Small Town Dining
Taking the passenger seat on a road trip happens so infrequently that I count the chauffeuring on one hand and wonder how I ever managed to sit patiently for that length of time. On one of these outings, I traveled with a number of aunts and uncles as part of a volunteer moving crew on our way to central Arkansas. Despite my thousands of frequent-driver miles (and, yes, the less-frequent passenger miles), this trip marks the only time during which I eat at a Waffle House, primarily because I place them in my self-designated restaurant category of “I Can Always Find Something Else I Like More.” But on this one outing, I enjoyed the scrambled eggs.
Through half a century, all of my travels through Arkansas involved visits with my uncle and his wife, whether packing and transporting his household goods to a new home or passing through on a family vacation. I remember as a ‘tween seeing the sites of Hot Springs and stopping at the A&W drive-in and getting an earful from my Dad for ordering a Coca-Cola instead of a root beer. Of the memories I have from my time in Hot Springs, I recall driving up to an overlook, but I retain no mental image of the view besides the parking lot (perhaps since I am spoiled by countless memorable vistas in my lifetime), but I distinctly recall the A&W exchange.
The Next State
On the return to Missouri where the caravan began its travels southward, we stop well into the evening at the familiar golden arches in Blytheville to grab a bite to eat before resuming the final leg of our trip. My mom’s sister, a bubbly woman who engaged each and every person she encountered on the planet in a brief conversation that established her gregariousness and her impulsiveness, initiates a discussion with a Blythevillian teenager trapped both sweeping the floors and in my aunt’s general vicinity. At the northeast corner of this southern state, the young lady’s drawl reminds me that its geographic location stands at the entrance to the South – just a short distance from Missouri and just across the Mississippi River from Tennessee.
The Great River brought both the French settlers and the early Spaniards deep into the North American continent. The Army of the Republic pushed through the solid defenses of Vicksburg and Nachez and other Southern strongholds along this same waterway on its way to the Gulf of Mexico separating the Confederacy from the lands to which it hoped to expand westward. Blytheville lies at the junction of the travels that have shaped the United States for centuries, but in this simple conversation, my aunt discovers that this young woman has never left the state, not once ever. For everything I remember about this geographic boot, even above the A&W debate, the prospect of a self-imposed limitation surrounded nearly by other options floors me. I cringe at the idea of never stepping outside the box.