Wanderings: Tulelake

“A nickel’s worth of goulash beats a five dollar can of vitamins.

Martin H. Fischer 



In early July I and a group of the family camped for a few days at Lava Beds National Monument, near Tulelake, CA. It is high desert, over 4700 feet, and the weather is very changeable. We picked the perfect time. The weather was fantastic: pleasantly warm during the day and cool, with an occasional little mist of rain at night.

My grandchildren, who are four and seven, like their mother when she was around that age, had a really great time wandering  around in the lava tubes and looking at the two major volcanic craters, one of which is empty (Mammoth Crater) and the other full (Medicine Lake).

The Monument gets its name from the fact that it is full of lava tubes, which are long tunnels created when the molten lava cooled on the top and bottom and the still liquid middle ran out 30,000 plus years ago. Inside the park they have been improved with paths and ladders (some are even lit). The 22 developed tubes are rated easy, moderate and “If you are over 40, don’t even think about it.” (I added that one)

It is also the site of the Modoc war that took place in the 1870s between the U.S. Army and a group of the Modoc tribe led by “Captain Jack.” You can tour the battlefield where 60 Modocs held off 600 soldiers for five months. It is well marked and full of history.

Adjacent to it is the Tulelake Wildlife Preserve, which is on the western flyway for migratory birds. In the spring and fall it is full of birds and a wonderful place to visit. In February it is visited by some 400 Bald Eagles, a sight that is well worth viewing (Klamath Falls, OR is not too far away and has motels, restaurants, etc., and the nearby town of Tulelake has some conveniences), including a restaurant known as Captain Jack’s Stronghold.

I have been going there since 1966 and the people at the Monument are always friendly and helpful. They even have special programs during the summer months that include lectures, demonstrations, and tours of various lava tubes, the Modoc battlefield and more.

The campground has running water and real toilets and is clean. It also has a forever view in all directions. Call (530) 667-8113 for more information, including RV facilities and size limits.

Best of all, this year I got a senior pass to federally owned lands that got us in free (saved $10) and half price on camping (saved $15). The best $10 I ever spent.

Wanderings: Los Angeles

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame …”

Thomas Wolfe, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”


Los Angeles

A couple of weeks ago a friend invited me to ride with him to the Los Angeles area and stay for a couple of days. He grew up there and returns often to put flowers on family graves at Rose Hills in Whittier. My grandparents and an aunt and uncle are buried there and I had never been to their graves, something I have meant to do. That was a good enough reason to go, but, knowing me, he also mentioned that he knew some famous sandwich places that we could visit.

We left on a Monday morning and stopped at Harris Ranch on I-5 for lunch. He said he loves liver and onions and it was the only place he would eat it. I love it too and used to stir-fry it pink, so I tried it rare (yes, they will cook it anyway you want it). It was really good, but I think next time I will try it more towards medium, since the texture was a bit softer than I thought it would be. After buying my grandson, Harris, a Harris Ranch hat (they need to have kids sizes in the shirts), we headed towards L.A.

After checking in to our motel, we had dinner at The Hat, a place well known for their pastrami dip sandwiches for the past 60 years (10 locations in southern California). We split one of their delicious pastrami dips (great pastrami – just enough fat and lots of choices in condiments) and a small order of fries, which turned out to be half a paper bag full and very good. Before we left, I bought a t-shirt.

The next day, after spending the morning putting flowers on our relatives’ graves and spending some time there with them, we headed to Philippe – The Original Home of the French Dipped Sandwich, on Alameda Street in downtown L.A., near Union Station.

Philippe’s started at a different location in 1908, but didn’t serve sandwiches until moving 1918. Open daily from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., it has been at this location since 1951 and is really popular, but has lots of seating. They also have sawdust on the floor to take care of spills.

We split a really good lamb dip and added an order of “excellent for a restaurant” cole slaw and two bowls of chili, with beans (also available without). I have never had restaurant chili that good: thick and delicious. I was told it is Delores Chili, which comes in a brick and can be purchased at Smart & Final stores.

Philippe’s has a huge menu and still serves coffee for nine cents, plus a penny tax. Decaf costs 60 cents. You can look at the menu and their extensive wine list at http://www.philippes.com/menu/.

Much of the rest of the day we spent driving around remembering growing up in that area. We even went to Pasadena, where I grew up and spent the first 19 years of my life. But if you put me in the middle of town I would be lost. I only recognized a few buildings. It was sad.

Dinner that evening (that is why we split orders) was at Original Tommy’s. Tommy’s has been around for 65 years and now has 31 locations in southern California and two near Las Vegas, NV. We went to the one on Whittier Blvd. in Pico Rivera.

Their speciality is chili burgers and chili dogs, so we ordered one of each to split, along with an order of fries which were crisp on the outside and nice and soft inside. We tried the dog first and it was really good with a nice snap. The burger had cooled when we got to it, but is was still excellent. You can buy their chili to take home, but bring a big plastic bag to put the container in since it will leak (and an ice chest if you are planning on taking it very far). Oh, I also bought a t-shirt there there.

For breakfast the next day we stopped at a restaurant called Hecho En Mexico, on Huntington Drive, for chorizo and eggs. The meal was excellent, and the salsa was especially delicious, but I still can’t eat a whole meal using torn flour tortillas instead of a fork.

On our way home, we stopped at a rest stop on I-5 to stretch our legs. To my surprise there was a vending machine that sold ice cream. You put in two bucks and make your selection. A freezer opens and a funny looking metal cylinder with a rubber tip slowly drops into the proper location and grabs your selection and then releases it into the slot where you can pick it up. Ice cream in the lower San Joaquin Valley on a hot day is delicious.

For dinner we made a stop at Pea Soup Andersen’s in Santa Nella, a very interesting and family-friendly restaurant with a large gift shop and dining room. I had a bowl of their always great spit-pea soup and a half chicken salad sandwich. As I mentioned, the soup was excellent, but the sandwich was just so-so. No kids t-shirts there either.

Well, Tommy’s told me what kind of hot dogs they use, but we couldn’t find them before we left L.A. We did get some Farmer John “Dodger Dogs,” which I shared with my friends at Shoestring. They are good for a long, regular hot dog, but we are on a quest to get Tommy’s