C2C Day 20: Swinging Ribeye July 21, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: Arizona, biker, Coast to Coast, Harley, Mexican Hat, motorcycle, Ribeye, Rides, steak, Utah
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Some time ago I watched a miniseries on the Food Network called Feasting on Asphalt, where the host, Alton Brown rode his motorcycle across America eating only “road food “- i.e. dining only on that which one finds in the little local roadside cafes, diners, and dives. He had two rules: Avoid the interstates where possible, and absolutely no chain restaurants. The show is really quite inspirational both from a biker and “foodie” point of view. In the first series he went to three places that I vowed I would as well: B&R Old Fashioned hamburgers in Hawthorne, CA; Dino’s Dogs also in Hawthorne, and the Mexican Hat Lodge in Mexican Hat, UT. I had gone to the first two on business trips to Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, CA during the development of the LCROSS spacecraft. …but that is another story. This one deals with the Mexican Hat Lodge’s Swinging Ribeye.
I was quite lucky bedding down in Kanab the day before. The weather in the entire area turned quite nasty for riding and I managed to get a lot of work done on the blog. That evening, I enjoyed a nice cesar salad, ribeye, and a couple of glasses of wine at their at the Rocking V there in Kanab (I recommend it.)
Having started the trend of departing early to beat the heat, I stood to arrive at Mexican Hat quite early. I packed the bike and left Kanab, UT via US-89 to Page, AZ. It was a very pleasant morning ride with great scenary. Lake Powell seemed starkly (but beautifully) desolate. There were housing developments going up there, and while I found the scenery quite lovely to look at, the whole aura of the place has a harshness that would preclude me from building a house to live there. Lake Powell is formed by the Glen Canyon Dam which is crossed by US-89. Crossing over and seeing the resulting canyon was really amazing. Sheer red walls to the Colorado River far far below. I was very impressed (again).
I got off US-89 to enter Page to find gas and coffee. The town is not that old, established in 1957. I rather liked it. It is a well proportioned blend of city convenience, country friendliness, and rustic scenery. I would like to go back and spend more time there.
Standing out in front of the Circle K while drinking my morning coffee, my bike caught the attention of a gentleman who asked me about my trip. We chatted for a while. Orginally from Alabama, he and his wife rode around the countryside the on his Harley for eight years until she developed MS. She started having trouble with the heat, and getting on and off the bike. When he would start the engine, tears would come to her eyes at the thought of him being on the road without her. So he sold the bike, and bought her a convertible: their “Harley with a windshield”. He stood staring at my bike as he spoke. We wished me well and advised that I keep riding for as long as I can.
I went back to US-89 south to pick up SR-98 crossing into the Navajo Indian Reservation. The road that early morning was very desolate, the kind of conditions I love to ride. The scenery continued to wow me with so many beautiful erosion-induced rock formations, mesas, ravines, and washes.
On SR-98, I happend upon another biker (Jim) coming the opposite direction who was just pulling over to the shoulder looking back at the road behind him as if something had fallen off… something vital had. I pulled over and asked if he needed assistance. He had lost his cup… a special cup for his Capt’ Morgan and water that he carries with him. Figuring there was little I could do about that, other than keep my eyes peeled, I wished him good luck and continued on scanning the road. Until about a mile up, I saw a steel cylinder lying in the middle of the road. I pulled over and picked up the cup just as Jim was coming up behind. He stopped his bike and we got to talking about our trips. Jim had been laid off a while back and decided now was the time for a big trip. Dipping into his 401k, he was travelling a western states route meeting up with friends along the way. Monterey, CA was on his agenda, so I told him about the CA-1 ride a few days earlier. We talked for a while longer and went our separate ways.
I picked up US-160 to US-163 which head back into Utah. The scenary was nice: wide open spaces with large mesas and rock formations in the distance. I approached Monument Valley; the road seemed to be guarded by two memorable formations. On the right Agathia Peak rising powerfully and majestically up from the plain. On the left, Owl Rock perched upon a ridge (though to me, at certain angles, it looked oddly like the bassett hound god). Riding closer, more mesas and formations reached from the earth. While very impressive, the distance lacked the intimacy I had experienced at Zion National Park. I started up the road to the park entrance, but slowed and turned back feeling that given the distances, even the park view would not be much better than that from the road.
I continued up US-163 to Mexican Hat, a tiny little town on the San Juan river named after a nearby rock formation. As you may have seen from my earlier megatweet, I had arranged to stay in the Lodge TeePee thinking that was pretty much all that was available. I was warned that the TeePee was not particularly comfortable in the heat, and the heat was coming on as I arrived in early afternoon. It had no shower or bathroom, though there was a campground shower/bathroom available. But one of the biggest drawbacks was no wifi, and I had an afternoon free to work on the blog.
I still regret the the decision to cancel the TeePee. I ended up in the San Juan motel by the river. Small but comfortable, and I managed to crank out three days worth of blog articles that afternoon… So I guess it was good in the practical sense, but I still kind of rue the decision.
The Mexican Hat Lodge was open for steaks at 6:oopm, so I worked on the blogs, got a shower and rode over. It was better than I remembered in the show. It was outdoor dining with the tables set up in a small patio where the infamous grill was set: a long metal box housing the wood fire, and over it, a large rectanguler grill swinging lazily back and forth over the flames. The setup is great and allowing great conversation with the owner as he is cooking. I talked with him for quite a while, a really amicable gentleman. I identified myself as the guy that backed out of the TeePee – he had no problem at all, and rented it soon after I cancelled. (Mexican Hat was packed) I told him my story of seeing him on the Food Network and planning my return ride around this steak. We talked for a while about flame cooking and steaks (how each individual steak has its own personality) and a little about country music.
As the story goes, years ago he ran out of coals to cook the steaks and was forced to cook with wood. But cooking over an open flame was so time intensive to avoid overooking, that he didn’t have time to tend the wood and fire. So, he rigged up the swing to keep the steaks in a constant flame-kissed state without burning up. Personally I love the taste of meat kissed by wood or charcoal flame much better than the radiant heat of coals or especially gas. So this was a dream come true for me.
The menu was focused on the meat. An 18 ounce Ribeye, a 12 ounce New York Strip, an 8 ounce burger (I think there was chicken in there as well)… For sides: beans and salad with the house dressing. That’s it… no other veggies or substitutions. Clear, simple, and carnivorous. The meal is served on one of those hot metal plates. The metal plates are kept in the top on an antique wood burning stove. When the steak is ready, a plate is pulled from the stove and a ladle of beans is added with a hiss. The salad is place in the middle right on top of the bean spillover, and the steak added at the end.
The steak was excellent. My preferred preperation is charred medium rare, which is quite difficult to do with a cut as thick as 18 ounce. Mine still had a bit of “moo” in the middle, but he had no problems at all with throwing the middle back on for a little while essentially creating two great meals for me with a little break in between.
Though the band wasn’t playing that night, I spoke with the band leader (who I think is the owner’s father). Ialso had a great conversation and chance to practice speaking German with a charming mother/daughter travelling team from northern Germany who were touring the western US before heading on a New York shopping spree.
With my stomach full, I made a fairly early evening of it, again figuring to rise early to beat the heat, but stayed up quite a bit later than I planned adding photos to the blog… at least I got caught up a bit, justifying the TeePee for wifi trade… Maybe??