Thoughts From a Long Road Trip


Getting high in the U.S. southwest

Why do many restaurants with upwards of 100 seats often have only two, single-occupant bathrooms, one for men and one for women (and sometimes just one single-sex toilet? Especially places that serve coffee or beer.

Have you ever seen a brewery or winery that wasn’t award winning?

At a Phoenix-area motel, a customer asks where the ice machine is. “It takes a quarter,” the desk clerk says, explaining that otherwise guys would fill up coolers. “It takes a quarter.” Better, don’t you think, than “it costs a quarter.” For some reason, this reminds me of a friend who said of his apparel, “I take a medium, but a large fits me better.”

I’ve noticed that a lot of towns and small cities on this trip have entrance signs that give a) their elevation and b) their founding year. What’s interesting is how high some of these towns are, starting at 4,000 feet and going way up from there. This low end is higher than just about any place in Canada.

Driving south of Tucson, I’m surprised to see some freeway distance signs listed in kilometres, not miles. Maybe they’re getting people ready for Mexico.

A coffee roaster neatly sums up my new and improved strategy for testing as many road food places as possible in a minimum amount of time: Eating a little a lot. Eating less means ordering two a la carte tacos, so I can easily chow down on a Sonoran hot dog an hour later. That means staying away from the Mexican “plates” and their carbo- and calorie-heavy rice and refried beans. Don’t think I’ve had Mexican rice yet on this trip. Can’t say I miss it. There should be a prize for any chef who comes up with an interesting take on this bland, tired grain.

I’m typing away on my iPad in a coffee shop while drinking a big pot of French press coffee. “You’re wired,” a woman says. Yes and yes.


Scene from a road road trip where you bite off more than you can chew. A guy wanders up to me at a Phoenix gas station, asking for a buck. “No, but I’ve got half an excellent pizza you can have,” I say, reaching for the takeout box. He skedaddles.

In Prescott, Arizona, three young guys with packs, long dreadlocked hair and a dog (with its chin on the ground) are holding up a cardboard sign: Traveling, Broke and Ugly. Worth a couple of bucks.

Traffic circles, or roundabouts, can be a very efficient method of keeping traffic moving. But the long string of them in and around Sedona, AZ seems fairly new, judging by the vehicles stopping in the middle when they have the right of way. The design here could also use some improvement. The islands are too big and the corners too tight, witness the black rubber smeared all over the curbs.


Other than a couple of Americanos at Tucson roasters Cafe Aqui and EXO, the best mugs of coffee I’ve had on this three-week road trip have been those I’ve made myself, from EXO beans. Can’t beat the 1/3 cup of grounds I use for one drip cup.


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