Friday, May 27, 2022

Boise Blues


The weather is nice today in downtown Boise, a little breezy but sunny and just on the cool side of warm. We head off south on 9th Street for the mile or so to the Boise River.

We scoot a couple of blocks over to Julia Davis Park and follow the paved path that is perfect for wheelchairs over to the river's edge.



The paved path may be perfect for Tim's wheelchair but the Canada geese hanging out here make it a bit of a minefield to navigate but he does so successfully.


On it's way to the Snake River, west of town, the Boise River cuts a cool, rushing ribbon through the heart of the city. In the summertime, it's common to see hundreds of tubes, rafts, and any other floating device that can be had carrying revelers to the west of town where a bus can carry them back to the starting point six miles back.

It's too early in the year for that, though, so it's just sightseers, ducks, and geese enjoying the river today.


Soon, we reach the Friendship Bridge, an accessible pedestrian bridge, that allows us to cross the river from the park across to the campus of Boise State University on the other side.


As students in backpacks rush to class, groups of prospective freshmen and their parents are in groups taking tours during their spring break trying to decide if this school is for them. We continue on the river path to the eastern end of the campus.


We come across a big stadium. This is Albersons Stadium, the football home of the Boise State Broncos...one of the nation's top NCAA Division 1 teams.

The unique claim to fame for this stadium is its blue turf. No green grass for these football players, they get the blues.

It might be the blues for us too as we see a sign saying it's a $500 fine to enter the stadium. Another sign nearby says we can have access to the field via the Boise State Hall of Fame. I see two men inside the stadium and call out to them.

It turns out that one of them is Daryn Colledge, a former Boise State standout who went on to play guard on the Green Bay Packers. After retiring from the NFL, Colledge joined the National Guard and now works in the Athletic Department at his alma mater.

Mr. Colledge is nice enough to answer my question and point us to the Allen Noble Hall of Fame, which is on the opposite side of this massive stadium from where we are.


We get over there and it's a nice museum of Boise State athletic history. It's free and you even get a few goodies like the poster of Boise's football schedule that Tim takes with him.


A woman at the reception asks us to sign in, then escorts us to the inside of the stadium where we can take our time viewing this end of the famous blue turf.


She explains how the school put in the turf in 1986. In 2002, the school trademarked a field "other than green" and now any other sports facility that wants to use a color other than green has to get the school's permission before doing so.


We get some selfies and a family portrait before going back inside and spending some time exploring the hall.

After our time at the university, we retrace our way back down the river to the Ann Frank Memorial, a small area dedicated to the diarist whose family hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic only to end up perishing in a concentration camp a year before D-Day.


It's also an exhibit dedicated to promoting human rights around the world.


Back in downtown, we decide we're in Idaho...we should try the states most famous food product. At the Boise Fry Company, you can have your fried Idaho spuds in over a half dozen preparations. Regular french fries, battered, curly, russet, red, gold, and so on.

It's good but I have to give the nod to the Belgian waffle place at the other end of the dining room that shares the space. A good Liege waffle is a thing of beauty and, for less than five bucks, you can get one here.


We wind our way up the street to take a quick look at the Capitol. Then it's back to our hotel to rest up. We have a very long and lonely drive back to Winnemucca and then over the mountains to our home in California.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 23, 2022

Basquing in Boise


Back in October, I received an email from Hyatt. Luckily, I didn't delete it and read it...it was informing me that I had over 15,000 reward points that would expire by the end of the year if I didn't do anything. I guess we'd signed up with Hyatt on our travels over the years and forgot about it.

Glancing around their website, I found a few hotels that we would be able to book for 5,000 points per night, giving us a three-night getaway. The properties were in Eugene, Oregon, Salt Lake City, and Boise, Idaho.


Tim's a sometimes fan of college football so I put it to him this way...we could visit the home of the Oregon Ducks, BYU, or the blue fields of Boise State. Tim chose Boise so I made the reservation before the end of the year so the points wouldn't expire and we could go in April.


Now, the time is here and...in between a few nights in northern Nevada...we're popping up to Boise. The room at the Hyatt is great with two queen size beds and a conversation pit-style couch that also folds out for a bed.

I'll take that so we can all have our own bed and get a good night's sleep.


The bathroom does not have a roll-in shower but an accessible tub with a shower bench provided on request from the management.

It's on the top floor so it's nice and quiet with no footsteps from the room above.


We will have two full days to explore this city. We've decided it will be on foot or, in Tim's case, on wheel. The weather for the first day calls for spotty showers while the second day will be sunny and mild. This first day, we'll stay within ten minutes of the hotel in case the weather turns too bad. Out we go...


We're on our way to the Basque Block but along the way, we come upon a plaza with a number of antique tractors encased in large glass cubes.


A number of inflatable animals dot the lawn, a large video screen is above it all, showing pictures of pets. Intrigued, we wander in to explore a little deeper.


There's a stage and a small amphitheater next to someting of a scultpure made of cables like a big spider web. Perfect for climbing and I couldn't help myself. Luckily, 911 was not needed to get me out...but it was close!


Nearby, there is a five story parking structure with a metal tube spiraling down from the top. We think maybe it's an emergency chute. Closer inspection says "temporarily closed-JUMP" so now we're thinking it's a slide coming down from the top.


There's a building with a large lobby filled with colorful artwork adjacent with the same "JUMP" logo on it so I go in to see what's going on.

I find myself standing on a black circle and a lady nearby telling me to "jump!" What? "That's our jump camera...jump!"

Okay, I do a little hop and she says to turn around and there I am...on a large screen everyone in the lobby can see...doing my little jump on a loop.

"Okay, what is this place?" I ask her.

She explains that this is JUMP, short for Jack's Urban Meeting Place, a kind of playground/museum/amusement park for people of all ages. It comes from Jack Simplot, of the Simplot Corporation, who funded it. Jack made a fortune in agriculture selling potatoes to McDonald's for fries.


The Simplot corporate headquarters loom over this plaza that was built with Jack's money. Anyone can come in a play around...for free...on the slides (there's another giant 8-person slide on the roof of the parking structure), climbing aparatus, and see the 52 antique tractors on display. Many of them in the parking lot.


We find a little nest to hide in and take a couple of pictures before heading back on our way after visiting Mr. Simplot's fun contribution to the city. We will also come to find out that the Simplot name is everywhere here as the family's philanthropic efforts are well in evidence here.


A few more blocks takes us to the section of West Grove Street on the other side of the Idaho Central Arena known as the Basque Block. This neighborhood preserves and celebrates the area's Basque population.

The Basque come from the area between Spain and France and are culturally and linguistically seperate from both countries. Many came to America looking for prosperity. A lot of the younger men ending up being shepherds, living lonely lives in the plains of the west...mostly California, Nevada, and Idaho...and would come to neighborhoods like this to congregate with their countrymen and women.


The Basque Cultural Center and Museum gives an overview of the culture and history. Five dollars gets you inside. It's completely wheelchair accessible (even has an accessible family restroom) and is very interesting.


One room is dedicated to the shepherds on the plains. A sheepwagon...a trailer that the shepherd lived in while out on the plains...is restored and on display as part of a recreated campsite. 


Interactive displays let you see, hear, feel, and smell the life of the shepherd.


A 3D gallery (glasses provided with admission) shows old stereoscopic pictures of the Basque culture in Europe. 

A third gallery explores the Basque in America with a listing of all Basque clubs, restaurants, and even handball courts in the new world.

We are fans of the Basque culture and this is a very interesting stop for us.

There is a Basque market that looks interesting but is only open on Mondays (due to Covid) and that is not today. Leku Ona, a large restaurant at the end of the block, allows us to stop and have a picon punch in the bar...wheelchairs go around the corner on 6th Street where you'll find an elevator for access in their patio.

We'll come back here for dinner to have salmon, a Basque steak sandwich, and a burger for Tim.


Back to the beginning of the block is tiny Bar Gernika where we have a hot bowl of soup and croquettes.


We have to travel a couple of blocks further to visit Ansots to get some Basque chorizo to take home and to eat a Kouign Amann, a flaky, butter, croissant-type puff pastry that is an extremely delicious bargain at five bucks.

The rain comes as we have dinner but eases up just enough for us to get back to the hotel and rest up for our next walk tomorrow.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 22, 2022

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Elko, Nevada Pub Crawl


Idaho Street...or highway 535...is the main thorough fare of Elko, Nevada. You'll find all the main gas stations, hotels, fast food joints, and casinos along this street. A block south is a square, with no name that I can find, that is bordered by 3rd Street on the west, 8th Street on the east (where the centennial railroad water tower is) with storefronts lining Railroad and Commercial Streets on the north and south. In the middle is a large parking lot with room for hundreds of cars.

Since no one else has seemed to name it, I'll call it "Railroad Square" because the parking lot is where the train tracks used to be long ago.

Along the edges of this square, I count eight bars and one casino. Not all are open the afternoon we're here but it looks like we'll be able to hit most of them that are.

Before we start drinking, we check out the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum, located in the former saddelry of G.S. Garcia who fabricated western saddles and gear here from 1894 through 1933. After that, we spend a few minutes two doors down at a still functioning saddle and gear store, JM Capriola.


Now, we can start our crawl. First up is Machi's Saloon. A few patrons are sipping the appropriate Basque libation, picon punch, while we strike up a converstation with them over our whiskey sours.

One of the cowboys at the bar tells us of the syndicate he runs to buy a horse to run in the big horse race that is run during the county fair each September. His buddy tells us about where this desert town's water comes from (underground) and the dozen or so commercial gold mines that still operate in the region.


Next up is another couple of sours at the Stockmen's Casino where, since I'm feeding the video poker machine at the bar, are free. Well, I do spend two bucks on poker but the free drinks are a pretty good trade.


We come across a lovely little dive bar called Goldie's on the other side of the square. They don't have the ingredients necessary for a whiskey sour so it's just shots of Maker's Mark for us while we get to know some more locals and their young, friendly pit bull who gets lonely whenever one of them goes to the bathroom.

Lastly, we head a couple of blocks away to the Toki Ona, a local Basque watering hole and restaurant, to have a couple of picon punches while deciding to stay for dinner.

It's a nice taste of what this small city has in store and we vow to come back and try some of the other closed locations on another trip.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 20, 2022

Winning in Winnemucca


Continuing this Basque themed trip, we end up in Winnemucca, a small city in Northern Nevada, about halfway between Reno and Elko. It was a long and lonely drive through the desert from the north with giant, snow covered peaks lining highway 95. The city looked very welcoming when we arrived.

Our hotel was to be the Quality Inn at the Model T Casino. Unfortunately, the accessible room we reserved was accessible in name only. The roll in shower had a step to get into and a sliding glass door that was impossible to get Tim around.

Not only that but there was only a half inch of clearance for Tim and his chair throughout the room. We looked at a regular room but it was worse so we said the room just wasn't accessible and it would be impossible to spend the night there. The manager agreed and gave us a free cancellation.

Now, we're here without a room and our choices are to wander around to find another room or bite the bullet and drive another five hours and just go home.

Before we steal ourselve for such a long journey when we're frankly too tired for it, we pull into the Candlewood Suites at the east end of town. I check with the front desk and, while they have some rooms, none are what we'd really look forward to so we start phoning around town. The Holiday Inn Express at the other end of town has a standard room with two queen beds plus a sofa bed. 

It's only for one night, Tim already had a bath this morning, so the only question is whether he could get to the room without barriers and if he could fit through the bathroom door. The manager agrees to come let me look and see if the room will do.

Five minutes later, I'm touring the room which is a heckuva lot roomier than the Model T room we'd booked. Everything looks fine so we check in.

As said before, we're only here for one night and we've lost an hour looking for a room so we've got to get cracking.

Our main reason for stopping here was to add another Basque restaurant to our list. Like many old Basque restaurants, this one started as a boarding house near the train station where young, lonely, and hard working shepherds from the old country could spend the night and get a solid meal between bouts of living out in the middle of nowhere with a few hundred sheep. 


This one is called the Hotel Martin, although it hasn't been a hotel or boarding house since the 1970's. It's away from the busy highway and even the secondary business street separated from the dusty desert only by the nearby train tracks.


In the comfortable, cozy, heavily wooded interior, we start off as always with a picon punch. It's a bitter and sweet mixture of amer picon liqeuer and brandy with a lemon twist that is the quintessential Basque cocktail.


If you're familiar with family style Basque dinners, you won't be surprised by what comes next, a parade of food that will expand your ideas of "full." A carafe of house red wine, a tureen of soup (tonight, minestrone), a bowl of salad, bread and butter, a tongue appetizer, a dish of hominy and chorizo, another dish of bacon green beans, then the entree...tonight, a 24 ounce rib eye covered in garlic cloves and mushrooms to be shared by all three of us...and another platter of french fries along with their "prairie dust," a mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic powder to be sprinkled on anything you'd like.


Bread pudding is brought out aftward for dessert. My gosh, we're full!

It's not cheap but worth every penny. We've been to a lot of Basque restaurants over the years and the Martin is one of the best.


After dinner, back at the hotel, Letty and I take advantage of coupons given to us by the front desk that gives us $10 of free play and a free cocktail at the slot machines of the connected Pete's Casino. I stop after I drink my whiskey sour and lose my ten dollars, Letty comes out eight dollars ahead.

It's time to relax in the room for awhile and rest up for tomorrow's long drive.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 16, 2022

Basquing it On The Road: A Pit Stop in Elko


We're exploring more of the area around our new neighborhood in Northern California. This includes crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains and exploring the deserts of Nevada on the other side. This time, we're spending some time in the northeastern area around Elko.

We've got one whole day to spend here so let's get to it. We're starting off with a drive along highway 225 from Duck River Reservation from the Idaho border down to Elko.

From wild mustangs to teepees in the back of almost every home here on the rez, we head south into Wild Horse Canyon for a windy and gorgeous drive along the Owyhee River.


Wild Horse Reservoir greets us at the other end and we make a pit stop at Wild Horse Ranch where some clean restrooms await at the convenience store, bar, and restaurant. You can also camp the night here, if you wish, but it's just a nature break for us while we admire the snow covered scenery nearby.

More high elevation Nevada desert scenery unfolds at we make our way to Elko, a city in northwest Nevada that will be our home for the night.


Our room is a functional, clean but not spectacular room with two queen beds and a roll-in shower at the Hampton Inn, next door to the Gold Dust West Casino that would be a great place for breakfast. The Hampton has a decent and free breakfast but for our second morning, we splurge on the $5.99 special of bacon and eggs at the casino.

We want to do two things while we're here...do a pub crawl and have a nice Basque dinner. The pub crawl will be featured on our Sunday Cocktail Hour post. For the dinner, we head to the Star Hotel, an old Basque boarding house that used to be next to the railroad tracks (the trains moved, not the hotel).


Unfortunately, when we walk in, we find everything covered in plastic sheeting. The restaurant is under renovation and is not open today. We'll have to go to our plan B, the Toki Ona, the city's other Basque restaurant. 


Along the way, as we pull out from the parking lot, we find out that the block down from the Star Hotel is the city's red light district with about a half dozen brothels with names like "Inez's Dancing and Diddling" (prostitution is legal in much of Nevada and operates openly in regulated brothels).


At the Toki Ona, it's more of a diner atmosphere but has the standard Basque setup and entrees...start off with a tureen of soup to be shared with a loaf of bread and red wine. Then a bowl of salad. Then a plate of spaghetti. Then a dish of green beans. Now another load of rice with your potato selection (fries and au gratin for us). Finally the entree with was a plate of beef tongue in gravy and a rib eye covered in garlic and big enough for the three of us.

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As always, it's a ton of food and we're only able to get through about half of each dish.

We take a drive and see the fairgrounds and the nice, shady neighborhood nearby with great tree-lined streets that reminds us a little of the walking tour we did in Carson City.

It's only a day but the city is nice enough that we decide we'd like to make a return trip...maybe when the rodeo or fair is in town.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved 


Sunday, May 15, 2022

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Picon Punch


This week's cocktail is a traditional Basque drink.  While Basque restaurants are renowned for their great food...and equally awesome portions...they are also known for the bars that everybody hangs out in while waiting for meal service to begin.



Watch the Video!

Although most of them offer traditional table service these days, most Basque restaurants also set aside some meals to be served "family style."  That means everybody sits at one long table and passes the dishes of food, just like going to your Aunt Gloria's house on Thanksgiving.  It's a wonderfully social way of dining but you will be sitting with strangers.  

What to do?

That's right...a "Cocktail Hour!"  Most arrive a little early to enjoy a tipple in the bar and get to know the people a little bit before the meal is served and for many, that means the traditional but strong Picon Punch.


Picon Punch uses a liqueur called Amer Picon as a base.  This is an orange based libation that is very hard to find in our area so we substitute triple sec and bitters.  Here's the recipe:


INGREDIENTS:
2 1/2 oz. - triple sec
1 oz. - brandy
2-3 oz. soda water
1 oz. lemon juice
dash of bitters
dash of grenadine


In an old fashioned glass half filled with ice, pour in bitters, triple sec, grenadine, and lemon juice.  Fill with soda water.  Float brandy on top.


Cheers! 



-Darryl