Friday, July 16, 2021

Clear Blue Skies, Eighteen Inches of Rain

Road Trip - Lake Taghkanic
The heatwaves (plural) this summer came on very early, end of May, early June.  So by mid-July we couldn't get out of the city fast enough!  Swimming can be tricky in the Pandemic, so we picked a lake far away that would not be as crowded and had not been overcome with bacteria, another new horror.  In the extreme heat I guess bacteria levels in stagnant waters becomes so high they regularly need to close the lakes.  This is spring-fed and large, with clear water that you can see fish swimming right at your feet.  But rain and clouds as well as freakishly unusually cooler temperatures than normal followed us all the way.  Not willing to waste the day, we went to survey the park and laid out to read on the beach for a bit, knowing it might be a wash out, then the winds picked up and it started sprinkling.  The fresh-faced concession stand kid tried to squash our dreams by laying out the gloomy forecast for the next days.  Yep, he said, gonna rain ALL day tomorrow.  Should be a real ghost town.  Shut up, kid, we need this. But taking a drive and being out of the city was enough.  I looked for record stores and thrift shops in the area. 

Casa Vallarta
And of course.... local restaurants.  Hidden within this mini-mall facade, was the gem of the trip, a festive Mexican spot with high ceilings, bright walls, good music and real Mexican waiters.  The food was delicious and the plates were large.  They started off with a small bowl of beans with queso and pico as a dip, a simple touch that I loved!  And salsa of course.  
A combination plate for the lady - tostada, enchilada and chile relleno
P had the Fajitas with enough steak to feed a village!  The waiter had just arrived from Baha California Mexico just 3 months before. His English was rough, so to even things out, we spouted out our embarrassing Spanish.  Somehow we bonded quickly with his bright personality and wit. He started the evening with saying, Would you like a surprise?! and brought P a tequila chaser for his beer.  Later I figured it was a scam to sell more drinks but the atmosphere lead to lively conversation and laughter that only a good vibe can bring.  Whatever happened at that restaurant, genuinely made it feel like a real vacation, like we were transported to a Mexican Villa instead of the cold, dank mall.  When we left I wanted to hug that waiter for turning the gloomy day around.  Instead, I ended up giving a clumsy COVID elbow bump while juggling my to-go bags, eyeglasses, mask and purse.  I left with the signed check so he had to run after us.  More awkward mayhem ensued before finally leaving. 

Green growing on top of green to where it blankets every inch.  

While the weather was crappy, we drove around and explored some of the cabins in the state park on back roads that suddenly felt like a camp for serial killers.
The tents were set up on these elevated podiums and were covered with tarp, I guess due to all the rain but that made the whole area feel eerie and dank. Is dank a word? 
Michael's Diner for breakfast was perfect...for me.  P got the hash and eggs, which proved more giant potatoes with only hints of corned beef strewn in.  I got the biggie girl breakfast with pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, and potatoes!

I shared some of my bacon.  It's the right thing to do. 

One evening we dressed for a night out and drove to find the only place open was a chain restaurant called Texas Roadhouse, next to Party City, but this was no party.   Reluctantly we entered the ginormous establishment, where we were put on a virtual waiting list.  A half an hour wait, approximately, the lady said.  Suddenly family after family came pouring in.  All seemed to be 4 or 5 in number with toddlers and crying babies.  We all sat lined up on these long benches facing each other as if in purgatory.  If we had to be in there two more minutes, I feared losing a part of my soul.   We blasted out of the giant doors into the brightest, hottest day and high-tailed it to Wendy's and brought the hot sack full of fun back to our room.  Chili, a Frosty, fries, Coke, along with a new Bourbon Bacon burger made the experience all better. 

The following days at the lake were extremely weather perfect.  We did a pedal boat ride to the middle and P jumped off into the deep lake.  In a previous visit I learned this can get scary quickly as one needs to pull themselves up onto the hot rough surface of the boat from neck level.  I barely made it last time, so decided it wasn't for me. Once P was safely back on board, being in the middle of that deep lake with absolutely no noise was everything. 
With this view, you forget you're still very close to the city but the big dumb beach family near us was a quick reminder.  With their thick Brooklyn accents, this group of adults had this half hour joke session on Black Jesus, what a ridiculous concept it was.  The mother began loudly singing religious hymns with rap lyrics.  It was beyond comprehension.  I wanted to scream that Jesus was most likely a very dark skinned Middle Eastern Jew but what he WASN'T was an ignorant asshole, so SHAAAAT UP YOU MOUTH!!  You can't escape rowdy morons, but you can move your towel.   We were there to relax and that is not a battle you can win. 

A free hotel breakfast meal brought up to room to have in bed. So nice, so grateful. 
The second best culinary adventure was a nice Italian family restaurant off the road.  The waitress was super surly until P got her all gooey and giggly, somehow.  She wasn't having any of me, but I didn't care because the food was exactly what I craved.  P got the Chicken Parmesan
I got the fresh baked Calzone and it was perfect. So good.  The heat was thick that night, so the big open dining room was cool and refreshing. 

The scenery upstate is everything you read about actually.  The farm settings and the small quaint towns, the mountains.  One can feel shocked that the beauty still exists.

As always P whizzes by everything a million miles an hour and I take moving pictures, pointing and cranking my neck constantly to admire.  He hasn't yet learned to stop and smell the roses, let's just say.  He's still and maybe always will be that 70's dad on these road trips. 

We found a hip little town with an open breakfast spot, near the 'river walk'.  I got the grilled polenta breakfast topped with eggs, pesto, shaved Parmesan, onions and mushrooms.  Could be too much going on but I loved it nonetheless. 
P got a simple omelet, bacon and potatoes, toast

The River Walk - which was just that, a path along the river, instead of what I thought, an avenue of shops and restaurants.  But after breakfast, it was actually cool to walk down there and look at the fast moving stream.  Again, we do these things in 2 second intervals because my man has no patience.  
The diner spot recommended by the dispensary up the road

Back to the city.  A mishap read on Google Maps lead us to an hour detour.  Just as the visuals changed, so did the atmosphere around us and in us.  The air conditioner on my side was not working and we drank all of the water in the liter bottle.  I lost most of my ability to sweat and we argued about who's fault it was that we listened to Google.   At one point, we were in wall to wall traffic going the wrong direction and we turned to look.  A giant dead rat was propped up at eye level on one of the light posts a foot away in the median, posed as if he was to pounce inside at any moment.  

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