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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Meal-time trip down memory lane

We recently said goodbye to an old friend, a farewell full of sweet and savory memories.

Our trusty picnic tablecloth had been with us from the get-go, adding a touch of home to the campsites. This non-descript beige covering also became a record of the meals we’d enjoyed in memorable settings, sometimes in the company of friends and family.

Early on, we started writing the menu from our meals on the tablecloth along with the name of the campground or park, sometimes even the number of the site if it was a standout. Since the tradition began in 2018, some of those Sharpie scrawlings have faded like the paint on a weathered porch. No big deal, we just wrote fresh entries over the old.

Hope you don’t mind a meal-time trip down memory lane. Here are some the top meals we’ve logged over the past few years of Our Grand Tour:

Pork chops and grilled sweet potatoes at Arches National Park, 10/16/2018. Talk about a stunning setting, tucked up against the red rocks, we wolfed down some chops that had been seasoned with rub from the legendary Rendezvous Barbecue in Memphis. Leslie has a bin dedicated to interesting spices in the mobile pantry for on-the-fly inspiration.

Avocado toast party at Dockweiler Beach, El Segundo, Calif., 2/21/2020.  Under the roar of jets taking off from LAX, we welcomed family for brunch. We didn’t know it then, but it would be our last gathering before the pandemic changed everything. Leslie’s sister, Laurel, and niece, Aurora, were good sports about the noise because we fed them well. A refreshing jump in the Pacific -- steps away from our site -- followed the meal. 

Taco Tuesday at Happy Traveler RV Park, Palm Springs, 1/7/2020. Johnny’s BFF from Santa Monica High School and his significant other stopped by for a spicy feast while we were hanging in SoCal. Kathy took on the task of recording the meal, documenting it crossword puzzle style. She takes the cake for most creative scribbler.

Lockdown feast at Rancho Sedona, April 2020. This long list covering a two-week period is heavy on the comfort food because that’s when we were kind of freaking out wondering if and when we were going to come back home to the Northwest as COVID-19 was hitting the state hard. We chewed over various scenarios while eating shrimp and grits, gumbo, Thai curry salmon, chili rellanoes and pasta tossed with sauteed greens and local beans. By the end of the month, we were back at home base.

Breakfast with friends at Sunset Beach State Park, Coos Bay, Ore., 10/1/2020. We loved visiting with Spokane-based chef Anna Vogel and her partner, Bethe Bowman, on a cool fall morning after bumping into them at this lovely state park. Leslie flipped some oat flour flapjacks and served them alongside Benton’s bacon, sent cross country by dear friend -- and former Spokesman-Review colleague -- Ken Sands. “Dessert” was homemade rhubarb chutney-smothered burrata cheese, which was Leslie’s attempt to impress the chef who crushes it at Italia Trattoria. It must have worked because the plate was clean by the end of the meal.

We probably would have kept on truckin’ with this slightly worn out covering, but one afternoon while staying at Deception Pass State Park, a hungry chipmunk chewed up a section of the tablecloth.

Oh, well. We turned the page with a fresh new tablecloth, already emblazoned with some pretty important inscriptions. After celebrating a milestone birthday -- welcome to the Medicare years, Johnny! -- the special meal was written down by the person feted: Shrimp cocktail, grilled salmon, roasted potatoes, Caesar salad and strawberry-rhubarb pie for the final course. The bar has been set pretty high for future birthday bashes.

Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.