Sunday, January 31, 2010

BIRD REPORT - Jan. 31, 2010

It was a record breaking day here in the San Gabriel Valley.  A whopping 30 31 different species visited the patio today, including the Yellow-Rumped Warbler pictured above.  The entire list is below.

Bird List - San Gabriel Valley foothills
black phoebe
cedar waxwing *
American crow
peregrine falcon
lesser goldfinch
harrier *
red tail hawk
house finch
house sparrow
Allen's hummingbird
Anna's hummingbird
mourning dove
purple finch *
scrub jay
California towhee
white crowned sparrow
acorn woodpecker
yellow-rumped warbler *
northern flicker *
kinglet *
nutall's woodpecker *

* rare for this location
Also saw several deer.


THINGS WE LIKE - Grocery Stores

We live just down the street from the headquarters of Trader Joe's.  This is close to the perfect market (so far the absolute perfect market has eluded me).  Fresh produce, high quality meat, gourmet products, large wine & beer selection, full liquor department (where local laws allow), and much more in a small, user friendly space.  Oh, and they're always giving away food and drink samples.  And one more thing, their prices are usually lower than the large chain supermarkets.  An example, a dozen jumbo eggs at Albertson's cost over $3.  At Trader Joe's is $1.89.

The things that keep it from being perfect are a poor selection of sodas and their habit of dropping an item you just grew to love.

On the other hand, they have so much to love that an occasional drop is OK.  Our favorite go-to item here is the Asian orange chicken that tastes better than Panda Express.
I have to admit, I didn't warm up to Fresh & Easy right away.  The first one I went into seemed like a low-rent Trader Joe's...sort of a cross between TJ's and Superior Foor Warehouse.  They opened one up around the corner from me and, although it took awhile, I've grown to love this American child of the large British Tesco chain.

First of all, it's convenient.  In and out in just a minute.  Like TJ's, the stores are smaller than a supermarket.  The produce is fresh and there's alway a 98 cent special on that aisle.  The prices are low and F&E doesn't shy away from name brands.  I can get my Coke and Dr. Pepper here where I can't at TJ's. There is also a very large selection of premade food at low prices if you don't like to cook.  Example?  A nicely done ham and eggs breakfast you heat up in the microwave for $2.49.

The reason prices are low here are because of a minimalist approach.  Plain concrete floors, basic shelving units, LED lighting, and you scan your own groceries.  You bag them too on the express lanes.  You may not like this at first but once you find out how quick you can get in and out, coupled with the money you just saved, you'll start to come around.

If either of these two stores are in your neighborhood, consider yourself lucky.  When travelling, look for them for the quick and easy products that you always seem to end up needing.  Check the links above to see if they are located where you're heading.


Upcoming on the World on Wheels

Easing back into blogging after a week of being audited.  It was a tough week but our unit came through with shining colors (the only one to do so in the entire office).  So this week, we'll be putting up some bits and pieces about trips, destinations, a new travel tune, and more. 

Next week, we'll have a new Cocktail Hour video, a brand new trip report (those who have been following us on Facebook probably have figured out where this will be), and of course another travel tune.

Later today, a couple of posts about some general things we like and a bird report.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed the slide show that stood in during the audit.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Just another reminder that blogging will be light.  I'm undergoing an audit in my day job and this coming week is the most intense part of that process.  Posts will be light to non-existent this week but the audit will be done by next weekend and posting at the normal pace will resume.

In the meantime, please enjoy this ongoing slide show of some of the places we've seen this year.

Thank you for your patience,



on our travels...

Traditional Basque meal for Tim's grad party at Centro Basco.  Chino, California.


on our travels.

Zeppelin in Bavaria, Germany

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


on our travels...

Having pie and cider with a gold miner and Civil War re-enactors.  Julian, California


on our travels.

Covering a college softball game for the radio show, La Verne, California.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010


on our travels...

Pantera parked at Schat's Bakery.  Bishop, California


on our travels...

Roman aqueduct-Pont du Gard.  Outside Nimes, France.


on our travels.

Los Angeles Angels Spring Training in Tempe, Arizona.  That's Vladimir Guererro leaning over the bucket.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 12

John and June Carter Cash
The very first record I every bought with my own money was a 45 single of "A Boy Named Sue " by Johnny Cash.  At the time, I just enjoyed the funny song, not really knowing too much about the man in black.  As the years passed, I became a huge fan and collected many of his records. 

As funny as "A Boy Named Sue" is, most people think of Cash as a dark singer.  The classic is the line from "Folsom Prison  Blues"..."I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die."  In "Jackson.", he and his wife are fighting and he's threatening to go to Jackson and get him some action.  "Walk the Line" tells about how hard it is to be committed and in's a hard, narrow line to walk.  Listen closely to "Delia's Gone" and you'll notice that it's not about a man missing his woman, it's about a man tying up his wife and murdering her.  Indeed, even "A Boy Named Sue" was recorded in a room full of hardened criminals at San Quentin prison...a lot of the energy in the song comes from those convicts just being allowed to throw off the darkness of their surroundings for a few minutes. 

One of the most poignant, dark, but somehow uplifting albums was one of the last released before his death, "American IV: The Man Comes Around ."  Listening to it sounds like it should be played at his funeral.  It's a deep meditation on life and Cash seems to know that it will be ending soon.  Sends chills down my spine but it is a great album.

Cash did have a light side and liked to let it loose.  Many of his songs broke up the darkness and were just joyful expressions such as "Tennessee Flat Top Box" and our travel tune for this week, his great rendition of Hank Snow's hit, "I've Been Everywhere."

Think of it as a musical version of the stickers you see on RV's for each location they've been too.  In the song, the singer is a hitchiker picked up by trucker near Winnemucca.  From there, it's just a joyful litany of all the places he's been.  Unfortunately, the only video I could find with Cash actually singing is this rather poor quality one with  Lynn Anderson  of "I Never Promised you a Rose Garden" fame.  Below is a much better audio version that is a slide show tribute to Cash and his life.



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 11

If you haven't noticed, it's New York week here at the World on Wheels.  Our travel tune this week is the old standard "New York, New York."  In researching the origin of the song, I'm suprised it's of a semi-recent vintage, being written in 1977 for Martin Scorsese's film of the same name starring Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro.  It was written by John Kander, with Fred Ebb doing the lyrics, and performed in the film by Minnelli. 

Frank Sinatra recorded the version most people associate with the song in 1980 for the album Trilogy: Past Present Future and again as a duet with Tony Bennett in 1993  for his Duets album.  You can here ole Blue Eyes sing it here.

Jose Hernandez is responsible for the version we're going with this week.  I used to live just around the corner from Mr. Hernandez' restaurant, Cielito Lindo, in South El Monte, California (for you real old timers there, it's the former Jolly Jug).  If you ever find yourself in the area, I really recommend it for a great, old fashioned dinner and show.

Hernandez is also known as the leader of Mariachi Sol de Mexico and is a tireless promoter for the preservation of mariachi music here in Los Angeles.  His orchestra has appeared at the Hollywood Bowl; with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and on many TV shows such as the Tonight Show.  Along with Mariachi Sol de Mexico, his restaurant showcases many up and coming mariachi groups such as Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, an all woman orchestra.

One of Hernadez' hooks is his group's sudden breakout into the song "New York, New York" as a way to break the ice with the audience.  It's an effective way to get people to listen a little more closely as he tries to persuade them to give the mariachi genre more attention.   It's also just a very good rendition of the song.  Below is Hernandez and Mariachi Sol de Mexico doing just that on the Dennis Miller Show.  Enjoy...

- Darryl

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Road Food - New York

Since we're recapping our first trip to New York this week, let's talk about our favorite places to eat there.  As with many destinations, it's the cheap, street food and snack bars we remember most.

Although our report this week mentions Nathan's in Coney Island...makers of very good hot dogs...on subsequent trips we found we liked Gray's Papaya even more.  I don't know how much they cost now but our trips to Gray's featured the Recession Special.  Two delicious, natural casing hot dogs...with mustard and sauerkraut...and a cup of their papaya juice for only $1.98.  Several locations in Manhattan, we went to the shop at 78th  72nd and Broadway, which is across from an accessible subway station.

Our first trip there, I had to cut off my wife and Tim after a couple of dogs (they wanted a few more) because we had reservations at Tavern on the Green and I didn't want to ruin our appetite.  The Tavern was good, very good in fact, but later my wife said she'd have been just as happy to gorge on the dogs and forego that experience.

Since we're talking about Tavern on the Green, you should know that this landmark closed its doors on New Year's Eve.

Another delicious and cheap option are bagels.  We found Tal Bagels at 979 1st Avenue to fit the bill perfectly.  A great variety of bagels, fresh from the kitchen, with a plethora of toppings for just a buck or two.  They also have a lot of other baked goods and fresh coffee.  A large dining room offers a place to relax, enjoy your food, and take in the scene.  One thing though, know what you want before you go to order.  The staff are very busy and very impatient.

Up a couple of notches in ambience and price is Sam's Place, just off of Times Square at 132 E. 39th Street.  Nominally an Italian kitchen, I like Sam's for the most delicious pork chops I've ever had.  Served with a glaze of carmelized onions and mashed potatoes, it's the best, sit down food I've had in Manhattan.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
hu:User:Totya under CC-SA license

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Just a little note to say that I'll be adding posts as I can, blogging might be a little light for a few days while I prepare for an audit.  Check this site for updates or find me at Facebook


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 10

Ten weeks of travel tunes!  The whole list is below, download 'em and make an album.

We were inspired to included this tune coming back from our most recent trip over New Year's weekend.  Traveling down the 101 from northern California, we were reminded of it.  This is a song, for you in Southern California, that you want to put on as soon as you crest the Conejo Grade on the 101 coming into Camarillo.  For you northerners, click the play button just as you come out of the Santa Ynez Valley, onto the Pacific know, just as you clear that canyon by Lompoc on the 101.  Be sure to look for those alligator lizards in the air.

Of course, I'm talking about "Ventura Highway" by America and sung by Dewey Bunnell.  One of the more perfect songs about a specific location.  If there's traffic...not an uncommon sight doesn't work, but if you're on that stretch of the 101, cruising alongside the pacific with an open road, it's just perfect.

Recently, I saw a concert by America on PBS and, although a little grayer, the boys still have it.  Here it is, "Ventura Highway" by America...

Travel Tunes first top ten (in order of appearance-links go to download pages)...
10- Ventura Highway (America)
9  - Radar Love (Golden Earring)
8  - I'll Be Home For Christmas (Bing Crosby)
7  - Me and Paul (Willie Nelson)
6  - Born to be Wild (Steppenwolf)
5  - Guadalajara (Vicente Fernandez)
4  - Mexico (James Taylor)
3  - Going to California (Led Zeppelin)
2  - Desert Skies (Marshall Tucker Band)
1  - The Letter (Joe Cocker)


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Road Food - Napa Valley

This week we share our favorite places in the Napa Valley area.

TIM:  My pick is Taylor's Automatic Refresher in St. Helena.  It's just a burger stand, but what a burger stand it is.  Of course, the burger is what I had.  A rather expensive ($8.95) double cheeseburger is made with two quarter pound patties of Neiman Ranch lean beef.  Garnished with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and their sauce, it reminds me a lot of an In 'n Out double-double but with twice as much meat.  On the side are their GREEN garlic fries, which are delicious.  You can eat at tables in front, covered tables on the side, or...our favorite...tables on the large lawn out back.  Being in wine country, you can also buy premium wine and microbrews by the glass.  Be forwarned that some of the wines can be more expensive than the food.  Still, the best thing I ate in the Napa Valley.

DARRYL: My wife and I really liked the breakfast at Dierk's Parkside Cafe, just south of downtown Santa Rosa.  Locally produced food is cooked to perfection in this little diner.  A sample of what we had...eggs benedict, very good...better than Hank's Creekside, the locally known benedict maker.  Eggs in saffron broth, a delightful take on chilaquiles; and sublime pancakes cooked with pears and walnuts in the batter.  Prices are reasonable for the quality, about $7-8 a plate.  Give it a try when you're in the neighborhood.

-Darryl & Tim

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Day - 2010

January 1, 2010

UPDATE:  No correct guesses so today we'll's Port San Luis on the Central Coast of California, about half way between San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach.  This picture is about 200 yards away from the front gate of the infamous Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Where were we today?  Leave your guess in the comments.

Here's another hint, where were we last night?...

- Darryl