Now that I'm back and settled in from a three-week roundtrip of America, I can report a few things. The mountain-removal project in the state of North Dakota is complete, as is a stretch of I-75 outside Chattanooga that threatened to linger on into my golden years.
I should also add I put on eight pounds during the trip, and it's all because of Roadfood.com.
Maybe you know the site, pioneered by Jane and Michael Stern, restaurant reviewers and keen observers of the regular food we all eat when we're not seeking out St. Louis' version of Chez Panisse. Or you might have a tattered copy of the book, now in its sixth edition. For about thirty years, the Sterns have been scouring America for the best roadfood you can find - huge platters of ribs at Tuscaloosa's Dreamland, or the titanic milk shakes that don't even pour from their cups at an unnamed gas station near Bear Lake, Utah.
Wherever I drove, on my circuitous route from Atlanta to San Diego, to the Russian River and eastward across the Plains back home, I tried to choose lunch stops out of the book - to some staggering successes and only a disappointment or two. Sarah's Mexican restaurant noted in Billings, Montana, had changed owners - but the smoky-green pork chile still rocked for hours afterward (the leftovers traveled well). The German bakeries in Texas Hill Country gave up cinnamon rolls bigger than my fist and twice as tasty. And the massive ribeye I downed at the Tea Steak House in Tea, South Dakota, stuck with me for days afterward. Tell me - at what Longhorn would the waitress look at your steak and say, "That looks a little tough - let me get you another one?"
I'm a big fan of the book - and because of the book, I'm a bigger fan than I was before I left Atlanta. My tennis team thanks you in a very special way, Sterns - kinda of a Bronx cheer done southern-style. I'm sure you can appreciate.