Your Favorite Restaurant
Everyone has a favorite restaurant – maybe even more than one. Perhaps there is a restaurant that is perfect for a quick family meal, or the little mom-and-pop place where you take out-of-town company, or a romantic spot for an intimate dinner for two. You might even have a favorite restaurant in another city. Whenever travel allows, this perfect combination of menu and atmosphere always requires fitting a bistro, or a café, or even a diner into the itinerary. For me, I crave a specific taste, a flavor that combines a splendid splash of memories, tastes, and wilted lettuce. Yes, I admit it, I am a sucker for Jack In The Box tacos, and since the chain hosts no establishments near me, I constantly equate them with my traveling adventures.
My first taste of the low-cost, low-prep, skinny, greasy-bottomed, crunchy-topped snacks occurred at the franchise adjacent to my elementary school. My addiction began after I left Arizona and the least-ethnic Mexican food no longer became readily available to me. I began to plot the locations where I could find that friendly clown in other cities and towns that I frequented. Both St. Louis and Los Angeles have outlets just at the end of the street from the rental car lots. Heading west on Interstate 10, at the first exit inside the Texas state line, I found another branch. Like little taco oases on the path to wherever I may be headed, Jack In The Box greeted me, welcomed me, and gave me a little moment of remembrance to my childhood and to previous expeditions, as well as a quick nibble to keep me satisfied as I hit the road.
Another Sense Of Direction
Stuck in construction traffic on the south side of Lake Tahoe, I have already added a couple hundred miles to the odometer, crossing Donner Pass, touching the waters at Sutter’s Mill, and helping push a stranded traveler out of the snow. An adventure like this doesn’t need the hum-drum of bumper-to-bumper vehicles. My saving grace, off the road to the left, I see my beloved Jack. I pull in, I order the two-for-a-dollar special, and I sit with my laptop and my tasty, unhealthy treat watching for the traffic to clear. When I landed in El Paso, (see “El Paso, El Paso,” January 2013) Jack held a position across from the airport’s entrance as I turned east. He always knows right where to be when I need him.
Crossing from Lewiston, Idaho into Clarkston, Washington, Jack again makes an appearance. I make a mental note, as I have just finished breakfast, and after my brief dart into Oregon (see “I Owe Oregon,” February 2013), I return to his side. As I sit enjoying my crunchy, greasy, messy flavors, I leaf through my beautiful atlas (see “Traveling With Boys,” November 2011), I place a check-in call with my brother, who also embraces my JITB affliction, and I plot the lengthy afternoon drive up and over Lolo Pass through the Bitterroot Mountains. With his charming ad campaigns, his bouncy, bobbing antenna toppers, and his irresistibly tempting tacos, Jack In The Box accompanies my adventures, just like my musical soundtrack, the wind in my air, and the beckoning of the open road, making taste another vibrant element of the journeys I have taken. His low-cost corn tortilla snacks may not be the gourmet selection of more refined palettes, but I connect that taste with the memories of dozens of drives, each one of them savory and simple, but full of spice, aptly affordable, and a taste I frequently crave.