Southern California to Northern California. High five on the I-5.
I worked half a day before hitting the road yesterday, during which we experienced a rare desert thunderstorm. Lightning flashed and the booming thunder felt like it was rattling the building. The lights flickered, went out and came back on almost immediately, the few powerless seconds just enough to mess up our computers.
Heading west on I-10, we were grateful that the rain had passed until the sky turned an ominous shade of gray and then black. Checking the weather map on my phone, I could see a dark green storm cell in the center of the desert. Sure enough, we were heading right into it. Dramatic lightning bolts lit up the mountains. The sky opened up and poured buckets on us for about ten minutes until we drove out of it. We had perfect weather for the remainder of the trip.
As we rounded the curve off the 210 and started north on I-5, we stopped at the foot of the Grapevine for dinner in Santa Clarita. Donna didn’t have much of a birthday celebration last week (I believe the words she used were “it sucked pond warer”), and she’s been craving a visit to Olive Garden, so we took advantage of the opportunity. Besides, she had a coupon for a free appetizer, and lasagna fritta was calling our names.
Late August and early September is when Olive Garden has its “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” $10 promotion. The problem is that the first bowl of pasta they bring to the table is so huge, I can’t possibly finish it, much less order a refill. Now, in my younger days, I could have done some serious damage.
Donna had the meat sauce and I tried the new garlic alfredo sauce. Anything wirh garlic is right up my alley. The sauce was nice and hot, but unfortunately the pasta was cold. Not wanting to embarass Donna, I didn’t say anything about it to the server. But after we paid the bill and I was sipping my tea while Donna went off to rest room, the manager happened to come along and ask about the meal. I shook her hand and asked whether the sauce was intended to warm up the pasta. She appeared taken aback at such a suggestion and gave us a $10 gift card “to give us another chance.” Now that’s what I call good customer service!
We stayed overnight at our usual halfway stop in Buttonwillow in Kern County. A bit after 7 this morning, we were back on the road.
A big rig jackknifed and hit the rail in Lost Hills, blocking most of the northbound lanes. CHP was on hand, guiding vehicles around the wreck by using the shoulder. We passed by just in time to see the driver being removed on a stretcher.
Breakfast was at a Denny’s in Kings County. The food and service was perfect. Until I encountered a very large roach in the men’s room, that is. I must say that the poor creature wasn’t in very good shape. It was on its back, kicking its legs helplessly.
Being the pest that I am (as you can see, I had something in common with the roach), I made sure the manager was aware.
“You have a little insect problem, I see,” I began.
“No! See how clean it is here? It is the crickets. They are everywhere in Kettleman City. You open the door and they come in.”
I’m sorry, but every restaurant has roaches. From the greasiest spoon to the finest five-star restaurant, these critters are as ubiquitous as they are persistent. It is simply an occupational hazard. Even if Kings County is experiencing a plague of crickets of Biblical proportions and the natives are roasting them on sticks over campfires, you look just plain foolish denying that you have roaches. I come from New York City, so I think I’m qualified to recognize a cockroach when I see one.
We next took a break at a truck stop in Santa Nella, Merced County. No sooner did I sit down in a rest room stall than I heard the treble cry of the janitor lady at the door.
How very friendly! Not wishing to be rude, I called back “Hello!”
No response. Maybe she wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. Perhaps she juat wanted to clean the bathroom.
A few minutes later, I hear a familiar, heavily Spanish-accented voice once again. “Halloooo!”
“Hello!” I called back, a bit louder this time.
“Oh my God!” I heard her mumble.
Should I reply, I wondered? If so, what should I say? How about “I heard that, rude janitor lady!” Or perhaps, risking TMI, I should just have gone for the honest approach. “Si, soy aqui! Tengo el diarrea, ok?”
It was a relief to put an end to our eleven hours of driving this afternoon. We spent a delightful evening among family, my niece and nephew duetting to music on someone’s phone while we played with the baby and enjoyed my sister-in-law’s superb guacamole.
Next up: The big job interview in the morning. The butterflies in my stomach can leave now, please.