Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Motel 6 Experience

In my mind there is a quintessential Motel 6 experience. It goes like this:

The sign is clearly visible from the highway and it's easy to find.
There are a couple of parking spaces near the office reserved for people checking in.
There is someone at the desk who is friendly and helps me check in.
The rate is the same as I was quoted on the website.
I am given a ground floor room as I requested on my reservation.
The door to my room is within a few steps of a parking space.
The facility includes a functional ice machine, a microwave (either in the lobby or in the room), and a coin operated laundry facility for guests.
The windows in the room open to allow fresh air.
I don't ask a lot. I know I'm opting for a no-frills accommodation. But some places don't even live up to these basic necessities. So I'm keeping a log here of how each location lives up to what I consider "The Motel 6 Promise."  My hope is that I have a reference here that will help me avoid returning to places that don't fit the bill.

Arcata - Valley W. Blvd
Laundry and microwave, ice and vending machines are in the annex to the office. There are lots of grassy areas for the dog. The only small complaint is that the curb in front of the rooms is painted red, so the only parking is across the driveway. Not a huge problem, especially since I can park in the red zone to load in and out. There have been times when I've gone out and come back and found that there was no parking in the section in front of my room, so I had to park elsewhere.  But, as I said, it wasn't a problem because I could load in from the red zone. 

Santa Rosa - Cleveland Ave.

On the plus side, there's a microwave in the lobby, as well as one functioning ice machine out of the two near the vending machines in an outdoor alcove near the office. Parking in front of the rooms is possible and there is plenty of dog running area. Also, it's right next door to Brody's Burgers. Excellent food with a drive-thru. 
On the down side, there is no guest laundry facility at this property.
When I checked in, the androgenous desk clerk tried to give me a second floor room, but I balked. Ze then gave me a ground floor room with a single bed, next to a couple that had loud sex all night. Toward the end of the day, people gathered to chat on the lawn outside my door. At one point someone left a bouquet of flowers outside my door.


Coos Bay - Bayshore Dr.
I've stayed at this location several times. Great parking, nice laundry, friendly desk, no surprises.

Seaside - Roosevelt Dr.

A prison with terrible parking. I had to park all the way on the other side of a restaurant sharing the same parking lot. Every guest in the place has to enter the corridor from one of two doors. The rear one is locked after 10pm. I encountered many people smoking outside that door and several other dog-owners which made entry and exit a stressful situation. I left most of my belongings in the car because it was such a long haul to get to my room.

Burgers and BBQ Across the USA

I'm going to be keeping a log of all of the burgers I eat and BBQ joints I visit on my road trip over the next five months.

April 30 - Seaside OR
Relief Pitcher
This is a divey sports bar in a small coastal Oregon town. The people were friendly, but the place was hopping so I had to wait a fairly long time for my order. I got a cheese burger with no onions and took it back to eat in my room. It did not disappoint. It was juicy and flavorful and was cooked perfectly. It held together while I ate it. I'd go back for another one if I was in Seaside again.

May 1 - Coos Bay, OR
Liberty Pub
This dark tavern also serves food. They have a unique item that I tried, called a Burgerwich, which is a burger wrapped in pizza dough instead of on a bun.  One of most memorable aspects of this place was the woman wailing on the piano rock and roll style while I waited for my food. The Burgerwich was an interesting experiment, but I'm not sure if it worked. The thing fell apart as I ate it, which is a bad thing in my book. A burger should be able to hold itself together. The meat tasted a bit old and it was served on a bed of cold french fries. They might have been really good at one point, but in my opinion, once fries get cold, they're garbage. By the way, I don't usually order fries with my burger, but in this case the fries automatically came with it. I wouldn't go back to Liberty Pub.

May 2 - Arcata, CA
Carl's Jr.
I should have known better, I guess. I don't usually go to fast food burger places, but I do admit to having an upper escelaon of fast food places that I do consider good and will go to. Places like Whataburger, In-and-Out, Five Guys, and even DQ have all proven to me that they can make a good burger. I asked for a basic burger that they called the Original Six Dollar Thickburger. It was six dollars and it was thick, but I have to complain. It was slathered in so much mayonnaise and other unsavory condiments in such overbearing amounts that on my first bite, the patty slid out from between the buns. After removing the gigantic hunk of iceberg lettuce (too big for this sandwich) and wiped up the majority of the goopy sauce, it still didn't come together as a burger. I couldn't even really taste the meat, even after wiping off the excess dressing. Carl's Jr. has impressed me in the past, so I but after today, I'm going to drop Carl's Jr down in rank to join the likes of Wendy's, McDonalds, Burger King and others peddling slop.

I need to mention at this point that I was very excited to be returning to Arcata because I remembered having a great burger the last time I was here. I stopped at a place called Stars Hamburgers. They were closed by the time I got into town, so I missed out. But next time I'm in Arcata, I will certainly be arriving before 8pm so I can enjoy a Stars Hamburger.


May 3 - Ferndale, CA
No Brand Burger Stand

OMG. I'm so glad I drove about four miles off course to stop here. I asked Siri for a good burger place in Eureka, CA and he directed me here. This is a tiny little place run by rodeo folk who obviously know their steer. It isn't impressive from the outside, but this shack is churning out some great food. I ordered a cajun burger with Swiss cheese and I can't remember enjoying a burger this much. The meat tasted so fresh and the spices were perfect. The burger itself held together just the right amount, but did offer some fun messiness with all the juices and the gobs of cheese dripping off of it.
The place is very rustic, and a sign outside warned that there would be no bathroom for the public, but when I asked about how I could wash my hands before eating, the owner, running the cash register, directed me around the corner, through his storeroom to a secret bathroom.
Another surprising aspect of this little gem is that all of the beef is grass-fed.
I wish I could hitch this little shack to the back of my car and take it around with me on my road adventures. I think I've found a burger that sets a new bar.

May 4 - Santa Rosa, CA
This place gets bonus points from me right away for two reasons. One, they allow dogs to sit on the patio, and two, they offer grass fed beef for $2 extra.
I was tempted to get the chili burger. I opted against that when I determined that the grass fed beef option wasn't available on that item. So I went with the basic burger with Swiss cheese. It was delicious and I have no complaints. Well, maybe there were too many pickles, but that's easy to solve.
It was juicy and held together as I ate it. The beef was pink in the middle and tasted very fresh. They didn't overload it with condiments and everyone was super friendly. They refilled the water bowl that was set out for dogs, even though we were taking our food to go, they didn't want River to be thirsty while we waited for our order.

May 4 - Santa Rosa, CA

I never saw the dining area, since I got take out from the drive up window, but it seems they have a pretty unique decor.
This place gets a rave from me; and bonus points for being so close to the Motel 6 that my navigation told me I had reached my destination before I got out of the driveway. It's right next door! And there's a drive-thru, so I pulled in and ordered a Baconado Burger, which was excellent.
It is made with grass fed beef and cooked a little bit longer so wasn't quite dripping with juices, but very good nonetheless. and it was covered in a melange of cheese, mushrooms and crumbled bacon. I wolfed it down, loving every bite. It came with a side, automatically, so I chose sweet potato fries. Since the place was so close, they were still piping hot when I got back to the room so I ate them.
This place also has $1 draft beers, which might be a good thing to some people. I don't care, but thought I'd mention it. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

California: Part 2 - Redwoods and Vineyards

US 101 and CA 254
 It was still foggy when we left Arcata around 11am and headed down to Ferndale, CA where I stopped for a burger at a fantastic place called No Brand Burger Stand.  It was about four miles off the highway, but I took a chance and it was worth it. The place was pretty scary from the outside. It was a shack with signs that said Cowboys Only and No Public Restrooms. But I wasn't deterred by the unwelcoming signage and stepped in and ordered a cajun burger with Swiss cheese.

I then got special directions to the private bathroom, 'through the gate, into the storeroom and out the back, down the hall you can't miss it.'   It turned out to be easy to find, but not so easy to find my way back. The door to the storeroom was one of many in that long hall and not clearly marked. Fortunately, I happened to notice a design painted on the wall when I opened the door the first time, so I determined that door #20, across from the painted design, was the way out. 

I learned something from a sign inside the restaurant as I waited for my burger.

An Old Cowboy Saying:
There are 3 Ways to Lose your Money.
GAMBLIN' is the quickest.
WOMEN is the most fun.
CATTLE is the surest.

River sat at my feet while I enjoyed my delicious burger and then we hit the road.

 We stopped at a vista point to take this quintessential California picture,
just outside the entrance to the Avenue of the Giants.

One of my favorite drives is CA 254 which takes a circuitous route that hugs US 101. But the former takes you near creeks and right up next to the giant redwood trees, with lots of places to stop and get really close to them. The power of these majestic giants can be felt, even while driving by, but it's also nice to stop and get a few pictures with them.


For the last portion of our drive, today, the scenery changed a lot. We went from the tallest trees to fields of grapevines in the wine regions of Winsdor, Sonoma, Napa. We didn't stop to taste any, but we did stop at a Rest Area in Willits where we found an area appropriate for feeding River. 

Tonight, we'll sleep at the Motel 6 in Santa Rosa. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Oregon To California

It was sunny when we woke up in Coos Bay. We took a walk after coffee and a shower and hit the road. It was still sunny when we stopped at one of my favorite little towns, Bandon, OR. River likes to pose next to the public art.


totem pole
a whale

Last time we were here, we walked out on the pier. But this time, I noticed a sign saying no dogs allowed on the pier. I don't know if I missed the sign before, or if it's a new law, but we didn't get to go out on it this time.

We made another stop in Gold Beach. I wanted to give an Oregon ex-convict a chance to fill up my gas tank before I crossed the state line, and I've enjoyed stopping at Gold Beach before. It offers some fun beach access.

In this video, the wind noise is pretty awful, so you can't tell what I'm saying. I'm telling him not to eat the pussy willows, and he doesn't. Then I'm asking him to show me his belly, which he does. And finally, I ask him to speak. I phrase it, "when you're ready... speak." And he gave me a 'huff' so I accepted that and praised him for it.

We also stopped a little further down the highway at Pistol River State Park. Where we had to run a pretty long way, but finally made it to the water.

After crossing over into California, the highway was swallowed up by giant Redwood trees, and it was awesome. We passed a place in Klamath CA called The Trees of Mystery. That is, we tried to pass, but my car wouldn't let me. Babe had to turn around and get a picture with her namesake.
Babe, River, Babe and Paul.
We stopped and exercised for a while at the Del Norte North Redwoods State Park.

We ended today's drive at a familiar Motel 6 in Arcata.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Oregon Coast

US 101

Oswald West State Park has a free parking lot with a lush trail to the beach.
We took the creek-side trail 

and crossed over some logs

and through lots of green muddy trails to finally arrive at the beach.
Oswald West State Park

We also stopped at Manzanita, OR for some easy beach access.

Most of the best coastline is State Park. I think the best way to do the coast would be to have an all access pass to the state parks and drive up or down visiting each one.

I love driving through Depoe Bay, "The World Smallest Harbor".
And I love the Seal Rocks. And the Sea Lion Cove. And Devil's Punchbowl.
But today we stopped in Waldport for some easy and free parking and no crowds.

Dinner was at another tavern that offered a burger in a pizza dough wrap rather than a bun. It was good, and I'm glad I tried it, but I wouldn't go out of my way to have it again.  The best part of The Liberty Pub in North Bend, OR. was the woman rocking out on the piano while I waited for my food to cook.

Since I have some vegetables fermenting in the car, I was aware that I couldn't stay at any one beach for very long. The heat in the car would rise very quickly to levels that would cook them and kill my good bacteria, giving rise to the bad stuff. So we got to see lots of places for short periods.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Washington Coast

I-5, US- 101, WA-8, US 12, WA-100

The car was packed the night before. This morning, I just had a couple of things to do before we hit the road at 11am, bound for the coast.


The first access we found to the Pacific Ocean was Grayland State Park. A very flat and long beach.

We ran around a little bit but didn't go all the way to the water since it was so far away.  And we wanted to make it Cape Disappointment before it got late.

We got to Cape Disappointment State Park and I used my National Park Pass to park because it was also Lewis & Clark National Park. I fed River and we played on the sand near the water for a while.

Then we took a bridge over the Columbia River into Oregon
 To the small town of Seaside, where we found our first of many Motel 6s.  I set River up on a low TV table where he can feel like the king for a while. He's still a little bit nervous about the whole thing, but he'll settle into the rhythm in a few days.

Seaside has a population of about 6500. I went to get a burger at a popular place called Relief Pitcher.

It was a fully decked out standard American roadside tavern. It took a while to get my food, but it was worth the wait.

The Motel 6 in Seaside is not a favorite of mine. It is the prison style with long corridors and exits that are locked after 10pm. And parking here is abysmal. I had to park on the other side of a parking lot in what looked like parking for the restaurant next door. Because of this, I'm not bringing River's crate into the room. I brought him a blanket.

I'm also leaving my ice chests and luggage out there. Its cool enough overnight that I don't need to worry about anything, but once the sun comes up, I need to think about what's going on in there. So I'll be up at 6am to suss that situation. Maybe some closer parking spaces will open up by then.