What I Ate on My Summer Vacation

I don’t have the most stellar eating habits. I eat breakfast every day, and I make a concerted effort to have a salad or some vegetable with dinner. And despite my famous weakness for potato chips, I seldom eat fast food or the sweet junk food I can get at the convenience store. However, when we’re on a road trip, anything can happen.

My husband (code name “Logan”) and I went to PA last weekend for a wedding. It’s a 7-8 hour trip by car, and we usually pack a little something to eat so we don’t have to stop a hundred times on the way. But we were already a day behind, leaving Thursday instead of Wednesday, and I didn’t have time to pack food. We also had the minor issue of there being practically nothing in the refrigerator. We left the house at noon (many hours later than we had planned), with water, Coke, ginger ale, and a third of a bag of day old movie popcorn.

After about 2 hours on the road, we pulled into a rest stop in VA, where Logan bought some animal crackers. Is there a better road food? They’re not messy, they’re just a little bit sweet, and they’re cute. But it wasn’t long before we needed some actual food, so we stopped at Quizno’s a little later.

We ordered a large turkey, bacon and guacamole sub, and I picked up a bag of Miss Vicki’s Salt and Vinegar chips. I did that so you don’t have to. Really, don’t bother. There’s not enough salt and vinegar flavor, and there’s too much of…something that leaves an icky film on your tongue. I prefer not to think of what that something is. The sub was good, possibly because I was starving. Animal crackers take you just so far.

Back on the road for a while, then time to stop at Wawa’s in central VA. I love Wawa’s. Compared to most convenience stores, it’s like the original Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia, except with Cheeto’s. They have pre-made wraps that actually taste good, a nice deli, the coffee is decent, and they have the cheapest cigarettes in the entire land. They also sell Coke in liter bottles, which I thought was just a fond memory, or maybe something I had made up, because it’s been years since I’ve seen one. I bought a liter of Coke, a Tasty-Kate CoffeeKake, and a pack of cigarettes ($2.99! I felt like I was stealing from them). Logan bought a Yoohoo. How I’ve gotten to this age without tasting a Yoohoo is beyond me, but somehow I did, so it was a surprise to discover it tastes like a malt. “Taste like” being the operative words, because there’s not a hint of malt anywhere in the ingredients. I was also happy that the CoffeeKake was as good as I’d remembered, and so fresh I chose to ignore the unidentifiable chemicals and high fructose corn syrup it contains. You can also find high fructose corn syrup in Yoohoo and, of course, Coke. It was a veritable HFCS festival.

By this time, I’d pretty much had it with being in the car. My degenerative disc disease was at ramming speed, and my right leg was numb. When I’m on the road, there’s always a fight between stopping every 90 minutes so I can stretch a little and try to walk off the pain, and just getting to where we’re going. Even with electronic devices, heavy duty pain killers, and ibuprofen, I’m cranky after about 3 and a half hours, and just getting there usually wins out. So Wawa’s was our last stop until we hit York County, PA, where Logan’s parents live. We had quesadillas for dinner, then headed into Harrisburg, where we stopped for a beer and met up with my sister, with whom I was staying. (Logan was heading to Lancaster to attend a convention on Friday, and would meet up with us on Saturday for the wedding).

At my sister’s, I had a couple more beers, and at 1:00 AM, my sister, her boyfriend and I ate corn on the cob, picked from their garden that morning, and wings. It was worth the heartburn I had the next morning.

On Friday afternoon, my sister and I met with some friends for a few drinks, then stopped at the Giant (the best grocery store anywhere) so I could pick up some potato chips and pretzels. Central PA is known for its snack food, and has had the honor of being named The Snack Food Capital of the World by the International Snack Food Association. (Look, we need something to be proud of. Bret Michaels isn’t someone we want to about.) In the eight years I’ve lived in NC, I haven’t found anything even close to what I used to get in Harrisburg. I walked out of the Giant with four bags of Middleswarth chips, 2 plain and 2 barbecue, and three bags of Uncle Henry’s Pretzels, to the tune of $25.

On Saturday, we went to suburban Philadelphia for the wedding. The wedding was lovely, and the food at the reception was beyond fabulous. I don’t think I’ve ever had such great food at a wedding, including my own, which I made all the food for. So you know, I like to think that was pretty good. But this? Unbelievable. The Grande Buffet had shrimp and prawns, crab legs, salmon, rack of lamb, and puff pastry filled with so many different things the only one I can remember is the spinach and feta cheese. But the star of that show was the strawberries stuffed with pesto. I know. It sounds totally weird, and one of my nieces said it tasted like dirt, but I thought it was like a little bite of heaven in my mouth.

We headed back to NC on Sunday, and I was still thinking about those strawberries. Unfortunately, I was unable to convince the server to just leave a full tray with me, so Logan and I decided to eat potato chips and pretzels on the way back. Not that that’s anything new. We never get back to Durham with all the bags intact. We stopped at one of those massive travelers’ service centers in NJ, where I got a Coke and a bottle of water, and Logan got a garlic stick from Sbarro’s. It was surprisingly good, but again, maybe I was just hungry. In central VA we pulled into Wawa’s, where I got two huge bottles of water, another liter of Coke, just because I could, and two packs of the world’s cheapest cigarettes. Logan got one of those bottled iced coffee drinks that are never as good as you expect them to be. He should have bought another Yoohoo.

When we were almost back in Durham, Logan said what we always say after a road trip. It’s a quote from Suzanne Sugarbaker, who had just returned from a disastrous cruise with Julia, MaryJo and Charlene, and was suffering from a severe hangover: “It’s soda crackers and seltzer water for a week”.