The very first Cracker Barrel was opened in 1969 in Lebanon, Tennessee off State Route 109. It was only very recently, however, that Ray and Wilma Yoder visited the restaurant where it all started. This couple of octogenarians from Goshen, Indiana has visited 645 out of 645 of the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations.
The Journey Begins
Ray Yoder's quest to visit every Cracker Barrel began 40 years ago when he was working as a coachman driving recreational vehicles back and forth across the country. To break up the monotony of the open highway, he would stop off at the local Cracker Barrel, which he told the Lebanon Democrat, offered more than just a place to eat.
"It took the boredom out of being on the road," he told the local publication. "It has a down-home spirit and everyone is friendly. It's like being at home."
Eventually, he began to really make his visits even homier when his wife, Wilma, joined him. For thirty years they traveled the country stopping off at Cracker Barrels that were along interstates. Surprisingly, it is only in the last decade that the couple has begun to receive recognition for their dogged dedication to this down-home restaurant.
Now, Ray Yoder, says that often when they arrive they will receive gift baskets and other merchandise. Many times they are also encouraged to have a photo op with the staff.
"It's a good feeling," Ray told the Lebanon Democrat. "It's something we've followed this long, but it's gained attention in the last 10 years or so."
The Rules of Consistency
When the pair visits a Cracker Barrel to check it off their list, they don't just pull into the parking lot, snap a picture, and continue on.
Au contraire. As a rule, the Yoders will always buy something and will always leave a tip. Just as they appreciate the consistency of service at the Cracker Barrel, where they say they've never had a bad experience, they try and offer the same dependability when they visit each establishment.
"We always buy something - a cup of coffee, candy, or something. We don't just pull into the parking lot and leave," Ray Yoder says.
The couple admits to once visiting eight different Cracker Barrel stores in a day. While this is not the norm, the Yoders are sure to do whatever it takes to visit every new Cracker Barrel in the nation. Thankfully the company provides them with exclusive information about store openings so that they can make the appropriate travel plans.
This article was orginally published Feb 12, 2019.