Talented homegrown California chefs will rival the world's best because they are free to blend cultural styles to make a great artistic presentation. Due to the high cost of running a restaurant and paying the salary of help who work it problems do occur though. First, it's very common for a great restaurant to develop a reputation that is near legendary, and then the restaurant gets sold to someone else. As a result, the new buyers produce a horrible imitation of the previous owner's work. Recently I ate at legendary Fish Wife in Pacific Grove (see Pacific Grove Pages). Several years ago, the restaurant was sold, and we suffered a disappointing meal from the new chef. "Blacken Fish" came to me as a greasy fried fish nugget, which I promptly sent back to the kitchen. I reordered a pasta fish mix that was slightly better, but too heavy on the cheddar cheeze sauce. It's also common for the menu to be intimidating in description and to misrepresent the portions so that the joke is on the customer for serving size given the heavy price paid. This experience is very common among trendy restaurants, and as an example I point to Soif in Santa Cruz, which has a great wine list, but an overly complex menu of small plates. Though excellent in preparation and presentation, a main dinner entre sold for $20-, but on the plate was less than a quarter pound of three sliced duck medallions covered in a thin berry sauce. Unfortunately, the waitress while cheerful couldn't explain either the wines nor the menu enough to reduce the confusion. Again, the food was great, but I left in disappointed and feeling underfed. Don't get me wrong, I don't measure food by the quantity of food on the plate, but in California, or anywhere for that matter, the restaurant waiter ultimately needs to simplify the decision making for the patron, so that conversation with friends and enjoyment of the food can be a top priority. Watch out for either problem in California restaurants--phony menus and unmet expectations in terms of portion control.
Stella's Jay is a pretty bird, with dark blue plumage. It has a loud, cackling call. And if you're picnicking, don't leave your food unattended when this little fellow is nearby. It will swoop down and grab whatever it can. It often has little fear of humans.
Was in California for six months, before experiencing my first real earthquake. Was in a building and it was like a big barrel rolling and rumbling in the hallway. Everyone orderly vacated the building into the designated car park where previous drills have been held.
One thing I learnt is not to call to tell your folks or check if your loved ones are saved. Lines are jammed immediately an earthquake. Lines should be open for emergency and rescue operation.
Also there will be aftershock tremors.
Do not hang painting or put a shelf of books over your sleeping bed.
In the Academy of Life Sciences in San Francisco Golden Gate Park, there is an earthquake simulator of different Richter Scale if you want to feel what a tremor is lilke until the real one.
Fires, gas leaks and electrocution of fallen cables into water are to be looked out for.
In California's central valley, and the Sierra foothills, fire is a hazard. During the dry summer months, after having little or no rain for a long period, the grass turns brown and becomes tinder. Add things like dead leaves, pine needles, pine cones, and other debris, and you have the potential for a fire. It only takes a small spark. Off-road vehicles, gas-powered equipment, and cigarettes are all capable of starting a huge fire. Most parks have posted warnings about fire, and restrictions on camping. Pay attention to them.
Also be aware that some fires are started to eliminate the very kind of debris that can make them so devastating. These "controlled burns" are common, especially in summer.
I have visited Death Valley National Park twice now and it has rained upon both occasions - something that simply doesn’t happen a lot … or so I am told. My first trip was mostly cloudy with a bit of rain, but my last trip was during a period of some real monsoons letting loose in the mountains above the Valley, allowing me to see the ‘work in progress’ in close detail. Driving along the road north from Shoshone through Badwater to Furnace Creek was to punch through on flooded road section after another. When you are fording flooding sections take a lot of care in the crossing - know about how deep and fast the water is moving; watch for debris; don’t drive too fast! Be careful!! Flash flooding is a real danger here, as it is throughout the Southwest.
When you stop anywhere along the Californian coast, you can't miss the chipmunks. They are very eager to come to you, to beg for some food. Hahaha,I like these little creatures, all swirling around me looking if I had some food. I just needed to stick out my hand and pretend I had something for them, and they would come close. Funny to watch, but a shame that they react like this. They clearly get fed a lot by the tourists, and that has influenced their natural behaviour.
In natural scenic areas such as Yosemite, Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks, don't stray off the hiking trails. You may disturb plants and animals. You also run a risk of getting hurt, especially along coastal cliffs, and trails following rivers. Many of these rivers are dangerous, with slippery rocks and very strong currents. People get killed and injured every year taking foolish chances in the parks.
Most bears (unless they've been fed by humans--see other warnings) maintain a respectful distance from humans. Please do the same with them. Don't get too close, even if they seem docile. Above all, don't feed them.
Keep all food in the steel containers at the campsites, not in the car. Bears know what a cooler is, and may break into a car to open it up. I personally don't bring food into national or state parks at all; it's just more trouble than it's worth.
It is illegal to feed any animal in a national park--and for good reason. As rangers tell us, "A fed animal is a dead animal." Once they lose their fear of humans, they can become aggressive (or at least pesky), running the risk of being killed or injured. Besides, most people feed them junk food--just as bad for them as for us. Let them fend for themselves. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
This picture was taken in 1992 when my cousin and I broke down on I-15 about 40 miles from Barstow, California. The desert is not a fun place to break down. After the car overheated, I had to walk 1/2 a mile to a mile down the side of the road where I found a call box. I contacted the California Highway patrol. They dispatched a tow truck, which arrived 2 hours later. Unfortunately, the vehicle we had was a last minute vehicle because the one we had to start with broke down before our trip started. Be sure of a few things if you should break down:
1. Stay calm. Believe it or not, this is the kind of stuff wild stories are made of. This whole 4-hour episode was full of colorful situations and people, it would take too long to list them here.
2. be sure you have plenty of water with you, at least a gallon per person. There is no telling how long you will be out here.
3. Above all else...be sure your vehicle is very reliable. If you do this, you can avoid the frustration.
If you ever visit Yosemite National Park, you will be near a town called Mariposa. It is a nice town, but thieves lurk everywhere. In 1991, my camera was stolen out of my car here. That is why you don't see very many California pics. Please be careful here, and lock your valuables in your trunk whenever you leave your vehicle.
A curious history no one probably ever wrote here in VT.
Travelling the southwest USA is confortable because of the big cars you can rent, with automatic gears, speed control device and most of all the conditioned air.
Well, when we were going away from the death valley, we encountered a lovely sign that stated 'turn off conditioned air'. This was because the outside temperature was too hot and the water of your car risked to boil.
see also my advices in my Arizona page
There are 12 miles to reach the top of the southern entrance to the death valley, and it is a steep climbing road. It takes about 30 minutes (we made it in almost 1 hour because there was a truck that didn't want to let us pass..) and in that period you will get cooked... It is not a pleasant trip at all.
Pedestrian signals work differently here and they surely irritated me at first.
So why do they change before I get across the street?
The flashing "Don’t Walk" or a flashing upraised hand is a warning to people who have not yet entered the intersection that it’s too late to safely cross the street before the traffic signal changes allowing cars to proceed. Signals are timed to allow people who have already started walking at a reasonable pace to safely cross the street.
Before that idea was explained to me, I was really irritated when I got the 'don't walk' sign already after a few seconds while I was still somewhere in the middle of the street ... because in Germany you have usually the green 'walk' signal for the whole time you're crossing the street.
Coastal California has a reputation of being warm the year round. That's usually true in comparison to places like upstate New York or Minnesota, but in late spring it has changeable weather that can be un-California-like. Some locals nickname this phenomenon Junuary.
It happened to me. On 29 May 1995, when my friend Clint and I left Hollywood bound for Santa Monica to take sunset photos, it was warm 80° (27°C) and sunny. By the time we got there, a fog bank had rolled in and it had dropped to 60° (16°C). That explains the lack of many Santa Monica photos on this page.
There are lots of ways that cars can catch on fire. But one that hits the news a lot in Northern Nevada these days is because people haul extra gas with them. These days with the price of gas 40 cents a gallon cheaper in Nevada, every time I go to Costco I see people from California filling up their vehicle and taking 50+ extra gallons back in gas containers. One lady blew herself and her SUV up when she decided she'd smoke. That wasn't the cause of this fire, these people were moving out of California.
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