Archive for August, 2010

Fly Lufthansa

Well we’re back. 22 hours door to door – Tulsa to Huddersfield.

Tulsa had started to cool down as we left for the airport, in fact it rained for a few minutes en route. So it was sad to leave. Gail had been the perfect hostess during our stay, even giving up her bed, her bedroom and her en-suite to accommodate us. All very much appreciated. I felt a tad guilty when one of the cats punctured her (good quality) air bed midway through our stay. Note to self: must not let cats into room with air bed unless you have removed their claws/paws beforehand.

All of our flights were on time and apart from the 5 or 10 minutes delay in berthing at Manchester, all arrived at their destination early. Both Chicago and Frankfurt are huge airports but at least Chicago has the terminals to cope with the traffic. At Frankfurt we were dropped on the Tarmac and bussed to a terminal that seemed to be disorganised and too small for the passengers passing through. It was also a long way away from the plane and our bus was overcrowded, especially when everyone on it has just got off a cramped 9 hour+ transatlantic 747 flight.

The main flight was not good on a number of counts. First of all, it was with United, Lufthansa’s American partner, and Lufthansa they are not! The jumbo was an old, not so recently refurbished 747 and seating was very tight. Even 1″ matters on flights of this length, but I suspect that I had as much as 2″ less ‘knee room’ coming back with United as I had going with Lufthansa. When the (thoughtless, inconsiderate but well within his rights) chap in front of me put his seat back I was trapped! I couldn’t even read my book. He’d put his seat back as soon as the plane levelled off after leaving Chicago, so it looked like I was in for a night of frustration. Luckily, the girl next to Sharon decided to move over to sit by a friend after about half an hour, so we ended up with three seats between the two of us, which made the flight more bearable.

crap foodWhile I’m on a grumble, I have to mention the food. It was crap. Really; not just airline food poor, but really crap. All of it. Sharon had a pasta dish (recommended by the steward over my chicken) that tasted like overcooked pasta mixed with lukewarm tomato purée. My chicken was curried (ish) but the chicken was ropey and chewy! The salad was just lettuce, the bread was hard and the pudding was a pre-wrapped flapjack. Breakfast consisted of a strawberry yoghurt and a piece of banana cake. Compared with the quality and choice offered by Lufthansa on our way out, I’d like to suggest that they, Lufthansa, do some urgent quality control on their American partner.

In fact, given the flight discomfort and food, I’d suggest they look for new American partners. Jet Blue were good when we flew east coast to west coast last year.

Despite having to work almost every weekday, we had a great time. This was entirely thanks to Gail. We were well fed (WELL FED) and entertained throughout. Despite Gail having moved to Tulsa only about two to three weeks before we got there, she made sure that we saw and experienced as much of Oklahoma as possible including Route 66, live rodeo, wild bison on the prairie (see pic above), red vinyl roadhouse cafes, biscuits and gravy (although that was more Jaime than Gail). We saw two movies (Salt and Inception) and two T.V. series of Dexter, the serial killing forensic guy, which was made possible by the 17meg Internet download speed with upload speeds reaching twice the speed of my best uploads speed at home! Note to BT Total Broadband – WTF?

It was also great that Jaime could make the time to come to Tulsa while we were there (should that be whilst???). It’s always good to see Jaime as we both enjoy her company very much. I particularly enjoy her adventurous attitude to food (see last year’s New York meal – antebellum shrimp grits with andouille) And we were just a little sad that she couldn’t get to see the bison with us.

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Jake and Elwood

So on Saturday night, we had a late supper with Elvis, Jake and Elwood in a diner with red vinyl seats and an old (faux) Wurlitzer. And it’s on Route 66!
However not so you’d notice, as it’s a rest stop on one side of I44 – Tulsa, at a point where the Mother Road shares itself with the Interstate. I’d seen photos of the place on Flickr earlier in the day, using a ‘near you’ feature on one of the iPhone’s Apps and thought it might be worth a visit.

We’d spent the day travelling north to Pawhuska, [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osage_Nation] centre of the Osage Native American National lands. We’d seen that there were a number of places there to visit so we decided to get there, have lunch and ‘do Pawhuska’. Lunch was in the only diner/café (the Midway Café) that seemed to be open and it wasn’t half bad. I’d thought about several dishes before being tempted by Jaime’s decision to have a ‘Country Scramble Deluxe’ which consisted of sausage, bacon, egg, hash browns, biscuits and gravy! In the end we all had that – Sharon had her gravy on the side, we had ours as described on the menu ‘smothered in gravy’!

I’m not usually a great fan of these uniquely American breakfast dishes – after all and hitherto, biscuits have just been plain scones and gravy has just been seasoned ‘white sauce’. But today’s biscuit was a delightful soft dough and the gravy a peppery well seasoned sauce. Not just milk thickened with cornflour. The words still stick in my throat though. After all (again) biscuits are not delightfully soft doughs and gravy is brown. Are they not?

We then visited the Osage Museum on the edge of town before coming home to feed the animals. We were going to a rodeo in the evening.

The rodeo was in Collinsville [http://collinsville-ok.com/collinsvilleok/] , and we’d all decided that we couldn’t come to Oklahoma and not visit a rodeo! I’d worried all along that it would be a day time thing because the heat would have been too much to stay out in. In the end it was an 8.00pm start, which was fine because the heat had dropped a little and apart from one short period, the humidity was acceptable. The rodeo was ok – not something I’d want to do every weekend, but ok. It reminded me of the spectacles and fetes that the French have each summer in every village, attended and enjoyed by all the locals. It was a great experience.

On the way home, we’d only had a Frito Chili Pie to share between us all night, we decided to have a late supper at the diner with red vinyl seats, which is just up the road from Gail’s home. Between us we had catfish, onion rings, French fries, Cole slaw and drinks with lots and lots of ice. I had a (yet another disappointing) coffee.


Chicken Fried

There’s a whole ‘chicken fried’ thing going on down here. Chicken fried this and chicken fried that seems to be on most (well, many) menus. There seems to be no ‘one’ definition for what it means other than it’s fried like a chicken!

I had my first ‘chicken fried’ last week in Vinita, Oklahoma. Chicken Fried Steak. I’m told that it should be a steak that’s chicken fried! At this point my understanding was that the whole thing meant that the meat would be flour, egg and bread-crumbed before being fried (like a chicken?) and it was. [I know that we might call this an escalope or a schnitzel, but bear with me].

However, when Jaime arrived yesterday to stay for the weekend she was alarmed when told that my Chicken Fried Steak had been pork (we thought it was either pork or veal, but given the cost decided on pork) as it should have been ‘steak’! And in Jaime’s cookbook the whole thing should have been cooked (i.e. deep fried) in chicken fat.

Ok – I’m beginning to get it — chicken fried means: wrapped like a chicken, cooked in chicken fat (like a chicken)?

Anyway, as our chicken fried conversation got under way, there was mention of chicken fried bacon: let me say that again – chicken fried bacon (if you’re still with me: in my mind at this point, it’s bacon, bread-crumbed and fried in chicken fat?). Well wait a Gosh darned minute – that’s not even the half of it! In Texas, it seems, chicken fried is not bread-crumbed but battered … and they deep fry battered bacon (in chicken fat??


Try to watch this and not laugh. …

Oklahoma

I’ve spent a long week working on the RSC Moodle. I’m not overly happy with what I’ve done, but that might be just self-doubt, we’ll have to see. [written Monday, I’m much happier now-Thursday]

Friday last week, was our 6th Wedding Anniversary – yet another one spent away from home. I got the anniversary gift wrong though – it should have been iron and/or sugar: I got Sharon some iron (well, a fridge magnet) and some paper; a 16 month women’s-wit calendar. Ha well! At least I got the year right – Sharon got me a copper picture frame (copper for 7th anniversary’s). Hey ho.

Last Sunday we took another trip along Route 66, this time towards the northeast corner of the state. First stop was just up the road at Catoosa, where there is a huge concrete BLUE whale. Just why there’s a whale here when the nearest beach is a 10 hour drive away I don’t know but there it is. Although it’s ‘sort of’ looked after, the pool it’s in isn’t, so just another tourist site! We drove on through Claremore, mainly dual carriage way all the way, but still great to be driving through this very green and open part of Oklahoma. I guess we’re at the bottom end of the Prairies here, but there doesn’t seem to be much real farming going on. Plenty of places with cattle and goats but it doesn’t seem to be intense.

After stopping for lunch at Clantons in Vinita, we lost our way. Our 66 route was hard to find as, eventually, was the Interstate (I44) and we spent the best part of an hour on red roads like they have in Australia. It had never occurred to me that America would have such un-mettled roads, but of course they do – no country can afford to Tarmac/concrete every single highway and byway. It did give us a feel though, for what it just have been like driving on the original Route 66. We eventually made Miami in the top r/h corner of Oklahoma and set out to find some of the last remaining bits of 9’00” wide tarmac’d ‘Mother road’.

As I say, I’ve been working on the computer every weekday and we’ve only been out at weekends and the odd evening – but I still ave observations to make. First of all, there is an awful lot of phoning while driving – much more than we see at home these days. It’s illegal, but so is ignoring a Stop Sign – and no one does that. At junctions bearing a Stop sign the rule is that you Stop! Then you complete your journey by moving left, right or whatever – but you do it in turn: i.e. if you and someone else arrive at different parts of the junction (say you’re going north and they are going west?) at roughly the same time, you have to come to a common agreement about who goes first: it should be the person who ‘stopped’ first. But the uncertainty of that scares me to death. I’ve tried to imagine a similar rule working outside The Sportsman at the bottom of Fitzwilliam Street (by Tesco’s). There would be mayhem.

I’ve not been good at photographing my food this journey. We’ve not eaten out much and when we have, I’ve been halfway through my meal before remembering. Whoops. At Clanton’s last Sunday I had Chicken Fried Steak – on Gail’s recommendation. “It’s steak and it’s fried like a chicken ….. I’m told” she said. So I had to give it a try. It was ok – in reality it was a schnitzel or what we might describe as a piece of pork, batted out and paneed (bread crumbed) before being shallow fried. As I say, it was ok – the terminology amused me though. Sharon had Chicken Fried Chicken (guess!) and Gail had Home Pot-Roast – which was delicious. Each was accompanied with mashed potato, gravy (white sauce!) and vegetable. NO CHIPS (Fries) Very nice.

Route 66 – a little more

I now realise that my previous post was a bit rushed. I started the post just after we’d got back from the trip. I’d uploaded some of my pictures to Flickr and started to write – but I was tired and know now that I missed out some important parts of the day. First of all it was HOT. Very hot. Readers can see that the thermometer shown on my earlier post was at 110°F. And that was in a shady place!

Our longest stop was at the Rock Cafe, where we ate lunch. I’d never had Fried Green Tomatoes before but wasn’t prepared to have just those, in case I was disappointed. So I ordered a ‘big burger’ (with lettuce, tomato, gherkin and mustard), Sharon ordered an Alligator Burger with Fries and Gail had ‘small burger’ with cheese fries to share. We then ordered the fried tomatoes as table share. Nevertheless, they came as my ‘side’, which was ok because we all got to try some. So: fried green tomatoes whilst tasty, are just another means of serving up batter. Green Tomatoes sliced into ( maybe) three, dipped in batter and fried – the clue was in the name I suppose.

Sharon said the alligator “tasted like chicken”.

We looked in at many of the various ‘sights’ en route but as we were not properly pre-prepared ‘road warriors’ we had no more than a passing interest. The Rock Cafe is registered as a historical landmark, so we sort of ‘did’ that, but so was the ‘famous’ Round Barn just outside Acacia, but that didn’t mean a whole lot to us townies. We’d made POPS our goal, also in Acacia and not far from the Oklahoma City boundary. http://www.pops66.com/. We’d not checked out the web site before setting off and really expected a mom and ‘pop’ sort of place, who’s claim to fame was a vast array of sodas; root beer being their speciality. What we found was a state of the art rest stop with (excellent choice of) loud music and with hundreds of people milling about. After such a quiet journey this was quite a shock.

Anyway, today – Monday, has been my first day back under the lash. I’ve been working on a Moodle web site all day and I’m more worn out than I could have imagined. I’ve moved into the bedroom to work as I’m not directly under the A/C there, but it gets damn hot (well just warm compared to outside) and dark. Jambalaya for tea – and Sam Adams Summer Ale.

Route 66

It would be easy to say that ‘doing Route 66’ had always been a dream of mine, but it hasn’t, not really, not in fact. It’s been more of a whim, a thought, a perchance or a maybe – something to tick off an as yet unformed (and hopefully unneeded) bucket list. But nevertheless, ‘something’ in my would-like-to-do conciousness.

And today, we did over 100 miles of it.

Starting pretty much outside Gail’s home, we followed Route 66 west and south west all the way to the outskirts of Oklahoma City. Some research on the Internet showed us things and towns to look out for, which added some zest to our drive. Much of the early part of our drive can be found listed here: We came off the current ’66’ to take a short stretch of the original road and to see The Rock Creek Bridge which is still laid entirely with bricks. When the guide said brick-lined, I’d thought that it had walls of brick – not that the roadway itself was brick. Just alongside the bridge was a club specially for Veterans of Forenign (sic) Wars and in the car park were a number of big guns! Scary place. Then, a little further along was a now disused Drive-in Movie theatre, but so overgrown it was unfilmable.

We took a short detour through Depew, a very small town along the old road and then drove on through Bristow and into Stroud, where we had a late lunch at The Rock Cafe.

All along the route we saw remnants of the oil boom which helped form the areas’ wealth and the route itself. The concept for Route 66 began in Tulsa back in the 1920’s, the height of this oil boom, when Cyrus Avery conceived a route from Chicago to Los Angeles. It might be nice one day to do other bits of the road as it passes through one of the many other states (and three time zones).

Today, we drove as far as Acacia and saw the ‘famous’ round barn there and stopped at Pops for one of their 65 different brands of root beer. The whole trip down this far was an interesting look at real bits of America.

Our day was spoiled by an hour-long hold-up on the Turnpike and proved that we should have stayed where we were – on Route 66!


http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/6335/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_66_in_Oklahoma

http://www.oklahomaroute66.com/

http://www.oklahomaroute66.com/preservation/rockcafe.html

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~msmith03/route66/R66_Oklahoma1.htm