March 9, 2007

Snacking En Route to Spring Break

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It’s the Friday before the Friday before spring break officially starts and that means … It’s spring break right now! No matter where your final destination is, you have to leave Ithaca ASAP. If you travel by bus, car, plane or train (train?) you have to have great snacks for the road. During my three years at Cornell, I have driven back and forth thousands of miles between Long Island and Ithaca, so between my love for authentic ironic t-shirts and my penchant for drinking huge sodas five minutes into the trip, I have stopped at almost every exit on the 250-mile stretch. Buckle up because you are about to drive home in style. (Flying to your final destination? Stick around ‘till the last paragraph and witness the Charlie Niesenbaum Snack That Is Guaranteed to Make Everyone Else on the Plane Super Jealous™).

First stop: Collegetown Candy and Nuts, home of Tasti D-Lite yogurt, and countless off brand gummi-candies. There are two ways to eat frozen yogurt: one is to pretend you are being healthy and get a mini-sized no-fat, no-carbs, the-package-is-lying, plain ole vanilla. The other way is to get a huge size of your favorite flavor and cover it with half a pound of candy topping. (Guess which one I chose.) The classiest way to go is to match your topping to your flavor. Cookies ’n cream gets Oreo topping, chocolate gets chocolate chips etc. There is no better way to start a spring break than by eating mock ice cream in “real feel” -400º weather.

Second stop: Whitney Point rest area. McDonald’s + Mobil station + Lotto tickets = rest stop gold. I fill up my tank, and get 12 dollars worth of food and lotto tickets. For the rest of the trip I alternate stuffing my face with fries and scratching off tickets while driving at high rates of speed. Cornell travelers be warned, this rest stop can become quite a scene. Think Olin during study week, think sorority date night, think about what happens when 12 million (rough estimate) AEM majors from New York City descend upon one small town McDonald’s after living through the frustration of Rt. 79. It can get ugly. However the alternatives are slim: a subway that doesn’t have gas or accept credit cards, or Aiello’s, the family Italian restaurant. Bonus points at the Whitney point stop: a “Nintendo Rental” store and the “Jesus at Work” sign outside the church (a must for any dorm room).

After these two stops I am content to cruise for 75 or so miles, but after my stack of one dollar hamburgers wears out, its time to stop again. This final stop is the best and most important.

There is a very special place on Route 81 that I want to share with you. Its called Exit 91-A, and it is my second favorite place to pull off the road in the United States of America. My favorite will be revealed later; be patient. What sets 91-A (or good ole 91) apart from all others? a Sheetz Gas station / Convenience store.

What do you mean you never heard of a Sheetz?

Sheetz literally has it all. Every single snack currently in production is for sale at Sheetz. If it comes in a bag, can, bottle, cup, cone or between two pieces of bread, you can buy it at Sheetz. Gary Hardoon ’08 describes it as “Bambino-riffic,” a sly reference to the great Bambino, Babe Ruth. Sheetz is the Babe Ruth of snack stops. A touch screen allows you to order every kind of sandwich and side without having to talk to anyone and a machine automatically makes you a delicious milkshake! Sheetz also features 24 options of fountain soda. Picture every flavor, brand and variety of gum you ever ate. Got it? Now multiply by two and you begin to get an idea of how big their gum selection is.

Being in a Sheetz is like being in my own personal heaven. First of all it is so cold you can almost see your breath. You have to put on a fleece just to browse. You open the fridge displays almost expecting warm air to come out, as it would literally seem impossible to keep water liquid at a lower temperature. Second, when you are ordering food on the touch screen the machine can READ YOUR MIND! You finish ordering what you think is the perfect sandwich and then you get in rapid succession the following options, “Double Meat? Y/N, Double Cheese? Y/N, Toasted? Y/N” I quickly smash the screen “Y! Y! Y!” and proclaim aloud, “Sheetz, you have done it again!”

Full to the brim, I can continue home the rest of the way only stopping to use the bathroom once before the GWB, and once at the exit before my own actual exit because I can’t hold it any longer. These stops have never steered me wrong, expect once with Ross Freilich ’09 when we ordered the Smokehouse Fries at Sheetz and they made my car smell like indigestion. (We had to throw them out the window). And now as promised: the best snack for Airplanes is McDonald’s; sneak it on in your backpack. My favorite rest stop is the Molly Pitcher rest stop in New Jersey.