Friday, August 5, 2005

Are we there yet?

Yesterday was designated Driving Day. We traveled from Toledo to Milwaukee with a stop for lunch in Indiana and a painful trek though early rush hour Chicago.

With plenty of...

Are we there yet?
How much longer?
My legs are stiff.
How many more hours?

Thank goodness for car games.

When we were in Maine, my aunt gave the kids two sets of simple magnetic games like Chutes and Ladders and Checkers. Everything fits inside the metal box and all the pieces stick to the box, so (in theory) it's all contained. We also played a lot of catchphrase, some hangman, and car bingo. The girls have binders of page protector covered mazes, word searches and quizzes with plenty of white board markers. Katherine is still working on _1/2 Blood Prince_ while Rebecca listens to _Chamber of Secrets_ on her iPod shuffle. Jonathon took a long nap in the afternoon, but the boys also have magnet books (farm and trucks) to play pretend, along with twistable crayons to color with and their own music players.
The kids are busy in the car.
But leaving Toledo at 10 and arriving in Milwaukee at 6 (Eastern) is still a long day. I mentioned the traffic, that we certainly could have done without. But what really gave a sour note to the day was lunch. We have the Roadfood book and decided that we wanted to try something different than a fast food place at a toll plaza. Our first mistake was not choosing something -after- getting through Chicago. Waiting the extra time before Chicago pushed us into the start of rush hour at 3 p.m. There's always construction going on too, which encouraged more crankiness.
Anyway, we picked a place called Phil Smidt and Sons (, a renowned seafood place known for its "mess of perch" and froglegs. That would break up the day! The Roadfood guide said it was in a renovated part of the Michigan Lake coast, which turned out to be in an area with plenty of empty dilapidated warehouse types of buildings... and a brand new casino. The restaurant itself has no view of the water, or view of anything for that matter and there's no outdoor seating. I suppose we should have scrapped our plans as soon as I called up the place and asked for directions from the 80/90 fareway and was told "I don't know where that is." Uh... it's 5 miles past where it becomes the 90 tollroad? "Oh... get off at Calumet, go north until you hit the water." Ooookay. We found it without trouble.
We should have turned around when it took 10 minutes to be seated into a nearly empty dining room. We should have left when it took 30 minutes to give our order. And again an hour later when everyone else in the room who had arrived before -and- after us had been served while we sat and asked several times "How much longer.. we still need to get through Chicago." The staff gave the kids balloons and frog toys. We were told "a few more minutes" four times. The waitress never asked if we needed anything, never refilled drinks, and in fact -removed- all the premeal snacking stuff before our food ever arrived (one of the draws for this place are the coleslaw, cottage cheese, kidney bean salad, etc. for every table, the kids were snacking relatively happily while coloring until then).
Then when the food finally did arrive... ugh. For a place featured in Gourmet magazine I expected more for $6, than 1/2 a box of Kraft mac&cheese for Jonathon. I'm not kidding, it was exactly the same as the stuff you and I make in our own kitchens. The girls pasta? Spaghetti noodles with boring red sauce. By boring I mean.. no meat, no deep red color, more like a warm tomato salsa. Nicholas had chicken nuggets that he barely touched. I think they were overdone. And Ian and I had the 'specials'. The perch was tasteless and the frog legs were greasy.
Don't. Go. We ate so fast and left feeling yucky. just down the street was a huge grassy area with a big playground, right on Lake Michigan. If we'd been fed like normal people, we could have spent a half hour burning some serious energy and having fun. But we left cranky and skipped the playground to try to get through Chicago.
Which we did, and found our hotel in Milwaukee, and picked up my parents at the airport, had dinner at Ponderosa and put everyone to bed by 10:30 local time.
Today will be a lot more fun. And no more Roadfood.

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