Maybe it’s been different for you, but we haven’t traveled much in the past two years.
Sure, there was a journey to northern Colorado in late June 2020 to inter my mother’s cremains. It was memorable for obvious emotional reasons and also because of thunderstorms, COVID restrictions, tire issues and bizarre birds that seemingly conspired against us; it could never be called a “leisure trip.”
Otherwise, we’ve largely remained in Minnesota since January 2020, having opted to follow travel advisories, adhere to work demands and keep up with our kids.
But a recent wedding compelled us to pack our bags and gas up the van for a real adventure: 10+ hours of driving across Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to arrive at a resort destination where the lovely daughter of dear family friends was marrying her faithful fiance.
Being a bit out of the habit, travel preparations required some thought. Umbrellas? Check. Snacks and drinks for the car? Check. Appropriate wedding wear? Check. Reading material? Loads. Did we forget anything?
Of course–that’s a given. For a short weekend though, we made do and layered up even if warmer coats and gloves would have been welcome at points along the way (dratted chilly “Marchember!”).
“Road food” has always been a thing for our family. By definition, that means a stash of edibles intended to keep snarky moods and boredom at bay (with variable success rates). Also guaranteed is at least one on-the-go lunch of mom-made PBJ sandwiches.
The first evening, we stopped for a meal at an IHOP outside of Wausau, Wis., while en route to our AmericInn destination.
We tucked into pancakes, omelettes, crispy hash browns and steaming coffee while taking in the view of Rib Mountain and the still-snow-covered slopes of Granite Peak ski area. Curiously, only two other tables were filled with patrons, momentarily making us question the spot’s legitimacy. However, a hard-working cook visible in the kitchen speedily turned out the welcome hot food.
With five hours yet to go the next day, we consumed the aforementioned PBJs. Still unsatisfied, we debated the pronunciation, ingredients and quality of the U.P.’s ubiquitous “pasties;” the two passengers decided a swing into Suzy’s Pasties was a must.
A cheerful, tidy woman (was it Suzy herself? We failed to ask.) came to the counter; unhelpfully for the uninitiated, the products were not displayed.
“Do you want coleslaw or gravy with that?” she inquired when we’d settled on a hot chicken pastie, priced at $7.50 and big enough that three of us could barely finish one.
“What do you recommend?” I ventured, lacking insight into pastie protocol.
She shrugged. “I eat ’em all the time. Whatever you like.”
We chose coleslaw, thinking it seemed less likely to drip all over us while cruising across the Mackinac Bridge–and that was wise. Oh, and the bag of cheese curds we tossed in for good measure was tasty, too.
The wedding itself was lovely; the bride was beautiful, the moment meaningful, the embrace of friends fulfilling and the meal BOUNTIFUL. To top it off, we enjoyed fluffy wedding cake smothered in a cloud of almond-flavored frosting.
Retracing our steps on Sunday, we followed the advice of fellow travelers and alighted at the Swedish Pantry in Escanaba, Mich. The adorable red-and-white restaurant is a decades-old favorite of locals and tourists alike.
We, too, succumbed to its temptations; Swedish pancakes and meatballs, complete with lingonberry sauce, went down easy for one, while two of us shared the generously portioned spaghetti and meat sauce accompanied by homemade garlic toast.
And the fresh raspberry pie? Suffice to say not a crumb remained on the plate.
Guess it’s a good thing we haven’t road-tripped in awhile; my waistline can’t handle the miles.