A Drive-Thru Experience to Remember
Even after a Type II Diabetes diagnosis following our big trip to Maine in 2022, I still search out dessert opportunities when we travel—I have just become a little more selective or discerning. At least I think I have; Jenni may not agree. I also test my blood sugar on the road and try to maintain acceptable numbers.
On our recent trip to the Great Lakes, we entered into Culver Country. Culver’s is a Wisconsin-based frozen-custard-and-more fast-food franchise founded in 1984. They do have stores in twenty-six states but this was our first time ever to visit one. (We also visited our first White Castle’s franchise on this trip but Jenni said we should never mention that again.)
It was only our third night on the road in our van Wanda and we were spending the night in St. Joseph, Michigan. We had spent the afternoon and sunset at a city park that overlooked Lake Michigan but thought it might have too much traffic for sleeping so we drove into the old part of town to check out some other possibilities. It turned out they involved parking under a bridge and it just seemed a little to hinky for me, especially when one of the cars already parked there looked like they were on the way to the recycling center and had packed a year’s worth of plastic in the back seat. I was glad Jenni saw it the same way, so we agreed to return to the city overlook park for the night.
While driving around, I expressed a desire for ice cream. Jenni did a quick online search and said there were five options, four of which closing in three minutes. That left a Culver’s a few miles away in Stevensville. We made the drive and pulled into the parking lot. What ensued was a drive-thru experience neither of us had ever anticipated.
The arrows on the asphalt, as well as orange traffic cones, directed us to the back of the parking lot where there were two little booths about the size you would expect when checking out of an airport car rental lot. A quick check of the clearance height said we had six inches to spare so I pulled up to the open booth. A friendly young man named Michael greeted us with a warm smile. He said he was concerned about our height but I told him if they measured correctly, we would be okay. Besides, we were practically in our pajamas at that point and would NOT be going inside. When he asked for our order we said we needed a minute because we had never been to a Culver’s before. That was like flipping on a switch!
Michael got really excited by that news. He told us to ignore the confusing menu that was posted at the drive-thru and started to recite his favorite entrees. We cut him off in the middle of Reuben Sandwich and said we were only there for the custard. If it was possible for Michael to be even more genuinely excited, he seemed to turn it up a couple notches! He disclosed that he had spent four years in culinary school and his specialty was desserts. I had no reason to doubt his word. We asked what was good and stopped him at the first two: Dark Chocolate custard with Peanut Butter and Butterfinger Crunch for Jenni and a Salted Caramel Turtle swirled with creamy Vanilla custard loaded with toasted pecans for me. When he correctly pronounced “puh-kans” I knew I had my selection and I complimented him on his linguistic skills. He said “as if there were any other way to pronounce ‘pecans’. (Was he working for tips now?!).
As we chit-chatted about where we were traveling, he enlightened us about the upcoming Labor Day bridge walk on the Mackinac Bridge. This was unexpected news to us so we appreciated the heads-up. He encouraged us to join him and his grandpa on the walk! I hated to drive away from Michael—he was such a pleasure to interact with!
After we drove to the pick-up window we were asked to park along the curb and I suspect someone inside forgot our order because they were on the ‘soft’ side when they finally reached us, but it didn’t stop us from killing each one as we drove back to the overlook parking lot for the night.
Toward the end of our trip, we had another opportunity to eat at a Culver’s in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Truthfully, we really wanted to spend the night in Menomonie just because it was so fun to say (and we said it a lot), but we couldn’t find a suitable spot, so we opted to grab dinner and drive farther that night. The joint was packed with college students, football players, and young families; the drive-thru wrapped around the parking lot. The young lady, and frankly all the workers, were what we refer to in the south as 'Chick-fil-A' friendly. Our burger and salad were delicious and we had our first Wisconsin cheese curds. The curds tasted a lot like mozzarella sticks but, if nothing else, they whet our appetite to taste more while we crossed the Dairy State. (Speaking of which, we saw LOTS of old barns but not a single Holstein cow across the entire state).
After we ate our dinner, we bought a pint of the Dark Chocolate with Butterfinger Crunch custard to go.
With a freezer in Wanda, we managed to stretch that pint over the next two days.
We’re disciplined like that.