Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Traveling: food nirvana or food wasteland?

Cosmo Kramer
I love to travel.  Well, to be exact, I love being somewhere else. The actual traveling, the getting-there, I could do without.  On planes, I can never sleep and I always get what Kramer refers to as "the Jimmy Legs" because my legs are too short to reach the floor comfortably. In a car, I'm a little better as long as I'm the driver.  On a bus? Well, I haven't actually been on a bus for an extended period since I was a kid riding up to Spartanburg on Trailways.  Until now.

So impressive in real life
My daughter is a 1st year Daisy Scout.  This is the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts and the Troop in Washington, D.C. hosted a "Rock the Mall" Girl Scout sing-a-long at the Washington Monument.  

When my mom saw the email about this event, she proclaimed, "We are taking Vivian to Washington!" Yes indeedy, we are going.  Long story short, we hooked up with a troop from Spartanburg, loaded up on 3 chartered buses at midnight on Wednesday and headed to D.C.  Now, I can tell you with complete authority that riding on a bus for 8 or more hours sucks.  I mean, majorly. 

So, when you travel, your dining experiences can go one of two ways:  fast food out of desperation or finding an incredible restaurant unlike anything you have at home.  Especially in a big city but when you have no wheels and  a 6 year old with you who needs to be in bed at a decent hour, fine dining really isn't in the cards.  The first night we were there we took the girls to the air and space museum.  Our buses were scheduled to  pick us up at 7:00 so eating at the museum was the only convenient thing to do.  What a disaster!  They have a "food court" kind of set-up with nothing but McDonalds, pre-fab Boston Market plates going in the microwave and some kind of cardboard pizza.  We decided on McDonalds as the lesser of the evils.  Get this: 2 chicken sandwiches with fries and drink and a happy meal was $27.00.  I almost fell out of my chair. 

$3.50 for a Shirley Temple!
The hotel we were in had really good food, actually.  However, they stick it to you with typical hotel bullshit mark-up.  $13.00 for a club sandwich, $9.00 for a vodka/tonic and even $3.50 for a Shirley Temple. Why can't people get it through their heads. Charge decent prices and then people will spend money, they will stay there in that bar and order way more drinks if they can afford them, because after all, they're in a hotel...where else are they gonna go? They order more, they spend more time there, they spend more.  See how that works?

The White House
The Rock the Mall event was all day Saturday.  We found a spot underneath big oak trees, near the bathrooms, near a water fountain, in view of the Jumbo-tron and right across the street from the White House. Pretty prime location!  This was one of our best dining experiences of the trip.  One of the folks we were with had found a place called Potbelly.  They offer a box lunch consisting of a deli sandwich, chips and a drink for...drumroll...$6.95!  

This was a righteous box lunch!
Hallelujah, we have a winner!  And these were good sandwiches, tons of choices, and a cold Diet Coke.  They were close enough that a few from our group walked to pick them up and delivered to the rest of us.  Not a bad deal at all.

And finally, on the last leg of our journey, the subject of eating came up again.  We had survived the bus trip back to Spartanburg (I swear it took like 2 hours longer coming back) and we were pointing the van toward Columbia.  The little one proclaims that she's hungry.  Now, at this point, I am sick to death of giving her hamburgers, which is actually a rare thing for us.  I guess I'm really just sick of hamburgers being almost the only choice you have when you pull off the Interstate.  That and fried chicken.  Then I saw it:  a gas station with a Subway.  (I remember when this concept first appeared.  I was very, very creeped out by the gas-sub shop.)  

I went in and was pleased to learn that they DO  have a kids meal.  And, it's only $3.50.  Hello??? That's like one Shirley Temple for all the kids vacationing in Washington.  So, happily, I ordered a small turkey & ham sub with light mayo and mustard, white American cheese, white milk, and apple slices.  So, for $3.50 I was able to give my child a meal that she ate and enjoyed and I felt like I was being the super-travel mom.  

Everybody wins. 

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