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Monday, November 17, 2008
Monday Mug Shot
Oh, it was indeed a sad weekend! David gave a presentation of his lake freighter slides in Bay City Saturday night as a special guest of the local lake boats and lighthouses enthusiasts group. Now, as I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of the boats themselves, but I usually enjoy going along to see them because, what’s not to love about spending a day by the water??
Saturday evening included an invitation to a wonderful dinner at a fish restaurant in Bay City and when the evening was over, we’d be closer to Hale than home, so we spent the night at Grandma’s and had breakfast with her on Sunday. I needed to do some work on Grandma’s computer and, while I knew it was just a couple tweaks it needed, she didn’t want me spending the gas to make a special trip and was planing on bringing the computer with her for Thanksgiving. This weekend also gave me the 5 minutes I needed without her going through all of that hassle. (Grandma sent me an email and left me an instant message on my Yahoo Messenger to let me know everything was working again!)
On the way to Bay City, David wanted to stop at a hobby shop in Bridgeport, an excellent opportunity for us to stop at Freeway Fritz, our favorite candy stop on the trip to Grandma’s house! Imagine the devastating disappointment when we got off at exit 144 on the I-75 and pulled into the parking lot to see the gas pumps bagged and the large sign on the dark windows of the Bavarian-styled building. “Closed for business.” After 19 years, Freeway Fritz is no more. You could still see the ropes of licorice, stuffed animals,Michigan souvenirs and bags of caramel corn on the displays. It was a recent closing.
I first stopped at Freeway Fritz in June of 1991. I’d just finished trade school and had plans to go back to Georgia. I was gong to set up some interviews and hopefully be coming home to pack and move! I wanted to visit Cross In The Woods in Indian River before made my trip. I wanted some time to meditate before embarking on a new phase in my life.
I left at about 6AM for the roughly 5 hour trip north. After spending a while at the church and getting a protection medallion for my car for the trip south, I drove back out to I-75. It was around lunch time. I wasn’t really hungry yet, so I started south.
I was getting hungry about the time I was passing back through Bridgeport. I’d seen the signs many times in the last couple years, but there was something about the idea of a “fast-food” type place associating itself with Frankenmuth’s world famous chicken that seemed off. This time, I decided that I’d stop and have a look.
Freeway Fritz was not fast-food riding the coat tails of the famous chicken name in the area. Freeway Fritz was owned and run by the Zhender family, the family who IS the world famous Frankenmuth Chicken! It was a deli-style set up with REAL Frankenmuth chicken and all of the fixins, packaged to go! Oh my, HEAVEN! It’s one of those things where you think you’ve been driving too long and this is just a mirage!
But no, it smelled like the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, the intoxicating aroma of that wonderful chicken, the dressing, the soup, the mashed potatoes and gravy and buttered noodles! They had stolen bread to add to your meal, cranberry relish and their secret recipe cabbage salad.
There were tables for eating there if you wanted and shelves of toys and gifts, old time candy and souvenirs. It was like a little piece of the Bavarian Inn that was there to visit without having to travel the extra half hour into Frankenmuth. It was really a traveler's paradise!
Freeway Fritz, Fritzburg as I‘d come to call it, became a travel staple for me. I made a point of getting my parents to stop there. They weren’t ready to believe that there was real Frankenmuth chicken right off the freeway either! I’d started making it a habit of stopping to pick up a family diner on the way to see my grandparents. It was the right distance that things didn’t get too cooled off on the rest of the trip, so a short shot in the microwave would heat them up without mushing anything out.
Tori and Rina loved stopping there to raid the candy and even after Rina decided to change to a vegetarian diet, she found that the noodles, veggie dishes and cheese dumplings offered a wonderful vegetarian meal too!
The candy was the coolest! David and I would stop there for lunch and appease our sweet tooth at the 25 cents candy stand. They had fun-size packs of old style candy for a quarter! Little packs of Bottle Caps, Mike and Ikes, Hot Tamales, there were candy necklaces, dots and mini packs of Mentos. Aside from the quarter rounder, they also had salt water taffy and David’s favorite size of Smarties, Jumbo, but not huge, the hard to find middle size!
It was just a great place to stop and get a break from the road. It was family friendly and not terribly overpriced for a tourist kind of place. But now, the economy, gas prices and construction the freeway have ended it. The signs on the door encourage visitors to come into Frankenmuth for the same style chicken at the Bavarian Inn. And true, the Bavarian Inn is a wonderful place with great shops and bakery, but it’s a half hour from the freeway and while, you could get in line and get out at Fritz in a half hour on a busy summer Friday night, it’s a 2-hour wait for a sit-down dinner on that same Friday night at the Inn! We still went to the Bavarian Inn, but we had more Frankenmuth Chicken and the Zhender’s got more of our money when Freeway Fritz was alive!
Like I said to David as I looked at the dark windows Saturday afternoon, I miss Fritz already!
Read about the closing of Freeway Fritz here.