Discovering the so-called romance of the road takes time and a willingness to spend as few stops as possible at the fast food spots located a mere combo-meal’s throw off every cloned exit ramp. RG Daughter and I planned key detours off the four-lane path also known as I-70, but they weren’t nearly enough. Had it been possible, we’d have taken even more time to tour the places we skipped–and there were plenty.
A roundup of the best of our three days:
Best dinner: Bistro JeanRo, Cincinnati, OH. Great table, great service, great food–from starters (thank you, Chef) to dessert. Chef’s wife was seated with friends at the table next to us. I look forward to a return visit to get to know everyone beyond a quick hello.
Best decor: Toto’s Tacoz, Wamego, KS. Every vivid color in the rainbow everywhere–walls, signs, outdoor umbrellas, and staff uniforms.
Best burger: Freestate Brewery, Lawrence, KS. Local beef, nothing pre-formed, perfectly cooked, and topped with a slice of ripe tomato that likely never saw the inside of a hothouse.
Best coffee: Coffee Emporium, Cincinnati, OH. Beans roasted locally; cavernous, welcoming space; friendly staff; rich, dark, never-bitter coffee; free wi-fi. I could hardly bear to leave the place.
Best grocery store to stock up on fast-food substitutes and purchase a cool T-shirt: Piggly Wiggly, anywhere you are lucky enough to find The Pig in the southeast. Can’t beat the name, either.
Other road-trip “bests” unrelated to food:
Sirius Satellite Radio: Can’t drive any distance without The Pulse, The Coffeehouse, Left of Center, Underground Garage, Lithium, and 60s Vibrations when singing along is the only way to stay awake.
Books on CD: How the miles fly by when you can’t wait to listen. Highly recommend “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult. Incredibly intense listening, but what a compelling, riveting, and well-written story.
Taking the road more or less traveled: A US Route usually parallels or runs very close to I-whatever. When you want to see a real town–even at 55 mph–taking a break to drive a few miles on these precursors to today’s mind-numbing Interstate highways is the way to go.
I view a brown sign announcing a historic site as a personal invitation. I willingly follow billboards that promise zoos full of exotic animals or fantastic merchandise in ridiculous sounding shops. I am a sucker for any local produce stand. I also am keenly aware that I missed the glory days of cross-country travel à la “I Love Lucy” because I was born a decade or two too late.
I wish, however, that just once I didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time. Because as exhausted as I am at the end of this latest road trip, I would happily pack up the car tomorrow and drive the scenic route that takes forever.