Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


Dry Land

Having grown up in the Northeast, the only time I lived in a climate that was significantly different was half a year in Pueblo, Colorado. I am used to a climate that has cold winters, hot summers and about 40 inches of rain a year, pretty evenly spaced throughout all four seasons.h2a_climate_zone_map

I’m now in the Willamette Valley in Oregon which has a similar climate except the rain tends to take place mostly in the winter.

Driving west across the United States this past week has reminded me how much of the central part of the nation has a lot less rain. The trees disappeared in eastern Kansas, reappeared along the eastern part of the Rockies west of Denver, and then faded away again. Eastern Oregon right is high desert and there are no large tracts of trees here now. I did learn that junipers were harvested…and then found not to be a commercial wood. But the trees which had taken hundreds of years to grow were gone, and there are no new trees now.

Sure, planted trees grow. I’m not talking about the classic windbreaks planted around homesteads on the prairie. I’m talking about natural forests.  They are an indication of ground water. In much of the central portion of the country, the only places you see natural tall vegetation (besides the timothy grass) is along water courses.DSC_0050

But there is farming everywhere. Amazing to see patches of green in the middle of the high desert where the natural vegetation is sagebrush and tumbleweed.  What makes that possible is irrigation.DSC_0021

Everywhere from Illinois west, we have seen long metal contraptions sprinkling water.  We’ve seen irrigation taking place over green fields and over fallow fields.DSC_0244

Canals to bring water to fields started showing up west of the Rockies. When we got off the Interstate highway in Oregon and started driving back roads the canal systems were easier to see.DSC_0038

It surprises me that so much spray irrigation and open canal irrigation is in use instead of drip irrigation. I suspect there is a lot I don’t know, but loss to evaporation has to result in water loss that is open to the air.



Perched on the Edge

DSC_0261Twin Falls, Idaho is one of those places, in a movie, where the hero is riding his horse being chased and comes to the edge of a canyon. The canyon there has been carved by the Snake River and perched at the edge, 486 feet above the water, is the restaurant we lucked into: Elevation 486.DSC_0253

Located on the ground floor of an office tower with a terrace providing outdoor seating (we arrived just before a magnificent thunder storm), the restaurant offers an American menu, prepared well. This was the best meal we have enjoyed on our road trip, and although there were only a few items on the menu that were local, we were happy with the selection.

We started with calamari even though it is not a local food, as it is a quick test of the chef’s skill. It was lightly breaded and had the proper texture and was served with a spicy chili-lime-sriracha vinaigrette.

DSC_0255Graham ordered a spinach salad and I had the Tomato-Basil Bisque before our entrees arrived.  Graham enjoyed the special of two grilled quail in a bourbon-honey glaze with rosemary vinaigrette and I had the pork tenderloin with  apricot-Jalepeno-mint sauce.  Both entrees were local offerings.DSC_0256

We managed to share one dessert, an apple-berry crisp with vanilla ice cream, also from local ingredients.

Our waiter was friendly and attentive and even as the restaurant filled (on a Wednesday night!) the service was impeccable.

We can heartily recommend this to anyone driving along I-84 in southern Idaho…just about 15 minutes from the Interstate.  And the view is awesome.DSC_0004