Monday morning, the 21st, we celebrated Patrick's 14th birthday. How could that cute little fella turn into a young man so quickly? I remember when we hiked the South Rim, Patrick and Thomas and I, when Patrick was 7 years old and Thomas, not quite 10. What was I thinking? We will never forget that hike, and the biggest cheeseburgers we ever ate afterward!
As I packed up camp the kids and their grandpa took one more 5 mile hike. I had the idea we would leave the park by 10 am or so, but couldn't resist the opportunity for the kids to spend a bit more time with their cousin and grandparents and aunt.
Mom made us egg salad sandwiches with the rest of the smoked trout for lunch and we filled up our water bottles and mason jars and tearfully said goodbye. One is not allowed to take anything out of the national park, so as soon as we hit the outer boundary of the park, Thomas and I picked some creosote to take home so I could smell it any time I wanted.
Eating and drinking locally is fun, but a bit challenging. I wanted a cup of coffee in Fort Stockton. Could have gotten one at the gas station, but felt that was cheating. We looked and looked for a diner. Finally we found a Mexican cafe, locally owned taqueria with a drive-up window. I bought a huge cup of coffee and felt happy to support their business and keep the $3 dollars in Fort Stockton instead of the Exxon corporation.
Our "Eat Local While Traveling" challenge made me consider so many things. For one, sustainability really does require diversity. The only way to sell only coffee, if you are a local business, is to sell it out of a shack or a little trailer. Most little towns cannot sustain a coffee-only shop. Starbucks can survive in a busy community but it is awfully hard for a locally owned business to make it. Possible, but hard. We saw very few "coffee shops" on our trip. Many Starbucks. Few coffee shops. Had to buy coffee at diners, taquerias, Mom and Pop restaurants. Rent is too expensive for most people to sell only coffee. I love Starbucks coffee, but felt so much happier drinking coffee that supported families and local communities.
As we drove through Central Texas we covered much territory. Lots and lots of little towns. Not too many places to grab a quick cheap bite of locally owned food. I didn't know what we were going to do. Most little towns close up by 8pm. At 8:45 I was praying about where to eat. Wanted something that would feed the family for under $20. We reached Ballinger. White and blue neon sign flashed. Best Fried Chicken.
We considered the drive-up window and decided that in honor of Patrick's birthday we would walk in. The chicken place was nicely painted, meticulously cleaned and it was obvious that the crew of young people were doing their best to get closed up and home right on time. I hated to order, but did it anyway. Box of fried chicken, box of fried okra and another box of french fries. Under $20. Plenty for everyone, plus leftovers that covered lunch the next day. I was so happy to give our business to a nice local business. We drove past many McDonalds and were sorely tempted to make it fast and cheap.
I think it costs too much to eat cheap.
We listened to the last of our Chronicles of Narnia cds. We enjoyed little Texas towns and county seats and courthouses. We sang Christmas songs and the girls played many games of Concentration.
Texas is a very big state. Especially when driving through from bottom to top!