Kingman Arizona

I’ve only been in this town for two days and I already don’t like it.

Firstly, the Airbnb owner who I had initially booked with had double booked the room — apparently she was advertising it on multiple sites and got confused — and was trying to manipulate ME into cancelling the reservation. In airbnb the person who cancels using the web site, is the person who pays their fee. THEN she expressly tried to trick me into NOT doing was calling them, saying she’d already spoken with them and it wasn’t necessary … which of course I called bullshit on… and call them is what I did. She knew (and I knew) that once they read the emails they would set the cancellation as though SHE had done it even if I initiated the phone call, so not only was she going to pay their fee for using their site, but as a hostess, she was going to loose a lot of points in their “trustworthy” rankings. IF she’d done it herself, she’d have lost them anyway (unless she lied and said a death in the family or some such) plus the fee. So, I called them and explained the situation in full, they cancelled it and gave me a full refund.

Her home was in the historic section of town, which is where I wanted to be. All other rentals were in the new parts … and if I was going to be there I’d rather be in a hotel since there are SO many of them in this town that rooms here are well within my budget (A quick look on google found about 120 motels/hotels in 34 square miles, with the next largest employer being the hospital… I think its safe to say that tourism is their main industry). I opted for Ramada.

That said, no one comes to Kingman to see Kingman. Kingman is on I-40, Route 66, and its a about a two hour drive from here to either the west ridge of the Grand Canyon and/or the Hoover Dam (… so it’s a good base location for short stays while seeing other things.

When I got here, my hotel room had no wifi… it turns out that whole side of the structure has no wifi and they’ve known about it for a while and haven’t bothered to fix it. What killed me was how nasty the staff was to me about it. Orlando has a lot to teach Kingman about customer service when your whole economy depends on on it.

Oh, and I’ve decided that REALLY there’s no reason to stay in downtown Kingman or even on route 66 (which is where my hotel is). The hotels in the other side of town are cheaper, newer, and most likely nicer… and the food there is better.

That said, I tried FOUR different locally owned restaurants only to be DEEPLY disappointed. I even tried a steak house … my fish smelled bad and tasted off. The Chinese couple at the next table were clearly really unhappy with their steaks, as in DEEPLY unhappy.

The sad fact is that in this town … with the exception of Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner which not only came highly rated on ever site I looked at, but I noticed it was full of the local high-school kids on their high-school’s homecoming night … but that didn’t have one healthy thing on it’s menu (it really is all about the burgers, fries and milk shakes)

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The girl with the sash is part of her high-school’s homecoming royal court

…. you really are better off eating at any of the plethora of national chain restaurants in town.

I even tried the Garlic Clove, which is supposed to be one of the better Italian mom and pops in town, and having done so, I seriously question if ANYTHING they serve isn’t frozen, or from a can. That and I had the WORST case of gas and acid reflux afterwards.


OK, I found someplace NOT horrible. It’s totally out of the tourist area. It’s past the hospital and out by the car dealership… it’s called the Kingman Chophouse (king of steak). I got a baked not fried crab cake, a bowl of bean medley soup and a baked sweat potato… and everything tasted just fine.

Wagon Wheel Restaurant and gift shop in Needles, CA

The food at the Wagon Wheel is ok, large varied menu … you might like it, you might not… but oh my LORD get the homemade Pies!!!!

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I arrived in Needles at around 8pm (sunset was 7). I ordered a cup of the Navy bean soup and it tasted odd/wrong so she took it away… the guy next to me had ordered the pot roast skillet, and had not only sent back his dinner but had warned me against ordering it (Truck driver) … but I was seriously hungry and too tired after a long day of driving to go looking for someplace else to eat (this place had by far the highest ratings in town)….  All the yelp reviews said “get the pie” so I did… SO GOOD!!! Very low sweet so you could really appreciate the baked fruits… flakey savory crust…. The first time I went I had the apple caramel … and it was SO amazing (and more about the fruit than about the sugar) that I followed it up with a slice of the blueberry which again was all about the fruit (arguably one of the best blueberry pies I’ve ever had).. she said there’s one woman who bakes their pies— this woman needs an award….

The next day I was backtracking on 66 to see the road I had missed because it got too dark to drive it safely anymore, essentially discretion had forced me back onto the freeway till I got to my hotel for the night (The Ramada in Kingman, AZ) and stopped at the Wagon Wheel again… this time I didn’t bother with “food” I just got pie. I got the apple (again, for a late night snake… it keeps well unrefrigerated) and also got a slice of the homemade cheesecake and a slice of flan with a brownie crust (OH MY GOD that was AMAZING!!!)

I’m sorry I didn’t take photos of the pies, I just ate them. Plenty on Trip advisor

Lunch with old friends: Hermosa Beach⁩, ⁨California

Had lunch with one of my oldest friends (we’ve known each other since we were in diapers) and his fiancé. I wanted to go to the beach so they took me to this place called “The Good Stuff Restaurant” in the city of Hermosa Beach

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It’s mostly an all day breakfast sort of place with lots of healthy options. Apparently (I learned while writing this) it’s a local LA chain, with four branches. I got a strawberry smoothie with protein powder and a Greek omelet.

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Not the best Greek Omelet I’ve ever had, but quite tasty. They use good feta, but it was a bit too oily … and they offer a choice of potatoes or fruit… we all opted for the fruit. That said, it did have great views of the Ocean while we ate.

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After lunch we walked out on to the pier and came across this….IMG_0485

… a photographer doing a photo shoot about how we have to do a better job of recycling. Apparently 69% of our garbage ends up in landfills or in the oceans.

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and then we went further out, enjoying the seaside and looking at the surfers

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All along the pier there were a bunch of fishermen, and this guy was holding out a piece of fish to a seagull, another fisherman said that I might not believe him but that particular seagull was the first man’s friend, and always ate out of his hand

IMG_0489UNFORTUNATELY I didn’t manage to get a shot of the seagull actually eating out of the man’s hand, but he did!!!

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A sign warning the fishermen which fish to throw back

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When we got to the end of the pier we spotted this seal, swimming among the fisherman’s lines, like he was trying to get fish off the lines, or steal their catches

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Harris Ranch; Coalinga, California

San Francisco really isn’t a steak town. Having grown up in Chicago, which IS, the whole time I was living in SF I kept wondering where a girl had to go to get a decent one (seriously in SF you pay a lot for very little when it comes to steak). That place as it turned out, was — according to all my friends — Harris Ranch, an actual cattle ranch (and the largest one on American’s west coast) about halfway between SF and LA off of California Route 5, that is also a store, a hotel, and a gas station.

IMG_5540.jpgThe thing that first strikes you any time you drive past Harris Ranch is that it’s something of an oasis in the desert. IMG_5542

The owners really have built something very grand out here in the middle of not very much, and I often wondered what the cost of it was in terms of their water bill.IMG_0444This is particularly true during the summers when California is traditionally completely dry (seriously, for those who don’t know, it is HIGHLY abnormal for California to get any rain during the summer months), and this is especially true these last few years which have been a growing drought; the greenness of the place really shocks your eyes.

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That said, all along the way I kept seeing signs alongside the road saying things like, “is water wasted when it’s used to grow food?” And “This dust bowl courtesy of the federal government.” There’s apparently a political war going on between the conservationists, the farmers with regards to the water issue… but I don’t have the time or energy to delve into it here. (It’s important to remember that while the cities of California vote mostly democratic, the rural farm areas, such as where Harris Ranch is located tend to vote Republican.

IMG_5539That said, Harris Ranch clearly understand who their customer base is…. namely the rich customers who commute between SF and LA, some of whom are willing to put their money where their mouths are in terms of their concern for the environment by buying insanely expensive electric cars.IMG_0436

That said, there’s something new at Harris which wasn’t there last time I visited… a BBQ option at cheaper prices being sold out of the gas station part of the place.

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Plus a selection of their steaks to go again, from the gas station’s mini-mart. IMG_0445If however you go to the main building (a really gorgeous hacienda type building), you’ll find not only a much bigger gift shop, but a butcher shop section in the gift store that’s about twice as big as what’s in the gas station — with more cut options, sausages, etc.

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In this building there are also three different restaurants. The first is a bar, which offers up alcohol and slightly cheaper cuts of meat.

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The 2nd is a family style restaurant, which is walk in, but again with the slightly cheaper cuts of meat, and a wider menu (to appeal to families) with kids, etc., where you can buy things ‘ala carte

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And then the third option is their high-end restaurant, which normally requires reservations, has only their best cuts of meat, and the main comes with a selection of sides, a soup, etc. (NOT ala carte).

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THIS is where I opted to eat, because in addition to better cuts of meat, which I wasn’t going to eat, it had a wider sea food selection. I got a bowl of gazpacho

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For my drink I had their watermelon iced tea, and then for my main I ordered their scallops dish, which is intended to go ON TOP of the steak… and their vegetable platter.

The Soup was very good… and then I waited 45 minutes for my mains to show up. Finally (when my iPhone’s battery was starting to fail) I called over a waiter and asked “how many hours am I going to have to wait for my main dish?” The waitress who had taken my order over heard, ran over, apologized and then told me it was all her fault, she’d forgotten to put the order in. Her manager then came over said they’d have my food out in a jiffy, and that my bill was on them…. SO they screwed up big time, but as the food was free, I can’t complain too much…

That said, I was pretty unimpressed with everything I ate… So Harris, is great for the steaks but seems to have to get its act together otherwise.

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Apparently they also breed horses

map won’t load: It’s here:  https://goo.gl/maps/2toyjvjLsnE2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Route 80’s Little America Travel Center: Little America, Wyoming

I have always really loved the Little America Travel Center just off of Intestate 80 west of Green River, Wy; and I have stopped here many times over the years. When I first discovered it, it had been recently renovated and stood as an oasis of green in the desert of western Wyoming, serving up decent food at very reasonable prices. It USED to be impressively shiny (ultra clean bathrooms, everything worked, etc) … it isn’t anymore — but the food is still cheap, if you can get any

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The original building
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The “newish” building… I didn’t take pictures of the bathrooms because mom’s were changing babies in there, but their roomy and have powder rooms

That said something has happened to it. The bathrooms aren’t AS well maintained as they used to be, and this part of the travel center was understaffed — or at least that staff that was there was less “motivated” to do anything other than their assigned tasks, so that point of sale counter for stuff from the store had TWO people working the cash registers (but standing there doing nothing)….

 

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…while the cash register/kitchen for the food area, with its $0.75 ice cream cones ($1.55 if you get the bigger waffle cone), $2.95 grilled cheese sandwiches and it’s $5.75 1/3 lb cheese burgers… i.e., where all of the customers were going… had only one open register and an understaffed kitchen…  so that those lines were impossibly long… etc etc.

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During the time period I was there, the line extended out the door

I talked to the two staff members working the essentially unused counter, saying I had intended to get my lunch there, but not with such a long line… and they suggested that I cross the parking lot over to the side of the travel center that handles the truckers — in this case a completely separate building from the one that services automobile traffic (check out the length of the line below, it averaged zero to three people)

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So I did ….only to discover a smaller building — less tourist junk, and more stuff truckers might want to buy — like a rotisserie chicken …  with a grill line that averaged three people in line maximum instead of 20-30 — with only slightly different food options (the auto side was had fancier options, and stuff for kids, like chicken strips and potato wedges…  but what was offered was at the same prices

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When I tried to pay for my grilled sandwich the tap mechanism did not work, and the girl who was working there made a snide comment about how “it was old is just like everything else around here.”

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That said, the serving size for the waffle cone ice-cream on the trucker side seemed to be twice as big as what they were giving out the customer side

Golden Gate Bridge & Muir Woods: San Francisco Bay area, California

Hello from SF. After Pennsic I spent the last two weeks road tripping across America on I-80, in large part so that I could attend the 50th wedding anniversary of two dear friends (and former employers) of mine, up near the north/east end of Maine county (north of San Francisco). I had booked an Airbnb up as near to the venue for the party as possible, a local restaurant called Rancho Nicasio (apparently they’re popular for weddings too) — which I have got to say put on an impressive event.. and then made plans to stay with various friends who lived down in the south bay (which is about an hour and a half drive south of the party).

The next day I intended to take advantage of that location and go to Muir woods, which was one of my favorite places back when I used to live in Marine, only to discover that just a few months ago they instituted a reserved parking rule. You now have to book your visit 90 days in advance!!!! Either that or you have to do it 5 days in advance which means you’ll only get access to the handful of spaces that they’ve held back. The night before I got on-line and found that ALL the spaces were booked up till 4:30 in the afternoon.

That said, APPARENTLY, probably because Muir woods was someplace I went to every few weeks back before iPhones were even a product (I think I was still using palm pilot back then) — I do not have any digital photos of the place:

So instead I was like, “oh, I’ll just stop by the Golden Gate and get photos there… but normal daily fog (especially in summer when the air is hot and water is cold) had rolled in a bit early and very thickly (it was just noon, usually it wouldn’t be quite this thick till 1 or 2pm)… so I didn’t bother taking the time to pull over, and this was all I managed to snap:

IMG_5024 So I am posting photos from a 2005 visit (which apparently I do have a few of — would have taken them with a digital camera) but back before the selfi was a thing:

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Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge: Paxton, Nebraska

Located just off of Interstate-80, Ole’s big Game Steakhouse and Lounge,  is a taxidermist’s heaven with over 200 big game trophies that has been Paxton, Nebraska institution since 1933, and one that almost gives Cabela’s a run for its money (in its attempt to be a monument to death).  It is the endeavor of a local guy, Rosser “Ole” Herstedt, and stands as both a restaurant and a showroom for 35 years worth of his hunting expeditions to every continent. Any spot on its walls not taken up by a dead animals is covered with photographs and mementos brought home from his world-wide safaris.  Ole is now retired, and the resturant is now under the ownership of some guy called Tim Holzfaster (according to their brochure); that said, the food is… meh.

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The moment you walk into the restaurant the first thing you see is the Polar bear, which is posed as though it just killed a seal pup. And every one of the pieces comes with a little plaque telling you where and when it was killed (and what it is).

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Along the right wall of the place (from where you enter) there’s a full bar, with a little gift shop selling branded itemsIMG_4045

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Note the Rocky Mountain Oysters: otherwise known as testicalsIMG_2412

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I ordered the chopped buffalo steak, a sweet potato and cowboy beans (which I was told are like baked beans but with barbecue sauce)….and a sarsaparilla

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Based on taste, chopped buffalo steak was mixed with beef, and had way more beef than bison…. and, on top of that it had the fat ground into it…  so it was really really fatty (under the steak was actually a POOL of the crap)… thus utterly defeating the health benefit let alone the flavor value of Buffalo, so I don’t suggest it.  The baked beans were tasty as was the roll… However, my server – who admittedly was towards the end of his first week of working there and as of yet hadn’t tasted most anything that was on the menu (which is kind of part of the job, but is on the heads of the ownership to make sure he was given the chance). When I tried to talk to them about that they clearly didn’t give a shit… so ‘customer service’ isn’t their priority.

All said and done, go for the circuses, but unless you’re getting food that really basic, and your expectations of that food aren’t very high… you might be disappointed if you eat there.

Bonneville Salt Flats; Wendover, Utah

The world-famous Bonneville Salt Flats is located just west of the Tree of Utah as you travel west on I-80. It is one of the few places on the planet so flat and large that you can see the curve of the planet, and so deadly that not even the simplest life forms of our planet can sustain themselves there.

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The  Bonneville Salt Flats is another place I’ve driven past on numerous occasions, but never bothered to take the time to stop and see until this visit. I discovered there are two ways to see the place… the first is the a rest stop on the north side of Interstate-80

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The second option is to enter into the park itself to where the the measured mile is located, which is where the cars race. To get there, you go to the next exit west of the rest stop. There you will find a Sinclair Truck stop, that sells a collection of Bonneville Speedway t-shirts, along with the normal truck stop selection of goods

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and that, besides the obligatory gas, has something highly unusual for a truck stop…. a cafe that serves Indian food!!!

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I was so amazed when I spotted this, that I stopped to order some lunch. I ordered Sag Paneer, one of my very favorite foods, Tandoori chicken, and garlic Nan… the waiter told me that the wait for the chicken was going to about half an hour… so I told him I’d be back… and headed out to see the speedway

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This picture was actually taken on the way BACK to the truckstop

From the truck stop you drive down Leppy Pass Road, taking the curve in the bend onto the Bonneville Speedway Road (a two lane black top road along side which you’ll find a lot of people parked in campers)

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As was this one… (note the mountains)

For some reason the map won’t embed the map, so follow this link to show the spot of the final location: https://goo.gl/maps/qSFXak8XWEP2

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IMG_4628.jpgWhen I got there I was told that there was actually a race going on, and it would cost $20 to go out on to the salt flats… I told her I actually had to get back to the gas station because I had ordered lunch… and could I just take photos for now of the entrance way, and then come back after I had eaten (at which point I would pay to enter the area). She said yes, and directed me where to park.IMG_2372IMG_4629

After these photos I headed back to the cafe and had my lunch…. I also ordered a sweet lassi to drink with it.

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All of it was very tasty, but unfortunately the cook had undercooked the chicken thighs (my favorite part of the chicken too)… so he took it back in to have it cooked some more, and the chef for some reason opted to deep-fry it, meaning I still couldn’t eat it (not allowed deep-fried food).

And that’s when I suddenly had an urge to go to the bathroom (as in I really needed to poop all of a sudden). While there, for some reason…  I had the very bad luck of getting seriously sick. I was sitting on the toilet, pooping, and that black veil dropped in front of my eyes warning me that I was about to pass out. I put my head between my knees, started shaking and sweating really badly (as in heavy drops of sweat were falling off my forehead onto my glasses)… while sitting in what I knew was a cool room. I tried to stand up a few times and almost passed out each time, forcing me to sit again, and put my head right back between my knees… I tried pulling my pants up, but didn’t have the strength to do it. I was forced to ask a complete stranger to help me get my pants up. She, however, didn’t speak english; so, I asked her to please get someone who could — she spoke enough to understand that. It took her a while but she brought a guy from the shop, who translated to her what I wanted, while asking me if he should call 911, but warning me that the hospital was very far away and it could take them 20 minutes to get there. I told him not to. She helped me, and then I staggered over to the sinks and held on to them, still shaking horribly. She opened the faucets and started splashing my head with cool water, which actually helped.

When I started to feel a bit better I staggered over to the restaurant, paid my bill (poor guy must have thought I’d run out on it), sat at a table and put my head down on it and just stayed like that for about 20 minutes…. then with baby steps I got back to the car… guzzeled water I had there and waited for my head to clear so I could drive the almost 2 hour drive… I was actually pretty proud of myself all things considered

As such, I was only really able to glance at the salt flats before forced by illness to head directly towards my next hotel where I could rest … because to quote The Bard, “discretion is the better part of valor” —Henry IV, Part I, and while I am aware he meant it as a joke, I prefer its idiomatic usage, because it has a great deal of truth to it.

Anong’s Thai Cuisine: Rawlins, WY

Reputed to be the best restaurant in town according to yelp (and apparently part of a chain with branches in Laramie and Cheyenne)… I was hoping to find buffalo somewhere in town, but no such luck… As soon as you sit you get a small cup of Thai chicken soup with rice, with tones of lemon grass and cilantro …very tasty

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My Tum Yum came, it was big enough for a meal, and it had the sort of heat where on the first spoonful you don’t notice it, then on the 2nd its just very mild, and then that gets more intense with each spoonful— just like what I had in Thailand.

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In fact its one of the BEST Tum Yum soups I’ve had since Thailand. Then I had the chicken Lard Nah… this was the weakest dish of the meal. It was swimming in a soup rather than in thicker gravy… not sure what was up with that… and just not all that tasty. Also the noodles weren’t anything I was used to.

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For dessert I had the sticky rice with mango.

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This was a large chunk of sticky rice with a warm coconut cream gravy, one of the smallest 1/2’s of a mango I’ve ever seen and a dollop of whipped cream (??) … good but not great.

All in all a very respectable Thai place that would succeed even in Chicago with all the competition it’d face there… in Rawlins, I don’t doubt that it’s the best food in town.

Fair Oaks Dairy: Fair Oaks Indiana

I’ve been to Fair Oaks Dairy restaurants twice now, but have yet to visit their theme park. Apparently, it the ONLY theme park devoted to dairy in the who country. The first time I was in 2015 when I was driving from Chicago to Florida, and spotted the road side advertising for the place (there’s a lot of them, and they are all way cool, MUCH nicer than the shoddy billboards you usually see — when researching this I learned the dairy had been bought out by Coca-cola in 2014), and they are one of the biggest and most high-tech dairies in the country.

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Last time I was here I was able to grab a meal at their cheaper food option, which is off on the other side of the parking lot from the restaurant and theme park (above)

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but that closes at 6pm (I didn’t show up there till about 6:30 today).

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which they call the Cowfé… it’s a no frills cafe that serves produce and food items fresh from their farms…

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cuban sandwich, $7.75 and an iced tea

and from what I could tell it’s SOME of the same foods as at their restaurant called ‘The Farmhouse,’ (the cafe has a MUCH smaller menu), for about half the price… I know this because I apparently ordered the same dish both times I’ve been there (hey, I like cuban sandwiches… )

IMG_2396.JPGbut without the table service, massive order of fries, and the all you can eat jalapeno cornbread… So the Cuban sandwich which was $7.75 at the cafe, is $14 at the restaurant. (I’m also willing to consider that the cafe sandwhich might be a bit smaller in size — I could only eat half of the restaurant’s sandwhich.) Looking at the foods offered, a lot of it is the same stuff you’d expect to find in Appalachia, which is not surprising as the culture extends about this far north.

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while walking back out to the parking lot I passed the table where some people who I had gotten friendly with when I entered were sitting, and they allowed me to photograph their food (I was amazed at how MASSIVE their portions were)…

IMG_2400.JPGand the woman gave me one her disturbingly large fried chicken wings (I was utterly underwhelmed by it, almost no flavor at all). On my way out of the parking lot I realized that the BP (British Petroleum) gas station adjacent to the Fair Oaks Dairy was actually sort of an extension of it (the gas station store ALSO sells their food).

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