The Great Foodie Road Trip

Is there a travel addict out there who doesn’t love the Travel Channel? One of my favorite TV personalities is Anthony Bourdain. Escaping to Rome for some cacio e pepe is one of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day at my “real” job. That guy has the life. I mean, the tagline for one of his (many) television shows is “I Write. I Eat. I Travel.” Who wouldn’t want to do that for a living?

When my sister Michelle told me about her plans to road trip it up from Utah to Washington, stopping along the way to partake in some of local food challenges, I immediately looked up flights to Utah. Sure, food challenges are more Man vs. Food than Anthony Bourdain, but the essential idea is still the same. I would travel from Provo to Seattle, eat tons of delicious food, and share it all here in one epic foodie round up.

Landscape on the Drive to Promontory Summit in Utah

Spoiler alert: It didn’t go down quite the way I’d planned. Dad and I picked Michelle up from BYU, and shared a quick complimentary breakfast at our hotel in American Fork before hitting the road. I was sure the drive would take at least two days, maybe three if we were lucky and did some extra sightseeing.

Dad had just one must-see on his road trip itinerary: a stop at Golden Spike National Historic Site. No surprise here: the stop had everything to do with trains!

Michelle and Dad Being Cheesy With the Golden Spike National Historic Site Sign

The Golden Spike National Historic Site commemorates the place where the final spike was placed in the country’s first transcontinental railroad. The project, which broke ground in late 1863, joined the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads in an attempt to not only bridge the gap between coasts, but to allow settlement in areas which were traditionally Native American. The two railroads met in 1869 at Promontory Summit, 32 miles west of Brigham City, UT.

The site is fairly large and spread out, and reaching the Visitor’s Center took plenty of driving through the middle of nowhere. There are several interesting activities and demonstrations available during the summer, including reenactments of the completion of the railroad back in 1869, walking and driving tours, and a chance to see replicas of the trains present at the official joining of the railroads. Definitely check the official website for more information before planning a trip out to this historic site!

A replica train at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, by FreeFoto
Image: FreeFoto

We visited in late April, mere days before the summer festivities were scheduled to begin. While we missed out on some of the more engaging aspects of this national park, we did enjoy the cheesy short film detailing the railroad’s construction, and seeing the railroad tracks for ourselves. And by enjoyed, I mean Michelle fell asleep (hey, she was up late with her friends).

Being Cheesy with Dad and Michelle on the Railroad Tracks of the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Promontory, Utah

It was an interesting look into America’s history. It’s hard now to believe that I had never even heard of this location! The Golden Spike, for those wondering, refers to a ceremonial “last spike” driven into the railroad tracks by Leland Stanford, President of the former Central Pacific Railroad. The actual spike, cast in 17.6 karat gold, now resides at Stanford University, but visitors to the Golden Spike Historic Site can feast their eyes on a shining replica.

We were eager to cover as much road as possible while the trip was still fresh and exciting, so we found our way out of the middle of nowhere and back onto the highway. Driving with Dad and Michelle took me right back to our annual family camping trips. Meaning: Dad listened to good music and Michelle and I warbled along. We drove along in this manner for several hours, agreeing that we would stop for lunch when it was time to fuel up the car.

As luck would have it, the gas indicator lit up just a few miles before Twin Falls, Idaho. A quick Yelp search showed that one of the best places in town was a sandwich joint called Burnt Lemon Grill, and we decided to take a chance on it.

Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho

But first, we stopped to peer down into Snake River Canyon. I loved the rocky landscape and green water (and of course, the photo ops! Can’t forget those!), and we all enjoyed stretching our legs after being cramped in the car for several hours. My legs were still sore after our hike two days before, and my newfound hobble became more comical than painful as the trip continued. Snake River Canyon is most famous as the site of a failed stunt by Evel Knievel (there’s a name I haven’t thought of in years), and while we were visiting, we got to see a few people base jump off the bridge that spans the canyon.

It took us a further 10-15 minutes to drive to Burnt Lemon Grill, which was every bit as tasty as the internet had led us to believe (thank you Yelp).

Burnt Lemon Grill in Twin Falls, Idaho

I ordered the pulled pork rollup, a tasty pork wrap rolled with onion strings, coleslaw and barbecue sauce, and a side of tater tots. I also ordered the (apparently famous) burnt lemonade, which came in a variety of flavors. I wasn’t terribly impressed with my watermelon lemonade, which tasted like generic powder lemonade with a squirt of melon syrup (nothing wrong with that, but certainly nothing to write home about). The tater tots, however, were perfection. Deliciously crisp and flavorful, with a hint of citrus, these were the hit of the meal. They may honestly have been the best tater tots I’ve ever eaten. This should come as no surprise, since Idaho is sometimes referred to as “the Potato State.”

Pulled Pork Rollup and Crispy Tater Tots at the Burnt Lemon Grill in Twin Falls, Idaho

Lunch was a hit, and with leftovers in tow, we piled back into the car and continued up toward Washington. This is when I really started to doubt the “foodie” aspect of our road trip. Several of our family camping trips took us to Idaho when I was younger, and we always made the trip in one day. I knew we weren’t too far from home at this point, and with leftovers to tide us over for a while, I wasn’t sure when we would even want to stop for another meal. Dad planned on stopping in Pendleton, OR for the night, just five hours up the road, so I swallowed my slight disappointment and contented myself to just enjoy the ride.

For the next several hours, the most exciting thing that happened was realizing we were driving along a road called the Oregon Trail. Many a dysentery joke was had. Ultimately, we decided to push on past Pendleton and stop for the night in Yakima, WA, just an hour or two from our final destination. Our foodie road trip was almost over just as quickly as it began, but there was still one more place to visit before checking into our hotel! The roasted garlic chicken pizza at Abby’s Legendary Pizza was calling our names.

We sped down the road, driven by visions of fresh, savory pizza blanca. If we could just push through on what little gas remained in the tank, we could make it to Abby’s before they closed for the night.

…it should come as no surprise that we ran out of gas ten miles before our exit.

Grump Faces and an Empty Tank at Mile Marker 45 in Yakima, Washington
This is my favorite photo from the entire road trip. We sat in the car, watched Star Trek on Dad’s phone, and joked about swamp creatures rising from the water alongside the car.

Michelle and I got out and pushed while Dad steered the car toward the next exit. After a couple of minutes, we admitted defeat and called a tow truck, which arrived just minutes before the pizzeria closed.

Jokey Photo of the Three of Us Stranded Roadside in Yakima, Washington
The picture we sent home to Mom.

Ah well. As always, this kind of misadventure made up my favorite part of the trip. Just sitting in the car joking around (and poking fun at Dad’s insistence that the remaining gas would transport us safely to the pizzeria and to our hotel) was proof enough that joining my family for a mini road trip was the right decision. It may not have been the burger-shoveling, ice cream-devouring, taste-testing trip of my dreams, but it was special and wonderful in its own way. We wound up getting a quick dinner at Arby’s, if you’re curious, and watched a few episodes of House Hunters before drifting off at last. I felt happy just to be in Washington state again, home where I belonged.

On the Open Road in the Yakima Valley, Washington

3 thoughts on “The Great Foodie Road Trip”

  • An American Food roadtrip is such a great idea! And I’m with you on Bourdain, I watch his shows whenever I am about to travel somewhere new. For the food of course, but it is also great to see the atmosphere and scenery of the place I am heading to.

  • Haha, I love how you keep the spirits up after running out of gas! I’d freaked out 🙂 I love Travel Channel too, but don’t really like Anthony Bourdain, find him quite obnoxious 🙂

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