Round America Trip – Special Pie Places

These are special pie places:

Blue Springs Cafe — Highland, Illinois:  I discovered the Blue Springs Cafe when I saw a small sign that advertised “Mile High Pie.”  I had to go.  I walked in and saw a dozen pies that appeared to be 12-inches high or higher!  Absolutely the most impressive pie display that we saw on the trip.  And the staff was great.  I met them all, and we had a grand time.  They cut thin slices of six different pies for me to taste.  They were all good.

Betty’s Pies — Two Harbors, Minnesota:  We heard about Betty’s Pies from as far away as the Grand Canyon and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Betty’s probably sells more pies each day than there are residents in Two Harbors.  It’s an amazing success story.

Pie-O-Neer Cafe — Pie-Town, New Mexico:  I drove 600 miles to eat pie in the town named Pie-Town.  (See the story below.)

Twede’s Restaurant — North Bend, Washington:  Twede’s is the restaurant that was the Double R Cafe in the TV series “Twin Peaks.”  The Cherry Pie is the best-known pie in the country as it was mentioned virtually every week during the run of the program.

Mystic Pizza — Mystic, Connecticut:  Pizza pie rather than dessert pie, but it was a treat to eat pizza in the restaurant “that made the movie famous.”

North Dakota State Fair — Minot, North Dakota:  The Lutheran Women make great pie.  We were disappointed there wasn’t a Pie Contest of some type.  Bozzie Jane and I figure we would make excellent judges at state fairs across America.

Harry and the Natives — Hobe Sound, Florida:  Wacky atmosphere.  We were just driving down the A1A (the highway that runs north/south along the Atlantic Ocean for much of the way through the state) near Jensen Beach, Florida the morning of Day 5.  We weren’t expecting to see much for a while as our list of attractions was rather short until we got further south, so we were just scanning the roadway (mainly looking for speed limit signs, I’m afraid — after the speeding ticket on Day 3) when I saw a giant robot – probably 40-feet tall.  I made one of my now-patented U-turns, and we found ourselves in the wacky parking lot of “Harry and the Natives” in Hobe Sound, Florida.  We weren’t sure what it was at first, but we saw a lot of people coming in and out, and we soon realized it was a bar/restaurant.  The “yard” was filled with an assortment of wacky things, and the front of the restaurant had funny signs and odd décor.  The interior was even better – hats stapled to the ceiling, lots of funny signs, and an incredible assortment of eclectic stuff.  The rest rooms really are outside in “out” houses.  Boz ordered eggs and orange juice, but I felt Key Lime Pie and a Coke was the appropriate breakfast for Harry’s.  What a great place!

Ben & Jerry’s Factory — Waterbury, Vermont:  While not exactly “pie,” we expanded the pie category to include just about any dessert.  We love Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and it was a treat to see the factory, take the tour, and enjoy some really fresh Cherry Garcia Ice Cream.  And there really is a Flavor Graveyard.

Dot’s Diner — Bisbee, Arizona:  Beautifully-restored 1957 Valentine diner in a trailer park where you can rent wonderful old travel trailers.  Like stepping back in time.

In addition to the above, we had pie at several orchards, at a cider mill, in several pie factories, from several street vendors, at a lube stop, in diners – cafes – and restaurants, at a theatre, in a winery, and brought to us by friends along the way.

The Great Pie Adventure

Day 20 was to be a big day.  I planned to detour several hundred miles out of the original path for the trip in order to see one and only one thing: Pie-Town, New Mexico.  The place got its name from a lady who baked pies for the ranchers in those parts.  It has grown over the years from one lady to where it now has a population of 60.  I learned of it several years ago when someone gave me an article about great pie, and the Pie-O-Neer Café in Pie-Town, New Mexico was featured.  A “Pie Trip” could not possibly be valid without a visit to Pie-Town, so I carefully charted the course.  It’s literally as remote a location as is Big Bend – nothing of any consequence for 100 miles or more.  So, another adventure began as I left the UFO’s of Roswell behind in anticipation of great pie – multiple pieces of delicious pie!

I saw some surprisingly interesting towns en route.  Lincoln, New Mexico is a neat little mountain town.  Lots of history.  Buildings are restored or are being restored.  Just after noon, I got my first glimpse of snowcapped El Capitan Mountain.  10 minutes later, I was in the cute little town of Capitan.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Capitan is the home of Smokey the Bear, and he is buried there.  I stopped at the Smokey the Bear Museum.

Since I left Del Rio way down in South Texas, I had essentially been without cell phone service.  New Mexico was no better, except in Roswell.

Most states had sent me a map, but New Mexico did not get one to me before I left, so the map I got from Cody and Erica (at a gas station the night before) was very much needed.  According to the map, I was to be passing near part of the White Sands Missile Range.  That’s neat.  So when the sign said it was just five miles off the highway, the car just headed there automatically.  I had to see it.  All of a sudden I realized where I was!  The Trinity Site – the site where the first Atomic Bomb was tested on July 16, 1945.  This was a serious deal.  I couldn’t get in to take photos, but I had fun trying.

On the road again, my next stop was Magdalena.  Never heard of it, but it is a nice little spot that is undoubtedly a small artist’s community.  Probably just a few hundred people there.  I met two nice boys, Daniel and Chris.  They were excited to have their picture taken, and then they got into the spirit of the trip and kept coming up with ideas of spots in Magdalena that I should photograph.  They followed me on bike.  I saw an Easter Egg Hunt in a park area with some great sculptures apparently done by a local artist.  I liked Magdalena.

I kept checking the map as Pie-Town didn’t appear to be getting much closer.  Then I realized there was a huge error on my Excel spreadsheet itinerary.  The number 100 was in the mileage column, but it was more like 300.  I just kept driving and driving and driving.

Pretty scenery, but you know how it is when you are mentally programmed for one thing and your system gets thrown off.  The next thing on my handy Cody and Erica map was the “National Radio Astronomy Observatory.”  I stopped to take a quick photo from a distance.  As I looked back at it in the rearview mirror, I realized what I had just passed.  THAT was The Array!  The site of the Jodie Foster movie, “Contact.”  Excellent movie!  Had I realized and known they have a video presentation, I would have driven over.

UFO’s, White Sands, and The Array.  This is adventure at its best!

A few miles down the road, I realized I had been in a big adventure for some time.  I had been looking for gas, but the little towns either had no gas stations, or they were closed.  When I hit Datil, a town printed in slightly larger, bolder letters on the map, I began to panic when the only gas station there was closed.  The last open gas station I recalled seeing was the Shell I visited 172 miles back in Capitan.  I figured I was good for about 70 miles max.  I pulled out the Cody and Erica map again to see if there was any town that had larger, bolder type anywhere near Datil.  There were no options.  The best bet looked like it was in ARIZONA – a ways past Pie-Town!  I knew I couldn’t make it that far.  I began to panic.  All I had wanted to do was eat some pie.

There were very few cars on the road.  No wonder.  There ain’t no gas.

I decided the only thing to do was keep going toward Pie-Town.  I passed the Continental Divide the first time at 5:05 pm and pulled into Pie-Town two minutes later.  That annoying “you are out of gas, buddy” light was shining for the last I don’t know how many miles.

Pie-Town is really tiny, so I had no trouble finding the Pie-O-Neer Cafe.  Despite the gas situation, I was so excited to see it.  I took a few photos.  Then I went up the steps, and I saw it.  “CLOSED.”  No way I have driven 300 miles or so to eat pie and have Pie-Town’s pie cafe closed.  Devastated was not the right D word.

I knocked on the door.  A nice lady came.  They had just closed at 5.  I told her I had driven 5,500 miles to eat pie there, and I gave her my card and pulled the photocopy of the article out of my notebook to show her I was telling the truth.  She let me in.  They had just a few pieces of pie left.  I had Apple Walnut Raisin and Peach.  Very good!  I met the owner, Kim Bruck.  She and three brothers moved there from Chicago, so Pie-Town had grown to population 65.  She told me that Coconut Cream, Oatmeal Raisin, and Apple Crumb are her best sellers.  I told her if it were not for the fact that I was almost out of gas, I would be in pie heaven.  She gave me a free slice of pie and a little pie-shaped magnet as a gift for Bozzie.  I enjoyed talking with her, but they wanted to close up and go home, and I wanted to see if I could find a land line to call AAA to put their service to a real test – delivering gas a million miles from nowhere.  Kim and her brother told me there might be a gas station open 22 miles west – usually open until 6, but not sure about Easter Sunday.  It was 5:45, so I said a quick goodbye and I drove very fast to Quemado where I could have kissed Robert, the attendant at J&Y Auto Service, when he was still open.  If it hadn’t been for two ladies and a flat tire in a huge RV, he would have been long gone.

Life was good again.  It is a shame that gasoline detracted from the visit to Pie-Town, but thank heaven the Pie-O-Neer was even open on Easter Sunday as well as J&Y Auto Service.  I never thought I would be happy paying $1.00 more per gallon than I had ever paid before, but I was.  Best gas by far.  Ain’t supply and demand grand.

Round America Trip – Pie Report

This is a report about the best and worst pie we’ve eaten…and assorted pie stories.

Click here for a complete list of the pies eaten and the ratings.

Summary

The idea for our trip originated in 2000.  I proposed to Barbara that we go on “The Pie Trip” — just take off and travel the country and “eat pie.”  We would go on the backroads and eat in cafes and diners where the locals eat (where they always have pie) and just learn about the places we go and the people we meet.  We would write a book about the experience.  We became busy with business and a move to Atlanta, and the trip was postponed.  We were more than a little disappointed when we discovered a book titled American Pie published in 2002 that had a strikingly similar concept and a great name.

We modified our plans somewhat — choosing to make pie a part of the “Round America” trip but not the sole focus.  Rather than traveling randomly, we decided to visit every state, and we carefully researched the itinerary.  We remained committed to eating pie in as many places as possible, but we planned to do much more.  As we met with reporters and folks along the way who learned about the plans for our book (printed on the back of our business cards: “We’ll write about the places we go, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat”), we began discussing pie more and more, and we became even more intent on finding the Best Pie in America.

Prior to Hawaii, we had eaten 167 pies in 136 days.  That’s a lot of pie.  I drove through Toledo as fast as possible and refused to step on a scale, but I am sure I gained at least 20 pounds on the trip.  I did, however, enjoy every minute of it.  I’ll try to remember just how much fun it was as I try to lose the weight.

Prior to Hawaii, we had consumed 103 different types of pie.  We did our best to try new pies every chance we had, but that was the luck of the draw.  Bozzie Jane loves Coconut Cream Pie, and she wasn’t always as interested in trying new pies as she was enjoying her favorite dessert, so we downed 9 pieces of Coconut Cream Pie on the trip.  Only Apple Pie topped Coconut Cream in the totals — enjoyed 13 times.  6 Peach Pie and 4 Peach Cobbler; 6 Cherry Pie; 5 Key Lime; 4 Raspberry Pie; and 4 Banana Cream (my favorite type of pie).

We will update these totals to add Hawaii to the count as soon as the trip ends on August 26.  Halfway through the Hawaii trip, two Hawaii Pies have made the Top 10!

Overall, we can report that American pie is very good.  Most of the pies we consumed were quite good.  There were only a couple of bad ones.  The Best Pie in America is the Raspberry Pie at Dutch Mother’s Restaurant in Lynden, Washington.  The Worst Pie in America is the Blueberry(less) Pie at the Northside Cafe in Winterset, Iowa.

The Best Pie in America

Ten places had pie that we considered excellent.  Five of the ten had been recommended to us, while five pie places were simply cafes, a restaurant, a diner, and a quick lube shop that just happened to catch our eye.  These pies are truly exceptional.  We know; we tasted 167 pies in five months.

It’s a shame that we can’t rate each of these pies as the Best Pie in America, because each was different.  In fact, we will be awarding plaques to each of these restaurants, and they will read “Best Butterscotch Pie in America,” etc.  When you find yourself in any of these towns, do yourself a favor, and make a point to go to these restaurants to eat pie.

  1. Raspberry Pie — Dutch Mother’s Restaurant — Lynden, Washington

This is the Best Pie in America!  Absolutely the very best we had.  Huge raspberries (the size of big strawberries) in a tasty slightly-congealed filling with a wonderful shortbread crust that was truly special.  It’s hard to describe as it was unlike anything else we’ve ever had.  Sweet and delicious.  We had four very good Raspberry Pies during the trip, but this pie was SO MUCH BETTER that it was clearly the Best Pie in America.  It’s the one pie that we’ve kept thinking we wished we had more to enjoy.  We enjoyed three slices of pie at Dutch Mother’s, and each was excellent.  The Bumbleberry Pie ranks 11th — making Dutch Mother’s the only restaurant to have two of the Best Pies in America.  Day 97.  Rating: 97.

  1. Key Lime Pie — Harry and the Natives — Hobe Sound, Florida

Wonderful Key Lime Pie — by far the best we’ve ever eaten!  It’s hard to distinguish one key lime pie from the next, but Harry and the Natives simply makes it better than everyone else.  The crust was especially good — a traditional pie crust rather than a graham cracker crust.  It had a meringue rather than whipped cream, and the texture was fluffy rather than dense.  This pie held the #1 spot for 92 days until we reached Dutch Mother’s.  Harry and the Natives certainly wins the Best Place to Eat Pie award as it is a delightfully funny and entertaining place.  We enjoyed this pie with a Coke for breakfast on the fifth day of the trip Round America.  Day 5.  Rating: 96.

  1. Banana Heaven — Blue Heaven — Key West, Florida

This was not a pie; it was a dessert.  From what we could tell, the chef starts with bananas, butter, rum, and brown sugar, and the bananas are sautéed in that concoction.  The hot bananas and syrup mixture is then poured over a delicious banana bread, and if that isn’t enough, homemade vanilla ice cream is scooped onto the side.  The sticky, crunchy hot sauce was incredible.  It was OUT of this world, and so rich that we barely made a dent in it.  Fabulous dessert!  Bozzie Jane says it is the best dessert she has ever eaten anywhere anytime.  She would have ranked it #1, but we didn’t since it wasn’t actually a pie.  Day 8.  Rating: 95.

  1. Caramel Apple Raisin Pie — Plaza Restaurant — Santa Fe, New Mexico

We saw two police cars in front of the Plaza Restaurant in Santa Fe, and the officers confirmed that it was an excellent place to eat.  It is always a good idea to eat where you see multiple police cars.  The Plaza Restaurant has been serving since 1918.  Delicious blend of fresh apples with cinnamon, caramel, and raisins in a great crust — served hot with homemade vanilla ice cream.  The combination was wonderful.  Quite a treat!  Day 35.  Rating: 94.

  1. Apple Dumpling — Blues City Cafe — Memphis, Tennessee

The Blues City Cafe is a cafe on Beale Street in Memphis.  I went in for dinner as I wanted to eat a Barbequed Bologna Sandwich.  The bologna was only offered for lunch, so I ordered the full slab of ribs that I saw most folks eating.  Chef Myron Johnson told me he had a killer dessert, so despite the huge order of ribs and fries, I had the Apple Dumpling Dessert.  It was tremendous.  Fresh apples cooked in a dumpling crust, smothered with a wonderful secret sauce.  Served hot in a skillet with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Day 43.  Rating: 93.

  1. Butterscotch Pie — Rogers Restaurant — Lexington, Kentucky

Rogers Restaurant was one of the many pie stops that we made because of a recommendation from the folks at our hotel.  Chuck Ellinger, owner of Rogers Restaurant, just smiled when I asked about their pie.  The restaurant was packed with locals, and those who overheard our conversation were singing the praises of the pie.  Margaret then brought me a big piece of Butterscotch Pie – hot…right out of the oven.  It was really, REALLY good.  The butterscotch filling had a consistency a little lighter than key lime pie, great crust, and wonderful meringue topping.  I’d never eaten Butterscotch Pie before, and now I will eat it every chance I get.  Day 59.  Rating: 92.

  1. Mango Snow Cone — Freddy’s Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stand — Escobares, Texas

The story of Freddy’s Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stand is one of my favorite stories from the entire trip.  I began seeing one snow cone stand after another in the small towns that I passed through in the south.  It seems that small towns often cannot support a DQ or a drive-in snack bar, so many of these little towns have snow cone stands.  I took photos of a few that I saw in the first two weeks of the trip.  On Day 16, I saw an especially colorful one with an American flag straw coming out of the top, and I put the car into U-turn mode (something that usually happened 30 or 40 times a day on the trip).  I pulled up to Freddy’s Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stand in the little town of Escobares, Texas for a quick photo.  A man came running up to me wanting to know what I wanted.  I explained that I just wanted to take a photo of his stand.  He proudly announced that they had done all the work on it themselves.  He also showed me his very colorful and attractive umbrellas, and explained how they were made, but I couldn’t understand his heavy Spanish accent or the words he used.  At this point, we shook hands and exchanged names; he was Freddy Escobar of Freddy’s Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stand.  Freddy asked if I wanted anything, and I said I’d love a Coke.  He replied: “Snow Cone?” And I said, “Sure, give me a snow cone!”  He asked: “Flavor?”  I replied: “Grape.”  He said “Mango!”  I said, “Sure, mango it is.”  Freddy had to explain my order in Spanish to the young girl in the dark recesses of the snow cone stand who didn’t speak a word of English, and she began preparing my drink.  Her power appeared to be provided by an extension cord running from the Fast Lube shop just behind.  I can’t recall having had a snow cone since I was a child.  It took quite a while.  The window finally slid open, and out came a big Styrofoam cup filled with a mango-colored mixture with a straw and a spoon.  When I tell you my “snow cone” was AMAZING, please accept that I’m not exaggerating.  It was 94-degrees and I was thirsty, but this stuff was special.  The flavor was wonderful, but the consistency was what I couldn’t believe.  It was much better than smoothies we get that tend to be glorified Slushees.  I don’t know what was hiding in that hut, but the end result was like an ice drink with the consistency of frozen yogurt.  I think Freddy should franchise; I can see Freddy’s Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stands all across the US.  Seriously, it was really, really good, and it never melted.  While my Mango Snow Cone is not a traditional pie, this “treat” was so special that I have to rank it as one of the best “pies” on the Round America trip.  Day 16.  Rating: 91.

  1. Rhubarb Pie — Dot’s Diner — Bisbee, Arizona

Dot’s Diner is part of the Shady Dell RV Park.  Shady Dell has rare antique travel trailers available for rent.  (See www.theshadydell.com.)  The fabulous fully-restored 1957 Dot’s Diner is there, and I had Rhubarb Pie.  Waitresses Mary and Kirsten recommended it.  I’d never had rhubarb, but I now know why my Dad loves it so much.  Big hunks of fresh rhubarb in a wonderful crust.  Served really hot.  Very tangy, and absolutely delicious.  Day 21.  Rating: 91.

  1. Olallieberry Pie — Linn’s Bakery & Eatery — San Luis Obispo, California

We had lunch and pie at Linn’s Bakery and Eatery.  We had a rare pie — Olallieberry Pie — a berry created from a cross between a certain type of raspberry and a blackberry.  We thoroughly enjoyed meeting Patty Carpenter and her husband, Bill, owners of Linn’s in San Luis Obispo.  For days, folks told us to go to Linn’s for pie.  It was everything we hoped for and more.  Day 74.  Rating: 91.

  1. Marionberry Pie — Otis Cafe — Otis, Oregon

The Otis Cafe is a tiny cafe in the even tinier town of Otis, Oregon — but the Otis Cafe has received national publicity as a great place to eat.  I had a wonderful breakfast there, followed by Marionberry Pie.  Marionberries are only grown in a limited area in Oregon, so I wanted to be sure and grab a slice of Marionberry Pie the first chance I got.  It was a delicious sweet berry pie.  Great crust.  Great pie.  Day 91.  Rating: 91.

  1. Bumbleberry Pie — Dutch Mother’s Restaurant — Lynden, Washington

Dutch Mother’s is the only restaurant to have two of the A-rated pies.  (See Pie #1 above — the Best Pie in America.)  The Bumbleberry Pie was a mixture of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.  Delicious locally-grown fruit in a wonderful crust.  We couldn’t eat all of this pie at the restaurant, so I polished it off later that night, and it was even better when I wasn’t trying to compare it to the Raspberry Pie.  If we had eaten this pie at another time and in another place, I suspect we would have ranked it even higher.  Dutch Mother’s can just flat do pie!  Day 97.  Rating: 90.

Special Pie Places

Blue Springs Cafe — Highland, Illinois:  I discovered the Blue Springs Cafe when I saw a small sign that advertised “Mile High Pie.”  I had to go.  I walked in and saw a dozen pies that appeared to be 12-inches high or higher!  Absolutely the most impressive pie display that we saw on the trip.  And the staff was great.  I met them all, and we had a grand time.  They cut thin slices of six different pies for me to taste.  They were all good.

Betty’s Pies — Two Harbors, Minnesota:  We heard about Betty’s Pies from as far away as the Grand Canyon and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Betty’s probably sells more pies each day that there are residents in Two Harbors.  It’s an amazing success story.

Pie-O-Neer Cafe — Pie-Town, New Mexico:  I drove 600 miles to eat pie in the town named Pie-Town.  (See the story below.)

Twede’s Restaurant — North Bend, Washington:  Twede’s is the restaurant that was the Double R Cafe in the TV series “Twin Peaks.”  The Cherry Pie is the best-known pie in the country as it was mentioned virtually every week during the run of the program.

Mystic Pizza — Mystic, Connecticut:  Pizza pie rather than dessert pie, but it was a treat to eat pizza in the restaurant “that made the movie famous.”

North Dakota State Fair — Minot, North Dakota:  The Lutheran Women make great pie.  We were disappointed there wasn’t a Pie Contest of some type.  Bozzie Jane and I figure we would make excellent judges at state fairs across America.

Harry and the Natives — Hobe Sound, Florida:  Wacky atmosphere.  We were just driving down the A1A (the highway that runs north/south along the Atlantic Ocean for much of the way through the state) near Jensen Beach, Florida the morning of Day 5.  We weren’t expecting to see much for a while as our list of attractions was rather short until we got further south, so we were just scanning the roadway (mainly looking for speed limit signs, I’m afraid — after the speeding ticket on Day 3) when I saw a giant robot – probably 40-feet tall.  I made one of my now-patented U-turns, and we found ourselves in the wacky parking lot of “Harry and the Natives” in Hobe Sound, Florida.  We weren’t sure what it was at first, but we saw a lot of people coming in and out, and we soon realized it was a bar/restaurant.  The “yard” was filled with an assortment of wacky things, and the front of the restaurant had funny signs and odd décor.  The interior was even better – hats stapled to the ceiling, lots of funny signs, and an incredible assortment of eclectic stuff.  The rest rooms really are outside in “out” houses.  Boz ordered eggs and orange juice, but I felt Key Lime Pie and a Coke was the appropriate breakfast for Harry’s.  What a great place!

Ben & Jerry’s Factory — Waterbury, Vermont:  While not exactly “pie,” we expanded the pie category to include just about any dessert.  We love Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and it was a treat to see the factory, take the tour, and enjoy some really fresh Cherry Garcia Ice Cream.  And there really is a Flavor Graveyard.

Dot’s Diner — Bisbee, Arizona:  Beautifully-restored 1957 Valentine diner in a trailer park where you can rent wonderful old travel trailers.  Like stepping back in time.

In addition to the above, we had pie at several orchards, at a cider mill, in several pie factories, from several street vendors, at a lube stop, in diners – cafes- and restaurants, at a theatre, in a winery, and brought to us by friends along the way.

The Great Pie Adventure

Day 20 was to be a big day.  I planned to detour several hundred miles out of the original path for the trip in order to see one and only one thing: Pie-Town, New Mexico.  The place got its name from a lady who baked pies for the ranchers in those parts.  It has grown over the years from one lady to where it now has a population of 60.  I learned of it several years ago when someone gave me an article about great pie, and the Pie-O-Neer Café in Pie-Town, New Mexico was featured.  A “Pie Trip” could not possibly be valid without a visit to Pie-Town, so I carefully charted the course.  It’s literally as remote a location as is Big Bend – nothing of any consequence for 100 miles or more.  So, another adventure began as I left the UFO’s of Roswell behind in anticipation of great pie – multiple pieces of delicious pie!

I saw some surprisingly interesting towns en route.  Lincoln, New Mexico is a neat little mountain town.  Lots of history.  Buildings are restored or are being restored.  Just after noon, I got my first glimpse of snowcapped El Capitan Mountain.  10 minutes later, I was in the cute little town of Capitan.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Capitan is the home of Smokey the Bear, and he is buried there.  I stopped at the Smokey the Bear Museum.

Since I left Del Rio way down in South Texas, I had essentially been without cell phone service.  New Mexico was no better, except in Roswell.

Most states had sent me a map, but New Mexico did not get one to me before I left, so the map I got from Cody and Erica (at a gas station the night before) was very much needed.  According to the map, I was to be passing near part of the White Sands Missile Range.  That’s neat.  So when the sign said it was just five miles off the highway, the car just headed there automatically.  I had to see it.  All of a sudden I realized where I was!  The Trinity Site – the site where the first Atomic Bomb was tested on July 16, 1945.  This was a serious deal.  I couldn’t get in to take photos, but I had fun trying.

On the road again, my next stop was Magdalena.  Never heard of it, but it is a nice little spot that is undoubtedly a small artist’s community.  Probably just a few hundred people there.  I met two nice boys, Daniel and Chris.  They were excited to have their picture taken, and then they got into the spirit of the trip and kept coming up with ideas of spots in Magdalena that I should photograph.  They followed me on bike.  I saw an Easter Egg Hunt in a park area with some great sculptures apparently done by a local artist.  I liked Magdalena.

I kept checking the map as Pie-Town didn’t appear to be getting much closer.  Then I realized there was a huge error on my Excel spreadsheet itinerary.  The number 100 was in the mileage column, but it was more like 300.  I just kept driving and driving and driving.

Pretty scenery, but you know how it is when you are mentally programmed for one thing and your system gets thrown off.  The next thing on my handy Cody and Erica map was the “National Radio Astronomy Observatory.”  I stopped to take a quick photo from a distance.  As I looked back at it in the rearview mirror, I realized what I had just passed.  THAT was The Array!  The site of the Jodie Foster movie, “Contact.”  Excellent movie!  Had I realized and known they have a video presentation, I would have driven over.

UFO’s, White Sands, and The Array.  This is adventure at its best!

A few miles down the road, I realized I had been in a big adventure for some time.  I had been looking for gas, but the little towns either had no gas stations, or they were closed.  When I hit Datil, a town printed in slightly larger, bolder letters on the map, I began to panic when the only gas station there was closed.  The last open gas station I recalled seeing was the Shell I visited 172 miles back in Capitan.  I figured I was good for about 70 miles max.  I pulled out the Cody and Erica map again to see if there was any town that had larger, bolder type anywhere near Datil.  There were no options.  The best bet looked like it was in ARIZONA – a ways past Pie-Town!  I knew I couldn’t make it that far.  I began to panic.  All I had wanted to do was eat some pie.

There were very few cars on the road.  No wonder.  There ain’t no gas.

I decided the only thing to do was keep going toward Pie-Town.  I passed the Continental Divide the first time at 5:05 pm and pulled into Pie-Town two minutes later.  That annoying “you are out of gas, buddy” light was shining for the last I don’t know how many miles.

Pie-Town is really tiny, so I had no trouble finding the Pie-O-Neer Café.  Despite the gas situation, I was so excited to see it.  I took a few photos.  Then I went up the steps, and I saw it.  “CLOSED.”  No way I have driven 300 miles or so to eat pie and have Pie-Town’s pie café closed.  Devastated was not the right word.

I knocked on the door.  A nice lady came.  They had just closed at 5.  I told her I had driven 5,500 miles to eat pie there, and I gave her my card and pulled the photocopy of the article out of my notebook to show her I was telling the truth.  She let me in.  They had just a few pieces of pie left.  I had Apple Walnut Raisin and Peach.  Very good!  I met the owner, Kim Bruck.  She and three brothers moved there from Chicago, so Pie-Town had grown to population 65.  She told me that Coconut Cream, Oatmeal Raisin, and Apple Crumb are her best sellers.  I told her if it were not for the fact that I was almost out of gas, I would be in pie heaven.  She gave me a free slice of pie and a little pie-shaped magnet as a gift for Bozzie.  I enjoyed talking with her, but they wanted to close up and go home, and I wanted to see if I could find a land line to call AAA to put their service to a real test – delivering gas a million miles from nowhere.  Kim and her brother told me there might be a gas station open 22 miles west – usually open until 6, but not sure about Easter Sunday.  It was 5:45, so I said a quick goodbye and I drove very fast to Quemado where I could have kissed Robert, the attendant at J&Y Auto Service, when he was still open.  If it hadn’t been for two ladies and a flat tire in a huge RV, he would have been long gone.

Life was good again.  It is a shame that gasoline detracted from the visit to Pie-Town, but thank heaven the Pie-O-Neer was even open on Easter Sunday as well as J&Y Auto Service.  I never thought I would be happy paying $2.89 per gallon, but I was.  Best gas by far.  Ain’t supply and demand grand.

Unusual Pies

Alien Pancakes — Crash Down Diner — Roswell, New Mexico:

Key Lime Pie-On-A-Stick — Key West Candy Company — Key West, Florida:

Elvis Pie — Pine Tree Restaurant — Williams, Arizona:

Grape Pie — Rosati’s Winery — Rosati, Missouri:

Caramel Concrete — Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard — St. Louis, Missouri:

Apple Fritters — Applewood Grill — Pigeon Forge, Tennessee:

Olallieberry Pie — Linn’s Bakery & Eatery — San Luis Obispo, California

Marionberry Pie — Otis Cafe — Otis, Oregon

S’More Pie — Buckeye Roadhouse — Mill Valley, California:

Cheddar Cheese Fudge — CranBerry Sweets — Bandon, Oregon:

Lemon Pie — Dining Room at Shaker Village — Pleasant Hill, Kentucky —

5-Layer Raspberry Chocolate Pie — Betty’s Pies — Two Harbor, Minnesota:

5-Layer Chocolate Mint Pie — Betty’s Pies — Two Harbor, Minnesota:

Peach Pie — Zehnder’s — Frankenmuth, Michigan:

Worst Pies in America

We hate to list some pies as the worst, but a few weren’t good, and the flipside of the Best is the Worst.

  1. Blueberry Pie — Northside Cafe — Winterset, Iowa

Blueberryless pie.  Not a very good crust with some blue jelly slapped inside.  The hamburger was good, but the pie was the worst.

  1. Creme Brulee Pie — Pie in the Sky Cafe Booth — North Dakota State Fair — Minot, North Dakota

We’d never had a creme brulee pie, so I was anxious to give it a try.  I guess there’s a reason why we’d never seen one before — just can’t be done with a pie.  And a fair, where the pies have to be made as inexpensively as possible to sell at a low price, was the last place to try an “exotic” pie.  Becky was really nice, so we hate to rate her pie as one of the worst…but we gotta call ’em as we see ’em.

  1. Apple Dumpling — Gwennie’s Restaurant — Anchorage, Alaska

Everything was poor at Gwennie’s.

  1. Pecan Pie — Fairmont Hotel — New Orleans, Louisiana

I thought it was downright criminal for one of the nicest hotels in the deep south city of New Orleans to serve a manufactured pecan pie.  It was like a packaged pie that you buy in a grocery store.  Very disappointing.

  1. Peach Cobbler — Marriott Suites — Las Vegas, Nevada

I think one should never order pie in a nice hotel in a big city.  It’s never very good.  Virtually all major chains and fancy restaurants buy their desserts frozen from a group of national dessert manufacturers.  Good pie is almost always found in local cafes and diners.

Our Methodology

We did use a system in rating the best and worst pies.   Each pie was given a numerical rating between 1 and 100.  We discussed each pie after eating.  Then each night, we gave each pie a numerical rating by looking at previous ratings for the same type of pie as well as at the ratings for other pies that we felt the pie was comparable to in terms of overall “goodness.”  We then assigned a numerical rating based upon how we felt the pie compared to others.  We left space in the early rankings so we had plenty of room for great new pies to be ranked above the first pies we ate.  Interestingly, the spread between the #1 pie and the #2 pie was just one point, but 95 days apart.

Rating food of any type is very subjective.  All of our tastebuds and likes and dislikes are different.  For example, I don’t like strawberries, so you won’t find any Strawberry Pie in our rankings, and we know there are some spectacular Strawberry Pies out there.  To compensate for our prejudices, we tried many, many pies that we would not normally choose.  We feel the system was good, though we would love to be able to taste the Top 12 side-by-side.

We recognize that we missed some great pie places and some great pies.  That’s inevitable.  We did ask many places what THEY felt was their best pie, and we usually tried that one.

We will do this again.  We’ll use the same system.  We will be awarding plaques and issuing news releases nationally as well as in the towns where we ate pie.  We hope the publicity from this initial Best Pie in America effort will cause many folks to email us to tell us great places and great pies that should be included next time.

Round America Trip – Pie Report: Unusual Pie

The trip ‘Round America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns.

Bill Windsor is writing a book about the experience, and these are the unusual pies (and other desserts) eaten on the trip.

The Best Pie in America  |  Special Pie Places  |  The Great Pie Adventure  |  Unusual Pies  |  The Worst Pie in America  |  Methodology  |  Complete List of Pies and Rankings

These pies were unusual:

Alien Pancakes — Crash Down Diner — Roswell, New Mexico

Key Lime Pie-On-A-Stick — Key West Candy Company — Key West, Florida

Elvis Pie — Pine Tree Restaurant — Williams, Arizona

Grape Pie — Rosati’s Winery — Rosati, Missouri

Caramel Concrete — Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard — St. Louis, Missouri

Apple Fritters — Applewood Grill — Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Olallieberry Pie — Linn’s Bakery & Eatery — San Luis Obispo, California

Marionberry Pie — Otis Cafe — Otis, Oregon

S’More Pie — Buckeye Roadhouse — Mill Valley, California

Cheddar Cheese Fudge — CranBerry Sweets — Bandon, Oregon

Lemon Pie — Dining Room at Shaker Village — Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

5-Layer Raspberry Chocolate Pie — Betty’s Pies — Two Harbor, Minnesota

5-Layer Chocolate Mint Pie — Betty’s Pies — Two Harbor, Minnesota

Peach Pie — Zehnder’s — Frankenmuth, Michigan

Malsadas – Leonard’s Bakery – Honolulu, Hawaii

Round America Trip – Places Visited

The trip ‘Round America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns.

Alabama

Illinois

Montana

Rhode Island

Alaska

Indiana

Nebraska

South Carolina

Arizona

Iowa

Nevada

South Dakota

Arkansas

Kansas

New Hampshire

Tennessee

California

Kentucky

New Mexico

Texas

Colorado

Louisiana

New Jersey

Utah

Connecticut

Maine

New York

Vermont

Delaware

Maryland

North Carolina

Virginia

District of Columbia

Massachusetts

North Dakota

Washington

Florida

Michigan

Ohio

West Virginia

Georgia

Minnesota

Oklahoma

Wisconsin

Hawaii

Mississippi

Oregon

Wyoming

Idaho

Missouri

Pennsylvania

 

Round America Trip – Planning the Trip

The trip ‘Round America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns.

We did a lot of planning for the trip.  Our pre-trip planning is reported in white below, and our post-trip comments are shown in red below.

The planning for the trip Round America began in our heads in 2000.  But the serious planning began in January.

Barbara and I reviewed a number of travel books.  We didn’t want to miss a thing that we might not have known was just around a bend.

We could have done even better with our research.  There are no totally comprehensive travel books.  We could have made better use of State Tourism information, and we could have spent more time on Internet research.

In charting the course, I have created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.  Each segment of the trip is listed with total mileage shown for that segment, and then each town we will pass through is listed, showing the highway that we will use.  At last count, there are over 2,500 towns on the itinerary.

This was invaluable.  This was our guide for the trip.

I have contacted the Department of Tourism for every state we will visit, and I anxiously await the flood of brochures and maps.  I’ll review each and add to the itinerary.  We’ve also emailed family and friends for ideas on places to go, things to see, and pie to eat.

Most states responded — some faster than others.  We didn’t have enough time to review this info, so requesting this information further in advance is important.

Our home and our cat have been major concerns.  We wish Kitty B Kitty could be a road cat, but our one long trip with her proved otherwise.  We aren’t RV’ers, so it wouldn’t be fair to keep her cooped up in a little car, and most motels don’t welcome animals.  Fortunately, brother Tony has come to the rescue.  He will look after the house and take care of Miss Kitty B Kitty while we are gone.  Barbara wasn’t wild about interviewing and hiring a house sitter.

Thank Heavens for Tony.  Kitty B Kitty was well cared for.  In fact, she was spoiled rotten by Uncle Tony, who we need to get his very own kitty.

We have prepared a list of things that we must do before we leave as well as things that we must remember to take with us on the trip.  Haircuts, dental checkups, and prescription gathering will be done right before we leave.  We’re rejoining AAA, and we’ll make sure we have our AAA card, our AARP card, our passports, our drivers’ licenses, registration, and proof of insurance.  We’ll take just an American Express card and a MasterCard, some cash, and traveler’s checks.  I’m getting prescription sunglasses, and I will take two pairs of glasses in case anything should happen to one.

This all went well.  We didn’t need to gather prescriptions; we learned that an out-of-state pharmacy can just call our Atlanta pharmacy.  I broke both a pair of glasses and the sunglasses.  I needed to buy a pair of clip-on sunglasses.

Equipment-wise, we’re getting a new cell phone with essentially unlimited long distance and no roaming charges for just $99 a month.  I’ll get the phone numbers of family and friends programmed in so everyone will be just a few keystrokes away.  We’re also getting a deal at Best Buy that makes the cell phone hands free and uses the car stereo speaker system for the audio.  I’m buying the latest and greatest SONY digital camera with a telephoto lens, wide angle lens, and various filters.  I’ll be taking my laptop, and I will download the digital photos we take to the laptop, so we are also buying a power gizmo that will enable us to run the laptop off the car battery.  That way, we can download photos from anywhere and even recharge the camera battery and cell phone as we drive.  We’ll take our “old” digital camera as well.  We’re taking a small markerboard and markers, so we can create a sign with anything appropriate for certain photos.  The only other equipment will be a big powerful flashlight, two umbrellas, a fold-up hair dryer, and a tape recorder.

We chose Verizon as we believe it has the widest coverage.  Coverage area is important, since so much of a two-lane trip to small towns is spent in the boonies.  We were surprised to be charged 40 cents a minute when out of Verizon’s home territory, so this was an unexpected surprise that might have made us choose another service.  The goal should be wide coverage but a plan with no extra charges for roaming and out-of-territory (whatever that means).  A satellite phone might be a better option; I don’t know enough about them to know, but we will look into it for the next trip.  We used three different hands-free deals for the cell phone.  I couldn’t get the one that works with the stereo to work properly.  The Sony camera was great.  I had three 128-MB memory sticks, and this enabled me to take 150 highest resolution photos before I had to download to the laptop.  We didn’t use the power gizmo.  We broke three tape recorders, so I will take two next time, as our trip had us in many places that did not sell pocket recorders.  The recorder was the only practical way to record our ideas and information as we drove.  We used our First Aid Kit a number of times, and I should have brought it to Hawaii as well as you always need what you don’t have, and I have the drug store receipts to prove it.

We plan to pack light and hit a laundromat once a week.  We are buying a few clothing items from TravelSmith, the folks who specialize in all types of “travel easy” wearing apparel and accessories.  Jeans or shorts, golf shirts, and tennis shoes will be about it.  We are taking some hiking boots for use in the Northwest and as needed elsewhere.

Our clothes system worked out great.  We each had two black nylon bags.  The big bag could hold seven-days worth of clothes.  A smaller bag could hold two-days worth of clothes.  We only took the small bag into the motel each night — refilling it from the larger bag.  Dirty clothes went into a dirty clothes bag.  It worked fine to wash once a week.  Comfort Inn, Marriott Courtyard, Hampton Inn, and the like all have guest laundries.  I wore shorts every day but one, and I could have worn shorts that day as well.  Finding comfortable walking shoes with plenty of foot support is really important — sand- or dark-colored shoes will look best as my white shoes looked a million years old after a few weeks.  I ended up buying shorts from L.L. Bean and wore nothing but embroidered Round America sport shirts from Rod and the boys at Atlas Printing & Embroidery in Cleveland, Ohio.

We have not yet decided which vehicle we will be taking on the trip.  We’ll get it serviced just before we depart, and we’ll get an idea when we will have to replace the tires.

We took a white Porsche convertible for the first half of the trip.  It was great for driving, but it seemed to attract some folks who might have done us harm.  It was definitely cramped, but we managed to make the very small storage areas work.  The convertible was wonderful for seeing the sights and soaking rays during the southern loop Round America.  We took a black PT Cruiser for the second half of the trip.  The Cruiser was a poor choice as the car has a terribly wide turning radius, and many U-Turns are required daily.  We were unable to do a U-Turn on normal streets.  The Cruiser also gets terrible gas mileage.  The ideal car for us would be something that has a small turning radius that will enable U-Turns to be made on two-lane roads in one turn.  Good gas mileage is a plus.  We will want a GPS system and perhaps a satellite phone next time.  A compass is important.  An odometer that shows tenths of a mile would be a plus.  A CD player is a must.  A full-sized spare tire would be a plus.  Digital gauges that can be read with sunglasses on would be a plus.  White stays much cooler than black.  Cup holders are essential as are really comfortable seats.  Both the Porsche and Cruiser had really comfortable seats.  I recommend testing any car on a day trip before you decide to take it on a long trip, as bad seats would make for a miserable trip.

We’ll put together a notebook with the itinerary and plenty of space to take notes as we travel.  And we’ll each carry a pocket notebook and pen so we will always be able to jot notes.  We will be printing some business cards to use as we travel.  The cards will have our basic information as well as a one or two sentence explanation of the trip, the trip website address, our email address, and our cell phone number.  We’ll give these to people we meet along the way.

The notebooks were extremely valuable.  We had dividers for each state, with photocopies of information about sights we wanted to see in each state.  The business cards were perfect; we gave out 1,500.  We used the pocket tape recorder for recording all notes — the only way to handle it.

Between now and April 1, I will spend additional time adding to this website — creating pages that will reduce the amount of time I need to spend while we are on the road.  I will also be adding a photo search engine that will work off the keywords that we will use to name each of our photos.  So anyone visiting the site can see photos from a specific state, city, person, type of activity — you name it.

The Trip Round America will be well-planned, and we will be prepared!

March 30:

Busy month.  We’re just about ready.  The list of things to accomplish tomorrow is relatively short.

We originally planned to drive around the border of the country, but the idea of visiting all 50 states in one trip was just too exciting to pass up.  I was surprised when Barbara endorsed the significant expansion of the trip.  The numbers now are 50 states and the District of Columbia, over 2,500 towns, and 19,631 miles!  I know we will pass through cities that aren’t on the map, and the mileage will be much higher as we will be driving around towns that we visit, and the 19,631 is just a point-to-point calculation.

I’m very pleased with the research that we’ve done.  We have identified a significant number of attractions all along the route — many things that we would have never known were there.  Some state tourism offices came through like champs while others haven’t gotten a thing to us.  The many books that we bought have been our best resources as well as the Internet.  I wish we had done more research on hotels, motels, and B&B’s to try to find more special places to stay.  Perhaps we can improve on this for the second half of the trip.

Neither of us has found the time to read the books that we bought about the trips of others.  I plan to toss a few of these in the car in case I find any time to read.

Tony is all set for cat and house sitting as well as business management while we are away.  His help is making the trip possible as I question whether we could have ever been comfortable hiring a house/cat sitter that we didn’t know.  Those who love cats will understand that we consider Kitty B Kitty to be like one of our children.

I believe I would have thoroughly enjoyed driving our 1955 Chevrolet Police Car on the trip, but Barbara vetoed that idea early on.  We have decided to take a convertible on the first half of the trip — the drive along the southern border of the US and across Route 66.  We’ll switch to an SUV for the second half of the trip.

Postscript:

We logged over 29,000 miles driving around the United States.

Our planning proved to be excellent.  We were very well prepared.  I’ve inserted comments in red under each paragraph above to indicate how well or not-so-well each aspect of planning went.

Boz prepared a first-aid kit as well as a bag of assorted things.  Pocket-sized tissues, Handi-Wipes, hand sanitizer, Advil, screwdriver, blister-sized Band-Aids, eye wash, travel alarm clock, and additional tapes for the recorder were all very important.  We needed to have Visine Tears as it is a product that can be used daily while some eye washes are dangerous if used daily.

We lost only one thing on the entire trip — my favorite feather pillow.  Many motels have only foam pillows, so if you are a feather pillow person, be sure to take your own pillow.  Marriott properties all have feather pillows, so we chose Marriotts on some nights for that very reason.  We were very systematic in what we carried into the motel each night and how we kept our stuff in the motel rooms.  It would have been really easy except for all the electronics — two cell phone chargers, the digital camera charger, the laptop and its power cord/charger, and the travel alarm clock.

We should take jumper cables next time and have a dashboard-mounted compass.

We should have purchased the National Park Pass at the first national park we visited.

The beads were a MAJOR part of the trip.  It’s great to have some type of gift that you can give to people when traveling, and the beads were a nice little gift…and so much more.  We ordered 70 dozen beads — probably would have used 100 dozen if we had them from the very beginning.  We encourage everyone to take “lucky beads” when they travel.  You can order them at www.mardi-gras-beads.net.  We bought 33″ 6-style assorted metallic beads for $6.25 for a 10-dozen bag — $37.50 for a 60-dozen case.  You’ll meet far more people; you’ll have more fun; and you’ll have a nice, inexpensive gift to present to those you meet.

We kept the information received from each state tourism office in file boxes in the back of the Cruiser.  We pulled the appropriate file for each state as needed.  This worked well.  We had to leave those files at home when we were in the Porsche.

We took the plastic laundry bag from each room each night and used it to transport our dirty clothes from the room to the laundry bag in the car.  We then used the bag to hold all the travel brochures for the previous day.  We tossed each bag of travel brochures in a box, and then we shipped a box back to Atlanta every time it got filled.  I believe we ended up with somewhere in excess of 500 pounds of printed stuff…and all that hotel shampoo.

The signs on our car attracted a lot of attention and enabled us to meet many people we would not have met otherwise.  The beads served a similar purpose, as I was asked again and again about the beads…and I met far more people that I would have met otherwise.  We also have shirts and caps with the Round America logo, and these caught the eye of a number of people and added to the number of people we probably would not have met otherwise.  The combination of the signs, beads, shirts, and caps made meeting people easy; more often than not, people came to us.

We weren’t signed up for all of the frequent customer programs with the various hotels and motels, so Boz got us signed up during the trip.  We earned a number of free rooms from all the room nights for which we paid.  We also tried to use American Express everywhere we could as we are on a program where each dollar earns points toward air travel or hotels.

For the first half of the trip, we made hotel reservations a week or two in advance.  For the second half of the trip, we ceased making reservations more than a day in advance.  The problem with reservations is that you are then tied to a schedule, and that kept us from spending additional time where we would have liked to do so.  It also caused us to be driving late into the night way too much of the time.  On the next trip, we will not make reservations in advance — except in Maine (where we could not get a hotel room).

Expandable waistbands are invaluable if you plan to eat a lot of pie. 🙂

 

Round America Trip – Road Food

The trip ‘Round America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns.
We’ll report on each and every roadfood experience right here, and even provide a few photos as we go:

Day — Date Meal City State Restaurant Description
           
1 – April 1 Breakfast Atlanta GA    
1 – April 1 Lunch Madison GA The Madison Gift Mart & Cafe Very good; Ginger was a fun waitress.  Loved the 1/2 tea 1/2 lemonade.
1 – April 1 Dinner Savannah GA Shrimp Factory Great pie — White Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie.
2 – April 2 Breakfast        
2 – April 2 Lunch Savannah GA Soda Pop Shoppe Your basic dog,
2 – April 2 Dinner Savannah GA Lady & Sons Spectacular country cookin’ meal and a singing waitress, too.
3 – April 3 Breakfast        
3 – April 3 Lunch Brunswick GA The Georgia Pig Disappointing, and the world’s nastiest rest rooms.
3 – April 3 Dinner St. Augustine FL Subway We were so bummed that we couldn’t get a hotel room that we broke on of our Rules of the Road and ate at Subway!
4 – April 4 Breakfast        
4 – April 4 Lunch Daytona Beach FL Starlite Diner Stereotypical diner waitresses.
4 – April 4 Dinner Jensen Beach FL Villa Parma Excellent Italian food and Chocolate Bomb Cake.
5 – April 5 Breakfast        
5 – April 5 Lunch Hobe Sound FL Harry and the Natives Simply fantastic — what a wacky, fun place…and the Key Lime Pie was the best!
5 – April 5 Dinner Miami Beach FL Chinese Tired…take-out.
6 – April 6 Breakfast        
6 – April 6 Lunch Miami Beach FL News Cafe Great people watching.
6 – April 6 Dinner Miami FL Chili’s Always good; couldn’t find a local place near our hotel, and it was washing night.
7 – April 7 Breakfast        
7 – April 7 Lunch Key Largo FL Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen Great local spot, and excellent frozen Key Lime Pie.
7 – April 7 Dinner Key West FL    
8 – April 8 Breakfast        
8 – April 8 Lunch Key West FL Blue Heaven Really fun place and the Banana Heaven dessert was amazing!
8 – April 8 Dinner Key West FL Billie’s Bar & Restaurant Good pizza.
9 – April 9 Breakfast        
9 – April 9 Lunch Key Largo FL Harriette’s Classic small-town cafe, and the Dolphin sandwich was fantastic.
9 – April 9 Dinner Bonita Springs FL Mel’s Diner Best hot dog ever, and Rebecca was a great waitress.
10 – April 10 Breakfast        
10 – April 10 Lunch Sarasota FL Big Dogg’s Tiny little place where a tourist would never stop.  Excellent Philly Cheese Steak.
10 – April 10 Dinner Weeki Wachee FL Circle K Fritos and Ginger Ale.
11 – April 11 Breakfast Carrabelle FL Carrabelle Junction Two relatively tough bagels.  One should know better than to buy bagels in a tiny town.
11 – April 11 Lunch Panama City FL The Treasure Ship Fantastic, huge hamburger and great Cocha Mocha pie for dessert.  Jessica nominated for Best Waitress!
11 – April 11 Dinner Foley AL Lambert’s Cafe Fabulous place and incredible meal.  Best so far!
12 – April 12 Breakfast New Orleans LA Papa Joe’s The muffalletta sandwich was good.  Our waiter had no personality.
12 – April 12 Lunch        
12 – April 12 Dinner New Orleans LA Fairmont Hotel The pecan pie was very disappointing — like you’d get at a grocery store.
13 – April 13 Breakfast New Orleans LA Fairmont Hotel I loved the beignets.
13 – April 13 Lunch Morgan City LA The Donut Shop Nothing special except Amber and her hair net.
13 – April 13 Dinner Beaumont TX Rio Rita’s Excellent Mexican food.
14 – April 14 Breakfast Houston TX Mary Lee’s Donuts Very good donuts.  The owner thought I was there to make all his dreams come true by buying him out.
14 – April 14 Lunch El Campo TX The Duson cafe Wonderful Chocolate Pecan Pie.  Elizabeth was an excellent waitress and tour guide.
14 – April 14 Dinner Corpus Christi TX Roadhouse Not great, but not bad.
15 – April 15 Breakfast        
15 – April 15 Lunch Riviera TX The Barn Door Fabulous barbecue in a true local small town cafe.
15 – April 15 Dinner        
16 – April 16 Breakfast Pharr TX The Great Donut Excellent Mexican donuts.  No idea what they were except good.
16 – April 16 Lunch Hidalgo TX Rosita’s Cafe Excellent Mexican food.  Different.  Best Mexican food so far.
16 – April 16 Dinner        
17 – April 17 Breakfast        
17 – April 17 Lunch        
17 – April 17 Dinner Del Rio TX Don Marcelinos Excellent Mexican food.
18 – April 18 Breakfast        
18 – April 18 Lunch Sanderson TX Gas Stateion Goodarts Peanut Patty.
18 – April 18 Dinner Terlingua TX Starlight Theater Good chili with Desert Nachos for dessert.  Yvette was one of my favorite waitresses so far.
19 – April 19 Breakfast        
19 – April 19 Lunch Marfa TX Thunderbird Restaurant   Very good sandwich.  Rose was a wonderful waitress and a superb undercover surveillance assistant.
19 – April 19 Dinner Carlsbad NM Casa de Cortez Excellent Mexican food.  Would be the nominee for the Best but I didn’t like their salsa enough.
20 – April 20 Breakfast        
20 – April 20 Lunch Roswell NM Crash Down Diner Very tasty Alien Pancakes.
20 – April 20 Dinner Pietown NM Pie-O-Neer cafe Very good Peach Pie and equally good Apple Walnut Raisin Pie.
21 – April 21 Breakfast Lordsburg NM Taco Loco Wonderful Breakfast Burrito.  I really liked Phyllis.
21 – April 21 Lunch Bisbee AZ Dot’s Diner Fantastic Rhubarb Pie.  Mary was a very good waitress.
21 – April 21 Dinner        
22 – April 22 Breakfast        
22 – April 22 Lunch Tucson AZ Der Weinerschnitzel Great hot dogs.  Fond memories of late night college relief from the munchies.
22 – April 22 Dinner        
23 – April 23 Breakfast        
23 – April 23 Lunch Tucson AZ Cafe Poca Cosa Very good Mexican food — huge servings — just a little fancier Mexican food than I prefer.
23 – April 23 Dinner Tucson AZ Little Anthony’s Diner Mud Pie was okay, but the servers were great.
24 – April 24 Breakfast Tucson AZ Donut Wheel Extremely good donuts.
24 – April 24 Lunch Dateland AZ Dateland Restaurant Date Shake was extremely good.  Date Pie was so-so.
24 – April 24 Dinner San Diego CA In-N-Out Burger Exceptional food.  Exceptional service.
25 – April 25 Breakfast        
25 – April 25 Lunch Coronado CA Island Pasta We prefer Domino’s Pizza.
25 – April 25 Dinner San Diego CA In-N-Out Burger Exceptional food.  Exceptional service.
26 – April 26 Breakfast Leucadia CA Leucadia Donut Shop Okay.  Not special, but okay.
26 – April 26 Lunch        
26 – April 26 Dinner Rancho Palos Verdes CA Arturo’s Outstanding Mexican food and great company!
27 – April 27 Breakfast        
27 – April 27 Lunch Long Beach CA Hof’s Hot The Cheddar Burger is awesome, and the Banana Cream Pie was huge and delicious!
27 – April 27 Dinner Los Angeles CA Randy’ Donut Shop Surprisingly good donuts; we thought the world’s largest donut sign may be all they had to offer.
28 – April 28 Breakfast Santa Monica CA DK’s Donuts Extremely good donuts.
28 – April 28 Lunch Hollywood CA Skooby’s Best hot dogs, even better fries, and best lemonade ever.
28 – April 28 Dinner Hollywood CA Skooby’s Best hot dogs, even better fries, and best lemonade ever.
29 – April 29 Breakfast        
29 – April 29 Lunch Devore CA Peek’s Cafe The only disappointing meal we’ve had.  Not bad – just plain cafeteria-like food.
29 – April 29 Dinner Needles CA Royal Garden The Chinese food was very good, and Winnie and Gwenny were even better.
30 – April 30 Breakfast        
30 – April 30 Lunch Oatman AZ Olive Oatman Restaurant & Saloon Our Navajo Nachos were huge and good.  Interesting entertainment.
30 – April 30 Dinner        
31 – May 1 Breakfast        
31 – May 1 Lunch        
31 – May 1 Dinner Williams AZ Pine Tree Restaurant Wonderful homestyle dinner followed by four delicious pieces of pie!
32 – May 2 Breakfast        
32 – May 2 Lunch Jerome AZ Jerome Grill Very good Mexican food for lunch.
32 – May 2 Dinner Sedona AZ Black Cow Cafe Banana Split was good.
33 – May 3 Breakfast        
33 – May 3 Lunch Winslow AZ La Posada Hotel Good lunch, special place.
33 – May 3 Dinner Gallup NM Ranch Kitchen Very good barbecue dinner.
34 – May 4 Breakfast        
34 – May 4 Lunch Albuquerque NM La Placita Excellent Mexican food.
34 – May 4 Dinner Santa Fe NM Eldorado Hotel Club Sandwich was quite good, but room service was horrible.
35 – May 5 Breakfast        
35 – May 5 Lunch Santa Fe NM Plaza Restaurant Meal was excellent, but the Caramel Apple Pecan Pie was about the best pie we’ve ever eaten.
35 – May 5 Dinner Albuquerque NM Candlewood Hotel Vending Area Microwaved Lean Cuisine’s.
36 – May 6 Breakfast        
36 – May 6 Lunch Santa Rosa NM Joseph’s Restaurant Excellent Mexican food.
36 – May 6 Dinner        
37 – May 7 Breakfast        
37 – May 7 Lunch Amarillo TX Big Texan Steak Ranch Delicious barbeque, and Lesley is a top nominee for Best Waiter.
37 – May 7 Dinner Lubbock TX Flatlanders The food was so-so, but we loved being with the Shanklins.
38 – May 8 Breakfast Lubbock TX Berlinda’s Kitchen Wonderful home-cooked breakfast.
38 – May 8 Lunch Floydada TX Dixie Dog Delicious, hot, fresh Corny Dogs.
38 – May 8 Dinner Canute OK Ali’s Snow Cone Stand Excellent snow cone.  Nice people!
39 – May 9 Breakfast        
39 – May 9 Lunch Clinton OK Jiggs Smoke House Triple Pig Sickle Sandwich is my nominee for Best Sandwich.
39 – May 9 Dinner Stroud OK Rock Cafe Fabulous Peach Cobbler.  Neat people.  Great old place.
40 – May 10 Breakfast Tulsa OK Clicks Steakhouse via George Robertson Wonderful Toll House Pie
40 – May 10 Lunch Claremore OK Hammett House Good sandwich and very good Lemon Pecan Pie.  Extremely nice folks.
40 – May 10 Dinner        
41 – May 11 Breakfast        
41 – May 11 Lunch St. Robert MO Sonic I got desperate on Mother’s Day, but unlike other franchise chains, Sonic is always good.
41 – May 11 Dinner Chesterfield MO Wild Horse Grill Nicest (aka Uptown) meal yet, and it was wonderful to be with family and friends.  And Uncle Ward paid!!!
42 – May 12 Breakfast        
42 – May 12 Lunch St. Louis  MO Ted Drewes Frozen Custard Caramel Concrete is really tasty.  Always fun to eat at an “institution.”
42 – May 12 Dinner Cape Girardeau MO Dexter Bar-B-Que My barbecue sandwich was outstanding — cole slaw on the bun with the brisket and sauce.
43 – May 13 Breakfast        
43 – May 13 Lunch        
43 – May 13 Dinner Memphis TN Blues City Cafe The ribs were the best I can remember eating anywhere, and the Apple Dumpling dessert was incredible.  The staff treated me like a VIP.
44 – May 14 Breakfast        
44 – May 14 Lunch Memphis TN Cottage Restaurant Fudge Pie and Nana Puddin were very good, but the ladies who work there made it truly special.
44 – May 14 Dinner Nashville TN Jack’s Barbeque Best barbeque overall so far.  Recommended by policemen.
45 – May 15 Breakfast        
45 – May 15 Lunch        
45 – May 15 Dinner Atlanta GA Bozzie Jane’s Kitchen  
57 – May 27 Breakfast        
57 – May 27 Lunch Atlanta GA Bozzie Jane’s Kitchen  
57 – May 27 Dinner        
58 – May 28 Breakfast        
58 – May 28 Lunch Sevierville TN Applewood Grill  
58 – May 28 Dinner        
59 – May 29 Breakfast        
59 – May 29 Lunch Lexington KY Rogers Restaurant  
59 – May 29 Dinner Shelbyville KY Mark’s Feed Store  
60 – May 30 Breakfast Louisville KY Lynn’s Paradise Cafe An absolute hoot, and the breakfast was exceptional.  Great lamps.
60 – May 30 Lunch
60 – May 30 Dinner Indianapolis IN Union Jack Great deep dish pizza — as I remembered it from 16 years ago.
61 – May 31 Breakfast        
61 – May 31 Lunch Greenup IL Stockyards Restaurant Wonderful Rib-Eye Sandwich and good pie, too.  Great waitress = Jenny
61 – May 31 Dinner Highland IL Blue Springs Cafe SIX pieces of pie.  This place does foot high pie!
62 – June 1 Breakfast        
62 – June 1 Lunch        
62 – June 1 Dinner Ottumwa IA Mr. Quick Hamburgers Worst service I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant.
63 – June 2 Breakfast Oskaloosa IA Wes’ Family Restaurant Great cafe; wonderful staff; and mighty good pie.
63 – June 2 Lunch Winterset IA Northside Cafe Worst pie of the trip.  Hamburger was good, but the service was very blah.
63 – June 2 Dinner Lincoln NE Misty’s Restaurant Fabulous steak and exceptional service from waitress Toni.
64 – June 3 Breakfast        
64 – June 3 Lunch Minden NE Southfork Drive Inn Poor meal.  Not a personality in the place.
64 – June 3 Dinner        
65 – June 4 Breakfast        
65 – June 4 Lunch Great Bend KS Granny’s Kitchen Great cafe; wonderful staff; and mighty good pie.
65 – June 4 Dinner Garden City KS Comfort Inn Free soup — not bad at all.
66 – June 5 Breakfast        
66 – June 5 Lunch Pueblo CO Sonic I was in a hurry, so I hit a chain (against the Rules of the Road).  Sonic is almost always good, but not today.  Antacid time.
66 – June 5 Dinner        
67 – June 6 Breakfast        
67 – June 6 Lunch        
67 – June 6 Dinner Salt Lake City UT Candlewood Suites Long day of driving, so I had a bowl of Campbell’s Soup about 1 am.
68 – June 7 Breakfast        
68 – June 7 Lunch Salt Lake City UT Hires Big H Great drive-in car hop service.  Fantastic hamburger and the fries were second to only Skooby’s in Hollywood.  A winner!
68 – June 7 Dinner        
69 – June 8 Breakfast        
69 – June 8 Lunch Las Vegas NV Harley Davidson Cafe Very good meal, but our waitress Amanda was the best part.
69 – June 8 Dinner        
70 – June 9 Breakfast        
70 – June 9 Lunch Las Vegas NV In-N-Out Burger Always good.
70 – June 9 Dinner Las Vegas NV Marriott Suites Sandwich was good.  Cobbler was poor.
71 – June 10 Breakfast        
71 – June 10 Lunch        
71 – June 10 Dinner Monrovia CA Rudy’s Mexican Food Excellent California-style Mexican food.  Fired ice cream wasn’t very good though.  Rudy was great.
72 – June 11 Breakfast        
72 – June 11 Lunch        
72 – June 11 Dinner Santa Barbara CA Rudy’s Cafe Not bad, just not great.
73 – June 12 Breakfast Solvang CA Olsen’s Danish Bakery Excellent pastries!
73 – June 12 Lunch San Luis Obispo CA Linn’s Bakery & Eatery Best lunch and the Olallieberry Pie ranks as one of the best of the trip.  Owner Patty was delightful.
73 – June 12 Dinner        
74 – June 13 Breakfast        
74 – June 13 Lunch Sausalito CA Sausalito Gourmet Deli Great sandwiches, and the Carrot cake was also mighty good.  Really nice people own and operate.
74 – June 13 Dinner Greenbrae CA Ryan’s House Wonderful gourmet meal prepared by Ryan’s Personal Chef.
75 – June 14 Breakfast        
75 – June 14 Lunch El Cerrito CA Circus Chimera Great circus nachos, popcorn, and peanuts.
75 – June 14 Dinner San Rafael CA Celia’s Mexican Food Excellent.  Ryan’s favorite spot.
76 – June 15 Breakfast San Francisco CA Krispy Kreme Not hot, but excellent donuts.
76 – June 15 Lunch        
76 – June 15 Dinner Carmel CA Hog’s Breath Inn Very good — one of the best cheeseburgers anywhere served on a unique bun.
77 – June 16 Breakfast        
77 – June 16 Lunch        
77 – June 16 Dinner Greenbrae CA Ryan’s House Wonderful gourmet meal prepared by Ryan’s Personal Chef.
77 – June 16 Breakfast        
77 – June 16 Lunch        
77 – June 16 Dinner Greenbrae CA Ryan’s House Wonderful gourmet meal prepared by Ryan’s Personal Chef.

Round America Trip – Rules of the Road

The trip ‘Round America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns. We wanted to make the trip special, and we established Rules of the Road.

These are the Rules of the Road:

Rule #1 See the real world.  Stay off the interstate highways.
Rule #2 Eat pie.  Eat where the locals eat.  Avoid franchised restaurants.  “Slow food” rather than fast food.
Rule #3 See the sights that others miss.  Don’t visit many theme parks.
Rule #4 Plan to enjoy the unexpected.  When something catches your eye, check it out.
Rule #5 Try new things — new places, new people, new food, new experiences.
Rule #6 Stop and smell the roses…or whatever.  No need to rush; enjoy the journey.
Rule #7 Think local.  Listen to local radio stations; read local papers; and watch local TV.
Rule #8 Make the best of every situation,  If it seems boring or ugly or wrong, look again.
Rule #9 Be smart.  Be safe.  Be prepared.  Exercise every day.  Keep the gas tank full.
Rule #10 Preserve the experience.  Maintain a journal; keep records; and take a lot of photos.

Round America Trip – The Travelers

Bill Windsor

Bill Windsor; age 54; brother of three; husband of one; father of two; grandfather of one; serial entrepreneur –has started 44 businesses in the last 33 years; publisher for much of his career; author of numerous magazine articles and business publications; record collector with one of the world’s largest collections of 45-rpm records; owner of 1955 Chevrolet Police Car; likes doing things that others might never think to do.

Barbara Windsor

Barbara Windsor; much younger than Bill; sister of three; wife of one; mother of two; grandmother of three; has worked with Bill in many of his businesses over the last 33 years; great interior decorator; doll collector; can’t even believe the crazy stuff Bill comes up with; hesitant about the trip “Round America at first, but became enthusiastic once she got to fly home a few times to see Brittany and Miss Madison.

Round America Trip Scorecard

The trip ‘Round America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns.
This is the Trip Scorecard — tracking important statistics throughout the trip.

Category Planned Actual
Duration 100 days 148 days
Mileage 19,631 29,450
Countries Visited 3 3
States Visited 50 + DC 50 + DC
Cities Visited 2,538 over 2,500
People Met 1,000 over 2,000
Attractions Seen 1,000 need to tally
Photos Taken 5,000 14,341
Meals Eaten 300 need to tally
Pies Eaten 100 177
Antacids Consumed 150 45
Gallons of Gas 1,309 1,733
Flat Tires 1 1
New Tires 4 9*
Oil Changes 7 6
Speeding Tickets 0 1 — disputed
Cars Passed 0 33
Times Lost 0 many
Chapters Written 51 ?
Enjoyment Massive Massive

* One tire was for friends in need.