April 28th, 2020

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April QuickThrottle Column

This whole pandemic thing, in addition to being very trying, has delayed a few things, including the publication of my column. I just got the April issue yesterday. And the publisher has decided to combine May and June's issues into one. It's not easy to write about riding away on motorcycle when one CAN'T exactly ride away on a motorcyle. One thing I love doing is riding somewhere for a good bite to eat -- which is what the April (now nearly May) column was all about...
As I write this month’s column I’m recovering from a bit of oral surgery.  Way back when I was a poor college student I could only afford to go to a lousy but very cheap dentist who graduated from some third world dental college. He did a really crappy job fixing two back molars, and for the last 25 years my current dentist has been trying to undo his handiwork and save those teeth.  We’ve finally given up and decided to have them yanked out, and some bone grafted in and eventually implant some new teeth.  I’m now subsisting on smoothies and protein shakes that friends are kind enough to bring me while I rest the left side of my face on an ice pack laying on my couch watching bad TV.


Meanwhile I’m both grumpy and hungry for chewable food.  Not that I need chewable food mind you – hell I might even lose a little weight (though I suspect I’m the only guy who could get stranded on a desert island, starve to death, and weigh more than when he got there).   The point of all this food talk however is that a neighbor biker buddy posted on Facebook that he was getting a burger at a local tavern called Dillon's Roadhouse that also happens to be one of the oldest building in Desert Hot Springs. They have a great lunch special of a cheeseburger and fries for $5.95.  It thought about throwing a brick at him, but hey it’s not his fault. Now I love me a good burger, and here in my winter home in the desert there’s plenty of little dives where one can ride for some good food.


And who needs an excuse to go for a ride to get something to eat, certainly not me. Lord knows we bikers love to eat. I’ve often heard the Harley motto of Live To Ride, Ride to Live modified to Live to Ride, Ride to Eat.   So, as I’m cursing my buddy out in my head, I’m also secretly plotting a ride as soon as I’m feeling well and able to chew.   And it reminded me of a debate – errrr discussion -- I had with some friends about which burger place was better.  Someone said; “remember nothing beats a Whataburger”. Other friends are fans of Sonic, and those of us who’ve ridden or spent time in Cali love In-N-Out.   To which I had to reply, “In-N-Out is better than Whataburger, but it’s moot up there in Western WA there is nary a Sonic or Whataburger or an In-N-Out to be found.”   What’s more there isn’t a Steak ‘N Shake either, or a White Castle – regional chains that most iron butts know about. One thing I love about living in the desert is access to In-N-Out as well as Steak and Shake, but I digress...

Burger joints are my thing I have to confess.  You might as well call me “Wimpy” after the Popeye character who would “gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today”.   It’s a “comfort food” for me too, and feeling sick as I do now, I’m craving some comfort food.  I’m so tired of fruit smoothies.  It looks like Carmen Miranda’s hat landed in my blender and on my countertop.
There’s nothing more filling or satisfying to me than a great burger after a ride on a scoot, be it a few miles from my house, or after a long day of riding on a major cross-country trip.   And although all the places I mentioned in the “debate” above are “fast food”, and pretty good, nothing beats a good burger at a small traditional drive in.  I used to have a hand signal that folks riding with me knew.  When someone would signal time for a food break, I’d make a swirl motion above my helmet, signifying to look for an old fashioned drive in with a giant swirly vanilla soft-serve ice cream cone on top.  That’s one of the sure signs of a great burger place.

In the thousands of miles I’ve traveled back and forth across the country on the bike as well as behind the wheel, I’ve found more than a few great little burger joints.  You know the type – places that you return to time and time again, usually on the bike either as a destination to ride to, or as a stop along the way.  And more often than not they’ll have a giant soft swirly vanilla cone, or maybe a revolving frosty mug for a sign or logo.

So, in celebration of the start of spring and riding season I present – in no particular order – my list of favorite Northwest non-franchise/chain burger joints worth a ride to on the scoot when hungry once this whole Corona Virus thing is over:  Big Bubba’s, Alyn, WA.  XXX Drive In, Issaquah, WA.  Miner’s Drive Inn, Yakima, WA.  Frisko-Freeze, Tacoma, WA. Hudson’s Hamburgers, Coeur d’Alene, ID. And last but not least, Dandy’s Drive Inn, Bend, OR. And I’m still in mourning for the loss of Norma’s in Olympia which closed earlier this year, and the classic Pick Quick on old US-99 (Pac Highway) in Tacoma which will be closing for a Sound Transit light rail project after serving folks since 1949!

Yes, this is a totally subjective list, and you may or may not agree with me with some or all of my list.  It’s not important.  What’s important is that you head out and enjoy one for me (for me I said, not on me), since unless I can run one through my juice machine, I’m not having one for a while.


Gary can be reached at roadsigns@comcast.net and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com or http://www.grgardner.com
  • Current Mood
    cranky cranky