A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tu-Lane Truck Stop

English: Highway 401 in Kitchener, looking eas...Image via Wikipedia        Not too far outside of Kitchener, Ontario, right off Highway 401, used to sit the Tu-Lane Truck Stop.  Highway 401--sometimes called "The King's Highway"--is the main thoroughfare running across lower Ontario from Detroit to the far Eastern side of the province.  It's a busy highway with a constant stream of traffic including many trucks.

         What first prompted me to stop at the Tu-Lane Truck Stop I don't remember.  It was probably because it was late and I was hungry and the Tu-Lane was open.  It's sometimes said that truckers know the best places to eat and if this is a true indicator, the Tu-Lane must have been good because it was busy with truckers catching a late night meal.

          On my first visit in 1981 I ordered a bowl of chili with toast.  First of all I've always been accustomed to eating chili with saltine crackers and the accompaniment of toast seemed odd to me.   But what I got was just right.  The chili was robust in tomatoey chili powder flavor, but it had a sweetness that balanced any spiciness quite nicely.   I had never tasted a chili with that amount of sweetness and I was pleasantly surprised. The buttered toasted white bread made the perfect companion to the chili.

          Lest my assessment was due to my hunger, I returned the following year to see if the chili had really been as good as I had thought.  This time I went in the afternoon for lunch.  I ordered the chili once again and was not disappointed.  The chili met my expectations and I decided that this was one of the best bowls of chili that I had eaten in any restaurant.

          Throughout the rest of the 1980s I made my yearly pilgrimage to the Tu-Lane Truck Stop.  Fortunately we were in Kitchener every year so I was able to have that chili several times in that decade.  I never tried anything else on the menu--why would I when I needed my fill of a chili that made my mouth water just thinking about it.
           An internet search told me that the truck stop is no longer there.  I don't know who else makes chili and toast quite like that.   I've tried.  I can make a good chili, but it never seems to be quite like the chili at Tu-Lane.   I've not even been able to duplicate the way they made the toast, but maybe it was the combination of the toast and the chili that really made the difference.

            In my fantasy road trip of memory, I look for that sign along the highway:  "Tu-Lane Truck Stop".  I pull in and park.   There's a dream bowl of chili with toast waiting for me.

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Betty Alark said...

Hi, Arlee!

Ah- the good old days! Well at least you still have the memories!

I'm not a meat eater however, a bean chili sounds tasty!

Can you still taste the chili when you reflect back?

Pleasant dreams!


CMSmith said...

Awww. I hate it when the really special places go away.

Lynn Proctor said...

i have had many favorite eateries leave--yours sounds like it was really missed

welcome to my world of poetry said...

You have such wonderful memories Lee, thanks for sharing.


Wendy said...

Your words bring this place to life. Sorry I missed it.

Arlee Bird said...

Betty -- It's been a long time since I've eaten that chili. I've tried to duplicate it, but I'm not sure how close I've come. I think it was one of those things connected with time and place and that's what made the difference.

CM -- I'm always disappointed when I go back to a place and it's gone.

Lynn -- I guess the truckers who ran that route especially missed it.

Yvonne -- thank you for visiting.

Wendy -- I probably built it up more than most people would have thought it deserved, but I've always heard that truckers know the best places to eat. Tu-Lane was always packed.


Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

What a delicious memory.

Play off the Page

Ron Easton for Dads UnLimited said...

What a great memory you have, Lee. That must have been some good chili. I can't say I remember that truck stop, but must have been by it a few times on our way somewhere. We went that way several times heading out to Florida.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee - the Sandusky, Ohio trip obviously brought back a mix of memories .. while here - you've got your chilli - it sounds delicious .. and a pity you can't find a way to recreate it - great dream food to have!

Cheers Hilary

Ron Easton for Dads UnLimited said...

I forgot yesterday, but Marta Szemik is from Cambridge just "inches" from Kitchener. I left her a comment today to let her know :)

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Although I've never had "Tu-Lane Chili" I do know what you mean. Sometimes one discovers something unique and unexpected in unlikely places.

To this day I still recall having breakfast with my Pa on a road trip we took together through California and into Oregon. We had a meal one morning at a little joint in Calistoga - as you probably know, that's in Northern California's wine country.

I probably just ordered scrambled eggs, or maybe an omelette, and I don't remember what my Pa ordered. But EVERYTHING there (including the toast) just tasted somehow different and great. They must have been using a variety of spices in special ways, but however they pulled it off, that remains the most memorable breakfast I've had in my 52 years.

And I know it wasn't just me - my mood, or my food - because my Pa later said that he too thought that was one tremendous breakfast.

Gotta love road trips 'cause ya never know what memorable thing you're going to accidentally stumble on.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Anonymous said...

the secrete to a good chilli is the addition of good old true maple syrup. Try it and see what you think

Eugene Yompster said...

a great memories of yours, i appreciate this post! truck stop in chippenham