Ray and Wilma Yoder, the "Cracker Barrel couple" that has spent the past 40 years on a mission to visit every Cracker Barrel restaurant in America, has finally completed their quest. As Food & Wine reports, the Yoders visited their final Cracker Barrel restaurant -- a newly opened location in the Portland suburb of Tualatin, Oregon -- on Aug. 28, Ray Yoder's 81st birthday.
In completing their four-decade foray, which took them 645 to Cracker Barrel restaurants across 44 states, the Goshen, Indiana, couple was met with cheers and applause at the Tualatin store, and was given a pair of Cracker Barrel aprons commemorating their homestyle journey.
Ray Yoder's love of Cracker Barrel began during his career delivering Coachman RVs to clients around the country. "It took the boredom out of being on the road. It has a down-home spirit, and everybody is friendly. It's like being at home," he told the Lebanon Democrat, newspaper of the chain's hometown of Lebanon, Tennessee.
Soon after, his wife Wilma joined him on his cross-country excursions, and the couple began making it a habit of visiting locations around the country -- a venture they've kept up for 30 years.
The Yoders got a little bit of help from the company in their final stop; the company announced early in August it would pay for the couple's trip to Portland.
"Through their travels across the country, Ray and Wilma Yoder have inspired and delighted thousands of the people who work in our stores," the company said in announcing its gift to the Yoders. "To the people who have welcomed and served them over the years, Ray and Wilma are more than valued guests. They are our family within our home.
"To share back with you just a small part of the joy you have brought with you into 644 Cracker Barrel stores, Cracker Barrel is sending both of you to Portland, where we will celebrate your achievement with you. Welcome back, Ray and Wilma."
Now that the Yoders' journey is complete, the company has thanked them for all their visits.
"[The Yoders] have touched the hearts of Cracker Barrel employees across the country," read a statement from Cracker Barrel. "We are thankful to have served them so many times over the years and honored to have been a part of many happy memories they have shared during their 60 years together."
"Cracker Barrel is our home away from home," said the Yoders in a statement provided to Food & Wine. "During our visits to Cracker Barrel stores over the past 40 years, we have made friends across the country and enjoyed making wonderful memories together. Each of the 645 stores we have visited has been special to us, and we are so happy to celebrate today with our Cracker Barrel family in Portland."