On the Town with Jason Downs

| Entertainment | December 5, 2019

Greetings fellow Santa Claritans, and welcome to a column that’s all about having fun around town! This was a week of Thanksgiving and travel for a lot of us…so, let’s commiserate, shall we?

Here’s what I got up to: A long line at the Food Pantry in Newhall, a longer line on the way to Big Bear and lots of amazing food in between!

It’s a time for giving thanks and a time for just plain ol’ giving…and I, for one, have a lot to give thanks for, my friends. I have amazing children for one. On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving I took my two kids, my nephew and one of their school friends to the Food Pantry in Newhall where the The Rotary Club of Santa Clarita was giving away 300 turkeys to those in need this holiday. As a proud member of the club myself, I had signed up to help hand them out. They were thrilled to have my kids along as well. We went to work unloading all the frozen birds as hundreds of folks waited in a long line that disappeared around the corner.

We put the turkeys in bags that included some other Thanksgiving necessities and then began handing them out one by one. My kids took turns heaving over a very large turkey to each of the folks that stepped up. “Happy Thanksgiving,” they’d say with a smile, always getting the same sentiment in return. At the end of all the hustle and bustle, each of the kids I’d brought walked away feeling a sense of pride. I often include them in volunteer work but they continue to seem surprised that it can be so much fun and make them feel so good. They are learning how important it is to look your neighbors in the eye and lend a hand when needed. What better lesson for kids on Thanksgiving? I was proud of them and proud to be a part of the Rotary Club who’s out there doing what we can to make a difference in this great community.

Then we went to work cooking up our own feast for the extended family on the big day. It was my wife at the helm and the rest of us her sous chefs. She’s a marvelous cook and we got to indulge in all the favorites including broccoli cornbread and the star of the evening (aside from the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes), mouthwatering butternut squash soup. Ooooh, mama.


After a lovely Thanksgiving, we jumped in the car on Friday to head up to Big Bear. Yes, we knew there was a winter storm that dumped two and a half feet of snow on the area the day before, but we had made reservations the previous year (we enjoyed our last visit immensely) and there was no course for a refund so off we went. Apparently, half of Southern California was in the same predicament because it was a looooooong crawl, my friends. The only route that hadn’t been closed by the storm was the north eastern passage through Palmdale, Victorville, and the Lucerne Valley…and that is where we spent the next twenty-eight hours. We got all the way to within fifteen miles of Big Bear, essentially the base of the mountains in Lucerne, when traffic simply stopped. After sitting completely still for over an hour we were finally informed that the road had been closed due to an accident involving an eighteen-wheeler and an RV. Sounded bad, so we got a room nearby.

The next morning we set out and joined the long line of cars at the base of the mountain once again…a mere fifteen miles from our destination. Seven hours later, we finally arrived. (All I can say is, thank goodness we had The Da Vinci Code audiobook to listen to.) Twice we were stopped for so long I was able to take a nap at the wheel! My son periodically walked along beside us and built snowmen on the embankments. Other families piled their kids out of the car, bundled up like mini marshmallows, and pulled them along in snow sleds to pass the time. Bathroom breaks had folks one after the other skipping for nearby trees and bushes.

And never once did anyone in my family complain…other than myself. If they had not all been so set on spending time in Big Bear I would’ve turned around. But no, they were determined, and therefore I was determined.

After the first four hours of inching forward at an average of 2mph, we learned that snow chains were the entire reason for the hold up. We knew snow chains were “required” so I had a pair in the car just in case, but having spent forty years back east dealing with snow and ice (and never once using chains) I felt confident we should wait until the last minute to see if they really were necessary. And they were absolutely not. Turned out they were not only unnecessary but also a huge hinderance. For those folks who put the snow chains on, going up a steep mountain on which the roads were perfectly dry and clear, the chains actually gave them LESS traction. Cars were spinning their wheels until their frustrated drivers had to pull over a second time to take the chains off!

Having said all that, we still had a wonderful time. Once we arrived we ate at an incredible Mexican restaurant called El Jacinto…perhaps not eating the entire day had something to do with it, but I’ve never enjoyed an enchilada more! The next day we ate at Fire Rock Burgers and Brews and man, oh man, did it hit the spot! I ordered something called ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ and I was down for the count, friends. It was nothing short of transcendent! A reimagining of chicken parmesan, it had fried mozzarella sticks on top of the chicken, then marinara, then mozzarella, then arugula! Man, oh man! And the beer-battered fries were out of this world, to boot! The Fire Rock decor is old school rock ‘n’ roll and the owner has a real penchant for clever design. Light fixtures were made out of dangling vintage microphones and old cymbals, trash receptacles were made of glittering drum sets, and most notably, the beer tap was made out of a huge amplifier whose knobs had been replaced with brass spigots. So cool!
And let me ask you this: Have you ever had a frozen chocolate-covered Twinkie? Well the ingenious folks at North Pole Fudge have invented a crowd favorite with this masterpiece! I was mesmerized by the delectable process pictured below.

As you can see, even after the ordeal it took to arrive, Big Bear delivered in a big way for us and we didn’t regret a single moment. We’ll be back again next year!

Stunning view of Big Bear Lake from our room, icicles and all!

So, there it is for this week, friends. Always feel free to let me know what you like doing around town so I can check it out and write it up. (reachjasondowns@santaclaritagazette.com)

Until next time, bon voyage, break a leg, and bon appetit!

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One Response to “On the Town with Jason Downs”

  1. Excellent details and account of the holiday weekend, Jason. No chains ever while living back east? Really.

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