Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

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Location: Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, United States

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More long and winding roads

Exercises in getting from here to there, or there to here

In planning for this weekend, we had a bit of a problem. I had to return to Albuquerque to teach my classes Tuesday, but Pat has to stay at the lake until his dockmaster duties end Wednesday. So we had to drive up Friday in separate vehicles; Pat took Enterprise with the fifth-wheel, while Dulce and I had Galileo.

Being in a larger, clumsier rig, Pat took a route that emphasized big roads and faster travel. According to Google Maps, this route is 166 miles and takes 3 hours, 11 minutes. That seems about right.


Meanwhile, Dulce and I took a more scenic route. It's shorter in miles, but it's decidedly not suitable for bigger, clumsier rigs. Google Maps says it's 153 miles and takes 3 hours, 55 minutes. The time estimate is WAY off. This trip, Pat and I left at the same time, and while he had to stop for fuel and spent 15 minutes getting lunch, I arrived ahead of him by about the time he spent on fuel and lunch. On other trips, Gerald and I have arrived sooner via the scenic route than Pat on the big roads. My guess is that Google Maps underestimates the travel speed on New Mexico's state highways, some of which are unpaved but still can be traveled at a fairly high speed. Sure, I had to stop a couple of times to wait for some cattle to mosey out of the way, but, hey, that's part of the appeal of the back roads.

Then for the trip home, I chose a route that I already knew was going to be more time-consuming, but that would also be fantastically scenic. If Google Maps had an option to select the most scenic route, this is how it would tell people to go. It's 193 miles and 4 hours, 8 minutes -- an accurate assessment, probably because none of the roads are unpaved. For out-of-state visitors, the reverse of this route is what I would recommend to get from the airport to Five O'Clock Somewhere; it provides the best of the best of scenery, plus a nifty bonus: the chance to stop at Viola's Restaurant in Los Alamos for lunch. On this route, it wasn't cattle but deer that I had to stop for until they decided they wanted to wander over to the side of the road.
In case you're wondering, I hate freeways. I also dislike road construction. When a route involves both, I'd rather find some other way to go.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Getting set for dockmaster duty

Roughing it in luxury ...

The New Mexico Sailing Club, which operates the marina at Heron Lake, runs as a co-op. One of the duties of all members who have boats in the marina is to spend half a week on dockmaster duty. One requirement is that the dockmaster be physically at the marina at all times, either sleeping on a boat in the marina or camped out on the point above the marina.

Pat's duty doesn't start until tomorrow night, but we got the trailer set up so it's ready.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Long and Winding Road

Not all who are lost wander …

The few people who frequent this blog might have noticed a lack of activity lately. That’s primarily because Pat and I have been on the road for most of the past three weeks. For a detailed travelogue, including pictures, you can look at Pat’s blog, Desert Sea, where he’s gradually putting up posts about the journey. I’ll just touch on highlights here.

The trip seemed to have two major themes: barbeque and detours. Just about every day, we had at least one great barbeque experience – when I travel, I want to sample the best of the local food, and we kept stumbling on great barbeque places. And just about every day, sometimes multiple times in a day, we ended up someplace we didn’t intend to be, sometimes because of road construction, sometimes because of our unfamiliarity with the territory, and sometimes because of a little of both.

Barbeque, May 2: OK, this doesn’t officially count as part of the journey, but we had lunch at JR’s Bar-B-Que in Albuquerque with the guy who was helping his buddy sell the fifth-wheel trailer we just bought, and exchanged a check for the title to the trailer.

Detour, May 2: Not a really big deal, but our favorite motel in Gallup had no non-smoking rooms available, so we had to spring for a suite.

Barbeque, May 3: Big Belly’s BBQ in Tempe, run by former ASU and KC Chiefs defensive tackle Bryan Proby, serves up massive portions of KC style barbeque. I didn’t have enough appetite for it this trip, but I’ve been told the giant potato is an experience I should have at least once in my lifetime.

Detour, May 6: This one was on purpose. On our way to the cruise on Saguaro Lake, we went to Arizona Cactus Sales to see what we might want to put into the landscaping if we buy a house in the Phoenix area – many of the properties we’ve been looking at have been bank-owned or otherwise neglected, and so the landscape is pretty much dead. We’d want to put in water-conserving landscaping, rather than recreating Scottish golf courses in the desert. We learned a lot about cacti and how to take care of them – which mostly means leaving them alone and absolutely not watering them or planting them anywhere water is likely to drain.

Barbeque, May 7: Right near our motel in Bakersfield was The Grill Hut. The menu is extremely limited (beef tri-tip or chicken breast, plus sauces and sides), but what they do, they do very well.

Detour, May 8: Trying to get from the Nimitz Freeway to Alameda Island is insane. The bridges that go to the island are not lined up with the roads the freeway exits lead to, and there’s road construction that makes things really “interesting” – such as semi-trucks turning left from an extremely narrow roadway bounded by Jersey bouncewall into another extremely narrow roadway bounded by Jersey bouncewall, during the extremely brief green-light interval of the temporary traffic light suspended from flimsy cables above the intersection, such that one truck takes three cycles of the light to complete its turn because of all of the other drivers who try to get around the behemoth and end up getting in its way, so it has to halt until they figure out that they have to back up to get out of its way. Apparently, “reverse” is not a setting that exists on the shift levers of most Californians’ cars.

Detour, May 10: Visited a friend on his boat in Marina Bay in Richmond, and then sort of got lost on the way out. Found the cheapest gas in the East Bay area, and also the mini-mart that was featured in the movie “True Crime.” Didn’t go in to see whether the potato-chip display had been moved.

Detour, May 11: Needed to do some financial transactions involving our credit union, so we used the credit-union branch-sharing network to find a participating CU in Berkeley. Google Maps got us there, but not back. We ended up taking a scenic tour of Berkeley and Oakland, including Chinatown, that we hadn’t intended.

Barbeque, May 11: We had already looked at our schedule for our time in the Bay Area and saw that the best time for us to hook up with family was Wednesday evening. My brother had the suggestion that maybe we could meet at Sam’s Bar-B-Que in San Jose, where our cousin often plays with a bluegrass band, Dark Hollow. As it turns out, the band was playing there that night, so my cousin saved us a table and we had a great time. The band played “Detour,” written by Paul Westmoreland and played by Spade Cooley, then subsequently by Patti Page and Willie Nelson, among others.

Detour, May 12: We had a coupon. We were hungry. We wanted seafood. Gerald’s Droid told us that Panama Joe’s atmosphere was “boisterous” but the noise level was “moderate.” I guess it depends what you mean by “moderate”; it was college night.

Barbeque, May 13: OK, we didn’t get to eat this, but our motel room was suffused with the aroma. We were right around the corner from the laundry room, which was also the housekeeping staff’s lunch room. Beneath the open window, they had set up a little electric grill, and the bulgogi smelled heavenly.

Barbeque, May 14: Free hot dogs and beer at the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club open house. Those folks are really proud of their new elevator, which is done up inside like a fine yacht, with wood paneling and cabin sole. We’ve been told that Black Magic used to be part of the Etchells fleet there.

Detour, May 14: Met Silver Girl and visited the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, then took an extended side trip to the Coyote Grill in Laguna Beach.

Detour, May 15: Sunday Brunch on the Queen Mary, followed by wandering all over the ship for several hours. We only got lost a couple of times …

Detour, May 16: Dropped Gerald off with the ASU sailing team for several days’ training at the US Sailing Center in Long Beach and made it out of the LA area with only one or two wrong turns along the way. Made it to Tempe, dropped off a couple of things and picked up a couple of things at Gerald’s apartment.

Detour, May 17: Less than an hour from home, we saw smoke rising and lots of red flashing lights up ahead. We got off the freeway onto Old Route 66 and meandered through the village of Paraje before getting back onto the freeway, which we then had all to ourselves until we got to the outskirts of Albuquerque.

Detour, May 18-20: You thought we were done traveling? Nope. First, Pat went to Los Alamos to pick up Dulce, who had been getting royal spa treatment at my folks’ house (dinner whenever she wanted it, an electric blanket to sleep on at night, and other general spoiling). Then we took the big truck (Enterprise) south to pick up the fifth-wheel trailer and learn how it works.

Detour, May 21: I had been scheduled to teach only one class during the summer term, but I was given the opportunity Friday to add another – this one on the West Side campus, where I haven’t taught before. Pat and I took a scenic drive to assess the layout of the place, and man, is it far away!

Today: No detours, but maybe some barbeque – chicken “wings” from JJ’s (they’re actually thighs, and therefore really meaty) should go well with the hockey game. Now I’m getting hungry!

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Guest post: A Bit of Happiness

Some of my students wrote such great essays in response to the cuisine topic that I have asked them to allow me to share their work here. The first (but I hope not the last) to respond to my request is Phil Coen, who wrote a review of his favorite restaurant. OK, so it’s hard to get to – if you ask Google Maps how to get there from New Mexico, one leg of the journey involves getting into a kayak. But then, part of what makes this restaurant a great place is that it’s located somewhere that … well, you have to cross some water to get there.

A Bit of Happiness
by Phil Coen

When people ask me what my favorite restaurant is, I always hesitate and think about the wonderful memories of so many places, but, in the end, I always answer without a doubt that it would have to be Holuakoa Garden. When I am looking for a good restaurant, I am looking for several things; first of all would be the atmosphere. I look for the overall feel of the place, whether it is comfortable and whether I feel at home, as if I belong here. Next, I think about how the food tastes in combination with the presentation of the dishes. Finally I analyze the experience and evaluate whether or not it was worth the price.

What makes Holuakoa Garden stand out from all the other restaurants that I’ve been to is the ambiance of the restaurant. The restaurant has a romantic feel from its small waterfall to the freshness of the gardens in the middle of the restaurant. The ambiance creates a relaxing dream-like state of mind. All that would be enough to set the full experience Holuakoa Garden has to offer apart, but Holuakoa Garden is located on the side of a mountain overlooking a breathtaking ocean view. I would recommend that you go there at sunset, to get the full experience Holuakoa Garden has to offer. Most of the restaurant is outside, giving it an open unrestrained feel with lovely smells of all the local flowers of Hawaii.

Being in an outstanding setting is only a small part of Holuakoa Garden, for the culinary masterpieces were worthy of a king’s last meal. When I had the pleasure of eating there, I started off with a caprese salad. The salad was one-of-a-kind, involving fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil from the restaurant’s own garden, topped with a type of balsamic vinegar dressing, pine nuts and of course the mozzarella . The tomatoes made this salad because they were sweet, ripe and juicy, maintaining a bright red and yellow tint. I was left wanting more and wondering, if a salad can be that good, what type of masterpiece did I have to look forward to next?

I ordered the filet mignon since the island was famous for the beef because of the quality of grass due to the volcanic soil. It was something I had been looking forward to the entire trip, so I felt it was a now or never moment. Knowing that I was anticipating a moment of genius from the chef, the staff took its time, building on the anticipation of the upcoming entrée. This made my anticipation of the entrée all that more magical. The filet mignon was artistically centered on the platter with an array of colorful vegetables and potatoes, and lightly drizzled with a savory balsamic reduction making the entrée like a painting. The filet mignon was cooked perfectly to my individual taste. There was nothing that I would change, making for a perfect entrée.

What better way to end a perfect meal than with a special dessert? Earlier in the day I had been hiking in the Hawaiian forests and came across a fruit called lilikoi. After hearing the dessert menu I knew that having a cheesecake with this fruit would be amazing. To bring the night to an eventful close I ordered something I knew would be amazing. When I finally got the dessert, it lived up to my expectations and, in fact, exceeded them. The cheesecake was able to satisfy not only the desire to have something amazing but to have an adventure come to a memorable closing.

In conclusion, I recommend this restaurant to anybody that is visiting the Big Island of Hawaii. The only regrettable thing about this restaurant is that it is so difficult to return to, to be able to enjoy it once more. I’ll always have a desire to go back, to enjoy not only the wonderful food, but the ambience and landscape that went with it.

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

One year ago today ...


It was one year ago today, May 1, 2010, that we lost our very good friend Marty. He was the sort of person whom you always expect to be there forever, but that day, he went into the water and never came back up. He is still very much missed.

Vaya con dios, amigo.

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