Ray and Wilma Yoder are probably America's foremost amateur experts on Cracker Barrel restaurants. As Eater reports, the Indiana couple is on a 30-year quest to eat at every single Cracker Barrel in the U.S. And they’ve almost completed it.
Ray Yoder of Goshen, Indiana, first started going to Cracker Barrel regularly when he worked delivering RVs across the country. Soon, Wilma was coming along, too, and the couple began hunting down Cracker Barrel locations in earnest, a pastime they’ve pursued for the past three decades.
Cracker Barrel got its start in Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1969, and according to Ray, visiting the restaurants while on the road felt like being at home. “It has a down-home spirit, and everybody is friendly,” he told the Lebanon Democrat. He told the paper that stopping at Cracker Barrels helped relieve boredom when he was on the road.
Now, he and Wilma are celebrities to those in the Cracker Barrel know. Cracker Barrel’s corporate leadership invites them to opening day at new stores. Employees know of them, and sometimes they receive gift baskets when they come in to cross a new Cracker Barrel off their list. People ask to take their picture when they visit.
The 80-year-olds have just two rules for their visits: At each location, they always buy something, even if it’s just a cup of coffee, and leave a tip. There’s no limit on how many Cracker Barrels they’ll go to in a single day, though. They once visited 10 different locations on a drive along the East Coast. Overall, their Cracker Barrel adventure has taken them more than 5 million miles across 44 states.
The Yoders recently visited their 644th Cracker Barrel, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new location in Lavonia, Georgia, in early July. They’re hoping to hit up the last Cracker Barrel on their list—until the next one opens, that is—by heading to Tualatin, Oregon, sometime later this year.
Update: Portland news station KGW reports that the Yoders have now completed their quest, stopping in at the Tualatin Cracker Barrel on August 28. The company flew them to Oregon for the occasion, which marked the end of their 645-restaurant journey. For now, at least.
All images courtesy Cracker Barrel