The sun was descending in the sky as I continued south towards Mammoth Caves. I still had about 40 miles to go to, and really no drive or reason to make the extra effort that night. I passed through a small town and stopped at a beautiful highway side McDonald’s to warm up and explore the options locally for a place to stay.
As I sat down with my coffee, I had yet to get a response from the few Warmshowers hosts that had listed their info in this remote part of southern Kentucky. After searching the internet a bit for local campgrounds, all I could find was a trailer-camping spot that provided electricity and water hookups for RV’s, but cost $25 a night. I decided to take my chances finding a hidden spot along the road on the outskirts of town.
I rode away from McDonald’s and slowly scanned the thickly wooded areas along a stretch of road on the country side of the highway. There were only a few houses dotting the area, and it seemed as if the shrubbery and grasses would provide me with good cover. I dismounted my bike, looked around quickly to make sure nobody was watching, and exerted as much strength as I could muster to lift my loaded bike over the dried weeds and brush, and into the trees that ended up providing me with a safe and comfortable camping spot for the night.
The next morning I awoke again to a frosty film covering the inside of my tent. It had gotten cold, but knowing that I was only a few minutes from a warm drink at McDonald’s, packing up was relatively painless.
I sat with my coffee and tried to decide what to have for breakfast before I embarked for the day to the caves. The gas station had a couple pieces of fruit, but I wanted something a little more substantial before riding. I considered firing up my stove in the gas station parking lot, but after thinking for a while, I somehow rationalized buying the McDonald’s Pancake and Eggs Breakfast Platter. I have to admit, after eating frozen snacks so often over the past days, I was actually excited about the meal. My better half was not letting me go through with it without at least a little psychological punishment. I felt guilty about supporting the food production practices of the establishment, not to mention the preservatives, artificial flavorings, and refined sugars that I was about to consume. I told myself that I would try it as a way to explore and understand why people liked this stuff so much. The caloric boost would be helpful too, I thought.
I decided to get the meal with an extra hashbrown instead of bacon or sausage, which further helped me rationalize this deviant behavior. I got back to my seat and read the ingredients on the two rather large containers of brown corn syrup the afforded me with my meal. Mildly disgusted, I decided not to read the margarine container.
As I began eating, the initial shock of flavor was intense, at first making me sick, but within seconds turning to some sort of deeply rooted animalistic delight. McDonald’s knew what they were doing. The pancakes were flavored alone with an explosion of sweet and salty, which made them delightful by themselves. The syrup and butter served to increase the flavor even more. My mouth watered as I grabbed a hashbrowns, which was crispy, greasy and salty, prompting me to eat them both at once. I probably looked like some sort of crazed drug addict as I worked through the plate. The eggs were the only thing that didn’t seem to be artificially enhanced in some way, which made them taste almost bland in comparison to the rest of the smorgasbord. I was on an emotional roller coaster, the guilt of eating this junk weighing heavily, while the rush of flavors helping to flood my brain with happiness and positivity. I could see how people got addicted to this stuff.
In the end, I was happy that I had bought my McDonald’s Breakfast, just so I could know what the competition was.
I left the restaurant, 1200 calories richer, and rode south towards the biggest cave system in the world.