Day 1: Novice Roadtrippers

I might have mentioned before that we’re not good at road tripping. Which is to say: we don’t enjoy driving. Long drives almost always mean traffic, construction, excessive junk food, and, if we’re visiting my family, terrible weather. Seriously, it storms almost every time we drive west. So when I suggested that instead of going to Portland – our proposed vacation destination – that we take a road trip somewhere, you need to realize that we were going out on a serious limb.

After some discussion, we settled on a plan: camping in Wisconsin, followed by a few days in Madison or Chicago or both. And instead of taking awful 94 through awful Chicago traffic, we’d go the long way ’round Lake Michigan – north to the tip of the Mitten, over into the UP, and then south along the Wisconsin side of the lake. We resolved to avoid the interstate whenever possible, and to stop wherever suited our fancy: historical markers, dive-y restaurants, intriguing attractions. I was in charge of researching accommodations, while Shane looked into places to eat, helpfully plotting them out by number of hours along that day’s drive.

And so we set off, heading due north on 75 on a beautiful day. First stop? The Cheesehouse – or, more properly, Pinconning Cheese Co.

The Cheesehouse

The Cheesehouse

We both love cheese, as you well know, but weren’t expecting much from this roadside attraction. Which is to say that we found lots of uninspiring cheese, a few tasty cheese spreads, and an impressive array of meat sticks that Shane snacked on for the next few days. Our total came in below the $5 credit card limit, so we also got a giant pickle that literally had to be held with two hands and made the car smell like dill and garlic.

Our first true road meal came at Spike’s Keg O Nails in Grayling, MI:

Spike's Keg O Nails

Spike’s has been operating in this location since the day after Prohibition was repealed. The menu explained the history of the bar, which has had five owners in its 78 year history. It’s exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find in a smallish town, and exactly the sort of ambiance you’d hope for on a Friday night: lots of townies eating fried fish and drinking cheap beer around small tables.

First Vacation Beers

Who were we to question a good thing? The fried fish was fantastic: crisp batter and flaky tender white fish accompanied by the typical Midwest sides: cole slaw, choice of potato (fries), and a dinner roll. We skipped the roll and split a salad, and were totally pleased with our $15 dinner.

Not wanting to jump right back into the car, we took a walk around downtown Grayling, where we tamed a ferocious beast, sat by the river, and generally started to ease into vacation mode.

Au Sable River

Post-Prandial

We still had a few hours left in our drive, however, so it was back in the car and due north for us, stopping only for a Whippy Dip detour:

Whippy Dip

First Vacation Ice Cream

and a scenic overlook:

If You Seek A Pleasant Peninsula

A Pleasant Peninsula indeed.

1128 Home Again Home Again

Today: breakfast with Kim and Paul at Alps, attempting (and failing) to redeem our Groupon at Meatloaf Bakery.  Just-off-the-highway White Castle lunch, as there is a time and a place for tiny steamed burgers, and that time is “on your way home from a holiday weekend”.  Home in the late afternoon, triumphant in our minimally stressful drive and also in the Browns’ last minute victory.  Moped time for Shane, knitting and macaroni and MI-5 for me.  Nothing foodworthy to write about, really – just that we’re home safe and happy to be here.

0316 Snacks on the Road

So instead of making dinner tonight, we did this:

Go Cavs!

Shane got a pair of tickets to the Pistons – Cavs game for $25, so after work, we hopped in Richard Simmons, grabbed some ice cream, and headed to Detroit.  It was hard to tell which team had more fans in the house – the dudes behind us were chanting L-B-J and M-V-P, but somehow Shane was the one who got popcorn thrown at him?  It was a great game, but the Cavs pulled it off in the end.

On our way home, we stopped at a gas station for a soda and I perused the snack offerings while Shane hit the bathroom.  The trip to/from Detroit isn’t enough to justify really quality road snacks, but we did share a mint 3 Musketeers – delicious and not terribly bad for us.  Most road snacks, however, meet only one of those two characteristics – the delicious part.  I know, I know – you can pack fruits and veggies, drink lots of water, all of that good stuff – but nothing says ‘road trip’ quite like the radio turned up loud and your hand in a bag of something salty.  I haven’t given this much thought, not nearly as much thought as I gave the candy selection last night, but in a pinch and in no particular order, here are our top 10 road snacks:

  1. Chex Mix.  I could take up the rest of this list by ranking the flavors, but I won’t.
  2. Combos.  Always solid.
  3. Chicken McNuggets.  Our enjoyment of nuggets is balanced though not justified by the guilt about factory farming that we feel when not eating nuggets.
  4. Jerky in a variety of forms, some of which we should explore making on our own.
  5. Dried fruit, especially pineapple, regular apple, and apricots.  And other fruits that include an ‘ap’ sound, though I can’t think of any at the moment.
  6. Munchies – a beautiful mélange of Cheetos, Doritos, pretzels, and Sun Chips, each noteworthy snacks on their own.
  7. Gummy candies – Swedish fish, gummy peaches, etc.  Good because they take time to eat.
  8. Coffee and lots of it.
  9. Granola/protein bars.  A few years ago, I set out to conclusively decide which bar offered the best balance of calories, flavor, and protein.  I’m not sure if I decided anything other than that I don’t like eating protein bars all the time – but we do like Clif Bars in general, and the chocolate chip bar in particular.
  10. FRUIT AND NUT, which came into our lives thanks to our first trip to Bonnaroo with Mark and Mike.

I think I need a snack.