What's for dinner?
As Sue, Iggy and I travel across the country, one thought seems ever-present in our minds: What’s for dinner? Well, to be honest, we also wonder what’s for lunch. And, we start every single day by wondering what’s for breakfast. But, those questions have easier answers. Breakfast is usually a smoothie made with chocolate pea protein powder, 30-calorie vanilla-flavored almond milk, bananas, peanut butter and spinach. We once tried to up our smoothie’s nutritional index by substituting kale for spinach. We could have used the rubber bands that held the bunches of kale together, instead of the kale itself, and had a better result. A word to those in charge of declaring the next “Superfood”: If you can’t choke it down, it is not food, let alone a “Superfood.”
Lunch has been more about the location rather than what we packed that day. We’ve had peanut butter and jelly wraps at the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park after a three mile, 1500 vertical feet climb up countless switchbacks and a final scramble to the top of a rock formation that required using chains attached to cliff faces to assist with the final ascent. We’ve had hummus sandwiches on a rock outcrop on the Kaibab Trail 1400 feet below the south rim of the Grand Canyon. And, we’ve had Clif Bars at the base of a raging waterfall outside of Kings Canyon National Park. Without fail, we would thank our creator for allowing us to be together, at that particular spot, eating our simple meal. Then, the whole way back, we would talk about dinner because, in all honesty, nature’s beauty only goes so far.
Dinner has been the all-consuming thought of cross-country travelers since the pioneers first offered their lives to fate and ventured into Indian territories. They relied on hard tack, beans and whatever livestock keeled over on the trail. We have Sam’s Club, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to replenish our supplies. Their kitchen was a Dutch oven over a buffalo chip fire. Our RV kitchen is equipped with a convection oven, three propane burners, a refrigerator/freezer and a finger-slicing mandolin.
Like the pioneers, we were determined to make our dinner at the end of each day’s travel. That lasted nearly two weeks when we exhausted our combined culinary knowledge and went nostalgic for a tuna noodle casserole “just like our moms used to make.” By the second forkful, we realized our moms were terrible cooks, and we weren’t much better. I can’t speak for Sue’s mom, but I am pretty sure that if my mom were traveling the Oregon trail, she would have thrown the buffalo chips into the pot instead of using them for fuel.
Clearly, we needed professional help if we were going to make it through this trip. Instead of wondering what we were going to make for dinner, we needed to concentrate on who was going to make dinner for us. From the East Coast to West Coast and back again, our go-to meals out have fallen into four mostly-reliable categories.
Mexican: Although Daniel Island is approximately 1300 miles from Mexico, Sue and I have been quite happy with local Mexican eateries, including Agave’s on Daniel Island and La Nortena in North Charleston. The closer we got to the Mexican border, the more we anticipated a superior dining experience, only to be bitterly disappointed time and time again.
The entire Mexican food genre was redeemed in Carlsbad, New Mexico at El Jimador, which roughly translates to The Jimador. Sue and I told ourselves that we weren’t that hungry, so we split a single order of shrimp fajitas. What landed on our table was food enough for lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning, with each meal tasting better than the last. This massive amount of exceptional food was on par with the caverns that share the town’s name.
Thai: Thai food makes us happy. Our shared passion to eat a bowl of red curry in every state was half the motivation for this trip. What we discovered in run down shopping center Thai restaurants and high-dollar Thai bistros is that there is very little difference between an $8 bowl of curry and an $18 bowl of curry. So, declaring a winner comes down to atmosphere, or rather, what was happening in our atmosphere at dinner time. Two days in a row we spotted a double rainbow outside of Chao Praya Thai in Lake Havasu City. The odds of this double-double rainbow in a city that receives less than six inches of rain per year is on par with the odds of Eli Manning winning another Super Bowl title. Superior atmospheric phenomenon. Solid curry. Clear winner.
Blueberry Pie: Captain Ahab had his white whale. Sue and I have the search for blueberry pie on par with that which is served at Cedar Pass Restaurant in Badlands National Park. Overfilled with small, wild blueberries, the bar is set high above the competition. The morning we left the Badlands for points further west, we backtracked 15 miles to the café just so we could have a piece of blueberry pie for desert later that evening. We hit a pothole as we entered the interstate, the refrigerator door popped open and our beloved pie hit the deck, sending wild blueberries along the entire length of our galley kitchen. I invoked the 10-second rule so Sue could rush back and scoop the pie remnants into the clamshell, but Iggy was on her game and finished off the scattered pie bits by the count of nine. Saddest, most miserable moment of the trip. For Sue and me, that is. Iggy was in her glory.
Pizza: Being declared the best pizza restaurant in Tropic, Utah is an honor that means nothing outside of Tropic, Utah. But, that award-winning pizza topped off what has proven to be our favorite day of the trip. Sue, Iggy and I went to the Willis Creek Trail in Grand Escalante National Monument, which boasts a series of slot canyons, some of which were just a few feet wide and over 100-feet tall. Along the trail we met Linda, an off duty ranger, her husband and their friends from Kansas. Iggy ran wild in the canyons with their dog, Winston. Later we joined them to see a 1950's truck that fell off a bridge and got pinned in another slot canyon. Then, as the sun was setting, we searched and searched and searched for Indian petroglyphs whose precise location was hidden by darkness. Exhausted, we fell into our booth at the Bryce Canyon Inn for the universal feast of friends new and old, two extra-large pies and three pitchers of beer. Sometimes the people we meet along the trail are even better than the sights the trail has to offer! It is then that we realized the question we need to ask is not “What’s for dinner?”, but “Who will we be dining with?”
“Dispatches from the RV” documents the traveling adventures of Daniel Island News Publisher Suzanne Detar and her husband, Tom Werner, who are currently exploring the country in a motorhome. Last fall, they hit the road to take in an inner loop of the USA, and this year they are focusing on an outer loop, including America’s national parks and all the concurrent and surprising sites along the way.