So we strapped in and headed down the road at 65 mph along on of the deadliest highways in the state, Hwy 395. So with the addition of a little compact snow and ice, I knew that stretch went from the deadliest to the deadliester. Don't know how you can make dead more dead or ice more frozen, but you get the idea. The roads in Spokane County were by far the worst. Once we got into Stevens County (near Deer Park) Hwy 395 really cleared up and was pretty much just wet. That was a relief because the mixed ice and 'pancake batter' type slush was pretty tough to maintain the rate of speed I wanted to travel. I know all the moms out there are just cringing, but I have to add a little drama.
We made it to Colville in record time. Only a few near misses, or near hits, depending on how you look at it. I actually have never had an airbag go off before, but Jessi has. As we started back I took a split because as a triathlete I am looking for the negative split here. With the sun in my eyes, and just about out of windshield washer fluid I put the pedal down and brought it up to 70mph as soon as saw the green light of the 60mph sign leaving Colville. No bumps all the way to Cheweah... next check point would be Deer Park.
En route to Deer Park we went around this little bend in the road that most people miss in a blink. A little oasis called 'Clayton.' I know that there are people named Clayton, but something says 'country' when you come across a town named this. I have driven past this little piece of Heaven a hundred times going to Canada, 49 degrees north, Colville, etc. One thing always stands out, and I am more than likely to comment on it each time we pass, is that sign that says, 'Home of the Clayton Burger.' It still draws a smile on my face when I type it. At some point in time, there was an aspiring business person that thought it was right time by gosh that we got a sign to tell all y'all about our show stoppin' Clayton Burger. Now, when you name a burger after the name of a town it means one of two things... 1. It's a phenomenal burger, or 2. You live in a pretty small town. They have #2 locked in... but what a out #1? Jessi suggested that we stop as we flew through the suburbs, downtown, and business district all in about 4 seconds. I asked her if she was serious, and she was.
Now, I have to say that it has not been a dream of mine to stop, but it surely has been a curiosity. The legendary Clayton Burger was going to be in reach. We pulled in to the parking lot along 2 other cars. One being a full size 1978 Ford F-150 and a mid 80s cargo van with some faded logo of a prior business on the side. As we opened the door to the diner, I could already almost taste the food due to the fry oil permeating the air.
Many of you know that I have had some trouble in some longer races with nutrition, or food upsetting my stomach. I thought his would be good training for that. If I train my digestive system, this early in the season, to adapt to the worst type of food for you, I should be in good shape for the tri season. If it could handle this, it could handle anything that Hammer throws its way. I also thought that a lot of people do high altitude training. I consider this high cholesterol training. I think it makes my heart stronger, but I don't know if that's good?
We walked in and looked at the menu board that had the signature Clayton Burger listed. I read through what exactly it was... I was so curious. Here is what it has:
2 bacon strips
1 hot dog (yup on the burger)
Sesame seed bun
That sounded pretty impressive. I am sure a lot of brows are raised when they come across 'hot dog,' but when in Rome, eat hot dogs. Jessi ordered a single burger and Emma, a grilled cheese sandwich. We sat down and started to take in the ambiance. There was a lot to take in. I needed to hit the restroom so I asked where they were? The employee said they were just outside around the corner. Made sense since this building wasn't probably a restaurant initially. But this was not just an 'outside entrance' to a bathroom in the building. This was a full on independent structure... like the ones you would find on the Centennial Trail. I was a little nervous about touching the stainless steel 'type' door handle. But I took a deep breath and did. But it was locked... Crap! I glanced around and saw a full size truck running outside (diesel of course) with a trailer wand a John Deere tractor on the trailer. It was picture perfect for a postcard saying, 'Welcome to the Farm.' So I walked back to the main building and in form the 20 degree day. I sat by the window waiting for the person to leave so I knew when it would be available. They guy must have been in there for about 20+ minutes from when we got there to the time his rig pulled out. I headed out for a second attempt. Sure enough, the door was open. But I was all but ready for what I was about to experience. I really want to go into graphic detail of what my olfactory senses experienced at that moment, but I will avoid that since there might be minors reading this. But let me just bait the hook a bit... think of a workout bag that a 350lb 5'2" guy has been using (granted, I doubt a 350lb guy that is 5'2" has a 'workout bag' at all... but stay with me) for the past month. And all he uses is the stairclimber for 1 hour each day. But here's the twist, he NEVER washes his clothes... he just puts them back in the bag. Now, zip that up, let it ferment for a couple days in the car, now unzip this canvas bag and take a deep, deep, double lunged breath of this. Got that, well there's more. Because what he did to that toilet may have set some kind of record. I don't care how many little 'fresh trees' you got from the local gas and sip, it would not cover the stench that came from inside this guy. I actually smiled thinking that a guy left that place knowing what he left there. Nothing visible, but the smell painted such a picture.
As you can see in this picture there are no stalls, just a toilet and urinal separated by a full sized garbage can. Not a small can, but a 32+ gallon can. How much garbage does a bathroom get in a day? To top it off, as you can see in the garbage, there are things like drink containers, food wrappers, etc., in there. What in the world are people doing in this place. Sitting on the toilet and consuming their Clayton Burger? Are they that worried what it would do to their system? Too many questions and I am afraid of some of the answers.
So I quickly used the urinal and went to go and wash my hands because I touched the door handle :) As I walked into the little narrow area that housed the sink, I noticed that there was not any soap. You have got to be kidding me? They have an 'auto flush' system, but no soap? A hand dryer, but no soap? I sure hope their employees use a different bathroom than this one. No soap means some funky things under the nails. So I did a thorough rinse and shook the water off my hands. Now, the door handle again. I pulled my hand way up inside my jacket sleeve and opened the door with the elbow of my jacket. I figured it would be very unlikely that my elbow would ever touch my face. Hey, I needed to make an executive decision.
When I came in from the stench hole from Hell, I was happy to see that Jessi had a small bottle of Purell, whew. Shortly after I sat down, the food arrived all wrapped up in wax paper. But not the Clayton Burger. It was 'presented' on a small fry basket with a coffee straw through the middle spearing a green olive on it. Interesting touch, but it's all about the presentation... hmmm. After I removed the coffee straw and the olive it actually looked like a pretty good burger. I tried not to focus on the hot dog that I knew was in there somewhere. I took my first bite and I have to say that it was pretty good. I would give the overall taste 3.75 out of 5... almost a 4, but I just came out of that bathroom.
As we all finished and started to look around at the decorations, I couldn’t help but notice some of the 'attractions' to the place. First off, the cutting edge orange and brown matching tables, chairs, and booths. Twigs missed out on this cutting edge decor, circa 1973. It really added to the setting. I started to think about what stories these tables could tell. What asses have actually sat here? And which ones broke the chairs? What large business transactions have takn place here? What life changing decisions have been made here... other than numerous ones about needing to go on a diet after eating there.
Then there is the beautiful hand made light fixtures sporting the low watt curly white bulbs. Nice touch. It's kind of like each bulb has it's own holding cell... like jail. But what tops that is that each porcelain bulb socket must have been hand painted with stain. Nothin' holds to porcelain like stain.
A creative touch was the 'park bench' touch that was given to each ketchup and mustard bottle. I felt like I was camping again... wondering how long that ketchup and mustard had actually been in there as it held so securely to the top of the lid when it was only 1/2 full. I did notice that they used the same stain on the 'park benches' as they did on the light fixtures, nice continued color theme.
For a 'holiday touch' in almost February, it was nice to see their fenced off Christmas display of snowmen and a mish mash of other holiday decorations. But I think the outdoor fence was necessary because in most diners things can get pretty out of hand. I thought maybe they had a goat in there or something. Nope, just some plastic and lights. There was a gate, not too sure if that was for their 'World Famous Clayton Christmas Tours.' I'm not sure if they are really early for Christmas, or a tad late. Things run at a little different pace in Clayton.
And what diner would be complete without a list of the local sex offenders. There were about 6 pages to this, but I only took a shot of the first one. Right before I sit down for a meal, I like to know who in the community might be joining me, and where they live. Again, a nice touch.
So, that was our experience at the place with the famous 'Clayton Burger.' I don't know what the name of the place was, but you really can't miss it. And if you do, no one will really blame you, because I doubt many people stop. But I would guess that those that do, will stop again and again. Pretty good burger, and a lot of unintentional entertainment.
Bottom line, good food, nice staff, and take care of your bathroom needs before you go there.