Chef Elizabeth Hits the Road!

Intrepid chef traveller taking in the mountains blue ...

Intrepid chef traveller taking in the mountains blue …

After a wonderful white Christmas at the farm I was determined to escape the cold Canadian Winter. An American friend convinced me that a road trip would be just what I needed. After all my parents were snowbirds for decades. They must have known something that I had been ignoring all these years. I was excited about having the opportunity to drive across country- out of my farm in Midland, Ontario and into the United States.

This would be my very first “uber” road trip. I had never spent that long in a car and wasn’t sure about how I would handle the journey. As one of eight – cross country road trips were out of the question. Fact is, there was not a  car  that could accommodate  the huge brood or a parent with enough patience to be in charge of crowd control. Those were the days when we played “I spy”- there were no DVD players on the back of seats to keep us entertained. Family and friends had their doubts as well –I do not blame them.

I was thrilled to think that I was finally going to see Cowboy Country and maybe even a cowboy or two in some saloon.  I had always imagined Clint Eastwood’s westerns’  as the prototype of the American West.  Arriving in Colorado -My immediate impressions  were mixed. The iconic buffalo stand motionless  in a pen, Doc Holliday’s Saloon is a dump-there were no cowboys- let alone cowboy hats , boots or even very many horses for that matter. I began to worry that the cowboy-boots and hat that I brought with me were going to prove a fashion eye sore. As for the ubiquitous gun slinging  – Seems as if automatic assault weapons have taken over from the pistols of old- the airwaves were filled with gun talk- it echoed the violence of the wild west with daily reports of shootings and murder.

With the car packed and hopes high- we had to shovel the car out twice before we got on the road literally –With the help from Google Maps and my

Leaving the winter farm

Leaving the winter farm

GPS to guide me, the original plan was to drive from Ontario to Colorado through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and finally Colorado. Needless to say the trip began in the dark in a snow storm- in a sports car- perfectly designed for the highway through Vegas but definitely not for snow- Note to self- don’t head across country at night in a snow storm. Somewhere on that long dark dangerous drive I started to question my decision.  This is not uncommon for me as I confess to having a propensity for unreasonable choices- As usual; my stop at the border involved a very lively exchange- the good news is that they let me through after giving me three attempts to name the state that I was headed to. This is a recurring theme and I suspect they are on the look out for me- Relieved and very tired, the minute we crossed the border and I stopped to buy my first American souvenir –(ironically four NO HUNTING signs) my spirits lifted. I have this crazy devotion to gas stations – It feels to me like walking into an old-style Hardware store- I am always curious  to see how each store is customized by the owner- Where else could you hope to find pink furry handcuffs at a gas station? As a chef and importer, I am always on the look out for new foods.- new ideas or products that aren’t found in Ontario. As I looked around I noticed that other people already knew what they are here for- One man was holding a gasoline caddy sized drink container and filling up on root beer- this is the land of excess and lack of self control- Portion sizes are legendary and rightly so.

FYI – most places do not take Canadian Debit cards- they claim they are foreign- Have cash on hand – it really reduces the stress of purchasing- Oh

Pretty to look at ....not fun to shovel.

Pretty to look at ….not fun to shovel.yes you cant pre pay for gas with a credit card without an American Zip Code- They don’t make fair trade easy here for us Canadians-yes you cant pre pay for gas with a credit card without an American Zip Code- They don’t make fair trade easy here for us Canadians-

yes you cant pre pay for gas with a credit card without an American Zip Code- They don’t make fair trade easy here for us Canadians-

I have just returned from the second leg of a 3000-mile road trip from Colorado to California and Back to Colorado- To be precise Denver to San Diego.

The trip took me through the Rockies of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. Yes all those states can brag of the beautyof their mountains. I drove through some of the most incredible scenery on the planet. This was my first time through these magnificent creations and to be very honest  it was downright frightening.  For those not accustomed to mountain travel- a word of caution- it is an acquired taste- my advice is to bring an airplane eye mask if you cant stand heights, steep inclines, descents and don’t forget curves shaped like scimitars – Not to mention constant road signs warning of avalanches, rock falls and wildlife sightings to keep you on your toes- especially at night!

One of my first stops ...the mystical red cliffs of Colorado

One of my first stops …the mystical red cliffs of Colorado

Upon reflection I am still trying to decide what images impressed me the most -if it was those daunting canyons and snow peaked mountains in Colorado or the seemingly interminable 9 hour desolate drive from one end of Nevada to the other- with barely a human or animal in sight.. (Except for the one policeman that pulled us over for speeding –My Ontario license plate may have saved the day.)

I found myself struggling with processing my physical reactions. The terrain is so unpredictable and ever changing the emotional reaction was literally like the ride up and down those mighty giants.   I had no time to absorb or process the landscape- I came face to face with the real meaning of Overwhelmed and Perspective.

I have seen wide -open spaces that I could never have imagined. I have seen the decadence of Vegas and the enormity of agri-business- from the interminable farmhouse- less plains of Nebraska to the luscious sea of green artichokes in  Sunny California.

I sat patiently for endless hours in the car with my camera poised- prepared to photograph any

California's Napa Valley ...beautiful Mediterranean setting belies the taste within

California’s Napa Valley …beautiful Mediterranean setting belies the taste within

and all animals or sights that were compelling. At times this proved difficult as I found myself too terrified to look up or down – side to side didn’t exist.

Coming from Ontario- I was unnerved and mesmerized by the sheer power and size of the mountains. Geological marvels that have no pattern – each one unique and powerful and collectively they are a sea of structures forged by millions and millions of years- Mountains seem to have an innate sense of that magnificence -they exude well-deserved hubris. I feel ephemeral and very mortal in the face of these eternal giants.

I have been struck by the dearth of creatures that occupied the skies or the desolate earth in many parts of the landscape. Never ever would I have conceived that there could be so much territory that was desert and barren. Of course that all changed when I hit California- A Chef’s Paradise and also a wee bit of heaven for a woman who has always dreamed of being a marine biologist and whose pastime is birding, photography and restaurant reviewing.

I am planning a series of articles that will journal my experiences. Some of which will be Wine tasting in Napa, Whale Watching in Monterey, Trying to find a decent meal in Denver, Restaurant and Hotel reviews, What it is like to take a cross country car trip, Shopping at Upscale Outlet Malls in California-Train Ride on the California Zephyr- Finding the best Mexican food on the trail, Rating Hotel Coffee Makers- American bumper stickers and where has all the service gone? Buying guns at a drug store? What about those mountain lions? Yes

Tree-hugging ... my second favorite pastime!

Tree-hugging … my second favorite pastime!

Coyotes are everywhere.

As a Chef-Naturalist-Photographer and Essayist.  I hope to bring you the best of Bucky’sView. Please join me as Chef Elizabeth hits the road!

Artichoke heaven ... Chef Elizabeth is very happy!

Artichoke heaven … Chef Elizabeth is very happy!

Leave a Reply