Friday, September 21, 2012

Real roadside attractions

On this last day of summer, I must say that I have traveled a lot these last few months, going to Northern California three times in my van. As I mentioned in recent posts, I went to the California WorldFest music festival in Grass Valley where I camped in mid-July, Pacific Yearly Meeting in rural Marin County in mid-August and the California Men’s Gathering near Santa Rosa over Labor Day weekend. Each trip involved a hotel stay on the way up and down, and it seemed crazy to return to Claremont between the latter two, being so close together, both in terms of time and geography. As much as I love traveling, I have to admit that I’m glad to be home for a while!

Over years of traveling, I have learned several things, including the fact that it taking six hours to drive between here and the Bay Area on Highway 5, or 8 hours on Highway 101, really depends on there being no traffic and hard, steady driving. I have also come across some nice surprises - really good places where I didn’t expect at all to find them. Here are a few.

*Taste of India, right off Highway 5 at the McKittrick Exit near Bakersfield. Although the selection is somewhat limited and basic, it’s downright exciting to see a sit-down, authentic Indian restaurant among all the nasty fast-food joints along this nasty stretch of the 5. It has tasty to-go wraps, a thoughtful nod to Highway 5 travelers who like good food, and the coolest thing is that its billboards along the freeway advertise its vegan entrees.

*In Bishop, of all places, across Highway 395 from the Motel 6, which, as far as I know and as I have written about here, is the only one left with a wheelchair-accessible room with two beds, there is a pretty good Chinese restaurant. It’s called the Imperial Palace or Imperial Garden, and it’s a nice, surprising bonus after a long, spectacular, rural drive. (I also can’t help but note that it’s in front of the county’s small Department of Public Social Services office.)

 *Also in Bishop on the 395 is Schats Bakery, which turns out to have awesome chili cheese bread. I always thought the place was just a tourist trap. You can actually order the large loaves and lots of other stuff by phone at (760)873-7156 or (866)323-5854 between 9 and 3 on weekdays. By the way, Jack’s, a few blocks down the highway, is good for breakfast.

There are a bunch of other places that I love and always return to when traveling in California, such as the Saturn Café in Santa Cruz, which I have written about here (on my visit this summer, my waiter was a cutie with a mohawk featuring four long spikes), and a few restaurants in San Luis Obispo, but these are weird, out-of-the-way treats. Who knew?

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