September 29, 2012

The Great American Road Trip, Part 2: Somewhere, PA

This summer after graduating college, I took a road trip from New York City to Austin, and back again. It was the Great American Road Trip. That is, I think that all American road trips have an element of greatness to them, and this trip was no exception. Read up on the New York City, the Shanghai Mermaids and a very hungry Will Levitt in Part 1.  

Part 2: Morning, June 11

Somewhere, Pennsylvania - We were hungry for pastries. We'd stayed our first night after leaving New York City at a TA Gas Station and Motel off the side of the interstate somewhere in Pennsylvania. The first thing we did when we woke up was take the vouchers we'd received when we checked in for a free coffee and pastry to the clerk at the gas station counter. If you've ever stayed in a TA Gas Station and Motel, you know that the gas station counter doubles as the motel's front desk. It might sound strange to have a gas station attendant hand you your room key. It kind of is.

"You seem to be out of pastries," I informed the gas station attendant, flashing her my prized "One Free Pastry" voucher. Damiano and I had searched the gas station and were at a loss. There were no pastries. The free morning treat seemed to be one of the major perks of staying at a TA Gas Station and Motel, and we are not people to miss out on a promising opportunity, food or otherwise.  

The attendant stared at me blankly. "I just refilled the pastry shelf five minutes ago, honey. There's plenty there," she said, effortlessly motioning to a rack in the middle of the shop piled high with jelly-filled, cream-drizzled Hostess brand pastries, all glimmering in their neat plastic wrappers. 

"Oh, got it," I said. The woman raised her eyebrows as I smiled politely before heading back to the pastry rack. Apparently, the word "pastry" to Damiano and me conjured images of freshly baked coffee cake, buttery croissants and still-warm loaves of poppyseed-lemon bread, hopefully accompanied by those cute single-use jars of jams and jellies. At the very least it implied a good muffin.

We looked over our selection of Hostess goods with slow and careful careful contemplation. Breakfast is the most important meal fo the day. There were raspberry danishes, Ho-Hos, Ding Dongs, Suzy Q's and a variety of donuts, which Hostess spelles d-o-n-e-t-t-e-s, apparently to lend the them a French-like quality.

I have always associated the great American maker of Twinkies with France. Particularly with their pastries.

We each reached for a package of Crumb Donettes and headed back to the counter where we exchanged our vouchers and motel key cards for the Donettes and tall, styrofoam cups of steaming coffee.

Mission accomplished.

"Have a great day, boys," chimed the attendant, standing full smile in her red TA cotton vest, as we headed out the door. It was still early but the sun was hot and direct -- summer sun -- and the air was clear. Cars swooshed by on the interstate just beyond. We had a full tank of gas, 10 Donettes between us, a true-blue day, and about 5,000 miles to go.