Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, November 18, 2014.
SAN DIEGO – You are probably tired of reading about my golf outings as they seem to have dominated many of these columns recently.
So I will not write of my latest one in Palm Springs. This is a good thing as our foursome was awful. But we had a lot of fun. And getting there brought back memories of Lebanon. On Thursday, we drove out to the desert for two days of the sport.
The trip is between 120 miles to 150 miles depending on where you are headed and what route you take. There are several ways to get to Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta, etc. from the Southwest corner. The most traveled route is Interstate 15 to Interstate 10. The shortest route is over the mountain, but it also can be tortuous if one gets behind a slow and inconsiderate driver, and is somewhat hair raising…if you have hair.
The route I’ve chosen since the late 1980s, is the shorter one, which sometimes resembles Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. After about 75 miles of I-15 eight-lane insanity, there is five miles of traffic in Temecula, once a village surrounded by horse ranches and sod farms. In the early 1990s, developers added water and shopping malls, turning it into a bedroom suburb and boutique wineries.
After that, the route goes through land harboring a few hardy farmers and susceptible to monster flash floods, wildfires, and over six months of unacceptably hot weather. Then, we turn for a grinding climb into Anza, a farming town of 8,000 souls on a mesa 4,000 feet up the hill.
At the intersection of state roads 371 and 74, there is a quaint restaurant. I’m not usually inclined to stop. But Thursday, we reached the Paradise Valley Cafe about lunchtime and decided to try it.
I felt like I had walked into an oater (Grade B western movie for you young readers). The old piano player had been replaced by an old guitar player on the patio singing the blues. A few locals were enjoying the fare, which was surprisingly good. I had the ortega chile tuna melt. Most surprising was the beer selection. In this isolated area, the cafe had a beer list rivaling the most beer snobbish restaurants anywhere. They even had two “breakfast beers.”
It was definitely not like being back home. The lone waitress was curt, but tolerable. The denizens kept to themselves. There was no “How you doing?” “Where you from?” conversation. The Paradise Valley Cafe was established in 1939 by “Pistol Annie,” who earned her name by carrying six shooters on each hip. The establishment has changed owners and its name several times but returned to the original name in the latest ownership change this century. Apparently, Pistol Annie’s attitude has also returned. But the food and music were good.
I left thinking about eateries in Lebanon when I grew up. I recall Maple Hill Court on what was then the Nashville Pike, east of Maple Hill Road. On the “If you grew up in Lebanon” Facebook page, Faye Woodall recalls it was owned by Robert and Ruby Hobbs.
I loved the hamburgers and fries, but the malted milk was my big attraction. I’m pretty sure they didn’t serve anything with ortega chiles involved. Another vivid memory of Maple Hill Court involves pinball machines. On a family outing when I was about ten, my father refused to give me a dime to play the one in the diner. He told me it was a waste of money. He was right. I have a similar idea about video games.
While working at WCOR and attending MTSU, Winfree’s became my favorite. The brick restaurant also was located on the Nashville Pike, now West Main, at the corner of Winwood Drive (I believe). It was originally a hot spot for after church dinners. However, my time at Winfree’s was when it was owned by Clayton and Cathy Birdwell. Several us fondly called them Cat and Birdie. I would go there after closing down the FM station around 10:30. The food was simple. I remember Stuart sandwiches and pizza.
But the beer was cold and there was a shuffle board game against the west wall. I played incessantly., not remembering the warnings of my father.