2 weeks ago I received an email that said “You’ve won”. I was pretty sure it was a mistake. Then I read it. I had, indeed, won. Two tickets to meet my favorite NASCAR driver, Jimmie Johnson. One HUGE snag. The meet and greet was in Indianapolis. As in INDIANA. We live in PENNSYLVANIA. A mere 9 hours away by car. I thought my husband would have a stroke. “But I never thought I would win! ….We’re going though right?” I whined and begged in the same breath (it’s a knack I have). After crunching numbers and securing a hotel room, I finally wore him down.
We drove rather than flew because we didn’t feel like being groped by airport security and it would have literally only been a 3 hour difference – 6 hours flying (with stop overs, etc.) versus 9 hours driving. Plus we could stop when we wanted and where we wanted along the way.
What a grand trip it was! God had certainly ordained this trip from beginning to end. Everything just seemed to fall into place along the way and we had such a good time.
Our first meal in Indiana was at a place called Fazoli’s. (http://fazolis.com/) When my husband, who is originally from Nebraska, first saw one of the chain restaurants he nearly had a seizure of excitement. “WE HAVE TO GO!” he screamed (well okay… it seemed like a scream since he rarely gets that excited about any place.) His description of the place, however, did not win me over. “It’s like fast food Italian.” He said grinning from ear to ear. In fact their slogan is “Fast. Fresh. Italian.” As if that would make me swoon with excitement. It had, in fact, seemed to make him swoon however. I couldn’t really get the concept. How did they do Italian… fast and fresh? I was expecting dried up, small portioned meals, but he never got this excited. I agreed to go. My misgivings were misplaced. In fact… I was wrong. (There honey – you have it in writing.) It was delicious. Good portion sizes and freshly made. You even get your choice of side – slice of pizza or salad. It was like they built this place for us because John always likes pizza and I prefer salad. Plus breadsticks. As good as Olive Gardens, I swear. If you have one near you and you’ve never gone… what are you waiting for??? Go now – I implore you!
After the most exciting Thursday evening of my entire life – eating some pretty darn good food, seeing our driver up close, getting a few autographs, about a hundred photos and hearing country music star Craig Morgan sing – we finally headed back to the hotel to crash. What a day! The long trip and overwhelming blessings quickly zapped our strength though and the king size, plush bed called our names loudly. We drifted off into peaceful slumber.
Friday we were off to the racetrack. When in Indy before a race…..why wouldn’t you go to the racetrack?? We indulged in our hotels free continental breakfast to save a few bucks and we set out. Our lunchtime meal was at the track and I won’t even go into detail. It was sports arena food, that’s all you need to know. It sustained us, that’s about it.
Around 3pm, tired and completely depleted from the heat we decided to head back to the hotel to freshen up and strike out for downtown Indianapolis to round out our trip. Our trusty Garmin GPS indicated many good dinner options in the downtown area, but we opted for a local brewery because John always like to try out local brews. We drove around the block twice. We parked, got out and walked. Alas, our pick was no where to be found. Apparently it had closed and a new, three story shopping mall had taken it’s place. The choices surrounding us, however, were endless and we quickly found another local brewery just a block away. Ram Restaurant and Brewery (http://www.theram.com/). There are apparently 17 in their chain, none any further East than the particular one we were in. We settled into their charming décor, pretty typical for this type of place really, but some of their lighting was spectacular and I wanted to snatch it right off the wall and take it home with me!
We started with some cheese dip made from their Buttface Amber Ale. Really. That’s the name. Look it up. It was decent and had a little kick to it, but was on the runny side. I got one of their signature burgers, which turned out to be quite huge and came with a side of their handmade potato chips. Yum! John got a chicken or turkey burger I think. To be honest I was so engulfed in the splendor of my own burger I really don’t know what he had at this point. Both were wonderful choices though I do remember that! We even splurged on dessert. I had one of their unique ice cream cupcakes. A most splendid concoction of ice cream (different flavors available – mine was Mint Chocolate Chip – see pic below), some actual cupcake and a lot of chocolate. The bottom was shaped like a cupcake wrapper and I was convinced it was a wrapper until I pushed my fork down through to it and realized… it was a hunk of the most superb dark chocolate! John had their massive carrot cake that came with it’s own caramel sauce to swim in. Really… it was like a lake of caramel on his plate.
Totally spent after our decandence we ventured back outside into the heat and spent the remainder of the evening strolling around the charming downtown.
On Saturday we were destined for home. We stopped first for breakfast at “The Original Pancake House” (http://www.originalpancakehouse.com/). We were not disappointed, but we did not indulge in their Apple Pancake or their “Dutch Baby”, because each looked like it might induce a sugar coma and we had to still drive home. After stopping at the Auburn – Cord – Duesenberg museum in Auburn, IN and dipping our toes in Lake Erie in Vermilion, OH we finally collapsed at home feeling blessed not only by the trip, the food and the spectacular experience of meeting Jimmie Johnson, but also by the cool air conditioning, comfortable couch and soft pillows of home.