PLACES The Fast Food Pilgrimage

A spiritual-physical journey any fast-food lover would enjoy

Just a half mile away from the University of Southern California resides a mystical land that college students call “Frat Row.” This street, found off of Figueroa and W. 28th, inhabits multiple fraternity and sorority dwellings where college students laugh, drink cheap beer, and make mistakes they’ll warn their children about years later. But when the Bud Light runs dry and everyone has compiled a substantive list of regrets to dread the next morning, fraternity and sorority members leave their beloved Frat Row to head towards their weekly 1 a.m. destination: “Fat Row.”

Fat Row extends a quarter of a mile along Figueroa Street, consisting of countless fast-food restaurants, the holy grail of diabetes-inducing meals. Drunk college students can’t get enough. This street is so popular that many have done a “Fast Food Pilgrimage,” individually purchasing items from at least four different locations during one car trip.

“I went on this Fast Food Pilgrimage a month ago with my friend, and it was an amazing experience,” says Taylor Jorgensen, a sophomore Accounting major at USC. “In a matter of one 30-minute drive we got food from five different places. We got a mix of Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and American. I would definitely recommend this to any other fast-food lovers out there.”

Thanks to my profound affection for greasy fast-food, I decided to embark upon this spiritual pilgrimage. I began at the intersection of W. 30th St. and S. Figueroa and then took a right into the lot of the exhibition’s starting point: Carl’s Jr. The drive-thru line was short, which made me fear receiving a lukewarm burger microwaved seconds before my arrival. Who the hell enjoys lukewarm food? Nobody, especially not Jesus Christ who once said “because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I will spit you out of my mouth.” Naturally, I was nervous as well.

This wasn’t the case at all when the sizzling steam from the newly cooked Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger thawed out my frigid hands, resulting in a satisfied smile emerging onto my face. Deloris, the Carl’s Jr. cashier, noticed the thrill flowing through my veins and provided me with a reassuring head nod right before I drove off. This made it clear: I was destined for this adventure. Next stop, Panda Express.

“While the samples of Honey Walnut Shrimp may appear appetizing, an actual serving of the dish just ends up being soggy and disappointing,” says Sophia Aschieris, part-time student and full-time food guru. “So I would recommend the plate of Chow Mein and Orange Chicken, because it is always super duper good.”

This Panda Express expert’s advice proved to be 100 percent accurate, as I quickly navigated my way in and out of the Americanized Chinese joint. Some of the fellow customers gave me dirty looks in line, probably due to my kitty cat tank top, but this didn’t deter me from my goal. While walking out the door to my orange Prius I looked back towards the restaurant’s logo and, for a brief moment, saw the giant panda grin at me before returning to its permanent stoic state.

So far this pilgrimage appeared to fulfill my wildest fantasies, and I was making my way towards McDonalds for an Oreo McFlurry. This was a pit stop of sorts, providing me a brief period of time to gather my thoughts and plan out the rest of my quest. However, when I was awaiting the completion of my tasty little snack, I witnessed a sight that viciously sucked the happiness out of my soul like a dementor.

There he was: my high school nemesis Cole Roberson, sporting flip flops, super sick short shorts, a polo shirt that gracefully rested upon his chiseled abs, and $200 Ray Bans. He approached the window with a kale salad in hand, greeting me while peering at the copious amount of fast-food in my passenger’s seat.

“Fast-food is the equivalent to filling your body with poison,” Roberson tells me, hatefully staring right into my innocent baby blues. “You might as well label a large McDonalds’ fry with a skull and crossbones instead of golden arches.”

Then he left me to drown in my despair and guilt, while my cheap stereo system began playing “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, who always seemed to know when to pop up on my iPod Shuffle. I couldn’t even interact with the McDonalds employee when he handed me my McFlurry, so I idled away in sorrow. Something made me think this was not a seldom sight for him.

Instead of rushing over to another fast-food restaurant, I parked in a compact spot, sitting with my head down, immersed in deep, contemplative thought. Was Cole right? Am I disgusting for eating this much fast-food? Part of me felt that these nasty habits were the reasons why he was the Tesoro Varsity Lacrosse team captain and I was the wimpy fool in the stands.

But then I started thinking of all my supporters, the ones who motivated me to go on this journey. Whether it was one of the fast-food enthusiasts who gave me advice or simply an intoxicated college student I encountered on the streets, the message was clear: this was my destiny for that arbitrary Saturday. So I continued ignoring my haters (mostly just Cole) and finished what I started.

I revved the engine of my Prius to its fullest capacity, which essentially sounds similar to a heavy individual breathing after a run, and began the 500-foot journey from McDonalds’ to Taco Bell. With a vast array of menu options it’s important to know exactly what you’re going to purchase prior to arriving at T-Bell.

“I would definitely recommend getting the chicken soft tacos and quesadillas,” says Emily Klawon, a die-hard Taco Bell consumer and fan. “Also the Crunch Wrap Supreme is amaze-balls, so I would get that too.”

Once I gathered all my Taco Bell-longings (#DadJoke), I headed towards my final destination: Five Guys. All day long I discussed how I was craving Five Guys, which many perverted individuals misinterpreted, so I decided to end my journey there.

I excitedly got in line and ordered the renowned Cajun Style fries. When I stood in front of the cashier, with my flaws and eight paper bags of fast-food on full display, he didn’t judge me one bit. Instead he presented to me a modest smile, one that said, “Wow, somebody is going to have a good night.” So I returned a confident expression that communicated, “You bet your ass I am.”

I settled myself at a table right outside Five Guys, ready to feast. Not once did I take more than two consecutive bites from the same food, as I switched from Taco Bell to Panda Express to Carls Jr., resulting in a taste buds extravaganza erupting in my mouth. This Fast Food Pilgrimage proved to be the most spiritually enlightening experience I could’ve dreamt of.

Once I reached the conclusion of my meal(s) and had consumed 3,673 calories, I glanced at my phone to see a new text message from Taylor Jorgensen, the individual who informed me of this whole ordeal.

“Hope you had fun with all your fast-food! But be aware of the hours you’ll spend on the toilet tonight and tomorrow lol,” she said.

Similar to the manner in which she was right about how wonderful the Fast Food Pilgrimage is, she wasn’t far off about its agonizing side effects as well. But I would gladly endure these excruciating side effects over and over again in order to relive the most amazing, unhealthy night of my life.

So yes, I’d say it was worth it.