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 Clayton, New Mexico.
Greetings from Clayton, New Mexico
N 36Â° 26.7256â€™ W 103Â° 10.7998â€™ Elev. 5043 ft.
Some big events took place recently aboard the fabled SS Me So Hungry. One of them was a foot long!
First and foremost is that the cast and crew, including my evil twin Skippy, have signed on with a new shipping company. Thankfully the SSMSH will still operate under the aegis of the Pseudo Saint of Street Sailors, his benevolency musician-magician Jason Lam. Thus the TWEA posts will continue as before with a notable addition: In the past we had ten gears to miss, now we have 13. This will make for a much bigger pile of metal shavings should the transmission ever be drained and serviced. As they say in the trade: â€œIf you canâ€™t find â€˜em, grind â€˜em.â€
Boating the boulevards with the new company will mean two most welcome changes for Skippy and me. We will no longer be sailing to places we donâ€™t particularly enjoy (like the Northeast) and, more importantly, we will be changing our home port to Washington state where I can enjoy watching my 18-month-old grandson grow up.
Another really cool development is that I finally broke down and bought a ThermosÂ® thermos. I had dropped my old one in a parking lot in Tolleson, Arizona one night and dented the mouth ever so slightly. After it leaked coffee all over the floor for a few months it found a more appropriate home in a Dempster-Dumpster somewhere. That was in 2005.
This new-fangled ThermosÂ® is a marvel of design. Like all ThermosÂ® products, it keeps whatever you put in it hot or cold for days. This one really seals. The first time I closed it I cinched the stopper down â€” the gasket around it squeaks as you turn it â€” and thought Iâ€™d never get it off. Iâ€™ve since learned that you only turn it until it first squeaks and itâ€™s sealed.
Whatâ€™s really amazing, though, is that you donâ€™t have to take the stopper out to pour. You just turn it about a full revolution and itâ€™ll come out at â€œthe arrow.â€ Incredible design and worth every penny of the $25 it cost.
Unfortunately, sailing with the new drayage dudes also means one very lamentable change. For the foreseeable future we will no longer be allowed to fuel at our beloved Loveâ€™s Travel Centers. That sucks blue whale, especially now.
Since I wrote the Loveâ€™s post Loveâ€™s changed its Rewards Program. We were now earning 4 points (cents) for every gallon of fuel purchased. Along with the previously offered free drinks, which saves $70-100+ a month on coffee, it makes for one hell of an incentive to fuel there, as if we needed one.
With any luck this depressing, tragic development will be rectified sooner rather than later and life aboard the yacht will become copacetic once again. Until then my heart will break every time I pass a Loveâ€™s, especially knowing that all the other truck stops are visits to Hell Town. Theyâ€™re always fucked up in some way or another, always an angst-inducing ordeal. (Sorry â€˜bout the French, but itâ€™s true.)
By now youâ€™re probably wondering about the foot long development? Well … Loveâ€™s has one of its newer Travel Centers here. It appears Loveâ€™s may be in the process of jettisoning that awful franchise that is Subway. In many of the newer Loveâ€™s, Loveâ€™s now features Loveâ€™s Subs, which appear to be more along the lines of Caseyâ€™s sandwiches. Whether the sandwiches are as good or not I donâ€™t know. I havenâ€™t had one yet.
The franchise Loveâ€™s appears to be keeping is Chesterâ€™s Fried Chicken. I see why: Chesterâ€™s is crazy popular with much of the land yachting community. I never understood it. Itâ€™s a little overpriced for average, run-of-the-mill fried chicken; I think KFCâ€™s is much better for roughly the same price.
I stopped at this Loveâ€™s in The Land of Enchantment and in the Chesterâ€™s case were corn dogs. But they werenâ€™t those overpriced six-inch jobs. Footlongs! I didnâ€™t know there was such a thing as a footlong corn dog. I looked up at the menu and saw corn dogs priced at $1.09. I wondered, Is that price real?
I asked. It was. So I bought one. And it was good. All twelve inches of it. So good, in fact, that I shouldâ€™ve bought two â€” 24 inches of corndog! That was about a week ago.
Since then I stopped at the Loveâ€™s in southeast Memphis that has a Chesterâ€™s. Are you all out of corn dogs, I asked? â€œYou mean these?â€ the woman asked, holding up a regulation 6-inch corn dog with a tong. I explained that Iâ€™d run across the footlong job the day before. â€œReally? Iâ€™ve never heard of them,â€ she said, with some amazement.
I figured it was a fluke, that perhaps the Chesterâ€™s in Clayton was out of the regular six-inch corn dogs. Then I stopped there again a few days later and there it was, a lone footlong corn dog. So I bought it.
As I was waiting for Chesterâ€™s â€œservice personnelâ€ to grab my weenie I saw these weird things directly behind the lone footlong. Under the mood lighting of the heat lamps they looked similar to those giant caramel-colored, semi-conical sugar candies they sell in Mexican markets, except these were bumpy.
What are those? â€œThatâ€™s fried corn-on-the-cob. Theyâ€™re really good,â€ the young Chesterâ€™s girl said. How much are they? â€œI donâ€™t know.â€ Okay.
Fried corn-on-the-cob â€” or corn for that matter â€” wasnâ€™t listed anywhere on the menu. Both she and another employee came out from behind the counter and perused the menu. It was mutually agreed that, because it wasnâ€™t on the menu, they should ask Rueben. Said Reuben: $1.39.
A buck thirty-nine plus tax for a puny-assed half-ear of deep fried corn-on-the-cob?!? That seemed a little steep, extortionate, Chesterâ€™s pricing. I bought it anyway. I needed to know if it was â€œreally good.â€
The corn was coated with the same batter they use for the fried chicken. (I was at another Loveâ€™s in southern Virginia once and the Chesterâ€™s guy handed the lady at the fuel desk a Chesterâ€™s fried hot dog, a deep-fried hot dog coated with the fried chicken batter. Iâ€™ll bet those are good but they donâ€™t offer them.) I was expecting the deep-fried corn to be crunchy but it wasnâ€™t. And though the corn was tender, the coating kind of took away from its corniness. Corn is much better with just butter and salt.
So was it â€œReally goodâ€? No, not at all. What it was was â€œReally bogus.â€
One of the smart things I did before setting sail was to have the fine Chesterâ€™s folks put some mustard in a cup so I could dip-and-drive with my footlong corn dog. It seemed like the responsible thing to do rather than wrestling with those teeny mustard packages while dragging 45,000 lbs. of the King of BeersÂ® through the high plains of New Mexico at 70 mph.
More proof: There is no OFF switch to the genius setting in my humble pea brain.
And so we roll.
Chesterâ€™s Fried Chicken (inside Loveâ€™s Travel Center), 703 S. 1st St., Clayton, New Mexico
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.