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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Third Time is a Charm

children mentioned and photographed...

Right on the heels of the forgotten pants and salt is this week's trip to the potato chip factory.

A few weeks ago, I had run into our local organic grocery store so I could spend $4 on hot dog buns instead of the usual 98 cents (when the economy takes a down turn, I like to plump it back up by wildly spending on barbecue accouterments), and ended up bringing home a bag of potato chips. As we crunched through dinner, I read the back of the bag.

"Hey, this factory is in Virginia and Virginia is the next state over. Which means it must be close. We should go see how potato chips are made."

And by indelibly writing those words into the minds of persistent four-year-olds, a trip was born.

I have been accused in the past of not having a great sense of space and distance. For instance, I may see two rocks in the Potomac River and think they're not very far apart and try to jump them and become stuck on a rock in the middle of the water and need to have a park ranger come and help me out. Hypothetically. Or I may plan a trip to Canada that has us driving for 29 hours during each 24 hour day. With sightseeing in Halifax crunched in there as well.

Did I say space and distance? I meant space, distance and time.

After I had already told the ChickieNob and Wolvog that we were going to the chip factory and it would be twenty kinds of fabulous and we would eat nothing but potato chips for five solid hours, I asked Josh if we could do this for Succot. He mapped it out and informed me that the chip factory was not a quick half hour jaunt as I had promised but instead was three hours away in the Shenandoah River Valley near Skyline Drive.

Luckily, our friends own a cabin out there and invited us to their sukkah. At eight in the morning, we piled into the car. By eight thirty, I was spinning tales of what we'd see at the factory--we'd be shuffling along with all the other people who had decided to weave a chip factory tour into their Succot celebration, led by a strapping twenty-something who casually leaned against the wall while we watched the chips fall gently onto the conveyor belt like autumnal leaves.

By nine I was asking everyone in the car if they could smell the oil as we approached.

By nine thirty, I was begging Josh to find a McDonalds so I could feed my coffee addiction.

By ten I was asking Josh if we could stop and pee.

By ten thirty, I was back to asking everyone about the oil.

By eleven, thanks to Google Maps, we were lost.

By eleven fifteen, we were driving the same 1.1 mile of farmland for the third time.

By eleven sixteen, Josh was trying to explain that there was no chance that the factory was located in one of the dilapidated farmhouses we were driving past. His knuckles were white as he gripped the steering wheel tightly, trying not to snap at the ChickieNob as she processed her recently developed existential crisis and asked for the fortieth time that car trip, "why do we all need to get old?"

By eleven twenty, I asked him to pull over so I could take a photograph of the farm road to show everyone where Google Maps told us to go.

By eleven twenty-one, I was back in the car screaming because when I opened the door, I was greeted by a swarm--a SWARM--of crickets. Literally, a sea of crickets. It's as if instead of grass, a lawn has been entirely recreated out of little greenish-brown crickets. CRICKETS!

By eleven twenty-two, I am using that photographic memory that saw the chip factory's phone number once in my life to perfectly recall it and dial.

By eleven twenty-three, I am patiently explaining to the woman on the other end of the line where I am and she is telling me that I am in the middle of fuck-nowhere and several miles from the factory. She tells us to come back to the main road, go through a covered bridge, and find them in an industrial warehouse lot. This makes, of course, a lot more sense than making hundreds of thousands of bags of potato chips in a farm kitchen.

By eleven twenty-four, we're on our way and I am talking about the crickets. Non-stop. Just non-stop cricket talk about the swarm.

By eleven thirty, we are at the potato chip factory. The parking lot is empty save for a few employee vehicles. Our fellow imaginary Jews, the ones we thought would be also incorporating a chip factory vacation into their day were apparently celebrating Succot at home. Without sour cream and chive snacks.

We went inside where they humoured us. We stood at the window and watched the chips come through the machine where they were salted by people who were trying very hard not to feel self-conscious as two four-year-olds pressed their faces against the window. We got to see the chips fall into bags and get loaded into boxes. We tried some samples and purchased several varieties to make up for our embarrassment for being the only ones in the building, obviously misunderstanding that the invitation to see a chip fry is not the same as a bustling factory tour.

But they were damn good chips.

When we got back into the car, I asked Josh how many kinds of cranky he would have been with me if we had driven 3 1/2 hours just for the chip factory (our original plan) and were now on our way back to D.C.

And at eleven fifty (the twenty minute stop over also contained a ten minute bathroom break where the ChickieNob--recently potty trained--made me say 97 times, "do I hear rain?" before she'd actually pee), we were on the road to the cabin, our friend's sukkah, with a bag full of chips and heart full of horror that so many crickets could exist in such a small patch of space.

Oh, and I also asked Josh if we could drive to Florida next week for Simchat Torah since, you know, it's only a few hours from D.C.


Cassandra said...

I love the idea of insisting on a factory tour of a factory that doesn't officially offer tours.

I also love the idea of turning Succot into a road trip holiday.

And finally I love the new header.

If it weren't for your photographic phone number memory, I'd suggest that you get GPS.

Jen said...

hahaha I am laughing so hard at this post. this is SO like something I did with my hubby last saturday. All he said was: That was a wasted trip. heh! I was SO glad he didn't go on..I love how women will do this. That's just what makes us..US! haha THanks for sharing. too funny.

Jen said...

oh and those kettle cooked jalepino chips, I was hooked on those during my last pregnancy. I could have eaten a whole bag in one day. Seriously! Funny what twin girls make you eat.

Anonymous said...

hmnnn, Kettle chips!

Do you guys have Honey Baked Ham over in the US?

SarahSews said...

I love this and the new header.

luna said...

LOVE the new look! really love it.

I love the little chickienob's existential crisis. so much better than "are we there yet"?

makes for a good story anyway, right?

Geohde said...

Totally crosswards to the point, as is my forte, but I just adore your new header...

I clicked across from my reader and got all gushy. So very very cool.....

But then again, you are one of the coolest cats on the block :)


Topcat said...

Melissa. There is something about you. I can't quite name it yet ... but I will, one day.

You're so incredibly amazing. You really LIVE your life.

Thank you for the belly laugh about the crickets.


N said...

*dies* That's so something I would do. In fact, we once went to the "factory tour" of a cheese place in North Carolina... let's just say it wasn't as interesting as your chip place.

I do recommend the Herrs plant, though, and that is only 1.5-2 hours away.

Kristin said...

How funny. It sounds like a trip we would have taken when I was little. My dad was a navigator in the air force and we always swore (and still do) that he had to be at least 20 feet off the ground in order to follow a map or directions. So, we continually got lost and found interesting places.

Bean said...

Oh -- that is a priceless story! Thanks for sharing. Glad you at least got out of there with some yummy chips! And like everyone else I LOVE your new header!

Kim said...


Love the new look!

Michelle said...

Funny! I get crickets in my laundry room and then my cat decides to play with them. Just one freaks me out so I can imagine what a sea of them would do!

Love the new look!!

Murgdan said...

Ahahaha...classic family day trip. Yummy CHIPS, nasty crickets.

Jamie said...

Did you intentionally turn off the full feed for Google reader? Now it just shows up as the title of the post in my reader.

Also, I love the new header. :)

Delenn said...

Very funny story! I know one thing you should get for Hannukah--a navigational computer! :-)

(Don't worry, I too had your lack of navigational skills--but now, I have a nav computer telling me where to go--I barely get lost now!)

BTW, there is a Potato Chip factory on Cape Cod we visited a couple times--if you happen to be driving by...

And I will never think of crickets without thinking of this story.

Cara said...

1) GREAT new look!
2) Totally funny story!
3) I suck at directions, maps, distance of any kind and my hubby knows it!

Great post!

calliope said...

I have a thing with food factories. I think it is early exposure to Lucy & Ethel and the chocolate factory- but whenever they have a "watch food get made!"moment on the food network I get all open jawed and trance-like.
I think it is pretty darn awesome to take the family to see where chips come from!

In Due Time said...

If you come to FL you can stay here. :-)

Jen said...

I vote that kettle chips are totally worth it.

Florida really is only a couple of hours from DC! Really! I promise. :)

Meghan said...

I love spontaneous road trips, even at their most diasterous they are always fun!

And I too love the header

Stephanie, Phil, Kayla, Logan & Alex said...

I am laughing hysterically! I also wanted to let you know I gave you an award on my blog!

Lori said...

You really need to give Josh an extra treat. Of the non-potato variety.

I'm so laughing at Luna's comment, too.

Who cares about space and distance? You're smart in other ways.

BethH6703 said...

Loving the new digs my dear! Just fabulous!

C said...


What a great story!! Reminds me of the time I made DH take me to see the World's Largest Ketchup Bottle (in Illinois just outside of St. Louis). Quite the misnomer, it's actually just a water tower PAINTED like a ketchup bottle. Oh, the crushing disappointment.

I love the new look, btw!

JamieD said...

Awesome post - I love it! There is a brand of kettle chips I always eat and on the back is a little map to where their factory is. I always look at that map and think, "Wow! If they go through the trouble to print a map to their factory on the back of the bag it must be really facinating!" Fortunantly (for Hubby) the factory is on the east coast and well, Oklahoma is hell and gone from the east coast.

Love the new look!

battynurse said...

Funny story. I'm sure the twins got a kick out of the chip factory even if it was just looking in a window.
Love the new header too.

KandiB said...

I believe that I am also cursed with the time/distance malady. Mine is usually accompanied by the back-to-back phrase, "let's look for it for just 5 more minutes," repeated (every 5 minutes) until I recognize "that look" in hubby's eyes.

Feliz Dianne Flutter said...

So glad I made 5 minutes to read that too funny! I do the same thing all of the time (about the time, space, distance).

Jess said...

Hahahaha! The crickets slay me! You'd never survive here!

I think it's hilarious that you guys got lost and then went on a factory tour of a factory that doesn't really do tours! LOVE IT!

I also like the new header! FANCY! :)

Sarah said...

Oh my...

docgrumbles said...

Thanks for the laugh!

I now want CHIPS!

Somewhat Ordinary said...

I think that is pretty cool and I bet your kids will always remember their trip to the chip factory.

Love the header!

Alex said...

"Our fellow imaginary Jews, the ones we thought would be also incorporating a chip factory vacation into their day were apparently celebrating Succot at home. Without sour cream and chive snacks."

How can it be a celebration without sour cream and chive snacks? I don't understand.

This cracked me up. I once planned to meet up in Yosemite with friends who live outside San Fran, CA, because we were going to San Diego, anyway. Now, San Diego was great and so was Yosemite, and so was the long, long drive between the two which, happily, (a) did involve a detour into wine country and (b) did not involve anyone's existential crisis. But, really, what was I thinking?

Jendeis said...

Love the new header!! Darling, get a GPS, it's THE thing to do. :)

Elizabeth said...

I LOVE route 11 chips! And (when I'm in VA) I live really close the factory, but it never occured to me to drive there and see how they're made! You're AWESOME. Also, I LOVE the new blog header.

Ok back to writing grant apps.

Fertilized said...

what a great exciting woman you are! I love this about you. Living and experiencing the life around you. Sharing this with your kids

Paz said...

Love the new look Mel! Did you REALLY remember the phone number from seeing it once? wow. sour cream, potato chips...hmmmmmm.

Paz said...

aarrrggg, gotta learn to type. I meant mmmmmmm, not hmmmmmm.

Rock and Roll Mama said...

As a fellow space/time/distance challenged person, I almost wet myself at the image of the (hypothetical) ranger coming to rescue you- that would absolutely happen in my life.

I'm stoked that you guys got to see the chips- Route 11 are extraordinary. What a fun Sukkot! And what a good co-pilot Josh sounds like.

Barb said...

Drive to Fla, Drive to Fla! Love the new look. :)

Care said...

I love this story! I'm a bit, um, directionally challenged myself. Glad the chips were worth it! Oh, and I love the new look!

Bea said...

I am just laughing. In a sort of a crazed way, since this could very easily happen in our household.