Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Second Sunday Drive, Day Trip Six

The Kentucky Speedway
 Sparta, Kentucky

Sharon is really my first cousin, once removed.  That means that she is the daughter of my first cousin, Betty Lee, the only child of my mother’s elder brother Brady.  Due to the way my grandma spaced out her kids, and the way my parents waited almost fifteen years before I was born, Betty Lee had two boys before I came along.  Sharon is just five years younger than I.  We first met when Sharon’s grandmother, my aunt Augusta, brought her to California as a high school graduation present.  We hit it off immediately, and have been close ever since.

Whenever I visit West Virginia, I make it a point to spend time with Sharon.  This year was no exception.  I asked if she were up to a drive somewhere, and she answered that she’d like to go to Evansville, Indiana to visit her late husband’s parents.

Setting out on Tuesday morning, August 28, we headed west on U.S. 50 crossing the Ohio River and changing to Ohio 32 at Athens, home of Ohio University.  That route took us all the way into Cincinnati, where we crossed the Ohio River for the second time and entered Kentucky.  The road was good all the way across Ohio, much better than when I took this route back in 1987—the first time I visited West Virginia as an adult.  In the intervening twenty-five years, the two-lane road I took back then has grown into a divided four-lane highway.  The only problem is that it cuts through seemingly endless forest land and there is precious little scenery to let you know that you’re actually getting somewhere.

By the time we crossed into Kentucky, we were both feeling that lunch was in order.  I’m not sure what town we were in, but driving down “Mall Road,” appropriately named, I might add, we passed several national chain fast food places and one restaurant that was new to both of us:  Izzy’s.  As it turns out, Izzy’s is descended from the first Kosher deli located west of the Allegheny Mountains.  Today they claim to make the best reuben in the country, and their menu offers at least a half dozen variations on that particular theme.  I ordered “The Reubenator,” which was so large I couldn’t finish my sandwich.  It was, however, THE BEST reuben I’ve ever had.

The Old Vanderburgh County Court House
Evansville, Indiana

Even though we were only a block off the Interstate, Nancy directed us away from I-71 and down backroads that paralleled the Ohio River.  The first time we saw the river on our right, we were amazed at seeing such a large body of water.  It took a while for us to realize just what that water was—we’d been driving on back roads for so long at that point I figured we were way south of the river.

Along the way we entered Gallatin County, Kentucky, named, as was Gallatin County, Montana, for Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin.  I stopped in the county seat of Warsaw, and took a picture of the rather unimposing court house.  On down the road we literally came to a halt awestruck by the Kentucky Motor Speedway, not to mention its parking lots for Fords and for Mustangs.  I don’t know what happens if you try to park a Camaro in the Mustang lot.

From the Speedway, it’s just a hop, skip and jump to Louisville, then back across the Ohio into Indiana.  Most of the way, Nancy kept us on Interstate 64, but at Dale she directed us back onto the secondary roads.  That brought us to Booneville and eventually Evansville where we pulled into our motel’s parking lot and checked in.

Dinner the first night was a challenge in that the one place that Sharon could remember, the Pub, was closed and we found nothing else in the immediate area.  Giving up, I pulled out my iPhone, opened the “Yelp” app, and found La Cabana, offering Mexican cuisine.  La Cabana was on Green River Boulevard, the street where all the restaurants were located.  When we pulled into the parking lot, we both hesitated.  Yelp users had given the place great reviews, but it looked like the last dive and the parking lot appeared to host one drug deal after another.  Oh well, nothing ventured, as they say.  Perusing the menu I saw an item I’ve never before seen.  Under seafood was the intriguing “Vuelve a la vida.”  Consisting of shrimp, octopus and oysters, it was a mixed blessing, to my way of thinking.  I’ve never been fond of oysters, but I love shrimp and octopus.  Since I’d never heard of this dish, I had to order it.  When the waiter brought it out, I found I had ordered the best shrimp cocktail (also the largest) I’ve ever had.  Amazing what you can find in some hole in the wall dive behind all the drug deals.  Sharon said her dinner was tasty too.

The Old Post Office
Evansville, Indiana

Wednesday was Sharon’s day to spend with her in-laws.  Her father in law Don picked her up at the motel at 9 taking her off to the nursing home where her mother in law is now living.  I took off to see what wonders awaited me in downtown Evansville.  Once there, I photographed the old Vanderburgh County Court House, the old county jail, the old post office.  None of these buildings are being used for their stated purpose today, but they are impressive structures.  I didn’t find the new court house, the new jail or the new post office, because as I was walking, I got a text message from Sharon that Don was expecting me to join them for lunch.  I headed back to the motel so that I’d be ready when they showed up.

Sharon had warned me that we would undoubtedly be going to a buffet somewhere, and sure enough, we ended up at an Amish Buffet north of Evansville.  No one in the place appeared to be Amish, and I doubt the food was very authentic either, but if you like your food breaded and fried, you should try this place.  All of the meat dishes save two were breaded and fried.  Sharon had a small piece of ham and I had the Salisbury steak.  Neither of us opted for fried chicken, fried fish, fried pork chop.  

After lunch, Don took me back to the hotel and Sharon back to the nursing home.  I then headed out to Barnes and Noble, Big Lots, and Mike Libs’ Chocolate Factory—all on Green River Boulevard.  By the time Sharon returned to the motel, she was ready for a stiff drink and a good meal.  I suggested Acropolis where we had the dinner special—a five course meal that we couldn’t finish.  Of course we also had a dish of saganaki, Greek melted and flamed cheese, a shot each of ouzo and a full bottle of Greek white wine.  As we left the restaurant, we were greeted by a fellow sitting at a neighboring table who wished us a καληνύχτα.  I think he might have been the owner.

Thursday morning dawned bright and clear, and we turned the Saab north to Petersburg where Sharon’s husband’s ashes were buried.  From the cemetery in Petersburg, we headed to Mount Olympus where other members of Mike’s family are interred in a small cemetery behind the local Baptist church.  Once we were done with our tour of rural Indiana cemeteries, it turned out that the fastest way back to Parkersburg involved returning to Evansville, catching Interstate 64 eastbound, and staying on that road all the way to Charleston, West Virginia.  Which is what we did.

The Old Vanderburgh County Jail
Evansville, Indiana

We did take two side trips—one back into Dale where we stopped at Jenk’s Pizza for a taco salad lunch.  This trip was definitely become a food adventure—at least for me.  Another side trip took us to the Kentucky capital building in Frankfort, and then east of Lexington where I taught the local Dairy Queen folk how to make a Blueberry Nut Whip—just like I get in Missoula.

Once across the line in West Virginia, we pulled off I64 at the Nitro exit and paid a brief visit to my friend Lois Shreve whose father had known my parents when they were in college in Buckhannon and who had visited them in Montana just after I was born.

Back on the road, we decided we’d best have dinner in Charleston as it was getting late and we still had over an hour’s drive to get back to Sharon’s home in Parkersburg.  Charleston is both the state capital and largest city in West Virginia and we couldn’t find a single place to eat.  Oh that’s not true.  We passed by all the McDonalds, Wendy’s and Burger Kings.  Shoneys was not an option as far as I was concerned.  We ended up stopping at a Gino’s Pizza just off I-77 and had a sausage and mushroom pie.  From there it was a straight shot back to Sharon’s place, where we both crashed as soon as we hit the sheets.

Three days, over seven hundred miles, and four states.  That was enough for a “day” trip.

Capitol of The Commonwealth of Kentucky
Frankfort, Kentucky

No comments: