An Ode to BBQ

Along with the adventures we’ve embraced on the road, one of the mottos I live by is to “taste life” and there is no better time to do that than when meal time rolls around.  Pizza is a pretty perfect food item. Growing up on the East coast I tend to prefer the flat crust New York style pie whereas Jenn, a Chicago gal, goes for the deep dish.  But our explorations of the West together have increased our exposure to the cuisine of BBQ.  On a trip I once took to Texas I attended the BBQ Cook-Off at Rodeo Austin. My initial goal was to kiss a cowboy, which I accomplished, (just a little cheek action) but I then topped that by kissing a clown. Those actions were soon overshadowed by the Cook-Off and the assortment of barbecue available including dry rubbed cuts of beef, smoked sausage rolls wrapped in tortillas, and BBQ brisket Frito pie.  For a girl who grew up in New England with grilled chicken brushed with barbecue sauce from a bottle counting as BBQ I soon tasted what I had been missing out on and it created an appetite for more.

In California Jenn and I took off for a day in Pioneertown.  The town originated as an Old West set and even includes a mock gunfight by the local re-enactment performers. After taking in the gunslingers (Pew! Pew!) we popped into Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace to get some grub.  On the way in we were greeted by the BBQ smokers out back and a cast of characters inside- a mix of locals, tourists, cowboys and bikers- who were even more entertaining than the shoot-out show on the street.We preferred to pose rather than draw our pistols A jukebox fills the air when a band’s not on stage, pool tables are available for a game to pass the time, although we didn’t play this time around, and drinks come served in mason jars. The friendly staff makes you feel at home as you indulge in an assortment of Tex-Mex tacos loaded with thinly sliced tri-tip, baby back ribs smothered in tangy sweet BBQ sauce, savory homemade chili poured over pinto beans and mesquite grilled chicken capturing the smoky spicy flavors of the Southwest.

Now if you want the true taste of mesquite then you have to go there, so we did. Mesquite, Nevada was a pit stop where we found a pig roast fresh off the spit. Jenn sticks with chicken and I’m partial to a slab of ribs slathered in sauce but at The Smoke Shack I opted for the pulled pork. The pig on the table might be enough to make most cringe, and I apologize to my PETA peeps and those of the vegetarian persuasion, but even Charlotte would have climbed down from her spider web and chowed on Wilbur too, if she knew he tasted this good. The Shack is focused on the food. You order up at the counter, grab a seat in the dining area to enjoy your BBQ which is simply served in a basket. After lunch if you’re feeling lucky head on in to the attached casino.

In a sea of strip malls in Phoenix, Arizona we discovered Bobby Q, offering up both tasty BBQ and an adjoining nightclub, the Q Lounge. After consuming some super creamy mac n’ cheese, pecan coleslaw, roasted corn or ranch beans among the side choices you can select to accompany one of their great big barbecue platters you can shake it all off as you dance next door. You’ll need to once the sugar rush hits from the fresh warm complimentary donut they serve you to complete this mega meal. And if dancing’s not your thing you can play some beer pong or get bottle service in their VIP section and be a voyeur as the smoke machine and laser lights create a pseudo-Vegas styled atmosphere as the patrons hit the floor.  We even made some fun new friends before finally succumbing to the food coma and calling it a night.

Other BBQ breaks we’ve enjoyed include The Smoking Apple, an unexpected Utah treat in Lindon, the Toll Road Restaurant in Death Valley where I got a rack of ribs and afterwards Jenn racked up the points playing me in pool at the Badwater Saloon next door and in case you think that BBQ can’t be classy well the Wild West Cowboy Steakhouse in Buckeye, Az serves up barbecue along with suggesting that you keep up the art of meal-time conversation thanks to their guide posted at each table.

This is just the beginning of what I sense to be a long-term love affair with true barbecue and there are so many regions yet to travel to and try. Bring it on and any suggestions for some future finger licking good places we should go to.  Mmmmmmmmm!


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Bikers, bankers and bears. Oh my, Wyoming!

Westward ho! This trip we were off to cowgirl up our way to Wyoming. Granted it was north and east from where we were driving, but when I envisioned Wyoming I pictured cowboys and the Wild West. Or at least the wide-open range the state had to offer. But instead of giddy-upping on horses we found people hopping on their Hogs. Our first stop, Evanston, whose motto is “Fresh Air, Freedom, and Fun” greeted us with its annual biker rally. It appeared most of the locals skedaddled that day as the storefronts were all closed, except for the bars for the bikers. We strolled through the town and got lunch from a BBQ food truck, which we ate in the town square along with our fellow open road travelers there for the rally.

Refueled, we made our way to Jackson Hole.  Jenn had been here before on a previous ski trip and raved about it so she took the reigns and steered us straight into Jackson.  First impression: antlers, antlers everywhere! Antlers adorned the town square as an archway, were fashioned into chandeliers in restaurants and decorated the doorways of shops and businesses throughout the town.  Once again we were in need of a place to stay so we roamed about checking out vacancies of the hotels and settled on the quaint and very affordable Sundance Inn. When a name conjures up the image of an Old West outlaw how can you go wrong?  It was soon time to rustle up some grub again but rather than hitting a steakhouse, as would be expected in these parts, Jenn recommended Thai Me Up an unexpected gem offering up cocktails such as the Ginger Snap, a sugar rimmed concoction with a kick, and some top notch Thai food. Good call, Jenn!  The night was young and there were still cowboys and a nightlife to wrangle so we decided to mosey on over to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Saddles serve as barstools and we each straddled one as we ordered at the bar.  No cowboy there though, instead I met a portfolio manager from New York. Go figure. But we tossed back whiskeys and beers just the same and shared tales of long lost loves and road travels, just like the cowboys used to do, right? Jenn chatted up a gent who turned out to be from Utah, completing the out-of-towners scenario by the saddles. My new pal led me to the dance floor for some two-stepping to the live band, which soon turned to some two-handed groping. But hey, if you can’t get your ass grabbed in a cowboy bar, where can you?

The next morning we set out to see the real wild side of the West, off to Yellowstone!
Our concierge at the Sundance recommended we drive a route via the Teton Range. (Although some historians dispute it, many believe the name Teton was coined by French-Canadian explorers as they envisioned teats, or rather breasts, during their travels. I buy it.) Bears, not boobs, were on my brain as we entered Yellowstone National Park. This majestic treasure is not to be missed. The landscape and weather conditions vary throughout.

Snowball fight? Snowball fun!

We encountered sunshine, snow flurries, steamy springs, roadside bison, and Old Faithful. We stopped at the Old Faithful Inn, a national historic landmark, where they note the time the geyser is next expected to blow. With time on our side we lunched in their rustic dining room then high-tailed it out in time to see the gusher go off. Old Faithful lived up to its name.



Although an extremely exciting experience, a true must see, bears were still on my mind. The guide pamphlet we received on our way in warned of keeping our distance and even Jenn was well versed in bear safety, having learned that if you are out in the open hiking the trails you should say, “Hey, bear,” in a conversational tone so as not to startle them.  I first laughed thinking she had made this fun fact up, but turns out it’s true and I soon chimed in as we practiced together.  I simply wanted to see one, not be eaten by one. Around the bend I would get my wish.  We came upon a line of cars pulled over and parked; a sure sign there was wildlife nearby and called out to a fellow traveler asking what was in there as he hurried into the woods. “A bear,” he excitedly whispered. We soon found ourselves hopping out of the car in anxious, yet cautious, pursuit as well. A small group of fearless fans was assembled with zoom lenses and smartphones extended taking their best shots, their mouths agape as just beyond, among some trees, was in fact a bear. A bear! We saw a bear!!! We hovered back behind the others figuring if he did go on the attack he’d get one of them first. Not the best of plans, and he even gave us all a startle when he suddenly reached up to scratch (perhaps sharpen?) his claws on a tree, but we got our photos and had this thrilling sight to behold before returning to our car with our lives intact.

Woo hoo, Wyoming!


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