For obvious reasons, it was extremely slow going Saturday morning. For a chunk of it, we watched Bill and Karen’s kid play and closely scrutinized children’s songs and the videos accompanying them. Eventually, we felt up for the task and Bill, Brandon and I got ready for our day out. It was the day of the Kansas-Kansas State game, and we couldn’t get tickets. It was cold, so I’m a little glad we didn’t.
We took an Uber into Aggieville. I deleted my Uber back when it was fashionable, so I would have gotten a Lyft. But, if I was in charge of hailing a ride, we would have missed out on our delightful driver. A native Texan, she immediately told us not to be alarmed because she needed to take her knife out of her boot because it was uncomfortable. She then went on to regale us of her verbally abusive childhood. But, seriously, she was a hoot.
Our first stop was Kite’s Bar and Grill. It was crowded, as was every other place in Aggieville, so we spent the entire duration of the football game standing or leaning against the bar. I had nothing but water, for obvious reasons, and some of the surprisingly delicious nachos they served.
The most disappointing thing about this entire trip was that I didn’t really experience a lot of local food. I was warned that this would happen.
After a football’s game worth of water, I recovered enough to head to Keltic Star Public House, where the hair of the dog, a lamb slider and rebel drumsticks rejuvenated me. From there, we called Karen to pick us up and went to So Long Saloon to some more drinks and its chipotle raspberry and black bean dip. Bill and Karen did not tell us there were raspberries in it before we tried it because it sounded a tad odd. I would have tried it anyway, though. (It was spectacular, by the way.)
Back at Bill’s house, we analyzed the absurdity of children’s programming once more before I drove us back into Aggieville and we headed to The Varsity Truck.
The Varsity Truck is the back half of Varsity Donuts. Legend has it that the historic building housing the doughnut shop lacked a kitchen and the shopkeepers were not allowed to install one. The solution was to permanently park a food truck in the alley to cook.
As this is a college town, drunk students were lured into the alley by the smell of doughnuts cooking in the moonlight and began asking for food. This led to the truck becoming a late-night food spot. Its wares include corn dogs (I love corn dogs, so of course I got one) and grilled macaroni and cheese sandwiches. (I love the occasional gross, fattening food, so of course I got one.) We ate them in the alley as The Walking Dead played on mute and a grossly inappropriate song — I think it was Andy Gibb’s An Everlasting Love — played.
We ended the night with ranting at Tiny House Hunters, which might be my new thing, and the house was asleep by 11:30. Because we’re in our 30s, and multiple days of rallying all night long are out of the question.
After waking up at about 8 a.m. and subjecting ourselves to more children’s programming, Brandon and I decided against breaking our ride back into two parts (I initially planned to stop somewhere in Kentucky). When then dedicated the day to Karen. She’s been as much as a integral part of our college experience as Bill. And before Bill and Karen were dating, our road trips began to include her (which led to me realizing Bill liked Karen before Bill knew he liked Karen).
Karen gave us a driving tour of the city that included all of the places that weren’t Aggieville. Although we went to Aggieville. I needed to get a magnet for Renée, and I also got a key chain. Because why not?
As the tour began winding up, Karen mentioned that there was a winery. So we went.
The winery was called Liquid Art. We each did a flight and briefly sat outside. It took a while for us to figure out the fire pit, and then the wind picked up.
Back inside, I decided that the winery’s boldest, reddest wine was pretty good. But I decided against buying a bottle. On the way to Kansas, we brought in Virginia beer and cider and Kentucky bourbon. There was a brief mishap with the bourbon in transit from St. Louis to Manhattan, so I decided against carrying any other quantity of booze over state lines.
Unless the ghost of Burt Reynolds could be my blocker.
Afterward, we went to Little Apple Brewing Co., where the featured meal was Memphis loaded sweet potato fries. I ordered supplemental food, because I wanted soup and it somehow didn’t register that a flatbread was a small pizza,
While we were eating, Mandy visited because I hadn’t seen her in seven years and just getting a cup of coffee just didn’t seem right for the only other person who know as much as — if not more — about me than Bill.
After Mandy left, we decided it was time for dessert, so we headed to Vista.
If I hadn’t had entirely too much food that day, I would have gotten a Vistaburger. Although it’s a hamburger, I at least would have been able to say I ate something unequivocally local. Instead, I got a hot chocolate float. I’d never heard of one before, so I guess that counts.
We wrapped up the night with more Tiny House Hunters, two shots and a beer and an early bedtime so Brandon and I could hit the road at 6 a.m.
Monday (and about 40 minutes into Tuesday)
Brandon and I woke up at 5 a.m. so we could leave by 6 a.m. Brandon had to get to work on Tuesday, so we had to get going early. If we only stopped for gas, we could have made it back to Charlottesville by midnight. I was shooting for 12:30 a.m. (and I probably would have made it too, if I noticed like all the locals that there was a cop up ahead, as I mentioned in the first part).
Once we got to the St. Louis Metro area, I drove the portion that I missed while passed out in my backseat and completed driving the entire length of Interstate 64. I stopped short of doing the entire Hampton Roads Beltway earlier this month, so I can’t say I did the entire thing in less than a month. But I did it. I’ve wanted to do it ever since the early ’90s, when I found out where 64 ended.
We made a few stops in Missouri to get gas and then for me to get a Mountain Dew. I was still a little sleepy when we started, and nothing perks me up lie doing the Dew. I rarely drink it because a 20 ounce bottle keeps me moving for about 18 hours.
Oh, I forgot to mention that it snowed from Kansas to the Mississippi River. It wasn’t sticking to the pavement, but that was awful. It was also interesting to go from scraping ice and snow off my car to effectively driving into a sunny fall day.
We didn’t make another real stop until we grabbed food in Mount Vernon, Illinois. It was an arbitrary stop, but we went from Manhattan to Times Square.
Again, we did not plan this at all.
A few hours later, after stopping for gas in Kentucky, it began to rain. A lot. A whole lot.
And it was foggy in West Virginia, too.
But I soldiered on.
“Years of playing driving simulation video games with a steering wheel and gas pedal prepared me for this,” I said to Brandon, who sometimes woke up to me more or less navigating by dead reckoning along some higher elevations.
We got back at 12:40 a.m. The rain still was coming down in buckets. The Mountain Dew kept me up till nearly 3 a.m. I slept until nearly noon Tuesday.
I’m grateful that tomorrow is Friday.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed this trip. Again, it was great to see people I’ve known for between about 13 years, in Karen’s case, and as much as about 25 years, in Mandy’s case. (Mandy and I knew of each other since fourth grade but didn’t truly become friends until 10th grade.)
That saying about being able to pick up where you left off with good friends is true. If stepped into night out with Pete and our banter felt like my favorite, most comfortable pair of shoes. Both coming and going from Kansas, Brandon and I went a good four hours before the conversation tapered off. Bill, Karen and I have have quiet and raucous times in equal measure so mostly sitting on the couch as their child played seemed like a natural progression. I talk to Mandy so much, there wasn’t exactly much to catch up on. Unfortunately, we’ve drifted away from some of our mutual high school and college friends to the point that there isn’t as much gossip as there used to be.
Since I’ll still have three weeks of vacation to Renée’s two, I might split those days into weekend trips to St. Louis and then another trip to Manhattan.
Although I want to explore St. Louis, I’m looking forward to returning to Manhattan more.
This is the key chain I bought.