Chasing Cherries: 1,000 Miles, a Mazda Miata, and Fresh Pie

The list of things that bring me joy in this world is a long one. I enjoy tire smoke , nice scotch, sunny days, road trips and so much more. Way up near the top of this list is fresh cherry pie. It just so happens that the woman I married is one of the greatest pie chefs the world has ever seen. The big issue is the best place to get fresh cherries is in Door County, Wisconsin; about 1,000 miles from home. As fate would have it, Mazda gave me a buzz to ask if I would be interested in taking a road trip in a 2014 Miata .

I couldn’t think of anything else that sounded better than 1,000 miles of topless fun on the way to a fresh and tasty pie.

The trip wouldn’t be all fun and games. Thanks to conflicting work schedules I only had a four-day window to make the trip happen, and most of the trip to Wisconsin would be in an overnight blast. It was late Wednesday evening as I packed the trunk full of clothing, camera equipment and an empty cooler for my cherries. The wife slid into the passenger seat, I lowered the top, and we set off into the night. 1,000 miles is a long distance, but the Miata is a willing dance partner and my desire for pie gives me strength.

Hit the jump to read about my epic search for pie with a Japanese roadster

With the scheduling issues, I had to make the first part of the journey overnight. As I finished work on Wednesday evening, I packed up all our needed belongings into the tiny Miata trunk and prepared to head out. The wife hopped into the passenger seat with a smile and pillow; I fired the engine, dropped the top and we headed off with the sunset.

On the journey, a few things became immediately obvious. First, there is no real storage for road-trip munchies. The glove box is small, and I used the main cabin cubby between the seats to hold daytime driving necessities like baseball caps and sunglasses. It also became apparent that even though I was getting 30 mpg, the Miata’s tiny gas tank meant frequent stops for fuel. Since I didn’t have room for a case of energy drinks and multiple bags of trail mix, it worked out that we had to stop more often.

Chasing Cherries: 1,000 Miles, a Mazda Miata, and Fresh Pie
Chasing Cherries: 1,000 Miles, a Mazda Miata, and Fresh Pie
Chasing Cherries: 1,000 Miles, a Mazda Miata, and Fresh Pie

As night fell, my lovely wife dozed off in the passenger seat. The highway emptied and through much of rural Kentucky it was just me and my thoughts dancing together under the beautiful cloudless sky. The sky was so clear and the near-full moon so bright I could have made a few hours of the journey without my headlights on. It was an experience that brought to mind why I fell in love with cars to begin with. It has nothing to do with horsepower or performance. Leather seats and satellite navigation make a drive nicer, but the core of my love for driving is the freedom and solitude that it affords me. Here I was experiencing a place and time where nobody else was, and I was experiencing it in a unique way.

With the top down you can see just how still the stars stay as the world rushes by at 70 mph around me. It was almost as if they were daring me to catch them as we both raced to escape the coming sunlight. No matter how fast I would drive, the stars would be there beside me; I could never outrun them.

Chasing Cherries: 1,000 Miles, a Mazda Miata, and Fresh Pie

Just south of Chicago my nighttime friends began to retreat from view as the sun began its slow climb into the heavens. It had been several hours since our journey began, and thanks to the fact that most of Indiana appears to be under construction I was behind schedule and becoming tired.

Thankfully we have a good friend in Milwaukee. She’s the friend that always knows exactly what you need even if you aren’t sure what that need is yourself. She invited us in for a quick rest and a shower, and then immediately afterwards suggested we head into town for a quick bite of real food.

Chasing Cherries: 1,000 Miles, a Mazda Miata, and Fresh Pie

Photo courtesy of Maureen E.Post Photography

We stopped at a local place called Blue’s Egg for some of the best breakfast I have ever had in my life. One of their signature items is hash browns, the good kind you get from Waffle House after a long night out, but with a dash of culinary flair and class with extras like fresh basil, chicken chorizo or aged provolone. Their coffee is also brewed from beans that are roasted in town at a local shop. This stop would become one of the highlights of the entire trip.

Once we had our feed and felt refreshed we hopped back into our little convertible and headed north into the thumb of Wisconsin to find those fresh cherries we had driven so far to obtain.

Chasing Cherries: 1,000 Miles, a Mazda Miata, and Fresh Pie

Breaking off the interstate as we headed into Door County, the Miata became alive. No longer hindered by the arrow straight roads of the Midwest, the little roadster attacked every turn and hill I could find. With that gaping smile of a front grille, it looked as if the Mazda was having as much fun as my wife and I. Faster and faster we approached our I destination, regaining as much time as we could to make up for the loss in the construction of Indiana. As we passed through Sturgeon Bay and headed to the coast it became obvious that the normal hustle and bustle of the cherry season was largely absent.

A few minutes later as we approached our usual cherry hunting ground we knew why there was a distinct lack of commotion. Thanks to the long and cold winter, the cherries were not yet ripe. Regardless of how far a tourist in a tiny convertible had driven I was not granted access to the orchards. The trip had seemingly been for naught. My only consolation prize was a quick trip to the beaches at Cave Point.

Chasing Cherries: 1,000 Miles, a Mazda Miata, and Fresh Pie

Heartbroken, I pointed the car north again to our final destination of Rhinelander where my father-in-law resides. Recently retired, he calls a small lake house in northern Wisconsin home, and he was more than happy to entertain his daughter while I set up shop and began to work.

While I was upset about the cherries, it didn’t take me long to realize that ultimately the trip has still been a success. No, I didn’t have fresh pie cooling on the counter in front of me, but I had seen old friends, eaten some amazing food, and now I was working in one of the most scenic offices ever. To top it all off, I was slightly sunburned and full of the desire to go for a drive, thanks to the little red roadster that ferried me the 1,000+ miles to Wisconsin.

Chasing Cherries: 1,000 Miles, a Mazda Miata, and Fresh Pie

Over the next few days we had fresh fish dinners courtesy of my wife and her fishing rod, a campfire to keep us warm on the cool summer nights, and I even made it to see a giant Paul Bunyan and visit his Cook Shanty to get some of the best sugared cake donuts in the world. As the final cherry on top of this trip, when I packed everything back into the car, it was to make the same epic drive back home. Another 1,000+ miles in the Miata seems like a pretty good consolation prize.

As much as I hate to admit it, there do seem to be quite a few things that are better than fresh pie.


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