Monday, March 31, 2008

The Road Trip (part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about driving down to Portland, wandering through Powell's, and sitting in a parking garage waiting for Eric to finish the Jeopardy tryouts. Here's the rest of the tale...

I finished reading my book near 2pm and realized that I was slowly freezing to death. It was time for a brisk walk to the hotel to see if Eric was finished. The walk almost warmed me up because the sun was finally out, but the wind was still bitter cold. Once at the hotel, I asked about the Jeopardy thing and they pointed me to the second floor. Moving through the hotel, I got warmer and more comfortable. Once on the second floor I found a table for Jeopardy sign-ins, and stood by it only to discover I was right under a heating vent. I decided to wait for him right there.

I could hear Eric's voice and laughter from inside the room I was next to. I wondered how much longer they would take, hoping it would be long enough to thaw me out completely. Only a couple minutes later the meeting broke up. First out of the room was Eric, who was surprised to see me waiting. I was warm enough, so we headed back to the garage.

Now, I'm no expert on these tryout things, but my impression is that once you pass the Jeopardy on-line test, they still have to make sure you would look good on TV. So they have these tryouts to find out if you have any personality whatsoever, and can actually answer the quiz questions in person (ie you didn't have someone else answer the on-line test for you). Even if you qualify, they get a lot more people every year for the contestant pool than they need. So Eric still has to actually be chosen, and that may not happen despite his feeling that he did really well this time. Remember, this is the third time he's made it this far in the process. He'll be in the pool for 18 months. If he isn't called up in that time, he can take the test again (marking Sep 29th 2009 on the calendar).

Eric mentioned that he'd accidentally washed his Jeopardy pen the last time he tested, so this time I told him to put it in the glove box right away. It's now sitting by his chair, waiting to be used as a clicker when he next watches the show.

It was time to find the Sweet Tomatoes restaurant. As I'd studied the map while Eric was testing, I drove us out of Portland and up to Vancouver via a slightly different route than we usually take. Surprisingly, it wasn't much out of our way.

The Sweet Tomatoes restaurants are basically all-you-can-eat buffets. I haven't been to an all-you-can-eat since I started my weight loss, for perhaps obvious reasons. I always feel like I have to eat a lot in those places to get my money's worth. We'd decided ahead of time to have a very light dinner, so we could eat what we wanted at this place. For the record, we paid $21.16 for the meal ($7.69 each for food, $2.09 each for drinks (!), and $1.60 in tax).

Happily, they still had Mark Evanier's Creamy Tomato Soup on the menu. If you've read his complaint, it's that this soup isn't always on the menu. Apparently they change the menu regularly, and the soup is usually only available in March. I told one of the staff that we'd driven a couple hundred miles just for this soup. I don't think he believed me. That's ok, it wasn't precisely true.

Anyway... I had a choose-your-own-adventure salad that I loaded up with all my favorite salad makings and none of the stuff I hate. Then I added a couple of muffins to my plate, and a bowl of creamy tomato soup. I got a strawberry lemonade to fill it out. I later went back for seconds on the soup and muffins. After I got home and worked out the calories from their nutritional info on the website, I figured I had about 1400 calories for the entire huge meal. I usually have about 1800 calories in a day.

So how was this much-hyped soup? I went back for seconds. It was that good. I wouldn't call it the be-all or end-all of soups, but it was certainly very good. It was creamy. It was tomato-y. It had a hint of spices. It was extremely good for dipping corn muffins into. I would love to try it as a sauce on fresh pasta. Actually, just thinking about it now makes me want to drive back down and get some more. I can understand why Mark Evanier loves it.

I also really liked their muffins. The corn muffins were perfect. They were soft and just crumbly enough. I usually don't like corn muffins that have whole kernels mixed in, but these were too good for that to matter. I would pay the price of admission just for the corn muffins and tomato soup alone. The salad was a normal sort of salad, but the ingredients were certainly fresh and tasty. Eric seemed to enjoy his meal, as well.

When we came in, we told them it was our first time. As a result, we each got a little bag of chocolate chip cookies with a survey tag on them. Both of us called the survey line and left voice mail that said they should open a restaurant in Seattle and that they should have the Creamy Tomato Soup all year long. The survey gives us 15% off on our next visit, but we have no idea when that will be. I suppose we're going to have to visit Portland again before the end of the year, when the tags expire. Maybe I can go down to see Periscope Studio or something.

After stuffing ourselves to near breaking, Eric took the wheel and we headed back up to I-5 and home. The weather seemed to change every five minutes along the road, with sun giving way to rain giving way to hailstorms giving way to sun again. I saw many stretches where I could see the snow on the hills brightened by sunlight. As we headed up through Kelso we saw a horrible car accident in the Southbound lanes, with the contents of one car strewn across the road while the other was just smashed up. Police and fire crews were dealing with it, but it really didn't look good at all. Another mile up the road there was another accident in the Southbound lane, more of a fender bender this time, but still enough to make us both feel sorry for anyone headed South at that point.

We stopped for gasoline at one point, and Eric forgot to put the gas cap back on. Fortunately, he found it after it rolled off the car while I was pulling out. The whole trip took about a full tank of gasoline. I was extremely drowsy from the food and long day, and let Eric take over the driving during a hail storm somewhere. We also got caught behind an accident, one that was nearly cleared by the time we reached the spot. My memories of the rest of the trip are a little hazy, and I was getting carsick (which usually happens to me on long car trips) and was very sleepy. My body also seemed to be having a difficult time dealing with the changes in the weather (changes in air pressure often seem to trigger my fibro, so I think I may have been dealing with that). All told, when we finally got home around 7pm I didn't even bother turning my computer on. I took a nap. When I woke up, the clock said 8:00, but it was light out. I'd slept for 13 hours. I missed dinner, but I really didn't mind (or notice) thanks to the large lunch. More odd was the fact that I was offline for over 24 hours and didn't really care.

Despite the carsickness, the long "nap", and Powell's not having a copy of Nancy and Plum, it was a pretty good trip. Hey Eric, let's do it again!