December 2020 – January 2021
A couple of weeks after our return from the road trip we drove up to Oakland to help Jessica and Kris move into a two-bedroom apartment they’ve rented in their current building, with Kim and Marty joining the fun. Staying in this building proved to be the best possible option for managing their growing family as they truly like the neighborhood they live in for its proximity to BART, shops, restaurants and bars and best of all, just a block away from Gemma’s day care.
We arrived on Tuesday with movers for the big stuff set for Thursday; fortunately, the kids didn’t need to be out of the old apartment for a week or more and had access to the new one, so we spent the next day moving as many small items as we could, clearing out the kitchen, the closets and anything else not bolted down.
The movers came on Thursday and made quick work of the larger items and by noon time were out the door. As Jessica and Kris worked from home that day and Gemma was at daycare, Kim, Marty, Joanna and I walked around the western half of Lake Merritt for lunch at Portal. We’d been here once before some years ago and so weren’t certain what we’d find from a food perspective.
And what we did find was a meal worth repeating starting with fully loaded Bloody Mary’s for Kim and Joanna, a grapefruit mimosa for Marty and I opted for their good house coffee. Joanna went for the stuffed Challah French Toast and I the Corned Beef Hash, both good decisions. The hash was unique, with the potatoes featuring a fried texture setting them apart from the typical treatment. Chilaquiles and a Pork Belly Salad rounded out the other choices.
The move over and our stay ended, we returned to Los Angeles and soon thereafter our Governor ordered a statewide lockdown that wouldn’t end until the last week of January in the new year. This would ultimately mean that for the first time in our family’s history, we would not celebrate Christmas with Jessica (including Kris and Gemma), a sad development. Angry at first, I came to the realization that compared to the losses that others face from Covid (untimely death, long term health consequences, unemployment, etc.) this was a small sacrifice to make and that we have been extremely lucky during the last year.
A week before the holiday Kim and Marty asked us if we’d like to stay with them in Henderson and feeling confident about the trustworthiness of our respective bubbles/pods, we agreed to do so, driving there Christmas morning. It would be a good stay, with a road trip out to Tecopa and Delight’s Hot Springs Resort which we had planned to visit last year until Covid hit.
With a population of roughly 150 people, the town is known chiefly for its hot springs and hosts a number of campgrounds filled with an assortment of trailers of varying degrees of quality and operational ability. The resort was featured in an article in the Los Angeles Times in January of 2020 that inspired us to consider visiting. Our plan then had been to spend a night near Manzanar National Historic Site, which commemorates the injustice perpetrated on the Japanese Americans incarcerated there during World War II.
After visiting the park we’d then drive to Tecopa for a couple of nights before heading to Las Vegas for a weekend celebration of Dave’s (of Lyndsay and Dave fame) milestone birthday. The Covid hit and it was not to be and so this day trip would aid us in determining if we would want to stay here once the pandemic was tamed enough to make the visit worthwhile. It took 90-minutes or so to make the drive and after stopping for a moment to check out the accommodations at the resort, we parked nearby at Tecopa Brewing Company and sat outside for lunch.
A server soon appeared, and we ordered a beer apiece while Joanna and I split a bowl of hearty chili, a welcome and filling serving that kept us going the rest of the afternoon. The beer itself was less than spectacular, drinkable but not memorable. We’ll keep that in mind should we eventually return to the hot springs for the originally planned couple of nights.
After leaving Tecopa we backtracked on the Old Spanish Trail Highway a couple of miles until we turned off on what appeared to be an unmarked road adorned with nothing more than a sign pointing us in the direction of the China Ranch Date Farm. About halfway there the road turns to dirt and descends through a steep walled canyon to a date palm fringed oasis that is home to a small museum, gift shop, snack bar and trailhead for six trails that border the Amargosa River.
While much of the history of the ranch before 1900 remains hazy, it was originally called Chinaman Ranch because a Chinese man named Quon Sing or Ah Foo settled here after working in the Death Valley borax mines. He raised livestock, farmed and made a living selling food to local mining camps. Apparently, about 1900 he was run off at gunpoint by a shady character named Morrison who wanted this lush oasis to himself.
After this, the property had various owners; at one time or another, it was used as a fig farm, hog farm, cattle ranch and alfalfa farm. The first grove of date palms was planted in the 1920s by Vonola Modine, daughter of Death Valley-area pioneer R.J. Fairbanks. After a series of different owners, the Brown family purchased the property in 1970 and has operated the place ever since. We parked the car and set out for a short hike, which we will cover in the next post.
Delight’s Hot Springs Resort: https://www.delightshotspringsresort.com/
A Haven Just Outside Las Vegas: https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2020-01-10/tecopa-foodie-haven-hiking-hot-springs
Tecopa Brewing Company: https://www.facebook.com/TecopaBrewingCo/
Old Spanish Trail: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/old-spanish-trail
China Ranch Date Farm: http://www.chinaranch.com/default.asp?m=0