Iâ€™m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Kemmerer, Wyoming.
Greetings from Kemmerer, Wyoming
N 41Â° 47.4026â€™ W 110Â° 32.2095â€™ Elev. 6955 feet
New Yearâ€™s Eve 2013
Iâ€™d caught whiffs of the unmistakable smell of diesel intermittently for a couple of days. I looked for the source but saw nothing unusual. Sometimes youâ€™ll get a whiff of it just from the inevitable little splashes that come from fueling.
So there we were, powering up a hill with our 45,000 pounds of designer potatoes, chichi spuds, if you will. Thatâ€™s when it happened: The SS Me So Hungry blew a fuel line.
Here we were in the middle of Wheredafakawee, Wyoming, which is nowhere near the now-shuttered Fakaweeâ€™s Restaurant in Wamsutter. That was another 150 miles away. Utilizing my super-human powers of deduction, I concluded we were screwed.
Long story short: the wrecker came, hooked up the yacht, and dragged it away to the nearest big-rig fix-it place, in Kemmerer (pronounced â€œKimmerâ€; one of the ers is silent).
Kemmerer is notable for at least one thing: Itâ€™s the home of the original J.C. Penney. Itâ€™s still open, in fact. According to local lore, it was opened as an alternative to the coal mining companyâ€™s stores, which paid the workers in script usable only in their stores, in order to force the companies to pay better wages. Itâ€™s a nice story but, I suspect, largely untrue.
By now youâ€™re probably wondering: What do you do when youâ€™re stuck in Kemmerer, Wyoming on New Yearâ€™s Eve, with no wheels, the temperature (without the windchill) is hovering around freezing, and light snow is in the forecast?
Well, first you pack up everything you think youâ€™re going to need (parka, gloves, bomber hat, duck shoes, long johns, guitar, computer, etc.,) and then try and find a motel room closest to the most amenities available. Then you throw a party.
After securing a room at the Antler Motel (incorrectly listed as the Antlerâ€™s Motel on the Intertubes and elsewhere) I slogged down to the grocery store in Kimmerer, Ridleyâ€™s Family Markets, for party supplies.
I bought two bags of Original FritosÂ®, along with two cans of FritosÂ® Bean Dip and a half-gallon of Simply OrangeÂ® with Mango. All the items were on sale if you had a Ridleyâ€™s card. I didnâ€™t. But the lady in front of me at the checkout did and graciously let me use hers. I saved $5.87 and earned her 10 points!
On the slog back to the Antler I stopped at Cafe Adimiahâ€™s. It had been pointed out on the way to the motel by Andy, the wrecker driver, who deemed it â€œthe best restaurant in town.â€ I figured, since heâ€™d been in business here for 38 years, he would know all the best places to go in Kemmerer.
Excepting two women in a booth eating salads, the place was empty. I was kind of confused by the limited number of tables in the place. Maybe they were trying to make the place look spacious and airy. Then again, judging by the DJ setting up his Equipamentos projetados para irritar pessoas they were gearing up for their big New Yearâ€™s Eve bash. The special that night was Prime Rib for $22.50. Because I was a little too early to the party (it was about 4 p.m.) I just ordered off what appeared to be Adimiahâ€™s somewhat overpriced menu.
It was cold outside and Iâ€™d just slogged what seemed like miles in the cold in my not-too-comfortable duck shoes, so I ordered Spaghetti ($10.99), described on the menu as â€œSpaghetti … letâ€™s start with our homemade meaty sauce, and letâ€™s not forget our noodles (No potato).â€ I figured it would not only be a lot of food, it would help me endure the last couple of blocks slogging uphill laden with party supplies to the balmy paradise of the room at the Antler.
The spaghetti came with a small dinner salad of leaf lettuce and three slices cucumber. I was starving and the salad was quite satisfying and really â€œhit the spot.â€ Then the spaghetti came.
Iâ€™m going to be as generous here as possible:
The spaghettiâ€™s â€œhomemade meaty sauceâ€ was essentially canned spaghetti sauce with some browned ground beef thrown in. It was bereft of flavor and was seasoned, I think, to appeal to the crew of an aircraft carrier somewhere in mid-ocean where complaining is pointless. Moreover, the sauce was mixed in with the pasta (as opposed to ladled on top) depriving me of mixing the stuff myself to my taste. Iâ€™ve had much better spaghetti … like in my Junior High School cafeteria.
The dish was â€œcomplimentedâ€ with a diagonally-cut slice of Texas toast with some sort of flavorless (garlic?) spread on it. Although I had to ask for it, I also got a lumberjack-size thimble of Parmesan cheese. I was going to ask for more Parmesan but I kept seeing this short, markedly humorless Latino guy manning the till who vibed me into believing there would not only be an extra charge for more cheese, there would probably a lecture on burden rates and cost-volume-profit analysis as well.
Although I ate the whole thing, I wouldnâ€™t recommend it to anyone seeking sustenance with flavor. Hell, Chef Boyardee might be a better choice, especially if you donâ€™t mind sickeningly sweet stuff. On the other hand, the waitress was very nice.
Not that it matters much, I did not tell the Spanish-speaking twerp at the till â€œTener un prospero aÃ±o nuevoâ€ (Have a Happy New Year) as I paid my bill. He seemed like it wasnâ€™t in the realm of possibility. In fairness, I should say I never talked to the guy, never had any interaction with him other than a conversation-less transaction at the register. Is he an A-hole because heâ€™s suffering with a syndrome described in psychological literature as â€œNapoleon complexâ€? I donâ€™t know. Do I want to find out? Naw. Lifeâ€™s too short … and Iâ€™m throwing a party!
When I got back to my luxurious digs at the Antler Motel I promptly posted the party announcement â€” Tio Wallyâ€™s Rockinâ€™ New Yearâ€™s Eve â€” on Facebook. I decked the halls and set up the drink and hors d’oeuvre table. And waited.
New Yearâ€™s Day 2014
Evidently nobody showed up for Tio Wallyâ€™s Rockinâ€™ New Yearâ€™s Eve party.
Perhaps it was the location. Maybe it was because I fell asleep at about 10 p.m. and didnâ€™t hear the masses banging on the door; Iâ€™d had a 16 oz. A&W Root Beer and a bag of Pop Secret microwavable popcorn. Nevertheless, Tio Wallyâ€™s Rockinâ€™ New Yearâ€™s Eve turned out to be less than Iâ€™d hoped for. Then again, I slept through it and that was good.
But tonight weâ€™re throwing the aprÃ¨s la fÃªte, with Chinese food from the premier Chinese restaurant in Kemmerer, Mandarin Garden. Again, everyoneâ€™s was invited.
I called Mandarin yesterday to set everything up. They said they delivered. Today they donâ€™t.
Cab to the Mandarin was $10; I tipped $5 because it seemed like the right thing to do.
I tried ordering over the phone. But it was so difficult that I ended up getting a call from their daughter who spoke marginally better English than they did. The gist of her message: We donâ€™t deliver.
Lookyhere: Iâ€™ll work with anyone, especially those whose primary language is not English. But I called Mandarin Garden yesterday and they said they delivered. Tonight when I tried to place my order all language barriers went up; they donâ€™t deliver and they donâ€™t speak English other than â€œYou pick up.â€ This just isnâ€™t right, not fair, not to mention frustrating.
So what did I get? I have no idea. I ordered Pork Lo Mein and something to compliment it. I now had some mixed meat and vegetable medley and another largely unidentifiable mix of pork and veggies. Is it good? Itâ€™s okay. But is it satisfying? No. And I had to take a cab ($15 with tip) to get this stuff â€” itâ€™s cold outside.
Iâ€™ve talked to Chinese folks that donâ€™t have a clue about what Iâ€™m saying/asking, but never so much so that I get a call from their daughter, who I also had trouble understanding. English is hard, I know. And I apologize for my lack of fluency in Mandarin. But, câ€™mon. I donâ€™t care if we are in Kemmerer. Yâ€™all gots to hep me. This is freakinâ€™ Wyoming, yâ€™all, you know?
So I ended up with a $40 adventure for Chinese food on New Yearâ€™s Day. Yea. Was it good? After the hassle and the misery, Iâ€™d say no. But I got to meet a great cabbie. (Thanks, Francis or Frances, however you spell your name.)
By the way, no one showed up for the Tio Wallyâ€™s Rockinâ€™ New Yearâ€™s Eve aprÃ¨s la fÃªte party. Iâ€™m now thinking it may be the location. Whoâ€™s to know?
January 2, 2014
We picked up the newly repaired power unit for the yacht this morning. Less than 1/16th of a mile into our new sailing adventure it blew the fuel line off. Again!
So far 2014 is not working out so well. Weâ€™re back at the luxurious Antler Motel. Again. On the agenda now is a tow to the dealer in Salt Lake City tomorrow. Yea. Or should I say, Yee-haw.
I must say that, being a pedestrian and all, Iâ€™ve been blessed weather-wise here in this 7,000 foot version of somebody elseâ€™s heaven. Itâ€™s not unusual for it to easily be -30Â° here (with the windchill factored in) at this time of year. Today itâ€™s positively balmy; above freezing, sunshine, no wind. This is not to imply in any way, shape, or form that it doesnâ€™t suck being stuck.
Today Iâ€™ve decided to hit the Mexican restaurant down the street, the El Jaliciense. Iâ€™d been trying to eat there for two days ago but they were closed. So todayâ€™s the big day.
I slogged down the street in the late afternoon, the sun in my eyes. I had my trusty bomber hat on, walking with my head down in an attempt to shield my eyes from the sun without exposing my hand to use as a visor. Thatâ€™s when a big dog passed right in front of me. â€œMan, that dog walks weird,â€ I thought. I held up my hand to shield my eyes and saw that it wasnâ€™t a dog at all. It was a deer.
I stood there amazed when four more walked out, crossing not 20 feet in front of me. It didnâ€™t scare me at first until one with a 2-3 point rack walked out. Iâ€™m not really the outdoorsy type to begin with, but tangling with a 200-plus-pound deer with a rack of antlers is definitely out of my league.
They crossed the street only mildly concerned by my presence and hung around in somebodyâ€™s yard, eyeing me warily while I took pictures. Evidently Tio Wally is not regarded as a predator to some deer.
El Jaliciense may have been the highlight of my forced hiatus in Kemmperer. I had the beef and chicken Combo Fajitas ($11.99). They were okay but it reminded me of why I never, ever order fajitas: theyâ€™re kind of dull. It came with a side plate of rice and beans, salad, scoops of a really good guacamole and sour cream, which Iâ€™m developing a marked distaste for, and some pretty decent corn tortillas.
The real highlight, though, was that I got to speak my incredibly bad Spanish and the incredibly kind woman indulged me. She did not revert to English unless I asked her to, otherwise she treated me as if I could understand what she was saying and actually converse. That always flatters me. Hey, I donâ€™t speak Spanish well but at least I try.
January 3, 2014
The SS Me So Hungryâ€™s power unit has had its ass dragged here, to Salt Lake City. Now Iâ€™m at a Sleep(less) Inn in West Valley City, which is not to be confused with Salt Lake City. I know it all looks the same, but to rental car companies there appears to be a discernible difference.
Now that Iâ€™m here Iâ€™m thinking, what the fu… er, Phá»Ÿ. Thereâ€™s a Vietnamese restaurant nearby. So letâ€™s celebrate. What the Phá»Ÿ? (Itâ€™s actually pronounced like everyoneâ€™s favorite utilitarian curse word but without the â€œCKâ€)
I slogged over to the over to the Phá»Ÿ Saigon Noodle House and got Phá»Ÿ TÃ¡i, Bo Vien (Iâ€™m sorry I donâ€™t have all the proper accent marks), a noodle soup with eye-of-round steak and beef meatballs. I like this stuff. The broth has a flavor I canâ€™t figure out. I think itâ€™s minty. I know thereâ€™s also anise (which I canâ€™t really taste) and a host of other things in it. Itâ€™s kind of exotic and truly satisfying.
Now Iâ€™m bone tired. Burnt out. The Phá»Ÿ was great. And the people at the Phá»Ÿ Saigon Noodle House were fantastic. The nice man there let me try some Rainbow Agar, a tapioca-based Gummy Bear-esque topping used on various desserts. He kept saying it was like Jell-OÂ®. Itâ€™s not a bit like Jell-OÂ®. It actually has an interesting texture and real flavor. I liked it.
Thatâ€™s more than I can say about a lot of things right now.
And so we roll. NOT!
Cafe Adimiahâ€™s, 1012 Pine Ave., Kemmerer, Wyoming
Mandarin Garden, 801 S. Main St., Kemmerer, Wyoming
El Jaliciense, 1433 Central Ave., Kemmerer, Wyoming
Phá»Ÿ Saigon Noodle House, 2222 West 3500 South, Suite 810, West Valley City, Utah
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.