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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

Nixon’s favorite Mexican restaurant

February 24, 2024 (Sat)

As we write this on Monday morning, we feel for those poor folks at home in Woodinville, WA. Not only did they lose power yesterday, but today it’s snowing!


8:00 am Dana Point, CA

Harvey is great for traveling, because we don’t ever have to unpack. Everything is there, carefully stowed away and easy-to-hand.


But if we’re staying someplace…well, that’s a challenge, because things need to be gathered from here and there and everywhere. This takes time, we’re tired, so we didn’t even try to move our stuff inside enough to stay at Larry and Lorna’s last night.


We also don’t have electricity this morning and we don’t want to fire up our generator in this quiet neighborhood. So here we are knocking at the door to get in so we can get some coffee.


10:00 am

We are in a place called “Dana Point” (named after the guy who wrote Two Years Before the Mast in 1840 which was made into a movie starring Alan Ladd in 1946—so, swashbuckling!). Dana point is famous for surfing, and both Tom from yesterday and Larry from today surfed until fairly recently (last ten years).


But the big attraction around here in San Juan Capistrano is an old mission founded by the Spanish  back about the time the United States was getting started (late 1700’s). It was Spanish, then Mexican, then private, then American and now a tourist attraction (although they still hold services there).


It was named after St. Giovanni (which is “John” in English and “Juan” in Spanish). Johnny lived in the 1400’s and after spending some time in prison decided to become a priest and preach a message of forgiveness. Then he led a big army and whupped a bunch of Turks (who, since they were not Christian, apparently fell outside the “forgiveness” part of his message). He died from the plague, became a saint, and got this mission named after him.


The mission has been going since it was founded, and although it has fallen on some hard times, it is still very picturesque.


The reason we know all this is that Larry and Lorna are book writers and she has not only published a history of the mission (Jewel of the Missions), with lots of paintings, they have written a mystery series set in San Juan Capistrano in the 19th century. So they know a lot about the area, which means our research consists of drinking coffee and asking questions (our favorite kind of research!).


Larry and Lorna’s author pages

Larry writes science fiction as well as books with Lorna. Here’s his page on Amazon:


Lorna writes mystery novels as well as books with Larry. Here’s her page on Amazon:


4:00 pm Larry & Lorna’s house

The whole reason we are here is that Gini is looking to reconnect with old friends. Back in the last century, Gini and her late husband were very active in the Community Presbyterian Church. Gini was an Elder and Jim was a Deacon. They knew lots of folks.


Since they moved up to Washington, Gini has lost touch with many of these folks. Fortunately for Gini, Lorna is one of those people who stays in touch with everybody so she’s a good person to consult.


Gini has spent the afternoon looking through old church directories and getting updates from Lorna about their life stories. A depressing number of them are dead, but there’s still a bunch of alive folks, who we’ll meet tomorrow when we go to church.


Robert does laundry, which doesn’t involve any quarters!


The house takes up two stories, but because knees wear out faster than other body parts (just ask Gini, who’s sporting two bionic knees), Larry and Lorna have installed a personal lift. It takes one person up one floor and looks very space agey. Although Gini is a bit nervous about riding in it, she soon prefers it to climbing those stairs.

Gini descending in the elevator


After a long day of getting updated about old friends, we decide to head out to a local restaurant and enjoy a live sunset.

Heading out in Larry and Lorna’s Tesla



Day 11 Travel


Our travel on Day 11 (Sat)



February 25, 2024 (Sun)

9:30 am Dana Point, CA

We forgot to mention that one of the big things that happen at San Juan Capistrano is that a bunch of birds always comes back here. Specifically, American Cliff Swallows, but not exactly every year. They missed a bunch of years because they couldn’t find it (really—they nest on the highest places around and the mission was no longer the highest place).


The city embarked on an effort to get them back by using swallow calls (“Hey, big bird, we got some prime real estate for you!”) and by building subsidized bird nests. The swallows bought in and the celebrations continue. There’s a parade and a festival. The parade holds the title of being the longest-running and largest non-motorized parade west of the Mississippi.


It happens on March 19, so with any luck we might be able to swing by on our way home and see it.


Anyway, we’re off to church this morning!


10:00 am Community Presbyterian Church

We’re at church and Lorna estimates that Gini probably knows about a third of the folks here. Like most mainstream churches, this church has a mostly older population now. Only a couple of young’uns and they are running the live video feed.

Gini in front of the church


It’s a good service, with lots of music and Gini chats with folks after the service.


Lorna, Larry, and Gini


Noon Larry & Lorna’s house

Now for the big event. Lorna has arranged for a bunch of folks who remember Gini (and she’s hard to forget!) to come over for lunch and there’s a lot of talking and reminiscing and remembering and everybody seems to have a good time.


There’s a lot of food, which keeps Robert happy, even though he has no idea what most of the conversation is about. Firefighter Tom (the one-legged guy from a couple of days ago) shows up and regales everybody with some tales and a good time is had by all.

Gathered around the table


6:00 pm Olamendi’s Mexican Restaurant

Gini has a hankering for tacos so we head out to a local Mexican Restaurant that’s a favorite of Larry & Lorna’s. The décor is pretty amazing, as apparently the owner likes to collect unusual things and he’s got a restaurant in which to display them!

Skeletons having a good time at Olamendi’s


Robert notices a lot of pictures of Richard Nixon on the walls. It turns out that this very restaurant was Nixon’s most favorite restaurant in the whole world.


One of the many photos of Tricky Dick


Robert especially likes the five foot statue of a guy smoking a joint (“It’s a cigar,” says Larry). Good décor.

Joint or cigar? You decide!



Day 12 Travel

Our travel on Day 12 (Sun)


Gini & Robert                                                                                

Harvey Staff


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