Bond­ing over road-food bar­be­cue

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - Travel@wash­post.com

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.

BILL ADE

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