Well, I’m off to far-off Orange County in the Hyundai Genesis to map out the next Weekend Driver for the San Diego Union-Tribune. I’m hoping there won’t be too much traffic out there, even though Father’s Day will be a great day for dad to hop on the Harley and cruise some of, what I’m told, the best twisty roads in Southern California.

Along the way, I’ll check out the notorious (at least for San Diego county surfers and naturalists) state Route 241, one of Orange County’s toll roads that now ends at Oso Parkway. The Realtors — I mean the good citizens that run Orange County — want to connect it with I-5 at San Onofre, wiping out a few little things like the natural canyon that feeds the Trestles surf spot.

I’m also going to stop in for lunch at Cook’s Corner, one of the classic road houses in America. Looks like a fun route.

So far, the Genesis has been pretty cool … lots of power, great handling, very comfy and classy. Stay tuned.

Here’s a blog entry from my Starlight 2011 trip that I forgot to post. Enjoy.

Thursday, Feb. 10, Seattle

I awoke in Seattle on Feb. 10 to a spectacularly clear day. One of those where the locals run to the Space Needle for lunch, where I was headed. The waiter, before serving my entree of mac and cheese with Dungeous crab, told me the restaurant does about a third more business on days like this.

Beautiful it was. The restaurant, called Sky City, rotates about once every 45 minutes. While dining on the mac and cheese, I was treated to views of the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Rainier, plus Pugit Sound and the city itself. A very pretty place in the sun.

And here’s a tip: it costs about $15 to ride up the elevators to the top. If you eat in the restaurant, the trip is included. So my $25 bill for the mac and cheese and a soft drink was actually $10… a pretty good deal

Backtracking a bit… My day started with a walk up to the retail area of downtown Seattle, home to the flagship Nordstrom store, southern terminus of the yesterday’s-tomorrow monorail to Seattle Center, home of the 1962 Worlds Fair.

While the region has invested in a variety of transit options over the last few years, it’s just now getting around to doing some renovation work on the monorail. It only makes two stops, one downtown, one at the fair site. I’m sure somebody envisioned it being the beginning of a regional transit system back in the ‘60s, but today it’s just a curiosity. The ride was bumpy and creaky, something that’s being fixed on the other track. Of course we all wonder why monorails have never caught on, but after 50 years they wear out just like everything else.

After lunch at the Space Needle and another creeky ride on the monorail, I walked over to the Pike Place Market for a look and was frankly disappointed. Although major renovation work is under way, unless I missed something it’s really now just a tourist trap. Very few of the market stalls are left. In most cases, fresh salmon has been replaced by beaded purses, instant “collectables” and tacky t-shirts. Too bad. Anybody out there ready to say otherwise?

I walked down the long staircase to the waterfront, under Seattle’s waterfront freeway (the Alaska Way, and it might be coming down in the next few years), looking for the old trolley that runs to Pioneer Square, near my hotel. Found out later the trolley quit running in 2005; too bad.

Seems like it might have been a downer day, but I got in a good walk in some brisk but sunny weather.

Dinner was at a great place recommended by the desk clerk at the Marriott Courtyard where I stayed and was just the next block over. Luigi’s Italian Village on the maps is really Luigi’s Cafe Bengoti. A real hole in the wall, about a dozen tables and a kitchen, right on the corner. My gnochi amaricci was wonderful… potato dumplings and bacon in a rich tomato sauce. Where’s the recipe?

After a decent night’s sleep, those of us on the Coast Starlight today awoke to blue skies as we looped around Mt. Shasta. The big rock is covered with snow and glistened in the morning sun. I popped into the dining car to enjoy an early breakfast.

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