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Posted by on Nov 13, 2012 in Blog, Travel | 13 comments

The Loneliest Highway

 

Las Vegas-Reno-Drive

 

Can the concept of “nothingness” be beautiful?

I think so.

Imagine a highway where you drive 60 miles and don’t see another car the entire way.

Imagine a highway where the nearest person is perhaps 20 to 30 miles away.

Imagine a highway with no gas stations or businesses of any kind.

Imagine a highway with no lights or power.  A place where cell phones don’t work (which is just about everywhere, if like me you’re unfortunate enough to have have AT&T).

There is a such a highway.

It’s Nevada State Highway 266, which is the desolate 60-mile stretch of asphalt that straddles across the Nevada-California border at a crux where towns and people do not exist.  You’re more likely to see a UFO on this lonely road than another vehicle.

If you head West, the highway begins its path about one hour north of the sleepy desert town of Beatty, NV.  The road empties out several ecosystems later about 20 miles south of Bishop, CA — located at the foothills of the gigantic snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range.  The other main junction from the West is California State Highway 395.

I’ve taken this incredible road perhaps two dozen times.  I think of it as a well-kept secret — until now.  When driving along it’s winding path, I feel the road is in control.  Not me.  I’m a passenger rocked into solitude within its bosom.  Driving this highway is the closest thing I’ve experienced towards achieving complete peace.  And honestly, it’s even a little frightening if you’re driving it alone.  Especially at night.

The highway is a single-lane road, except for one short stretch which plunges through a narrow canyon.  The rocky pass is so small that only one car at a time will fit through.  But since there’s no traffic, passage is easy.

The road includes a barren desert with little to see but rock and sand.  In fact, upon one’s first impression there’s no sign of life whatsoever.  Then, prickly plants suddenly appear.  Next, you see sagebrush.  The road climbs upward and starts winding.  You enter a drive through rocky cliffs.  The curves are so intense, the speed limit is 20 mph.  Then, the road quickly becomes engulfed by a forest of pine trees.  Next, the road winds back down and eventually rests in a fertile grassland with grazing cattle.  Then, the road winds up again through another mountain range, then through another short desert maze, another forest, followed by several canyons.  Finally, you end up looking at the breathtaking central valley which is bordered by the majestic High Sierras.

This is an incredible journey.  Yet, I’ve never heard or read anything about it.  Perhaps the few that have driven this lonely stretch of highway want to keep it their secret.  I don’t blame them.

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Posted by on Nov 9, 2012 in Blog, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | 3 comments

South Lake Tahoe — Restaurant Recommendations

Note:  I’m visiting South Lake Tahoe for the next two weeks.  It’s going to be a busy weekend with the World Series of Poker Circuit in town.  The Heavenly Ski Resort is also opening up sometime next week.  So let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects — great food!

 

South Lake Tahoe is blessed to offer many outstanding dining options.  Moreover, the area offers an extraordinary number of excellent ethnic restaurants, especially for a small town of only about 60,000 residents.

Here’s a short list of my personal favorites.  Having spent perhaps 150 or so days and nights staying at South Lake Tahoe over the past eight years, I’ve dined out at all of these places numerous times.  I’ve posted my favorite restaurants where anyone can come and enjoy a good meal, either dining alone or with a group.  So, most of these places are not fancy, but more casual.

Listed in no particular order, here are my personal favorites:

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Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in Blog, Travel, What's Left | 0 comments

My Great Privilege — Meeting a World War II Veteran

American Veteran Photo

 

In few more years, they’ll all be gone.

Every one of them.

The millions who marched on foot across a continent and who sailed the high seas some 70 years ago are slowly but surely leaving us.  They pass away at the rate of thousands per year, which will gradually come to a few hundred, and then to a trickle.  In another decade or so, they will be no more.

They are what has been called “the Greatest Generation.”

When times were the toughest, they endured it.  When duty called and the bell of national service rang, they answered it.  When our way of life and liberty was at stake, they defended it.  And when it was all over and some came home, they honored and remembered those who didn’t.

They are our heroes.

Indeed, most aren’t young anymore.  Most have seen and suffered far more than any human should endure.  They don’t play on sports fields.  They aren’t moviestars.  They aren’t rich or famous.  But they are far more special than any of those superficial icons with fleeting illusions of accomplishment.  They are the survivors and the victors of the last century’s most trying test.  They are the champions.  The champions of the world.

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Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in Blog, Travel | 3 comments

Stealing John Dillinger’s Pants

 

Northwest Indiana is famous for some things.  Well, on second thought, it’s not really famous for anything.

The mishmash of small working-class suburbs encrusted by lead smelters, railroad tracks, and oil refineries — mostly filled with people with unpronouncable last names that don’t contain a single vowel — is utterly indescript.  Gary and Hammond and East Chicago and Highland and Hessville and Munster and Calumet City and all these places in between are to greater Chicagoland what North Jersey is to New York City — little more than a warehouse and freightyard to a far more vibrant place.  It’s bascially like a giant Self Storage unit the size of a county, with plumbing pipes and electrical wires running along every roadway, railroad track, and field.  That’s the picture I see when now think of Northwest Indiana.

Indeed, Gary and Hammond — where I’m staying and working over the next few weeks — are nestled right across the Illinois-Indiana state line.  These are old industrial cities that pretty much look unchanged since the post-WW2 boom.  Red brick buidings.  Cracked sidewalks.  Old storefronts littered with faded out “For Lease” signs that more symbolize a loss of hope rather than any possible prospects of gaining a tenant.  As the great writer-biographer Robert Caro would more eloquently write of another time and place, this is where “windows, glassless except for the jagged edges around their frames, stared out on the street like sightless eyes.” (Footnote 1)

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Posted by on Oct 14, 2012 in Restaurant Reviews, Travel, Uncategorized | 6 comments

Sunday Night in Chicago — Still Starving After Two Terrible Dinners

Nolan Dalla Blog

 

How do you go out to two seperate dinners at two different restaurants and still end up starving at night’s end?

Well, it happened to me tonight in the industrial garden spot of Hammond, Indiana — which is right cross the Illinois-Indiana border, outside of Chicago.

First, a few words about Chicago — the city I’m visiting over the next nine days.  It’s basically a city of trains, truckers, tolls, and traffic.  Ranks right up there with Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit, only with more people, and apparently far worse food.  What would you expect from a city made up mostly of Eastern Europeans?  World class cuisine?  What’s the only thing worse than spending nine days in Chicago.  Answer — spending ten days in Chicago.  Not a fan.

But I’m here.

Here’s the story.  Last time I was in Chicago, I stayed here two weeks.  During that entire time, I don’t remember having one memorable meal, unless one considered shocking disappointment to be a virtue.  I’m sure there are some great restaurants in this city.  There has to be.  I just haven’t experienced one yet.  I’m zero for 20.  I’m the Chicago Cubs of snob diners.  In all fairness, most of the restauants I’ve tried have been either around O’Hare Airport or over in Gary-Hammond — which is kinda’ like saying you hate New York’s food because you spent most of your time in Flushing or Newark.  I realize Hammond is not the charming neighborhood of the northside.

I do remember one thing.  Last time I was here, I had a horrible meal at some Italian place on Calumet Road.  So, where did I chose to go for dinner tonight?

You guessed it — the same Italian restaurant.  The place couldn’t be that bad twice, could it?

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