Every so often when we’re not overindulging in weekend events or buried in adult chores, my wife Anne and I like to spend a Saturday morning driving to some other part of Indianapolis or central Indiana and finding breakfast at someplace that serves dishes more varied than scrambled eggs or McMuffins. We do this often enough that I could mine them for smaller MCC entries, but the thought never occurs to me. That changes right now, at least for tonight.
Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.
After the record-breaking nine-day epic that was our 2009 trek to the farthest reaches of South Dakota, we decided to scale back in 2010 with a shorter drive in a different direction. We previously drove through the corners of Pennsylvania in 2003 and 2004 — through Washington in the southwest corner on our way to Washington, DC; and through Erie in the northwest corner on our way to Niagara Falls. This year, that extra-large wooded state would be the center of our attention.
As one of America’s original 13 colonies, Pennsylvania contains multitudes of U.S. history and authentic places and things from centuries past. For the three of us, we figured it would do well. Anne is a big history buff. I’m willing to drive just about anywhere within reason. My son would be dragged along for whatever ride until such time as he developed a separate life and identity.
We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
My wife and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. My 2016 birthday destination of choice: the northern Indiana city of Elkhart, with a bonus stopover in South Bend, both some 100+ miles north of here. Elkhart was regrettably cut a little short because the weather was miserable and tried to freeze us in our tracks, but we had enough fun to fill out another four-part miniseries starring a candy factory tour, a super-hero roadside attraction, and a selection of the “art” in Elkhart. Also, food.
Part Four of Four: that food! It wouldn’t have been my birthday without it. Only one of our three meals was in Elkhart, and it wasn’t a full meal, but I do hope you’ll forgive the aging birthday guy his occasional off-topic digressions. I hear it’ll get worse as I get older.
Full disclosure: my first job was a twelve-year stint at McDonald’s, ten of those in management. My wife likewise did time there until she found the gumption to exit long before I did. We bear the company no ill will and we still eat there more frequently than the average ex-employee. That being said: large portions of our respective tenures were spent watching new products die.
The Indiana State Fair is a great annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides and big-ticket concerts by Top-40 or country artists. My son decided long ago that it wasn’t his thing anymore, but my wife and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination. Mostly that means culinary concoctions that shouldn’t exist but do.
First, foremost, and most unfathomable: the “Elvis” — a bacon peanut-butter banana burger.
It sounds heinous, but wasn’t all that bad when you realize bananas and Jif Creamy peanut butter aren’t exactly sharp-flavored foodstuffs. They made the sandwich richer and creamier, for what that’s worth. If you remember that banana is a tropical fruit, pretend that the salt on the burger is like sea salt, and imagine that the bacon is reminiscent of a roast pig at a luau, then you could tell people it’s a Hawaiian Paradise Burger. Rationalizing the peanut butter might be trickier.