Friday, December 5, 2008

Our first Cracker Barrel

We are parked at a Cracker Barrel restaurant adjacent to I-95 in Ashland, Virginia (map).

Yesterday, highway 243 deposited us at the I-95 corridor just north of Quantico, and we continued south on US-1, which parallels I-95, often just a few hundred feet away. The GPS, of course, kept trying to put us onto the Interstate, with an exasperated-sounding "Recalculating" every time we refused to turn.

US-1 is, actually, not so much a parallel route to the Interstate as it is a parallel universe -- it is an entirely different experience. The road is lined with local businesses, and the traffic consists of local people going about their lives, a marked contrast to the rush to be somewhere else entirely on the Interstate, whizzing past enormous signs of national-chain franchises that could be anywhere at all. Most of our drive we could not see the Interstate or its billboards, hotels, or chains.

At Carmel Church we stopped at the Flying-J, conveniently located between I-95 and US-1, and took on 200 gallons of diesel at $2.45, the lowest price we've paid since Mexico. The RV dispensers at this location were faster than at the last one, and it took less than half an hour using nozzles on both sides. Still, it was near sunset when we finished, and we thought about just spending the night.

Our guides showed a Wal-Mart supercenter here in Ashland, just another 12 miles down the road, and we found no reference to parking restrictions, so we decided to press on for what we thought would be a quieter experience, with more restaurant choices. Unfortunately, when we arrived just past sunset, we found signs prohibiting overnight RV parking -- all too common, and becoming more so, here in Virginia.

Knowing there was an Elks lodge in Richmond, but sorry we would be arriving there well after dark, we started to head on to the Interstate, forsaking the friendlier US-1 for speed and absence of hard-to-see hazards. We discovered both a TA truckstop and a Cracker Barrel restaurant right here at the exit, and decided to try the Cracker Barrel, known for its liberal RV parking policy and dedicated oversize parking spaces, with the TA as a backup plan, rather than press on in the dark.

We found a nice, relatively quiet (there is no escaping the freeway noise here) and dark spot in back, and there were at least two other rigs here, doubtless also refugees from the no-parking Wal-Mart. Given the parking policy, it's actually a bit surprising we've never stayed in one in over four years. The truth is, though, that we've eaten here before, and we really can't stand the place for dinner. So we walked over to Applebees last night, and had breakfast here this morning instead as our courtesy purchase -- they actually do a pretty good job on breakfast.

Today we will continue south on US-1, although we might take the bypass around Richmond. We should be in the Carolinas tonight.


  1. I agree on Cracker Barrell. Not so good on regular food, but quite good on breakfast items. The bonus is that you can get breakfast all day long.

  2. welcome to gods country the carolinas

  3. Well ... here's the other side of the coin: we have never had a bad meal at any Crackerbarrel around the country. We especially love the way they bake their potatoes in salt. Makes the skins crispy and delicious.

    We have never spent the night there but hear it is a great place for an overnight stop.

    Love your Odyssey and great job on the blog.

    Safe Travels,
    Joy and Phil

  4. If you stay on US 1 in North Carolina you will go through my hometown, Pinebluff. If you blink you will miss it. Also, if you go through Rockingham turn left on to Long Drive (1st stoplight), then right on 74 for a mile or so and then back to US 1. If you follow US 1 through downtown R'ham you will find a turn that is no fun to make at all in a big rig. Enjoy your trip.

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    @anonymous: we do like the Carolinas. We'll be taking a more relaxed pace now that we are in the South.

    @Joy and Phil: Sorry, I should have been more specific -- I did not mean to disparage their cooking. I'm sure CB does a great job with it, and clearly they are enormously popular, so many folks like the cuisine. It's just not our taste, which runs more towards fresh grilled meats with lightly cooked fresh vegetable sides. We're both on limited-carb diets, so potatoes are pretty much out no matter how they are done, and we find the veggies at CB to be overcooked, and the menu heavy with baked and stewed items.

    Many folks find this to be "comfort food," but, as I said, it's just not our taste. Their breakfast, OTOH, is right up our alley, and they even have three "low carb" selections.

    The mandatory routing through the overpriced gift shop to enter and exit the joint is also annoying, but their generous parking policy more than makes up for that. (It must work: we saw several folks doing their holiday shopping there this morning.)

    @Cat: We decided to take the more easterly route, and so we left US-1 for US-301 in Petersburg, so we'll miss you this trip. Thanks for the shout out, though.

  6. Friends,
    Let me know when you get to SC. I live off US1 near Columbia. Love to see you again and maybe share a meal.
    Later, bob

  7. That's ok Sean, Dallas and I are in OK now. Pinebluff is just my hometown, a great place of happiness for me as a girl.

  8. Love those CB breakfasts. No Cracker Barrel in California, however.

    I like the 100 to 150 miles a day pace. Most of my travels seem to require me to go way beyond my preferred pace. Perhaps, one day soon I will be on the road to be on the road, not to get somewhere.

    Thanks again for the vicarious travel.


  9. It's so cool to finally follow your adventures in a part of the US I actually know! I had dinner at the Crack Barrel in Ashland back in April! Not crazy about their food, either, except for their mac 'n cheese, which I'm addicted to. :-S

  10. @Raven: One of these days, I hope we end up in the same part of the country at about the same time. I see you are also shivering there in BC now -- no skyclad worshipping for you!


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