Tag Archives: road trip

Postcard from Ohio

16 Jun
Pressed Penny machine in an Ohio rest stop along I-90. What a monstrosity! Click through to find out why!

What’s wrong with this picture?

Oh, Ohio.

I used to look forward to finding a great pressed penny machine at your I-90 rest areas. But this? This newfangled “penny press” machine? No.

First off, it’s electric. What a waste of energy. Traditional pressed penny machines with a hand crank don’t need electricity–people make them work! Do these break down more (I’m sure there’s got to be some issue with active kids overturning a handle until it breaks, but still)?

Secondly, pressing a button and watching the machine do its thing is boring. Part of the fun of the machine is getting to make the penny yourself. Not that you have a ton of control over what it looks like, but it’s a lot of fun to crank that handle and see what comes out. Sometimes the penny comes out long, sometimes it’s fat. It’s always a surprise. Passively watching the machine work disconnects you from the process. The penny becomes something you gather, not something you’ve made.

Thirdly, it’s a buck. I realize that pressed penny prices for the most part haven’t changed much over the years — most machines are two quarters and one penny, except for those lame machines that are four quarters, or even worse, the machines at Lincoln Park Zoo that are five quarters, one of which is pressed. Why do I want a pressed quarter? It doesn’t fit into a pressed penny wallet! A quarter is actually useful to buy other things!

At any rate, it’s expensive for a tiny souvenir. I get that people might have a dollar in their wallet versus 51 cents, but still. If pressed pennies are going to cost a dollar, that’s something I might take a pass on–well, actually, I did. My philosophy has always been that whenever I see a pressed penny machine, I get one design. If I don’t like the design (“lucky penny” and “I love you” designs are lame in my book–a pressed penny should say something about a particular place), or by some fluke, have all of the designs, I skip the machine. Driving across Ohio, I should’ve picked up three or four pennies. Instead, I got one, because only saw one design I liked enough to spend a dollar on. Who’s losing here?

Let’s not make this a trend, Ohio. Modernity isn’t always progress. Other owners of these machines, you’re on notice.

Your pal,

Jill

Postcard from Woodbine

7 Oct

bbqsauce-woodbine

Recently, the Boy and I were driving back to Massachusetts from Florida, and we needed to stop for lunch. We mostly take the I-95 corridor when we drive, which means you have ranges of advertising for your roadside stops. There’s a Wawa range, a Cracker Barrel range, a Bojangles range, and your BBQ joint range. Not to mention South of the Border.

When you’re in Georgia, you’re definitely in BBQ joint range. Along the highway there are some chain-type places and not-so-bad buffets, but if you’re willing to take a slight detour, I’d recommend going to Woodbine and stepping behind the magic fence at Captain Stan’s Smokehouse.

Since the Boy was driving, I was in charge of finding the place. Anyplace with a magic fence certainly intrigues me, so I directed him off the highway through about four miles of nothingness until we got to Woodbine. The town isn’t that large, and Captain Stan’s is on the main drag. You’ll probably smell the smoked meat before you see the place though.

The magic fence surrounds a really funky outdoor patio and creates a cool hangout place. The yard has an enormous tree in one corner that provides shade for a lot of the area. Some of the tables are covered with porch-like structures; some are out in the open. There’s a fire pit for when it’s cold and fans for when it’s hot. Posters and random paintings that one could stretch and say are folk art adorn the wooden walls. Stan’s has a regular roster of musicians that play Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, Coke products (if you’re a loyalist, this will be a thing as you get into the Carolinas, which is Pepsi country), and meat. Oh, the meat!

When hitting up a BBQ place for the first time, I like to go with pork. It’s a basic. If you’re any kind of smokehouse (especially one with a magic fence), you know how to make a good pork sandwich. Boy, did Captain Stan’s deliver–and not just on the meat, but on the sauces too.

unclestan-bbq-sandwich

The Boston Butt sandwich was smoky, rich in flavor and tender. I had a hard time choosing among the three sauces–there was a mild that was slightly sweet and tangy; a mustard-based one that wasn’t overly sweet; and a hot BBQ sauce that was spicy without being cruel. Even though I spread the sauce wealth around, I kind of wished I could eat three sandwiches so I could have a full sandwich with each kind of sauce.

Unfortunately, we could only make this a lunch stop, but it’s the kind of place where you could spend hours eating, drinking, listening to music and making new friends. It’s definitely on the list for a return visit. Put it on your list too.

****

Pro tip: Don’t eat too many of the in shell peanuts before your meal comes. You’ll need all that room in your stomach for the main course.

Postcard from Buchan

2 Jun

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In blog time, I’m still in Australia, near the end of our road trip. We had one more night on the road, and Susy found us a place in a tiny town (population: 326) in the hills called Buchan (rhymes with “truckin'”). We had to drive along many winding roads in the dark, and we actually had to deal with wildlife crossing the road several times. Twice, wallabies decided it would be fun to hop right in front of the car. Another time we had to stop for a wombat who darted across the road. Then we had to sit and wait for another huge wombat who decided it would take its own sweet time getting out of our way. The look on its face as it stared us down said a little more, but I’m not sure that’s fit to blog.

Needless to say, we weren’t quite sure what we were in for by the time we reached Buchan, but we knew instantly that we were in a place where we’d missed the dinner hour (earlier in the day we’d pretty much missed lunch and settled for a fried seafood feast in Eden, and we were all still hurting from that). Luckily, the lovely owners of the property where we were staying had some frozen pizzas on hand and beer and wine, so we paired that with cheese from Boden and had ourselves a little feast.

When we got to our cabin, we were sorely sorry we couldn’t spend another night here. The place had a great setup with three bedrooms, a living room, a rather large kitchen and an enormous bathroom with a tub and a separate shower that had body jets. We were all excited about the shower, although we were told to watch our water usage because it came from a tank attached to the house (and you wouldn’t want to run out in the middle of someone’s shower). Said shower was great until you opened the shower doors at the end and discovered that water had sprayed out all over the floor. Slight detractor on an otherwise lovely place.

The next morning, I took a little walk around the town, such that it was. It had a general store, a cafe (temporarily closed), a bar. Buchan’s known for its caves (which we didn’t have the time to visit) and it used to have a decent butter factory. I also found out that John Flynn, the guy on the Australian $20 bill, was a Presbyterian missionary in Buchan from 1905 to 1907. He later went on to work in the inland and became known for his work in setting up hospitals in the outback and creating the Royal Doctor Flying Service.

Sadly, that’s pretty much all the time we had for Buchan. A short, but glorious evening and morning in some beautiful countryside with sunny fall weather, cockatiels flying in the trees and a little bit of relaxation before we hit the big city of Melbourne.

Postcard from Pittsburgh

17 Oct

duck

 

 

It does sound a little weird to say we took a 9+ hour road trip to see a giant rubber duck, but that’s what the Boy and I decided to do to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Oh, we had friends to visit, food to try, and a museum to visit, but the duck was my priority.

Pittsburgh is the first American city to get The Rubber Duck Project, Florentijn Hofman’s 40′ tall rubber duck that floated on the Allegheny River by Point State Park, where the three rivers in Pittsburgh meet. It’s a lovely location — bridges to one side, Heinz Field behind it. You can go and sit on on the revetment along the river, watch the duck and take some pictures. And you smile, because you can’t help but smile. The duck is adorable.

The park also has some great people watching. It’s fun to see the duck’s effect on others. Families take group pictures. A bride and groom took some wedding photos. And everybody’s happy. The whimsy of the entire piece just makes your day.

Was it worth the long drive? I’d say yes, although we did a bunch of other things in Pittsburgh that made for an enjoyable weekend. But the duck was pretty awesome. If you get the chance, go — it’s only in town through the 20th.  Maybe it’ll pop up in another city soon…hmm, sounds like a reason to hit the road again!

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