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Karma says: To the inland empire you go!

As always, things changed. Last night we were going to try for an oceanside county park, but then we got to thinking differently (always a dangerous thing) and suddenly we were going to Riverside, 120 miles distant.

It happened like this: I called a friend in Riverside who we were going to look up, to tell him that we couldn’t make it over for a visit before Thanksgiving. The friend promptly invited us to Thanksgiving dinner. That was unexpected, since we thought he was going out of town.

Riverside is not an easy place to camp. There is a county park called Rancho Jalupa, and a few commercial campgrounds 30 to 60 minutes drive away. That’s about it. Rancho Jalupa was (predictably) completely booked, and the commercial campgrounds were $45 per night and up, if they had space. After considering it for a while, I remembered Don & Gail, Airstream Life subscribers who have emailed me in the past. They have a house in Riverside, so I emailed them at about 10 p.m. to see if they had suggestions.

They did. Right in front of their house in a very nice neighborhood in Riverside. It’s nice to have so many friends in the Airstream community who are willing to help out.

Then I called my old college buddy Alex, who live in Silicon Valley. I’d been feeling badly about skipping the entire Bay Area and a bunch of good friends. I remembered that Alex’s mother-in-law lived in Riverside, and theorized he and his family might be coming down for Thanksgiving. They were — another lucky break.

All the signs were now clear. We were destined to go to the great Inland Empire of California. So in the morning we packed up and bailed out of the noisy campground (while a news helicopter was slowly circling overhead and a freight train was passing by). Five minutes after we hit the road, our last courtesy parking host David called to say that he’d driven past all the county campgrounds we were considering earlier, and every one was completely full. That was yet another confirmation we’d made the right decision to head east.

Driving across the Los Angeles metroplex can be a harrowing experience, but even more so with a big trailer strapped to your butt. The 120-mile trip from Ventura to Riverside can take two hours, fifteen minutes, or it can take four hours with traffic. We went mid-day in the hopes of avoiding the worst of the traffic, and were amazingly successful.

la-lunch-stop.jpgAbout 3/4 of the way through we made a wrong turn and ended up in a quasi-industrial / Hispanic neighborhood for a few minutes, so we took it as an opportunity to grab some lunch at an authentic taco shop. We’re in southern California so it’s safe to eat Mexican again (no risk of eastern “Mex” food made with spaghetti sauce, or de-spiced for wimpy palates).

When you eat at this sort of place the tacos are always soft, not crunchy, and the fillings don’t resemble anything you get at Taco Bell. They had four types on the menu: asada, langua, cabeza, and pastor, and since we didn’t know what those meant and the girl at the counter couldn’t explain it in English, we just ordered them all. $1.25 each plus an awesome burrito for $3.99. Add in some horchata, a pineapple soda for Emma, and jamaica for Eleanor, and we’ve got lunch.

It turns out that the difference between the four types was considerable, although they all looked similar. The pastor was spicy, the asada was a tasty steak, the langua tasted of fresh green spices, and the cabeza was a bit dull.

If you want to know where to get the best tacos in the Los Angeles area, check out this guy’s taco blog.


We are now parked on the street in front of Don & Gail’s house in Riverside. It is a huge relief from the Ventura campground and the price is right too. We are parked in a “knuckle”, a wide spot on the corner where we will be out of the way for the next couple of nights. Don and Gail will toss us an electric cord later tonight, but otherwise we are going to try to stay out of their way. They just got back last week from a multi-month Airstream trip, and so they are still settling back into their house. I think that’s the hardest part of any trip.

2 Responses to “Karma says: To the inland empire you go!”

  1. Bill Kerfoot Says:


    Cabeza is spanish for head, usually cow. If it was Lingua it is tongue. David and his wife can give you a better translation.

    Have fun in the Great Inland Empire, we are in Danbury, CT headed to NYC for a play tomorrow and the Macy parade on Thursday.


  2. Larry Ko (San Diego) Says:

    Your post has me drooling thinking about the variety of taco delights. Tacos are a form of Antojitos Mexicanos, appetizers served for lunch similar to Tapas. In Mexico City, there antojito restaurants, like there are Chinese dim sum restaurants.

    Al pastor, is marinated pork mounted on a rod with pineapple grilled on a vertical rotissarie. The street vendor slices off the freshly roasted bits of meat with pinapple to assemble soft tacos as they are ordered.

    Rick Bayless’s and Diana Kennedy’s cookbooks are excellent references and the cuisine is one of my favorites.

    I lived in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico for 2 months while taking a specialty course for the treatment of Cerebral Palsy. While there, my meals were provided by a Mexican cook, who introduced me to savory mole and pipian dishes. Mexican cooking has regional styles like the cuisines of China. Likewise, it has been fused to accommodate American regional tastes, as noted in this post. In central Mexico, corn tortillas are heated on a comal (iron plate) and not fried. Frying tortillas is a northern style which is where flour tortillas are more common.

    Thanks for the inspiration. Bill and I now need to run off to a hole-in-the wall Mexican restaurant for lunch.

    Larry “el que informal foodie”