A Biker, a Latte, and a Pizza Place

Starting Mileage: 1823.4

I’m not going to lie: I thought about staying in Charleston for another day.  If it had been as nice as had been the day before, I likely would have tried to stay but the temperature was quite a bit cooler and there had been some rain.  After debating with myself for a while, as I brushed the sand that had somehow ended up in the bed, I finally packed the car up and took the dogs for one last quick walk before we headed out of town.  I wasn’t really feeling the hotel breakfast, I think because I was still full from dinner.

A quick search pointed me in the direction of Bald Monkey Beanery.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find it but the building that had “COFFEE” painted across the side was definitely a clue. Despite the drive thru, I wanted to go inside and check the place out.  It was a cute shop and I got the run down of the coffee menu and at the insistence of another woman in there, I decided on a Cinnamonkey.  The woman working behind the counter was dealing with the drive thru when a man came in with his young daughter.  Well since the daughter went and sat at the register, I’m thinking this must be the owner.  I give my order then look at him.  Well the first thing that struck me was the Hell’s Angels T-shirt.  Then were the  tattoos down his arms, many with the Hell’s Angels death head.  I felt my own head drop and that was when I noticed the Hell’s Angels merchandise on the bottom shelf of the display case in front of me.  I thought about walking out but with a little girl there, I just couldn’t.  I’m not comfortable with supporting criminal organizations but I’m not going to raise a stink in front of a little girl.  And they give military discounts so I have to respect that at least.

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Something tells me this is the place

With coffee in hand, I hopped back into the car.  OK it was a nice latte, I’ll give him that.  I had read about Wannamaker County Park, an off-leash park that got great reviews that was on the way out of North Charleston.  It would have been nice if the reviews had mentioned the $2.00 admission fee just to get into the park but I guess locals can get a pass so they don’t have to worry about it.  And from what I saw, it looked like a large park with lots of other things to do.  Too bad I was just there to let the dogs burn off some energy.

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And it would have been nice if they had.  They sniffed and wandered a bit and with a bunch of spare tennis balls, Leo had fun trying to get them all.  But it seemed like no time at all before they all just stood there looking at me.  I wanted to get some pictures but how entertaining is a butt shot?  I’m trying to cut down on those anyway.  I had barely finished my coffee before we were heading back to the car.  It some times blows my mind that they are not out of their skin with energy; but then again the day before had been a busy one.

Since we had taken the back roads into the Charleston, I took a more direct route north, at least for a little bit.  I was in my own little world when it occurred to me: I haven’t eaten yet.  How could that be?!  So a quick search on Yelp had me pointed to a BBQ place in a small little town called Swansea.  And as I pulled up I was excited to have some fresh BBQ and maybe some fried okra yeah that’d be good and…closed.  Closed?  On a…wait what day is this?  This place only opens Friday and Saturday.  Dang!  OK back on Yelp and there’s a cafe down the road.  I got the car down there before I started to chew my arm off.

The Swansea Valley Cafe was open (no website or I’d link to it).  Already I was happier.  I looked over the menu and after questioning the servers about what was good (umm all of it) I decided on a buffalo chicken club (hold the tomatoes) and some swee’tea.  Yes that’s how they say it.  Because this restaurant is a small place, they warn you that your food will take a bit.  I was tempted to grab an order of the pork rinds (mmmm deep fried pig skin) but decided against it and sat out on a retaining wall after I evacuated the dogs from the car to wait for my order.  My sandwich came with a small bag of chips and a few slices of pickle.  So the buffalo chicken club is a fried chicken breast dipped on hot sauce with crumbled blue cheese, lettuce, and bacon.  It was like eating buffalo wings in sandwich form.  The only problem was that it was like eating buffalo wings.  I couldn’t taste the bacon through the hot sauce although I did like the tang from the blue cheese and if I hadn’t seen the coating on the chicken breast I likely would not have known it was there.  It was a decent sandwich overall and with the chips I was glad I had that big swee’tea as the salt sucked every ounce of moisture from my body.

We continued down the road and I stopped at more rest stops than I normally do.  Partly because that swee’tea was massive (if you get my drift) and so the dogs could have several  short little walks.  I was not too happy with the pet areas in most of the rest stops because they were tiny little strips of grass but I guess that’s better than nothing.  I’m not going to lie but a few times we maaaaaay have strayed out of a few of the pet areas to an out of the way corner of the property from view from others.  And I maaaaaaay have accidentally dropped their leashes once or twice and they maaaaaaaay have had a short little run around and play.

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Virginia is for lovers…and apparently a creepy shadow sneaking up on some adorable dogs.

As it got later, it was time to start looking at putting in for the night.  I was getting tired.  Finally I was able to find a Red Roof Inn in Wytheville, Virginia.  I could have gone further but Wytheville is right outside Jefferson National Park so I figured it would be an easy place to get to in the morning.  I checked in and as I was parking the car, I was pleasantly surprised to see a large patch of grass at the back of the lot complete with a bag dispenser and garbage bin and a fairly large hill.  I got the dogs out of the car and we walked up to our room on the second floor.  In a hallway.  As in the only window faces the walkway and a brick wall.  I had to laugh about it.  What a great view but considering that we were just here to the sleep for the night and never really have the curtains open anyway, what difference does the view make?

I took the dogs down to the grass and we had a little run around but then I realized it was getting darker and not everyone picks up after their dogs so we went back to the room, with me gingerly picking around any suspicious-looking dark patches.  By now I was famished and exhausted which is a bad combo when looking for food.  There was nothing really even close by the hotel and with the temperature dropping and somewhat poor lighting, I didn’t feel like venturing outside.  So delivery it was.  I had been trying to avoid pizza but alas, I can only resist for so long and in under an hour, a BBQ chicken pizza from Italian Garden showed up.   I was getting my BBQ no matter what.  The pizza was very good with a soft chewy crust and not weighed down under toppings.  It was lightly sauced which was perfect since it was a very sweet sauce that could have overwhelmed everything else.  I ate half of it while we watched nature documentaries.  And I do mean we.  And then we went to sleep.

The Road to Q-Demption – Day 8

April 26, 2016

Starting mileage: 3827.7

Today was our last day on the road.  As I was checking out of the hotel, I asked if there was a good spot nearby for breakfast that wasn’t a chain restaurant.  Apparently the only places nearby were chains and the review about the food from the woman working at the counter was less than enthusiastic so I just climbed into the car with another horrible cup of hotel brew and headed out of Dayton.

Fortunately, I needed gas shortly after and was able to skim my Yelp app.  I love Yelp.  As I was scrolling through I saw an entry for Winan’s Chocolates and Coffee House .  I’m sorry…coffee AND chocolate?! Two of my favourite food groups.  Now I realize that there are six of them in Ohio but in this case I’m considering them a local group and not a chain so I’m not cheating on the no chain restaurant rule.

I ended up ordering a shortbread coffee.   It was good but I don’t think I would order it again.  And a slice of coffee cake to munch on with the coffee.  I’m amazed that I was able to leave after only buying some chocolates and gourmet gummy bears for my amazing friend Liz who watches the dogs when I’m working and takes care of my cats while the dogs and I roam.  Then back on the road; after the dogs made sure I didn’t drop any coffee cake crumbs of course.

When we pulled off the highway at a rest stop before Detroit, I was almost knocked off my feet at the sudden gust of cold air.  It had gone from balmy and warm to that damp cold that sinks into your bones.  To say it was a surprise is an understatement.

Soon we found ourselves waiting at the border crossing.  I had picked a line that was, of course, the slow one.  As I sat there, I was wondering: is the person in front of me difficult?  Is the person in the booth really thorough?  Or are they just chatting?  I ran through the contents of my car.  How much had I spent?  What souvenirs was I bringing back?  Do I have any vegetables?  No I haven’t eaten anything vegetal in days.  Oh crap where are my receipts?  I kept checking to make sure my passport was ready, and the dog documents in their envelope and the envelope was at hand and there was nothing that looked like I was hiding it and oh no I don’t have receipts for the barbecue sauce that woman bought for me at Wilbers on our second day…

Finally I pulled up to the booth and handed my passport to the gentleman sitting there.

“Where are you coming from?”  North Carolina.

“How long were you gone for?”  Eight days.

“What was the purpose of your visit?”  North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail.

Again, the double take and need to explain what the Barbecue Trail is.  He even wanted to know how I had found out about it.  It turns out that he is another foodie and wanted to know everything about the trip.  Now I realized what the hold up had been.  The conversation went from my trip to recommendations for places to eat in downtown Toronto.  We exchanged “must visit” restaurants and I was soon on my way into Windsor.

By this time I was STARVING and I found myself at Brewin’ Bros Beverage Co.  I ordered an americano and a grilled cheese.  The americano was great and that had nothing to do with it being the best coffee I had ordered in days.  The grilled cheese was on an herb panino and it barely made it out of the parking lot.  I’m pretty sure I burned the roof of my mouth on the melty cheesey goodness.

I briefly toyed with the idea of stopping in Hamilton at a business that I had been cheated out of on a previous trip but I was so tired and so close to home that I decided to press on.  It may have been a better idea to stop since I ended up getting slowed by rush hour traffic across the top of Toronto.  After eight days on the road, what’s another few hours?

Then on Tuesday April 26 at 6:49 pm we pulled into our driveway.  I barely unloaded the car before sitting on the couch surrounded by snoring dogs and purring cats as I finished the last of the bottle to toast our safe return.  Welcome home.

Finishing mileage: 4619.7

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I think Chase missed Piper more than she missed me.