We Are Family!

When you’re on the road new people and places are exciting! But there is something about coming “home” to family and friends that is so comforting. We are at our home base Elks Lodge in Modesto for visits, food and fun! Sit right down and savor the local flavor. Welcome to the family!

Modesto Elks Lodge

It’s been windy and cool. So windy we can’t have our awnings out and the outdoor rug folded up around me, in my lounge chair, like a venus fly trap! But we finally have a nice day and it just so happens it’s “Grill Your Own” night at the Elks Lodge. What is that? well, I didn’t know the 1st time either. Here’s how it goes: The Elks supply the meat ~ chicken, steak or salmon. Then all the guys (mostly) go out the big grate grills and cook their own dinner. They come armed with their latest tales and favorite cocktails to wet their whistles while they grill. It’s a fun concept and always a huge turnout! Once your meat is done, you come back inside to load your plate with side dishes. Fun is had by all. And that is how you “grill your own”!

Wool Growers Restaurant – Los Banos, CA

My dad has been talking about this funky restaurant for years and we never get around to going there when we are in town. Today is the day for a field trip to Los Banos, CA. Wool Growers is a family style French Basque restaurant that serves dishes at communal tables. The Basque people originate from the area between France and Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains. They have been shepherds or “wool growers” for generations. The restaurant has been around forever! If you didn’t know about this place, you could easily pass right by it! Inside, you pass by a well-worn bar and continue through a door into the communal dining hall in back of the building. Long tables covered in red and white checkered tablecloths are all set up for lunch.

We plop ourselves down and a chilled, unmarked, uncorked bottle of wine arrives. We serve it up in cute little glasses and make a toast to good times and each other! Cheers! The waitress asks one question: “Would you like chicken, pork chops, lamb chops or Tri-tip?” This is not a complicated place. There are no specials of the day. No hard decisions to make. You make one decision and then relax and enjoy!

Once the big decision is made, prepare yourself! Mounds of food starts coming your way. My Dad had fore warned us not to eat a big breakfast and that this would be the only meal we would need/want for the rest of the day. But until you see this procession of food with your own eyes, it hard to believe! I waitress arrives with a basket of bread, a huge bowl of pinto beans and a large metal bowl of vegetable soup. Let the eating begin!

We didn’t know what to do with the bowl of beans, bread and soup so David put the beans in his soup and we all followed suit. The soup was so good I couldn’t stop eating it! Knowing full well that the feast had just begun. I tried to stop myself but I couldn’t. It was that good. Rich, savory broth with vegetables and now beans! I’d come back just for the soup!

It’s easy to have conversation here because no one is interrupting you, asking about your needs. They know what you are getting, ‘cuz everyone gets the same thing (after the big decision) so the food just keeps arriving. Next the big bowl of salad, a little heavy on the dressing but still crisp and good, and a platter of chicken and rice. Again I have to try to control myself because the chicken and rice is so flavorful and perfectly seasoned I just can’t stop!

Tri-tip and fries

Finally, when we think we can’t eat any more, the entree arrives. A platter of Tri-tip in a jus and french fries! I shudder to think what it would have been like if we had all ordered something different and gotten multiple plates of meat! It was all very good food, served in an unpretentious manner shared with the people I love….and a bunch of other people I don’t even know! What fun! Oh, and then there was ICE CREAM, in a peel-top paper cup! 🙂

We decide to waddle over to the park across the street to work off some of our lunch before we get back in the car and trek out to the San Luis Dam. We discover this is Henry Miller Park and Miller is credited with being the Founding Father of Los Banos! Henry Miller was born 1827 in Brackenheim, Kingdom of Wurtemberg, Germany. Miller left the family farm at age 14 to make his way in the world. He arrived in New York City in 1847 and made his way to California, arriving in San Francisco in 1850 with less than $6 in his pocket.

He worked as a butcher and owned his own shop just one year later. In 1857 Miller secured options for all the cattle north of the Tehachapi Mountains, and partnered with fellow German butcher, Charles Lux to create the Miller & Lux Corporation. By 1900 Miller & Lux was the largest integrated cattle-raising and meat packing enterprise in the United States, which secured Miller’s position as California’s cattle king.

San Luis Dam

Any discussion around food will always get my attention. Guess I’m not the only one! To bring it home on how important water is to us, the visitors center at San Luis Dam does the burger/water comparison. How much water does it take to make a burger!!? Water conservation is a biggie in the Central Valley of California! San Luis Dam visitor’s center has an interesting history of building the dam,why it was so important and how it changed lives.

Hanging out with Family

Dad and me Woolgrowers lunch

Happiest of times hanging out with my Dad! He always cracks us up! All the guys came over to the RV for cocktails and snacks one afternoon. No sports to watch on the outdoor TV but the music added to our little party. To top off the whole week of family and friends we went to my brother Brett’s (we always invade his house!) to grill some Grilled Orange Chili Drumsticks and hang out. Relaxed, well fed, and always amused we wrap up our week in Modesto and head for the hills!


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