An Order of Fries

There are times when nothing less will do than a proof beverage and an order of fries.

Heads up neophytes, ginger is not a substitute for proof alcohol.  “An extra shot of ginger”, she said.  For the ginger tea she ordered.  I’m on my 2nd martini and contemplating an order of fries and can’t stop an audible chuckle.  I’m not so far gone that the awkward moment escapes me, so I quickly look down with an extra stern glance at my phone and throw in another chuckle so they wouldn’t feel I was laughing at them.  It’s 6:00 on the other side of a long work day.  Ginger? 

The serving board has been in front of them for 20 minutes.  They’ve each had 2.  Fries. Thick cut. The color of toasted wheat. I can see from here the dusting of large crystals of finishing salt. Same women who asked for extra ginger for their already ginger tea.  Why did they order the fries if not to eat them, one after another in something of a rapid succession?

I’m sharing the trunk table with the ladies, and as they discuss whether it’s a Restoration Hardware product, they speak fast and animatedly like I would after a few ginger teas with healthy splashes of vodka.  And the fries?  They sit neglected and now cold.  Unappetizing.  Understand that I would eat them, but it’s sadly apparent that the women will not, and the fries will be tossed.  In the garbage.  Aside like red meat left in the back seat of a hot car.  Sad.  I can’t take the irritation of the situation any longer so I tab out.  They look up as opposed to re-discovering the desperately wilting fries. An awkward sob escapes me as I walk out.   


An Order of Beautiful, Golden, tragically abondoned French Fries

The Fries


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She Ate Well

she was 7 or 8. spindly.  braided pigtails. with intent and focus she raked the black olives from the top of the pizza to the side closest to her, dipped down to the plate not bothering to raise it, and took in the olives.  a subtle softening of expression; her head tilted back a bit, her eyes blinked.  she sighed. and then looked up to see me watching her.  i looked down at my pizza, surveying it with renewed appreciation — like the 7 year old had just demonstrated.  with a smile of anticipation and an intent to focus on the food in front of me, i lifted a piece to my mouth. sublime. my head tilted back a bit.  i blinked. sighed.  and looked over to see her give me a thumbs up.  

The dining room where a 7 year old demonstrated how to enjoy pizza.

A lesson learned in this dining room


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One of Those Suckers

On a Tuesday in June without announcement my back went out, the sort of going out that ends with the news of a ruptured disk, sends your spouse to the guest bed for a week, and garners an enlightened understanding of drugs that fall in the respective categories of the good shit and the not so good shit.  Minor care emergency doctors dispense the kind that shoo you out the door with a naively hopeful belief you’ve side-stepped a visit to the real doctor. Avoid them. Head straight to the real doctor, the one that knows you and isn’t afraid to prescribe the knock you on your ass drugs, with a refill for good measure. At times like this, know your true friends.

For my siblings and me as kids, June meant a road trip with surrogate parents (and their two children) – a couple, of no relation who positively contributed to the arduous and long suffering job of converting cretins to socially responsible individuals.  My first travel related memories are due them; the love of road trips surely rooted in those early journeys in the back of a camper-hull-domed-pick-up-truck headed to the likes of unimaginably distant, exquisitely exotic specters of Knott’s Berry Farm and Silver Dollar City via America’s original Holiday Inn, the KOA campground circuit.

The world beyond the ranch to young country bumpkins was an impressive stretch of man-made sensory overload and vibrant, uber pigment-saturated kitsch. The love of road trips stuck. Check on the camping as well. The awe of man made currency denominated achievement however, reversed itself with whiplash gusto, becoming an uber repulsion by the time I took control of my own road trip machine. For the next 18 years, a laughing, saucer eyed boy ensured June’s reign as the year’s first opportunity for a non-family related, purely for pleasure, road trip.

All American Summer Break Road Trip, classic style

In my drug induced deliriously pain free fog, the nostalgic memory of June’s past began its march. Oh how I’d love one of those color swirled round suckers the size of a tractor tire, or a town pennant like the one I brought home with Intercourse, Pennsylvania on it. Surrogate Dad thought it a riot. Real Dad not so much. Despite the glorious passing of several years since June’s death-clutch on the road trip ended with my son’s exit for college, there’s apparently such a thing as mental muscle memory when stoked by good drugs.

Tears stream as I sorrowfully pounce on the fact there can’t be a road trip this June because woe is me I’m not able. And oh God, let’s throw more fuel on this roaring pity party, maybe not even in July or way more tears, August.

Please don’t attempt comfort by reminding me I strive to never travel in June, July or August in order to avoid the drones of people forced to the roads in these particular months. Just because I can’t stand the bumbling crowds, the sniveling kids, the oppressive heat;  just because I sneer at station wagons, flip off grandparents slowing down to not miss the theme park exit, glare at pick up trucks with unsecured passengers in the back, and honk at anyone I see pointing at stupid things…doesn’t mean I no longer believe in the wholesome goodness of the American summer break road trip.

It simply means I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid them.  Unless of course I’m flat on my back, down and out, not physically able, couldn’t drive into the sweating surge of humanity if my solo road trip arrogant self depended on it.  Then I just want some sympathy.  And one of those suckers.

Dogwood City, Arkansas. Wow.

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Late, For Nowhere in Particular

Rolling down some back-road cloaked in the bliss of anonymity, one arm in contact with the wheel at the point that encourages my wrist to flop carefree at the end of it, head bobbling to a slow rhythmic beat that doesn’t match my rousing vocal accompaniment to Life is a Highway that’s cranked up so loud it’s oozing from the Yukon like displaced mortar, I come across this.

Signifying a certain arm flex to the grinding pressure of today’s world, a ballsy show of throwing caution to the wind, a take-this-job-and-shove-it head toss, THIS is temptation.  If you look at it with just the right tilt of your head, you’ll get the same glint in your eyes.  Selling everything I own would enable the purchase of a few acres in any number of states, on which I could move or build a small house, delivering my bobbling head into town once a week for provisions in this.

Run Away From Home!

I don’t succumb. Others in my life would highly disapprove and I highly value these others.  I photograph the Ford and pull back onto the road with a slow-mo melodrama moving frame by frame through my brain. It conveniently loops from the part that shows me walking up to the house, knocking on the door, engaging the owner in negotiations, taking the keys from them and driving away into the sunset in that truck.  My melodramas never include the pragmatic part about what I’d do with all my crap in the Yukon, the Yukon, the exchange of titles, discussing what oil the Ford uses, insurance, etc.

Not many of us ever throw this degree of caution to the wind. But who among us hasn’t entertained the thought of running away from home, even if it’s for a mere few harmless days?  It’s a bit risque and for the first time in my long history of SRTs I see it for that. You’re out there by the droves sending me emails  about the longing to get out there. I fully understand the longing. Few things in our lives are as liberating, empowering, and rejuvenating as a solo road trip.

So I ask all of you with latent and repressed open road wanderlust sitting at home fantasizing about the cloak of anonymity, arm draped over the wheel, or resting lightly on handle bars, aren’t you late, for nowhere in particular?


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The Brown Hotel – Springer, New Mexico

The Brown Hotel & Cafe

My feet thrust to the bottom of the bed in choreographed unison with arms yanking the comforter to nose hair level. The inexpensive hotel sheets are rough; chewed from the passage of a multitude of feet sliding across the surface. I like the way they feel. Without cell phone service, the hotel has my full attention. I’m alone to savor it and can’t suppress a clipped squeal as a mournful whistle from the wind’s turn of the sharp corner of the old building, calls out the storm.  A hand shoots out and flicks off the old lantern. As the dark tucks around I’m reminded for the first time in a long time of childhood stay-overs with Loretta Branton. In a tiny clapboard house whose roof was hardly wide enough to cover the heads of everyone inside, we’d settle down under a pile of quilts in the thin light of an early winter night. The sheets were pebbly from the friction of feet over coarse woven cotton and harmless leftover sand from an occasional unwashed foot. I’d sink into that fat bed, flat on my back, arms straight, trying hard to not take up too much space from my tiny friend and a sister or two stacked beside us. Laughter and some shuffling for position soon brought soft sounds of rhythmic breath and my conscious contentedness was alone in the room. Between that forlorn but comforting wail of the wind and the erratic crash of a piece of displaced tin roof, my mind wallowed in the joy always present in that house, and the lingering taste of raisin pie.

Loretta had a slew of siblings and the abundance of personalities was equally offset by the lack of money. My own home wasn’t exactly plush – we didn’t have an indoor bathroom until I was 12. But there were fewer of us and so it always seemed a bit more towards the upper end of the impoverished scale. I don’t recall much about Loretta’s Dad but I remember her mother well.  She was always in the kitchen when I arrived. And come to think of it, in the kitchen when we went to bed. But despite the crowd, I’ve never been in a house so thunderously peaceful.  Her secret as I’ve considered it over the years, had to have been the raisin pie. I’d never tasted one and a moment of lifelong eureka and wistful longing resulted from that first bite. Between a substantial double crust that melted in your mouth in glorious stages – first a savory velvet sand, then dissolving even as you fought with your tongue to contain and coax it to stay ’round, the raisins were fat as grapes, though with more give, and suspended in a thick chestnut tinted goo. There were platelets on the bottom crust from the goo that coupled with the pan on the other side of the pie shell. Those prized bits were magic – the collision of molten sugar and crackling crust.  Loretta told me her mother made several a week. I wanted to move in.

On a road trip, staying in some sort of motel/hotel is part of the adventure. It’s not the same as staying at Grandma’s, or better yet, Loretta’s house. Besides, staying at Loretta’s was the experience it was because Loretta was there. And of course her mother’s raisin pies. But an old hotel is as close as I can get today to the experience that thrilled me as a kid. They’re interesting and fun and the always friendly sometimes odd-turned proprietors are attempting to preserve something old and grand. It’s impossible to walk one of the creaking hallways and not get lost in thoughts of the early travelers – the grandeur of anything that wasn’t their own drafty bedroom, something large and with all those rooms had to sweep away their imaginations and fuel the thrill of travel for them. When I stay in Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hotel or Old Faithful Inn, I choose the oldest rooms for this reason and stay at any old hotel along a road trip journey – they fuel my imagination too.


Built in 1922, The Brown Hotel has 11 rooms available for rent. The sheets are not high thread count Egyptian cotton, the comforter isn’t down, clothes hangers are thin wire – the ones of your youth, the towels from Wal-Mart. Wind whistles around the eaves, the gas radiator chugs, and the sink with its separate hot and cold spigots presents the dilemma of how to get the right mix in your hand with which to splash your face. All for $54.91 including tax and a breakfast so good I’d just as soon keep that to myself (the Huevos Rancheros!).


Brown Hotel

No cell phone service. No complaints. Just before the snow storm struck with force.


Brown Hotel

That Thing Above My Head

They did what they could in those days with bare lightbulbs.


Floorboards creak and groan all night. But the winter storm bearing down swung around the eaves of this old place in such a fashion as to create the whistle and moan of the wind of my youth.


Really love having a separate sink and mirror. It makes the tiny bathroom much roomier.



The Brown Hotel & Cafe

(575) 483-2269

302 Maxwell Avenue

Springer, New Mexico


Who has a recipe for raisin pie?


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The Grand Climb


Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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