No matter how busy I might be leading into vacation, I always try to ramp up my workout schedule, especially when we’re heading home. I strive to take off a few pounds before our trip because I know I will add about five. We love seeing family, certainly we do, but there’s no denying we delight in the food. Here’s a rundown of all the grub we took in, which I fear might very well peg me as a glutton. But, as Jim Gaffigan comments, vacation is really all about eating anyway.

Food for Travel

We left home for Indianapolis around 5 in the evening and I planned on stopping off for fast food before we reached the airport. But nearly everyone had fallen asleep in the car, so we kept on trucking. We should have eaten before getting to our gate, because food in an airport is always overpriced. At Wolfgang Puck Express we got a small pizza, a salad, some chicken tenders, and a few bottles of water, and we spent about $50. It was good. I’m not saying it wasn’t good. But Hardees would have been easier on the wallet as we were just getting our trip started.

After the four-hour flight and another hour waiting to secure our rental car, we didn’t check into our hotel in Phoenix until well after midnight. But we were all hungry, so I found just about the only thing open nearby: McDonald’s. Nothing special about McDonald’s in Arizona. No western influence. I’m not aware their breakfast burritos are any better. More on those later.

Fish and Pizza

The hotel breakfast wasn’t bad at all, but we couldn’t leave the Phoenix area until we had lunch at Rubio’s, a long time favorite of ours. But the fish tacos just didn’t taste the same as they used to. It was a bit of a disappointment. (Later my sister-in-law would confirm that Rubio’s in San Diego, where the chain started, isn’t as good as it used to be.)

That evening at my sister’s house, the first night there, her husband Steve brought home Ronnie’s pizza, probably my favorite pizza joint anywhere. New York style pizza with floppy crust you have to fold over to eat. But watch the grease, it’ll drip into your lap if you’re not careful.

Bring on the Mexican Food!

Becky (my sister) and Steve attended their church’s early service, so we slept in. For lunch we went to one of my new favorites, a restaurant that opened a few years ago on 4th Avenue called Las Herraduras. I had a huge bean and cheese burrito and some rolled potato tacos.

On Monday morning I bought breakfast burritos at Jector’s, a newer place people recommended. We would usually go to the hometown favorite, Stan’s, but really, when you’ve been in the Midwest for fifteen years, just about anywhere in Yuma has the best breakfast burritos. If you’ve never had one, think breakfast (ham, scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, etc.) and then stuff it all into a tasty tortilla, sort of how Chipotle does, but much better! The chorizo (spicy Mexican sausage) and egg burrito might be my favorite. The machaca (shredded beef) is good, too.

We were in a rush to meet family on Tuesday and we didn’t want to spend as much as we would at Pablo’s, so we stopped off at Del Taco, which we never really went to when we lived in Yuma. Except one time: on the day we were married, Cindy and I stopped at Del Taco on our way out of Yuma. Del Taco is nostalgic for us because of that honeymoon dinner and one opened in Toledo, not far from our home, a few years before we moved. Nostalgic food doesn’t always mean good food, I should add.

We did have Pablo’s later when my mother brought rolled tacos to my sister’s house — three varieties: shredded beef, shredded chicken and potato. Potato? you might wonder. Imagine buttery mashed potatoes smeared onto a corn tortilla, rolled up and deep fried. Mmm!

Wednesday was my mother’s birthday and we celebrated with some family at Texas Roadhouse. The steak and potatoes were pretty good, but even better was the time spent with my mother and her husband, Becky and Steve, and my grandparents.

Christmas Fare

We instituted a tradition seven years ago in Toledo. We attended a Christmas Eve service, one I didn’t have to lead, and afterward looked for an open restaurant. We found only a Chinese buffet, one that we frequented close to our house. It was where a few months earlier we shared the exciting news with the girls that Cindy was pregnant. Chinese food on Christmas Eve became a tradition for us, one that caught on with my sister.

Becky and Steve and my brothers and their families and my mother and step-father all joined us at Lin’s Grand Buffet. It wasn’t terribly good food, but it was nice all being together on Christmas Eve. What I found odd was that we were expected to pay for our meals before we sat down. I’d never encountered that before at a buffet. I suppose I’ve just become a small town Midwesterner, where restauranteurs trust their patrons to pay after they’ve dined.

Later that evening we went to Cindy’s grandmother’s house for their Christmas Eve celebration, which we hadn’t really joined before. There was posole, a Mexican soup that features hominy. I didn’t have any because by then the cold or allergies or whatever I had began to set in. I did have some wonderful cherry pie.

My side of the family, as well as Cindy’s sister Amy and her daughter, met at Becky’s house for Christmas brunch. Our potluck meal preceded opening gifts and the announcement we’d be going to Disneyland the following day. (I wrote about this in Part 2.)

California Cuisine

On our first trip to Disney in 2008 with some of my family, we went to Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co., so we revisited the theme restaurant based on Forrest Gump’s friend in the Tom Hank’s movie. I’m not too impressed with the restaurant, but it’s one of those places you sort of have to go to. Traditions aren’t always good or beneficial except in the tradition itself. Whatever the case, my Po’ Boy could have used more shrimp.

Because everything is so pricey, we put off eating at Disneyland until dinner at the Hungry Bear in Adventureland. Well-done burgers and greasy fries hit the spot for dinner after munching on crackers and nuts most the day. The park closed at midnight, and we didn’t make it back to our hotel until almost 1 AM. Micah was fast asleep — I’d had to carry him from the shuttle bus to our second-floor room — so I called in takeout at the Denny’s nearby. Cindy and I shared an omelet and pancakes, which we ate with plastic forks on Styrofoam.

Since Denny’s was basically breakfast, we chose lunch before our departure from Anaheim on Monday. Our girls were resentful of the restaurant we chose because they left the hotel earlier with Becky and Steve. Cindy and Amy and the little ones and I went to Fasai Thai, a little place highly rated on Yelp. The service was even better than the food, which was fantastic. I had a variant of my usual at Thai restaurants — pad kee mao — and Cindy had curry. I always want someone at the table to get curry because I love curry, though I don’t usually want an entire entree.

We further irked our daughters by stopping in Julian on our way home — without them. The little mountain town of Julian is famous for its apple pie, so we took the exit off I-8 and stopped for a few slices. (In our defense, we did purchase a whole pie from Apple Alley Bakery that we took back to Becky’s house.) I’d been wearing shorts when we left Anaheim, but the temperature in Julian was about thirty degrees colder, just enough for it to start snowing. Felt like I was back home in Ohio.

Last Bites

On Tuesday we didn’t visit Chile Pepper as usual but had Mr. G’s instead, which is essentially the same thing. Bean and cheese burritos, machaca burritos and probably the best shredded beef rolled tacos anywhere. We don’t usually go to Mr. G’s, and the girls remembered the last time we went was with Grumpy, their grandfather who died in 2009.

Las Palapas at the Big Curve redeemed fish tacos for us on Wednesday when we went with Becky and Steve and my mother and step-father. I remember going there only one other time, and it must have been during a visit because I recall before we moved to Ohio a failed bagel shop in that same suite. Yumans don’t care for New York style bagels as much as they like fish and shrimp tacos and quesadillas.

Thursday morning I bought breakfast burritos, again at Jector’s, for us to eat at the airport gate in Phoenix. It may not have been such a good idea to eat them almost eight hours after I bought them, but none of us got sick.

Before leaving Yuma, we had burgers at one of my favorite fast food places — In-N-Out, where they serve everything fresh and their menu is simple: burgers, fries, and milk shakes. Becky and Steve were there with us, as was my mother and nephew Ethan (my brother Steve’s son). We said our goodbyes in the parking lot.

We passed on the shakes, since we planned to stop for date shakes in Dateland, about an hour from Yuma, which we did. It was my way of assuring we’d leave Yuma with plenty of time to make our flight in Phoenix. “If we don’t get going,” I’d warned, “we won’t be able to stop in Dateland.”

Our last meal of the trip was our first of the new year. We landed in Indianapolis at nearly 1 AM. We hadn’t eaten all of the breakfast burritos and I saved some, planning to eat them after we landed. But I figured twelve hours might be too much, so we tossed them and stopped at a Jack in the Box drive-thru. We felt like we were still in Yuma, as Jack in the Box is a California chain, much like In-N-Out but not nearly as tasty.

So there you have it … I hope you appreciate my recap of all things yummy in Yuma and elsewhere. That’ll do it for these posts about our vacation (I think). We won’t make it back in 2016 but look forward to possibly summer 2017 after — and this is crazy!! — Lindsay graduates.

(By the way, I somehow managed to gain only three pounds. A victory, I think.)

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