Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Checkers, anyone?

Table for ten
Dayton, OH, January 2009

It's a restaurant that no longer exists, in a place we passed through one cold winter's night as we sped through the very middle of Middle America on our way home.

Despite its very temporary presence in the life of our family, it strangely sticks in our collective memory almost two years later. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it was the novelty of the place - we didn't have anything like it at home - or the fact that we came across it during the kind of family adventure that gets us raised eyebrows when we tell friends about it: "You drove HOW far...?"

Or perhaps because it was a Fuddruckers, a build-your-own burger place that our kids had first experienced years earlier in Florida and had always wanted to revisit. Only they couldn't, because the place went bankrupt in the wake of a bunch of hurricanes Rita and Wilma (2005 was a bad year, for that.) Not a huge, headline-grabbing life experience by any stretch of the imagination, but one that mattered to them all the same, because small experiences aren't any less significant just because they're small.

We were lucky enough to find this otherwise non-descript place in a suburban strip mall, the proverbial needle in a haystack in the middle of a 2,400 km drive. All the way home from Florida, the kids talked about maybe finding a Fuddruckers. So I played with our GPS unit's points-of-interest database and voila, there it was, just a couple of kilometres off of our route. Fate, perhaps?

We'll never know, of course. But for 90 minutes on this night, we hung around and drank it in, because we didn't know if we'd be able to do so again. History, sadly, proved us right.

Your turn: Ever stumble upon a memorable place while travelling. Want to share?


A Paperback Writer said...

Here's one:

Jason Ryan Arment said...

While I was in Iraq about two years ago, I was stationed roughly ten klicks west of fallujah in a town small town.

I was on some routine patrol through the town when my patrol went static by the towns hospital. I got out, I don't remember why now. Maybe for no reason, maybe to stretch my legs.

I ended up smoking a cigarette in the lot across from the hospital. I looked down to check my gear and adjust the way my weapon was hanging from it's sling when I noticed a bunch of syringes on the ground.

The hospital had been dumping their dirty syringes across the street in an empty lot. Kids were playing around them and in them, sheep were grazing in the same lot, it was pretty surreal.

Sometimes I think about that little town, nestled up against the beehive that is fallujah. I hope everyone there is better off then they were when I was there. I wish I could have done more.

Jason Ryan Arment said...

If anyone cares, heres a little story about my time in that place. Not fun memories.


Ginny Hartzler said...

Yes, we had the same Fudrucker's experience! In Richmond, Virginia, about an hour and a half away, over 25 years ago. Now whenever we travel there, we pass the deserted and run down the building. I literally see the ghosts of our younger selves with our little boy dancing in the parking lot.

srp said...

I have been to one of these... and we had one here on the coast, but I do think they have all gone out of business. Too bad.. the hamburgers were quite good.

Here the special place was The Purple Cow... family oriented with fabulous sandwiches and the world's best, most fantastic she-crab soup. Sadly, I went to eat there one day last spring and it too had closed....

Ankita Sarkar said...

alright.. you're obsessed with black and white...
and I didn't quite get the story of the place first... I fugured the photo was taken long ago when you last visited it... am I wrong?

kenju said...

Our Fuddruckers closed last year and I miss them!

21 Wits said...

so many places but one memorable experience our entire family mentions all the time still is in a quaint diner close to Graceland/Elvis Estate where I had an unforgetable verbal brawl with a waitress when she refused to serve my 9 year old daughter her own coffee!...my German mother first served it (mostly milk then) when she was 2...she's still a major coffee lover!..moral is you can't win with a southern gal server...so I shared my cup...and got used to the icy glare, of southern charm?!..they are firm in their beliefs!

Unknown said...

I remrmber visiting an Post-Civil War Fort in OK. It pretty cool visit love walking around in the barraks etc.

Unknown said...

Thanks for that shot!

Anonymous said...

Picture this:

Atlanta, Georgia, two decades and a lifetime ago. Mom, dad and 3 kids under the age of 11 are en-route to (believe it or not) an ashram on Buzzard Mountain, for a week long meditation seminar in raja yoga. Having flown in from the west coast of Canada, we were hungry for dinner and not thinking too straight in our pursuit of nourishment. We stopped at the first restaurant we came to - 'Hooters' - and, being unfamiliar with the name and too tired and hungry to ruminate on it for long, sat down at a table, salivated at the smells from the kitchen, and perused the menu.

When the waitress finally arrived and chirped a sweet and breezy 'Hi y'all', I asked my son what he wanted to eat. Silence. I looked over at him. His 11 year old eyes were as round as marbles. I frowned across the table to my husband (quick, what do you want to eat?) - whose eyes were equally round. But no answer from him either. Speechless is the word that comes to mind now. So I finally looked up at the waitress to apologize for our indecisiveness. Or rather, I looked up at a pair of large, friendly breasts barely contained within their tight orange T-shirt.

Momentarily mesmerized and speechless myself, I finally managed to look away and closed my menu.

'We're leaving,' I told my family. The waitress giggled. Covering my son's eyes with one hand, waving my menu in front of my husband's with the other, I nodded my daughters towards the exit.

'But why can't we eat there!' my heart-broken son pleaded as we sped away in the rental car. 'I'm hungry!'

'Because we're going to an ashram,' I retorted, grasping for a good-enough reason. 'And we can't eat at Hooters on the way to an ashram. It's bad karma.'

To this day, the story still makes us laugh ourselves silly!