California, Here We Come!

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EdSails
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/20 17:40:54 (permalink)
I go the a French bakery called Bon Epi in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree (an amazing Asian mall with several awesome restaurants) that make sea salt macarons. I cannot go past there without getting some. It is such an amazing flavor contrast.
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love2bake
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/05/27 23:06:44 (permalink)
buffetbuster


La Farine
4094 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-420-1777

Once back at the hotel, Hyatt House in nearby Emeryville, our lack of sleep caught up with us and both slept through to the next day, with neither one of us touching our pastries.  I will include those photos later when we ate them.

Much more to come.....      

Those burgers and shakes looked absolutely awesome!  But hurry up--I want to see when you actually touched these pastries.
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/06/02 05:34:38 (permalink)
Stellar report, BB!  Some great sights and eats.  I wasn't hungry before I read this...  I spent about 3 months driving through California from El Centro all the way up to Eureka (and just about every town in between!).  Did you happen to pass by Gilroy at all?  Love the smell of that garlic in the air!  I posted a Trip Report when I went to San Fran and San Jose in Sept. 2007.  I took the Winchester Mystery House tour as well.  Definitely one of the oddest places I've ever been.  I looked at my photos and I have a whole bunch from inside the house.  I don't think they were enforcing a "no photos" rule back then (or maybe I lagged behind and took them when no one was looking!). 
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/06/03 09:03:19 (permalink)
billyboy-
No, we did not make it to Gilroy.  There is so much to see in do in Northern California, we couldn't have possibly fit it all in.  I can definitely see me going back out there again in the next couple years.  The idea of the whole town smelling of garlic is very appealing.
 
love2bake-
I think we did eat some of the pastries without getting photos ahead of time, but I should have a couple to post.  Eventually, when I get back to this report.  
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/07 14:54:11 (permalink)
It has been so long since I posted in this trip report, the title should be changed to California, Here We Came and Went.  Rereading this today made me realize two things.  First, the spelling and grammar on my part was appalling.  Hopefully, most of those are corrected.  Secondly, my enthusiasm has returned and I plan on diving back into this.  But, it will be relying more on notes and less on memory, so some details will be sketchy. 
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/07 18:47:28 (permalink)
Sunday April 21st, 2013
 
Our destination for breakfast was the eagerly anticipated Bette's Ocean View Diner

We pulled up just a few minutes before they opened at 6:30AM.  The first thing we noticed is that there is no ocean view from Bette's, but we should have known that ahead of time, since no place is Berkeley has such a view.  The second thing we noticed was that right next door is Bette's To Go,

a take-out only joint.  We peeked in through the window at all the great looking desserts in the case and we knew already these would play a big part in our meal.
 
We were the first in the door when they opened and were led to the nearest booth to the door.  On my side of the booth, there is this photo

to greet me, while Johnny was blessed with this one. 

I'll let you decide which one of us looks more like the accompanying picture.
 
I knew early on that this was going to be my kind of place.  The great neon sign out front was clue number one.  The large, eclectic menu was sign number two.  But, any restaurant that has a large slice of pie

hanging over the customer's heads, well.....   you have already won me over.
 
Johnny settled on the banana rum soufflé pancake and how great does that sound?  The waitress did let us know that this item took longer to make, but that didn't deter him.  It took a little more than a half hour for it to come out and we had noticed that several other customers had come and gone, but we can't say we weren't warned.  Fortunately, this

was well worth it.  It was incredibly light and fluffy, with a mild rum flavor and Johnny was thrilled with it.  My entrée was a special that featured smoked salmon, avocado, poached egg and hollandaise sauce over sourdough bread, plus crispy home fries on the side. 

Excellent!
 
For sides, we went full-on carnivore.  The crumbly chorizo

was slightly greasy and what it lacked in heat, it made up for in flavor.  The scrapple (yes, we ordered scrapple in No. Cal.)

was leaner than what we typically eat, had a very crispy bottom and was superior to anything I have eaten back in Pennsylvania.  On the table was some outstanding homemade blackberry preserves

for the sourdough toast.
 
The pie and other desserts list was daunting, but Johnny couldn't say no to the banana cream pie. 


While the banana filling tasted fresh and satisfying, it was the extra-thick, flaky crust that was the star.  I went for the dessert that they are most famous for, the chocolate espresso twinkie. 


Not being a coffee lover, I was worried that the taste may overwhelm me, but was proven wrong.  It was incredibly dense and rich, but tasted more of chocolate than espresso.  It was indeed delicious, but more than one would have put me in a sugar coma.
 
It wasn't until we were leaving that I saw that Bette's is so proud of their pancakes that they sell the mix and even wrote a book on the subject. 

Next time here, I will be trying the more traditional pancakes.  With the classic diner feel,

friendly service and excellent food, Bette's made a big impression on us.
 
Bette's Oceanview Diner
1807 4th Street
Berkeley, CA
510-644-3230
 
Believe it or not, Bette's ended up being our second favorite breakfast of the day!
 
Much more to come..... 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/08/07 18:50:57
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1bbqboy
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/07 18:58:56 (permalink)
lots of ocean views in Berserkley, BB, just none with diners. :)
 
post edited by 1bbqboy - 2013/08/07 19:01:36
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Michael Hoffman
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/07 19:02:14 (permalink)
See, now that's what a banana cream pie should look like -- topped with whipped cream. The banana cream pie I had today at Henry's was topped with meringue.
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/07 20:06:38 (permalink)
Bette's looks wonderful!  Esp for a banana lover.  I would love to try and duplicate that banana rum soufflé pancake!  Then banana pie to top it off. 
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/07 20:38:30 (permalink)
Michael Hoffman

ChiTownDiner

Mayor Al...I love those also...several ice cream parlors serve a salted caramel ice cream...I am a frequent taste tester of the ice cream.

Check out Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel gelato. Wonderful!

Thanks Michael! I will be on the look out!!
buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 07:28:51 (permalink)
Michael-
So, are you saying that if the banana cream pie at Henry's had whipped cream instead of meringue, you would have eaten three slices?  And I thought two was impressive!
 
1bbqboy-
Now, isn't that really a bay view?  Or is anything past the Golden Gate Bridge considered ocean? 
buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 08:12:28 (permalink)
Sunday April 21st, 2013 (cont.)
 
The drive to Albany and our next breakfast destination was short and we found ample parking around the corner.  This sign on the street

let us know we were only 22 happy steps away from Jodie's Restaurant
 
We knew from the review that this place was small, but we didn't expect it to be this small.  I am trying to think of what other Roadfood restaurants have tiny interior seating areas and came up with The Dory, Haven Brothers and the previous Kitchen Little and all of those feel like the Taj Mahal compared to Jodie's.  There are six stool seats at the counter, but those seats are tightly packed together and if you have large men like Johnny and I, there is no way six people can sit comfortably.  I sat in the stool closest to the opening to the kitchen and there was constant traffic behind me trying to squeeze by.   This may sound like a real inconvenience, but the friendly vibe of the place made it tolerable and even made it feel more like an adventure!
 
They do have a regular menu

at Jodie's but I was told that absolutely nobody orders from it.  We didn't even bother to open it.  Above and behind the customers on the other side, the wall is filled

with dozens of different dishes to choose from.  If that isn't enough, the wall space next to the grill is filled with more available selections.  

The obvious question is how can a kitchen this small make so many dishes? 
 
And they also obviously ran out of names to call the different items.  Quite a few are named after regular customers, but you can also order Why?,

I Don't Know

or the ever popular, I'm Not Ready Yet!  

It would be impossible to sit there and read every single one, besides, there is most likely going to be someone waiting for your seat.  Once I found the name of something especially intriguing, I went with that, which is how I ended up with Nothing, With Something.

 
Since there is no list of ingredients on the card, I asked what I should expect.  They said it was something different everyday and was basically up to the whim of the cook, although there was the option of meat or vegetarian.  So, here

is Something, With Nothing, which on this day featured egg, squash, zucchini, onion, red peppers, mushrooms and beef brisket!  An unusual combination of flavors for sure, but it worked.
 
Johnny went with the Joel's Omelet,

which contained grilled onions, mushrooms, cheese, three eggs, plus Jodie's special sauce.  I asked Johnny about the sauce, but he said it was hard to tell since the eggs absorbed most of the sauce.  Some really nice, dark, crispy hashbrowns came on the side.  We both got thin, grilled English muffins, which we ate with some of the different preserves and jams laid out on the counter.  
 
Even though the food here was very good, what we loved most about the place was the atmosphere.  The other three guys sitting opposite of us

were most certainly regulars, but they were more than happy to include us into the running conversation.  When we weren't chatting, I was able to keep an eye on the grill,

just a short distance away.  The young lady manning the grill worked it like a seasoned pro and one of the regulars told us we were lucky we were there on a day she was cooking, since she was the best one Jodie had.
 
Jodie himself was hanging around behind the scenes, chatting with everyone, while downing his own breakfast.  He stood behind us or just outside the entire time we were there.  He is originally from Arkansas, where he learned to cook and has plenty of great stories.  As we were leaving, I asked if I could take his photo and he was nice enough to oblige.  Whoops, wasn't quite ready yet! 

Okay, this one is better. 

Great guy!
 
BTW, Jodie's is planning on moving to bigger accommodations

and we wish him much success with the project.  But, we were very glad to got to experience this place exactly as it is now.
 
Jodie's Restaurant
902 Masonic Avenue
Albany, CA
510-526-1109
 
Now that we have two breakfasts out of the way, it was time for some ice cream.
 
Much more to come.....   
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/08/08 09:14:47
hatteras04
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 09:32:44 (permalink)
Crabill's is pretty small but I think it has 8 stools.
ScreamingChicken
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 09:33:28 (permalink)
Two very different places, each unique and great in its own way.  There might even be some Chinese carryout places with fewer menu offerings than Jodie's!
post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/08/08 09:34:42
Michael Hoffman
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 09:39:26 (permalink)
buffetbuster

Michael-
So, are you saying that if the banana cream pie at Henry's had whipped cream instead of meringue, you would have eaten three slices?  And I thought two was impressive!


I would at least have gotten the third slice to go. I did feel a little guilty about lleechef being the only one getting  slice of pie to take home. Of course now the next slice of pie I'll eat will be pumpkin, and it won't be till Thanksgiving.

Michael Hoffman
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 09:44:09 (permalink)
hatteras04

Crabill's is pretty small but I think it has 8 stools.

And lleechef and I occupied two of them yesterday.

buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 10:21:13 (permalink)
hatteras04

Crabill's is pretty small but I think it has 8 stools.
Oooh, good one!  While Crabill's does have only eight stools, there is still room behind them to walk around.  At Jodie's, there was no room behind the diners at all.  Every available inch of space was taken!

Howard Baratz
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 10:25:16 (permalink)
Love the way the onions on Johnny's Joel's Omelet look like the onions on an Oklahoma Onion Burger.   
buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 10:49:00 (permalink)
Howard, always a pleasure to hear from you!  That's a good observation and I think the onions were Johnny's favorite part of the omelet.
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 11:46:26 (permalink)
That's the craziest menu I've ever seen!  If I get up to that neck of the woods, I will surely check out Jodie's.
 
I've been to Bette's Oceanview only once, but I loved it.  Got the potato pancakes.
1bbqboy
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 12:26:31 (permalink)
buffetbuster

Michael-
So, are you saying that if the banana cream pie at Henry's had whipped cream instead of meringue, you would have eaten three slices?  And I thought two was impressive!

1bbqboy-
Now, isn't that really a bay view?  Or is anything past the Golden Gate Bridge considered ocean? 

If it is salt water with tides it is ocean to me.  And beyond the GG lies Japan, so yes. 
buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 12:40:57 (permalink)
1bbqboy-
Fair enough.  But if someone can see Japan from Berkeley, they have enjoyed too many chocolate espresso twinkies!
 
love2bake-
Oh, I bet Bette's makes excellent potato pancakes!
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/08/08 12:54:47
1bbqboy
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 12:59:26 (permalink)
When you close your eyes in Berkeley, anything is possible :)
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/08 14:16:19 (permalink)
Sunday April 21st, 2013 (cont.)
 
Despite how much we had already eaten so far, we decided that there is always room for ice cream.  So, we made Fenton's

in Oakland our next stop.  And Hallelujah Hollywood, they have their own parking lot!  It sure was nice not having to circle around looking for a parking spot for a change.
 
They have a full menu of breakfast and lunch options and the food we saw on other tables looked good.  But we came here for the ice cream.  You can just order cones from the front counter, but sat at one of the big booths in the spacious dining room

and received friendly service from our waiter.  Johnny chose the Black & Tan sundae,

with vanilla and toasted almond ice cream, plus layers on hot fudge and a caramel sauce.  When your sundae has as much going on above the rim and there is below the rim, then you know you have chosen wisely!  Needless to say, Johnny was very happy with his sundae.  I ended up with the banana split junior. 

If this was the junior version, the regular banana split has to be for a group of you and several of your closest friends.  Sorry to say, I was unable to finish, but still managed to eat most of it.
 
In the back of the restaurant, behind a glass wall, you can see workers making ice cream.  One man close by was breaking up oreos.  I motioned that I wanted to take his photo and he gave an okay. 

What a job to have!
 
Fenton's
4226 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA
510-658-7000
 
Now that we were officially stuffed beyond belief, we headed to downtown Oakland to check out Jack London Square.  This lies right next to the water and the marina, plus there is lots of shopping and restaurants in the area.  We were more interested in seeing the reproduction of the Jack London's cabin

from the Yukon.  Near the water is also a statue

of the author.
 
The square was busy with people and dogs relaxing in the grass, while some were jumping in and using the available hula hoops. 

There was also some really cool looking art in the square. 

On Sunday mornings, they have a farmer's market. 

Had we any appetite at all, we may very well have bought a few things, we still had pastries among other items back in the room.  My favorite stand was selling hummus with the irresistible slogan, "You had me at hummus!"

 
We spent about an hour here, before leaving to see some of Oakland's interesting architecture.
 
Much more to come..... 
buffetbuster
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/09 08:46:40 (permalink)
Sunday April 21st, 2013 (cont.)
 
Oakland has some really nice buildings and we enjoyed driving around checking them out.  Among my favorites were the Cathedral Building,


which understandably draws comparisons to New York's Flatiron Building.  A more modern beauty is the Cathedral of Christ the Light

We would have loved to seen the inside, but the doors were locked.  Living on the other side of the country, all I ever heard was how bad Oakland was.  Instead, we were impressed by it's natural beauty, like this lake

near the city center.
 
Being a big college sports fan, I wanted to visit the University of California's bookstore to buy a sweatshirt, so we headed back to Berkeley.  After a successful shopping mission, we wanted to visit a couple of local food stops recommended here in the forums by my friend cecif, who is a Cal graduate.
 
First up was Top Dog,

a short walk from the university.  This is a small chain with locations in Berkeley and Oakland.  The menu

offered some interesting choices, but since we had already eaten so much earlier in the day and had a big dinner planned, we didn't want to overdo it.  The inside space is tiny and if you are the third person in line to order, chances are you are standing outside.  The grill is right in front

and I always love watching a good grillman in action.  Note that the tip jar is chained down and he is watching an episode of Star Trek off of his cell phone.  By the time Johnny and I ordered, there was a nice variety of different sausages on the grill.  Here

is a close-up.
 
Johnny went for the garlic frankfurter, which was short and plump and not especially garlicky. 

Love those grill marks on the dog!  I got the regular frankfurter,

which had a mild flavor and a nice snap to it when you bit into it.  As you can see, they don't use a typical hot dog bun.  This bread is crusty, has a nice chew and was an excellent holder for the wiener and the condiments.  Speaking of which, they have a small help yourself condiment bar,

with several different kinds of mustard, plus ketchup, relish and onions.  The one issue is that the few interior seats are right in front of here, so if you do sit down, you will have other diners trying to get around you to get to the condiments.
 
Top Dog
2534 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA
510-843-5967
 
Just up the street from Top Dog is another cecif favorite, King Pin Donuts


All the donuts in the case

looked wonderful and we ended up buying a half dozen to take with us.  Sorry I did not take any photos, but the glazed, chocolate glazed and maple long john with custard filling were the standouts.
 
King Pin Donuts
2521 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA
510-843-6688
 
We headed back to the hotel to relax for a few hours.
 
Much more to come.....  
post edited by buffetbuster - 2013/08/09 08:51:13
ScreamingChicken
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/09 09:32:51 (permalink)
buffetbuster

Living on the other side of the country, all I ever heard was how bad Oakland was.  Instead, we were impressed by it's natural beauty, like this lake

near the city center.
The guy on the path is running from the cops.
 
I'll take one of those garlic hot dogs from Top Dog, please!
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/09 13:14:46 (permalink)
SC-
No wonder he hid his face from my camera when he ran by!
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/09 14:06:12 (permalink)
Sunday April 21st, 2013 (cont.)
 
Our next food destination was Sketch,  a place that appears in the 500 Things to Eat Book for their macaroons.  While looking for a place to park, I spotted Sprenger's Fish Grotto


The only thing I knew about the place was that they appeared in an older Roadfood book.  I asked Johnny if he was interested in seafood for dinner and he happily agreed.
 
The inside had the usual nautical theme,

only done in a nicer, more attractive way.  And you have to love the full diver's suit in the corner.

 
As soon as I picked up the menu, it looked vaguely familiar.  Okay, a lot of places offer the iceberg wedge salad. 

This place has an appetizer called shrimp kiss? 

Wait, that and the wedge salad is what I always order at.....  I said to Johnny, "This menu is exactly like a McCormick & Schmick's" and I immediately looked down to this napkin. 

Groan!  Now, I kind of like M & S.  Thanks to the dearth of good seafood here, Mariton and I eat at the one in downtown Pittsburgh a few times a year, before we attend a play of musical.  But there is no way I want to eat at one while vacationing in California.  But we had already ordered our drinks, Johnny was elbow deep into the bread, so I resigned myself to a chain meal.
 
Not wanting to get food we can easily get back home, Johnny went with the cioppino,

full of fish, small scallops, clams, mussels and crab claws and he said everything tasted good and fresh.  He used the bread on top to soak up the extra broth.  His meal also came with a bib

so you don't have to worry about staining your clothes, but he had no interest in putting it on.
 
I also ordered a more west coast dish with the Crab Louis,

with 1000 Islands dressing, but it was not good at all.  The crab tasted old and I ended up not even eating half of it.  The McCormick & Schmick's back home have some interesting beverages like flavored iced teas and an Arnold Palmer and I ordered the latter here. 

This meal was not going my way as the lemonade part was much more tart than sweet and I couldn't drink it.  Terrible!
 
Needless to say, I would not go back here.
 
Sprenger's Fresh Fish Grotto
1919 Fourth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
510-845-7771
 
The reason I wasn't overly concerned about the poor meal was we would be going directly back to Sketch.  Even though they sell macaroons, plus other cookies and candy, they are an ice cream place first.  I like how the sign

is a giant ice cream stick.  The inside is very roomy

and they really don't utilize most of their space.  It has a kind of cool, industrial vibe.  I started out with cups of burnt caramel soft serve. 

I much prefer hard ice cream to soft serve, but this was so good, it could change my mind.  Johnny was equally enamored with his refreshing meyer lemon sorbet.
 
To go, we grabbed a couple of the macaroons

which were dense, chewy with intense flavor, plus an ultra-rich chocolate pudding cake. 

Sketch was a big hit with us and we wished we had bought more.
 
Sketch
2080 Fourth Avenue
Berkeley, CA
510-984-0294
 
We went to bed early, knowing we had such a full day planned, we had to leave the hotel extra early, also.
 
Much more to come.....   
The Travelin Man
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Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/09 17:30:41 (permalink)
I went to Spenger's Fish Grotto on my first visit to Berkeley in maybe 2003(?). I am not sure when they joined the McCormick and Schmick's chain, but my buddy had researched the place and had also found it in an old Roadfood book. I recall our meal there better than you describe, but it was my first time in the area and I may have just been easily wowed back then! 
mikeam
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  • Total Posts : 205
  • Joined: 2007/08/29 07:30:00
  • Location: Raleigh, NC
  • Status: offline
Re:California, Here We Come! 2013/08/09 22:12:50 (permalink)
Thanks for sharing. I love your trip reports.
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