The End… and… The Beginning

During my soul-searching Route 66 road trip, I knew the fate of my restaurant’s days was numbered. While I had high hopes I could still somehow overcome the imminent closure date, it just wasn’t meant to be. Unfortunately my venture as a restaurant owner has come to an end. I suppose I could have continue to hang on a little longer… but… from a good business standpoint: why continue to feed a bleeding cow when one should take it out back, shoot it and have a BBQ instead.

I know it certainly wasn’t due to my lack of effort or determination. It was an uphill battle from the moment I took over the restaurant. I suppose I can sit here and tell you all the excuses why the restaurant failed — but no — there will be none of that… because as far I’m concern, my venture was a success.

Through the restaurant, I have received many opportunities that I otherwise would not have: I met many wonderful people, made new friends, provided meals that made people smile and rediscovered many traits about myself that have been lost over the years… but most of all; the restaurant helped me re-establish a rewarding relationship with my son, Kyle. The restaurant might not have brought me the financial success but the opportunity to get to know my son again and to work with him every day for the last seven months is priceless. We started out as strangers and in the process, Kyle got to know who his mom is and what I am capable of.  I know he is very proud with what I was able to accomplish in such a short time. So… if having my son back in my life were the only purpose Aloha Grille was meant to do then I would say the restaurant was a tremendous success.

So while this might be the end for my Aloha Grille venture, it is the beginning for Buck’s Smoked BBQ. Like me, Buck is hoping to take his passion and turn it into a profitable venture. Here are some photos I took at Buck’s BBQ debut. It was a pleasure to be a part of someone’s dream and to capture the moments…

I wish him nothing but the best…

Looks like my detour is over and once again I am back on my life’s path to my destiny — where ever, whatever that may be. This also means I will be on the move again… I’m not sure what I will be doing other than knowing that I need to find work soon or else… so… this will probably be my last post for a while until I am settled. Please keep me in your prayers and good wishes…

Live The Aloha Spirit!



Seeking Truth and Forgiveness on Route 66 – The Confession

By the time I pulled into the motel, El Trovatore; I felt achy, hungry and very tired from the long day of driving in the desert. Needless to say, I was looking forward to a nice cool shower and hopefully find a good steak dinner somewhere in town. Of course, the first thing I noticed about the motel was its affordable price and the retro looking neon sign at the entrance. But there was something quaint about the place that intrigues me. It was unlike any other motels I’ve ever stayed in. I could sense there’s probably a lot of history behind this motel. Little did I know, this was also where I would finally get to confess my sins and get the much-needed guidance to see the truth I’ve been seeking.

When I drove further into the property, the hand painted murals depicting different scenes and iconic Hollywood characters that covered many of the buildings instantly stirred up my creative mind. For a moment, I forgot about being tired and started to think like a photographer. I saw photo opportunities. However, my growling stomach reminded me that I’ve eaten only road food consisted of nuts, dried fruits, beef jerky and countless bottles of water.

I walked into the office to check in and noticed the room filled with mementos; life-size cut out of John Wayne, pictures of Hollywood legends and Route 66 souvenirs. Just then, a friendly looking man greeted me. I told him I wanted a room for a night. He asked me, “Who would you like to sleep with tonight?” His question surprised me. I wasn’t sure what he meant. “Excuse me?” I asked him. He then smiled and proceeds to explain to me that he offers theme rooms of Hollywood legends. “Oh!” I said, feeling dumb. Since I was so tired, and I just want a room to take a shower, I told him “I don’t care who I sleep with.” As he rattled off names… “John Wayne, James Dean, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe… ” By now I was more lucid and thought about the choices of who I would want to sleep with. Well… I told him: I never had a thing for John Wayne; I don’t need a complicated bad boy, like James Dean; while I find Clark Gable desirable, I’m not in the mood for a romantic interlude; and I find Marilyn too high maintenance. Then he said, well… there is Audrey. “Audrey Hepburn?” I asked. Yes, he replied. Good, I’ll sleep with Audrey any day. And the next thing, we started to talk about why we both like Audrey Hepburn: her amazing beauty and grace; her generosity and unpretentious self; and she died doing what she loved — by giving selflessly of her love and compassion to the needy.

I think that was our ice breaker… for the next hour or so, Sam: the motel owner and I talked and talked… I told him I was on an escape drive to find the true purpose of my life… and to find forgiveness for something terrible I did to someone I cared a great deal about. I told him about moving to a new town, buying a restaurant and lack of cash flow, dealing with negative people etc… blah… blah… blah… Sam in return told me about his challenges in life, and the trials and tribulations he had to deal with. We both found out that we bought our business at about the same time period. And that he was facing the same problems I was experiencing. The only difference… his place cost more money so he had a lot more to lose. However, he gave me hope that things will get better if I believe in myself. Whether my restaurant becomes financially successful or that I might have to face the choice of giving it up, I need to find what’s important to me and how it will affect my life.

It felt good confessing to a complete stranger on a road I’ve never traveled on before… and yet somehow, I know it was meant to be for us to meet. My intuition rarely ever steers me wrong if I choose to listen. Because Sam and his wife, Monica showed me some of the answers I was seeking during my two-day stay at El Trovatore. There are still a lot of uncertainties of what I’m facing… although, I know as long as I stay true to who I am — heart and soul. Things will eventually workout for the best as I continued on this journey of life…

This is Taco. El Trovatore’s official mascot. A homeless stray; who decided to pick the motel as his new home, eight months ago. His own journey of how he came to be their mascot would make an interesting story…

Here is the contact information for the motel. You can see images of what the rooms look like on their website.
1440 E Andy Devine Ave
Kingman, AZ 86401-Route 66
Tel: (928) 753-6520

Seeking Truth and Forgiveness on Route 66 – Part 1

When life becomes too much for me to handle and I need to rediscover my true self, my solution is to go on a road trip. Usually, I would take a nice long drive along the Oregon Coast.  However, since I am now living in the middle of a desert state, I’ve been trying without much success to find places among the cactus and sandy landscape to help me escape the trials and tribulations of life. Being an ocean girl at heart, it has been quite a challenge for me to find a substitute escape route. I’ve driven to Phoenix, Flagstaff, Sedona, and none of the roads provided me the comfort I find along the ocean coast.

When I came to work last Friday, feeling unmotivated and extremely sad… I knew I was on the verge of burn out from all the challenges of running the restaurant by myself, and the recent life changing mistake I’ve made. As I sat in the booth feeling sorry for myself, tears running down my cheeks. I couldn’t help but feel that life is just so unfair: I work my butt off and yet; I am still unable to get ahead. My body aches; over worked, filled with guilty conscience and a broken heart. I couldn’t fathom why there seems to be people who I didn’t do anything wrong to — tried their best to see that I don’t succeed.

As I went through the motions of preparing for the day’s business, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I felt so trapped and knew I had to escape. And there was only one place on my mind. The ocean. The closest place I could think of was Los Angeles. That’s it… I’ll escape to L.A. I put a sign on the restaurant door informing the potential customers that I would be back in a few days. Quickly, I head home — threw a few things in an overnight bag and off I went… I drove west towards the Pacific Ocean. However, after about an hour on the freeway — I start to wonder if going to L.A. is a good idea. After all, I am trying to escape. And who in their right mind would want to escape to L.A. — the land of greed and deceit — to find truth and forgiveness.

Just then, I saw the sign for route 66. I had heard of the road but never really took the time to learn about it. I knew it was popular for something… and suddenly my inner voice told me I should go on route 66 instead of L.A. Well… I believe things happen for a reason and your instincts are usually the right one. There was a good reason for me to go on route 66. It turned out to be the trip I was looking for…

I got off the freeway and followed the sign to the town Seligman, on Route 66. Talk about tourist trap. As I drove through town, I thought perhaps I should have gone to L.A. instead. Souvenir shops, motels, food stands, signs, and rundown buildings crowed on both sides of the road.

I was hoping for more natural beauty and not so much commercialization. However, once I got out and saw the town from behind the viewfinder of my camera. I was captivated by the abundant photo opportunities.

Not sure how long ago this pump was last used. Wish we still have oil prices like that.

As I continue on my Route 66 road trip, I came upon a view that gave me hope of the great adventures ahead…

Moonlight Over Sunrise

There are moments in time where even night and day can coexist — to help bring out each other’s true beauty and strength.

Even though the affair maybe brief; it’s the wondrous beauty discovered during that brief encounter you will remember for a life time.

World’s Oldest Rodeo

Since I opened my restaurant a few months ago, it has been none-stop work, work, work… and more work. After taking over the restaurant, I discovered many challenges left by the previous owner. I’ve been working every day trying to increase business and rebuild the negative reputation the last owner had created for the restaurant. Slowly but surely, I am making very good progress. I am getting more repeat customers and my reputation of having amazing food is growing. And many of the customers the previous owner chased away are starting  to come back after hearing the restaurant has a new owner. However, I am still struggling to get the cash flow to flow… unfortunately, it is flowing more like a drippy faucet right now. And then there’s the employee situation — since the restaurant isn’t very busy, the servers are not making as much tips — keeping them has been a challenge. And finding a good server who can follow directions is even more challenging. It’s amazing when I asked people not to attach their resume but to cut and paste it in the email, and yet I still get so many people who didn’t bother to read and send the resume as an attachment. So much for being able to follow directions. Which was one of the criteria that I’ve listed in the ad.

Not that I’m complaining… I am still astonished that I was able to buy the restaurant with only my determination and trustworthiness. I am very grateful to be blessed with this opportunity. However, as much as I am passionate about it, I could feel all the hard work the last few months was starting to take a lot out of me.  I know I have to take care not to burn myself out. Finally, I forced myself to get away from the restaurant for a few hours last Sunday to have some fun with my camera. There was a big rodeo competition event happening and since I’ve never been to a rodeo, I thought it would be interesting to see what it’s like and of course, hoping to capture some good shots.  As I walked around the large stadium, taking care to not step on steamy green piles left from the hundreds of horses; the rodeo life is definitely very different from anything I’ve seen… people dressed in cowboy/cowgirl attires, horses in fancy saddles, menacing looking bulls huffing and puffing behind metal gates, large groups of calf and goats crammed into holding pen and country music blaring over the loud speakers; I felt like a fish out of water. It’s definitely not an environment that I would feel comfortable fitting in. However, the people were very friendly and polite. And I got to see some really brave cowboys in action. It felt good to get away from the restaurant and recharge my creativity using the camera.

There were many events. While it was amazing to see the brave cowboys in action and perhaps it’s my lack of understanding of the rodeo life; But I couldn’t help but feel sadness for the cruel treatment of the animals used in the events. They were chased… roped…

flipped and hogged tied…

Although, I have to admit… it certainly takes a lot of courage to grab the bull by the horns.

Or face the deadly possibility of being trampled by an angry bucking horse when you can’t hold on…

As I enjoyed all the actions of my first rodeo from behind the viewfinder — quietly I applaud and felt some satisfaction for the animals when I witnessed their determination not to let the cowboys win…

Don’t mess with me cowboy!

Ask And You Shall Receive

It has been exactly two months since I left my hometown of twenty years behind… to move to a completely new place to start my life over. I didn’t have any ideas or plans on what I was going to do, other than to seek peaceful life and hope that I would find a job before I run out of money in a few months. During the first couple of weeks in town, everyone I met kept telling me how bad the economy is and that there are hardly any jobs. While I was optimistic about my ability to find work — I thought if I ended up homeless, I could always pretend to play my guitar; Max can hold a “Please Help” sign, and Evie knows how sit up on her hind legs and look pretty. People would take pity seeing my furry kids or either that give money just to keep me from playing my awful guitar noise  music. 😉

Luckily, the furry kids and I didn’t have to go that route. When I met my roommate, she told me that our neighbor next door owns a restaurant. I thought… great! Maybe I can talk him into giving me a job. About a couple of weeks after I arrived to my new home, I finally met my neighbor. We went for a hike. During the hike, I told him about my 20 something years of restaurant and cooking experience. Blah.. Blah… Blah… I went on. Shamelessly selling myself, hoping to get a job. Well… to make the long story short. I didn’t talk him into giving me a job that day, instead a week later, I end up talking him into giving me the whole restaurant. He had purchased the restaurant six months before and by the time we met, he realized that owning a restaurant was more work than he had thought. He was at the point where he wanted to give the restaurant back to the previous owner. So during one of our daily hikes, I simply asked him to give me the restaurant. Ask and you shall receive. Well… this is one of those times where that statement came true. I didn’t have much money, but somehow I knew this cute little place was going to be mine. Well… after a month of paper work, dealing with the government,  jumping through many other hoops, and most of all; the help of some guardian angels — my dream came true. I am now the proud owner of a Hawaiian style restaurant — Aloha Grille, located in the beautiful town of Prescott, Arizona.

This is one of those opportunities in life when it hits you in the face and you are actually ready to receive it kind of moment. I had owned a small cafe many years ago but at the time, my kids were very young — among other challenges of life, the cafe didn’t make it. Anyway, I told myself someday I would have another one when the opportunity is right. And when I made my New Year wish, I didn’t know that I put in motion for me to find my opportunity. When I look back at my New Year’s post, A New Journey Begins. I am amazed by my predictions. If you read what I wrote, you will see that my journey for the last couple of months have been exactly as I have written.

My little herbal garden. I hope to harvest the mint for the noodle salad dish.

Nope, I didn’t paint the mural. It came with the restaurant. Although, at the end of a hard day; I love to sit and stare at it. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear the waves crashing on to the beach.

It is a small place… but just right for me. People commented on how comforting they feel when they eat there. So far, all the orders come back with empty plates. It’s a good sign that my food is tasty. One good thing about being a food photographer, I will be able take photos of my cooking. Which I hope to do when I get more settled with running the restaurant. So far, I’ve been running around none-stop. And yes, I feel sleep deprived but at least I finally lost the 15 lbs that I’ve been trying to get rid of for the past few years. 🙂

I have to admit, it has been a crazy last few weeks. I changed the menu, did a lot of cleaning, bought supplies and even sewed the table clothes. The biggest challenge I discovered was the difficulty of getting the ingredients I need living in a small town. I had to drive all over town and search four different stores just for coconut milk, bean sprouts and snow peas. I couldn’t order from the food service companies because of the small quantity I need. On top of that, I have to learn how to bake at high altitude. I thought it only affects baked goods, but I spent all day today, trying to modify my Easy Breezy pancake mix recipe without success. And I’m suppose to open for breakfast tomorrow. So… I cheated. I went and bought pancake mix. Until I can figure out this high altitude problem, I have to cheat and use store-bought. Yikes!

I know there will be more challenges ahead… especially, the cash flow issue. However, all is good. I have my excellent cooking skills, experience and determination to make this place a success. And this time around, no kids, no husband, and other family obligations to distract me from my goal. This time, I have only me, myself and I to deal with.  ALOHA!  🙂

Home Sweet Home

After more than three days and 1400 miles later, the furry kids and I finally arrived to our new home. This is the view of our new back yard  playground. I took this shot from the side deck of the house.

It was an incredible journey for my mind, body and soul. During my journey of escape to freedom, I went through a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s amazing what your mind will think about when you have nothing to entertain you but a long and winding — mostly uninhabited road through some of the most amazing landscapes in North America. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos. Not that I didn’t want to… there were so many breath-taking sights. But with a heavy eight-foot trailer towed behind my SUV, made it difficult to just stop and park anywhere. The most difficult part about the trip was traveling with the furry kids. While they were the most well-behaved traveling companions, finding a place to stay with them was not easy.

On our first night, I couldn’t find a motel that would take the furry kids. Since it was freezing cold out, I couldn’t leave them out in the truck on their own; we ended up sleeping in a motel parking lot. Yes, at least they were kind enough to let us use the parking lot. Needless to say, it wasn’t very comfortable sleeping with the steering wheel and it was so cold. I didn’t get very much sleep that night. Our luck was much better the second night. We stopped at a very small town. And there were two restaurants to choose from. One was part of a casino. I was surprised to see a large casino out in the middle of nowhere. So, my instinct told me to choose the small family restaurant instead. And it was the right choice. After subsisting on Subway sandwiches, beef jerky, and water for two days, I was ready for some really good home cooked meal. As I waited for my food, I started to chat with the owners. They were a very nice couple who had been through some hardship themselves. After learning about my plight, the owners were very generous and didn’t charge me for dinner and they also offered free breakfast the next morning. They also directed me to a motel where the nice owner decided to let slide the “NO DOG” rule for us. I was very touched by their kindness and generosity. I felt as if these people were like my guardian angels. They gave me more than just food and shelter; they gave me HOPE and COURAGE to continue on my journey.

On the third night, I thought about staying in Las Vegas. It has been over twenty years since the last time I’ve been to Las Vegas and if I had thought it was an ugly city before, it’s even more ugly now than I had thought. Looking around the environment, I can see why it’s nick named — Sin City. I decided to skip the city and thought maybe a motel outside the city limit would be better. However, the motel I came to would not take Max because he was 10 pounds over the weight limit. It was really late and I was very tired. I pleaded with the clerk to let us stay but he wouldn’t. The clerk refused to budge from the rule that they will only accept dogs less than 45 pounds. Guess I wasn’t surprise by the clerk’s lack of compassion. After all, it was Las Vegas. So, I drove on for another few hours while trying to stay awake… finally just when I thought about sleeping in the SUV again, we found a place that took the pups and without extra pet fee. 🙂

The next day, we arrived to our new home around noon. I met my new roommate Shannon and instantly; I knew we would get along just fine. Her home is on the end of a street, surrounded by the beautiful wilderness. The back yard is part of the national forest with hiking trails that go for miles.

And for the first time in my life, I was able to wake up every morning and look outside my bedroom window to witness beautiful sunrise.

For the last few days, the furry kids and I have been getting up every morning to hike up to the top of the hill to see the gorgeous sunrise. As I sit on top of the boulder looking at the brightly lit sky, casting a warm glow to the valley below — I knew I found the place that I can finally have the quality of life I’ve been looking for. While I know there will be challenges ahead, but for the first time in years; I truly feel happy and free. And it looks like the furry kids feel the same way…

Thank you everyone for all your support. And for those of you who’ve donated money or bought prints, I can’t tell you how much your contribution means to me. All I can say is — THANK YOU!! I will never forget the favor and will find ways to pay it forward when I am back on my feet.  Happy Valentine’s Day! 😀

A New Journey Begins

Another year has come to an end… and today a new journey begins. Although, I’m not sure where this road of life will continue to take me. One thing is for sure; I know  my journey will not be empty.

I’ve  had my share of challenges this year and at times I feel so used up, I just want to give up. But I made it through and in the process learned some valuable lessons that I will take with me as I continue on this journey — in search of my destiny.

Seeing the forest through the trees…

Learn to see ordinary things from a different perspective.

Because by seeing things from a different perspective, you might discover a better point of view. And turn the ordinary into something unique and different.

And when there are stormy mountains to climb…

Don’t give up! Because you just never know the wondrous beauty you might find on the other side.

Thank you everyone for all your support and wonderful comments. Your encouragements and kindness definitely have helped me through many of the detours I’ve encountered these last couple of years. I am so grateful to have your friendship. Wishing everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year!