Eggs Benedict Done Right Nichols West Restaurant A Congress Brightspot

My favorite thing for breakfast is Eggs Benedict. It’s an indulgence that I refuse to give up even though I know that plate full of calories and cholesterol is trying to kill me. By no means am I a traditionalist. I like all the varietals. I’ve tried the Californian with turkey and avocado, the Florentine with spinach, a crab cake version, and one made with salmon. The most exotic and memorable Benedict I’ve ever had was when Jeff and I stopped in Santa Cruz on the homeward bound leg of our infamous San Francisco trip. I believe it was in the Walnut Avenue Café that I ordered Blackened Ahi Tuna Benedict. I don’t know why I’ve never been back. The peppery tuna and lemon creaminess of the sauce was one of the best things I have ever eaten.

I have a version that I make when I’m in the mood to struggle with egg poaching. I substitute a nice thick ham slice instead of the usual Canadian bacon and I replace the Hollandaise with Béarnaise because I enjoy the tarragon and vinegar sauce even more. I call my version Eggs Better-dict.

Eggs Benedict at Nichols West
Craft paper replaces white tablecloths at Nichols West and they make the best Eggs Benedict.

One of the best things about living in Congress is that we have a local restaurant that really doesn’t belong here. A couple blocks west of US 89 on State Route 71 is a small café named Nichols West. It would be in the heart of downtown if Congress had a downtown. The cream-colored building with its star jasmine-covered façade houses a bar and restaurant that seats—at best—fifty people. Simon ­­­Smith—a British transplant—is the proprietor of this American Restaurant and over the last decade, he has built up a large and very loyal clientage here by having a varied menu, serving fresh ingredients, and being open year round. That’s an important part of being able to keep good staff.

As expected from a diner like this, the prices—although reasonable—prevent us—as retieries—from having dinner there every night. However, they’re open for breakfast every morning at eight, and one of the best deals on the breakfast menu is the Eggs Benedict, starting at under $10.00. I say starting because they have a half-dozen versions including a Country Benedict (biscuits and gravy in place of the good stuff). The sauce is the key to making this meal great. Anyone can slap egg yolks and lemons together, but here it’s bright without being too lemony. I don’t recall having a better Hollandaise, and so I’ll put it up against the best in Arizona.

Nichols West In Congress Arizona
Nichols West is a small restaurant that has unexpectedly good food for such a small town.

Out here in Podunk-Ville, we live without a lot of amenities, like sidewalks, stop lights, bike lanes, and indoor toilets. But a great restaurant isn’t one of the missing. That’s why on trash days when Queen Anne and I are heading home from the dump, we’ll most likely be stopping off at Nichols West for breakfast.

Until next time – jw

Stanton Street Picture of the Week

This week’s new image shouldn’t be a surprise. I sort of previewed it in the last post. It is the row of houses that I took while visiting the ghost town of Stanton last week. If you missed the post you can scroll down to learn more about the gold and the shady characters that lived there. Maybe not as exciting as it was, Stanton, is now an RV Park where baby boomers like me can spend their vacations panning for gold.

Stanton Homes
Stanton Homes – Only three houses have survived the years of abandonment. They line a street surrounded by campers.

It was late in the day when I finally got to Stanton and the light was low with long shadows. I had watched the sky during the day thinking I may not go because it was gray and uninteresting, but in the afternoon, the clouds broke up into puffy finger-like shapes with a good light underneath. I started shooting the front buildings first, frankly because of the old signs on them, and when I satisfied myself that I had got what I wanted, I walked up the dirt street where this row of homes is. I loved the soft light falling on the white-washed buildings. The light wasn’t too harsh that it blocked up the shadows, yet it still showed off the building’s dimensions. Because the sky was so striking, I backed off from the homes to include the clouds. I think this shot came off as more than a house picture. I see it as a specific instant of time when the light was weird and the clouds were right. I’m very happy with it.

I named this shot Stanton Street and now you can see a larger version of it on my Website by clicking here. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below and don’t be bashful about clicking on the Like button if you enjoy what we’re doing.

Until next time — jw

Stanton—The Outlaw Ghost Town Under Yavapai Skies

My lovely bride abandoned me for a couple of days to get her annual check-up at a beauty spa on the Arizona Rivera—Lake Havasu City. Before she climbed into her friend—Yasmeen’s—car, she turned to me and with a pointed finger and sternly said, “I have two words for you. Be – have!” Well … that sounded like a challenge to me, so I began thinking about what kind of trouble I could get into. I was in the mood for a photography outing and I hadn’t been to Stanton since Fred and I got lost, so I tossed my gear into the truck and set off to get some new photos.

Hotel Stanton
Hotel Stanton – During the Summer of Love, hippies moved in and set up a commune. Unfortunately, they tore down many of the old buildings for firewood. LDMA has slowly repaired the remaining structures since acquiring the town in 1976.

Stanton is one of the many towns in mountainous Yavapai County (rhymes with have-a-pie) where, because someone discovered gold, a town sprung up overnight and disappeared just as quickly when the ore played out. It was little more than a stagecoach stop on the Wickenburg-Prescott road at  Antelope Creek until a tracker named Alvaro chased an errant burro to the top of what is now Rich Hill. When he got back to camp and told the expedition leader—Pauline Weaver—about finding gold nuggets “the size of potatoes” on the summit, you can surely guess what happened next.

Opera House
Opera House – The Opera House is an adobe building with a brick façade. It’s now used as a meeting hall for the RV Park.

The town—known at the time as Antelope Station—got its name from an unscrupulous character named Chuck Stanton who moved to the thriving community several years later. Stanton opened a store and, with the help of his hired banditos, killed off his competition. His reign didn’t last very long as he was shot and killed that same year (living with swords, I guess). The town thrived afterward for several decades but it had a bad reputation. “In 1892, for example, a Prescott newspaper reported that the residents of Stanton liked to ‘drink blood, eat fried rattlesnakes and fight mountain lions’” (Wikipedia). By 1905 the gold ran out and Stanton was abandoned.

Stanton Homes
Stanton Homes – Only three houses have survived the years of abandonment. They line a street surrounded by campers.

Ownership has changed several times since then and now it belongs to Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association (LMDA) and they have turned it into a member’s only RV Park. Membership is kind of pricey but LDMA has methodically bought up mining claims in the area and its members can work those old claims without charge. It’s surprising how many people will pay good money to play in the dirt—I don’t even like to plant flowers. Guests are allowed to visit but they first have to stop by the office and sign a release.

After my visit this week, I drove further down the road to the old Octave and Weaver mine sites and saw people on either side of the road prospecting. Late in the day, I stopped to take a photo along the roadside at quitting time when several trucks pulled out of a side road. They all slowed and waved and one of the men stopped to ask if I was getting some good shots. I asked him how his day went.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Did you make a fortune today,” I explained.

He laughed and replied, “Only the boss makes any money.”

“I see.”

Then he started telling an old joke, “Do you know how to make a small fortune in placer mining?”

“Yeah, you start with a big fortune,” I responded.

With that, he laughed and drove off in a big trail of dust.

Until next time — jw

Saguaro Station Picture of the Week

This week’s new photograph wasn’t taken in Aguila for a change. I took it on the way home from my outing there. This is the second version I’ve taken of an abandoned service station at the Arizona Route 71 and US Highway 93 intersection. My first shot of this place—called Station 71—was before sunrise in November 2015. When I stopped this time, the sun was setting and I thought the stately saguaro added to the story of this old building. This version—called Saguaro Station—can be seen on my Website here.

Saguaro Station
Saguaro Station – An abandoned service station in the late afternoon sun along US 93 near Congress, Arizona.

I actually travel through this intersection often, and when I do, I try to stop and look for new angles. Usually, the light isn’t right or nothing interesting jumps out, but this day the beautiful light on the building’s graffiti-covered end-wall forced me to drag the tripod out of the car. The failing light also shows off the saguaro’s pleats.

The next time I stop, I should try to find what gas station brand this was. The gas signs are gone—no doubt scavenged by collectors—but maybe there’s a clue hidden inside the building among the tarantulas and rattlesnakes. In the next couple of years, this intersection going to be an exit for the new Interstate 11—replacing US 93 for traffic between Phoenix and Las Vegas. City planners expect the new highway to bring growth to this area and there’s talk of a Wal-Mart planned for this intersection. Ironically, that traffic would support a new gas station in this spot.

I hope you enjoy seeing this new photo and let me know what you think in the comments. Which version do you prefer? If you enjoy this post, please click the like button below.

Until next time—jw

Organizing Photography Files Photography Tips

I’ve been helping my local photo club conduct weekly photo sessions for the last couple of months. The classes were well attended and the feedback that we got was positive. We tried our best to keep to the basics so we wouldn’t lose anyone. After all, our attendees weren’t there to learn photo-stitching; they just wanted to take better photos with their phones and I think we did well.

Hanging Files of Slides
Slide Drawer – Years of 35mm slides in hanging files stored in basic categories.

That wasn’t always the case. Sometimes the students asked questions about advanced concepts. One question we heard was how to organize their photos to make them easier to find. It’s a topic I’ve been dealing with ever since I got my first box of slides back from the lab. Since there isn’t a right way to store photos, I thought that I’d share my system with you. Maybe that will help with your organization, or perhaps you have a better system and you’ll share your ideas with us in the comments.

As I said, there isn’t a perfect system for organizing photographs. The best you can do is to create a system that you can efficiently retrieve the item that you want without having to go through them one-by-one. Since we don’t all think the same way, what works for me may be cumbersome for you, so feel free to make your own tweaks.

The first step in organizing photos is giving them meaningful names. If you’re a cyborg and the camera generated file name triggers your memory, you could just use those names. For me, a file name like “_DSC6658.AWR” doesn’t mean anything, so it doesn’t work. For example, consider this week’s picture. When I look at it I see a local mountain south of Wickenburg. Fortunately, by looking on a map, I found that it has a name; Black Butte. Since this is the first time I shot it, I used that as the title. If I shoot this mountain again, I’ll add a descriptor to the title; like Black Butte 2019 or Snow on Black Butte. Something that reminds me of what I saw that made me take another shot. When I save that file on my hard drive, I could file it in a folder called Photos, but I have several thousand files like it. That would be like putting all of them in a bucket. If I forgot its name, I would have to look through all of them before I found it. That’s not acceptable.

Early on in my photo career, I quickly learned that I could file things by categories. Three of them to be exact: People, Places, and Things. If I knew what I was looking for, I only needed to root around in the correct pile and ignore the others. As my catalog grew, I found that I shot in certain locations often so I’d add sub-categories, like Arizona. In Arizona, I liked to go to the Grand Canyon, so I made another subfolder for it. That’s how my filing system grew; one group at a time. The Things folder has folders for things on wheels, another for buildings, aircraft, food, and so on. If I find that I have more than two dozen photos of a subject, I make a new subcategory.

It didn’t stop there because even then, I was searching through too many files, so in those cases, I sub-divided them again by year. For example, we visited New Zealand five times and so in the New Zealand directory, I have a folder for each year that we went. I’ve followed this logic—unintentionally—in laying out my Website. On the Project Index page, you’ll see that I have a link to Arizona Landscapes, but there are also projects for the Grand Canyon and the Sonoran Desert. Perhaps I should organize those like my file system and move them inside the Arizona project to keep everything uniform.

That’s how my system works and it allows me to quickly retrieve a photo that I’m looking for. I hope that I’ve given you an idea of something that you can do with your photos. I’ve found that if you don’t have a management system, those files grow out of control like bacteria. Let me hear how you manage your files.

Till next time — jw

Black Butte Picture of the Week

The Vulture Mountains are a twenty-nine-mile long collection of volcanic hills south of Wickenburg. The Hassayampa River runs along the range’s eastern boundary and the mountains taper off to the west. From our Congress home, two peaks rise out of the low mounds on our southern horizon: Vulture Peak’s rounded knob is to the left and the sloping top of Black Butte is on the right. Reminding me of a doorstop or a fallen cake, Black Butte is the subject of this week’s photo.

Black Butte
Black Butte – With its distinctive sloping top, Black Butte marks the western boundary of the Vulture Mountain Range.

The slanting top of Black Butte first caught my attention while I was still working. I drove the forty mile trip from Wintersburg to Congress on the Vulture Mine Road and the butte marked the place where the road turns north. I thought that its shape was the kind of thing you’d see in old western movie backgrounds. I knew that I would use it as a subject some time. A couple of weeks ago while I was shooting in Aguila, there it was waiting for me bathed in late afternoon light.

You can see the larger version on my Website by clicking Here. I hope you enjoy viewing it and I’d love to hear your comments below.

Until next time — jw

Eagle Eye Picture of the Week

We’re still hanging in Aguila for the new Photo of the Week. Although I drove twenty-five miles to the little town because I had wanted to shoot a specific sign, I then poked around town to see what else I could photograph, and I found the number one reason—if there is such a thing—to visit Aguila. Here’s my shot of the natural window in the hills south of town formed by eagle-head-shaped rocks. Aguila is the Spanish word for eagle; hence, you have the town’s name source.

Eagle Eye Window
Eagle Eye Window – Rocks form this window in the shape of an eagle’s head and is in the hills south of Aguila, Arizona.

I’m sure there’s a way to climb up to the window because I’ve seen people there. I didn’t take the time to find a way on this trip, but I saw on Google Maps that there was a trail from the cemetery south of town. As I said last week, there is a good view from the window along US Highway 60 by the working fields of Centennial Ranches. Even a moderate telephoto lens will bring the Eagle Eye closer.

I followed dirt roads between the fields to get closer for this shot. They had street signs, so I assumed the roads were public. It was late in the afternoon when I snapped this, and the beautiful streaky clouds were beginning to get color. I should have waited for sunset, but I wanted to get to another scene that I saw along the trip (which was a bust). You can see the larger version on my Website – Here. I hope you enjoy viewing it. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Till next time — jw