If we haven’t said this before, our favorite thing by far about this road trip has been reconnecting with family and friends all across the country. Not everyone wants their picture on our blog, but looking back, we wish we had a picture of every wonderful meal we’ve shared with people we love on this trip. Unfortunately, we have found that we take fewer pictures when we’re hanging out with our favorite people than we do seeing the sights.
Speaking of friends and family, we were lucky when our schedule opened up and our route took us to the mid-west. Our first stop was Gentry, Arkansas to visit family. Even though the kitchen is in the middle of renovations, Aunt Jerrie kept us well-fed and made us feel right at home. Sam had lots of room to run with a new friend, and Uncle Gary brought out paintball equipment for the boys the first night we were there. Ouch! Uncle Gary gave us a behind the scenes VIP tour of the McKee Baking Company factory, where he has worked for over 30 years. We got to watch Oatmeal Creme Pies from start to finish— mixing, baking, cooling, frosting, wrapping, boxing. It was fascinating. At the end of the tour we completed the cycle with two final steps – unwrapping and eating! Back at the house we waited out tornado warnings, threw frisbees for the dogs and played dominoes ’til midnight. There’s really nothing like family.
Also in Gentry we visited the high school where Ayrril and I met and started dating (much to the amusement of the boys). Callie and Jeff met us at Crystal Bridges, a world class American art museum, just up the road in Bentonville. The Norman Rockwell exhibit was excellent and our company for the evening was even better. On our last day we met Adam and Jennifer and their kids for breakfast. It was so great to have the chance to catch up with more friends that we haven’t seen in a decade.
Our next stop was Leavenworth, Kansas, a place that most SF guys have managed to narrowly avoid throughout their careers. Jeff and Kim made it impossible to miss, however, and we had a couple of very relaxing days hanging out with them. It was like being on vacation – staying up late, sleeping in, great food and cold sangria. Much as we would have loved to stay longer, the mountains were calling, the homeowners association was beginning to look askance at the big bus parked in the neighborhood, and we had to move on.