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Friday, March 31, 2017

A Day Out: In Search of the 'Superbloom' East of Los Angeles


Even mega-sprawls have an end to them and the seemingly endless sprawl of Los Angeles comes to a halt at the corner of Euclid and Chino Avenues in the Inland Empire. Ontario on one side, Chino on the other. Tract houses at one corner, dairy farms and truck depots across the street.

Maybe a strange place to start our search for wildflowers...as civilization ends, barnyard smell and oil stains take over.

I'd heard about this mythical steakhouse that supposedly sits on this corner where delicious 16 ounce ribeye dinners can be had where the pricing is a dollar for each ounce of meat.  All I see, however, is a windowless little block of a building with a certified truck scale on the side.


What's left of a little sign on top, in addition to advertising it's weighing service, says Taylor's Cafe and, somewhere in there, 'steaks.'


A couple of ugly brown doors at each end of the building have stencils of a cow, pig, and chicken with a logo..."Animals Taste Good." Inside, a few families chow down on a noontime breakfast at long tables made up of shorter ones pushed together.


A group of men, one with a big but docile Doberman, play a bar dice game.


Yeah, technically, this is a Basque restaurant but not in the traditionally famous 'family style' of the more famous Basque dinner houses. It's also heavy on Mexican influence...the owners are a husband of Basque ancestry and his wife who is Mexican.

That wife asks us where we'd be comfortable when we walk in. We pick a table by the wall.


Menus provided, we go to order. I want the ribeye plate. The waitress asks how I want my eggs..."it comes with eggs?" I ask. The menu hadn't mentioned that. Like any good Basque place, yes...it does...just because they say so.


My wife gets their Saturday special, which is a couple of slabs of very tasty tri-tip, along with eggs, home fries, beans, and a pretty fiery salsa.  Glasses of red wine are provided to wash it down (the traditional meal beverage of the Basque, or at least it seems that way at all the Basque restaurants we've been to).


Tim gets a hearty and delicious chicken soup with a leg bone sticking out of it.

It's obvious we're the newcomers in this room full of regulars but the staff goes out of their way to make us feel welcome.  After we're done, the server comes up with a plate covered by a couple of big slabs of tri-tip.

"I want you to sample our tri-tip."


I do, it's delicious as was the 16 ounce ribeye I just polished off. My wife couldn't finish her platter, neither could Tim his 'small' soup so we pack it up to take home where we had some great tri-tip sandwiches with chicken soup on the side for dinner the next day.

After that fabulous and filling meal, we get back on the 60 freeway and keep heading east to Gilman Springs Road, just past Moreno Valley. The Theodore Payne Foundation wildflower hotline said there was a big bloom of wildflowers going on in the area where this road meets Soboba Road in San Jacinto.


While there were a few yellow daisies here and there, mostly all we saw was green grass.  Not much of a 'superbloom' that we'd been hearing about in the news.  We did see the big Scientology compound here with it's faux castle movie soundstage and golf course. No signs of Tom Cruise or John Travolta, though.

Strangely, there is a row of rotting, falling down houses along the compound's golf course.

We continue on until we reach the end of Soboba Road at the Indian casino there and turn around.  It's time for 'Plan B.' Luckily, we can go to Oak Glen. It's about 30 minutes away from our current location and, even if there are no flowers, we can still get some great scenery in.

"...and they have pie," Tim reminds me.  That's right, Oak Glen is a famous apple growing region and pie is on every menu.

"Do you think we can get donuts on the way home?" Tim asks.

"Tim, you just said you wanted pie."

"Oh yeah."


We make it up to the Wildland Conservancy's Oak Glen Preserve (formerly Los Rios Rancho apple farm) where wheelchair accessible trails wind through apple orchards and Morane forests.


Finally, we see some flowers. They're apple blossoms and not wildflowers but at least there's a lot of 'em.


It's a chilly, fall-like day even though it's early spring.  Jackets are needed today.  I grab a map from an unmanned visitor's center adjacent to the handicapped parking.


We take a short hike to the preserve's duck pond, seeing this woodpecker in a nearby tree, looking for more wildflowers.


It's just not happening today, Superbloom hype notwithstanding.  There are some other spectacular view and lots of lush, green landscapes...just not much blooming besides the fruit trees.


Back in the parking lot, we go to the former packing shed where we get some hot coffee and Tim can get his apple pie before heading back home.

Darryl Musick
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