Monday, December 14, 2009

Journeying West, or Where is that rest stop?

We left Kingston, anticipating a pleasant journey listening to The Magician's Nephew and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I figured on stopping at a nice rest stop for a picnic lunch. We drove and drove and found no rest stop. We decided to have an adventure and investigate a little town somewhere west of Nashville. There was a sign advertising a Railroad Museum. We headed downtown. Downtown was aprox. 12 minutes for the busy shopping zone near the highway.

The children and I discussed the cost of shopping and eating locally, how the extra 12 minutes would allow us to use the bathroom and buy a cup of coffee from a local shop that would benefit the people in the town much more than a cheap cup of McDonald's coffee.

Well, we got to the cute little downtown and every little shop was closed. We couldn't find a single place open. We discussed how the chain restaurants near the highway were so convenient it made it very hard for people to drive 12 minutes to buy their coffee downtown, so the shops were closed until weekdays. We discussed how badly everyone needed to use the bathroom and why couldn't we at least find a rest stop open for potty break and picnic? We decided to go into Walgreens out of desperation. Then we went to the Goodwill, Patrick purchased a bowl for us for mixing up the egg salad and we ate our egg salad, smoked trout sandwiches and oranges (thank you, Tata) in the parking lot. Everyone ate Maggie's homemade cookies for dessert.

Not quite the fun picnic I had invisioned. Shortly after getting onto the freeway we passed a rest stop!

For dinner we decided to use a gift of cash to buy supper at a family-owned restaurant along the way. Everyone got hungry at Forrest City, Arkansas. Near the exit was a plethora of chain restaurants. Lowes, Target, Best Buy, you know the sight. The children and I discussed how that same arrangement could be seen in any region of the United States. Texas, Virginia, New Jersey, Oregon, Montana, Florida, Massachusetts. Wouldn't it be better to drive an extra 12 minutes and check out a new town, see a different culture?

We drove and drove and couldn't find a single open restaurant. A few BBQ joints, closed. The town looked very poor. It wasn't always poor. There were plenty of buildings. Dying businesses. Plenty of people driving around, but something about the area made me sad. We drove by an incredible library. We drove around for 20 minutes. The gas gauge was getting really low. We wondered when the town started to change. When Wal Mart and McDonald's opened?

Well, we came upon Moctezuma Grill. An open sign flashed onto an empty parking lot. We went in.

A nice fellow named Filemon brought us chips and salsa. Fresh, medium spicy, we dug in. Filemon kept everyone's glass of water filled, chatted with the children, calling them each by name, speaking to them in Spanish, reminded them to be careful with hot plates, asked them about the farm.

The food wasn't organic. Probably not grown very locally. But it was the best we could do. Family-owned and operated. At least our dollars weren't going to a corporation. We were so content with our meal we wanted to curl up and purr! And then, when we thought we couldn't even look at another bite of food, Filemon brought us a huge platter of fried ice cream with pineapples, whipped cream and a cherry on top. The children somehow managed to eat the whole thing. They wondered why in the world he would give them a dessert they had never eaten before, for free?!? I said it was probably because he had never seen so many kids in one family eat at the restaurant and behave so nicely! Who knows?

But we discussed how corporate restaurants didn't offer the service or the generosity that family businesses could. Bellies full, content that our $$$'s helped support a family, we got back on the road, not that much later than we would have been if we had gone to Cracker Barrel. Actually about the same amount of money spent or less than if we had stopped at Cracker Barrel. Not that we don't like CB, it is my favorite travel restaurant! The servers are sweet at CB, the bathrooms are clean. But the point of our challenge is to support local establishments and the local economy. Dinner was a great lesson for all of us. Now I am about to make the leftover tortillas and beans into burritos for our lunch on the road. We are almost to Grandma and Grandpa's!

Today we will listen to The Horse and His Boy and whatever is next in The Chronicles of Narnia series. Thank you, CS Lewis for enriching our lives.

Better hit the road. But the kids are enjoying TV so much I hate to rush them off! Vacation time! Thanks, Philip, for working so hard so we can vacation. We miss you.


Jeff said...

If only more people would make the connection between their daily actions and the larger world. Thanks for giving us examples of how we can make a change in the world. You are such a wise mother to give your kids the opportunity to make a difference. Keeping TV to a minimum must make it easier to do so. said...

Sometimes I feel like we are doing so little, but seems like the point is to at least start by doing something, and if sharing our journey of baby steps helps someone else take their own baby steps then I will be so grateful!