Boilermakers, a Big Hot Chocolate, and a Dairy Adventure (ish)

When an occasional chance to get out of town for a minute presents itself, I have a “just say yes” policy.  I love trips in the car… staring out at the world as it passes me by.  I find it to be really peaceful.

Anyway, a day trip to Lafayette, IN was on the docket for Saturday.  A shining star in the middle of a corn infested, flat-as-a-pancake, Wal-Mart-centric state, Lafayette is hilly, and decidedly hip – at least, for Indiana.  So while I might have passed on, say, a trip to Hobart, I knew that Lafayette would be a nice treat.

While the gf attended a rehearsal I wandered around Purdue’s beautiful campus, in search of wifi and a cozy nook in which to get some work done.  Apparently, if you want wifi anywhere on campus you have to request it weeks in advance.  So, after twiddling my thumbs and running software updates on my computer for about half an hour, I walked into a little downtown-ish area and found the Greyhouse Cafe.

Wifi: check.

Nook: check.

Really big and delicious hot chocolate: check. check.

This is a serious college town coffee shop.  Hipsters wearing bandanas make beautiful foam in enormous for-here mugs and there are easily 40 seats with their own power outlets.  Apparently you can order a crepe, which I hear are good, and take about 45 minutes to prepare in the kitchen.  It doesn’t matter, because Greyhouse is a place you want to stay for hours.

Pop Art cow at the Dairy Adventure

On the return trip, we stopped at the mysterious Fair Oaks Farm off of I-65 in Fair Oaks, IN.  Having passed the self-proclaimed “Dairy Adventure” on numerous trips through Indiana, it’s a place that has always piqued my curiosity, though never enough to stop… until now.

After my recent up-close and personal day with a flock of turkeys, I wasn’t certain how this was going to measure up, but thought it could be interesting to see the birthing barn. When we found out it was twelve dollars each to board a black and white camouflaged school bus to see a cow or five, I thought better of it and ultimately passed on the whole Dairy Adventure.  The cafe/gift shop was really enough for me to get the idea that a couple of midwestern dairy farmers likely got drunk one night and decided to transform their struggling farm into an over-commercialized Six Flags Over Fair Oaks, IN.  I will say, however, that the grilled cheese was one of the best I’ve ever had, and I would go back again, if on I-65, simply for that reason.

There’s more than corn in Elkhart, IN

Having previously stopped in Elkhart, IN on the way to Cleveland, I wasn’t exactly needing a reason to go there again.  But with excitement rising for my pending trip to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this August, and the promise of lower sales tax in the great state of Indiana, it was only natural to make a stop-off at the Hoosier Harley store.

Elkhart, my friends, does not disappoint (insert rolled eyes here).  Aside from being ignored entirely by every employee in the Harley shop, the marquee sign includes a lovely Bible quote along with the store hours.  Next to the shop is Lucky’s donuts.  that also serves Thai food.  The biker dudes, bible verses, coconut curry / donut smell wafting from Lucky’s, all combined with a full half mile of fast food restaurants and a Wal-Mart made for what I consider to be the ultimate Midwestern small town experience.  And now that I’ve described it for you, you don’t need to go there.

Starbucks Around the World: Elkhart, IN

Elkhart, IN proved to be an ideal rest stop en route to my first stay in Cleveland.  In an effort to escape the NATO summit, it took two full hours in an un-air-conditioned sedan to get past the Chicago Skyway that overlooks scenic Hammond, IN.  As such, Elkhart was as far as I could make it before needing a toilet and a refreshing specialty coffee beverage.  Aside from asking if I wanted whipped cream on my grande coffee frappuccino (silly, the plain coffee ones don’t ever get whip), legendary service with a smile with a side of fries and stuffed crust pizza to boot from the neighboring Burger King and Pizza Hut (I kid, I kid).

Starbucks Around the World: Lebanon, IN

The idea of Starbucks (at least when I was an employee there) was always to come, stay, let it be your “third place” to hang out and relax.  This is completely contrary to what much of America now understands Starbucks to be: just another drive-through fast food joint with really expensive, tasty coffee.  Such is the case with stores like this one in Lebanon, IN, and so many others like it that have giant Siren’s thrusting above the interstate next to the golden arches and the BP signs.

This is not necessarily a criticism, simply a response to what “America” seems to want… which is to have their cake and eat it to.  At 7:30pm, I found this Starbucks to be somewhat sub-par… they were completely out of sandwiches and salads, and the barista put whip on a no-whip hot chocolate that (by my palate) was obviously made with reheated milk.

“Long day?” I asked.

“You don’t even know…. I’ve made like 100 hot chocolates today.”

What I didn’t tell this Barista was that in my day I’d make 100 hot chocolates an hour…

In any case, the staff was pleasant, they fixed my drink – unbegrudgingly and apologetically – when I noticed it was made incorrectly, and the bathrooms were nice and clean.  Plus, if a Siren in the sky gets a truck driver off of bad gas station coffee every once in awhile, then I guess the bending of the business model a bit is totally worth it.