Holiday 2014 – Oakland – City Lights at Night

January 16-18, 2015

Bend to Oakland

Bend to Oakland

We packed up for an early start the morning of Friday the 16th, preparing for the anticipated nine hours of driving it would take us to get to Oakland and any troublesome road conditions we might encounter. I’d washed the car the day before at a self-service establishment as its prior condition, left a smear of red dust on your person if you got near it.  A brief stop at an Arco station just off the highway provided a bag of ice for the cooler and our first to go cup of coffee. One interesting observation about this trip, given the number of miles we’d been driving (we’d eventually put almost 7,000 miles on the car in six weeks, compared to 10,000 in five plus months in Europe) was the surprising range in price and quality of the coffee we purchased at gas stations. We use a refillable insulated mug and pricing on a refill ran anywhere from 50 cents to full price, $1.75 at a McDonalds (they don’t offer refill pricing).

It would be a good day of driving, much of it on a familiar stretch of the I-5, which we intercepted north of Mt. Shasta in the small town of Weed. This section of the highway offers captivating views of the peak, fifth highest in California. Not connected to any nearby mountain range, it dominates the surrounding landscape; at 14,179 feet high, it can be seen on a clear winter day from the floor of the Central Valley hundreds of miles away.

Mt. Shasta

Mt. Shasta

Once you descend out of the foothills surrounding Mt. Shasta I-5 is a long flat ribbon traveling through the northern part of California’s great Central Valley. This is the type of driving that is not too demanding, particularly if traffic is light, heading straight, few if any curves, maintaining consistent speed as you use the time behind the wheel to think and reflect, listen to music or a book on tape. We’ve been working on getting through Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln, forty-four hours of highly detailed insight into one of our best, if not the greatest, President’s. We’d eventually make it through the first of three CD’s. I guess we’ll have to take a number of long trips to listen to the whole thing.

Carl Sandburg's Lincoln

Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln

About an hour below Redding we began to look for a place to grab a quick lunch, something to tide us over until we arrived in Oakland later that day. We coordinate these stops to coincide with a change in drivers and as we approached the town of Corning, the highway signs provided by the state listing possible gas, lodging, and food options at the next off-ramp enumerated a place called Bartels Giant Burgers. Who could resist a name like that?

Bartels Giant Burger

Bartels Giant Burger

We pulled off the highway and into the restaurant parking lot, which was crowded with cars and work trucks, always a good sign. While Joanna gave Dinky some exercise I went inside to sit at the counter, all of the booths and tables occupied, and ordered a burger, fries, shake and soda. There were three ladies behind the counter at the register, grill, and assembly station and it was a pleasure to watch them working, a time practiced routine, to put together multiple orders of various combinations of burgers.

About the time Joanna rejoined me our order was ready, the burger cut in half as requested and we tucked into what was one of the better representations of this simple American classic I’d sampled recently. Freshly ground beef, hand shaped patties cooked to your specification, artfully constructed so as not to fall apart as you handled the sandwich. It just doesn’t get any better. Best of all were the fries, hot and crisp, almost double fried, absolutely my favorite way to consume them.

Our Bartels Burger

Our Bartels Burger

Thoroughly satisfied we continued south to the I-505, halfway between Williams and Woodland. This handy bypass enables you to skirt around the Sacramento metropolitan area and hook up with the I-80 just outside of Vacaville. As it was late Friday afternoon, and anticipating heavy traffic as we approached Vallejo and into Berkeley, we used our knowledge of the area, garnered from many prior trips, to circumvent the GPS and instead take the I-680 through Walnut Creek. This allowed us to connect with the 24 just west of Oakland, saving us a considerable amount of time waiting in traffic.

We hit the jackpot when we arrived at Jessica and Kris’ apartment, finding a parking spot that would be good for the entire weekend right outside of their building. After almost seven years in Charlotte where we’d get to see Jessica once every 3-4 months, being able to see she and Kris again after just a couple of weeks was a pleasure I’m sure every parent can appreciate. We relaxed a bit after the drive and then decided to head out and explore a bit of downtown Oakland and stop for dinner at the Tribune Tavern, located in the old Oakland Tribune Building.

Tribune Tower

Tribune Tower

Unfortunately, it was restaurant week in Oakland and the expected wait to eat was close to two hours. So we took off for The Trappist, a bar specializing in Belgian beers that I’d visited with Kris in the spring of 2014. It’s a quick five-block walk from Tribune Tavern and we enjoyed being out doors on a warm winter’s night. Entering establishment we found the side known as the Front Bar pretty full so we walked to the back of the building and crossed over to the other side known as the Back Bar, securing the last open table.

Front Bar at The Trappist

Front Bar at The Trappist

We ordered our first round, a couple of Belgians and two local craft beers and then ordered our food, splitting the Marinated Olives, an order of Mac ‘n Cheese with bacon (White Cheddar and Gruyere Béchamel) and the house Reuben (Mikkeller Bar pastrami and Gruyere). Given how crowded the place was it took some time for the orders to come out but the wait for the Mac’n Cheese was worth it, thick and creamy with just the right amount of bacon.

The Rueben on the other hand came out burnt and we pondered it for a moment or two, wondering how the kitchen could let something like that be presented to a guest. We signaled to the waiter that we’d like another and they whisked it away, eventually returning with a replacement, which we handily dispatched. Given the size of our earlier lunch, Joanna and I were content with just a few bites leaving the bulk of the food for Jessica and Kris.

Back Bar at the Trappist

Back Bar at the Trappist

We finished up our second round of beers and growing a bit weary of the noise inside and the boisterous Friday night revelers, made the walk back to the apartment where we relaxed over a final beer and made plans for the rest of the weekend. They would include getting out and enjoying more of the vibrant nature of east bay and all that it offers. We could hardly wait.


Mt. Shasta:

Central Valley:


Bartels Giant Burger:

Tribune Tavern:

The Trappist:


  1. Evan Temkin · · Reply

    I know I keep saying this, but you do have a real talent as a travel writer and restaurant reviewer. I have been saving some of these posts to reference for future eating opprotunities in some of the places that sounded promising.

    Hope all is well with you guys. I see on our news reports that the weather has been quite cold with snow, sleet, and freezing rain on the roads.

    I have been doing a bit better these days. As my neuro says, my brain healing is finally kicking in, as expected, about a year after the initial surgery, He said to expect another year of improvement to come as healing continues. He has patients who have experienced this up to 4 years after a brain injury.

    This whole thing has been quite an education on how the brain and body works together.

    I have been looking for volunteer opportunities in the local area without much luck. Not sure I am suited to helping seniors or students learn to read or use English as a second language. Those seem to be the most common volunteer jobs posted locally. I do have another couple leads to follow up on but if you have any promising ideas on the subject please let me know. I am finally reaching the point where I have some free time on my hands. I have been able to keep busy but continue to look for things to do that don’t require too much brain power as that is a bit limited still. I am still having some issues with short term memory and divided attention, though my exercises have really improved these over the last couple months.

    Just as I am getting better and hoping to do some traveling Jan has gone back to work at one of her old jobs – Simple Signal. The internet phone company she worked for a while ago. Have I told you about this already??? Short term memory [?]. She is helping out with audit and financial information for their sale to Vonage. So, she has been at work the last couple week while I hold down the home front.

    Her working has put a dent in my bike riding as she was my designated co-pilot for outings. I am about ready to dump the doctor’s warnings and just go out on my own in safe areas. I just need to convince the warden (Jan) that it is beneficial to inmate well being.

    Again, thanks for the great travelogue posts, They have become part of my regular routine. Not sure what I will do once the trip ends though I have finally gotten back into reading. Any good recommendation??

    Please say hi to Joanna for both of us. I know I am repeating this, but it is worth repeating. I juat can’t thank the two of you enough for your support and the key role you have played in the success of my recovery!!! Its friend like you two that make it all worth while. I love you guys.


  2. duane teevans · · Reply

    Hey Jerry. I’m enjoying your posts. I’m jealous of your freedom! By the way, I’m glad you had a great big burger in Corning. The only thing I ever got in Corning was a big ticket from the CHP! 85 in a 70 zone. Oh well.

    Have fun! Duane

    Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2015 16:41:44 +0000 To:

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