Roger Marolt: No need for junk food
Along with the suffering, civil unrest and fighting over masks exacerbated by it, the pandemic is not wholly unsympathetic to human well-being.
Many have re-prioritized relationships with family and friends. We have sifted out extraneous things that only seemed important when we were too busy to realize they weren’t. We are more flexibly working from home offices and commuting less. We are experimenting with new workouts to flatten our stomachs and firm our fannies using nothing but the weight of the flab we are trying to get rid of without going anywhere near a gym. And, the methods we are using to protect ourselves from COVID-19 might also be the closest thing yet for neutralizing the common cold. We may have reached the point where chicken soup is just good food.
I also have discovered that I don’t need junk food to enjoy a road trip. You think I am joking.
I love driving. It is my preferred mode of vacation transportation. I like to go when I want, stop where I want and see what’s going on in the middle of nowhere. Maybe I’m curious or just don’t like TSA scanning wands waving between my legs. It doesn’t matter; I like sitting in a car watching the world go by on cruise control.
The absolutes of road-tripping are three-fold: You have to stop for gas. You have to pee. You have to eat. Long have I accepted that you must eat garbage, because good, healthy food is not compatible with making good time, and you must endure filthy restrooms because that is inevitable in places that serve garbage to eat. Gas is gas, so I worry little about getting the best price to save a few pennies. I judge convenience stores by their covers. Lots of glass in front means vast assortments of junk food inside.
Coronavirus has cut the cord that ties road trips to convenience stores. Until the appearance of this persistent pathogen, I thought little about how many people pass through typical convenience stores along the interstate or how many different places those people are coming from and going to. They are like super-spreader convention sites; I need that like I need a hole in my mask.
We still stop for gas, of course, but we now treat it like an Indianapolis 500 pit stop. Do you realize it only takes about three minutes to fill your car with gas, including the last couple of squeezes to top it off? That’s plenty of time to clean the windshield. We are now in and out of those places faster that you can ask, “Where are the Good & Plentys?”
We pee on the sides of the roads. We ignore the honking and cat calls. We are not the only ones. Leaves of Charmin are scattered at the bases of all the best trees and bushes along the way. Remember when kids used to throw it up into tree branches on Halloween? I hope traveling America can figure out an aesthetically better way.
For nourishment, we pack snacks and lunches with the healthy things we used to claim we wished they sold at conveniences stores knowing full well there was no way they would ever be stocked to test us.
I am big enough to admit I miss the junk food extravaganzas from the old days of travel. We tried buying it at the grocery store and bringing it along, but it was no more satisfying than sneaking your own Snickers into the movies.
There is something pleasant about standing in front of racks and racks of candies, chips, Twinkies, beef jerky, and fried pork rinds. It might be the endless possibility of pairings — Skittles and fruit punch Gatorade, Twizzlers and a cherry Coke, Lays potato chips and a can of V-8, cheap coffee and powdered sugar doughnuts, it goes on and on. As imaginations ran wild, gas station stops might take a half hour or more.
The thing I never realized was how bad all that junk food made me feel after a drive. I thought it was the miles that did it. And, they did to some degree, but eating healthy turkey sandwiches instead of greasy hamburgers and having some fresh fruit instead of M&Ms for dessert makes me feel 10 times better after we get to where we are going. I look more forward than ever to an ice cream cone at the end of the trail.
Over the years Roger Marolt has learned that having a good time on a road trip has little to do with making good time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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