Ah, how I love a road trip. I’m not going to say that I rely on road trips to fill out my collection of Starbucks site visits, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
Leaving this winter wonderland behind wasn’t too hard…
… to spend the holiday vacationing in Florida. Along the way we came across rising temps and a nice little Starbucks outside of Atlanta. Apparently you aren’t supposed to drive through Atlanta, though I can neither confirm nor deny the horrendous traffic that is rumored to be there. After a couple hundred miles with not a green siren in site, this was a misto I’d been waiting for (which might explain the weird look on my face… or maybe I was in the middle of sentence. Either way…)
Somehow, this photo of a sleepy Lauren at an Ohio truck stop got lost in the shuffle of my close-in-proximity trip to Florida for Christmas. My bad, but the coffee wasn’t. I’ve rediscovered the cafe misto… fewer calories and lots of deliciousness in a cup than, say, a caramel brulee latte. What? That’s what I said too. Ohio is wise to have beautiful oases along the turnpike on the way to Cleveland, all equip with a Starbucks. Well played, Ohio.
I know what you’re thinking… haven’t you visited this Starbucks before, Lauren? No, not really. It’s just that it’s an exact replica of the Belvidere Oasis. This one is off (or rather, on top of) Highway 294 near the airport, and I visited on my way to Aurora to see Olivia Newton-John in concert.
Yes. That Olivia Newton-John.
Anyway, though thankful for the caffeine jolt, this was a rather odd Starbucks experience, hence my somewhat lack-luster smile. I asked for one of my favorites: a short Americano with the shot on top. I was told that they don’t make short anything, while the cashier had her hands on a bunch of short cups.
“Uh, ok, how about a short coffee?”
No, they only have tall.
“Um, ok, what about a single espresso?”
This they understood. Apparently, there is no price listed for a short Americano. I asked why they had short cups, and she said, “Oh, that’s for the kiddy cocoa.”
That’s cool, but here’s the thing: you could have easily charged me for the one shot of espresso, and added a bunch of hot water to it in one of those short cups. If she were to ever visit another store, she might realize that Americanos are priced simply on the espresso shots.
The water is free.
Anyway, I’m sure this nice lady doesn’t make a habit of traversing the world for Starbucks-es as I do, and to be honest, I didn’t have that revelation about the water until I was back in the car drinking a cold shot of espresso doused in half and half.
I will say, also, that the espresso shot itself was very, very nice.
I learned a lot about people on my trip to Sturgis. Traveling with a big group can present its challenges, but it can also make for a safe and enriching experience that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. Though not typically one for etiquette guides, these are the lessons I’ve picked up during my years of travel.
Disclaimer: Sturgis was a lovely trip. Big thank you’s go out to the fearless leaders who organized the trip, the gracious followers, and a big cheers that we all have come out of it with friendships in tact.
Lauren’s guide to safe and happy travels in groups:
DO pick your battles. Traveling in large groups is a lesson in diplomacy. DON’T be that one chick who argues about everything. But, this is your vacation too. So if you’re not happy with a group decision to the point that it affects your good times, speak up. Otherwise, learn to let it go.
DO pick a leader, and
DON’T be a jerk if the leader is you. Check with the group and, if it comes down to it, take a vote, draw straws, play rock-paper-scissors. Again, group travel is a lesson in diplomacy. And democracy. Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean that it’s your job to make all the decisions.
DO have an itinerary, and
DO share it with the ENTIRE group, but
DO let people stray from it. We’re all adults here. Establish meeting places and times, put them on printed out itineraries, and then divide and conquer. A group can get real hostile real fast if you spend too much time together, and many friendships have been broken up over a vacation. That’s lame.
DON’T forget to pitch in. Even if you’re not a leader or a naturally assertive person, don’t be afraid to put your hand in and help. Vacation is work, especially in a big group, and no one appreciates you coasting while we’re busy taking out the trash and washing dishes. If you can’t get anywhere verbally (e.g. “Can I help? Anything I can do?” doesn’t always get a task assigned to you… the leader will say, “No I got it”) just dive in and do something.
DO embrace the group experience. Be a joiner and recognize that your great lodging and awesome excursions might not have been possible without the support (financial, that is) of the group. It’s also way safer, especially when you’re traveling in places that are out of cell phone range.
That said, DON’T forget to create your own experience. This is your vacation too. If there’s something you want to see or do, do it.
The Belvidere Oasis was the VERY last pit stop on our 1,000 mile journey from Sturis, SD back to Chicago. Having travelled the high plains in severe cross-winds the first day and persistent rain the second, these tired bikers deserved nothing better the a high-priced premium coffee, and their amazing accomplishment (and fast baristas cranking out, like, 12 caramel macchiatos) earns a BIG thumbs up.
The ride down to Devil’s Tower from our chateau in the Black Hills demonstrates one of the most dramatic changes in landscape I’ve witnessed in two hours of highway. One minute high in the trees and rocky hills, with the snap of a finger you find yourself on the barren plains of Cattle country almost immediately on crossing the South Dakota/Wyoming border.
But in the middle of the desolate and dry landscape of Eastern Wyoming, there’s an anomaly.
Unlike its fellow national monuments of bronze and stone depictions of dead presidents, Devil’s Tower is not contrived by men. There was a placard somewhere along the 2+ mile hike around it that said something about molten lava and volcanoes, but I like the Lakota legend better:
Seven sisters were out playing when a bear started to chase them. They climbed on a rock and the spirits rose the rock to the sky, where the sisters were turned into the constellation Pleiades. The bear scratched and clawed at the rock, but was unable to reach the top.
That’s way cooler than lava.
It’s hard to explain the gravity of a place like Devil’s Tower, but even more profound are the thoughts that come with a solid four days of moving Westward. People historically moved West for freedom, space, and opportunity. They were motivated by gold, coal, oil and land, and maybe they still are. Whether it’s gold or a job at Wal-Mart that pushes Americans Westward, I was starting to lose hope that there were still open spaces in this country, in spite of its size. I live in a constant state of claustrophobia, seeking Starbucks after Starbucks, with people living literally on top of one another and paying the highest prices for the least amount of space.
But after a pit stop at the first and last gas station on the way from Devil’s Tower to Gillette, WY, there wasn’t a Starbucks in sight. In fact, there wasn’t a single building – or even a vehicle for that matter – as far as the eye could see. In that moment I’ve never felt more vulnerable, or more free. I imagine it’s as close as you can get to witnessing what it was like for those first settlers moving West over the open prairie in search of, well, nothing…
I certainly didn’t need coffee in my state’s capitol. This store just off the expressway showed little to no evidence of the Land of Abe Lincoln, but made for a great place to pee. My travel companion got me a bottle of Tazo iced tea while I paced nervously in front of the retail shelves waiting for the lady in front of me to finish. This was the first time in quite awhile that a barista tried to upsell me a pound…
“I see you looking at some of our coffees there.”
“Oh, I’m just waiting for the ladies room” I said.
“Well, you should pick up some anyway!”
I’ll think that over, guy, but really, I just need to pee.
All retail attempts aside, the staff at this Starbucks were lovely. They were friendly and it was a nice, cool respite from a hot and sunny Route 55 to St. Louis…. and so I give it a thumbs up.