Monday, November 29, 2010

The Old 5 Mile House

There’s something about a quaint little building stuck in the middle of nowhere. Seductively inviting. It doesn’t need a gaudy sign to announce its presence. Its aloneness and singular nature draws us unerringly towards the mystery better than a neon billboard. I had driven that morning through some of the most beautiful snow-covered country, reveling in the silence and spectacular scenery, when up pops this homely pub. And my eyes immediately wandered to the building, to the people coming and going and the kind of cars there. Judging if it would be a safe place for a single woman to stop. Because i knew i would stop. That decision had been made the moment i spied the place. It was now just a matter if i would feel safe going in there. Into that mystery.

My safety sensors gave me a green light, so i parked in front and headed in. I liked the place immediately. Dark mahogany walls with lots of interesting western d├ęcor and a large fireplace with a real log fire that – judging by the embers – had been burning for a long while. And my timing was perfect – between the lunch and dinner rush. There were just enough people to make it interesting. I got a chance to chat with one of the servers and, after a short sit at the bar with a hot cup of coffee, i moved to a table by the fire. This is the kind of place you snuggle into after a long day of playing in the snow – or in the spring – a long hike on the trail. The patrons were a mix of locals and folks like me, friendly and talkative without being nosy. Just north of Nevada City on Hwy 20 at Scott's flat lies the building that was built in 1890 mainly as a stagecoach stop, but also served as a postal drop, telegraph post, a restaurant, and pub. My server told me the story how The Old 5 Mile House got its name – supposedly it was also a brothel and by law it had to be at least 5 miles from town. Ah! Good story whether it’s true or not.

I’d been out all day and was famished – time to ponder food choices. I liked that the menu wasn’t 10 pages long. I’d rather a restaurant do a few dishes well than try to please every person ever born and do it poorly. That said, when i asked the server about the flag out front, he informed me that every month they have a special ethnic food – the current month was Indian food – hence the Indian flag. The specials are an addition to the regular menu. Ah! As i looked over the menu – still hours before dinner – i was impressed with the fresh take on the typical luncheon fare. Panini with fresh pear, Italian rosemary ham, and brie cheese; skirt steak sandwich with arugula, shave red onions, blue cheese, chimichurri (i had to look that one up!) and aioli; and piadine – a type of pizza dough topped with salad items; this along with more traditional fare; burgers, Ruben sandwiches, and sausage pizza; filled out the menu nicely. (All of this is making me hungry…) They had several items too for the vegetarian – organic greens salad, grilled zucchini and eggplant pizza, and grilled Portobello Panini. I ordered the rosemary chicken, potato, roasted garlic, and goat’s cheese pizza. It was a little bit of a wait, but when the pizza arrived i was delighted by a lovely thin crust with just the right amount of sauce and toppings. Delicious! My only real complaint is that it wasn’t piping hot.

Now that i was warm and happily full, i wandered around the place and took a closer look at the dinner menu. It seems that The Old 5 Mile House is a full restaurant and can easily handle events and banquets as was evident by the elegant cloth covered tables in the back of the building. The front is deceiving – it only looks like a small bar/restaurant – a whole parking lot and main entrance was hidden by the piles of snow. Another “ah!” moment.

When i got home and looked at their website i felt a bit foolish. I had no idea just how much they had to offer – which only makes me want to go back. The dinner menu is mouth-watering, and though it was a touch pricey for a poor girl like me, the variety and tastiness of their food, and the warmth and coziness of the place will draw me back. Sure as the sun rises in the East…i’ll be back.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Shoutout - Thanks!

Here’s a helloooo to all the work crews who have been busting their balls clearing the snow and getting the power back on in Northern CA. I was up in the Scott’s Flat area on Hwy 20 and the crews were tucked along the road in every nook and cranny. Snow plows, bucket trucks, front-end loaders, tree cutters, snow blowers, utility trucks – you name it – they were everywhere. I saw downed tree limbs everywhere too. PG&E had lines and electrical poles propped and crews were working furiously to repair the damage. What a mess – and on the day before Thanksgiving too. No one can predict or help what Mother Nature will dish out for us to deal with. So i’m glad you are there to keep us from freezing our butts off!

PG&E Storm Outages and Safety Page

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Hawaiian Chieftain

There are some things – that simply escape me to put into words. It’s as if the idea is so close to the heart, so primal, so deep, that any attempt to describe it will surely fail. Yet, like so many things across time, the more powerful something speaks to us, the more we fumble to put into words that which moves us.

For me, this powerful emotion lies in the beauty of a tall ship. Docked here on the east bank of the Sacramento River is the Hawaiian Chieftain, a topsail ketch and 19th century replica of a traditional trading vessel. She sailed to our port on Oct 15th and will depart on Dec. 14th to make her way down the coast to San Diego. I could rattle off stats here – her sail area, her length on deck, her draft – information you can find on a website, but that isn’t necessarily what makes her beautiful though that is part of it. I am reminded of a line from that infamous Hollywood pirate, Capt. Jack Sparrow, “it’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails – that’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is, what the Black Pearl really is – is freedom.” And so it is. A ship is freedom. There is a magic that surrounds these tall ships like a shroud descended from the heavens. But i think that magic – in reality – comes from love. Love of the shipwrights as they dream into being the body of a ship; love of the carpenter as he planes the wood for her hull and decks; love of the sailmaker weaving miles of canvas into billowing sails; love of the crew who bath and feed her and keep her a happy ship; love of the Captain who knows her every mood, strength, and weakness, and calls her, “My Love, My Love…” Love of the Ocean. Love of the unknown that some call adventure. Love is the magic that fills the sails and floats the beautiful tall ships from one port to another.

I was very fortunate, though i think luck had little to do with it. Maybe destiny. Fate. Several years ago i sailed upon the Hawaiian Chieftain in the San Juan Islands that lie between Washington and Canada. A three day passage from Townsend to Anacortes, winding our way through some of the most beautiful islands whose giant ferns, trees, and misty mornings made me think of a time before humans. The Hawaiian Chieftain sailed with the Lady Washington, what a sight! To walk the decks of one ship while gazing across the water to see another tall ship gliding silently through the mists. Dreamlike. There were times when we saw no other boats, no other ships. Just these two great ladies, the water, and the mist covered islands. The crew taught me to haul on the braces, to read a leadline, and to stand a watch at night. I treasured every second. After three days of sailing, the crew saw me off with a farewell song – “don’t forget your old shipmates…” I slept on shore that night in sight of the docks. I still rocked to the motion of the ship and heard her ship bells ringing as i fell asleep…

If you visit the Hawaiian Chieftain, and i strongly suggest you do, as you walk the decks take a moment, close your eyes, let the noise of our modern world drift away, and imagine the spray of salty sea air, the wind in your hair, the roll of the Ocean. Imagine hauling on the lines, going aloft, and shimmying out the bowsprit to furl the sails. It’s hard work sailing a ship but the payoff cannot be measured – not with money, words, or pictures.

So if you find yourself in a nostalgic mood, or you want to get out and do something different, take a wander down to Old Sac and visit the docks near Joe’s Crab Shack. The Hawaiian Chieftain lays docked just below the restaurant. She’s open for tours and the ship’s crew will be happy to answer your questions. But if you feel that special magic, hear the call of the sea, ask the crew about an adventure sail or maybe even a passage sail. Who knows, you might find yourself volunteering for a two week crash course in sailing a tall ship at sea!

…Fair Winds and Following Sea, Hawaiian Chieftain!

Special Note: The Hawaiian Chieftain is working in conjunction with the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services to collect food and clothing donations for the holidays. So when you’re making your plans to visit the ship, bring along some non-perishable foods, infant formula, or winter clothing for children and adults and donate for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Photo taken in San Francisco, Feb. 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Another Halloween

Ah – how depressing. A fav time of year gone by. I seriously think we should petition to add Nov 1st as a holiday on Tuesday’s ballet. About the only thing i could vote on with a clear conscience. What an idea! The kids could re-coup from their sugar-binged excitement and we adults wouldn’t have to worry about crawling out of bed with the previous night’s make-up still smudged behind our ears and a frightful hang-over. Don’t know about you, but that sounds mighty good to me.

I would love to hear from anyone who joined the “zombie train” on Friday night. I went to one of the stops, “O” Street and 8th, and found it empty of zombies – and pretty much everything else. Anyone out in Folsom know if the zombies arrived? Of course, i suppose if they did arrive there would be no one left to report on it as the living would have all been eaten…

I was downtown in Old Sac on Halloween night. I HAD to go by Evangeline’s. That’s just the most awesome place no matter what time of year. While i was standing in the middle of the street taking a picture, a huge murder of crows flew by… Shiver…

When i walked up to this display, the elevator opened.  There was no one in it.  Well, i can tell you, iiiiiiiii wasn't going to go in!  No way!

There were tons of parties going on all over the town all through the weekend. So if you didn’t get a chance to join in the festivities…you only have yourself to blame! Now we get to watch as all our wonderfully carved pumpkins shrivel into little old men. Funny, but after a few days, they all look exactly the same. Till next year!