TRAVEL THERE: OFF THE BEATEN PATH – A TRAVEL BOOK SERIES
Off the Beaten Path (OTBP) books have led me to destinations I wouldn’t have found any other way. These books have become so much a part of my travel experience that I can’t even remember when I picked up the first one. Though many of my travel books have long since been thrown away, I’ve kept my OTBP’s. With them I’ve taken dirt roads not found on any map and waded beaches even the locals didn’t know – but like any travel resource, OTBP has led me on a few misadventures, too.
AN OFF THE BEATEN PATH MISADVENTURE
Take the steamed fish in Florida for instance. According to OTBP, the restaurant in question was a series of frond-covered shacks along a pier and the specialty was steamed seafood pulled from the sea on the day of your visit. Who wouldn’t want to go there? The OTBP authors apologized for recommending this restaurant, because even though it was off the beaten path, it was well-known and reservations were needed. So, before I left home I made a long distance call and reserved a specific table recommended in the guide.
The clerk at our motel provided the first clue that we might be making a mistake. When asked how to get to the restaurant, the clerk responded as if asked for directions to the Congo – he’d heard of it, but had never actually known anyone who’d been there. My traveling companions were momentarily daunted, but we reminded one another that the name of the book was Off the Beaten Path. Besides we’d already followed a few of its suggestions on this road trip with great success.
After a scary ride through some questionable parts of town, we found the restaurant. Yes, there were palm fronds, but not only were they mildewed; bare patches of darkened wood showed between their bedraggled remains. Everyone was starving or I doubt they would have walked down the dark rickety pier. OTBP promised,even with reservations, we’d spend some time at the quaint bar at the far end – only the bar hadn’t been open for quite a while – as in years. Though it was actually too chilly to sit at the table I’d reserved on the pier, getting another table was not a problem; we were the only patrons in the restaurant.
Safely seated in a musty hut, we had time to grow beards before a waiter showed up for our order, even though we hadn’t needed all that time to look at the menu. We were sold on the steamed fish before we left Texas. But you guessed it, the steamer was broken. Perhaps it was merely my imagination, but the way the waiter imparted the information, I sensed the steamer had been broken for a long, long time. We made other choices, and then we waited. Probably almost as long as the steamer had been out of use. We drank every drop of liquid on the table, none of it alcoholic, and carefully inspected every dish, utensil and glass. I entertained my traveling companions with napkin tricks. Then we got a serious case of the giggles.
We barely stifled our laughter as the meal was served. Our appetites had long since dissipated. The waiter offered to-go boxes and that was hilarious, too. Just as our check was delivered, a couple was escorted to a table across the restaurant – the only other people to appear during this never-ending ordeal. Someone suggested the couple had come for the steamed fish and fresh gales of laughter echoed through the restaurant, earning irritated stares from the newcomers. Finally, sobered by our embarrassment, we left. When we finally got back to the motel, we crawled out of the car and fumbled with our keys. “Are we planning to eat at any other restaurants recommended by this book?” someone asked. The hilarity returned.
Does your family have any of these cherished travel mishaps?