Nope, it is an oasis around a virtual desert of sorts. The name of the resort comes from a famous cattle ranch nearby know by locals for the foul smells of cattle excrement and the even worse smells coming from the slaughterhouse, but lucky for us, the resort is far enough away we can’t smell that stuff.
I have heard that Santa Nella is “The Oasis of I-5,” but not too far away from Stockton, it isn’t much of an “Oasis.” After Santa Nella’s Pea Soup Andersen Restaurant and Ramada Inn, there is nothing until you hit Coalinga (meaning Coal Stop or Coal Station), and Coalinga wouldn’t be anything to visit if it weren’t for the massive Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant.
Steaks, steaks, and brisket, and more steaks!
Harris Ranch is a cattle ranch, so there is plenty of beef. Something I try to avoid except for the occasional hamburger. Considering the heat in this land plagued by fires, droughts, and man-made climate change, you have to be prepared to buy steaks way out here unless you come with your own icebox. (And you thought I was for once not going to get serious for once!) For someone who rarely eats steaks, they sure look good!
They also have a bakery, and the stuff looks good, but we were waiting to be seated for lunch, so we passed on sampling something.
These caps looked like they might have been worn by the ranch softball team for a game or two, then returned to the shelf.
“Red, white & Moo” Cute.
The steaks and the baked goods are inside a gift shop that offers self-promotional merch, gift baskets, some including bottles of their own IPA (yep, that’s right, they brew their beer!), greeting cards, and knick-knacks. All that scream, “That’s right, I stopped in the middle of nowhere. and bought this shit!”
The California Burger comes with fries or a ramekin of beans. As you can see, the beans are notvery thick. It tasted fine, but I should have tried the fries.
Now for the mini-burger review you have been waiting for: I ordered the California Burger. I am sorry to report it wouldn’t win any prizes for uniqueness. It’s about a quarter-pound of good, if not remarkable beef (I had mine prepared medium-well as I always do when asked). It also has Jack cheese, two slices of crispy bacon, and fresh guacamole—which is the only “California” element of the burger. It also sports raw red onions, iceberg lettuce (I told you it isn’t fancy), tomatoes, and dill pickle slices. The bun is as pedestrian as the rest of the burger, but it held up during the whole time I was biting and masticating the thing, which is more than I can say for a lot of burgers I have had that I end up having to eat with a knife and fork because the bun dissolved under the juices and fumbling around. The only truly distinctive element is the tasty Harris Ranch’s Special Dressing: a basil vinaigrette dressing containing oregano, red onions, parsley, and Harris Ranch olive oil. A nice touch.
I would give the burger good if not excellent marks. I would be pissed if I came all the way out here to rate this burger. Still, the burger gets a passing grade as a rest stop lunch/dinner item. If I were into red meat, I would be intrigued by some of the menu’s steak items, including Whiskey Smoked Salt & Brown Sugar Rubbed Ribeye, Horseradish-Crusted Prime New York Steak! (the exclamation point is mine), and a steak sandwich with my name on it–literally: Jack’s Favorite Steak Sandwich. But, like I have said on this blog in the last few years, I’m cutting way back on red meat so I’ll have to relegate those items to my drooling dreams. Also, I just started a new diet. Ha! We’ll see how long that lasts!
On March 19, 2017, I posted a 192-word blurb about the struggle I was going through at the time: laziness and overeating vs. practicing yoga and eating healthier. Unfortunately, I gave the post the uninspiring title “Battle Royale.” Also, I was unaware that the title is from a book that bares little resemblance to my personal struggle. Still, just as I was too lazy to develop a better title, I was too numb to apply myself to a healthier lifestyle. So here’s the original post with an update below. It’s not pretty, dear readers.
I’ve been practicing yoga for more than three years. It started as an Rx by a physical therapist back in 2013, who said there’s no cure for my degenerative disk disease. But practicing yoga would keep me off ibuprofen and the occasional opioid when my back pain pops up from now until the final solution to the problem—death. She was right–barring the stiffness from binge-watching streaming TV shows on a lumpy couch, I’m pretty much always limber thanks to four hours of yoga a week.
Still, I grapple with my health: my laziness and gluttony versus my life on the mat and occasionally stringing together a few days of successfully dieting. It is a mortal struggle. Since I spend more hours doing the two things that are killing me than those that benefit me, it is a losing war—all of this on the battlefield of Time–the ultimate killer.
It’s all about what element will conquer my body on a given day. This day, Sunday, May 19, 2017, goes to the Axis of Evil: an hour of TV, way too much ice cream late in the evening, and just the plain fact that I have much fewer days on this planet than the days behind me. Tomorrow is another fight.
Update August 2021: I’d love to report that things have improved over the last four and a half years, but that would be a lie. Thanks to the pandemic and my laziness, I now only practice yoga two hours a week. And because I no longer commute to work five days a week, fifty-five miles of bicycling has been cut down to less than twenty miles of walking. Finally, I’m stiffer and fatter than I have ever been.
My practice has been brutal. First, being out of shape has made my practice difficult. Also, my two yoga teachers: Heather on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Brenda on Wednesdays with an on-again, off-again Sunday practice lead by a revolving door of teachers, is now down to one teacher on Mondays and Thursdays. Of course, I have no excuse not practicing alone using YouTube, but it is extremely tough getting motivated—I need somewhere to be at a specific time on a particular day.
If I were a true yogi, I would consider myself lucky that my Tuesdays and Thursdays yoga teacher is Robert Lozano—considered by many yoga teachers to be one of the best in the Sacramento area. I can tell that he is special, even if he wants the class to do too many balance postures. Unfortunately, thanks to a seizure disorder suppressed by narcotics in combination with a lazy eye, I cannot perform Eagle Pose, Warrior 3, Mountain Pose, any pose where the practitioner is supposed to balance on one foot. I get so frustrated when we go through a series of these postures that I cannot do that I often wish there was an adjacent juice bar I could belly up to, sit down, have a Mean Green, and yell to Robert, “It’s okay, I’ll catch up with you when both feet are back on the hard maple!”
But, of course, I’m a baby.
Ironically, I just started the book Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga. I recently finished her excellent book on the Chakra System Wheels of Life and wanted to check out a yoga routine that directly addressed the Chakra System. How I plan on sticking to a home routine lead by a book when I have never been able to stick with routines on YouTube or DVDs by Seane Corn or Rodney Yee will be a steep hill to climb.
Perhaps I will re-post this piece in late 2024/early 2025 with another update. Maybe that update will be optimistic, sunny. I can only hope the man doing the typing will be eating better, working out more, and not complaining about the yoga teacher leading the classes he should be so grateful to attend.
Perhaps I should take advice from this disturbingly sexy Buddha with big ears.
Yes, you should absolutely call your mom today. But you should also know that Mother’s Day isn’t just a holiday for greeting card and chocolate companies to make a buck, but of radical antiwar and feminist organizers. Women Strike for Peace activists at a Censure Nixon rally in Washington, DC, on January 18, 1972. (Dorothy…
I’m a bit of a grump when it comes to what I call the “fake holidays”–the ones created, for the most part, by greetings card companies to sell sentimentality and paper goods. I felt rather stupid when I found out there are some actual events behind Mother’s Day. Here is a piece by one of my favorite magazines about the day’s history.
Christopher parked his Nissan Sentra in the company’s CFO spot—walked into the empty building, and took his place at the Information Desk of the vacant building.
He checked and routed yesterday’s mail, checked and routed yesterday’s email and voicemails, and checked his email and schedule–nothing was for him.
It was March of 2020, and he was grateful that the company didn’t lay him off or request that he work from home–he had a laptop, but his cheap apartment did not have Wi-Fi; anyway, it was nice to get away from his annoying roommate who yelled why he Zoomed.
Most days, he brought a sack lunch; then, after his sandwich, he would belt out show tunes to the dozens of empty ergonomic chairs in the call center.
By March of 2021, the routine was getting old, and he craved human connection.
In May, the company was working in the building at half capacity; Christopher lost his convenient parking spot to his boss, and he had to stop singing to the ergonomic chairs; some of its occupants may not like Broadway songs.
Every time he spoke, a collection of bubbles would start to form in the right corner of his mouth.
It got to the point where I stopped listening to whatever he was talking about and focused on the bubbles.
He could have been talking about things we both were interested in: motorcycles, skiing, or Notre Damn football; all I was thinking about was that damn bubble machine in the corner of that kid’s mouth.
Whenever a bubble popped, a smaller one appeared deeper in the corner, only to grow and then expire, and the cycle would start over again.
I wouldn’t call this effervescent; at the time, I didn’t know of the word though I had seen what happens to a freshly opened bottle of Coke.
The right corner of Dave’s mouth was effervescent, only by the loosest and most unappealing definition, but while writing this short piece using the prompt “effervescent” that was the first and for a long while, the only thing I thought of: Dave’s bubble-making mouth and how I wanted him to cut that shit out!
As everyone knows by now, movie theaters are opening up with limited seating. There are two BIG films I want to see on the big screen: Jon M. Chu‘s In the Heights, which will be released sometime this summer, and Godzilla vs. Kong, which is currently playing! I need to get off my ass and see it before it closes, and I end up watching it on my not-so-big home TV like what usually happens.
You wouldn’t know it if you tracked my movie theater attendance, but I do like the “theater experience.” I’m just lazy. I stall, and films seem to close faster than they used to. (I’m referring to decades ago when I used to work in a movie house, and checking what was playing in other theaters was a daily thing for my roommate and me.
I don’t care that much about “going to the movies” as I used to these days. Still, after a year of having no other choice but to watch films on my TV or my tablet, I’m itching for some dangerously over-buttered popcorn, a ridiculously over-priced and oversized diuretic drink, and some movable seats n front of a big screen.
This innovation in film presentation has created a new rating system: how often do I lose interest in the film and start playing with the adjustments on my comfy adjustable chair throughout the film. Naturally, this value system runs counter to the Star System—the more I fidget, the worse the movie. Godfather Part II might receive 0 Fidgets, whereas Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace would get 10 Fidgets. Bad news for Phantom Menace. Of course, the film could really stink, then it becomes interesting or unintentionally humorous. Consider Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, and many of the Toho classics, including the films including Godzilla and the other Tokyo destroyers from Monster Island–they were High Cheese at its best. I guess I’m putting too much into this Fidget rating system thing.
Until I figure out what to post next, enjoy this film review by my fellow WordPress blogger, Assholes Watching Movies by clicking on the link below the photo. You can also view the trailer below if you haven’t seen it already. I’ll leave you with my updated Siskel & Ebert’s closing line from Sneak Previews, “Save me a recliner seat that doesn’t squeak!”
I thought I had longer to wait. I wasn’t in the tier to receive my COVID-19 vaccination. But my wife persisted because I suffer from complex partial seizures–that are completely surprised by meds (still knocking on wood for over 50 years) and, I guess, becomes I’m almost 65. While not morbidly obese, I am obese, and I don’t have Stage 4 Kidney Disease. I do struggle to keep my Creatinine levels down and a bunch of other things. (Hey, I’ve said too much already to my snoring readers.) Anyway, in a text message to my doctor, I requested that she bump me up the list. She did not reply. Instead, I received a “pick a day to get vaccinated” sign-up message. Perhaps it was a combination of my age, my multiple health issues, and that we were only days away from April 1 when just about everyone would be able to get vaccinated that I got bumped.
When I arrived at a Scottish Rite Masonic Center here in Sacramento, a woman at a long folding table politely questioned me on how I received clearance for getting vaccinated: “You don’t look like you’re 65.” “Why, thank you, ma’am. Believe it or not, I’m 63.” “Get out of town! You don’t look a day past 57.” “Why, thank you. You know I still get carded here and there,” batting my eyes. And you are not morbidly obese!” “You know, they say obese is the new morbidly obese.”
Joking aside, she asked me why I was getting a shot this early, but after she looked at the order, she just pointed to the entrance to the shot factory.
COVID-19 has given Big Pharma a respite from all the negative press. In early 2020 the news was all about how fast pharmaceutical companies could get us here. Considering before Project Warm Speed have us multiple vaccines within one year, the vaccine for Mumps held the record for most rapid development to implementation, and that was four years. Imagine if we had to wait until early 2024! It looks like I’m getting Pfizer’s.
I expected the wait to belong, but it moved fast.
Marc, a travel nurse, administered my shot. How come it always looks like I’m half asleep?
Done. Now to get in line and sign up for my next shot. Hmm, the young woman in front of me reminds me of my wife when we were dating back in the 1980s.
After the shot, you need to hang out for 15 minutes if you have an allergic reaction. I didn’t, and my wife, my son, and I went out for brunch.
Not very many pix, I know. I took more, but all the photos were as uninspiring as the one above.
I also was pretty lazy about asking questions of the nurse who gave me the shot. Also, she did it half the time Marc did it, and I didn’t feel the prick. If it wasn’t for a sore are for the next two days, I would have sworn she didn’t give me a shot at all.
The common symptoms from the second shot are typically signs that the vaccine has triggered a response by the immune system: i.e., you feel sick. Out of my mother, father- and mother-in-law, my mother-in-law’s caregiver, and my wife, only my father-in-law and I skated through the second shot; everyone else felt sick after the second jab. Only a sore arm that kept me out of the following night’s yoga class was the only adverse effect.
Return to Normalcy
Just kidding, you know it is far from normal, but things are looking up. Starting on April 1, in California, vaccinations were opened up for everyone 16 and older. While walking through a tent encampment on his way to a studio where he would lead a class, my yoga teacher was pulled into line. He received his J&J “One & Done” vaccine even when he confessed to the health care workers he was not part of the homeless. (My Buddhist yoga teacher kind of looks like he could blend in with the tent city inhabitance.) They believed him but had enough shots to go around.
A day after the sourness subsided, I was at the pharmacy picking up some non-COVID-related meds and thought I would visit one of my all-time favorite hamburger joints. I covered Scott’s Burger Shack when this site was almost entirely about reviewing hamburgers. When most restaurants were either out of business, closed, or doing take-out and delivery only in the thick of the pandemic.
I still had some burgers, but far fewer and far between. On this day, I thought I would at least pretend we were back to normal. I still ordered my Fatboy with bacon and cheese, fries, and a Coke with my mask on and practicing social distancing.
I sat on one of Scott’s three emblematic blue park benches. Now, the center bench was taped off–another sign of these COVID times. As I ate the burger, I recalled from previous visits what you get when you “dine-in” at Scott’s: the mariachi music coming from El Novillero Mexican restaurant across the street, the harmony of open-pipe hotrods backfiring on the street just feet away, the blue picnic bench, which always felt like I was sitting on fresh paint. It was all still there, except the blue bench was no longer sticky. I guess enough fat asses have peeled off the last coat. Your welcome!
This post is the source for a Six Sentence Stories creative writing challenge. The following, however, is all the painful truth.
A little over a year ago, before COVID-19 shut down my gym, I bought a folding mat. I needed a mat that could fit in my cramped locker. The idea was genius: a mat that folded up into a fraction of its full dimensions–both width as well as length. I wouldn’t have to carry my rolled-up mat to my yoga classes.
This whole portability thing needs a little explaining because yoga mats are by design portable. So, what is the problem with bringing my mat to class, you might ask. Usually, I ride to work on my bicycle. If I don’t ride my bike, I either ride my scooter or on very rare occasions I take a city bus–I don’t drive a car. From my work, I ride to my gym, where I attend evening yoga classes. Carrying my mat is a hassle. It’s also a nuisance storing the mat in my cubicle at work only to lug the mat to my class then haul it back home in the evening after class.
Since I started yoga back in 2014, I always used the mats the gym provides. As a neophyte to yoga, the mats the gym supplied didn’t bother me, but over time, I noticed how worn the mats were and saw how my fellow, more experienced students brought their mats. Those mats always looked much better and cleaner. (I also noticed how most yoga students were also younger and in better shape so I guess there was some symmetry going on there.) I put up with the worn, gross mats until one day I found a solution to my problem: a yoga mat that folds up.
So when I saw that Gaiam made a folding “travel” mat, I was all in. Gaiam even proudly displayed that the mat was two millimeters thick, I mean in large font: 2mm. (The only thing missing was an exclamation point.) As if they were saying, “Beat that, Manduka!” Now, mind you, fellow yogis and yoginis, I’m an idiot when it comes to the metric system, so I ignored the telltale sign of the pain to come. I mean, how thick is “2mm” if it can fold up?
So imagine how surprised my 62-year-old knees felt when I executed my first kneeling pose, and my knees felt like they were balancing on golf balls. It was at this moment I understood just how thin two millimeters of PVC is. I felt like I could have settled for a roll of my wife’s culinary parchment paper, and my knees wouldn’t have felt the difference. The parchment paper roll would have stored even easier–leaving room for a big tub of BENGAY cream. The pain in my knees immediately negated the Zen I felt just 15 minutes earlier when I verified my brand new mat did indeed fit in my tiny locker when it was folded up.
I had practiced on Marquee Sade’s yoga mat a few times before the gym closed, but I had forgotten the number it did on my knees. When the gym opened for a brief time, management had moved blocks, straps, and the old worn mats out to the make-shift yoga studio. With the gear and extra mats available, I could make my cruel mat tolerable by placing an old cushy mat under and across the center of my mat, so my knees got the additional support, and my feet did not—which is how I preferred it. Of course, I could double up the 2mm mat whenever executing kneeling postures, but that set me behind the teacher’s tempo.
With the club reopened and the yoga classes still in the basketball quart, the gear was nowhere to be found, including the old gross, but cushy mats. Me and my knees were on our own. During the year that I was sheltering in place, I rarely practiced yoga despite having thousands of hours of free and reasonably priced yoga classes online. I had forgotten entirely about the foldup mat in the months I was away from the gym and yoga classes. I had forgotten the pain, I had forgotten how to execute some asanas, but I hadn’t forgotten how to eat and my daily walks included a pit stop at Barrio’s, a bakery. So, I gained weight and lost a lot of the flexibility I gained when I was practicing yoga three days a week.
When I made my less-than-triumphant return to the reopened gym, the yoga classes were, once again, being held in the basketball quart to ensure social distancing, but it was not the same experience for me. Now, at least fifteen pounds heavier than I usually am, I am out of practice, and the extra weight makes the asanas (yoga postures) even harder to achieve and hold. Also, long gone was Heather, the closest thing I ever had to a yoga guru. Robert teaches the two classes I now attend. Robert is considered one of Sacramento’s best teachers. And while his teachings are sound, it is not the same. This fat older man wants his old teacher back! It doesn’t help me that Robert does not teach a gentler version of Hatha Yoga but has to offer me modifications and does so often and to my frustration and embarrassment.
I miss Heather. But don’t mistake those tears on my 2mm Gaiam travel yoga mat for longing. I’m crying for my poor tortured knees!
There are several unique styles of yoga that exist and they can be quite different from each other. While starting out, it might seem like “yoga” is one practice or style, but students quickly discover that there are numerous forms of this practice to explore. While each style has similarities in the essence and philosophy…
After a year of being closed, my gym has re-opened, and soon I will be attending my first guided yoga class in nearly that amount of time. I have gained weight in the interim, and though I began a modest home exercise regime a few months ago, I need to return to the mat.
It breaks my heart to see on my gym’s now-limited yoga schedule, the teacher who was damn near a guru to me is not returning. But I need to get back on the mat regardless of who leads the classes.
Above is a post from one of the yoga blogs I follow on WordPress.com. In the spirit of this blogger returning to the mat this Monday night, I would like to share this post.
Namaste. (Wow, I haven’t said that in quite a while!)