THE GREAT CHEESE CURD MYSTERY!
SCOOP’S MISSION: To deliver Scoop Jr.’s Christmas present
from Wisconsin to San Diego.
THE GIFT: 5lbs. of frozen breaded cheese curds
My magic number is 4789.2. Miles, that is. That’s how many
I drove to give Mrs. Scoop a Christmas present. All I can say
is, it was well worth it, and I am definitely now in the A+
column as far as 'good-husband' points go.
All she wanted for Christmas was to see Scoop Jr., who
resides in San Diego, land of beautiful sunsets and beautiful
women, the most beautiful of whom—Kris—is his girlfriend.
Due to work conflicts, Scoop Jr. was not able to travel to
Wisconsin per norm, and all he really wanted for
Christmas was to see us, and get some breaded cheese
curds. He loves those little suckers, but they are not available
in San Diego, nor, I guess, in any other state, judging by the
curious looks we got from people whenever we explained what was
in the little Styrofoam cooler we iced down at every motel.
(Due to 9-11-01 and repeated Oprah guests warning Mrs. Scoop
not to fly, we decided to drive. At one point, I was thisclose
to getting Mrs. Scoop on a plane, but then the big ‘O’ had
to go and schedule a bunch of anti-terrorist experts on the
show. It’s just as well. That ass with the shoe-bomb pulled
his stunt when we were already in San Diego. Mrs. Scoop would
have flushed her return ticket down the toilet right then!)
The journey was fraught with danger as I, fearful of heights
anyway, navigated steep mountains and hairpin turns,
white-knuckled with fear. At times I was doing 55 as 80 year-old
men in Cadillacs cruised past me at 90mph, not to mention trucks
and motorhomes and U-Hauls that swayed to and fro with no regard
to the white lines on the highway.
Speaking of white lines, it is true
that you can hypnotize a chicken by drawing a line on the
ground in front of it. It certainly happened to me. Again and
again Mrs. Scoop would remark, "Honey, look at that beautiful
and very tall rock formation, the one that looks like it could
topple on us at any moment!" Ha!--as if I dared take my eyes
off the road! Up I went and down I went, solid rock
walls inches away. To make this even more fun, just when it was
most dangerous, the speed limit increased! To add to my
fear, most of the 10 states I traveled through had provided
thoughtful highway signs. Here are several:
· Oklahoma and Missouri:
"Hitchhikers may be escaped convicts."
(Actually, this was a convenient method for determining
where to stop for the night. When we saw such a sign, we
drove another 100 miles. No man, even on the run, can go
100 miles before we check out in the morning and get a
· Most states: "Beware
of Falling Rocks" and "Runaway Truck Zone
Ahead". (Missouri was kind enough to omit the words
and just show a drawing of large boulders crushing a
· New Mexico: "Do Not
Drive Into Smoke". This one had us confused…what
did they mean, and why would you? We found out when we
came across the Fire Dept. doing a controlled burn right
next to the highway. The smoke covered the highway.
Perhaps you can understand why I was confused: Do I slam
on the brakes at 75mph and hope everyone behind me thinks
the same, or tough it out? We toughed it out, and that’s
when we saw the sign for:
· "Danger of High Gusty
Winds". I thought nothing of it, until a bit further
Mrs. Scoop said, "Oh, look at those little clouds
there. They seem to be coming right out of the
ground." To our left was a vast plain. To our right
was a vast plain. The little dancing clouds on the left
looked like whirling dervishes. They were. Within a mile
the dust storm covered the entire area. Traffic slowed to
45mph, even the little old guys in Cadillacs.
One of goals on this fun-seeking adventure trip was to visit
the Grand Canyon. Alas, bad weather was due to move in, so we
decided that at Amarillo, Texas we would head further south. The
silver lining to this detour was that we would pass through
Roswell, NM, home of a famous UFO crash. It was my secret wish
that we would actually spot a UFO and Mrs. Scoop would be
abducted by aliens and probed.
Just kidding…really! Despite the driving, we were having a
wonderful time, doing a bit of partying the night before at the
hotel in Springfield MO, enjoying the Jacuzzi and some
refreshing beverages. The next day we drove hard and fast,
intending to reach Roswell. Unfortunately, we were in a weakened
state, and started looking for a room early. This would be the
day that, as the skies darkened, we encountered the Highway from
On Hwy. 60, south of Amarillo, still in Texas, a stench began
to invade the truck. A dead skunk would have been more
preferable. I, who have pumped out thousands of RV holding tanks
with the Honey Wagon, would gladly do it again for the entire
length of time it took to drive this 100 mile stretch of stench.
What we were passing through were the cities of Hereford
(should be named ‘Dead Heifer’) and Bovina, as in ‘bovine’,
as in cows. These are slaughterhouse cities, hundreds of cattle
in holding pens next to the factories where they do what they do
so we can eat steaks and burgers. Don’t get me wrong—I love
meat, especially burgers on the grill and NY Strips, but
this ‘preparation station’ had us gagging with clenched
throats, especially Mrs. Scoop, who desperately strove to keep
down those evil beers from the night before.
We drove on, eyes streaming and faces contorted, passing
through other towns probably clean but who wanted to take a
chance of spending a night with the possibility of a bad wind
striking just as we settled into bed? We finally could go no
further, and stopped in Portales, NM.
SPECIAL LEGAL NOTICE: On the advice of my lawyer, I will
not mention the name of the motel we stayed at. But there are
only two in Portales, and this one did not have a
"red" roof. Figure it out yourself.
The motel was ancient, all rooms ground-floor, the outdoor
pool drained and dirty. Mrs. Scoop went in to get the room. She
came back livid with anger. "Fifty bucks!" she said.
We had spent last night at a beautiful Drury Inn in Springfield
for $49, the night of the Jacuzzi and beers. To pay the same for
this was insulting. But we had no choice…the owner of
this motel refused to tell us even what the other motel was, let
alone where it was. We were tired and desperate, and we
Yes, it was a true Motel from Hell, just like the Highway. We
were in the 2nd room from the office. The 1st
room was permanently occupied by the owner’s little old
mother, who accosted Mrs. Scoop as she went past several times
to get ice to keep the cheese curds cold. (Perhaps Mom should
have blamed her son for putting the ice machine right next to
her door). The room was clean but old, with furniture from the
50s, like a haunted museum. As I was unpacking the luggage, I
glanced about. Three raggedy pick-up trucks were parked
helter-skelter along the desolate lot, and there, at the far
side, was one two-story section of the motel. I took this to be
the owner’s apartment. Thin chintz curtains covered the two
windows. A light was on, and as I gawked, a shapeless head and
body paced back and forth in the dim light. Bates Motel redux.
We left as early as possible the next morning.
It can be terrifyingly dark at 4AM when driving towards
Roswell. The highways seem to be unmarked, and we wondered if we
were even headed in the right direction (As it turned out,
Mapquest was wrong at one crucial turn. If we had followed the
directions, we would have driven back into Texas until dawn’s
early light. Luckily, we stopped for a train, probably full of
dead cattle, and reconsidered our route). We entered more high
mountains, truckers with no fear passing me at ungodly speeds.
These would be the worst hairpin curves I would encounter until
San Diego. I would later tell Mrs. Scoop that I felt as if I
might as well just drive off the side and kill myself, since I
was due to have a heart attack anyway.
We went through Roswell still in darkness. No aliens were
sighted. At a truck stop further on, Mrs. Scoop asked a driver
what these mountains were. He laughed. "Oh, these are just
what we call ‘rolling hills’."
Very funny, Mr. Truck Driver. Anyway, on we drove. Besides
the dust storms and the smoke stuff and the stench and possible
falling rocks, we survived. There was a slight dilemma when we
were stopped at a Border patrol checkpoint and asked about any
‘produce or vegetables’ in the vehicle: Should I mention the
cheese curds? Would they even understand? Would the curds be
confiscated? I kept my mouth shut.
There was much more terror on the road, notably the Fear
Factor highways coming into San Diego, the deadliest of all, and
those little signs at every rest area that warned of poisonous
snakes and insects, but let’s go on, please…
For three nights I carried the Styrofoam cooler packed with
curds into each motel room and restocked it with ice. When we
finally reached San Diego at 1PM Pacific Time, the breading was
a bit soggy, but that night the curds were delightful. We were
proud parents indeed. We had accomplished our mission. (By the
way, the curds were obtained courtesy of Jeff and Tina Russell
of Kadee’s Kafe in Janesville, who I will eventually find some
way to get even with).
The next morning, a bit groggy, I attempted to sneak out for
coffee. I blame this on Kris, who must have latte or mocha, and
thus Scoop Jr. does not have a coffee maker. Instead, growing in
knowledge concerning relationships with women, he drives to
Starbucks each AM to get Kris her fix. So at 5AM, baseball cap
covering Kramer-hair, I attempted to ventured out and find
coffee on the Boardwalk stretching along Pacific Beach. I got 5
The gate outside the patio door seemed to be locked. It was
dark, and every time I tried to pull the gate door open, it made
a horrific noise. Lights went on next door, maybe just early
risers, but every screeching attempt to open the stubborn gate
made me shudder with fear of a police raid or a shotgun slug
through my forehead. I had no idea what people in California
might do if they thought a burglar was rampant in their
neighborhood. (Foolish me--I temporarily forgot it was Scoop Jr,
man of all-hours, who lived here. 5AM was probably a normal time
for the neighbors to be hearing strange noises!) I thought of
climbing the banyan tree right outside to get over, but this too
might bring the police. Stuck, I decided to go back inside. That’s
when I realized I had locked myself out. After several minutes
of quiet, desperate screaming, Scoop Jr. came to the rescue,
showing me, sort of sarcastically, that the gate opened the other
way. Well, duh--it was dark...you know?
I finally made my way down the Boardwalk of Pacific Beach and
found Chaz’s, a nice joint owned by Chaz and Pete Trabucco.
They were just opening up, the potatoes not yet ready for
breakfast, but Pete poured me a cup of good coffee and I finally
relaxed. Pete and I got to talking, and I happened to mention I
was from Wisconsin.
Back at the abode, Scoop Jr. said he’d be happy to go back
for some java of his own, this being one of his not
going-to-Starbucks mornings. We journeyed along, watching idiot
surfers in 45 degree water keep falling off their boards, and
began to breakfast at Chaz’s. That’s when the KUSI Channel 9
Weather Team rolled in.
The weather guy seemed oddly familiar. He interviewed Chaz
and Pete for a few minutes, then went to the weather, watching a
small portable black and white TV set up on a table to follow
the map from the studio as he forecast the latest developments.
Then it was off the air until the next weather-break. That’s
when Pete said, "Hey, over there’s two guys from
And so Terry Burnham came over and asked our names. When I
said I had driven from Wisconsin, Scoop Jr. interjected with:
"To bring me some cheese curds!"
This caused Terry Burnham to frown, and we tactfully
described what a "curd" was. He nodded thoughtfully.
The cameraman pointed and counted, Terry cleared his throat, and
when it was time for one of those 'teaser-breaks' where the
weather guy comes on for 5 seconds, Terry looked into the camera
and said, "When we come back, we’ll explain the 'Great
Cheese Curd Mystery!'"
Scoop Jr. and I looked at each other. A moment of fame was at
hand! Unfortunately, we both looked like—to put it discreetly—scum.
No showers, no shaves, breath reeking. But we were men, and
Terry would understand.
At this point Scoop Jr. called Kris on his cell phone,
telling her to turn the TV on. Then Terry explained he was from
an independent channel, not on satellite. Scoop Jr. and I
immediately had the insane idea of having Mrs. Scoop unhook the
satellite and rig up some rabbit-ears on the roof, nightgown
flapping in the wind. That lasted about five seconds until our
brain cells recouped.
We were ready for our famous interview when Kris showed up
elegant and perfect. "Oh, I just happened to be in the
neighborhood!" she beamed. OK, Kris…so that’s
how you dress for your morning cup of coffee! That’s why Terry
spent our five minutes gushing over you instead of the
true story of the cheese curds! Just kidding again—Scoop Jr.
did tell his tale, although once again we had some difficulty in
explaining what a cheese curd was. What’s with these people?
(And the reason Terry Burnham seemed familiar was he used to
be the weatherman for WMAQ Channel 5 long ago in Chicago. He
still looks good, and has a nice tan, for those of you
Back at the house, things were dandy. Scoop Jr. and Kris had
a beautiful Christmas tree (decorated by Kris, we figure; Scoop
Jr. is like me—I just drink beer and watch), and we exchanged
nice gifts. I got some 007 DVDs and Lara Croft comic books and a
hot tamale pajama thing. We ate great food, and every evening
Mrs. Scoop and I went up to the rooftop deck and watched the sun
It sets quickly, and you have to pay attention. You want to
see the ‘green flash’, a show of green light just as the sun
hits the horizon and the reds and pinks swarm overhead. We didn’t
see it for three nights...
Then we did. It took our breaths away…
Ooh-la-la…talk about foreplay! Thank you, San Diego!
And now I must mention some warnings, especially this one for
you women-folk out visiting SD: On Sunday, football starts at
10AM! This is fantastic! Ladies, please don’t expect anything
from your guy that day. Just prepare some munchies and keep the
Also, I have a BIG-TIME WARNING: Friends have warned me that
there are certain cactus plants in the Southwest that are
heat-sensitive. When a warm object, likely a predator,
approaches, the cacti shoot out needles like darts. Fine, except
what if you are golfing, and have to "go"? There you
are, peeing against an apparently-friendly plant, and suddenly
many heat-seeking needles shoot out, aimed right at your
"thing"? Hey, try to explain that one to your wife!
That’s it for now for San Diego. If you haven’t been
there, you should go. If you golf, see you later, needle-dick...
TRAVEL TIME: 3.5 Days, 2200 miles exactly.
MISSION: ACCOMPLISHED! Curds slightly soggy, but good!
For more exciting cheese curd photos plus Kris
wearing a thong, go to Updates.
Yes, there is more! The Adventure
Pt. II, The Vegas Connection…
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