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Stanley, South of the Manson/Nixon Line November 25, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.

How was your Thanksgiving?  Mine was excellent, thanks for asking.   While I have finished my Great American Novel, the rough draft of which finished up at 50,874 by their Word Count Verifier, and 50,916 by mine, I broke the tape almost a full week ahead of schedule and will be able to resume my usual blogging activities before you know it.

But not before I let Aunt Bunny finish the tale of Flat Stanley’s adventures.  Poops would never leave you hanging like that.  Take it away, Bun.

It’s Day Two of Stanley’s three-day trip to Florida.  Let’s see what he learns about life on the road today, shall we…

Sunday, October 2, 2011

6:20 a.m.  The alarm is set to go off, but the only one who has to be shaken awake is Stanley.  He isn’t any happier about it today than he was yesterday morning.  I can hardly wait for Monday.  When I tell him that we have a hot breakfast waiting for us downstairs, his valise gets packed a little quicker.

7:00 a.m.  Breakfast.  Bruce likes to stay at the Comfort Inn and Suites because a continental breakfast is provided free of charge every morning.  They actually put out a pretty good spread featuring eggs and some sort of mystery meat, waffles, cereal, and depending on how far south you travel, grits.  Personally, I’d like to go to the first gas station I can find, grab a cup of coffee, a Krispy Kreme doughnut and hit the road.  Bruce chows down at these breakfast buffets like we’re going to drive right through lunch.  Like that ever happened in his life.  Another thing to point out?  You’d best be shoveling your food in fast because we are burning daylight.  Time is miles, people.

Stanley caught sight of the cereal dispensers and gave an audible gasp.  When I explained that it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet and no limit to the cereal, he literally began to tremble.  When I further explained the breakfast rules as written by Bruce and that he had exactly 8 minutes to eat, he pleaded with me to either go out and slash one of the car tires or spill hot coffee in Bruce’s lap.

7:20 a.m.  Breakfast is over.  We have eaten.  We have bused our tables and refilled our coffees.  We’ve gone to the rest rooms.  Bruce has checked out of the hotel and is sitting in the car and I am climbing into the front seat.  Stanley is in a daze in the back seat with a Froot Loop stuck to his head. Bruce is giving me a look like I had stopped to read a magazine in the lobby.

“What were those grits?” asked Stanley, after regaining his composure.

“That’s something that Southerner’s eat to put even more fat into their diets,” I explained.  “Think of it as sort of like cream of wheat, only instead of adding a little milk and sugar, down south you add about a half a stick of butter and two tablespoons of salt to one serving.”

“I noticed Uncle Bruce really likes it.”

“It’s a vessel for butter.  If he could figure out a way to eat 1/2 a stick of butter off his cell phone and get away with it, he would.”

During our travels thus far, it has been quite cool.  When we left New Hampshire, the temperature was in the low 60’s and overcast, and as we continued driving south, the temperature only got colder.  By the time we arrived at the hotel in Virginia, the weather was down in the 50’s and the next morning we awoke to 46 degrees.  The sun was shining, but for early October in Virginia, we all found this weather to be quite chilly.

North Carolina

11:15 a.m.  OMG!  I was so excited to find this out about North Carolina!  This state has carnivorous plants that grow wild in a few areas.  Carnivorous means that the plant will eat something that is alive, like a fly or an ant or any insect that happens to crawl in its mouth.

Let’s say some innocent bee comes tooling along and decides that he’s simply had enough of flying and lands on the venus fly trap plant.  Mr. Bee is minding his own business and is simply walking around on the head of the venus fly trap.  Then he happens to look down inside of the venus fly trap’s mouth and spots all of that nice reddish area that bees are so attracted to when they are busy pollinating.

Yeah, you’ve all seen PG-13 movies when you shouldn’t have and you know what happens next.  Sure enough, Mr. Bee crawls down right inside of venus fly trap and as Emeril has said one to many time, BAM!  Mr. Venus Fly Trap’s mouth slams shut and lets Mr. Bee dissolve slowly in his mouth, much as you would do with a piece of taffy in your own mouth.

When I was a kid, I was always buying these things and sticking my finger into its “mouth” just to watch it snap shut.  I felt that they were so exotic and mysterious that surely these plants had to come from places like Bangkok and Timbuktu.  But Holly Shelter, North Carolina?  I didn’t see that one coming.

Check out the picture of the girl bent down near the field of these plants and how they seem to individually rise up and look at her.  Then look at a close-up of  this plant.  Right now that thumping noise from the movie Jaws is looping through my head.  Aunt Bunny got the skeeves…

1:00 p.m.  By this time of day we have already stopped once for gas and probably twice for bathroom relief.  Old bladders and caffeine are not good travel companions.  It is also time to eat lunch, as I feel quite certain that Bruce is down at least 2 quarts of grease since breakfast.

I should explain the phenomenon that takes place when Bruce travels for over an hour.  It’s a little like being on Gilligan’s Island, playing Monopoly and he is Mr. Howell, who as we all remember only signed up for a three-hour tour.  I will be playing the part of Ginger.  Seriously, throw me a bone here.

I have been serving this man low-carbohydrate meals for the last 10 years.  No rice, pasta, potatoes, or veggies high in sugar.  No desserts or breads.  He refuses anything that is high in carbs.  In a restaurant he will order a sandwich without the bread.  Instead of french fries, he’ll get a vegetable.  Yum.  If I didn’t attend casserole night with my family or keep junk in the house, I would be lying in a hospital somewhere with a feeding tube up my nose.

But put this man on any kind of a road trip and he acts like Mr. Howell with a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to mealtime.  Bruce eats like his three-day road trip is going to somehow turn into a five-year excursion and he should approach every meal like it’s his last.  I live in Florida, so I know it didn’t take Thurston Howell too long to figure out that a tropical palm fruit doesn’t grow overnight and that there aren’t that many on one tree.  But certainly that isn’t Bruce’s problem since we pass enough fast food restaurants on I-95 to make Julia Child roll over in her grave.

Why does he do this on the road?  Stress, maybe.  Although Bruce goes to the gym religiously every other day for two hours, he never loses an ounce.  I go a few times a week if I can squeeze it in to walk for half an hour and I have to eat bags of candy to keep the weight on.  Come to think of it, we have Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, Five Guys, and tons of places like that here in town and I never ask where he goes for lunch.  Wait a minute.  Bunny’s having herself one of those Oprah “Aha” moments.  She is also planning on serving spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner.

Suddenly there is a squeal of tires and we are coming off an exit ramp practically on two wheels.  Remember that thumping noise from Jaws just before the shark hits?  Okay, restart that music.  Bruce has spotted the ultimate buffet and he’s going in for the kill.  God help us, he spotted a Shoney’s.

“Why do you look so worried?” asked Stanley.

“Oh, no, no.  I’m just fine,” I said, forcing a smile.

“Any reason why you just made the Sign of the Cross?”

You’ll know in a minute, I thought to myself.  Bruce manages to get the car into only one parking spot and in we go.

In the past I’ve eaten at some moderately okay Shoney’s where I felt that perhaps only half of the buffet offerings would give me food poisoning.  Not this one.  A skull and crossbones flag should have been flown high above this location, large enough to spot from the highway.  You know the highway signs that are used for Amber alerts that give out dire information?  The state of North Carolina should have had one flashing for this place.

I took a look at the buffet and then I thought in an effort to save my life, why not have something cooked fresh?  After I perused the menu and found 1/3 of the items blacked out with Magic Marker, I opted for the all-you-can-eat $5.99 buffet.  I think they had hot dogs in the kitchen older than our waitress Tanya.  When she offered Bruce a menu, he laughed in her face.  At this point, his eyes had begun to glaze over.

“Y’all can start while I go get your drinks,” said Tanya, prompting Bruce to hurtle out of the booth, causing Stanley to  hit the floor.

“What happened?” asked Stanley, as he crawled out from underneath the menu.

“Round one,” I answered.  “Quick, get up off the floor because he’s heading back!”

“What exactly are you afraid of here?” asked Stanley as we walked towards the buffet together.

“Well, normally it would be just a small case of diarrhea, not too severe,” I answered.  “But in this place I believe that we could be flirting with salmonella or possible ptomaine.  I really don’t know how great the hospitals are in Georgia, but I know that a lot of people named Bubba work in them, so we need to choose wisely.”

After circling the lukewarm steam tables and trying to find something edible, we pass by Bruce as he is already on Round Two of his meal.

“I LOVE this place!” he hollers out as he dashes by us with a plate of pulled pork, bacon, and mac and cheese.

I settle on vegetables and dessert.  I have never heard of anyone having to have their stomach pumped from consuming anything like this, no matter how dirty the kitchen.  When it comes to eat my desserts, imagine my surprise when I’m less than enchanted.

I have chosen for my culinary treat: bread pudding, banana pudding, roasted apples with strawberry sauce, and whipped cream.  I have provided a picture below for ease in description.

Starting at the top and going clockwise is the bread pudding.  Where I come from, we have been taught to put eggs in the recipe.  Lots of them.  I’m not so sure this recipe called for any since I was unable to cut it with a steak knife.  At the 3 o’clock position we have the banana pudding which usually involves adding fresh bananas.  Again, not in the Shoney’s recipe file.

Sitting at the six o’clock position is what the buffet sign described as the apples in strawberry sauce.  I was not sure where these apples came from because upon biting into the first one I felt compelled to spit it out.  The strawberry sauce turned out to be reduced strawberry Kool-Aid.  This was nasty, however, I thought it very clever on the chef’s part.  Who knows what else you can to do to Kool-Aid?

If you check out the 9 o’clock position, you’ll spot the whipped cream.  What can possibly go wrong, you ask?  Turns out to be whipped butter.  The 8 x 13 tray of it was sitting right smack dab in the middle of all the desserts.  Not near the bread and veggies.  Nope, right there in the middle of the sweets.  I’m beginning to think that perhaps Bruce sits on a Shoney’s advisory committee for food placement.  When he finished up Round Four and looked over at this plate of food, want to take a stab at the first place Bruce’s fork began to head?

“Don’t worry, Stanley, we’re gassing up across the street and I’ll grab us a big bag of Cape Cod potato chips to tide us over until dinner,” I told him as we left Shoney’s.

“Why do I feel so dirty?” asked Stanley.

“Think of it, kid.  You’re made of paper.”

“Hello?”  He said, rolling his eyes.  “Grease spots.”

1:40 p.m.  Lunch is over and the car is once again full of gas.  As is Bruce.  Pulled pork and greens will do that to you.  The sun is shining bright as it has been since early this morning and it would appear that all that nasty weather is far behind us.  The temperature is still hovering in the high 50’s and low 60’s.

South Carolina

2:30 p.m.  We are crossing our eleventh state line and Bruce announces that he can’t keep his eyes open and a nap is required.

Well, we certainly give new meaning to the words defensive driving.  We stop and stuff our faces with food.  Next we hop back in the car and resume the book on tape that has been droning on for the last 8 hours, usually with the sun beating down on us as we drive 80 mph.  All while trying to stay awake.  Maybe I’ll start packing water bottles with sprayers and we can blast one another if the drowsiness becomes obvious.  I wonder how hard it is to post bail money when you’re traveling out of state.

We are never long in South Carolina so I know very little about it.  It doesn’t help that we went to the bathroom less than an hour ago so we don’t stop a the welcoming booth along the highway.  Oh, wait a minute, we did stop and there’s nothing much in their booklet.  It’s all about golf here in South Carolina.  Myrtle Beach is where you want to go to find a bazillion golf courses.

Since your Uncle Boo has retired, and being the excellent golfer that he has become, I feel quite certain that he will probably begin to visit here.  Boo hits his driver like no one I’ve ever seen and his iron control is unbelievable.  I have tried for years to emulate his chipping swing, but alas, I cannot do it.  Perhaps if he invites me to come play golf with him at his new private golf course

“No need to be coy, Roy.”

The only other place I know about is South of the Border.  This is kind of an amusement park, tourist trap kind of a place.  When you are going down the highway, you see this huge tower rise up and on top sits a Mexican sombrero.  It always grabbed my attention, so I would imagine that it would get a carload of kids crying if you drove by it without stopping.  It took me six years to get Bruce to pull over and stop and I’m married to him.  turns out that you can climb to the top of that tower and walk around that hat and take pictures or whatever.  After getting a good look at the place, if I had to work there, I would walk to the top of that sombrero and jump.

Now, there’s not a chance that you’re going to drive by this place and somehow miss it.  Billboards begin showing up by the side of the road at approximately 127 miles before you reach the pit stop.  In fact, the minute I see the first one, it’s imperative that I call your Grammy Hane and advise her of my location.  Sometimes it’s only a simple text.  I don’t know how we got into this habit, or why, but if I do not make contact I believe the State Police would become involved.

“I’m 97 miles away.”

“You stopping?”


“Okay.  Bye.”

The one time I did stop, I bought Hanie a coffee mug from the gift shop just to prove I’d been there.  It’s been for years and I’m still reeling from the fact that Bruce actually pulled over and stopped.  I also remember thinking that the snack bar reminded me a lot of Shoney’s.  I’m trying to come up with another place that I can begin to  nag about stopping at for future trips.  I’m pretty sure I saw signs for a snake and reptile zoo in Georgia.

Next time, Stanley gets Georgia on his mind…



1. Karen Waggoner - November 25, 2011

I just read all three installments at once while drinking my breakfast tea. My poor laptop will take some time to dry out, hopefully by tomorrow when there’s a new chapter. I will be more cautious about the timing of my intake of liquids.

Bunny and Bruce — on your way home to NH, you’re invited to stop in Danbury, CT, and we’ll teach you there’s more to our state than Foxwoods!

2. fresh - December 29, 2015

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