ROAD TRIP USA 2011: THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
It has been a long while since I posted here on DH. There is, however, a very good reason.
For the best part of the last month, I have been on the road as part of my journey to visit every corner of The United States.
For the record, I have now visited 45 states, leaving just a bare handful for a complete set.
If you look back to around this time in 2010, you will find a number of posts that relate to a similar road trip that I undertook with one of my oldest chums, Neal, through the South of the country. It concluded in my favourite eating city in the US, New Orleans, and so much did we enjoy that excursion that we (and by “we” I mean “Neal”) spent the last twelve months planning our next great adventure.
This time, we decided that we wanted to explore “the road less travelled”, those states, cities and sites that few people, even most Americans, ever think to visit. Places that have much to offer, but get overlooked in favour of cities like New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco and even my own newly adopted home of Los Angeles.
States like Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota and Nebraska might get dismissed as “the flyover states” by many of the coastal elite, but to me, they are the very spirit of this amazing country and need to be visited if I am to continue on my quest to find out what it means to become an American.
Neal agreed and, being the sort of obsessive planner that it appears to be my lot in life to hang out with (take a bow HP), he mailed me regularly updated spreadsheets outlining possible routes and sites to see along the way. My task was to make sure that we would be well fed as we undertook what we figured would be close to a 5,000 mile journey.
We decided to begin our adventure in Seattle and to end it in Kansas City, so I could make my annual pilgrimage to The American Royal BBQ Competition. And, as Neal was going to arrive a day later than me, I was able fit in a couple of meetings and spend a few hours pottering around gettng my first taste of the “Manchester of The West Coast”.
By the time Neal arrived from the UK on Monday evening, I had already decided that I rather liked Seattle and had scoped out a couple of places for us to indulge in a few catch up drinks and a slab of protein to set us up for the miles ahead of us. It is fair to say that we were both a bit over excited at the thought of our road trip and hit the ground running hard enough to ensure that we woke up the next morning cursing our middle age and swearing to the alcohol gods that we would be more restrained if they promised to take away our headaches and quell our raging stomachs.
We spent the morning gingerly strolling around Seattle, through Pike Street Market, the stunning Seattle Public Library and around the neighbourhood near the ageing Space Needle. It was enough to set us to rights and persuade us that we could face solid food once again.
I had read that Seattle played host to one of the best hamburger joints in the country in the shape of Red Mill Burgers. It was a claim that had to be tested and I persuaded Neal to join me on a three mile hike to the nearest location to find out. I had my doubts when we arrived. Red Mill Burgers appears to be staffed almost exclusively by hyper attractive young blonde women of college age. That normally would be a very, very good thing, but I had my doubts, from looking at their sylph like figures that they knew much about feeding two hungry, hung over middle aged men. There was quite a line however, which made me think they must have been doing something right. So, after placing our order, I went to secure a booth.
Shows you what I know. These young women were not only hot as Hades, but also knew exactly how to cook up a mean burger. Such a good burger, in fact that I am inclined to declare it as the best I have ever tried.
The “Double Deluxe with Cheese” was a whacking great beast of a burger. It was juicy and patently made of excellent beef. The toppings all worked well and added to rather than hid the flavour of the beef and the bun had just the right amount of sweetness that is required of a burger delivery system. The sides were more ordinary, but served piping hot enough to make Neal pull a face that made me think he had touched cloth during a secret wind breaking session or was channelling John Shuttleworth.
It was the first food highlight of our trip and, although we enjoyed a pleasant enough supper that evening at a trendy small plates Italian place called Tavolata, it was the “Double Deluxe With Cheese” that stayed in my memory as we hit the hay early enough for our early start the next morning.
By 8am, we had collected our ludicrously large rental car and hit the road for our next destination. We had decided that we wanted a break between major cities before we arrived in Portland and headed towards our selected stopping off point of Newport, Oregon. The drive took us the best part of the day, with a few stops to go “ooh” and “aah” over the stunning scenery and a slightly pointless stop to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, where they make some of the nastiest cheese I have tasted in, well ever.
By the time we had deposited our cases in a brand spanking new Holiday Inn, that evening, our thoughts turned once more to filling our bellies. By sheer coincidence, it turned out that one of my favourite American craft breweries, Rogue Brewery, was situated a short walk from our hotel. They had, we were told, a small dining area and, less than five minutes after discovering this pertinent fact, we were propping up their bar taking long sips on the first of what would turn out to be several pints.
RANT BEGINS: I am not the biggest fan of American Craft beers, if I am honest. Much of the energy and obvious skill that goes into creating them seems to be dissipated by the determination to serve them in as cold and gassy a state as possible. The benefit of this is that you become self limiting, pushing the second or third pint away uncompleted as you begin to burp on an international level. The downside is that any taste the brewer may have carefully planned for their beer is lost in the chilling process as the beer becomes little more than coloured neutral liquid:RANT ENDS.
Anyway, Rogue Brewery was better than most and the food was not half bad either, a combination that set us up perfectly for a good night’s kip and our next morning’s short drive to our next destination.
Next stop, Portland, Oregon