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Harris Ranch

Merced, California:  Fellow travelers have been telling us for years about Harris Ranch. A popular stop along I-5, Harris Ranch is a massive steakhouse, bar, hotel, gift shop and fuel stop. No car or RV? No problem - they also have a small landing strip for your plane. They allow RVs to dry-camp overnight for the price of a meal in the restaurant.

We left pretty Paso Robles early this morning, headed west to I-5, parked with the truckers by the card-lock fueling area and walked over to the restaurant for breakfast/brunch/lunch.

They were smoking meats in the parking lot.

And they had a crack security team guarding the beef.

Inside the massive building, Harris Ranch has a gift shop and several meat counters. The clerks will package up your selections in ice packets for the trip to your refrigerator.

We were soon seated in the cavernous dining room. I think times have changed too much for this old lady. When Dave's parents would visit Harris Ranch, people dressed up. It was an occasion. Today we dined with men in tank tops and baseball hats. One dude was having a cell phone conversation - in speaker mode. "Dined" is the wrong word to use in this situation. Don't even get me started on paper napkins on the table for a $40 steak.

DT ordered breakfast - ground sirloin steak (hamburger!) with three eggs and hash browns:

He said it was good, but his three eggs only had two yolks. I ordered one of their specialties - The Wedgie - a wedge salad with a coffee-sage-rubbed ribeye steak:

The salad was odd that I had to assemble it myownself and the steak had no coffee-sage flavor that I could decipher at all. In any way. I even asked my server if this was, indeed, a coffee-sage-rubbed steak and she said yes. I ate my salad, but the steak was just too much.

Looking back on our dining experience, I realize we have been spoiled by grass-fed beef and should know better than to drive past miles and miles of massive feed lots filled with cows being fattened up, then stop for a steak. Shame on me. Harris Ranch is nothing more than a Cracker Barrel on crack steroids.

Oh boy, am I going to hear from y'all on this subject!

Things did not improve after brunch. This section of I-5 is in terrible shape. It seems the layer of asphalt is slowly chipping away from the cement layer below.

While annoying in a car, these road conditions cause a motorhome to shake and rattle like crazy. Five seconds after snapping this photo, we heard a crash from the back of our motorhome.

The ceiling light above the dining table has wiggled its way off of the ceiling mount and fell down to the table below. How it did not break, I will never understand but am very grateful. Dave pulled over at the next exit and reattached the lamp - and it still works. Fix the roads!

Oh boy, am I going to hear from y'all on this subject!

At least we enjoyed a fun evening with family. Dave's Mom has returned to her hometown of Merced after living several years in Wyoming. She needs more care now and the high elevations in Wyoming did not help her health in any way. Brother Billy and Ginger had the family to dinner. Mom does not want her photo taken, but she looked great. They roasted chicken, made mushroom risotto, steamed broccoli and served a lovely tossed salad.

Butter lettuce, tomatoes and avocados

Roast chicken - smothered in herbs from Ginger's garden

After returning to the motorhome, we watched the final show the fabulous Mad Men series. Dang, after watching Don Draper's cartoon body fall during the opening credits all these years, I thought for sure he was going to jump to his death off a cliff into the Pacific. Happy I was wrong. The ending was genius.

Oh boy, am I going to hear from y'all on this subject!

We will be here for several days visiting family. Until my next update from the road, I remain, your Merced correspondent.

RV PARK:  Castle Air Museum - The only place to stay near Merced. 6 back-in spaces with full hookups and 50 amp. Dump station. No cable, no wifi, no bathhouse. $25 the first night, $20 per night after, with a 4-night maximum stay. And, really, no one wants to spend more than four nights in Merced.