Lonely Planet Writer

This travel-loving senior couple have visited every Cracker Barrel in the USA

A travel-loving Indiana couple have completed their mission of visiting every Cracker Barrel in the USA, by dining at the 645th location in Tualatin, Oregon, this week.

Ray and Wilma Yoder visit their 645th Cracker Barrel in Tualatin, Oregon. Image: Portland Event Photography

Ray and Wilma Yoder from Goshen received a VIP welcome at the store, in celebration of them spending almost 40 years visiting Cracker Barrels, which combine restaurant and gift stores with a Southern Country theme. The adorable senior couple began their quest when Ray dined at the first one, which opened in 1969 in Lebanon, Tennessee, in the course of his job delivering RVs to dealerships all across the country.

He started to visit a different one every time he travelled, and Wilma joined him on the road trips when their four children grew up and moved away from home. Having fallen in love with Cracker Barrel, the octogenarians have now travelled more than five million miles in 44 states to visit various branches over four decades. They only temporarily stopped two years ago for a year when Wilma suffered a brain aneurysm, from which she has thankfully recovered.

Ray and Wilma Yoder visit their 645th Cracker Barrel in Tualatin, Oregon. Image: Portland Event Photography

Now married 40 years, Ray and Wilma once visited ten Cracker Barrels in one day. They have a rule that they have to buy something at each store and leave a tip. Their favourite meals in the restaurants are meatloaf, pancakes and grilled chicken sandwiches, and they keep a folded map on which they have circled every Cracker Barrel they have visited on the road.

Ray and Wilma Yoder have visited 645 Cracker Barrels. Image: Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel staff have been following their progress with keen interest, and keep them updated about new openings. Up to last week they only had one location left to visit, and to mark the occasion, Cracker Barrel flew them to Tualatin so that they could complete the feat.

Ray and Wilma Yoder with their family. Image: Ray and Wilma Yoder

Upon arrival at the location, staff presented the Yoders with personalised aprons and one of the 15-peg triangle board games that are placed on tables at Cracker Barrel. The visit coincided with Ray’s 81st birthday, and he told waiting reporters that it was “best birthday ever.” “It’s quite special,” he said. “These little farm kids aren’t used to this hype, but we’re getting used to it.”