You could easily drive by the strangest corner in Vancouver, Washington. Traffic flows briskly at 40-50 miles per hour past the intersection of 137th and Fourth Plain. Three of the four corners are very mundane, a hospital, a gas station, and a used RV lot. The fourth corner looks like just another gas station as well, until you get closer. Then the oddness becomes apparent.
The corner is dominated by a gas station, seemingly an Arco with AM/PM minimart attached. But look closer. All Arco signs are covered with tarps or tape. There is no sign of any alternate name anywhere. Where a business name should be, a large vinyl sign simply reads, “NOW OPEN”.
In front of the mysterious un-named gas station, a mechanical woman on a handtruck waves a sign reading “Tacos ‘n’ Cream”. Her eyes are dead and lifeless, her brown hair stirs listlessly in the wind. In the distance behind her, one can see the food truck she advertises. Even farther back, a small race track made of old tires behind a chain link fence corrals about a dozen idling go karts.
Today I had a free afternoon, and I decided to see how much fun I could have at this strange little corner with twenty dollars. I decided to start with the go kart track, because going around in circles at high speeds after eating somewhere called Tacos ‘n’ Cream seemed like an exceptionally bad idea, even for me.
The cash register for the track was in a building that also seemed to be the headquarters for an excavation company, and after paying my $11, I was promptly led to a go kart with no instructions other than to return to the pit when I was flagged down after 10 minutes. The kart was powered fairly well, and hugged the corners nicely even though the track was wet from recent rain. I enjoyed driving the track, and it would have been much more fun if I were racing someone. Ten minutes seemed like quite a long time, and eventually I was flagged to the pit.
It’s hard to talk about Tacos ‘n’ Cream without mentioning the owner. Chester-Castillo Morales’ face lights up as he sees you, and he exclaims “welcome home” to each new customer. He is obviously very proud of his offerings, there is an entire placard dedicated just to his beans. He will happily tell you all about his process for removing most of the lard from his meat, and he proudly showed me his grease trap, which had no actual grease in it.
My burrito was quite good and filling, and there were certainly plenty of black beans in it. For dessert I had a scoop of mango strawberry “ice cream” which looked like sweetened frozen fruit. It was delicious, but I couldn’t see any cream in it. I thought it was funny that my entire meal didn’t actually have tacos or cream.
I ended up spending just over $23 at Vancouver’s strange little corner, including the losing scratch it lottery ticket I bought from the mystery gas station. It was a fun hour or so, and a good reminder to stop and notice what’s around us. You never know what strange and interesting things you might find.