Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lunch at Wiggee's

"Where do we stop for lunch?" That was the question once we had gotten off of the interstate. My friend, Ted Anderson and I, were headed for Minneapolis from Burbank, California, and we had decided to explore some of northern Oklahoma's country highways and roads. I mean, an interstate highway is an interstate highway.

So at Clinton, still some distance from Oklahoma City, we headed north on State Highway 183. Then we turned onto 33 heading to the northeast. We really didn't know where to go. But it was time for lunch. So for no reason at all and completely on a whim, we turned east along US 270/281 and headed for Watonga.

We could see the huge grain elevator silos easily five miles away. But we wondered about a restaurant when, lo and behold, there it was. Wiggee's! Wiggee's Burger Ranch. Just a few feet beyond the intersection of Clarence Nash Boulevard (State Hwy 8) and US 270/281.

Now Watonga is one of those little country towns that we all pass through as we travel. The official state map of Oklahoma says the population is 5,000. But according to Barbara Wigington--our hostess and part of the ownership team at Wiggee's--it's more like 2,000 or 2,500 now. (Photo from left to right, Diane Wonack, Barbara Wigington, Bill Wigington.)

Wiggee's is one of those great little places where the locals come for breakfast and lunch. It's the kind of place where, after you've been in the place for three minutes, you're engaged in a conversation with someone as if they were waiting for you to come in.

Now, when two big bald guys from Minnesota walk into Wiggee's, all of the conversation stops and the heads turn. Barbara greeted us with that wonderful way people speak in Oklahoma and explained we could still get the buffet, or, we could order from the menu.

When you finally make it to Wiggee's, order from the menu. Get a Wiggee Burger. They come in several varieties, all of which look pretty good. I chose one that appeared somewhat unusual: the Big Wiggee. Ted ordered the Ranch Wiggee.

If you're lucky, you'll be waited on by one of the friendliest waitresses you're likely to meet--Diane Wonack. And when she delivers your Big Wiggee, you'll find two burger patties garnished with cheese, mushrooms, jalapeño peppers, bacon, chili, and, if you want them, grilled onions. I had those, too. Ted's Ranch Wiggee was similar, sans the jalapeños and chili.

All this was cooked up by Bill Wiggee (the other part of the ownership team), who toils out of sight in the kitchen.

Paying the bill was the fun part. We, of course, had to explain what brought two guys from Minnesota to Watonga. Once we had explained that we were helping Ted's daughter move from California to Minnesota, Barbara revealed her Minnesota connection. At one point in her work career, she worked for Control Data when Control Data was one of the giants in the mainframe computer business. Well--turns out that Ted worked as a communications manager for Control Data in Minneapolis, and I did freelance work for the company for about a year in the early 1990s. Small world. Happens all the time.

We learned in our chat with Barbara that Watonga's claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Clarence Nash, the voice of Disney's Donald Duck. You'll notice above that the town has named a street after him. You can see the Wikipedia entry on Nash at

So if you're passing through Watonga, Wiggee's is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Address is 420 W. Russworm, but you'll see it when you drive into town. Here are some highlights from the menu:

Noon Buffet, all you can eat, $6.99

Burger and Fries, $4.99

All-You-Can-Eat Burgers and Fries, $6.99

All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast of biscuits and gravy, $4.29

Coffee or Tea, $.75 all day

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Carie Amundson saved my life! Well--kind of. Desperately needing a drink of water while sitting in my aisle seat on the way to Oakland, I couldn't open my water bottle. The top was bolted shut with some kind of atomic shrink wrap. I hate that stuff!

"Can I help you with that?" Carie offered.

I handed her the bottle across the chasm of an empty middle seat.

To my surprise, delight, and maybe some chagrin, she deftly peeled the atomic coating off of the bottle top. What I didn't realize at the time was that she held a tremendous advantage over me; she works at a convenience store and handles this kind of stuff all the time. This episode continued briefly when I also realized that removing the plastic cap on the battle presented a challenge. Smiling, Carie helped with that, too. (I thought she was very kind inasmuch as she restrained herself from pointing and laughing hysterically at me.)

Well--having quenched my thirst, I struck a conversation with Carie. She must have been raised well and with good manners, because she obviously resisted the urge to roll over in her seat with her pillow and just go to sleep. Instead, she proceeded to engage in conversation with me from Minneapolis to Oakland, including a layover in Denver. The result was, for me, one of the most enjoyable flights I have had in a long time. Sometimes traveling alone is a good thing. There is always the chance of that chance meeting that yields a memorable and fun story.

And I'm sure that Carie has much to talk about also. Understand that she is in her mid-twenties and I am 62. I was thus able to offer her six and a half hours of a lifetime of advice on just about everything she needs to do in life, including what to study in school, where to travel, when to travel, with whom to travel, how to deal with boy friends, and much more that I can't remember.

Such experiences make traveling fun. I hope to have many more like it. And I hope Carie does, too--but next time maybe with a twenty-something guy on the other side of the middle seat.