Gummy Sour Worms
Over the past sixteen months, I have made what, in retrospect, feels like innumerable trips between North Carolina and New Mexico.
I know that the trips were not, in fact, innumerable, and if I had taken just half a minute every time I had set out in one direction or the other to write an entry in a notebook that read something like this:
July 3, 2018: Depart Albuquerque for Pittsburgh by plane
July 15, 2018: Depart Morrisville, NC for Albuquerque by plane
I would have a reference for where I had been, what I had done, how I had gotten there, and how and when I left.
But I didn’t do that, so in my mind, I have made so many trips, they can’t be counted. Instead they have blurred into one large trip that may never end, but for now, at least, has paused.
While I made most of the trips alone (either flying or driving), I did make three road trips with my youngest son, and by the time we set out on our last jaunt from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Durham, North Carolina, we had our act together: I would do the driving, and he would curate the music.
We left around lunchtime on a Saturday, and we knew the following:
- Where we were going
- What we were going to get for dinner
- When we needed to arrive
Durham, North Carolina
This was our final destination. Located in the piedmont of North Carolina, it is one of the hub cities of the Research Triangle Park (or RTP as it is commonly known), and it is the city in “The Triangle” that has always felt the most like home to me.
In addition to being the “City of Medicine,” Durham is home to the Durham Bulls of Bull Durham fame, Duke University, and one of my favorite coffee shops, Bean Traders.
Driving through flyover country
The distance from point A (my home in Albuquerque, NM) to point B (Durham, NC) is just over 1700 miles, and much of the interstate I drive runs through what is known as “flyover country,” and, to be honest, had flying been an option, it would have been tempting.
The driving can, at times, seem arduous, but there is the benefit that large swathes of the roads between New Mexico and North Carolina don’t have a lot of traffic, so the drive often goes by quickly, and on those occasions you travel from east to west, it can feel as if you are driving right into the sky.
Another truth about a long road trip is that you have no choice but to stop along the way, and even when traveling along the same route you have traveled a dozen times before, where you stop can create a completely different experience.
Before our most recent drive, I had read about an Indian restaurant located in Sayre, Oklahoma. According to the article I had read, the restaurant is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With the number of times I had passed by Sayre, I wondered how I had missed it.
This time, however, I wasn’t going to “pass by;” armed with an address and a navigator/music curator at my side, I was going to stop.
Just after seven-thirty that evening, my son and I reached Exit 26 off Interstate 40 in Oklahoma. We had been on the road for six and a half hours, and we were more than ready for dinner at the Truck Stop 40 Punjabi Restaurant. Samosas for my son, an eggplant dish for me, and two cups of coffee with milk, sugar, and spices that turned it into a dreamy, liquid dessert. But almost as soon as we arrived it was time to go.
On the road again
With the literal sun and the figurative wind at our back, my son and I continued our eastward trek, and somewhere after leaving the Punjabi restaurant and before arriving in Durham, we stopped at a Love’s Travel Center.
Love’s is one of my favorite stops. The coffee is fresh, the bathrooms are clean, and the cashiers always make sure that I get the best deal they have to offer, and this time, the deal that was on offer involved the Love’s house-brand gummy Sour Worms.
My youngest son is something of a sour candy aficionado, and he is always on the lookout for a good gummy candy experience, so I grabbed two bags of the rainbow colored confections, paid for my purchases, and headed back to the car.
I left it to my son to figure out when we should eat the candy, and when he finally opened a bag of the sour worms, what I got wasn’t just a gummy worm, it was a taste of 1969.
The four candy seasons
When I was a child, candy was popular, but it was not as ubiquitous as it is now.
There was a time, a place, and a specific aisle at the grocery or drug store where you could survey the holdings and choose something, but you wouldn’t find it at a hardware or fabric store, or any of the myriad places you can now get sweets.
And there were, generally speaking, four candy seasons: Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, and each of these seasons had a much more limited run than they do now, but my favorite was Halloween.
Halloween was the only holiday on the list that regularly featured Pixy Stix — a powdery sweet and sour confection that came in a colorful paper straw.
Filled with sugar and seemingly permanent food dyes, I loved Pixy Stix, and when I had my first taste of the Love’s brand sour worms, they embodied everything I loved about my favorite childhood confection, but without the risk of the sugar and dye laden powder spilling everywhere and creating a difficult to clean up mess.
As my son and I headed east late into the night, we shared the joy of a sweet treat.
At a crossroad
Somewhere in the farthest reaches of eastern Tennessee at around nine in the evening on the second day of our trip, my son and I had a choice to make:
Would we stop for the night, and then get up early so that he could make his 12:00 pm Monday meeting?
Or would we press on for another four hours and finish our travels?
Armed with two large cups of coffee and the bag of sour worms, we pressed on.
The essence of time
On this particular trip, my son and I accomplished everything we needed to.
We made it to Durham, North Carolina, in time for him to get to his Monday meeting, and along the way we got dinner at the Indian restaurant in Sayre, Oklahoma, just as we had planned.
And I also learned that whenever I want to travel back in time to when I was nine and experience the world that way it seemed to me then, all I need to do is stop in at the nearest Love’s, and get a bag of Sour Worms with a touch of nostalgia.