so good. And it never stops. You keep eating, they keep bringing.

The Samoa Cookhouse is one of the the best restaurants in America. I have driven three hours, each way, in a day just to eat there. I've been in fancier, older, more heralded eateries across this country, but none better or more original. Go and enjoy. Stop by again on your way back home for breakfast, and pay closer attention to the history that soaks into you from the sturdy planks and sawmill memorabilia. It'll last you all the way home.

From here, you can go north or south to enjoy the spectacular northern California coastline and superlative sequoia sempervirens. I'll let you discover those on your own. But a few teasers: salmon fisheries, Avenue of the Giants, Paul Bunyan, and Roosevelt elk!


rennratt said...

If I ever get to CA, I will make sure this place is on my "must see" list!

If you ever head to Eastern NC, let me know. There are a few 'down home' places here that are a "Must".

tiff said...

one can jealousize?

does that burn calories, I wonder?

( :> )

You've started up the wanderlust for the left coast. And with a ROADHOUSE......sweeeet.

db grin said...

I was in Eureka, CA once. 15 years old, on the way from Eugene, OR to San Francisco on a bicycle. Totally missed this place, and now I must go back. Places like that don't grow just anywhere.

Your post brought back the scent of eucalyptus-lined streets and weathered gas stations like nothing in recent memory.

And I almost busted a gut on your Star Trek videos. Tears a-streamin', sir. Well done.

Earnest said...
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