We did the drive home in two days.
The first morning, driving through the Central Valley, was bright and hot. We took a break in Winters, a really charming town we happened upon by chance last year. Iced lattes on the deck at Steady Eddy’s fortified us for the next leg.
Lunchtime hit as we were passing through Red Bluff. A study of Yelp and Chowhound reviews led us to the Countryside Cafe, which was a slightly strange place but was cool, dark, and had cold beer, really good corned beef sandwiches and macaroni salad. What more do you want during a hot drive?
We continued north past Mount Shasta, and felt compelled to stop in Weed for another break.
Just like last year, the Weed Alehouse was hot and muggy, but a really interesting place to sit and nurse a good IPA. The heat was enhanced by the fresh tarmac in the parking lot, unfortunately, so you really had to just resign yourself to roasting. Good thing we like their beer.
We stopped for the night in Medford, Oregon. Medford’s a bit of a food wasteland, and we had thought we’d need to drive back to Ashland for dinner, but then we discovered Elements, a tapas restaurant in downtown Medford. Their website said they were closed on Mondays but apparently they just decided not to tell anyone they were open.
We got some remarkably pleasant cocktails here, including a basil-cucumber gimlet that I liked a lot.
The ceviche was a small portion, cutely served in a scallop shell, and nicely flavored. I liked the black salt on top.
We got the calamari purely by accident – we had been discussing what to order next and the waitress misheard us. It was a lucky mistake, though, because it was really good – lots of spices on the squid, which was perfectly cooked and not at all rubbery, and a red pepper sauce for dipping.
Then there was a small tureen of mixed mushrooms in sauce, also extremely good.
And we finished ourselves off with an order of flatbread topped with lamb, Rogue blue cheese and sharp olives. Very strong flavors and very filling. We took the leftovers back to the motel and I ate them for breakfast, which was perhaps a little odd at 6:30 in the morning, but at least there was Dutch Brothers coffee to wash it down.
Our last stop before getting home the next day (unless you count the hour we spent sitting in Seattle-Tacoma traffic) was lunch at the Horse Brass pub in Portland. I’ve been hearing about this place for years but it’s not very handy to where we usually stay, so I’m glad we finally got to try it.
The beer list was astonishing, all the more so since July is Oregon Beer Month and they were featuring local brews of all sorts. I got a Walking Man IPA and Jon got an amazing Velocirapture rye ale from Prodigal Son Brewing, one of the best rye beers I’ve ever tried. I was also able to try a Green Flash pale I’d never seen before but it wasn’t as assertive as I was wanting.
The food at the Horse Brass is straight English pub style, so Jon tried the fish and chips. The chips and coleslaw were fine, but the fish was perfect – everything you’d want fried fish to be. The waitress said they’re a little irregular in their quality, so it must have been a good day.
I got a meat pie. It was full of fatty, tender steak and lots of mushrooms, and it was very good in a leaden sort of way, with lots of brown sauce. The potato chips were so delicious I accidentally ate them all. Possibly a good thing, since it took us hours and hours to get home after that. But we made it!