A 400 mile Odyssey for Ribs and Musings Along the Way

Is 400 miles to far to ride for some great BBQ?  How about to visit your family AND eat great BBQ?  I had read that the best BBQ in Arizona could be had not more than 20 miles from my son’s place, so the answer to both these questions is an unqualified “NO!”  So, I hopped on the R12RT and set a course east on Interstate 10 for the little city of Maricopa AZ. 

The ride was pretty uneventful as riding the “slab” can be, but the never-ending desert scenery was pretty, and made prettier by the recent rains.  And, I took a well deserved break in Quartzite, AZ for lunch, which broke the ride up a bit.  Quartzite is an amazing place.  In the summer it’s hot and deserted.  In the winter months, everyone from the northern climes moves here, so the desert floor is speckled with RV parks.  In town they hold a swap meet that has all kinds of stuff no one buys. Or at least I hope no one buys.  How about a giant plastic chicken?  Or a rug with a giant beer can stitched on it?  What about a cow skull?  I wonder how the shoppers can cram their new found treasures into their RVs?  I imagine the conversations when the ‘snowbirds’ migrate north again:  “That’s a big plastic chicken, doncha know?”  “You betcha, eh?”

Quartzite Rooster 

After a bemused visit to the vendors, I stopped at “Sweet Darlene’s” restaurant.  Built in a big steel shed, this restaurant probably sat 300 people at a time!  It was huge, with waittresses scurrying around, customers visiting each other, and loads of food being delivered.  Darlene hit all the right notes for a successful place:  very inexpensive, good food, easy parking, and fast turn over.  I sat next to Ron, an 80+ year old man who told me about his life in the special forces, his work at JPL, and finally as he warmed up, all his conspiracy theories about energy, 911, and President Obama.  I was pleasantly entranced by his conversation as I finished off a plate of $2.39 bacon, eggs, and hash browns.  I really liked Ron.  Here he is:

Despite being constantly amazed by how much adventure one can find simply by stopping and talking to people, I was on a mission. 

So, 400 tire-squaring miles later, I downshifted into my son’s driveway where I was met by my hungry son, James, his lovely wife, Chanin, and their baby, Gavin.  Or, as I like to refer to him as “El Jefe.”  Of course I had forgotten the time zone change, so I didn’ t immediately notice the glazed look of hunger in there eyes. 

We hopped into their car and took off for Gilbert, AZ, a rapidly growing suburb of Phoenix.  Gilbert is trying to hold onto it’s old west individuality, so the down town area is quaint, but I couldn’t help remembering the Gilbert of 30 years ago! 

All those thoughts were pushed aside, because downtown Gilbert is the home of “Joe’s Real BBQ.”  And real it is.  The meats are laboriously slow cooked over pecan wood fires which leaves the meat red, juicy, hot, and loaded with a smoky finish that is delightful! 

Well, apparently everyone else in Arizona also thinks it’s delightful.  We pulled up and were greeted by a forty-minute wait that spilled out into the street…surprisingly the line moved fairly quickly.  The menu here is pretty bssic:  ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and bbq’d beef are the mainstays.  I suppose you could order a salad, but hey, what are you, a communist or something?  I will say they have a huge selection of soft drinks including homemade rootbeer that is pretty good.  You pick what you want off a selection board, then move to a serving counter where a courteous yet business- like young person gives you the meat and side dishes you orderd.  Fortunately, there are lots of tables, and we got to our table with stomach’s rumbling.

Chanin ordered the giant baked potato with pulled pork while James and I orded the pork ribs.  Gavin ate Cheerios and anything else we put with his little one year old grasp!  Well, we made short work of our meals.  The ribs were great.  Nearly fall-off-the-bone tender with just the right amount of charring, they were pretty much irresistable.  The baked potato was gigantic, and the side dishes such as macaroni and cheese, corn, and corn bread were pretty good, though the mac ‘n cheese could have used a nice baked finish…

Joe's Ribs are Delicious!

An hour later we waddled out, and my wallet for the three of us was only lighter by about $38.  Not bad for the best BBQ I’ve tasted in Arizona!

By the way, here is the contact information for Joe’s should you decide to go down there and sample it yourself:

Joe’s Real BBQ

Until next time, enjoy the road, and the adventure!


A Few Days on the Central Coast

In my opinion, few things in life are better than a great motorcycle ride, especially with a wonderful riding partner like J, incredible scenery, and some great food!  After watching the weather reports carefully, we figured we could time a four day ride up to the central coast of California between storms.

So, off we went!  Our first first stop was Paso Robles, a great small city with some wonderful restaurants, great wineries, and the Paso Robles Inn!  We highly recommend the Paso Robles Inn.  Located on Spring Street just across from the town square, the Inn has delightful rooms, many with hot tubs that tap into the hot springs which are located underneath the property.  Plus, there are several great wine tasting establishments within stumbling distance of the Inn!

A Beautiful Place to Stay
A Beautiful Place to Stay

The mineral water did wonders for the achy muscles as did a great walk around town.  The next morning we decided to ride the “G” roads through the central coast mountains.  This is great riding.  Mile after mile of sweeping twisties, vineyards, and very little traffic.  We stopped here for coffee and conversation with the manager who told me he has lived his entire life here.  “I’ve been around, but I’ve always comeback.  Why leave?”  When you consider the beauty of the area, you can understand his decision!

Great coffee and conversation
Great coffee and conversation at the Bee Rock Store!

After the Bee Rock Store we were eager to see where the “G” roads would lead us next…we headed higher into the fog-shrouded mountains where the temps dropped into the forties.  Thank you Gerbing Electric Jackets!  Eventually we headed through Fort Hunter-Liggett an active Army base.  We turned for Jolon and US 101 for a few miles of slab.  Following the GPS, we quickly got off the freeway and found a “back” way to Carmel Valley Road which would eventually take us to our second night’s lodging.

A Gorgeous Valley
A Gorgeous Valley

The Carmel Valley is a beautiful place….lush rolling hills, incredible pastoral scenery, and narrow very twisty roads can make Carmel Valley Road a motorcyclist’s delight!  A word of caution-potholes and animals abound.  Keep your eyes open because this lonely road is no place to deal with a broken motorcycle or body!

It seems all too soon that we rolled into Carmel-by-the-Sea, a beautiful coastal village filled with art shops and beautiful zillion dollar homes.  We pulled into the Best Western Bay View Inn for our nights lodging.  We enjoy staying here because it’s nice, it’s reasonable, and it is two blocks from Ocean Ave., the main street.  It is also almost across the street from the employee owned “The Forge in the Forest,” my all time favorite restaurant!

Looking out from our Room
Looking out from our Room
Carmel is a great place to hang out, especially if you like restaurants, art, wine, people watching, and incredible scenery.  In fact, one of the prettiest drives in the world is between Carmel and Cambria.  This is the “Big Sur” area of central California and CA Highway One is a must-do motorcycle trip.  Take your time, ride sensibly, and stop often for pictures, at least the first few times you ride it.  CA1 is heavily enforced by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) with good reason; the drop-offs to the sea are spectacular and leave no room for error!
About halfway down the ride take a breather at Lucia, a quaint market, restaurant, and inn.  Lucia is perched percariously on the side of CA1.  It looks like it could all slide down into the ocean at any time!  Fortunately it hasn’t!  The restaurant here is very good, albeit a bit expensive.  But, the view is one-in-a-million!  Well worth the stop!  Also, if you go into the little market you’ll find a shelf near the coffee loaded with the pastry of the day…these goodies are baked locally and offered only here for sale.  Sometimes I’ll just grab a cup of coffee and a pastry if I’m not looking for a full meal!
Overlooking Lucia and Pacific Coast Highway 
From Lucia, the Pacific Coast Highway continues to wind along the cliffside for miles until the road eventually leaves the cliffs.  While the scenery stays spectacular, I always wish I was turning around here and going north again, just to play in the twisties!
Until next time, enjoy the ride!