Sunday, July 14, 2013

South Carolina Road Trip - The Beacon Drive-In - Spartanburg, SC

Ok, so I'm a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives fanatic.  If Guy Fieri says to go somewhere, I do.  And to get to this particular spot he recommended, I drove an hour and a half each way.  However, I'm guessing he hasn't been to this place in awhile, because I can't for the life of me figure out why he would have recommended it, aside from the fact that it's old and established.

The place is massive as is the parking lot, although it was somewhat hard to find from the interstate without a GPS (my phone managed to die before we got there).  Luckily, everyone knows where it is since it is a local legend.  There's plenty of seating, inside, outside, and in their glassed-in patio area.  I have to say it was kind of disorganized and grimy looking, with mold growing in the corner of the windows, but at least the kitchen looked cleaner from what I could see.  The guy changing paper towel rolls on the table just threw the empty ones on the floor as he was going through and didn't bother to go back for them until he was sweeping up later.  He didn't seem too happy to be there, which actually was a trait seen in most of the staff except the cashier and drink guy.  They accept cash and credit cards for payment.

The menu is on the larger side.  Lots of burgers, hotdogs, chili-cheese stuff and of course they're known for making any main course available "a-plenty" which means for about $3-4 more you get a whopping side of onion rings and fries with the meal.  You place your order with the guy standing at the counter (and if you're not ready don't go near him!) and he shouts it out and then scurries you down the line.  I couldn't tell if the guy was the famous JC from the show or not because he seemed pretty surly, while JC on the show seemed quite friendly.

I ended up getting a Pimento Cheese Burger A'Plenty which was a massive amount of food for about $7.  Dad got the regular cheeseburger, and luckily didn't order it a'plenty because he was able to help me with mine.  The burgers were ok, kind of greasy, not as flavorful as you'd expect and honestly tasted kind of like McDonalds burgers.  The onion rings were made from sweet onions with a greasy breading but were actually decent, but the fries I didn't care for at all.  They tasted like the cheap frozen fries you get at the grocery store.  I did like the lemonade, it was very sweet and refreshing.

I can't say I'd ever go back.  It was an interesting experience but definitely  not one I'd go out of my way to repeat.  It's fast food in an old building and while I'm sure it's a local legend, I've eaten at plenty of other places (both from the DD&D show and not) that are far more deserving of a road-trip to get to.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Michigan 2013 Trip - Summary

Trip Summary:
Times Mom was attacked by a bear: 2
Times Melissa hugged a stranger: 2
Diner Breakfasts Eaten by all: 24
Lbs of Smoked Whitefish: 5
Horses on Mackinac: 400+
Jan's T-Shirt Purchases: 20
Grandma's Panic Attacks at 6pm for finding lodging: 7

Overall it was a great trip with lots to see and do.  And even better, we're all still talking to each other after being in close quarters for eight days!  Thanks for a great trip Grandma, Mom and Jan!

Michigan 2013 Trip - Day 8

The last day of the trip.  After a restless stay at the Econolodge we took advantage of their Continental Breakfast (with grandma having a little bit of trouble figuring the toaster out).  Before heading back to Mansfield there was one more sight to see, Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is a long stretch of shoreline on Lake Michigan.  In addition to great views, there are restored buildings and places to climb the dunes.  The main place to climb is located right off the main road and this is a good place for kids to climb.  You start going up and then run back down to the parking lot.
The more popular climbing dunes.

The other place to climb is a little more perilous and this is where the "Running Shoes" of this blog comes into play, it's definitely an athletic feat. It's located along the scenic drive and a large warning sign says to stay off the dunes.  This is not mandatory but rather the park's way of covering themselves as several people attempt these dunes only to need emergency rescue later.  You see, instead of climbing up first, this section of the dunes you start at the top and merrily bounce down 450 ft. to the coast to dip your feet into Lake Michigan.  Once down, you have to climb back up though.  It averages people 1 to 2 hours to climb the dunes (I did it in 35 Min.!) and several can't make it due to heat exhaustion, regular exhaustion (the climb is exceptionally steep), or heart issues and have to be rescued to the tune of over $500.00.
450 Feet of Pure Steep Climb

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

The Warning Sign for the Dunes.
Climbing the non-steep part of the Dunes.

Warning for the Video:  This is a video of going down the dunes at a fast place.  It is shaky and possibly nausea inducing.  But it does show just how swiftly you descend the steep dune.

For those not interested in climbing, there is a boardwalk with a lookout that allows you to stay on the top of everything and not exert yourself.  Once I was done tackling the sand-dunes, we headed South to Empire, where we ate at Joe's Friendly Tavern.  Mom and Jan got some nice juicy burgers with fresh cut fries, grandma stuck to her soup and salad again, and I got a duck quesadilla with a cherry sauce on it.  The cherry sauce was fantastic and the duck wasn't too greasy so it was a good experience overall.  Not only does Empire have this restaurant though, they have a fantastic beach that has a lake to swim in on one side of the parking lot, and Lake Michigan on the other side.  There's a memorial lighthouse and several jungle gyms for kids to play on too.

Empire Memorial Lighthouse

Empire Beach
One the way South we also came across the Point Betsie lighthouse, which was closed for visits, but still neat to see from the beach.
Point Betsie Lighthouse

The last stop of the day was in Frankfort where we picked up some more smoked whitefish, some cherry beef jerky, and sour cherry drops.  All of which were delicious.  And then sadly, it was time to head back to Mansfield.  Due to our late start, we arrived back in Mansfield at a little after midnight.

Smoked Whitefish, yum!

Michigan 2013 Trip - Day 7

At St. Ignace we had to kill some time.  The restaurant we were wanting to go to was only an hour away, but it didn't open until noon.  So we went to the downtown and explored some of the shops and found a lady selling homemade baked goods that had the best cake doughnut I have ever eaten.  Instead of the usual dry crumbly texture, this one was soft and liberally sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  The others had decadent cinnamon rolls that were huge, and we bought a loaf of organic cheddar chive bread to go.
Mackinac Bridge

Mom on top of the tower.

The tower on top of the gift shop.

We found a few more gift shops along the way, and one had a large tower that mom and I climbed.  It offered a great view of the Mackinac Bridge.  After climbing, we had finally burned enough time that we could set out for our next stop, Leg's Inn.

Leg's Inn is a Polish restaurant out in the middle of nowhere on Lake Michigan.  It offers authentic cuisine and even better scenery.  And the building itself is amazing.  Built from found driftwood, local stones, and timber, Legs Inn is extremely imaginative.  It derives its name from the stove legs that decorate the front of the building.  At this restaurant, I went straight for the Pierogies and had several different kinds filled with farmer's cheese, potato, or sauerkraut and mushroom.  They were very filling, especially when everyone else kept piling the rest of theirs on my plate because they were full!  I also got some Zurek Soup, which is a sour soup made with sausage, hard boiled eggs and potatoes.  It was delicious!  Mom got the cabbage roll, and while it tasted good, it was kind of small for a $9 plate.  Actually everything seemed to have gone up quite a bit in price with the portions being minimal.  They're going for exclusive now apparently.  But it was still good and it was our main outing for the day.
Legs Inn

Jan in front of the Legs Inn teepee.

Group picture at Leg's Inn.

Mom with one of the statues at Leg's Inn.

Leg's Inn door.

We then headed South to Northport, a little peninsula stretching into Lake Michigan where you can visit the Grand Traverse Lighthouse and scope out the beach in search of Petoskey Stones, which are easier to find than Agates but still hard to look for.  At the lighthouse, I even managed to meet a little animal friend, although it wasn't quite as cuddly as the chipmunk Jan befriended earlier in the trip.
Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Herb Garden at the Lighthouse

My new friend.

Christmas Cove - Petoskey hunting area.

We stopped for the night in Traverse City, at the Econolodge, which was probably one of my least favorite motels of the trip.  They had a pool, but it was completely unusable and had suds it was so full of chemicals and a very odd smell.  We sat down in one of the rooms with our homemade cheddar chive bread, some leftover pastie and some smoked whitefish we had picked up and had a picnic supper.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Michigan 2013 Trip - Day 6

We ate at Dogpatch today.  That's right, you heard me, Dogpatch.  Lil' Abner anyone?  Another fun quirky place in the Upper Peninsula, although their food was just standard fare.  I went with an English Muffin and some sausage links at this place, while Grandma got the Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, which she said was only fair, and Jan and Mom got the regular breakfast plates that were pretty par for the course.  Looking around at all the stuff inside distracted me from the food anyway though.  We also stopped at a little antique store filled with books and odds and ends in the downtown area.
Picture at Dogpatch

Dogpatch Restaurant

Dogpatch motorhome

Fully fueled we decided to check out some of the waterfalls around Munising before heading South.  Just within a few miles of town itself are quite a few and we were able to see Munising Falls, Alger Falls, and Wagner Falls.  You would think that seeing so many waterfalls would get monotonous after awhile, but they're all so different and beautiful, and the hikes to get back to them fun, that it really is an enjoyable experience.  And on this trip we didn't even see a fraction of them, there's over 400 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula alone.
Munising Falls

Munising Falls

Alger Falls

Grandma at Wagner Falls

Wagner Falls
Stream at Wagner Falls

I fell asleep in the car, but I'm told we passed through some heavy forests as we went South to Lake Michigan and Fayette State Park.  There were also a couple turbine farms in this area as well.  Me, I was dreaming of food probably while I drooled all over the car window.
Jan stopping to smell the

Fayette State Park is home to the town of Fayette.  Once a thriving mining and refinery town, it is now a historic park with preserved buildings and roadways.  No one lives there anymore, the town died after the need for pig iron was gone, but the buildings have mostly stood the test of time and have been made into a large museum.  It is possible to walk around the town in a few hours, checking out some of the exhibits and restored buildings and wandering through the forest where the different neighborhoods were located.  You can even hire a park guide to give you a walking tour of the place.
The Fayette Motel and one of the largest Lilac bushes I have ever seen.

Fayette Bay.

Fayette Iron Refinery


Inside of the echoed.

Another kiln.

Grandma and Jan in Fayette.

Middleclass homes in Fayette.

The bones of a general store in Fayette.

Manistique was just down the road and home to some fish houses, where we were able to pick up some smoked whitefish (yum!), have a visit with a certain lumberjack, and continue down the road to a small stop outside of the town limits called Dreamland Restaurant.  This was all of the group except mine's favorite place to eat.  They had a small salad bar and soups on special, and that's what Jan, Grandma and I got.  Jan also got a pastie (U.P. specialty) for us to all try, which was the best we had on the trip yet, and mom got the Whitefish dinner, which was absolutely huge and absolutely delicious according to her.  It was at this diner though that mom discovered her phone was missing.  We trekked back to Manistique where we found in lying in the parking lot of the Visitor Center, luckily unhurt.  We're still convinced that Paul Bunyan had something to do with it.
My new boyfriend, I like them tall.

Mom's fish dinner at Dreamland.

We stopped for the night in St. Ignace, on the outskirts of town and found a nice little motel called the Sunset Motel.  They had chickens (although none would let me cuddle them) and it was a good sign that it would be a pleasant stay.