They say you can never go home again. What they fail to tell you is, really, you can never go back to any place you’ve ever been…and sometimes, you’re lucky not to get a restraining order enforcing it.
Sushi may be a finger food–it’s small, compact and easily consumed coming as it does in bite-sized portions–this does not, however, make it an appropriate fast food for road trips. Let me explain.
Driving to Chicago Friday, we get a late enough start to greet not only the oncoming rush-hour traffic but this also forces us to face the blizzardous conditions which everyone and their mother knows is heading this-a-ways.* Not to mention, I manage to miss lunch in favor of haphazard packing and random dithering. This is why, when I make a final stop at the Meijer store to pick up the kid’s medication, I grab an impulse carton of veggie sushi to nosh on while motoring. This will prove to be the most ill-advised snack choice ever.***
I am smart enough to set up my sushi before putting the car in gear. (What kind of idiot would want to open a soy sauce packet with one hand, after all? Ha ha ha.) So, the giant rectangular clamshell lays spread-open next to me–half filled with happy little California sushi rolls, the other half swimming with a brown pool of Kikkoman joy. Child in tow, snack in hand, we set off.
The car slithers out of the parking lot. I snack and squint trying to see where I’m going between the swirling snowflakes that take up 90% of the visual spectrum.
As I tentatively nose out into traffic, I’m dipping a roll into the soy juice as a car going at least 60 mph in the parking lot tries to barrel past us. I slam on the brakes. And even though I am going turtle speeds, the flotsam and jetsam clogging the front seat undulates forward in a sluggish lurch. Most of it is stopped by all of the other stuff packed there. Yay. Not, however, the sushi.
Fun Fact: Do you want to know the Number Two Reason why sushi isn’t a travel-approved snack food? It is round. Round = bad!
My sushi flies, joyful little bobbles, skittering all over the seat. Fortunately the soy sauce only threatens to overturn onto my purse where it has fallen to the floor. I’m madly scooping the runaway snack food while I simultaneously managed to avoid the collision and get into a lane. I do not whip the other driver the bird, but only because I don’t have a free hand. I do curse them soundly. My son is learning many important life lessons, no doubt; I’m just not sure what they are.
After this I keep a fixed eye on the windscreen, inching our way to the interstate. The sushi will have to wait. My stomach growls its disapproval.
My hockey puck of a car joins the highway and I sigh with relief. Settling in, I crank up the book on CD. We have four hours of cautious, but ultimately safe, driving ahead. From here on out, it should be smooth sailing. (Cue ominous music.)
I reach for a congratulatory, slightly smooshed, ball of rice and vegetables. Here I discover the Number One Reason sushi is not recommended as a mobile food source. I blindly grab a roll, dunk it with my growing expertise into the soy sauce, and pop it in my mouth.
It is right at this moment, I am reminded what else they put in the standard sushi setup. If you don’t know, grocery stores pack this Japanese delicacy with tiny accompaniments of everything you could want: twelve decorative food objects come with soy sauce and a tiny plastic fence blockading a swirl of pickled ginger and a daub of mushy green stuff. I had forgotten about the mushy green stuff. You should never, EVER forget about the mushy green stuff. The fence is the guard rail of the food tray; it is put there for your safety. The sushi had crossed the fence!
I manage not to steer the car into a ditch while scrambling to suck down the entire 24 ounces of mixed regular and diet cherry Coke I had lugged from the same store as the sushi. Fire appeased, victory is mine. Sort of.
I survive Driving With Sushi with a greater appreciation for ginormous beverages and an improbable will to live despite eating an entire glop of the dangerous green paste. Learn from me, children: Do not eat wasabi while driving. Wasabi is the killer food equivalent of texting. Perhaps sushi in cars should be avoided altogether. It appears I am not alone in this opinion!
On the upside, my mouth stayed warm all the way to Chicago.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*My mother in particular. She made a point of warning me to beat the storm. I suspect latent childish resistance to following her advice correlates to our delayed departure.**
**This is where I find out if my mother actually reads my blog. Don’t feel the need to tell her.
***Most people would say I was mistaken to purchase supermarket sushi just because it was SUPERMARKET SUSHI. Congratulations. You were proved right. Happy?
I am here. On the brink. Come join me.
Three days of travel and the start of our adventures in Minnesota begin soon. But first, a recount:
Day 1: Unmitigated disaster. See link.
Day 2: Waves of Nostalgia
We cross Lake Michigan from Ludington, MI and discover exactly how big the ‘Great Waters’ really are. Overly excited child keeps a thrilled eye on the cars and even boats being loaded onto the S.S. Badger. The ferry has a proud history serving transit needs of travelers on the lake. I’d tell you all about it, but people took up the space in the history lounge sleeping on every surface, making it hard to take notes. This is our first non-vomitous boat ride (for child and, by extension, me). Hurray for Bonine and sea bands.
Deposited in Manitowoc around noon (we crossed a date line so I’m can’t remember if it was Michigan or Wisconsin noon) we head to a park recommended by a fellow blogger!* Fritse Park is well worth the bizarre detour from the highway—I think I took seven turns in about two miles. The playground is impressive, though my twelve-year-old apparently had reservations about the incredibly long slide built into a hill. We walked the bridge that spans two cities and enjoyed the view and the stern breeze which threatened to swallow my hat until I just clutched it there and back. I’m just glad I hadn’t read this article before visiting.
It was a brief stop on our journey to Wautoma where we traveled the back roads to find relatives who live so far off the grid, the GPS tracker wished us good luck and shut itself off. A home-cooked meal of cheese sandwiches and salad and a nice long conversation about mutual relatives and photo admiration capped the day. On the way to our cheap-but-clean accommodations at Motel 8 a giant rainbow spanned the sky as if welcoming us to a brighter, more beautiful journey than the one we set out on the day before.
Day 3: I see dead people. Lots of dead people.
Two cemeteries and about three photo albums worth of ancient German heritage abounds in Merrill, Wisconsin. A lie on Ancestry is revealed and I am scandalized that someone co-opted the wrong grave markers to claim a heritage that isn’t ours. Either that, or my distant cousin, Lee, is wrong. But with his facility at naming generations of Krueger/Latzig family members, I doubt it. That he visits the graves weekly and tends their flowers suggests he had more vested in the memorial than just capturing a photo, like I have. (See photos below of the true headstones.)
We visit a former convent/girls school to reminisce with one of the last matriarchs of my father’s generation—Joan. She is 87 and, despite admitting she has memory loss, seems pretty sharp and witty during our visit. She even tolerated my giant twelve-year-old sprawling on the tiny floor of her assisted-living quarters. She shows off the photo albums she compiled. In them, pages and pages of documents identify the family tree. I see pictures of my father in his infancy and grandfather dressed for hard work, welding pipeline in unidentified states. I meet new relatives in grainy black and white and faded Kodachrome color. The photo album’s shiny pages make for poor copying, but I do my best to snap pictures on my cell phone. There is a comforting sameness to the faces—sturdy, kind, loving. Family.
Day 4: Get up and enjoy continental breakfast at Quality Inn & Suites, Menominee, WI. Son insists he wants to swim, so we wait the half-hour for it to open and he dips in it for about 5 minutes before saying, “All Done.”
I review our options and consider a nature walk, until I step out and see the rainy weather. Oh well, we did make a stop at a really good gas station.** If you haven’t heard of these, Kwik Trip was just about the best gas station I’ve had the pleasure to stop. So, here are pictures of its glorious selection. May you all be so lucky in your travels.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*I will happily give credit to said blogger, just as soon as I figure out who it was.
**You may take pictures of your cultural landmarks and famous fountains. Me? I’m impressed with a gas stop that has fresh produce and every recharger you could hope to find in stock!
It happened, just before bed last night…the first of the signs.*
Omen Number One
It’s nearing 2:00 a.m. I’m scrambling to get ready for our trip to Wisconsin tomorrow. My cell phone, as usual, was down to its last, flickering percentage. I plug it in and it tells me, “This is not the Android recharger you are looking for.” I shrug, unplug and plug it back in. Again, “Please use original Android equipment to recharge device, you wompa-breathed buffoon.”
There is nothing I…or anyone at this lonely hour of the night…can do to save me. Obi Wan, it’s hopeless.
The next morning, the phone chirps a pitiful wake-up call before giving up its last percentile ghost. I’m swamped with a to-do list longer than my will to live. I shove my child on his 2 ½ hour tour bus for what they call “summer school” and I race to get a few boxes checked off.
The Verizon Death Star won’t be operational until 10:00 a.m. (stormtrooper reviews are more elaborate than a Broadway Musical) so I run to the mall to pick up the new pants from Fu Alterations. I stopped to visit my boyfriend.** And then I’m off to take on the Empire…and pick up my new pair of glasses. I have one hour left.
(Cue the aforementioned, footnoted ominous music. You all know the tune: Da Da Da, Dah Dah Dah, Dah Dah Dah…)
The heartless drone at Verizon takes my name and leaves me to stew and search fruitlessly for a clock to make sure I don’t miss the bus. I go through withdrawals as I have no way to play Words With Friends, so I decide to exchange words with a stranger instead. It turns out, I sit down next to a member of the resistance force who is holding her notes about the Rebel Alliance just up the street (aka Sprint). We get to chatting:
Rebel Leader: “Sprint is offering a phone deal and lower rates. I’m checking to see what Verizon will offer before switching.”
Kir-Leia: “Phone won’t recharge…mumble mumble… the guy said I have to wait in the Samsung Galaxy for tech support…So I told him to shove his blaster down his Aldaran belt and fire!”
Rebel Leader: “Come over to the Sprint side and save!”
Or words to that effect.
I’m finally brought before the Sith Lord…scarlet scourge of the Verizon Empire. After a brief back-and-forth about the problematic port, this is what he offers:
Darth-Insidious: “The best I can do is to ship a phone to where you will be tomorrow.”
Kir-Leia: “If I’m getting a new phone, why can’t I just get one from the store?”
Now he drops the thermite-detonator:
Darth-Insidious: “We don’t keep replacements in stock. It will be a ‘Factory Certified’ Android phone.”
Kiri-Leia: “I get a used phone? I only had the Samsung for about five months! It’s not even paid for yet! Why can’t I get a new phone?”
Darth-Insidious: “It is not our way. Get back Rebel scum!”
Kir-Leia: “I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board!”’
Darth Insidious: “How charming…but wrong movie.”
Of course, I storm out in a huff, swearing that I will never darken the doors of Verizon again.
Over at the Sprint Rebel Base, I have enough time to toss my phone at Jedi Master Trevor and swear allegiance. (Fortunately, my midichlorians are off the scale.)
I dash to get the child before the bus leaves him wandering in search of a better parent. I send an emergency signal through a cousin to my mother and she agrees to watch my Padawan Learner (boy child). I race and to get my new iPhone…but it’s not ready. They have to match the geosynchronous orbit, or some technical mumbo jumbo I don’t understand. So, I dash back to home base, stopping to get a thank-you pop and scratch-n-win ticket for the Grandma, when the universe speaks to me again…
The Second Omen
The swinging door of the Coca Cola cooler was obviously programmed for stealth attack. As I turn and let the door swing shut, it takes a huge bite out of my ankle.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaah. Fricken…Fracken…farken….” (Insert Wookie Howl Here.)
I’m bleeding as I leave the store.
Mom patches me up, listening to the entire tale. Wishes me well, and I’m off once more. Dashing back to pick up the phone, dragging the child in tow.
Then, I learn something wondrous…the deal I signed my life away for included a second phone! And the Rebel Leader and I can declare ourselves friends and get a $50 rebate…if we can ever figure out how to sign up for it.
Things are looking marginally up. I’m battered and limping, but I have my new phone and…shit….look at the time.
The next few hours are a blur of manic packing, driving, and arriving at the RV Park & Campground where I have reserved a teepee for the night.
You heard me a teepee. Did I mention it’s raining? Have I also mentioned it is an authentic structure with a hole in the center and the floor has running water? (But the bathrooms are located in another building.) No matter. I will find the fun in this. I will overcome a most inauspicious start to our vacation. I will ignore the dreadful music that implies otherwise.
I’m trying to tell myself that I can relax about the small stuff. So, there’s a little water on the floor? So what? I move the electric cords to a table to remove the possibility of a third and fatal sign. No electrocution for me, no sir!
The Third Omen
As I’m leaving the teepee to gather the bedding for the unauthentic mattresses, I don’t clear the odd lower lip of the oval door way. I trip in a most graceless fashion, landing hard on my left wrist and both knees. I break a blood vessel in my hand.
I raise my uninjured fist and shake it at the universe.
“Why? Why? For the love of all that is Jedi…why?”
Somewhere, the dark side is taunting me. Or it could just be the croaking frogs. I’m not sure. It sure sounds like the universe laughing.
So, if I die on the boat crossing tomorrow, you’ll know why….
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Why does no one ever heed the signs? In real life, I blame the lack of ominous music.
**One of these days I’m going to write the blog post to explain this remark, but this is not the day.
***I should have gone with Kirbaca as I did scream like an enraged wookie today, but it did not fit the scene.
Wandering Highway 31, driving north along the Lake Michigan shore is equal parts mind-numbing, tree-infested sameness interspersed with glimpses of magnificence and moments to marvel.*
One of our first stops was a total accident.
We had been looking for the Riverflats Coffee & Tea cafe the highway exit had assured us was only 500 feet ahead, when we missed it and drove until another sign lured us to a quintessential part of American family entertainment–the well crafted Ye Olde Tourist Trap. Fortunately, this is exactly the kind of fun and surprises I had been hoping to run across.
The White Pines Village in Ludington, MI is of the Potemkin variety. Buildings were collected from various locations to recreate a fake experience of life at the turn of the century in rural Michigan. (In other words, there is a great emphasis on farming and self-sufficiency.)
I love old homes and poking my head into a modern facsimile of the past. It’s convenient and tactile visual exploration that beats a book hands down.**
I had a great time. My son, on the other hand, delighted in trying to escape the experience as fast as humanly possible. So, while I am quite overwhelmed with lovely photos, I am not quite as educated as I might be.
Enjoy the images and just imagine the rich, educational experience to be had. Just, not by any child living today who has access to a digital device instead.
After our brief sojourn in the bygone era, we gratefully climbed into our air-conditioned car and drove onward to Bear Lake…where amazing adventures awaited us.
You will have to imagine those adventures, as my son is demanding time on the laptop to play Where’s My Water…at top volume might I add. (Perhaps the Amish aren’t entirely wrong about eschewing technology.)
Oh, and we did finally locate the cafe…where we had lunch with a stuffed squirrel.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Warning: travel brings on alliteration–as well as gas.
**Sorry, books. You just can’t compete with the awe-inspiring site of a fiberglass cow milking demonstration.
***And this is why it is a good thing the Amish do not use the internet.