A couple years ago, when we were first talking about living life on the road, we started talking to friends about the idea (Actually, we broached the subject with everyone we met). Audra, a friend from high school sent me a message. “If you come visit,” she said, “I’ll bake cookies.” I took note of it precisely because it seemed so ridiculously improbable. We were going to leave when it was warm and head north, and Audra most definitely lives in the South. Still, when debating over whether or not we should even get started on this journey, I’d list all the reasons I could think of to stay or to hit the road, and I’d always end with the cookies. It was our little joke.
As our departure date changed from one time to another, we altered our route to leave in the early Spring, so then we wanted to go south in order to stay warm. We drove through Arizona and New Mexico and started heading toward Texas. About that time, I got a message from an old friend in Texas. “If you come this way,” she wrote, “I’ll make you some dinner.”
A quick look at the map showed that it was only about 90 minutes out of the way to go see Carl and Christine. You know we had to go.
We ended up having a lovely dinner, but the best part was the conversation. The clock was our enemy that night as we knew that Christine had to be up early the next day. We were so blessed to be able to hook up there since we’d brought our house along with us. Since we had so much fun, we stayed another day, and Brian and I talked about how THIS was what the trip was about–connecting with people and building relationships.
Fast forward a few days and we found ourselves south of Fort Worth. We met up for some Texas barbecue with friends who had moved from California many years ago. Later that week, we connected with Elena, an exchange student we’d hosted many years ago. She came out to the campground and we shared a meal and once again the time flew by as we caught up. Each time, we felt like we could just keep talking all night. We did miss one connection–the sister of a dear friend that we had really hoped to meet, but our time in Texas was up and it was time to move on to Magnolia.
In Magnolia, we reconnected with family, and the kids got their first taste of catfish. We found out what yard bird is (that’s chicken for those of you who’ve not yet had the pleasure). And we ate our way through a family potluck on Easter Sunday. We wondered if we should have named this blog Eating Across America instead of Learning Across America.
At that point, we were still planning to head up through Arkansas and Tennessee. We had plans and reservations and we were ready to go.
The call of the beach was strong, so we started thinking about going up the East coast instead of going up through the middle of the country. And as long as we were heading toward the beach, we might as well venture down southward. We could visit Vicksburg, and then drive on toward Mobile and Pensacola. And as long as we were going to be near Mobile, we might as well go see an old friend, right? Especially if that old friend had promised chocolate chip cookies.
Once again, we enjoyed good conversation and time with friends. I laughed so hard at some of their stories that I could hardly breathe. Tears were flowing, and my sides were aching. We got to experience our first ever shrimp boil. And, as promised, there were cookies.
Back at the campground, we calculated that we’d driven 2912 miles by that point. Nearly 3000 miles for chocolate chip cookies. I dared not count the calories we’d consumed across those miles. We’ve gone much further (and made new friends and eaten more food) since then. The best parts of the journey have been centered around family and friends.
Every mile has been worth it.
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