Eat Like You Mean It: The Coshocton Challenge, and The Hero’s Journey
Supersize Me, Daddy
I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. When I first heard about The Coshocton Challenge, an endeavor many on The Thrill brought up, but never seriously attempted, I knew that it would have to be my first post. So after Editor-in-Chief Erica Christie brought it up, I peer pressured her into joining me on the first (and hopefully only) attempt of the Coshocton Challenge. The Challenge itself? To eat something substantial (no drinks) from every single fast food restaurant on Coshocton Road. This meant: Subway, Dairy Queen, McDonald’s, Arby’s, Taco Bell, Hardee’s, Tim Horton’s, Wendy’s, Long John Silver’s, Papa John’s, and Chipotle. If you vomit, or stop, you lose. We were to be joined by my roommate and personal Thrill webboi Michael Lahanas, as well as Brady Furlich and Jeffrey Searls, who really wanted to watch. Whether it could be done, whether the human body could sustain that amount of sodium and grease, Erica and I were about to find out. Because we will do anything for content.
Call to Adventure
The most intimidating part of the Challenge is that it begins with Subway, which means that you have to start eating a six inch sub with the knowledge that you will be eating at ten other places just like it. But I had somewhat fasted for this challenge. I skipped breakfast and lunch, and worked out at the KAC before leaving for the Challenge at three p.m. The only thing I had to eat in the nineteen hours prior to this was a Take Five bar, which I savagely devoured in bed, dizzy and sweating with dread, thinking of the eleven fast food restaurants ahead of me. The sandwiches went down with ease. I was ready.
Going to Dairy Queen afterwards feels like a nice dessert to a light meal. It was like we were treating ourselves really. I thought I ordered a small sundae, but what arrives at the table outside is no small sundae. I am greeted with a mountainous cup of ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream. I literally start to sweat thinking about how this ice cream is going to feel in an hour’s time.
“I already feel bad,” Erica tells us. “Do you know what this is going to do to my body? This will hit me so much worse than you, you skinny bastard.”
The sundae and the six inch sub sit like a soggy rock in my stomach. But if I don’t think about it, it can’t hurt me. Mind over matter. Deep breaths. This is still something I can do.
The McDonald’s staff begins to glare at us, as the five of us take our two Dollar Menu burgers, shuffle into the McDonald’s Kids Play area, and sit down at a table shaped like a dinosaur. Not even a cool dinosaur really, one of those nondescript Brachiosaurs or whatever. The stools are small and low to the ground. Jeffrey’s legs, praying-mantis like, bend forward with his knees and shins on the floor. The table bruises my knees. Was I ever this small? Is it conceivable? I look down at my cheeseburger, but the staff has made a mistake. This isn’t a cheeseburger. It’s a McDouble. Erica looks over at me, with eyes that say “Oh no my dude!” It feels like there is a toddler in my stomach. I will never be small again.
Crossing the Threshold
Things are starting to get weird. I decide that ordering two sliders, one for each of us, is a manageable step for this restaurant. Erica is sadly cackling in a corner with Jeffrey, and it takes a few times before she hears me talking to her.
“What slider type do you want?” I ask.
“Buffalo chicken,” Erica says. Why in God’s name she would get buffalo chicken is beyond me, but I don’t question Erica anymore. Under Michael’s advice, I go with a simple roast beef sandwich. Jeffrey is playing with the horseradish dispenser, which Arby’s charmingly calls, no joke, “Horsey Sauce.” He rubs the sauce all over our sandwiches. The heartburn hits, a surge of vitriolic acid crawling up my throat. The sandwiches are so wet. We’re groaning in the back of an Arby’s. Michael says we’re screaming. Erica gags over the buffalo chicken. I’m losing track of what’s real.
“I feel like an onion ring,” Erica says. “I’m greasy and salty and fried. And I feel slimy in the middle.”
We walk to Taco Bell, and with each step my insides, a bag of pudding, lurch up and plop down. I feel slower. Not just in my body, but my brain. My reflexes, motor skills, thought processes are all slowing down. I’m angry. I feel angry and I’m not sure why.
I accidentally peel back the tortilla on my soft taco, and instead of beef, cheese, and lettuce I see the abyss. A warm churning erupts inside of me. I used to like Taco Bell.
The Innermost Cave, or Meatsweats
“It’s going to be okay,” Brady assures me. “Well, actually, I don’t know if it’s going to be okay. I’m just saying that ‘cuz I don’t know what else to tell you.”
This is a dark chapter. Just driving over here, Erica cut someone off. I don’t know if she should be driving. Both of us feel drunk, but a sickly kind of drunk. The kind of drunk where you’ve had just one too many shots of tequila. We’re not having fun anymore. Michael escorts the two of us in front of the camera. Erica sits up against the wall, looking defeated. I can’t tell if she’s crying or dry heaving. When I look straight ahead, I can see the signs of every restaurant I have to eat from in front of me. I can see Wendy’s and Tim Horton’s and Chipotle, and worst of all, Long John Silver’s. I pray for the end.
Hardee’s calls their sandwiches “Thickburgers” and this is not encouraging given our current states of mind. I look at the value menu and see that one can order “2 Small Cheeseburgers.” After ordering this however, I find out that there are 350 calories in one small cheeseburger alone, and they are made up of 40% fat.
We unwrap the burgers. “No fair,” I say. “My sandwich looks more wet than Erica’s,” but no one hears me. Erica stands at the drink machine and asks, “Where’s the water? How do I get water?” I tell Brady, Jeffrey, and Michael that I’m going to help Erica get water, but it comes out instead as “I’mgonhelpErrrricaout.” I have become sludge. I am Jabba the Hutt. My insides solidify into fried dough. Erica is waiting to vomit.
They have to psych us up to eat the burgers, cheering us on, and using a countdown to motivate us. “Come on Chris, I know you can do it,” they say. But finishing this burger is inconceivable. When it’s in my mouth it doesn’t feel like food anymore. It just sticks around my gums, and I feel my throat actively rejecting it, making swallowing impossible. It feels like I’m chewing foam.
Then finally, after nearly twenty minutes of miserable silence, a happiness swells within me, and I have the energy to lift my head and smile. Looking happier than I have since the Challenge began, I announce to the crew, “I am certainly going to vomit.” The idea is thrilling now.
At Tim Horton’s I can no longer form coherent thoughts. Erica and I are beginning to break down. I have Brady order us “Timbits,” which are glazed donut holes. They taste far saltier than they should. The need to vomit swells and retracts, like waves on a beach. I imagine my stomach as a beach, with the acidic and toxic contents as the ocean. High tide is coming.
Don’t Call it a Comeback
At Wendy’s I get chicken nuggets, and Erica orders a full chicken sandwich. To each their own. The woman behind the counter starts to flirt with Michael, asking about his camera.
“Remember Subway?” Erica asks me. “That was a simpler time.” A gentler age. Her eyes say, “We will live and die and never be anything more than ourselves.”
As I slowly eat the nuggs, I feel everything start to settle. My stomach no longer teeters on the edge of expulsion. My thoughts start to align again. Yes, I’m coming back. I can make it. And it occurs to me, talking to Erica and Jeffrey over the Wendy’s table, when they suggest that we adapt this experience into a musical. This is the song when Erica and I triumphantly find the strength and the courage within us to finish this challenge. After all, we were eight restaurants in out of ten, after disqualifying Papa John’s. We could do this. If we finish Long John Silver’s and split something at Chipotle, we can walk away from this victorious.
“I can eat anything!” I shout from the front seat of the car as we leave Wendy’s.
“I’m invincible! Hahaha!” Erica screams.
Yes. We will do this. It’s the Hero’s Journey. Hardee’s was The Innermost Cave, the lowest point in our character arcs, the moment of death. But now we have been reborn. Valhalla awaits us, simmering with cholesterol and trans fats. Erica and I soon will be One with The Gods.
Long John Silver’s, or Meat’s Flaky Friend
This is a near exactly how it happens. Erica pulls into the drive-thru, and panics. What do we eat? Neither of us have ever been to a Long Johnny’s before. On the menu I see a meal admirably titled “2 Fish.” That sounds reasonable.
“Number 10,” I whisper to Erica.
“Number 10!” she screams into the drive-thru speaker.
“Anything to drink with that?”
Erica turns to me again, panicking. “Water,” I whisper.
“Water!” she screams again, as if her life depended on it.
When we pull up to the take-out window, the woman asks Erica, handing us our 2 Fish, if we would like any sauce with that. Erica says no. But what? How are we supposed to eat this dry disgusting fish loaf without any goddamn sauce? I am outraged.
“You didn’t get any sauce,” I tell her, enraged.
“What was I supposed to get?” she screams.
“I don’t know, tartar sauce?”
“Do you HONESTLY expect me to get fucking TARTAR SAUCE are you kidding me right now?! You’re acting like I know what I’m doing like I’ve EVER been to a Long John Silver’s before? Is this a FUCKING JOKE? Fuck you Chris Raffa! Fuck you.”
I start to cry. I didn’t expect it but here I am, near sobbing in the passenger seat of a car called “Stygold” in the 73 degree heat of a February afternoon, ready to eat fried fish (meat’s flaky friend) in a Marshall’s parking lot. My stomach is a solid block of salt.
When things calm down, we open the box. Erica gags at the scent of fish several times. We decide we need some fresh air to eat this. But one bite of this salty fish loaf is all it takes. Even Jeffrey, Brady, and Michael try some. Jeffrey is personally offended, and spits the fish bite out like an air cannon.
“No! Absolutely not, this is an offense against Mother Nature!” he screams.
After everything, a burrito bowl is impossible. We cannot finish this fish loaf. The workers from Long John Silver’s have opened up the back door, and are watching us attempt to eat this food. I feel bad. It’s no offense to them specifically, we’re reacting to the entire day.
“I’m drawing a line in the sand here folks,” I tell everyone. “Let’s go home.” We fail the Challenge, and I’m okay with that.
Back in Caples, Erica and I vomit, and feel good enough to go out and drink in a thunderstorm. It was a good day. I can feel my parents, boiling over with pride.
photo credits: Brady Furlich
Final Calorie Count-
To see the whole challenge for yourself, watch the video below which brings coherence to this chaos, filmed and brilliantly edited by webboi Michael Lahanas.