Well . . . a lot of people in this neck of the woods have been doing their level best to do just that, as rain, rain, and more rain hurls angrily from the skies, day, after day, after day. Outdoor July 4th celebrations were pretty much a wash-out in my little town. When Friday dawned just as grey and gloomy and rainy as Thursday, I decided to take matters into my own hands. The day would be ruined only if I let it be ruined.
"When life gives you unrelenting rain and gloomy grey skies, take a road trip, have an impromptu picnic lunch, visit with friends, add to your daylily collection, and purchase "possibly the world's greatest cheesecake"." A quick call to Better Half at the office yielded me a partner in my adventure.
And we were off. You know, I always try to make these stories short, but they always end up long, because there is so much story behind the stories, all of which ends up being pertinent to the story I am trying to tell. So I will start somewhere near the beginning of this one.
I despise highways - four lane, paved, straightasanarrow byways on which we travel to get ourselves from Point A to Point B in as little time as possible. They are convenient. They are speedy. But, they are beyond boring. This stunning countryside is filled with tiny, less traveled roads, all of which will eventually get us to our destinations. These squirrrelly roads are filled with the stuff of life - fog-shrouded hills with animals grazing in the pastures below, homes, barns, gardens, tiny businesses, folks mowing their pastures, verdant farmlands, roaring streams, yard sales, children playing in yards. Of course, not every image is Norman Rockwellian, but every image is real.
So, I am always on the lookout for Americana routes, as they have come to be called in my family. I discovered, several years ago, that if I drove in a north/northwesterly direction from my little town, I would eventually get to the mall. This route takes me right beside a gorgeous little gem of a lake, takes me through Bainbridge, an equally gorgeous small town, and on to McMurry Gardens, where I have become more than a customer, over the years. This was the plan for the "shake off the rainy day blues" tour on Friday. And . . . as usual, the Americana route proved to be a resounding success.
First stop, McMurry Gardens. I've been stopping at McMurry Gardens for years on the Americana Route. There are lots of times I don't even make it to the mall. I just go to visit and enjoy the incredible gardens. Wilma and I oohed and aahed over the daylilies she has spent years hybridizing. We toured the beds of fledgling daylilies that are not yet for sale. We caught up on family news. Then, Dennis and I slogged through the mud, plastic bags in hand, to heft chunks of daylilies from the sodden ground. In spite of the terrible weather, the daylilies were blooming their little heads off. It was a sight to behold. Dennis reluctantly posed with a wagon of the daylilies that will be making their new home on the North Forty. The daylilies are a whole story unto themselves.
On the return trip, we had to feed both our car and ourselves, so a stop in Bainbridge was necessary. As Better Half fueled the car, my eye was drawn to a simple little sign I have seen at least 20 times before. It read something to the effect "Mystical Retreat Cheesecake, possibly the world's greatest cheesecake." I have seen the sign many times before. Better Half claims we have tried to stop before. I don't think so. I was initially intrigued by the name Mystical Retreat, thinking bygone 70s thoughts, then by the prospect of fabulous cheesecake. I was out of the car in a shot, across the street, and entering the door to a very, very old house, where, hopefully, I would stumble upon "possibly the world's greatest cheesecake."
I entered what was the hall in the house. The light was dim. Rooms to my right and left apparently held various things, but my gaze was fixed on the case in front of me, which held a dazzling array of cheesecakes. A quite friendly person appeared on the spot, offering me a sample of cheesecake, in an individualized lidded container. I chose pecan praline from among the samples. As I nibbled, we chatted about her product. The cheesecakes are made of real ingredients and contain no preservatives. I tried, without success, to mask the smile that made its way across my face as I ate the cheesecake sample. I asked her if the cheesecake could be without refrigeration for about an hour. She thought that was safe. The cheesecake was sublime. It tasted like cream cheese, butter, sugar, and pecans. I had begun to think, yep, "possibly the world's greatest cheesecake".
I chose turtle cheesecake for Better Half and Pecan Praline for me. As I waited for the cheesecake to be bagged, I began to take note of my surroundings. Before me was one of the most ornately decorated wooden staircases I have ever seen. A leaded glass window, in shades of yellow and red illuminated the staircase. It turns out the house has stood in its location since 1805. It was redecorated in 1890, if you can wrap your head around that, which explains the Victorian style staircase.
With the cheesecake slices packed in an unassuming brown paper bag, I tucked my little treasures underneath my arm, and stowed them in the car, close to an air conditioning vent. Better Half and I stopped at the local Subway for sandwiches and drinks, then drove to Pike Lake for lunch. I prevailed upon him to take a photo of the muddy, fairly deserted lake. A couple of boats, the kind where you pedal like a bicycle, were on the lake, but not much else. It was, nonetheless, nice to enjoy an impromptu picnic.
As we pulled away from the lake to continue our journey home, Better Half offhandedly asked about the cheesecake. I told him he had his choice of two flavors, knowing precisely which choice he would make. I held them up for his approval. He chose turtle. No surprise there. I tucked the cheesecake slices back into the bag. We would enjoy our dessert later, once we were home. Little did he realize what was waiting for him.
Not very long after we were home, Better Half made his way to the refrigerator for the cheesecake, which gave me a perfect excuse to have mine, too. In fact, I began to eat mine before taking the photo, as you can see.
If you should ever find yourself in Bainbridge, Ohio, you must, absolutely must, have at least one slice of Mystical Retreat Cheesecake. Two would be even better. You are in for a treat!!!