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Somewhere in Middle America (July 2-9, 2010)

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After celebrating Canada Day in Ottawa with thousands of Canadian strangers plus Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, we spent Independence Day more restfully with Tony's parents, cousins and family friends in Michigan. We got a break from the fast food diet we'd been developing on the road, with home cooked meals and more tasty baked goods (chocolate chip cookies, cherry pie, pineapple upside-down cake) than was at all good for me.

We then went an unintentional step further into gluttony by stopping at a Texas Corral restaurant on our way to Chicago. Tony ordered an entree for us to split, added a shrimp side, and figured he also should get an appetizer. I was skeptical, but not because of the cost. The whole meal, beverages and tax included, cost $20. 

Rather, I had looked around and remembered: we were back in non-coastal, non-urban America ("real America," as Sarah Palin would say). A restaurant order that would be just enough to stop hunger in New York or Canada was going to be way too much food for two people in Franklin, Illinois. And I was right. Our waitress kept bringing us warm rolls with containers of cinnamon butter; the appetizer filled a platter; the entree, with its attendant salad and sides, defeated us entirely. I thought it was kind of a Fifth of July moment: it's a great country that can feed its people so well for such a relatively small amount of money.
In Chicago we stayed with my cousins, and did some revisiting of each of our pasts.

IMG_0325.JPGMy Pie has an almost iconic status in my family's history, as it's one of the few places my parents would go out to eat when they lived in Chicago. The location we visited isn't the same as theirs was, but the pizzas don't seem to have changed.

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We also walked through the new-to-us Millennium Park before stopping back by my cousin's house to play with her adorable baby.

Our fast-food pattern was broken again in Omaha, where Erica Tesla introduced us to a nice Irish pub and an even better tea-room in an unassuming strip mall. 

Erica gave us some great advice about the parts of Omaha worth checking out, including the Old Market area off downtown. We got lunch the next day at WheatFields, which had whole peach pies on sale for less than $8.

We drove on through Nebraska, and the next day through Wyoming. We meant to stop in Cheyenne for lunch, but somehow none of the exits off 80 West appealed, so we continued to Laramie and were glad that we did. 

Home to the main campus of the University of Wyoming, Laramie actually afforded a greater variety of food options (including a vegetarian restaurant near the train tracks) than the much-larger state capitol. There was a week-long festival still going to celebrate Independence Day, complete with carnival. The sign on the door of Coal Creek Coffee Co., where we stopped to caffeinate before getting back on the road, reminded me delightfully of a certain book.

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2 Comments

Very amused by your Franklin restaurant story!

Although I have to wonder about your conclusion... Surely it's no achievement to provide huge amounts of food for $20. The achievement is to attain an economy in which your citizens can describe $20 as a small amount of money.

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