Monday, February 13, 2012

Shaner: Ladyface

Shaner: Ladyface: I was looking at the mountain and measuring it's beauty. it's smooth rolling base covered with scrub brush losing its green to the gold of w...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rainy day blues With Photo's!

Mike Shaner
January 23, 2011

It's a beautiful grey rainy afternoon in southern California, which means there is a muddy dirt road up in the mountains of Los Padres National Forest waiting for me and my truck. Alas, I sold it. :-(

A nice open road

Getting started

The pouring rain was washing the mud away, making it hard to get an accurate pick

It's getting hard to see!

Wipers aren't helping

still not helping

Just got unstuck!

From here! It was half a shovel deep.I was buried up to my door!

Rain stopped so i'm leaving

There is actually a rainbow that you can't see but who cares? So gorgeous!

Trying a different angle to catch the rainbow...still no luck. Still who cares?
Old friend I sure do miss you.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

From The Mountains To The Sea: Dolphins, Coyotes, and Hawks: Oh My!

Mike Shaner
January 15, 2011

I've always said there are two kinds of people: beach bums and mountain folk. The great thing about Southern California is you don't have to choose. Yesterday, I  made a short commute through winding canyons to the Pacific Coast Highway for a picturesque ocean side drive. For lunch I stopped by Malibu Seafood, a place as famous for it's namesake atmosphere as it is for the best fish and chips west of Mobile and south of the Bay. It was a typical breezy 75 and sunny January afternoon. I sat on the top patio devouring fried oysters when I noticed the first fin emerge from the calm clear ocean. Soon I saw another. A moment later an entire dolphin flipped through the air, and then another, and another! Soon the whole troupe was playing, jumping, and flipping to the delight of the several beachcombers and restaurant patrons who were lucky enough to choose this exact time to be in this exact place. After an hour or so the dolphins bored of showing off and swam away. I drove home impressed with the fact that I live in a place where at any given time an impromptu dolphin show is a possibility. Most people spend a vacation fortune to see such things...if they're lucky!

I rose this morning with the sun and had a wonderful Denver omelet breakfast with added mushrooms and spinach at The Breakfast Cafe. I followed that up with sunrise bloody Mary's and headed out to Los Padre's national forest with no real plan other than to drive a mustang that likes to go fast on mountain roads. The only bad thing about Los Padres is deciding which car to drive. The roads are perfect for something sporty but passing all the off-road trails leaves me a little sad that I sold my 4WD. The sadness quickly fades, however, as I maneuver short straightaways that allow the mustang to rumble up to triple digit speeds and then downshift through tight corners between 30 and 60 mph. By the time I reach the Sespe hiking trail my adrenaline is at a fever pitch and my journey hasn't even really begun! I'm surrounded by mountain freedom. The scenery is filled with storybook magic. Whistling pines and jagged peaks make the country boy heart flutter.

Sespe can be a somewhat crowded trail, but today it's just me and a few old hippies enjoying nature. After my first few steps I see a sign conveniently reminding me to watch for ancient rock paintings. Fantastic observations from our primitive long gone relatives! I smile at the idea of a cave dweller who was so profoundly struck with his majestic surroundings that he left his eternalized graffiti for me to marvel at. Then I laugh remembering that today he would be arrested for such a thing. Onward down the twisting trail, just before I cross the Sespe river, a beautiful nervous coyote gives me an annoyed scowl as he quickly crosses the twisting trail and disappears into his own endeavors.  Yesterday a dolphin and today a coyote! What great deeds have I done to be inundated with such natural blessings?

Further into the wilderness the trail turns back to cross the gradual stream that once was a mighty river where the cavemen would share a drink with my coyote friend. Ahead the trail rose into a moderately strenuous climb toward the mountain peak. Along the way I saw a bounty of quail, blue jays and woodpecker's meticulously carrying on with their particular business. After an hour or so of awestruck walking I finally reached the top. In the distance between two glorious peaks I saw a great body of water that I can only assume to be the pacific ocean. The type of view that keep the most articulate poets up at night suffering to find the words to describe that which words cannot describe. As the sun finally began to sink into the horizon I reluctantly marched back to my car. As I twisted back across the stream a red tailed hawk circled low as if to say: "thanks for visiting."

I drove away slowly passing the waterfalls and trails that I must wait to explore. On my way down the mountain I stopped at the Deer Lodge to watch the 49ers beat the saints over some bourbon. I drove home alongside the pacific ocean and a million stars. At home I collapsed into my bed and thought: "if I'm not too tired I'll dream of tomorrows adventures." Finally I sighed: "just another day in paradise.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

At Ida’s Country Kitchen it’s more about the steak than the sizzle

By Mike Shaner
Visiting Montevallo, Alabama can be a little like going back in time.  It’s a quaint little college town where everyone knows everyone. It’s the sort of place where farmers, preachers, bankers, construction workers, and college students all meet for breakfast or dinner to discuss football, politics, and just good ol’ fashioned gossip. The meeting hub of choice is a small family owned diner appropriately named Ida’s Country Kitchen. Ida’s is as much a throwback as the town itself. There is no fancy d├ęcor, no catchy logos, and really no marketing to speak of. Not even so much as a website. What they do have is amazing country food.  Jeffery Ammons, who owns Ida’s Country kitchen prefers to let his food and customers do the talking: “instead of spending money telling people how good our food is, I let the customers tell each other and in turn they get better food at a lower price. The food is going to be good anyway but if I don’t have to spend money telling people about it, I don’t have to pass that cost along to the customer.”  It’s working too, that’s how I found the place. While camping on the nearby Cahaba River I met two fisherman who told me about this “great little catfish restaurant.”  Actually, the second fisherman was quick to clarify that Ida’s country kitchen is far more than a catfish place. He spoke with hungry eyes about a heavy flap-jack breakfast, with a side of smoked ham, and “the best grits in Shelby County.” The next morning at Ida’s I enjoyed the kind of country breakfast my grandpa used to say they don’t make anymore. Light fluffy made from scratch biscuits that were probably more like the one’s your grandma made than your mothers, a bowl of home-made sausage gravy and three whole eggs. The best part was that my wallet stayed almost as full as my belly, total price $4.97!  The meal was so good that I couldn’t resist coming back for lunch. I ordered the special: Country fried Steak with white gravy, cornbread, butter-beans, black-eyed peas, and real country turnip-greens.  I left so completely satisfied that I decided to go for the trifecta. The dinner waitress remembered my name and asked me to “wait just a minute” while she cleared “my table.” I had eaten at this place twice and already had my own special table! I had a T-bone steak, Baked Potato, side salad and a slice of lemon pie for dessert. The Steak was a work of art, seasoned and cooked as though we were at a fine Beverly Hills restaurant. The homemade lemon pie was almost too much to stand, the perfect combination of sweet-tart. I still dream of the soft luscious meringue piled high above the real lemon filling cradled in a crunchy Nilla Wafer crust. The entire atmosphere was delightful. The staff was warm in a way that was just so natural. Ida’s Country Kitchen is Southern hospitality at its finest. The old saying says you sell the sizzle and not the steak. At Ida’s you only pay for the steak and it’s worth every dime.

Ida’s country Kitchen is located at 4781 Hwy 25 Montevallo, Alabama 35115
You can phone in your order by calling (205) 476-8185
There is no website available but you can find them on Facebook here

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Best Restaurant in Ojai

I generally travel through Ojai about once a week on my way to due some hiking, shooting, or off roading in The Los Padres National Park. I always work up a healthy appetite and look forward  to the relaxed atmosphere and wonderful food at The Ojai Deer Lodge. I usually neglect the other dining establishments, simply because this one is so delightful, but today i'll try out something new and let you know my thoughts.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Observations in China- The cab rides are scary. No, I mean really scary!

May 28, 2011
Sophia Chang-Shaner

The cab drivers in China are nuts, like everyone has laid claim to the same piece of road and is in some mad rush to get to it. Tonight, I thought the cabbie was going to collide with a wall, a bus, another cab, a merging SUV, a pedestrian, a guy on a scooter, a parked car, and several moving cars... all at the same time.

Ok... I'm exaggerating. It was a 10 minute cab ride so impending death was spread out... one near miss per minute.

Whitewater rafting on the Kern River

July 3, 2011
Mike Shaner

Sophia and I had an unbelievable time whitewater rafting yesterday. Unfortunately we didn't get any pics but I will update with the details soon. By the way, I definitely recommend using Kern River Outfitters.