Bonding over road-food barbecue
Our readers share tales of their ramblings around the world.
Who: Bill Ade (author) of Burke, Va., and his son, Jonathan Ade, of Los Angeles.
Where, when, why: In mid-May, a few days before Jonathan’s cross-country move from Atlanta to Los Angeles, his travel buddy backed out. My son had a 16-foot rental truck packed with all his earthly possessions, and neither of his parents was happy about him driving 2,100 miles on his own. Being retired, with a love of travel, I offered my services. My wife was less than enthusiastic. “You’re 67 years old. You’re not a kid,” she said. After I deflected her concerns with some mumbled promises to go easy, I was on a 5:50 a.m. flight to Atlanta the next day. I was excited. What could be more fun than a man and his boy making a cross-country road trip?
My son’s goal was to drive at least 500 miles a day. What he didn’t realize was that we would enter a new time zone every day, gaining an hour. Why stop in midafternoon when we could add another hundred miles to our tally? I also suggested that we drive hard the first day to build up mileage in case we had troubles farther down the road. We hadn’t left Georgia, and already I was breaking my word to my wife.
Highlights and high points: The beauty of cross-country travel, where accumulating miles is more important than tourist attractions, is that the high points are things not usually promoted in tour books or blogs. You just have to keep your eyes open and maintain a sense of wonderment.
During the first leg of the trip, after we had gotten comfortable driving the truck, my son and I settled into conversation mode. Fortunately, my kid is naturally introspective and more than willing to share his thoughts. Over the hours of that first day, I learned the finer details of his hopes and dreams. He shared with me the dastardly nature of the dating apps Bumble and OkCupid. I’d ask questions about the influences in his life. We shared our philosophies. We also debated the superiority of Hostess Snowballs vs. Twinkies. Cultural connection or disconnect: On our first day, with the assistance of Yelp, we found Dean’s BBQ just off Interstate 20 in Potts Camp, Miss. The exit was about 45 minutes up the highway from Tupelo. Dean’s was a basic barbecue joint — if you wanted something other than smoked meat, you wouldn’t find it on their menu. The smoker was being worked on in the parking lot fronting the building. The interior contained a linoleum floor, wood paneling and a handful of wooden booths. I ordered the brisket sandwich, and my son had the brisket plate. It was delicious. As I was standing by the cashier waiting for Jonathan to pay the bill — it’s always a minor celebration when the kid picks up the tab — I turned to the man in the sleeveless sweatshirt and apron. “Are you Dean?” I said. He nodded. “That was excellent BBQ.” Dean’s face lit up, and he vigorously shook my hand. As we tooled away from Potts Camp, my son and I agreed that if people would only limit their opinions to barbecue, we’d secure world peace.
Biggest laugh or cry: The hotel in Albuquerque brought new meaning to the words “basic accommodations,” offering a hard mattress, a tiny bathroom and a parking lot secured with barbed wire topped fencing. The only thing that was special was the flatscreen TV that gave the illusion of burning logs. Somehow, it worked its magic on us. We zonked out within 30 minutes of laying our heads on the pillows.
How unexpected: Fort Smith is Arkansas’ second-largest city. Although we only saw the town entering the city limits on Friday night and driving out Saturday morning, it gave off a cool vibe. Upon entering, we passed the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and felt the vibrancy of a university town. On our way out the next day, we were impressed with the downtown. Homegrown restaurants and shops dotted the main street, and amazing western motif murals decorated the sides of several large buildings.
Later, we hurtled down Interstate 40 through Oklahoma. I’d never been there and was expecting scrubland and oil wells. The eastern half of the state was surprisingly green with vegetation. The trees seemed to be of one variety and didn’t grow much taller than 30 or 40 feet. Favorite memento or memory: As I sort through all the memories of our four-day excursion, my favorite experience by far was the quality time I got to spend with my son, co-piloting. Jonathan had been living away from Virginia for more than a dozen years, and while we frequently communicate over the phone and through text messages, our face-to-face contact is typically limited to family holidays or short visits. Riding side-by-side with him in a rattling truck, watching the vast landscape change from green to brown, was a special opportunity and experience. There’s nothing like a cross-country road trip to open people up to each other.
What could be more fun than a man and his boy making a crosscountry road trip? Dean’s BBQ, in Potts Camp, Miss., was a welcome find for the author and his son, Jonathan Ade.