Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Herculaneum, Mo.

Friday, Good Friday to be exact, except in retrospect it really wasn’t all that good. It started out with a gully washer early, about five A.M. By the time I got out of bed around seven the rain had stopped but the sky was gray and heavy. I had the day off and had made no specific plans. I had a few things that I wanted to do over the three day weekend, but on this drippy, drafty, cool morning I wasn’t exactly motivated to jump in to any of them at full speed.

I did make a morning run to Walmart to pick up some essentials, that’s when the problems began. The car behaved badly. The engine would over-rev then slam into each gear. I shrugged it off at first thinking the driving rain had gotten into something. The problem didn’t clear though and the ‘check engine’ light popped on. As I looked at it I noticed the speedometer was sitting on zero even though I was easily doing thirty-five mph or more.

I picked up what I needed at Wally-World and the car behaved the same on the way home. I found my little scanner that reads the engine codes, I bought it a few years back. The mighty Alero is eleven years old and has over a hundred fifty thousand miles on it. I don’t know / completely trust the local mechanics so I always pre-scan before taking the car in, to keep them honest. This code told me that the speed sensor circuit was 'low'. A cross-check revealed that the speed sensor talks to both the speedometer and the transmission. It made sense, so I thumped all the way to Festus to get it looked at. An hour later I was told the bad news. Squirrels had eaten the wiring harness and spark plug wires.

Six hundred dollars worth. No more slowing down for the little beasts.

This effort took up most of the afternoon. By the time dinner time rolled around we decided to keep it simple.

The Place:

There are not many Wendy’s in the St. Louis area. The area’s largest franchise owner was, at last check, still in court fighting for bankruptcy. This one in Herculaneum is apparently owned by someone else. It sits in a shared parking lot alongside a large gas station.

Nothing fancy or unique about it, just a Wendy’s.

The Food:

I wanted Chili. I love Wendy’s chili and have for twenty or more years. Back in the early 90’s I’d occasionally volunteer some weekends to judge high school debate tournaments in Springfield. Local establishments were guilt-tripped into donating food for the all-day events. Wendy’s was always generous with a couple of large pots of chili. I kept going to these things even after I became jaded and frustrated with the declining quality of debates these kids were presenting. We'll build a giant dome over the country to guard against missile attacks and we'll pay for it by eliminating government waste! Yeah, that bad. I loved the chili though.

I didn’t want just chili though, so I ordered a small bowl along with something I’d never had from Wendy’s before, the fish sandwich. I’m a big fan of Burger King’s fish, and don’t care at all for McD’s. I also ordered fries (small) and tea.

Angel had the chicken nugget combo along with a small chili, she wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Adam ordered the spicy chicken sandwich combo. We ordered, Angel waited at the counter while I found a table and filled up some tiny paper cups with ketchup. When she finally brought the tray it was laden with a pile of saltines as well, two per packet.

I slammed into the chili first. Beef, two kinds of beans, peppers, onions with a light tomato stock, just as I’d remembered it. Angel enjoyed it as well, though she wasn’t quite as happy with her chicken nuggets. She found them dry and bland. She gave most of them to Adam who had quickly chewed through his sandwich like a table-saw through a kitten.

The fish was pretty good. It had more breading than BK’s and it wasn’t overcooked. The tartar sauce was light and not too spicy. The fries were made in a newer style than Wendy’s original method. They were okay but not quite as good as BK or McD’s (I genuinely despise McD’s but still have to acknowledge their superior fries.)

We chatted for a few minutes, Angel and Adam had finished well before I did. Angel excused herself and left, saying she was going to fuel up the gas-hungry truckster.


Not bad. The Chili makes up for a lot of other weaknesses. Other than that we were only mildly impressed, but not totally dissatisfied. The three combos plus sides cost twenty two dollars and change.

After we got home there was an incident with the dogs. Deedee and Pip have always been a little aggressive toward each other. That’s not been a big problem as our home and lifestyle revolve around letting dogs in, out and around in small groups according to compatibility. Well, this night the sliding door between the living room and the deck wasn’t completely closed. When Deedee, who was outside, saw Pip go by inside she lunged, Pip reciprocated and the door popped open and it was game-on. It took about five minutes, one bucket of water, several sprays of Fabreze up snouts and finally a mop handle to pry the dogs apart. There was blood, but no serious damage. Angel treated them and initiated strict no-princess polices for both the girls for a while. Angel’s suspicion is that these two are trying to proclaim mastery of the house. Angel will now spend some time showing them both who it is that actually runs the place. It’s very clear to Adam and me, and shortly will be to them as well. No violence, just no privileges, no unsupervised activity or free run of the place.

About this time is when the TV reported tornado warnings for St. Louis County.

We sat nearly speechless during the next two hours’ reports as the storms moved east along the I-70 corridor and straight into the airport. As for us, about thirty-five miles south, nothing. It didn’t rain (until much later) no high winds. There was lightening off to the northeast, but we could just barely hear the thunder. It was surreal watching footage of very serious damage so close to us, yet if we didn’t just happen to be watching a local channel at the time, we would probably not have even noticed.

So it wasn’t such a good Friday at all. But the chili was excellent. Gotta go, I think I see a squirrel heading towards the car.

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