Rosie and Me: Day 6, or Race Car Driving and Food Porn.

So, a dear friend of mine told me that there was this place in Billings, Montana, that serves the best pancakes in the west and that I had to find it. A little bit of sleuthing on Yelp quickly pointed towards Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery downtown. I managed to find it easily and even got a parking space early this morning. A pleasant half-block walk got me there, and I was seated after just a very brief wait.

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I did order just one of the Monstercakes, and it lived up to its name. Wonderful buttermilk pancake, with a scrambled egg and some sausage was enough to more than fill me up. The service was good and the staff friendly.

Here are a couple more pictures outside Stella’s.

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Two interesting license plates seen today in transit:

PKGHWLER (on a FeEx truck on downtown Billings)

MTNATHRVN (on a pretty expensive car downtown. Somebody is doing well in this economy!)

The drive today from Billings to Spokane was long, but fun. It’s nice to have a new car that is ready to run and take it out on the roads where you can go eighty mph, do multiple S-curves and steep grades in sport mode and have a ball passing ninety per cent of the other cars and trucks on the road. Big sky country lived up to its name long before I hit the mountains, and it was indeed a gorgeous day.

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Other observations and general business of travel in the west:

Sprint has NO coverage after you get past eastern North Dakota. NONE. I thought something had killed my phone dead, but it was just turned into a bigger, more expensive iPod Touch until I got to the outskirts of Spokane, when it woke itself up. Good thing I had a Verizon iPad, so I knew that I needed to stay on the interstate and go west. Right.

I did have some deeper philosophical thoughts while driving today. One is observational and one is metaphorical.

It was soothing and comforting to me that for many miles along the interstate, one could see a river or two running parallel to the road and the railroad for that matter. One especially long one was Clark Ford, a medium sized stream that had just enough force behind its flow that you could see little ripples in the water as it ran past rocks and tree roots. I thought about how constant these larger bodies of water are, from Clark Ford right up to the Mississippi River, which I crossed earlier in the trip, and the Missouri, whose headwaters I passed today. They flow, day in and day out, pretty constant, level and non-changing unless weather conditions take a drastic turn. They were lovely to look at .

The other thought was about trains. In the east, back home, we tend to look at freight trains as impediments to getting to work. We see them going by at the crossings very, very slowly, just a few cars at a time, and we wonder how many cars there are and how long it will take then to run their course and be gone. We don’t know how many engines are laboring to pull the cars. We never know if we are sitting and waiting on a twenty car or a hundred car train.

Out here, the whole train is often visible, coming at you from way down the track, but visible for virtually its entire length. You can easily see how many engines there are, how fast they are pulling the cars, how many single or stacked cars there are, and where the end of the train is.

This reminded me of how we process problems. If we can’t easily define the problem we’re dealing with (start, length, severity, end) then it’s very hard to tackle it effectively. If we can better see it and the extent of it up front, including how much energy we have to process it, how big or long it is in its entirety, and when it will end, we are more likely to see it as a whole that can be dealt with and has a finite ending.

On one of my stops for gas today, I met a 185 pound Great Dane, white and black spotted, and friendly as can be. Her owner told me that she had been owned by a man who was in the military, and he would often “haul off and pop her one in the head” if she dod not do what he asked her to do. When this adopted family rescued her, she weighed 65 pounds. She is now happy and healthy and looks big enough to ride! As I got into my car after chatting with the man who owns her now, he called out, “Sir?”

“Yes?” I answered.

“Thanks.”

“For what?” I asked.

“For asking about her. Thank you.”

Spokane was pretty tonight, from dusk to the rising of the moon over the city. This is a shot of that time of the evening here.

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I decided to once again find a local place to get dinner, instead of eating in at the hotel. Yelp directed me to several places, and I picked Italia Trattoria at 144 S Cannon Street, Spokane, WA. I was not disappointed.

Jesse was my server, and from the very beginning when asking about my preference for sparkling water, he was a real pro. He never gave me a bad tip (and mine to him reflected that after the meal was over) He showed just the right amount of balance between being attentive and giving me time on my own to enjoy the meal.

Starting out with bread and water.

Starting out with bread and water.

The meal consisted of scallops and chard with a very thin base of potatoes, baby carrots, and grapes and was heavenly. A nice glass of Sauvignon blanc complemented the dish. Dessert was some of the best tiramisu I’ve ever tasted, with a perfectly done double espresso.

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This meal was by far the best I’ve had on this trip, and may have been one of the best I’ve ever had anywhere. If you’re ever in Spokane, stop by Italia Trattoria and ask for Jesse.

Tomorrow will complete the outward bound portion of this trip, as I will get into Seattle for a three night, two day stay there. There will be lots to see and do, a fun reunion dinner of sorts, and a show on Saturday night. I’ll post pictures and try not to make them too incriminating for those involved. I also need to do some grandkid gift shopping, and Seattle may just be the perfect place to do that.

I hope you all have a good day tomorrow, whatever you choose to do.

Good night from Spokane.

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Rosie and Me: Day 5

Okay, class, this was a day known in the sporting word as a traveling day. Nothing of import happened, no contests were held, no big meet ups took place. I was in the car a lot, heading west, heading west, heading west, and then heading west a while.

In other news, it is WINDY in North Dakota. (Nothing against you guys, but I am very glad I’m in Montana tonight, where it is absolutely balmy. Ahh.

Did you know that it is illegal to transport alien, invasive species into the state of Montana? Sign right there across the state line says so, so it must be true. So glad I didn’t have anybody from Carolina or Clemson in the car, or I would have had to put ’em out.

You know, I am struck by the fact that 1) we get used to things pretty quickly, and 2) things scale. Now, what I mean by this is that if we are used to doing things one way and we have to start doing them differently, it feels weird and odd for a while, but after a day or two or three we are doing things the new way as if it was always the old way and we’re quite comfortable with it. Moreover, when we are confronted with a bigger, broader look at the world, after a while we get used to the grandness of it, and take it all in on the bigger scale just as we saw it more narrowly before.

What does all this mean?

That the bigger iPhone is okay once you get used to it (well, at least the 6; I don’t know about the 6+), and that doing 80 mph down the interstate in Montana feels like flying under the biggest, brightest blue-domed snow globe you’d ever want to be trapped in. (Apologies to Stephen King)

Did you know that there is a sign off the interstate in Montana that says “Bad Route Road”?

Now, why would anyone in his or her right mind want to exit onto a road that was described, very plainly, as Bad Route Road? Why would one not wait for the next exit, hoping for Good Route Road?

On a more serious note, Since I had no one to take me out to dinner or brunch today (many thanks to Jordan and Diane!), I was forced to find a wonderful new place and buy myself dinner tonight.

I found The Fieldhouse Cafe in Billings, Montana. This excellent little restaurant is inside a reclaimed building by the railroad tracks not far from downtown Billings. The brick walls, exposed pipes, brightly polished industrial seating, wooden topped tables and good music playing overhead all add to the atmosphere. The servers are wonderful and all the staff members were quite friendly and chatty.

After reading about some of the menu items on Yelp and talking to my waitress about her favorites, I decided to go with the meatloaf, potatoes and broccoli, along with a nice pinot. The excellent red sauce highlighted the flavors of the meatloaf and gave it just a little spice. I finished with a piece of moist homemade carrot cake, topped with a small dollop of goat cream cheese icing and ginger pieces. A piping hot French press coffee pot delivered at the same time put the finishing touches on a very nice meal this evening.

All in all, it was a good day. Tomorrow, I will finally reach my destination state of Washington, if not quite to Seattle. I’ll spend the night in Spokane and finish up the outward bound journey on Thursday. Then there will be Friday and Saturday to explore, drink coffee, eat seafood with friends old and new, and see a show. Might even find some little goodies for the grandkids on this leg of the trip. On Sunday it’s down to Portland for a day, and then Rosie turns back east for the long trip back towards Carolina.

There’s a lot more to see and do, so stay tuned!

Rosie and Me: Day Two

A funny thing happens when you leave southern climes and head north in the month of October.

It gets chilly. Brisk. A tad cool.

Freakin’ COLD.

This was the (quite beautiful but freakin’ COLD) sunrise this morning in Corbin, Kentucky, which last time I checked was in the sunny south and has no business getting this cold in October. I mean, we’ve just put out the Christmas decorations in the store, for God’s sake.

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I spent the last two Saturdays in Athens, Georgia, sitting high up in the stands in Sanford Stadium, watching the ballgames but also marveling at how little clothing it takes to cover some people who like to show off their tan lines, tattoos and curvaceousness. I sat there, baking in the late-September sun, getting those odd colorations that are part farmer’s tans and part stupidity, the not-so-symmetrical bright red patches on arms and earlobe that don’t scream GO DAWGS as much as they do GO FIGURE. Yes, I got burned toasty two weeks ago, and I’m still peeling from that little scalding. Last week, I remembered the sun screen.

Up here in Indiana and Illinois, people were actually wearing clothes today. I mean, real live pants and shirts and sweats and hoodies and shoes and things that cover you up and keep you warm.

And it was not only cold, but it was windy. I mean, Red rover, red rover, blow Rosie right on over kind of windy. Combine the Rosie-rousting winds with the cold and you might as well be in Canada or something. I went by some fool power company guys that were trying to work on power poles in that gusty wind and they were swaying up in those buckets to beat the band. “Upchuckets”, I christened them in my head as I zoomed past them.

Along I-65, I came upon a midnight clear, that glorious….Oh, sorry, wrong post…

I actually came upon a windmill farm, one of the most beautiful and surreal things I’ve seen in a long time. These very tall and very alien looking blades on stalks were turning slowly but steadily, grouped in tens, dotting the landscape on either side of the road for miles and miles.

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Did you know that there are at least two million eighteen wheelers in the United States? Yes, and 1,999,982 of them were on the very same interstate I was on today. WEIRD.

Did you know that of all those eighteen wheelers, a bunch of them are Fed Ex trucks? FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, FedEx Multi-Modal. They all look the same to me, but what do I know. I was COLD today.

The highlight of the day was meeting my friend Jordan Grumet (@jordangrunet on the Twitter) for dinner at TTOWA, a wonderful Korean restaurant in Arlington Heights IL, in Chicagoland. This is one of Jordan and Family’s favorite places, and it was indeed wonderful. The owner served up a meal all on his own (no ordering by us at all, just sit back and enjoy and eat) including wings, ribs, seafood soup, and a fabulous dessert of green tea ice cream and little fried Korean doughnut things that also had red beans inside.

Jordan and I talked about love, life, writing, the Internet, the state of medicine right now, and enjoyed each other’s company “IRL” (in real life) for the very first time.

All in all, it was a day of travel and food and conversation and fun.

Tomorrow, I meet my friend Diane Misch MD for brunch, sightseeing and chocolate (yes, she knows of a neat little chocolate store within walking distance of where we’ll be) Then, it’s back on the road, heading to to Minneapolis and then due west, making our way to Seattle by the end of the week.

Good night from Chicago.

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Waffling in The House

(Hey, you got one!)

“How are ya, hon?”

“I’m fine, thank you.”

“What can I get you, sweetie?”

“Cheesesteak omelette, tomatoes, no grits, no toast, black coffee, please.”

“Pull a cheesesteak, tomatoes, don’t drop one, no bread!”

“You want that coffee in a big to go cup, hon?”

“Yeah, that would be great, thanks.”

“Where you headed?”

“Up to see the Berry football team’s first game tomorrow.”

“Oh, are they any good?

“This is their very first year having a football team. I hope they’ll be good.”

“Wow, those tomatoes were makin’ me sneeze!” (Washes hands vigorously)

“Here’s your change, Louise.”

Mumble mumble mumble.

“Hey, Tex, you’re early! Is this even the right day for you?”

“New route. Be here Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.”

“I’ll guess you’ll see me, then, if you come back on Tuesday.”

“If he lets you out of the bedroom. That’s where I hear you been holin’ up lately.”

(Blushing furiously)

“Everything okay with you hon?”

“Yes ma’am. Good stuff.”

“John’s not here anymore, huh?”

“No, he went over to the Cartersville store I think. Over there with Margaret I think.”

“He was a good one.”

“Yes, he was.”

“You want your usual, or you want to wait until you have a couple cups of coffee in you first and then decide?”

“Yeah, coffee first.”

“May I use your bathroom?”

“Sure hon, right down that hall.”

“Good night, Ms. Louise. See you on Wednesday.”

Mumble, mumble, mumble.

“At least we made a little money.”

“Yeah, a little I think.”

“You need anything else, hon?”

“No, I’m good, thanks.”

“Good luck to your team tomorrow!”

“Thank you.”

“Hurry back.”

I love to travel.

I love to eat on the road.

I love to people watch.

It’s all good.

(Reposted from 9-6-13. Hope it gives you the same chuckle it gave me.)