Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 7: Not a Road Trip Without Snow

After the abject terror of the drive down Highway 6 in the pouring rain the day before, Day 7 of the trip greeted us in Green River with beautiful, clear skies. We set out bright and early and started the long journey East on the legendary Interstate 70. According to Wikipedia, I-70 was the first interstate highway project, and is considered an engineering marvel based on the mountain passes and tunnels in Colorado. I can honestly say that while there were some pretty scary, stressful portions (more on that later), if I had to point to the 5 most stunning views of our trip, at least 3 were laid out before us on Day 7 in Utah and Colorado.

We'd barely gone 50 miles when nature called, and we made our way to a rest area. On a completely separate note, I wish I had tracked exactly how often we stopped due to "nature". I'll just say that the TM drinks a TON of water.

Anyway, I digress...

This rest area was easily the coolest one of our trip. The one near Mt. Shasta was pretty sweet because the river was right there (and the skunk), but for sheer impressiveness there's not even a close second to this rest area in Utah.

Facing North:

Facing North again:

Facing South:

Facing South again:

I mean... I don't want to go all hyperbolic about things, but I could seriously just set up a tent and live at this place. I loved it. I could have spent all day there.

I used to think about the kinds of places I'd love to go if I didn't have to worry about money and could just live somewhere and write and think and do art and whatnot, and I always imagined my back yard as looking a lot like this place. Not just the rest area, but this particular brand of Rocky Mountains. I absolutely love it.

After we left the rest area, we made our way into Colorado, and decided to stop in Grand Junction for gas and Starbucks. Grand Junction is just about the last flat(ish) area on I-70 before entering into the intense moutainy area, and we felt like having a full tank of gas might be a good decision.

It was in Grand Junction that we had the only real Piano-Related scare of the drive. I'd gone into the gas station to buy a shot glass, and the TM was going to drive over to Starbucks to meet me. As she circled past some parked cars, and waved at me, we heard a big bang. Keep in mind... I am not in the truck, but rather 25 feet away. She hits the brakes, and the dude whose truck she passed nearly had a heart attack checking the condition of his ride. All was fine, we found a good out-of-the-way spot to park, and opened the back of the truck. Terrified. Turns out it was just the board that goes between your knees and the strings that fell off... So we strapped that down and continued on our way.

It doesn't sound scary, but it was pretty effing traumatic at the time.

Our next stop was in Rifle (another "Nature" stop) and it wasn't particularly eventful, but we did see some really, really dirty hitchers get picked up. These people were true hippy hitchhikers. Down to their lack of shoes and their surplus of hair.

We continued on, through Western Colorado, enjoying the scenery. It was really beautiful. I mean, I know this isn't the most interesting post when all I talk about is how pretty it all was, but there it is.

We eventually stopped again, but this time for lunch. I'd really been interested to see Eagle, Colorado, because it plays such a big part in my job on a day to day basis, so we stopped there. Eagle was nice enough, but I don't really get the fuss. I guess it's because Eagle is close to Vail, and that's where all the good skiing is, but still...Eagle just seemed kind of blah to me. Except for the downtown area, which I loved. It was full of personality. We had lunch at a place called The Red Canyon Cafe, and then we stopped into this antique store, where the TM picked up some owl book-ends.

You'll note that starting this day, I'll talk about us stopping at antique stores a lot. We decided that it would be a waste of this giant-ass truck we were driving around mostly empty if we didn't at least LOOK at the antique stores for things that we normally wouldn't be able to get on a vacation.

After lunch, we made the final push toward Denver for the day. We were only about 100 miles away, but we had the scariest portion of the mountains left to drive. I was pretty stunned at the majesty of the mountains we drove toward. It sounds so cheesy, but it's true.

As we drove toward the fabled Eisenhower Tunnel (the highest point in the Interstate Highway system at over 11,000 feet), the mountains grew taller and more snow-topped.

We made another stop at the rest area at Vail Pass. Partly to answer "Nature's Call" but also to enjoy the amazing scenery. The weather wasn't really cooperating with us. When we left the hotel that morning it was 70 degrees. When we ate lunch in Eagle, it was 70 degrees. I'd be amazed if it was higher than 40 degrees at Vail Pass. Oh... and below is a picture of Vail Pass when we got there:

And here is a picture from the exact same spot 5 minutes later. This has not been doctored in any way. Obviously, this didn't fill my soul with quiet since we were driving straight that direction.
I don't have any more photos of the drive into Denver. The reason? Because right after we left Vail Pass we were plunged into a winter storm. That's right.. It was October 8th and we found ourselves in a driving rain/sleet/hail/snow storm as we climbed to the very top of the mountain. Needless to say I was fucking petrified again, and needless to say I was too busy gripping anything I could to take a lot of pictures. It wouldn't have done any good anyway. Here's a re-enactment photo:
Yeah... The TM even had be bust out the video camera again. Clearly I'm like a penguin with a flashlight. I just get distracted enough to ignore my pending doom. In the end, we did survive, and the snow stopped and dried as we descended into the Denver area.

Oh... I should also mention that I am now 2 for 2 in experiencing driving snow on a non-winter cross country road trip. Seems crazy. The last time was May in Wyoming.

We'd planned to meet up with my Aunt Barb, Uncle Lane, and my cousin (and reader) Abbey for dinner the night we arrived into Denver, and because there was no Triple D Restaurant in Denver, we left the location up to Abbey.

She recommended a crazy burger restaurant called the Cherry Cricket which, as it turns out, was featured on 2 other TV shows. Aaron Sanchez recommended it on "Best Thing I Ever Ate" and they also had it on "Man vs. Food", so the place does have some TV credits. Let me tell you... While the Squeeze Inn had all the build-up and anticipation, the Cherry Cricket served the best burger I've ever eaten. It was delicious. The gimmick is that you get a burger, and then choose the toppings a la carte. I had herbed cream cheese, bacon, and green chiles on my burger, and it was fucking delicious.

The TM had some super good, super spicy green chili. Both of our meals are pictures below, along with an order of "Frings" (Fries and Rings):

The bowl of chili really was that size. The TM ended up saving it in a quart container, and finishing it at home a few days later. I can tell you that this was a completely un-anticipated meal, because we didn't even know where we were going until that day, but it was awesome. I'd go there again in a heart beat.

In the end, Day 7 was a pretty great day. We had took a spectacular drive through some of the most beautiful land in America. We saw the best rest area, drove the highest point, and ate the tastiest burger. We saw family, we revisited Denver (one of my 2 favorite cities), and started the longest stretch our our journey along America's first interstate.

It was, indeed, a pretty great day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Shortage

The Tofu Muchacha is tough. She has a really good memory (when she chooses) and she really especially enjoys making fun of me when I do something silly.

Last year I heard somewhere that there would be a pumpkin shortage heading into the holidays, so I bought up a couple of extra cans of pumpkin. Not pumpkin pie filling, but pumpkin

A couple of things I should note.

1) There did not appear to be a pumpkin shortage at any point during the holidays last year.

2) Despite the extra pumpkin that was purchased, I did not actually USE the excess pumpkin.

I believe that the TM is of the opinion that my knee-jerk, pumpkin hysteria was ridiculous, and had I really, really needed to make a pumpkin pie, that I would have likely been able to locate a can or two somewhere out there.

So... now whenever possible, she likes to work in the notion that there's a pumpkin shortage. She just thinks it's soooo hilarious.

So anyway, that's just a little story for you.

Oh... here's proof, by the way.

This past Sunday, we got together with our friend Colette and bought some pumpkins and carving kits and we fucking went to town.

The TM had little-to-no experience with the pumpkin carving, because the Halloween holiday wasn't exactly emphasized during her upbringing. We mulled some cider, had some Thai food, and baked some delicious pumpkin seeds. Oh... and we carved some bad-ass pumpkins.

Check them out:First we have the full vista. Each of our pumpkins, completed and sitting in the dining room. Painstakingly photographed by your boy, the Beefy Muchacho. Are they not awesome? Can't tell? Let's take a closer look.

Here's Colette's pumpkin. It's supposed to be a snarling wolf, and while I see that, I also sort of see a snarling bear. Either way, it's pretty effing sweet.

Here's mine. The Headless Horseman in all his terrifying, noggin'-free glory. This is by far the best pumpkin I've ever carved. I am pleased.

Lastly, we have the TM's pumpkin. I'm sure we all could have guessed that she'd carve herself a cat. I think she did an absolutely ass-kicking job for her first try (that she can recall). I'm of the opinion that there's always a place for a cute pumpkin amidst the terrors that typically reign.

That's all... Just needed a brief intermission from the Great Piano Trip blogs, and also wanted to brag a little.

Yes... We used forms to guide our designs. No, that doesn't make me less proud.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 6 Battle Mountain to Green River: The Day I Died

The Ominous Skies outside of Salt Lake City, on October 7th, 2010. The day Beefy Muchacho Died

At the onset of Day 6, the TM and I bounded forth from Battle Mountain as though shot from a dirty, upsetting canon. The stink of B.M. was starting to permeate our very souls, so we got the eff out of there with the quickness of a bunny on coke.

Of course, there wasn't much to see in terms epic scenery out there in the high desert of Nevada, but there was a quiet beauty to the landscape...

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with cowboys. My Grandpa Al was "Dusty" and I was "Danny the Dude". We'd pretend to be camping on the prairie in the family room of their house in Roselawn. My Grandpa Dick was less playful, but just as into Cowboys. His obsession was with Western movies. I loved watching old Eastwood and John Wayne flicks as he tilted back a Little Kings and talked about the Old West.

The High Desert of Nevada was the closest I've ever come to seeing what I remember imagining on the orange shag carpet on Yorkshire Place, playing cowboys with Dusty, or watching John Wayne ride through the plains on his palomino horse. I spent a lot of time on Day 6 feeling nostalgic for my childhood and missing both of my Grandpas.

Of course, it wasn't all a beautiful walk down memory lane. Some of it was also a beautiful walk down The Caffeine Highway in Casino Town. We were still in Nevada, after all, and after a delightful morning of reminiscing, the truck was mighty parched, as were we (too much trail dust in our mouths, probably). We stopped in the gargantuan metropolis known as Elko. Elko is a true oasis in the desert. They had a Sinclair gas station, several casinos, and most delightfully... a Starbucks Coffee.

Actually, it was doubly wonderful, because the Starbucks was IN the fucking casino. I can't tell you how awesome it was playing some penny slots, making more bets on the Reds (I'm sure this one will go better!), and sucking down a no-whip caramel frappuccino.

After leaving Elko with a tank full of petrol, a bellies full of coffee-drink, and a wallet full of sports book tickets, we headed straight to the majestic, regal forward thinking city of Salt Lake. I'd spent a whopping 45 minutes in SLC a couple of years before when I had a very quick layover there, but I was looking forward to experiencing more of its native culture.

Before we could arrive into the fabulous Golden City of Salt Lake, we had to make a trek through the longest portion of highway without an exit in the United States. Thirty Seven barren, service-free miles just East of the Utah border. The Bonneville Salt Flats. I'd read about this stretch of road a few days earlier, and I'd been looking forward to it ever since. The flats were... well.. Flat, for one. For two, they were incredible and vast and white. Oh so white. Some would say the whiteness was symbolic of Salt Lake City itself. I don't know who that would be. Not me, that is for certain.
If you take a look on Google Earth, you can see the Salt Flats. They're that great-big white swath of land West of Salt Lake City.

The reward for our journey through the Desert and Salt was a trip to that Triple-D bastion of Salt Lake Cuisine, The Red Iguana.

One thing you should know about me and the Tofu Muchacha is that we LOVE Mexican food. I mean... They don't call me the Muchacho for nothing. Because of that mighty love of Frijoles and Queso and whatnot, I was very excited to visit The Red Iguana.

I can't say that the restaurant is located in a great neighborhood. It was sketchy, indeed. A little close to the airport. Lots of dog poop on the sidewalk. All of those things you associate with bad neighborhoods.

The Red Iguana was worth the wait. Well... We didn't "wait" at all once we were there, because our lunch turned out to be at like... 2:30 (the mother fucking time change), so we walked right in.
For us, one of the true tests of a good Mexican restaurant is the quality of the chips and salsa. The salsa was great. Smokey and spicy and a little sweet. The chips weren't incredible or anything, but really with salsa that good, who cares? I think the salsa's dark color comes from the smoked ancho chiles, which, if you've seen the Food Network, is constantly said to taste like a spicy raisin.

The TM has two Mexican food weaknesses as far as I can tell.. She loves Chile Relleno and she loves Mole sauce. The Red Iguana is known all over (and was featured on Triple D) for their moles, so she ordered 2 Cheese enchiladas smothered in the Black Mole. Pictured below.

This black mole was really excellent. I'm not really a fan of anise flavor. I think black licorice is disgusting. It says a lot about how complex and interesting this sauce was that I detected anise in the seasoning mix and, not only tolerated it, but really liked it.

I ordered The Red Iguana plate. It offered a combination of various Mexi-Treats such as tacos and flautas and chile rellenos and all that fun stuff. It was also really, really tasty, but I almost regretted not getting a mole. (Oh... in this blog, "Mole" is pronouced "Moe-lay"). You can see some of the assortment below.
Overall I loved the Red Iguana. The food was inexpensive, delicious, and I also loved the atmosphere, which... I'm discovering is a big thing with me. I give The Red Iguana a 9 and the TM gave it a 9 as well.

We finished up at the delectable Red Iguana, full and ready to continue on the drive. We'd originally planned to stop for the night in Provo, Utah. While at lunch, we discussed the relative merits of pushing forward and trying to get as far as we could that day. Provo was only 40 more miles down the road, and we knew we had a bear of a day the next as we made our way to Denver through the Rockies. So... we chose a new stopping point, Green River, Utah. A small town at the point where Highway 6 and The Great Interstate 70 meet. It was only 3:30 or so, and Green River was only about 150 miles down the way.

Little did we know that this decision would be our last.

As we pressed onward, we looked toward the mountains... and where the mountains should have been, we saw only clouds and rain.

As we (by "we", in this case I mean the TM) drove onward into the winding, mountain roads of Highway 6, the rain got harder and the skies got darker. There were points during this last 120 miles where we couldn't see anything at all. Huge semis were passing us in the fast lane, spraying our poor truck with water like a slut at a wet t-shirt contest. We would go around these turns on the slick road, and suddenly there would be a steep descent and just one lane each way. The cars coming the other way, mere feet from us as they passed.

I can't state this adamantly enough.

I was fucking terrified.

I've never been as scared in my life. There were points where the road had some impossible slope downward and had a sudden 90 degree turn at the bottom, which in dry conditions would have been scary enough, but in the driving rain, as darkness was slowly setting in was almost too much for me to handle.

At one point the TM, who pretty much proved that she's the biggest badass on the planet, noticed me LITERALLY clenching up into a ball, suggested that I video the drive just to get my mind off the terror.

I was pretty sure I was going to die. I'm not entirely sure I didn't.

Finally, at the very end of the day, we entered the Book Cliffs, and the rain gave way to one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. It was incredible.
I was pretty shaken after the ride. There was no point on the trip that I was more glad to see the end of the day. We ended up doing laundry at what turned out to be the nicest Super 8 we stayed in the whole trip. We even got upgraded to a suite with a hot-tub IN the room. It was awesome, and truly a welcome rest after the drive that will certainly haunt my nightmares for years to come.

[EDIT: I forgot to add this yesterday when I posted it, but after we got home, the TM found this about Highway 6 in Utah. ]

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 5 Sacramento to Battle Mountain: They don't call it "B.M." for nothing.

One in a Series of "The TM stands on the edge of something and scares the shit out of me" Photos.

Day 5 marked our initial lurch to the East. It featured a whole lot of pretty scenery early in the day, a strange little interlude in a strange little town, and then a long, dirty drive to the middle of absolute nowhere. It also proved that I'm an idiot. Read to the end to find out how!

We headed East from Sacramento on small California Route 50, and dove wheels-first into the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The TM calls it her favorite place in the world. I'd never been anywhere near that part of the country, but as we left the fairly disappointing city sprawl of Sacramento, and the road began to wind, and the the trees sprouted more frequently along the side of the highway, I could already understand what it was she loved about the land there. It's absolutely breathtaking. The drive circles and doubles back and climbs through the mountains, and follows along rivers and forests as you go. Eventually, as you come around this one curve the whole vista opens up into the amazing landscape. We had to pull over and take some pictures.

I was absolutely astounded by the scope of these mountains. It's deceptive, because the tree-line seems to reach to the top, but as we headed back to the truck, the scale is truly put into perspective. This is among my five favorite photos we took on the trip.

Some more photos of the Sierra Nevadas, for your viewing enjoyment.

We talked a lot, during this portion of the drive, about all of the adventures we'd love to have, and all of the places we'd like to see. It was determined that we'd enjoy the following adventures (Among others):

1) Drive down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). The TM has done this, but I haven't. During this whole trip, I was astounded by the amazing variation in environments in our country, and I think the PCH embodies this in one fell swoop.

2) See Patagonia. The TM really wants to see Antarctica for some reason (I kind of hate the cold, generally). We felt that the land of Llamas and Chinchillas would be a good compromise.

3) Visit Morocco. What can I say? I must have a secret "Almost Famous" thing. There's something sort of magical about the Northern African coast, I think. I mean... I really know very little aside from what I've heard, but Marrakesh is supposedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

4) Spend an extended period of time camping and hiking in Yosemite National Park. I believe the TM would do this forever if it weren't for the cats at home, but she's got her heart set on "at least a couple of months or so". Sounds kind of terrible, but also really, really fun. That makes no sense. I know, but still.

But I digress...

As we left the Sierra Nevadas, we were kind of spat out at the Southern base of Lake Tahoe, right at the border of California and Nevada. It was really pretty, but also kind of a let-down based on the build-up I had in my head.

One thing that we immediately noticed were the casinos. I didn't forget that Las Vegas is in Nevada, and I didn't forget that Reno (our Lunch destination) was in Nevada, but I'd never been anywhere in Nevada OTHER than Vegas, so it never occurred to me that you can literally gamble EVERY WHERE. Like... seriously... at the gas stations. At the fast food places. At the grocery. Ev. Er. Eee. Where.

We sneezed twice and missed Carson City altogether.

As we arrived into Reno (The Biggest Little City something or other), we headed toward our lunch spot, and noticed it was really effing crowded, and I'd wanted to mark our time in Reno by doing a tiny bit of legal gambling.

Let me digress one more time.

As you all know, I am a huge Cincinnati Reds fan. One of the only unfortunate aspects of going on this trip when we did was that the Reds were playing in their first playoff series since I was fifteen (I'm thirty), and I was going to miss at least the first 3 games.

It hadn't escaped by notice that I happened to be in the state with legal gambling on the same day the Reds had their first playoff game since 1995, so I thought I'd try to bring the Reds a little luck by placing a small wager on game one of their series against the Phillies. I placed my wager of 25.00, played a single round of Penny slots, and then we headed to lunch.

Our lunch destination was the Triple-D-Featured "The Dish Cafe". Originally, the TM thought she'd visited this place years before, but once we realized it was only 8 years old, we figured it must have been somewhere else.

That's too bad, because this place is freaking awesome.

The big thing about The Dish Cafe is that features hand-made everything with locally grown things, ecologically responsible things, and most of all... some effing delicious things.

We were greeted with a friendly hello, and we ended up seating ourselves to look at the menu... It was a super tough decision for being a pretty straight forward menu. I love soup and sandwiches, so I chose the half-sandwich and soup combo of the "Mushroom Barley" soup and the Reuben panini. You can see it below.

It was pretty amazing in every way. The soup was really well seasoned. I usually have to salt soups that are made at restaurants, but this soup didn't need a single shake. The Reuben? Oh lord. That thing was as good as any New York deli sandwich I've ever eaten. The pastrami was super lean, but well seasoned. The bread was grilled perfectly, and the best part? Homemade thousand-island dressing. Well done, Dish Cafe.Well done. Amazing.

The TM ordered a full sandwich. The Melty Mushroom Panini. See below.

It also was really, really good. I only had a bite, but in that bite I knew I would totally order that on a subsequent visit. The TM ate just about every bite....

I'm only not positive about that, because at some point during our meal, we looked over and saw these two ladies eating this dessert. It was difficult to identify off the bat, so we asked, and they said they were eating a "Banana Bread Pudding". We ordered it. [EDIT: Obviously, this is not "banana" bread pudding. It was late when I typed this originally. It was Pumpkin]

Then we fucking KILLED it. That was one of my all-time favorite desserts. It had this great, crispy outside, but as you went deeper into the pudding, it got softer and more dense. The dollop of whipped cream was the... erm.... icing on the cake. I'd say this is the single best item we ate on the whole trip. I can taste it now.

Overall, I give The Dish Cafe a solid 9.5, and I believe the TM gave it either a 9.5 or a 10. I think I would have a hard time ever saying there was nothing to improve, but this is definitely the closest to perfection in a restaurant we saw. It was outstanding.

To be perfectly honest, the rest of the drive to Battle Mountain was pretty dull and uneventful. Oh... except for 3 things.

1) We passed this house near mike marker 148 on I-80 going East that was totally crazy looking, and I want to know more about this place.

2) It was during this stretch we encountered the first "No Hitchhikers, Prison Area" signs.

3) Remember that 25.00 bet I made on the Reds? Well.. You probably heard about how Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay pitched the first playoff no-hitter since 1956. Yeah... you're welcome Reds fans. I'm fairly sure that was my fault. Damn what an effing jinx I am.

Some quick notes about Battle Mountain, Nevada....

Battle Mountain was once called the "Armpit of America" by the Washington Post. I can't say I could find a reason to disagree. We asked the girl at the Super 8 desk what there was to do in town, and after some of those blinks that make noise like the cartoons do, she pulled out this little line drawing map of the town that pointed out 5 buildings. 2 were pizza places, and 3 were casinos.

We were hungry and thought we may as well check it out, so we drove to "Downtown" Battle Mountain, passing Donna's Whore House on the way. Seriously. A brothel.

We ended up eating at The Owl Casino and Diner. We asked them if they had a gift shop, or if they had souvenirs (because the TM likes Owls) and they basically laughed at us. Or would have laughed had this horrible place not sucked out all of their humor. It was depressing, Y'all. That's what I'm saying here. It was super, super depressing. The casino portion of the Owl had 4 people or so playing slots. Drunkenly cheering at every 3 dollar score. The place next door was no better.

We left as soon as possible.

I wish we'd managed to remember to get a picture of it, but we felt it was fitting that they've carved a giant "B.M" into the side of one of the mountains. BM indeed.

Oh... and why am I an idiot? Because I planned this particular route, not just for Day 5, but for Day 4 as well, to go through the Redwood forest. Did I actually take any time to look to see where the Redwoods actually are? No. Did I see a single, damned Redwood at any point during our trip? No. Was I bummed? Yes.

I guess that PCH Road Trip will finally be the time I drive through a mother-effing tree.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 4 Medford to Sacramento: Shasta Ain't Just a Discount Soda

Day Four of the trip was memorable for a couple of reasons...

1) We saw unexpected wildlife

2) We got a slight preview of terrain to come.

3) We encountered a mountain named after a beverage.

4) We unexpectedly saw a totally incredible achievement of engineering.

5) We ate at the most bizarre of the Triple D locations

Just after we crossed the border into California, we stopped at a rest stop where a river ran along one side.
It was definitely in the top 5 prettiest rest areas. Well, we were sort of strolling around and enjoying the scenery, and I noticed this black cat run through the brush, and into the bushes. I even exclaimed "Oh look! A Cat!" Somewhere along the line here, I realized that the cat I saw looked suspiciously un-cat-like, and then I though even deeper and realized that it was pretty unlikely that a cat would be living in the bushes alongside a river in Northern California. I sort of made a quick turn and headed quickly in the opposite direction, dissuading the TM from seeking out the aforementioned cat.

I'm starting to understand why Pepe le Pew was always so fucking confused about chasing that dumb girl cat around. Cats and skunks are hard to differentiate when you have a rip-roaring cold. It was during Day Four where my sense of taste started fading in and out. It was also during day four when I could have filled a bucket full of phlegm if I'd had a bucket. It was gross.

I digress...

I think this is a good time to point out that the sense of smell is underrated. Not just because it helps you taste your horseradish potato chips. For the rest of the trip we detected an alarming number of skunks on the roadways of our beautiful country.

As we continued to drive, I started noticing unfamiliar signs. Things like 6% Downgrade Next 8 Miles. I started feeling how sluggish our truck could be when going up a steep hill for miles at a time. I started to feel edgy (no pun intended) when we went around curves and the ground gave way to my right or left.

That's right... We'd entered some mountains. Let me just say that I don't like driving in the mountains. I don't like the idea of brakes being so integral. It makes me nervous. Little did I know that these mountains were like a sneeze compared to the hurricane we'd encounter later. It did afford some pretty unsettling views. Here's us driving, literally, into the clouds:

Shortly after our first major brush with the mountains, we can around a clearing and low-and-behold there was this big fucking mountain just sitting there, like a giant pimple on the chin of a pre-ProActiv Jessica Simpson.
I was all "What the hell is that?"

She was all "I think that's Mt. Shasta."

I was all "They named a mountain after that shitty drink they sell at K-Mart?"

She was all "Yeah".

Well... that might not be the most accurate transcript, but there was a lot of joking about the name of the awesome Mt. Shasta. All kidding aside, it was exceptionally pretty.

As we were passing Mt. Shasta and going past Lake Shasta, we started to see signs for the Shasta Dam, so we decided to have our picnic lunch (including apples) at the dam herself (Her? is a Dam a "she"? I know a Dame is a she, and a Damme is a she, but is a Dam?) I'd vaguely heard of Shasta Dam before, which after seeing it in person seems almost embarrassing. That place is UN-BELIEVABLE. It's freaking enormous. It's... I mean...

I learned that Shasta Dam (where they make the soda) is the 2nd largest Dam in the United States, second only to the one those giant beavers made in the creek behind our house.

It was really, really pretty at the dam, and also the perfect location for a dam picnic.

It's a little weird to go from discussing the special picnic at the special dam to talking about another meal, but after we left the dam, the drive to Sacramento was nothing all that interesting.

The Triple D restaurant we planned for this day was the one that I anticipated the most anxiously, the Squeeze Inn. I can't really explain exactly why in a coherent way, so I'll just provide you the link to the segment on the show.

Got the idea? Yeah... It was pretty much exactly as the show portrays it. Burger. Cheese. MORE CHEESE. Cheese skirt. Insanity.

Was it delicious? Yes. Was it something I could eat regularly? Hell no. I felt like I'd eaten a balloon after my HALF a Squeeze with Cheese. It was daunting. I told myself that I had to try it, and really the skirt of cheese was worth the experience. Was it the best burger I've ever had? No.

The TM gave it a 6 out of 10. She loved the cheese skirt, but felt the rest of it was pretty good, but not great. She did make the good point that the atmosphere was lacking a little. Probably more than it used to be. I gave it a 7. The burger may not have lived up to the hype, but yeah... not even the 3rd best place we ate on the trip.

After the dinner at The Squeeze Inn, we took a leisurely drive to the movie theater and watched The Social Network. I liked it a lot. TM hated it, but she tolerated it because I didn't protest her smuggling a sixer of Fat Tire Beer into the theater.

That pretty much wraps up Day 4. Oh... One other thing..

Did everyone know that California performs vehicle inspections on every car entering the state in order to regulate agricultural importing. I found that very interesting. The guy was very fast and friendly, but still... Like... it might be a problem to bring in Oregonian bananas? That's a weird place, that California.