Friday, August 20, 2010

Delicious! Fun to get there; fun to eat there!

We are lucky this time in San Francisco; it's a destination for us, but we know people who live here and crawl the streets looking for fabulous hole-in-the-wall restaurants and entertainment venues. After reconnecting with my niece, Jeanmarie, earlier this year, we discovered that she and her husband not only work in San Francisco, but they also avail themselves of the many culinary opportunities that this international city offers. One of the places she recommended was Burma Superstar. Here is what she said about it and why we decided to give it a try: "Amazing Burmese food . . . best in town. You stand on the sidewalk to get in during dinner. Honestly, go for lunch . . . same menu, but not so much of a wait. This s a bit of a dive restaurant, but probably one of the hottest places in town. It's a haul from Downtown, but an adventure. Neighborhood staple." (By the way--that's Char in the photo in front of the restaurant.)

So we went for lunch. We did have to stand on the sidewalk and wait for a table (about 1 p.m.), but only for 10 minutes. I guess I'd disagree with that this is somewhat of a dive; it was small, but actually quite well done and very clean. It didn't have a "dive" feel for me; it's atmosphere was more that of a neighborhood cafe. Nothing fancy, but more than adequate. High on one wall was perhaps a dozen framed articles--reviews of the restaurant.

I certainly thank Jeanmarie for pointing us in the direction of Burma Superstar. It is in the Richmond district, which is a ways from downtown. But using our three-day transit pass, we hopped a #30 bus and took it from Union Square to Third Avenue, then walked a few blocks to Clement Street, and finally to 309 and the restaurant.

The menu offers several styles of Asian preparations; we chose the ones marked, "Authentic Burmese Style." Char ordered the Pork Curry with Potatoes, and I chose the Nan Gyi Dok, which is rice noodles with a mild chicken coconut curry sauce. We did the sharing thing and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch. I knew we were in the right place because most of the customers were Asian--another indirect stamp of approval for the restaurant.

And, get this. The bill for the two entrees was $28, and would have been $20 if we hadn't ordered a beer with lunch. Very modestly priced, I thought. That's what it costs for two to go to lunch in Minneapolis.

If you like Asian-style cuisine, I suggest you take the bus ride from Downtown out to Richmond. Lunch at the Burma Superstar is certainly a satisfying experience.

Information about Burma Superstar is available at and on Twitter, @burmasuperstar.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We went to look at a house but found Amanda

So we went down to the bay to see this thing called Cliff House, but we ended up talking with a street vendor. Her name is Amanda. She sells jewelry that she makes herself. That's Amanda in the photo. When I think of street vendors, I usually do not conjure up the image of a young woman.

In our hotel room, we have a photo of a huge and masterfully built house called Cliff House; but when we got to the house, we saw something quite different. The house has gone through at least three iterations. You can read about it here, if you like: In any event, we were disappointed with Cliff House. Not so with Amanda.

Amanda has all of the markings of a resourceful, enterprising entrepreneur. She has been street vending since January, 2010, she said, but has been doing it full-time since April. She quit a full-time job as a massage therapist and now makes her living as a jewelry artist. This is somewhat impressive. A part-time student considering a health care-related career (either nursing or radiation technology), she has run the gauntlet of becoming certified and licensed as a San Francisco street vendor. Little did I know, however, that vending spots are prescribed by the city; that means you just can't set up shop anywhere--you have to go to an officially designated location.

Amanda makes jewelry from such materials as semi-precious stones and sea glass. She personally gathers the sea glass from the water's edge. She also gathers flat stones, which she adorns with various painted artwork. Her assortment of hand-made work is set on a portable stand, which I was surprised to learn that she takes down every day. It fits in her car--the red one in the background.

I'm always amazed and impressed with people who somehow find the chutzpah to go off and do something like this. They make it look so easy.

If you want to know a little more about Amanda and the jewelry and art she makes, you can find it here:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On The Way To San Francisco

Hey, everyone. We're headed for San Francisco. Had some interesting encounters today--nothing earth shattering, I guess--but nevertheless interesting. I'll get to that in the posts that follow. Meanwhile, the photo you see of me is in the Phoenix airport as we await our connecting flight from Minneapolis to San Francisco. I travel with a Red Oxx ( PR5 Safari-Beanos Bag. No wheels on this one, so some travelers may not like it. But I like it because it is a carry-on and it holds everything I need to be on the road indefinitely. I would like a smaller and lighter computer, however. Anyway, stay tuned. We'll be here for a few days, so I'll have a little to say.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lunch at Wiggee's

"Where do we stop for lunch?" That was the question once we had gotten off of the interstate. My friend, Ted Anderson and I, were headed for Minneapolis from Burbank, California, and we had decided to explore some of northern Oklahoma's country highways and roads. I mean, an interstate highway is an interstate highway.

So at Clinton, still some distance from Oklahoma City, we headed north on State Highway 183. Then we turned onto 33 heading to the northeast. We really didn't know where to go. But it was time for lunch. So for no reason at all and completely on a whim, we turned east along US 270/281 and headed for Watonga.

We could see the huge grain elevator silos easily five miles away. But we wondered about a restaurant when, lo and behold, there it was. Wiggee's! Wiggee's Burger Ranch. Just a few feet beyond the intersection of Clarence Nash Boulevard (State Hwy 8) and US 270/281.

Now Watonga is one of those little country towns that we all pass through as we travel. The official state map of Oklahoma says the population is 5,000. But according to Barbara Wigington--our hostess and part of the ownership team at Wiggee's--it's more like 2,000 or 2,500 now. (Photo from left to right, Diane Wonack, Barbara Wigington, Bill Wigington.)

Wiggee's is one of those great little places where the locals come for breakfast and lunch. It's the kind of place where, after you've been in the place for three minutes, you're engaged in a conversation with someone as if they were waiting for you to come in.

Now, when two big bald guys from Minnesota walk into Wiggee's, all of the conversation stops and the heads turn. Barbara greeted us with that wonderful way people speak in Oklahoma and explained we could still get the buffet, or, we could order from the menu.

When you finally make it to Wiggee's, order from the menu. Get a Wiggee Burger. They come in several varieties, all of which look pretty good. I chose one that appeared somewhat unusual: the Big Wiggee. Ted ordered the Ranch Wiggee.

If you're lucky, you'll be waited on by one of the friendliest waitresses you're likely to meet--Diane Wonack. And when she delivers your Big Wiggee, you'll find two burger patties garnished with cheese, mushrooms, jalapeño peppers, bacon, chili, and, if you want them, grilled onions. I had those, too. Ted's Ranch Wiggee was similar, sans the jalapeños and chili.

All this was cooked up by Bill Wiggee (the other part of the ownership team), who toils out of sight in the kitchen.

Paying the bill was the fun part. We, of course, had to explain what brought two guys from Minnesota to Watonga. Once we had explained that we were helping Ted's daughter move from California to Minnesota, Barbara revealed her Minnesota connection. At one point in her work career, she worked for Control Data when Control Data was one of the giants in the mainframe computer business. Well--turns out that Ted worked as a communications manager for Control Data in Minneapolis, and I did freelance work for the company for about a year in the early 1990s. Small world. Happens all the time.

We learned in our chat with Barbara that Watonga's claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Clarence Nash, the voice of Disney's Donald Duck. You'll notice above that the town has named a street after him. You can see the Wikipedia entry on Nash at

So if you're passing through Watonga, Wiggee's is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Address is 420 W. Russworm, but you'll see it when you drive into town. Here are some highlights from the menu:

Noon Buffet, all you can eat, $6.99

Burger and Fries, $4.99

All-You-Can-Eat Burgers and Fries, $6.99

All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast of biscuits and gravy, $4.29

Coffee or Tea, $.75 all day

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Carie Amundson saved my life! Well--kind of. Desperately needing a drink of water while sitting in my aisle seat on the way to Oakland, I couldn't open my water bottle. The top was bolted shut with some kind of atomic shrink wrap. I hate that stuff!

"Can I help you with that?" Carie offered.

I handed her the bottle across the chasm of an empty middle seat.

To my surprise, delight, and maybe some chagrin, she deftly peeled the atomic coating off of the bottle top. What I didn't realize at the time was that she held a tremendous advantage over me; she works at a convenience store and handles this kind of stuff all the time. This episode continued briefly when I also realized that removing the plastic cap on the battle presented a challenge. Smiling, Carie helped with that, too. (I thought she was very kind inasmuch as she restrained herself from pointing and laughing hysterically at me.)

Well--having quenched my thirst, I struck a conversation with Carie. She must have been raised well and with good manners, because she obviously resisted the urge to roll over in her seat with her pillow and just go to sleep. Instead, she proceeded to engage in conversation with me from Minneapolis to Oakland, including a layover in Denver. The result was, for me, one of the most enjoyable flights I have had in a long time. Sometimes traveling alone is a good thing. There is always the chance of that chance meeting that yields a memorable and fun story.

And I'm sure that Carie has much to talk about also. Understand that she is in her mid-twenties and I am 62. I was thus able to offer her six and a half hours of a lifetime of advice on just about everything she needs to do in life, including what to study in school, where to travel, when to travel, with whom to travel, how to deal with boy friends, and much more that I can't remember.

Such experiences make traveling fun. I hope to have many more like it. And I hope Carie does, too--but next time maybe with a twenty-something guy on the other side of the middle seat.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Bucket List--A long way to go before I rest!

Ok. So here is my Bucket List. I'm not sure that I agree 100 percent with it, or that it may not be altered, but here it is. Basically, I thought of all of the places I would like to go--most of which I have not yet visited. I came up with a list of 30 places that can be categorized as a country, region, city, or site. On a spread sheet, I listed the 30 places down the left side and also across the top. I then compared each one to the rest by answering the question, "Would I rather travel here or there?" Thus, I compared Machu Picchu to every other place on the list and selected it 29 times (an obvious first choice). And when it came time to compare the other places to Machu Picchu, I still preferred Machu Picchu. That's how it got 58 votes. (It's easy to see on a spread sheet.)

I did have some anomalies; I noticed that I sometimes made opposite choices. For instance, I noticed that when I compared Samarkand to Viet Nam, I chose Samarkand; however, when I compared Viet Nam to Samarkand, I chose Viet Nam. I am not sure why that happened, other than to say that I took several days to do this exercise. Also, thinking back, I did not establish a firm set of criteria from which to make a decision. My decisions were mostly emotional and based on my readings and general interest in geography, politics, commerce, people, and history.

So in the list below, you see my choices ranked by priority. The number in parentheses following each location indicates the number of votes for that place. You may wonder how I came up with these locations. Some come from my interests, such as View Nam (I never served in the military during that conflict, but I want to go there), and Angkor Wat, which has interested me ever since I learned about it as a kid. Some come from my ham radio contacts that I've made around the world. I would make contact with someone in the Seychelles and then grab my atlas to see where it was. Same for the South Pacific islands. I realize that is a region, but I couldn't pick just one island. There are several archipelagos I'd like to see in that part of the world. Samarkand made the list because of a book I read, The Amulet of Samarkand, a fantasy about a young magician and a 5,000-year-old djinni named Bartimaeus (Book One of The Bartimaeus Trilogy). It seems quite exotic, has 2,500 years of commercial history, and is smack dab in the middle of the Silk Road, the collection of ancient travel routes from the Asia and the east to Europe.

Now you'll notice that Hawaii is not on my list. Turns out that we have been planning for some time to go to Hawaii in September for a couple of weeks. As long as those plans were already laid in, I saw no reason to included it in the list. However, I did include Rome, France, and the Caribbean Islands--places I have visited before. Rome is such a great city and I will one day travel there again (maybe on my way to Pompeii). France is on my wife's wish list, but as you can see, I would just about go ANYPLACE other than France. I included the Caribbean Islands because I've only been to the Turks and Caicos Islands (Providenciales and Grand Turk), and I want to vagabond from Trinidad and Tobago up the volcanic island rim to Cuba. Actually, when I look at my list, I could easily move island vagabonding adventure to number two.

So take a look. Tell me what you think.

1 Machu Picchu (Peru) (58)
2 Samarkand (Uzbekistan) (53)
3 Cuba (48)
4 South Pacific Islands (48)
5 Viet Nam (48)
6 Greece (47)
7 Caribbean Islands (45)
8 Australia/New Zealand (44)
9 Angkor Wat (Cambodia) (42)
10 Pompeii (Italy) (39)
11 Prague (Czech Republic) (37)
12 Namibia (36)
13 Morocco (35)
14 Egypt (33)
15 Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) (33)
16 Malta (28)
17 Nazca Lines (Peru) (26)
18 Dubrovnik (Croatia) (23)
19 Costa Rica (22)
20 Kenya (22)
21 India (17)
22 Seychelles (Indian Ocean) (15)
23 Belize (14)
24 Mauritius (13)
25 Easter Island (Chile) (12)
26 Montenegro (12)
27 Turkey (12)
28 Aztec Ruins (Mexico) (5)
29 Rome (Italy) (2)
30 France (0)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Bucket List (Not yet formal)

Well--I haven't actually developed a formal Bucket List, but I could get a good start on one if I needed to turn one in for a class. It would include such places as Angkor Wat, Viet Nam, Australia, New Zealand, Prague and the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Dubrovnik, Greece, the Central American countries, Easter Island (and others in the south Pacific), a return to Rome and Italy to see Pompeii (and to Florence again to see The David one more time), and a number of African countries--Kenya, Namibia, Morocco, Egypt and others, India, the Maldives, Malta, and Mauritius, and all of the Caribbean islands, including Cuba, and the Nazca Lines. Not that I will ever have the money or the time to go to all of these places. But I started to think about a formal Bucket List when I discovered this trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands (, both of which would be ranked rather high on my list--Machu Picchu in the top five, most likely. This is an 18-day adventure in a small group offered through Overseas Adventure Travel ( and matches almost exactly a trip I once mentioned to a friend--the only missing point of travel from my original day dream is Easter Island. This looks like a neat adventure. Now I just need to figure out how to fund it. Alas--there's always a catch.