The restaurant I sought won’t be disclosed here, but let me tell you the hamburgers are the absolute best. In fact, I’d had a hankering for one for some thirty years. Now, when I first learned that it was still in operation, I felt drawn to connect with my youth. There would be something special about going back to a more carefree time for an afternoon.
Or so I thought.
Lexington is a small town. Aside from two schools, three antique shops, and five one-way streets, there isn’t much there. That’s why I became frustrated when, after asking directions to the restaurant four times and ending up in parts of the state no one has seen since 1972, I realized the sun was literally setting on my opportunity to revisit my past.
First, there was the issue of “just follow Route 11,” which led me directly to the largest corn field I have ever seen. This was followed by, “Turn right at the co-op” led to someone’s front yard -and a collection of rusting antique cars that appeared to be an apparent attempt to bait the EPA into an argument. I like 1971 Road Runners too, but less so when they’re reduced to excuses for tetanus shots. Exchanging concerned glances with the property owner as I used his driveway as an impromptu roundabout, I headed back to the most recent familiar landmark.
I’ll say this about the North Gate at VMI: it becomes increasingly familiar after you pass it four times trying to relocate your bearings. No problem. I would simply exit and head south.
Well, not exactly. Leaving the North Gate, I first had to battle my way onto the highway heading north from a semi-blind on-ramp. In short, it’s a gamble with nothing less than V-12. When I finally got to a cluster of buildings, I stopped and asked for directions yet again. Thus under the delusion of being “momentarily informed,” I reversed course, looking for the Pizza Hut sign which was seen just in time to miss the exit. A “turn here, Rob” sign would have made little difference.
Having travelled several miles south again, I finally located another driveway – perfect for turning around and heading back for the exit ramp which was now on the other side of the road, thereby necessitating an illegal U-turn. Ah, but then I saw the restaurant sign -the grail– which I had been searching for since 1980.
Slowly ascending the peak into the parking lot so as to savor the moment, I saw the old, but familiar, sign which is now a symbol of my youth. I was almost ready to cry. I was experiencing an epiphany. My search was at an end.
But . . .
The restaurant was closed. Turns out the whole staff was on vacation. I was going to need yet another road trip the following week.
Oh well, that always works up an appetite.