Ehhhhhhhhhh....many challenges. A breakneck pace. Imperfect cellular coverage and a re-gifted old iPhone's reluctance to let every app access that coverage when it exists. The fact that I've literally taken 1,194 pictures on this vacation so far. Etc.

But at the moment the Vulture Bait 2015 team is in a ridiculous hotel in Shelter Cove, CA after a few days of remote camping and/or wild driving adventure, and there is fast WiFi and a spare 30 minutes to review, so here are a couple of snapshots.

Above: Ferndale, probably the most pleasant surprise of the trip so far other than not being eaten by Bear #37 in Yosemite, dying in Death Valley, or sliding off the road into the ocean on the way to Shelter Cove. Below: our first glimpse of said ocean, today at about 14:00. Below that: the Palace Saloon in Ferndale. Below that: 50 seals 20 feet away from me here in Shelter Cove. Below that: Kevin, the beautiful and attention-getting (attention ranging from "Dude is that your Dodge? Sweet paint job," to "Nice van, you fucking hippies") van that starts about 35% of the time you turn the key. May he continue to do so.


vulture bait: the planning post.

This is the official planning post for Vulture Bait 2015. A work in progressssss, this is an attempt to prioritize.  The idea isn't to go to all of these places; it's to never have no idea where to go. We don't have time to fuck around.

5 to 20 PHOENIX
Richardson's. The only restaurant I visit every visit. Real Southwestern Food, it remains to be seen what a vegetarian will eat here.
El Norteño. Home of the chimichanga.
Waffle House. A undeniable part of my youth.

21 to LAS VEGAS (5 hours?)
Well how could I not. Plus this is where we pick up "The Van". Other than that, the goal here is to "not do anything tooooooo stupid." In bed by midnight, asleep by 00:15.

Wikieup Trading Post. Place to get gas and buy stupid things between Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Yardbird Southern Table. Besides Waffle House, this is the closest The Captain is going to get to real southern food during this doomed adventure.
Yard House. Advanced vegetarian fast food.
Dino's Lounge. 24-hour classic.
Frankie's Tiki Room. Kitsch and fire. And open 24 hours.
Circus Circus. Fear and Loathing.
Club Platinum. Yeah, well, it's right next to the hotel...come on. Research! Cultural interchange!
Ronald's Donuts. Vegan donuts. Open 4am-4pm.
Sunrise Coffee. Vegan/vegetarian coffeeshop.
Hash House. For those non-vegan non-donut food groups.
In-N-Out Burger. On the way out of town in Vegas. For a vegetarian, the only point of this would be to demonstrate a "secret menu".
Bachi Burger. Only if there's time, but a grrrrrrrrrreat looking menu and one of the best burgers in the country supposedly.

Here are the directions to THE VALLEY OF DEATH. The idea was to stay at the legendary Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, because, well, it's legendary. But the opera performances are only on weekends. Please make a note here about what seems smart to do on the way to Lone Pine. Stovepipe Wells is the place to buy gas.

Amargosa Opera House & Hotel. "A once-in-a-lifetime experience".
The Badwater Saloon. Maybe the place to eat in Stovepipe Wells.

Alabama Hills Cafe. kind of seems like if you eat breakfast anywhere in Lone Pine it should be here.
Margie's Merry-Go-Round. Winner by name. Of course it's Chinese and Mexican food, but according to Yelp, "Don't order the Mexican food.  Repeat, do not order from the Mexican menu."

There's so much to see in Yosemite and we have time for none of it. Primary goal is to not be eaten by bears. Or even one bear.

Erick Schat's Bakkerÿ. "European" breads. Just because it seems like the best option between Lone Pine and Tioga Pass.
Tioga Mobil Gas Mart/Whoa Nellies. A gas station with fish tacos and live bands.
Crane Flat Campgrounds. "Dispose of garbage immediately in bear-proof dumpsters."
Tangled Hearts Bakery. For breakfast the next morning if we still have our heads and stomachs.

Primary goal: have at least one glass of wine. I'm trying to make these goals "realistic and achievable" in order to keep morale high.

Frog's Leap WineryRecommendation from a trusted source and reviews on TA are also glowing.
Gott's Roadside. A classic? Too many people have recommended it not to pay attention.
Oxbow Public Market. Seems like the least uptight option.
Mustards Grill. Although my dad says we shouldn't miss the fries here.
Brix. And Brix, which is the last place I remember eating in Napa, still looks good.
Dean & Deluca. We will need supplies.
Cal Mart Specialty Grocery & Deli. Probably the last place to get quality supplies for the next few nights. Open 0700-2100.
Cafe Sarafornia. For breakfast the next morning unless we wait for Ardella's.

25 to FERNDALE (4 hours)
The beginning of "true adventure". Main goal is to "get to bed early", because the next day is full of death-defying driving.

Ardella's Kitchen. In Willits, this looks like a good breakfast idea.
Hotel Ivanhoe. The kind of historic small-town hotel where locals go out to dinner on weekend nights. Remind me to make a reservation (I did, 7pm).

26 to SHELTER COVE/BLACK SANDS BEACH/ABALONE POINT (undetermined amount of time, read here for spoilers, here for guidance)
This is a bit of a mystery stretch, and the portion of the journey where we are most likely to disappear forever. There are bears on the beaches, sharks in the water, meth-heads in the woods, etc. "It was Nelson's idea," I just want to officially go on record with that, but I'll also admit that yes, how could I not consider staying somewhere (Leggett) described as having not much other than "a creepy and expensive gas station (cash only), pizza joint and two markets (not always open)".

Cove Restaurant. There are 6 restaurants in Shelter Cove, two of which are open for dinner (reservations at 7:30).

27 to FORT BRAGG/MENDOCINO (1.5 hours, details)
Dick's Place. This was just about the first definite thing on the itinerary.
Harvest at Mendoza's. Grocery store if we don't feel brave enough for fancy vegan.
The Ravens. Fancy vegan, reviews wildly mixed.
North Coast Brewing Company. Sounds like the consensus for good beer in Fort Bragg.
Piaci Pub & Pizzeria. Sounds like the consensus for dinner in Fort Bragg.

28 to WRIGHT'S BEACH/GOAT ROCK BEACH (3 hours tops)
The point here is the beach where we're camping.

River's End. Place for a glass of wine in the evening.


This is tough, we really need to 1) see Point Reyes, 2) drop off the van, and 3) go to the Ferry Building. It could be that we skip.....which one of these things?

Ferry Building Marketplace. I think the point would be Il Cane Rosso or Mijita or Acme or Cowgirl, etc.
4505 Burgers & BBQ. Supposedly one of the best burgers in America.
Hopwater Distribution. Close to the hotel.




O, America. Here in our isolated and luxurious suburban desert compound, it's easy to imagine that life in this country is One Big Idyll.

The "reality", however, is that the list of elemental and environmental challenges facing the Vulture Bait 2015 team continues to grow, the newest being bubonic plague at our campground in Yosemite. So now all we have to do is survive the desert, the poisonous reptiles and insectsthe flash floodsthe bears, the road rage, the fires, the ticks, the poison oak, the marijuana farmers, the salmonella, the waves, the sharks, the bedbugs, the etc etc etc....I miss Spain.



soap flavor.

OK, I'm going to write this up eventually. The raw material is here and here.



buzzard magnet.

Edward Abbey
, from Desert Solitaire, about the semi-myth that you can survive in the desert by cutting open a cactus and drinking the water inside.
When you reach this point, you are doomed. Far better to have stayed at home with the TV and a case of beer. If the happy thought arrives too late, crawl into the shade and contemplate the lonely sky. See those big black scrawny wings far above, waiting? Comfort yourself with the reflection that within a few hours, if all goes as planned, your human flesh will be working its way through the gizzard of a buzzard, your essence transfigured into the fierce greedy eyes and unimaginable consciousness of a turkey vulture. Whereupon you, too, will soar on motionless wings high over the ruck and rack of human suffering. For most of us a promotion in grade, for some the realization of an ideal.

cal fire.

This may be an issue. Remind me to make sure I get that full LDW coverage on the rental car.


spruitjes au gratin.


fear, loathing.

Spending a little time away from America, the way I tend to do, you forget how central an emotion/concept abject fear is to daily American life. Not that there isn't anything to be afraid of: in the last two weeks there have been 11 vehicle shootings on I-10, the highway that you pretty much take to get anywhere from my parents' house. My sister's 10-year-olds are terrified of the local news: Dylan has been unable to sleep and nervous to the point of vomiting since he saw a story about a home invasion like this one last week.

I'm too tired and old and cynical to do any real thinking or writing about why this is and what it means that this is the only "civilized" country on Earth that operates this way. Then what the fuck am I talking about you may ask, and yes yes I'm getting to it now: I'm printing out driving directions for Vulture Bait 2015, and the very first stop after the completely civilized and unscary city of Las Vegas is Death Valley.

OK. The name is already a tad on the scary side. Then you go to the Death Valley National Park website, and it's almost like there's a vibe of, "Yes, you're totally welcome to come, we'd love to see you, really....but there's a really good chance you might not make it. Obviously, it's the desert, and if anything happens to your car, you're probably going to die. Should you somehow survive the inevitable one-car crash, uhmmmmm do not leave your vehicle. As boring and hopeless as this sounds, stay put. Even if you were to survive the 140F heat for more than a few hours, if you don't stay with your potentially white-hot piece of useless metal and melting plastic, you will most likely wander into a marijuana cultivation site and be killed by the proprietors, or fall into an abandoned mine shaft and be lost forever, or you may be forced to seek shelter in a mouse toilet and contract hantavirus. Etc."

I'm sure some of this is to avoid lawsuits ("Ummmm, we kind of told you you would die?....it says "Death" right there in the name....not our problem). But commmme onnnnnn......I'm trying to have a light and fun vacation here.

All kidding aside: the weather is not too much hotter than Phoenix at the moment. And I'm surviving just fiiiiiine here.



I have played a whole lot of Xbox over the past few days, all in the interest of beating my brother-in-law at Madden 25, which I finally thankfully did. I can rest now.


I know this is a food/travel blog, but attractive photographs have not been happening. Tonight I ate BBQ pulled pork with pepper jack cheese and a peach-scallion-jalapeno salsa, which was great, but it looked like holy hell in a handbasket. I'll try to do better.



no regrets coyote.

This is a picture of a coyote in the backyard. My very first real coyote sighting. I realize you can't see him yet from this view, but he's there.

I was passing the back window, and I saw him jogging down the mountain toward the house next door. He looked surprisingly robust, I'd thought/heard that they were these scrawny little moth-eaten things. But this one had a beautiful gold and black coat, and he was sharp-eyed and confident, making me suddenly glad I didn't have any pets going outside at night around here.

So I went outside to try and take a picture of him, and of course he wasn't there. So I went back inside and set my phone down, and of course he then trotted into view, probably 20 feet away from our back fence, not in a real hurry to get away from me.

Unfortunately even with my new phone technology it still takes 45 seconds from the time I decide to take a picture to the time I am actually recording a digital photographic image. So the best I could do was the above completely uninformative shot, of him peering at me over the rise of the hill. Only after I summoned Siri and authoritatively intoned "Enhance" a couple of times do we get to see anything resembling a coyote head: