On a lonesome stretch of I-5 in California, just south of Anderson and north of Red Bluff, lies the sleepy little hamlet of Cottonwood. Most just fly by at 70 miles per hour and don’t even notice this place. That was the case one summer day back in the early 2000s as I sped toward Sacramento after conquering the switchbacks of 299 yet again.
But this day was different. Feeling a little hungry, I happened to glance to the left and there it was.
What? This has to be a joke!
A yellow sign with a mustachioed wrestling icon in a tuxedo beckoned to me.
Mean Gene’s Burgers.
Yes. That Mean Gene.
We had to stop. This place had to be great. In the 5 minutes it took us to get from the freeway to the restaurant I filled my head with visions of Half Nelson Curly Fries and Knee Drop Double Cheeseburgers.
Once we got in the place, which, to the best of my memory was also a gas station, all my fantasies died.
The burgers were just one step up from those frozen Big Az Burgers you find at Arco.
I ate all my food, but was depressed the whole time. Not to say I look upon the experience with contempt now, I mean, Mean Gene had a burger chain and I can say I ate there once.
The restaurant has since closed and now when I fly by that sleepy hamlet, I get a little choked up.
Cottonwood, California will always have a special place in my artery.