When Lane and Juliet of Southwest Compass tagged me as the next travel blogger to write about “travel regrets,” I was seriously stumped. I am not a woman who regrets much in life and usually veer toward the direction of doing everything imaginable so that I won’t regret missing opportunities later. But I gave this challenge some thought and decided that the closest I could come to a regret during my travels might have been the day we stopped at Scotty’s for lunch.
If you’ve ever driven up or down I-75 through Tennessee, you’ve probably seen the unforgettable Thacker’s Christmas Inn sign. You probably haven’t stopped, but no doubt you’ve seen it. We’d never stopped there, either, in our numerous trips back and forth from Florida or Georgia to Ohio. We make the trek a few times every year. We also follow our own set of travel rules and one of them is that we never eat at chain restaurants and we try not to eat at the same place twice.
As you can imagine, it gets hard to find independent restaurants after a while. Especially when you’re on your fourth trip to Georgia in as many months. So, it was time to pull off at the Christmas Inn exit. It was bound to happen sometime.
To our surprise, the Christmas Inn had been closed for years. It was condemned and crumbling. We wouldn’t be eating there. But across the highway we saw a sign for Scotty’s. So we shrugged, picked that as our new culinary adventure, and stepped inside.
One step in and we were practically sitting at the long, sticky counter already. A row of ten cracked-vinyl stools tilted at different angles. We found four together and placed our sweaty, naked legs on them, wondering whether really, truthfully, we should use a little common sense and run while we still had the chance. But like a game of chicken, none of us was going to be the first to priggishly suggest we go somewhere else and by then, the waitress had wandered over to us. We took a deep breath and gave her our drink orders.
The adventure had begun.
She turned on the grill and scraped the congealed grease to the back as the grill started to smoke. The menu was pretty limited, so with the exception of my mother’s order of nachos, it was Scotty burgers all around. We watched as she took a handful of nachos out of a bag and placed them on a plate, using an ice cream scoop to place loose meat on top and then, holding the mound underneath the spigot, proceeded to push the lever down to dispense the cheese. (Think movie theater style). Then she threw them in the microwave to heat up.
She got the drink orders for us: sweet tea, Dr. Pepper and water. My daughter immediately took a drink of her Dr. Pepper and exclaimed that it was watery. My mother busily poured sugar into her tea without looking. She took a drink and gagged; it was the Dr. Pepper. The two quickly switched and I thought about how glad I was that we would soon be done. The nachos were served, steaming hot and looking like a blob of school food that we would make the janitor clean from the walls. The Scotty Burgers were served with fries; old school greasy sliders that could clog your arteries just looking at them.
We dug in and looked around. The old, yellowed newspaper clippings framed on the wall were covered with a coating of smoke and grease. The edges of the napkins were stiff and stuck together. We were discreetly trying to point out all the little greasy-dive nuances to each other when we noticed the most alarming thing of all: a fly, buzzing nervously inside the sugar dispenser, desperately trying to escape. The same sugar dispenser that my mother had used to pour sugar into her iced tea and my daughter’s Dr. Pepper. He looked like he’d been in there a while. So had the sugar.
We survived the Scotty’s debacle and still insist on stopping at independent restaurants on our many drives down I-75. We figured nothing could be as bad as Scotty’s – but that was before we stopped at Pizza Inn in Jellico, Tennessee and discovered that the “secret sauce” on our pizza was mustard.
Still, I can’t say I regretted these travel experiences. We have stories and inside jokes that will last us a lifetime. Sometimes we even veer off the highway and park at Scotty’s if one of us has fallen asleep in the car on our I-75 jaunts. What a fun way to wake up, huh?
No, I don’t regret Scotty’s, but it’s as close as I come.
What sort of travel regrets do you have?
This rings of the “diner” in Texas which served jerky-style burgers… yes, I mean tough. Break a tooth tough.
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for the heads-up. I know where we’ll be eating in Texas now. 😉
I regret not traveling enought
It’s not too late to change that, is it?
it definitely is not!
I’m like you in that I don’t generally have too many things to regret. I will say though, that on my recent trip to Japan, I came back with unspent money that I wish I had just spent and not hoarded as carefully because I certainly have no use for yen here!
Ah, yes. I’ve come close to having that same regret, but usually use up all my money at the airport. Or, in more impoverished countries, I just give it away.
I think I’d rather starve…
You are much wiser than I am.
I will never forget when I was in H.S. (a long time ago!). Went to TN with my girlfriend and her mother. Stopped at a place which resembles Scottys. The waitress was big and fat and greasy hair. She had on an apron that looked like she had worn every day for a year. Filthy!!! We only ordered cocoa and got the heck out of there!
Maybe it WAS Scotty’s! Wouldn’t that be a hoot? Scotty’s looks like it’s been there forever.
Mustard on pizza.. now that’s original! Like you, I don’t really have any travel regrets as all travel experiences are part of the adventure and make for a good laugh anyway, right?
Exactly. Even the misadventures are adventures and part of the trip.
Mustard on pizza–yuck! I think some of the worst food I’ve had while traveling has been weird pizzas–ketchup instead of tomato sauce, or my favorite one time in Russia–hard-boiled egg pizza.
Yes, the mustard pizza was an unpleasant surprise. I have a great picture of my husband’s face as he ate it, but he won’;t let me put it on here. It might have worked with the hard-boiled egg topping.
The only sort of regret that i have had with travel is pre-booking flights, thus not allowing enough time in the places I want to stay! Morale of the story – Go with the flow and don’t pre-book anything when travelling 🙂
Oh, that’s a good one. I’ve done that, too.
Mustard pizza…whoa, Nelly! I don’t have any travel regrets either. The crazier the experience then, the more laughs you get to have later.
Exactly! 🙂 Or maybe we’ve just been lucky…
That sounds nasty!
We have been lucky too overall. But the presidential elections in Argentina that I had neglected to factor in,, resulted in our missing a soccer match and a feria that we had set our hearts on. Ash clouds cancelled flights to El Calafate on the same trip and we missed seeing the Perito Merino Glacier. But despite all that, we consider this trip a huge success and only remember all the things that did go right 🙂
I’m sure your trip was fantastic. Mishaps are part of the experience, aren’t they? Esepcially when it comes to weather. If only we could control that!
Haha, this is a good one! Sounds awful – but at least you got a good story out of it!
Thanks! It was definitely a story in the making. We started talking about the fly in the sugar as soon as we got to the parking lot, and it’s never stopped.
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