Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The King of Salads....Do the Louie!

      What's the cure for REALLY HOT summer weather?  A great seafood salad.  By salad I mean the King of Salads, the Crab Louie. This incredible dish combines the best of fresh ingredients, creamy scrumptious dressing, and the 'Star of the Show'....fresh Dungeness Crab. 
      We came back from the beach several days ago with the local temps creeping into the 90s and beyond.  Unless we wanted to dine out every night we had to come up with an alternative.  I suggested salads which are cold, delicious, and not uncomfortably filling.  Our first night we did a fresh shrimp salad with shrimp we got on our previous trip up Hood Canal.  The second night I decided to go 'all in' per Texas Hold 'Em parlance and do the Louie!  I did not bring any crab home from our trip to the coast (bad fisherman, me) so I went to the local seafood market and bought a pound of fresh.  Sit down and prepare yourselves.........REAL fresh crab shelled is $34.99 a pound! Who cares....YOLO!  It is for Mom and my bride. 

Rolling chilled crab into mounds...
      This provides a brief history and the ingredients/recipe for Crab Louie.  Although I substituted Romaine, Arugula, and Spinach the rest remains per the original.   We also like a few spears of fresh steamed, yet crisp asparagus.

Building them plates
Diggin' that Louie
Life is good when Ricky is home...
      This proved to be a very good idea as the day I prepared this it was 104.  We enjoyed the air conditioning, each other's company, and dining on this delicious salad as well as the Tillamook Marionberry Pie Ice Cream for dessert.  In the end I'm just grateful that Mom never moved the couch in the living room.   

"Washington is gripped by crab-in-the-bucket syndrome.  And there's no cure in sight.  Put a single crab in an uncovered bucket and it will find a way to climb up and out on it's own.  Put a dozen crabs in a bucket and 11 will fight with all their might to pull down the striver who attempts to escape"  
Michelle Malkin
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Changing Face of Western Washington


      "Will the last person to leave Seattle please turn off the lights" This billboard quote is from the original Boeing Crisis of the 60s.  It has resurfaced several times since.  This is the place of my birth, where I lived for 18 years.  My mother and two of my children still do. However, nigh on 50+ years (hell, even just 30 years) ago this became a different state, a different culture, a different demographic altogether.  True, it is a different world we live in today, but has society come so far as to completely abandon any semblance of civility.  First of all it's much more populated now and with that comes the inevitable traffic, higher costs, rudeness, arrogance, and dog eat dog mentality of any big city; it's everywhere.  Modern society was founded on the concept of rules that would provide/ensure safety.  Laws were enacted to protect the majority of us all.  Keynesian Economics also states that in the short run, and especially during recessions, economic output is strongly influenced by aggregate demand (total spending in the economy).  Western Washington and especially the Seattle area has taken this to a whole other level.  Can the average working person still survive?  Where do all the homeless come from?  Is governmental assistance fueled by ever increasing taxes the only answer?  For anyone about to say that the rich need to pay their fair share, double check your fact checker.  The Top 1% of Americans pay 50% and the Top 20% pay 84% of all the ($$$) income taxes today. 
      Things have so very much changed that I find it somewhat uncomfortable to accept what has become acceptable here.  I am awestruck as I listen to my friend's stories of high costs, dwindling jobs, obscene taxes, and the increasingly limited health care debacle.  Compiled from experiences during my recent stay here this is but a sample of unbelievable changes to the now 'so very far left' Pacific Northwest:

>There really isn't any need for Seattle (let alone the entire western half of the state) to be a 'sanctuary city' as no matter what law you disregard you can always claim 'profiling, racism, or non-resident status.  As long as it is a federal issue, the local King County Barney Fifes ain't gonna hassle you. 

>You've heard of water rights, mineral about view rights?  The local TV station reported today that you can now mortgage the view rights from your house in the greater King County area.  That's correct, you can now own the rights to your view which cannot be infringed upon by new construction, trees, etc.  It will cost you anywhere from $10K-several hundred thousand dollars to do this and you can even keep them when and if you sell your house.  What? 

>Seattle wants to pass legislation to provide 'safe spaces' for heroin addicts to shoot up.  Yet, the news reported recently that opioids kill more people in the state each year than traffic accidents.  Unfortunately, they're not spectacular drivers either.  Yeah, opioids are still a controlled substance and heroin is illegal. 

>An Oak Harbor legislator has introduced legislation to prohibit airlines from removing any passengers no matter what (unless for legitimate security concerns), even when they are overbooked. 

>We were checked (for personal ID, script ID, and receipt) a total of 3 times at Wal Mart or COSTCO each time from the moment we picked up our (or Mom's) prescriptions till the moment we walked out the front door.  Here, the professional consult is NOT an option. 

>Good thing we have our own cloth grocery bags......if you don't get ready to pay 5 cents a bag here.

>Seattle has legislation pending for their own county income tax. 

>The average price of a home in Seattle is $638,000.  This isn't even a fabulous home.  Even though Washington's property tax rate ranks 28th lowest in the nation at 1.08%, that house in Seattle will still pay $6872 per year.  In Thurston County (home) it's even higher. 

>My home town of Tumwater can't seem to do anything to sell the Olympia Brewery buildings and property as their zoning conditions and control over the artesian water rights are a stranglehold to any deal.  The property is already an eyesore and very nearly a point of shame.

>It is not unusual to walk downtown Olympia and see wooden power poles with several  hypodermic injection syringes stuck in them.  Apparently there are no safe zones here.  The amount of homeless really saddens me.

>Although a bit further south, the owners of Kooks Burritos in Portland were forced to shut down their shop due to a barrage of criticism and bad reviews due to what is being termed 'Cultural Appropriation'.  They discovered their unique style of cooking when traveling to Mexico and when interviewed commenters accused them of stealing their recipes and techniques from Mexican women.  One publication, the Portland Mercury, even said the women were predatory and colonized this food style. 

>The unions have such a chokehold on industry that even with layoffs Boeing has begun to move a significant amount of their operations out of state. 

>Seattle Commissioner Kshama Sawant (pictured above) is an active member of the American Socialist Movement and Socialist Alternative Party.  Some of her campaigns have been the $15/hr minimum wage, the condemnation of Israel and their survival, the proposed nationalization of Boeing, Microsoft, and Amazon, and promotes airport and freeway disruptions by whatever means necessary.  They even published a Guide to Mayday Protests in Seattle     Recently she came out in favor of the Seahawks acquiring (NOT LOCAL FAVORITE) Colin Kaepernick as a backup QB so she's got that going for her. 

>The Pacific Northwest’s nascent independence movement (secession from the union) – Cascadia – is gaining momentum and actually believes it can survive without federal governmental help.  Of course it can, their astronomical taxes can provide anything that only socialism can fix.

>Evergreen State College professor Bret Weinstein is under fire after refusing to leave his office, as well as criticizing a "White Privilege" demonstration recently as oppression in and of itself.  The protestors rationale?  Racism, of course.  Demonstrators stormed his office, threatened him and stopped campus police from entering the building when they attempted to escort him out.  In the end he was allowed to leave, but then the demonstrators stormed the President's Office demanding Prof. Weinstein's firing.  He relented stating that he would investigate fully and police WERE NOT to react to the demonstrators due to the fact they threatened violence unless the professor was fired. Oh yeah, this is a state taxpayer funded university. 

     This is home and it saddens me to the bone.  I don't like bad mouthing the place where I grew up, where I learned my values, and many of my closest friends and family still live.  Usually I really don't pay much attention to the news or current local events when I visit.  All I ever really noticed before were the skyrocketing real estate costs, which most folks blamed on all the 'transplanted Californians'.  But now the economy is such a juggernaut that when everything rises except the wages for the blue collar working man their hope diminishes.  For those who have lived here, worked here, and raised families here their entire lives they are now finding the cost of living, especially property taxes stifling.   It seems at times that the only hope perceived is government assistance, as long as it doesn't interfere with the 'haves'.  What does the average Democrat think is going to happen when the dream wishbone breaks in their favor to increase the taxes only on the rich?  JENGA!   You want to talk about 'trickle down economics'?  Taxes are already incredible and eventually this 'tower of progress' will topple (remember Keynesian Economics and the short run) and the 'haves' and 'have-nots' will find themselves on the same playing field once and for all, everyone struggling to survive.  There are so many good people still living here, but the change has been perpetual with not much hope of reversing course, but all too often what drives this area affects much of Western Washington, whether they like it or not.  My parents were both hard workers and we were on the lower end of middle class, not anywhere near rich, but wanted for nothing.  I didn't know what a homeless person was. My best memories have always been of the simple beauty of this place and what a great place it was to grow up.  This works for me. 

"So much of left wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot"
George Orwell
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Eagan's Big Tom

      This is it, for me the penultimate foodie review.  The hangout, cruise central, the burger joint of my adolescence.  There were originally 4 of these, but over the years only the Westside and Eastside locations are still in their original locations.  The Tumwater location is further south on Capitol Way and the Tumwater Square location is gone.  Only the Tumwater location offers indoor seating. 
Westside Eagan's Big Tom
      Originally there was one Eagan’s Drive in, opened in 1948.  The Westside was where the action was, especially after a big game on Friday night.  It was the sixties and all the guys would drive in with their convertible Chevy's, top down, KJR or 8 track playing as loud as you could.  Couldn’t even get a spot to park.  Cops patrolling every few minutes.  There was rarely a fight, but sometimes a carful of greasers would show up from Lacey (North Thurston) and want to start something.
Great fact INCREDIBLE.  A regular burger in those days was about 35 cents.  But everybody just ordered the basket which was a Big Tom burger with fries and a Coke. Owner Tom Eagan was a really big guy with black hair, about 6′ and 300 pounds, undoubtedly because he ate too much of his own food.  Not sure why he started with the Westside, because he was an Olympia High School grad from an earlier day.  As business grew, Tom opened another Eagan’s on the East side.  It was on 4th Ave, at about Boulevard.  He probably called it Big Tom’s to distinguish it from the Westside Eagan’s, which was just “Eagan’s”.  The third Eagan’s Big Tom’s was soon opened closer to his old alma mater at North Street and Cleveland Ave......where there is currently a bank.
Eastside Eagan's Big Tom
      The North Street location had an outdoor seating area and was successful until he sold it for development.  It was not a drive thru, and as such, serviced mostly business people.  They always had specials.  Tom opened another location to serve the Tumwater High School kids on Capitol Boulevard by the power lines near Tumwater Sports.  In all, there were 4 Eagan’s owned restaurants.

Eagan's Big Tom Tumwater
      Barb and I eat at the Tumwater location several times when we visit here.  A taste of home, still great food with visions of the old days.  She says she indulges me.  I think she really does love a good burger, but this isn't her hometown.  It's a pride thing, Barb is from Missouri.  EVERYBODY loves a good burger!
      Eagan's offers a pretty standard menu at all their locations, but the difference is the food.  It hasn't changed one bit far as I can tell.......DELICIOUS!  The closest I have ever been able to compare to homemade.  The Tumwater location still has the old menu on it's wall as well as many pictures for nostalgia sake.  It is your standard 'drive in' fare........burgers of every conceivable design, hot dogs, chili dogs, corn dogs, chicken sandwiches, strips, fries, onion rings, and of course since it is the Pacific Northwest there are baskets with halibut, shrimp, and clam strips as well.  You can even get a Veggie Garden Burger.  They have a full array of soda products as well as designer coffee and lattes.  My favorite has always been their shakes, the best.  I always get a Mountain Blackberry shake with my burger.  I love the fact that they also offer tater tots as well as fries because it is the perfect Romeo to my Juliet......and of course the timeless favorite, GOOP.  It is their trademark product.  Essentially mayo, mustard, pickle relish with a secret salad dressing mixed in it is often copied, but seldom duplicated. 
A little known fact is that Eastside Big Tom’s is very environmentally friendly–they use solar panels to heat hot water and recycle everything they possibly can.  In fact the used oil from the fryers is filtered and used directly in a vehicle. 
Big Tom, Tater Tots, & GOOP
3 piece Halibut, Fries, & Coleslaw
      I always have my usual, but Barb went with the fish this time around.  They do have very good Clam Strip Baskets, but she wanted a change.   The food is still just as good as ever.  Lunch cost:  $24 and some change.  The costs have certainly gone up, but the quality is certainly still worth it.  I think Five Guys Burgers are much more $$$ and not nearly as good. 
      If you're ever traveling through this area it is a NO BRAINER!   You simply must stop and give this burger a try.  If you're from this area you are already asking yourself how come it has been so damned long since you've had one?  We have been here for just over 6 weeks now and this is only our 2nd visit.........MY BAD.  The movie "American Graffiti comes as close to any resemblance of those days and although the music was rapidly evolving, I still remember the Beach Boys.......those endless summers.  I often talk about my Top List of Burgers from our travels;  In and Out, Whataburger, TXBurger, and Five Guys.   I don't know what it is about a Big Tom Burger with Tater Tots and GOOP, but they will always be #1 in my heart and soul.


"Anybody who doesn't think that the best hamburger place in the world is in their hometown is a sissy"
Calvin Trillin
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Friday, June 9, 2017

The Legend of Bigfoot and Spelunking the Ape Caves

      This was another opportunity for Barb and I to get away for a bit between Mom's schedule.  She's doing very well thus far.  We try to stay within 2 hours on these short jaunts.  This trip we ventured south to the small town of Cougar, deep in the Cascade Mountains in Cowlitz County.  We ended up on a detour road we hadn't planned on the last 39 miles and it was very UPHILL and lots of 15-25 mph turns.  Gas mileage pretty much bit it.......ate a bunch of diesel. 
      I brought us here as Barb is fascinated with the legend of Bigfoot.  Well, this is the place to be.  The legend of Sasquatch or Bigfoot goes back as far as I can remember.  It is some of the best of local PNW lore. 
      This is the original home to the legend, deep within the woods of the Pacific Northwest in the close proximity of Mt. St. Helens, a mere 13 miles north.  This is very wild country, thousands of acres of wilderness rarely seeing a footprint let alone an RV.  The volcanic eruption changed a large part of the landscape, but much remains pristine.  Although we did no real searching for the neo-human I treated Barb to some of the local beauty, solitude, and culture of the area.  We even got in some spelunking, rock hounding and geocaching as well. 
      Barb and I set up camp near the town of Cougar at Lone Fir Campground with a 'bit on the steep side' price of  $42.50 @ day with no veteran/retiree/senior discounts.  It is a nice enough park with all the facilities, but there aren't but two in the area to choose from.  The other park is pretty much 'full time residents' such as workers, loggers, etc.  We have been boondocking at Mom's for 28 days thus far and decided to 'go for it' this week.  It is a nice park with lots of shade and the staff is very nice.  We got an entire greenhouse wagon load of split firewood delivered for only $13.  Roux and Bones loved all the room with the grass and "lounging aplenty was the rule for the week".  There are 2 other camping parks near Yale Lake and Swift Creek Reservoir, but they are a bit too small for our rig.  Smaller RVs or tents probably work the best their.  They run $20. 

The Bustling Metropolis of Cougar
Truth in Advertising Department
Just some kindling in Timber Country
3 for 3 geocaching with my favorite 'Sexy Geocacher'
Mt. St. Helens South Face
The higher roads into the backcountry are still closed

      Another part of this trip was to treat Barb to some exploration of the 'Ape Cave'.  The Ape Cave was discovered in 1947 by a logger named Lawrence Johnson. However, the cave was not explored until the early 1950's when a scout troop, led by Harry Reese, lowered a team of scouts down a 17-foot overhang to the cave floor. Leaving footprints where no one ever had, these explorers were able to travel through a pristine lava tube full of fragile formations. Ape Cave was named by the Scout Troop in honor of their sponsor, the St. Helens Apes. This local group was made up primarily of foresters. The sponsor’s name, St. Helens Apes, may have come from an old term used for foresters in the area, "brush apes," or from the legend of Bigfoot. 
      I visited these caves several times as a child growing up and one year our boy scout troop (Tumwater 333) led a large clean up effort in the caves.  This was chronicled in the Daily Olympian Parade Magazine section.  It has been about 50 years since I was last here and today the entire area has been improved.  There is a large parking area (to no doubt accommodate the cavalcade of school buses on field trips), bathrooms, information billboards, and docents to guide tours if necessary.  The cave entrance has been improved, easily accessible via a paved trail and stairs rather than the old 17' ladder.  What would a personal connection with nature be without an asphalt paved trail?  Of course there is now a $5 fee to enter as well.  Thank goodness for our Golden Access Passes. 
    At first everyone asks what are these caves?  How did they form?  About 2,000 years ago, fluid basaltic lava poured down the southern flank of the St. Helens volcano. As the lava flowed, chunks of the lava’s surface cooled, crashed and fused together creating a hardened crust. In turn, the crust insulated the molten lava beneath, allowing it to remain fluid and travel down to the Lewis River Valley. The hot flowing lava began melting into the pre-existing rock and soil. This thermal erosion deepened and widened the channel of the flow. The level of lava in the tube rose and fell as the eruption surged and slowed, contributing to the unique contours of the walls. During this eruptive period, hot fluid lava pulsed through the tube for months, possibly up to a year, until the eruption subsided. As a result of this rare eruption, a spectacular 13,042 foot (3976m) long lava tube, the third longest in North America, was created.  The underground hiking distance is 2.8 miles round trip. 
Map courtesy of US Geologic Survey
      Barb and I descended into our spelunking expedition, exploring perhaps 3/4 mile of the main cave only.  The right clothing and equipment are crucial here as the underground temps are much cooler and wetter than the surface.  Layered lightweight, yet warm clothing and headwear is recommended with good quality Vibram soled hiking shoes, and of course at least 2 sources of light per person.  There are NO other lighting systems.   You're not calling for help down there if you need it.  We also each carried our Nikons with the 10-24mm and 18-140mm lenses, monopod, and flash.  This proved to be a difficult challenge to my photographing skills.  I had to have either Barb or other spelunkers light up the area with their flashlights enough for my camera to get a decent enough light reading to work.  This still took a bit of experimentation with the settings.  Although many specimens of pumice and other volcanic rock abound, you are not allowed to remove any from the cave system.  Did you hear that, Barb? 
      We spent nearly 2 hours exploring the caves.  I spent half that time watching Barb as she was completely mesmerized.  The intricate swirl marks, evidence of flowing lava are everywhere.  Overhead are tall ceilings with parallel tubes and sometimes side chambers.  We ventured far enough to see the 'meatball', a wedged piece of lava that hangs overhead in a narrow area.  Try as she might, Barb saw none of the local indigenous species of bats.  She has visited the Merrimack Caves in Missouri as well as several other 'commercial' systems including some copper mines in Michigan, but nothing of this raw adventure.  She loved it, almost as much as I enjoyed watching her have fun.  We did try and drive further up the mountain to visit Lava Canyon, one of the newer flows since the eruption, but the road was closed halfway up due to some lingering white frozen precipitation still on the ground.  It's only early June.  Our beautiful weather lasted until Wednesday night when rain moved in for the remainder of our week.  It is, after all, Western Washington. 
      Barb and I took a considerable road trip our last day here with a 250 mile roundtrip jaunt to the other side of Mt. St. Helens.  Exploring, hiking, and photography while dodging the rain.  It remains a fascinating area even 38 years later. 

Razor Clam Bacon PoBoys w/coleslaw
      We dined on Philly Cheese Steak Casserole, Fried Rabbit w/Taters n Gravy, Razor Clam Po Boys, and even took a night out for ourselves at the local Bar n Grill.  They serve a pretty mean "Crazy Ape Cheeseburger".  We spent a week in the area, finding that connection with nature once again.  A good week for Joie de Vivre.  God bless my mother for giving me this life. 

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore" 
Andre Gide
WiFi courtesy of Lone Fir Resort

Friday, June 2, 2017

"Mr. Oyster, meet your biggest fan...."

      Mom's doctor's appointments have been coming along nicely so we thought we owed her a treat.  We brought back 2 dozen very nice small and medium Hamma Hamma Oysters from our sojourn to Hood Canal recently since I knew mom was 'jonesing' for them (She told me so on Facebook so it must be true).  I chose to buy them fresh yet already shucked in jars so we could refrigerate them till use.  This of course saves my hands from being slashed by my lack of skill with an oyster shucking knife.  Even better the RV fits nicely in the parking lot of the Hamma Hamma Seafood Company too! 
      We always ate them simply breaded and fried as kids growing up and that hasn't changed for us.  I used the medium oysters for this.  A little seasoning and some bread crumbs or flour, and off to the frying pan they go.  No egg wash is necessary.  I like to add Old Bay Seasoning to my flour as well as salt and pepper.  I fry them in about half an inch of Extra Virgin Olive Oil for about a minute over per side over medium high heat.  I realize that even with these ingredients some 'Vegetarianveganfreespirit' here in Western Washington is cringing over their Kale and Tofu, but damn they are GOOD. 
Add a little tartar sauce and potato salad and the proof is in the pudding. 

      I also promised Mom I would make her Charbroiled Oysters as she had never tried them, but was intrigued.  For this I used the small oysters so as to create room for seasonings and toppings in the shell.  First of all this requires either a grill, fire pit, or broiler so we went with mom's oven broiler.  Normally I choose the melted garlic butter and Romano cheese topping, but decided to also try another recipe of 6 each as well.  12 oysters:  6 each, 2 different recipes.   My 'Go To' source of Charbroiled Oyster recipes is Schuck's Oyster House in Abbeyville, LA.
      I let Mom decide and she said we should go with the Candied (topped with feta, blue cheese, and sugar cane pepper glaze) Oysters.  I bought a set of ceramic oyster shells about a year ago and have used them twice.  They work very well and take a minimum of clean up after.  The real shells work very well, but when you can only get the oysters already shucked you can still have it your way.  I have charbroiled these both ways.....delicious. 
      You simply put the oysters in the shells and top with your choice of whatever.  Place them on the grill or in the broiler and then keep a close eye on them.  It doesn't take long.  When they are all simmering and bubbly after about a minute take the shells out and put them on a plate.  A friendly fork is all you need.  Serve with good garlic bread and a salad and life just doesn't get any better.  Mom liked the oysters, but preferred the traditional Garlic Butter Romano style.   
      Barb doesn't care for oysters much.  She'll eat them fried, but much rather preferred her "Go To" meal of Mac n Cheese tonight.  It's all good.  We love you anyway, babe.  You're still my sexy clam digger. 
"It can be exhausting eating a meal cooked by a man. With a woman it's HO HUM, pass the beans.  A guy, you have to act like he just built the Taj Mahal"
Deb Caletti 
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