Stops Along the Way




So I flew to Iowa to pick my daughter Elizabeth up from school, help her pack up and clean out her dorm room. Then we began the long drive home in her car. Before we left we stopped at my favorite coffee shop (outside of New Hampshire, of course), a place called Fuel on Mt. Vernon's charming main street, to buy a pound of their decaf beans to grind at home. I've recently eliminated caffeine (mostly) and a good decaf is hard to find.

Anyway, the owner of the shop said she was low and couldn't spare an entire pound. I told her it was a tradition for my daughter to bring me coffee from her shop back to New Hampshire and her eyes lit up. "Are you the guy with the photo of our bag on your Flickr site?" she asked.

Sure enough, the profile pic on my Flickr photo-sharing site is an empty paper bag of coffee with the word FUEL stamped on it - a whimsical metaphor for my life.

Anyway, small world. Oh, and she gave me a whole pound of decaf for the road.

On the way home we made a pit stop at the World's Largest Truckstop in Walcott, Iowa. It's about what you'd expect, home of the Walcott Truckers Jamboree (now in its 28th year), packed with accommodations including a movie theater and trucking museum. Back on the road, we'd sometimes call my wife at home in Concord and ask her to scout along our course using Google and try to locate other interesting spots and landmarks - to plan our breaks in the 20-something hours of driving that lay ahead.

My daughter is going into her senior year in the fall, so we've taken this drive before and with this kind of teamwork we've made great discoveries. For instance, if you are passing through northwest Indiana around suppertime, pull off I-94 when you see signs for Chesterton and have a bite at Popolano's. I recommend the crespelle (with three sauces!) and their balsamic is to die for. The town of LeRoy in western New York is where Jell-O was invented and logically happens to be home to the Jell-O Museum. For some reason, I enjoyed visiting this tiny but earnest roadside attraction much more than Elizabeth. Did you know that (according to an exhibit there), a bowl of Jell-O produces electrical impulses that are identical to a human brain on an EEG machine?

We both went gaga over the Corningware Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y., which deserves a whole day, not the quick in-and-out we had time for, and I can't begin to list the many great lunch and breakfast spots we've scouted out.

While I enjoy poking fun at our crunchy neighbor to the west as much as anyone, I've got to hand it to the Brattleboro Farmers Market. That amazing array of organic produce and specialty food makes me want to build a yurt, grow my hair and learn to macramé.

I'm not sure what the moral is to this story, except that maybe after a year of compiling our favorite things about the Granite State, it's refreshing and inspiring to think about the kind of cool stuff you can find anywhere if you take the time to look.

And it's certainly true that on the long road of life, it's nice to have an extra set of eyes and a trusted voice on the other end of the line to point you to the sweet stops along the way.

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