Monday, March 16, 2009

Bojangles or Bust

About three years ago, my family changed the way we vacation.  We started taking driving holidays.  A bit of a virgin when it came to the really long road trip, I have begun to appreciate some of the more subtle nuances of the drive to south eastern USA.  
In Ontario, the drive north to Muskoka is punctuated with a stop at Weber's, and the gradually changing geography; the rocky outcroppings, the sight of a crystalline lake appearing around the bend of the road, a beautiful doe grazing at the side of the road and the constant "Tom Thomson" vistas abound.  Two or three hours and you have reached your destination.  One would think these trips taken over the years might have prepared me for a bit of a longer jaunt.....well, not quite.
For starters, 3 hours just gets you to the state of Pennsylvania from Toronto.  You have only just begun.  I'm sure everyone who has taken the road south (and there are many routes to choose from) experience the trip differently, but for us, there are a few highlights we have begun to cherish (at least I have).
The first and obvious beloved moment occurs somewhere around the state of Maryland, when you roll down the car window and feel the temperature begin to change.  You may have just driven through white-out conditions in New York (happened last year) followed by some some white-knuckle icy sleet and freezing rain in Pennsylvania, but once you emerge from that state, things only get better.  That's when I start to really drive my family a bit crazy.  Usually it starts around Virginia.  I begin a meticulous survey from the car window until it happens.  FORSYTHIA!  CAMELLIA!  DAFFODILS!  ""Calm down mom," I am told.  But I can't help myself.  I have been deprived for too long.  Spring exists and I am born again! 
We drive as far as Fredericksburg Virginia and stop for the night.  The pansies have been planted (in the ground!) and I wake up to the sound of a pair of robins yakking at each other outside our window.  We peel off a couple of layers and head out for the second leg of the journey, the promise of the salty sea air to come egging us on.
Other than the glorious botanical sign posts, there is one marker that we await that will tell us we have arrived in the land of Y'all' s and Hush Puppies.  It has become a comic family tradition and the joke is always on me.  It's the first appearance of a "Bojangles" billboard.  For the uninitiated, Bojangles is a fast food fried chicken and biscuits joint that I'm sure rivals Mickie D's in the south.  Last year, every time, we passed by one, we would all joke about going to "Bojangles" (in our recently acquired southern accents) for lunch or dinner.  We just assumed it was another version of KFC and was off limits.  God knows our waistlines did not need to discover an even fattier version of the Colonel.  On our last day in the Carolina's, I kept saying how I thought we might have been really missing a "southern specialty".  "Dammit, pull over dear - I can't leave this state without seeing what all the fuss is about" (the parking lots were always jammed).  
As the two non-believers sat in the car waiting for me (they weren't interested), I ventured inside.  The first thing I noticed was that I was the only "person of colour" in the building.  The second thing I noticed was my inability to understand the counter-person's incredibly thick southern drawl.  After asking her to repeat her question for a third time, I realized I was fighting a loosing battle and just nodded my head and said "sure - sounds good."  Not quite sure what I had just ordered, I nervously waited for my order.  Another voice from behind the counter pushed a large box toward me - "here's your food Ma'am."  I grabbed some packets of ketchup and some napkins and a straw and headed back to the car.
Once inside, I lifted the lid of my surprise feast and the smell of fried chicken - "Eeeww", whined my newly vegetarian daughter - "how can you eat that poor chicken, Mom?"  "Whatever", I said and dug in.  Crispy, spicy, juicy, greasy dripping - nothing short of a gastric orgasm!  The fries and biscuits were perfect too.  Colonel Sanders had nothing on this stuff.  I finished the box of culinary delights just as we crossed the border into Virginia where I knew it would be impossible to repeat the experience for dinner (thank god screamed my gall bladder).  
It's been a year since I scarfed down my last Bojangles meal, and I told my family it's going to happen again this year come hell or high water, calories be damned - life is short - and even if Bojangles makes it shorter, I'm willing to take the chance......once more.  Extra napkins please!   

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