All right, the addition to the title is a joke. Having said that, however, due to the overwhelming response I do plan on a prequel to my Eating the Road series, starting with the gripping tale of when I got gas for my car and a snack at the gas station before I left for Philly. Stay tuned for that…
In all seriousness (I officially have more sense than George Lucas — no prequels here) this is the end of the road. And I wish I could write about some delicious breakfast I had before I dropped my wife off at the Philly airport and began my long drive back, but I can’t — I was righteously hungover. I staggered to the mini bar and allowed my self to get bit by the hair of the dog to set the day straight. Just kidding, I drank a bottle of water, choked down a cup of coffee and was on my way.
I refused to allow myself to be gouged on the Pennsylvania Turnpike again, so I headed north for a route that would take a little longer, but save me $20 in tolls. This route also coincidentally brought me near State College, PA, one of my favorite college towns, and just in time for lunch at that.
My first stop was at another turnpike rest area, alas I did have to use the turnpike a little to get out of Philly, but this was worth it. It had a crazy huge food court and a well stocked convenience store. Finally feeling like I could manage a little food, I grabbed a granola bar and a Diet Dew and headed for State College.
Before I write about my exploits in Nittany Lion land, I do want to give a brief shout out to Lehigh Valley, PA. This place is really beautiful. If you ever have a chance to go there, and I can’t imagine why you would, GO THERE. Seriously.
I timed my arrival in State College for lunch to be around 3:30, which was coincidentally the same time a certain Maize and Blue football team was set to kickoff against the evil Golden Domers of Notre Dame. I had planned on hitting a local brewpub called Otto’s, and enjoying a little Big Ten brotherhood as we watched Shoelace run roughshod over the Irish.
Alas, I left my directions at the hotel in Philly and chanced that I would be able to find Otto’s on my own. State College isn’t that big. Unfortunately, I had no success and was not happy about the prospect of missing kickoff. Just down the road from Beaver Stadium (which is pretty impressive) was a place called the Nittany Lion Inn, and it had a sign which read: Public Welcome. “I’m the public!” I thought, and ambled in.
Have you ever entered an establishment and immediately felt out of place? I was completely underdressed, and to make matters worse, I was not wearing any Penn State garb. Still, the game was on a TV at the lounge, which was amusingly called “Whiskers.” Wolverines have whiskers too, PSU fan.
Whiskers was a pretty nice lounge, and my sandals and shorts weren’t as badly out of place there. It was something of a Dockers convention and everyone had an appropriately navy blue shirt on as well. As for the menu, A+, Whiskers had a fantastic selection; I had a difficult time choosing. I selected the Bison Burger, which was topped with crispy shallots (amazing), smoked cheddar and BBQ sauce. The burger, fries, and a salad ran $12, and was worth every penny. The BBQ sauce was nothing special, but the Bison was perfect and the smoked cheddar was, how shall I say it, smoky. Really delicious.
The only drawback was the pint of Yuengling I ordered. Yuengling bills themselves as “America’s Oldest Brewery,” and it is all over PA. I finally broke down and tried it, and was not very impressed. Call it a rich man’s Rolling Rock. Typical American lager, not terrible but certainly not memorable. At least I can now check it off my Beer Bucket List.
I watched three quarters of the game before I left. The Nittany Lion Inn was an inviting and comfortable place; Penn Staters were friendly and open to a fellow Big Ten fan in their midst. I could have stayed longer, perhaps another couple pints and grabbing a room at the Inn. Penn State was due to play Alabama that night and it promised to be a raucous environment. But I had to leave…
Good thing I did, too. I didn’t get back to Ann Arbor until midnight, and Penn State got clobbered by ‘Bama.
The road was good to me, especially my last day. I-80 through Pennsylvania is very scenic and beautiful, and lunch at a Big Ten college town was the perfect break in the day. Having been to each Big Ten college town (Lincoln, NE doesn’t count yet) I can attest that if you can’t have a good time in these places than you are already dead.
As for Eating the Road, thanks for reading my first venture into travel writing. The best part about it was the eating.