The Waffle House: “An irony free zone where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts for everybody regardless of race, creed, color, or degree of inebriation is welcomed. . . Its warm yellow glow, a beacon of hope and salvation inviting the hungry, the lost, the seriously hammered all across the south to come inside, a place of safety and nourishment. It never closes. It is always, always faithful, always there for you.”
-Anthony Bourdain’s narration, Parts Unknown, Season 5: Charleston.
In the Charleston episode of Parts Unknown, Chef Sean Brock guides Anthony Bourdain through the wonder that is the Waffle House. Brock walks him through his preferred tasting menu-of-sorts which include the following:
Hashbrowns, scattered, with onions, cheese, and ham.
Salad with thousand island dressing
Thin cut pork chops
T-bone with Heinz 57
Read Part I (Maevas Coffee in Alton) & Part II (Ruebel Hotel & Beasley Fish) of my Exploring The Great River Road series.
It’s easy to understand why people, since the beginning of time, have been seduced by the Mississippi river.
The Great River Road got under my skin. I drove it for the first time a week ago and yearned to return. I’m not sure why I feel so drawn to the river. Maybe it’s that I always grew up near it in Minnesota. Or maybe it’s the river’s sparkle or vastness . This weekend I insisted on returning. “You have to see the river,” I insisted to Jake. There’s something magical about how driving on the Great River Road makes you feel like you’re suddenly transported far, far away.
I loved visiting Old Bakery Beer in Alton, Illinois. The brewery recently opened in 2015 with sustainability a priority. I know Jake would love it, from the beer to decor.
From Maevas Coffee Shop in Alton, Illinois, I headed towards Grafton on the Great River Road.
Read Exploring The Great River Road Part I: Maevas Coffee here.
I stopped along the Main Street that run along the river and popped my head inside a couple of shops before heading to Beasley Fish for lunch. The road was lined with shops, restaurants, and inns. Many buildings displayed “For Sale” signs in their windows. This Saturday afternoon was pretty darn near perfect at sunny and 75 degrees. Everyone seemed to know it, too.
Anticipating a meal of fried fish, I hesitantly passed on the fudge shop. One antique shop made me pause when I read a hand-painted sign near the entrance. “Just lookin’ doesn’t keep us cookin'”. The truth was that I was just looking. “Does this mean I shouldn’t go inside?” I wondered. “What if I don’t find anything I want. Am I supposed to just buy something? Why would you buy something you don’t want?”
Driving to new places alone still fills me with anxiety. The payoff, though, is those moments where I find myself standing in the midst of something beautiful or staring at a landscape that fills me with wonder. Something inside of me feels like it grows a little bit bigger or something. I can’t quantify this feeling or put a monetary value on it, but it’s so worth chasing.
This weekend, I cruised down the Great River Road to Alton, Illinois and then to Grafton. Driving the Great River Road felt wild. Towering limestone bluffs lined one side of the road, while the wide river flowed along the other. The road was smooth and wide and the river curved and glittered. I felt like I was transported somewhere far, far away.
Motorcycles and fancy little sports cars passed me on the left. Soon enough I’d catch up with them around the next bend when I found them pulling off from the side of the road to take a photo or pause for a view of the river. We all had the same idea.
Most of us are a little bit Ramona Quimby inside.
This week I was delighted to learn author Beverly Cleary celebrated her 100th birthday. According to this Washington Post interview, Cleary commented she was commemorating her 100th in a “low-key” manner, “with a celebratory slice of carrot cake, she says, ‘because I like it.'”
Growing-up, Ramona Quimby was the perfect literary best friend. She did well-meaning things that made adults upset. She was curious and sometimes did silly things for attention. So did I.