Last week we headed out for a couple of days to start scouting around for a place to relocate. Some friends had recommended an area about two hours drive NW of here as a place to start our search. I had been in that general area many years ago, but after all these years it was basically virgin ground for me, so I stuck a pin in the map and chose a central point to locate a hotel. After putting in a query for hotels/motels in the area only one came up. Hmmmm. The picture on their website showed a nice enough motel with a heated pool and ridiculously reasonable room rates. That, most likely, should have been the first of many red flags.
Deciding to enter into this century, the other half and I purchased a GPS last Christmas. I had never opened the box. This seemed like the perfect occasion to get it out and dust it off. Usually I am tasked with finding our way on the map, and just as usually this ends up in things getting tense in the car when I manage to take us half a state out of our way down some dusty uninhabited highway with my other half busting a vessel.
It seemed to us that the most logical way to approach this trip was to check in at the motel first, unload our stuff, and then scope out the area to see if we find anything of interest. Cloudy here when we left, as we made our way over the mountains the sun came out and provided us with a beautiful day for a drive. About twenty minutes out of our final destination we began our ascent into the mountains. A dense canopy of trees virtually shut out the sunlight except for an occasional glimpse across an open field. Cabins popped up here and there, mostly with pickup trucks and all-terrain vehicles parked out front. No businesses were evident for some time until we finally saw the city limit sign indicating we’d arrived, and advising those interested that the population was a teeming 167 inhabitants of which so far we had seen six, two of them with four legs.
The GPS was saying that the motel was coming up quickly on the right but all I could see was a long log building with a huge sign that read “General Store – Post Office – Deli – Laundromat”. What no bowling alley? Interesting combination. Apparently these were the “amenities” they’d referred to in the spiel on the website. “You have passed your destination”, the lady that lives in the GPS pointed out. This was sounding more like a good idea than a warning.
Pulling into the General Store we noticed a road winding up past it to the left with a wooden sign saying “Bates Motel”, not really, but it felt like it should. I half expected to see the old lady sitting in the window in her rocking chair. Up we went, and there it was. Either that picture on the computer was taken in another decade altogether, or in another location altogether. There were rooms to the right in a two-story building, and a bank of five rooms to the left in a single story configuration. In front of one of these doors was a line of metal cat bowls and several furry behinds facing our way apparently grabbing some lunch. Other than the cats it seemed we were the only people in the area. When I made the reservations I’d asked if they had any rooms available, and was told two. I assume now that she meant two types, bad and really bad, not two available rooms left. They must have had a good laugh when I inquired if she thought our room would be available the following night as well if we wanted to stay over.
We pulled up to the office and knocked on the door, as it was locked. After peering in the window a woman came running up identifying herself as the maid, although how she occupied herself, I couldn’t imagine. She said that she’d have to go in and wake up the manager as she generally slept during the day because she had a night job somewhere else. I’m not looking my other half in the eye at this point because I know what I will see.
A tired looking woman in her early thirties checked us in and handed us two keys. We were staying in the Denali Room which was located on the opposite end of the building occupied by the felines. I noticed the pool area off to right which was seriously the smallest in-ground pool I have ever seen. From the looks of it the last occupants in that water had either wings or webbed feet or both. Not looking good, Bud.
There was an outbuilding off to the side of the parking lot that had an old wooden sign saying “Ice”. Both doors were securely locked with padlocks and the building looked disturbingly like it had once been an outhouse. I’m not lying here.
The floor in the room was totally warped so it lifted and lowered the furniture as you walked across it. Even funnier was the remote to the TV, broken long ago, had tape around the back to hold the batteries in thus causing it to turn itself on, off, or change channels at whim. Not looking at my guy, not looking at all.
Deciding to grab something to eat and start our house search the following morning we found a book in the room that had the menus for the two eateries closest to our location. We picked one, programmed the GPS, and headed out.
The road house was on the second floor and although the bar was doing an outstanding business, there were only two occupants in the dining room, a blue haired lady half way through a margarita in a glass large enough for a swan to circle in, seated across from her gentleman friend who was probably close to a hundred and enjoying a nap while waiting for his meal, with a fly circling his head.
A sign outside of the kitchen read, “Your Meal Was Proudly Prepared by Chef Elmer”. Oh-oh. After checking out the menu, we both ordered “fried shrimp” because we figured they’d be hard to ruin. Rick got the cream of potato soup which was lacking both a heat source and it seemed potatoes and flavor, and I opted for the salad bar. The salad bar consisted of an enormous metal bowl with about ten leaves of wilted lettuce and some tubs of baby corn and seriously sad cucumbers and tomatoes accompanied by a flock of winged admirers overhead. Ich. Stomach pump, please.
I have had some interesting dining experiences, and some pretty bad ones, but Chef Elmer managed to put his kiss of death (this could be literal) on everything that left his kitchen, and after tasting the food, we were convinced the shrimp probably had hopped on the plate as a suicide mission. It was too funny, and because of the silliness we had a really good time. Here’s a recipe I hope will make you smile.
Grilled Margarita Tri-Tip
1 2-3 lb. Tri-Tip roast
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup tequila
7 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tsp. lime zest
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
With paring knife cut small slots in roast on both sides.
Whisk all remaining ingredients in mixing bowl. Place meat in large resealable bag and pour marinade on top. Squish to cover. Place in refrigerator for 4 hours or preferably overnight. Turn from time to time.
Heat grill over med-high heat. Remove meat from marinade and discard marinade. Grill meat to desired doneness.
Transfer to cutting board and tent for 10 mins.
Cut on the diagonal against the grain.