1.) We had some truly delicious ribs in St. Louis thanks to the immense wisdom of Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood, which steered us to several fine establishments along the way. We knew we had really found something when we realized that we were the only white people in the place. We were not mistaken. This place, C&K Barbecue, is just a take-out joint with some benches for waiting for your food. When we opened the reassuring styrofoam take-out box, which had two layers of foil wrapped around the bottom, the ribs were swimming in a sea of sweet, molasses and tomato-based sauce (to those diehard vinegar-base people, I say, "there's more than one way to frost a rack of ribs"). Since it was pretty late, and neither of us know St. Louis, we stopped at a gas station to eat. It was an ugly affair to behold--sauce splattered all over the steering wheel and dashboard, fingers greasy and sticky--but my was it delicious. It was served with a really fascinating side dish, too. A sort of mashed potato salad with some relish mixed in. I like anything that tastes pickled, so it was right up my proverbial alley.
2.) The Rockies! Well, on the way out we stopped in Denver to eat dinner with a friend of mine who used to live in Denver but now lives in Asheville but was visiting Denver to see some friends, and we thought it funny that we would both be in Denver at the same time, so, even though we can see each other anytime in Asheville, we decided to see each other in Denver (convoluted, I know, but it's been a theme in my life so I've decided to go with it). We had Ethiopian food, which was great because you can't get that in Asheville, and I lovelovelove injera-- a fermented flat bread made with teff flour. So, being diverted and delayed by dinner in Denver, we missed sunset on the Rockies and drove through them at night.
3.) If you have the chance to go on a road trip and decide to visit Arches National Park, which is absolutely stunning and worth seeing multiple times, resign yourself to driving through Utah and probably Nevada. I was unaware that most of the country is very flat and that a fair amount of that flat land is desert or salt flat. I found it rather depressing. Some people must find it inspiring and beautiful since they live there. I like trees so I was out of luck.
4.) Hwy 101 is an absolute must. The coast of Northern California and into Oregon is stunning. When we drove through there was a lot of fog, but it was still utterly beyond comprehension. Especially when driving through the redwoods. As I said, I like trees, so forests, and especially mountainous or coastal forests, make me weepy. Organisms that old and majestic make me feel like a whippersnapper.
5.) Portland is way too awesome to describe in a paragraph. The people are so friendly, and the city has charm. Lots of charm. It feels like a city built by people, not corporations and concrete-and-steel city planners. Lots of green space along the waterfront, small businesses everywhere, rehabbed warehouses, more food carts than any city should have (share the wealth, man!), and did I mention friendly people? Gosh gee golly, the people sure are friendly there. Amazing. I would go back right now if I had the chance.