Sunday, June 12, 2011

And we're off!

June 11, 2011—Day 1

We started out the day kind of late, not leaving the house until 11 am. We stopped by Jacquie's house to pick up Disney pins for trading when we spend a day at Disneyland on the 27th.  We filled up the tank at Sheetz in Lewisburg, using our 20 Weis points. Gas was at $3.69 (without the Weis points). About 15 minutes into the drive, Ian said, “Are we to Ohio yet?”  

The first stop on our trip was JoJo’s in the Emlenton Truck Plaza, home of the Worst Best Apple Pie. The story is that the pie there used to be bad, the owner changed the recipe for a contest and won the contest, her last name also happens to be Best. JoJo’s had everything from mud flap girl lug nut covers, to jars of Route 66 Trucker Treats (Mudflap Mushrooms, Hilly Billy Beet Pickles, Breaker Breaker Bread and Butter Pickles, and Go Juice Garlic Stuffed Olives), sleeveless denim shirts with the armholes pre-frayed, showers, and a gumball machine that was taller than me.  Things were pretty expensive in the store, a plastic container of Wet Ones cost us $4.19, at the grocery store the same product is $2.29. We ate a picnic lunch of hummus, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and watermelon.

Travel Tips:

1.     1. Buy everything you will need in the car on your trip before you leave. That way you can avoid being overcharged at truck stops and convenience stores. It was not fun to pay almost double what I should have for baby wipes.
2.     Keep your kids close! Truck stops and gas stations are ideal locations for kidnapping. Parents and kids are distracted by all the interesting food and gadgets in the store. The freeway is just a stone’s throw away. Those places are always filled with unsavory characters. Just always be aware of where your kids are, especially if your family splits up to go to the bathroom and/or back to the car.
3.     Bananas ripen at light speed in a hot car.

We are playing the license plate game and managed to sight license plates from 26 different states on our first day. We also saw more than 20 dead deer in various states of decomposition. I’m not an animal rights activist by any standards, but it does seem very disrespectful to leave all those dead animals along the highway.

From there we drove to the Ramada in Columbus, OH. We had to sneak Ian in because they only had a 4-person room available. That’s usually how we roll. We were disappointed to find the room hot and muggy. The pool was also NOT swimmable. They hadn’t gotten it cleaned for the summer yet. The kids had already changed into their suits when Collin came back and reported that it was green with algae. I am probably going to send in a formal complaint saying they should have told us when we booked the room that the pool would be closed. The five of us were hot and irritable having been cooped up in the car for 6 hours and were on the verge of a riot at that point. The room itself was clean and nice, however we kept leaving little surprises for each other in the toilet until we figured out that you had to hold the handle down for a long time or flush it twice to get everything to go down. The air conditioning in the room was hard to work. If we turned it off, it was too warm and sticky in the room, if we turned it on, the room transformed into a meat locker. We also could not get the WiFi to work, so frustrating!

We decided to escape the room and forage for food. We first tried to go to a Japanese steak house, but one of their chefs had just quit and they were short staffed. They told us the wait would be 45 minutes.  We couldn’t wait so we hit the road again. The kids begged us to take them to Subway (especially Emma and Aidan), but instead we found a great little hole-in-the-wall Greek place:

Yanni’s Greek Grill and Deli
6196 Cleveland Avenue
 In Corporate Exchange Plaza
Colombus, OH 43231
(614) 890-4775

It didn’t look like much from the outside, but when we walked in the place was packed. Emma got her picky on before we even sat down, but we told her to think positively about the food until proven otherwise. The restaurant was a long skinny space with tables packed together so tightly there was barely room to walk between them. The counter had a cool carved wood façade on it and the cooks behind the counter were hopping back and forth between the grill and counter in a blur. Our server, Andrea, seated us beside a mural of a Greek shepherd. It was really hard to decide what to order. Everything on the menu looked delicious. I really wanted the dolmades, but they had beef in them:(. We ordered a plate of kalamari to share. Aidan pronounced it “heaven in a squid.” Emma didn’t care for it. We also ordered small gyros for the kids (pitas stuffed with beef, lamb, and lettuce, Ian’s also had creamy garlic sauce). Collin ordered chops with rice pilaf, a pita, and a side salad. I waffled between the spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese wrapped in filo dough and served warm) and the saganaki (seared kaserri cheese, served with pita bread and a lemon wedge). I went for the saganaki and also ordered the horiataki (a tomato and cucumber based salad, with green peppers, onions, feta cheese and kalamata olives, topped with homemade vinaigrette and pita bread).

The saganaki was delicious. They way they seared it almost tasted like they had breaded it. I drizzled the salty, simultaneously crispy and oozy cheese with fresh lemon juice and ate it with warm chewy pita bread. Emma tried it and said, “That’s not food, that’s perfection!” The kids ordered Sprites that were HUGE, Two adults could have shared one happily. They really liked their gyros, which came with a side of phenomenal fries. The fries were kind of dark, very crispy on the outside and mealy on the inside with just the right amount of salt. Collin’s lamb chops with small and meaty and minty and tender to the max, the rice pilaf was good. He proclaimed everything to be delish. When the server came back to clear up the table and ask how our food was, Ian said, “The food here is a miracle!” and put two thumbs up. He also said he was so glad we didn’t go to Subway.

We got some dessert to bring back to the hotel: kourabiethes (almond cookies), baklava, Yanni's special baklava and galaktobouriko (pastry with custard). Everything except the almond cookies was just a different variation of baklava. Collin and I both liked the regular baklava best. Emma liked Yanni’s special baklava, which had chocolate ganache on top. Aidan loved the kourabiethes, but I found them too be a little too dry and crumbly. Ian wasn’t in the mood for dessert.


Adrienne said...

This sounds like a Wertz family trip!
Tara, the food sounds AMAZING at the Greek restaurant. My mouth is watering because the pictures are so in-your-face. Thanks so much for that ...