The Cracker Barrel Travel Hypothesis

If the Lee Girls, had to pick one place that epitomizes our shopping and eating experience it would most certainly be Cracker Barrel. If you have never been to a Cracker Barrel, which I find hard to believe, you’re in for an awesome experience. Think old country store complete with a big front porch furnished with rockers, checker boards and all kinds of merchandise for sale such as clothing and home furnishings, combined with a southern food restaurant, featuring dishes like Fried Okra and Chicken and Dumplings, anIMG_2669crackerbarreld you’ve got the idea. But Cracker Barrel is more than that. It’s can be your tour guide too. Tour guide you say? Yes, tour guide. I have long maintained that where there’s a Cracker Barrel off a highway exit, you’ll find good roadside hotels. I proved my hypothesis on our latest road trip.

Last month my husband and I decided to take the 2-day drive north to see my mother-in-law. (The younger Lee Girl had to miss the trip as she was working.) It’s nearly impossible to make advance reservations for a night on the road. You may plan on covering a certain number of miles per day, but that is not always possible with road work or unforeseen traffic accidents. When it gets dark, things become even more difficult to decide where to stop. In our case it was worse because plows left tall piles of snow street side blocking low level signs like entrances and exits.

In getting ready for our journey, I decided to pick up one of the Cracker Barrel maps showing their locations. I was sad to learn they no longer carry them. Apparently, they couldn’t keep the maps current with the rapid addition of new restaurants. On the bright side I was informed they have a computer website and an app for your phone. The website has a trip planning tool. Just type in your departure address and your destination address. It will produce a viable driving map. Unfortunately, it looks like the app doesn’t have the trip planner portion.

So yes, you can use the locations of Cracker Barrels to find decent hotels on your journey. Even when we weren’t looking for lodging, we checked each Cracker Barrel exit to verify hotel locations. They were there. If you would like additional directions in using their website check out the bottom of this blog.

One final mention about Cracker Barrel: Besides feeding you, helping with your gift selection, guiding you in finding a decent hotel, Cracker Barrel will also entertain you on your journey. They rent books on tape. Just pay the rental fee and the price of the chosen book on tape and you can keep it for 7 days. On the 7th day, return it to any Cracker Barrel and you get a full refund less the rental fee.

For the Website go to:
Click on Trip Planner
Fill in the “From” and To” section in the Trip Planner and you’ll get an entire map with each Cracker Barrel on it.
To print it, I had to use Windows’ Snipping Tool. You may know a better way.
I also accessed the website on my cellphone. I kept that page open in my phone for easy access.

On Amazon – Travel with the Lee Girls – New Orleans

Who Thought a Dish Could Get Any Better?


A co-worker of my husband brought him some andouille sausage back from New Orleans. I used it when I made this recipe.  Who knew it would make this already tasty recipe even better? I can highly recommend the smoked andouille from Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse and Restaurant. It imparted a delicious smoky flavor to the entire dish.

You can find this recipe for Jambalaya and many more in our book.

Travel with the Lee Girls – New Orleans

Fond Memories of Black Friday Shopping

The Lee Girls are all about the shopping. We love it and it shows. Over the years I have accumulated tons of Black Friday shopping memories. Some of those are just with Loretta and me. Other memories may include my husband, but most of them involve shopping with friends. Sadly these days any Black Friday memories will be minimal.

I began my Black Friday adventures as a little girl with my grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama. After our Thanksgiving meal, Mom and Dad would drive Grandmother and I back to her downtown apartment. I’d spend the night so we could get up early to take the bus to Pizitz, a downtown department store. This was back in the day when department stores used to have huge toy departments. Pizitz had a large indoor Christmas display that you “walked-through” with different scenes around each corner. It was similar to what was in the movie “A Christmas Story” without the huge slide.

After I moved to Atlanta, I’d meet friends downtown at Davison’s, which later changed its name to Macy’s. Even though I lived near several malls, I preferred to drive into town for my Black Friday adventures. In those days you could buy about everything in one store. I’d meet my best friend Debbie, and we’d spend all day shopping at Macys. Occasionally, we go outside of the store and shop at Woolworth’s. Woolworth’s was a five and dime store with an escalator. Other friends would meet us for lunch. We didn’t have to go outside to have lunch. We could walk across a bridge to the Peachtree Plaza Hotel and have lunch there. For a snack, we’d have Cream Cheese Brownies from a bakery next to the skyway that connected the parking deck to the store.

Once I married and moved to the south side of Atlanta, I got my husband excited about Black Friday shopping. He liked the idea of getting discount coupons if you got to the store early. We got to the mall at 5am when it opened. We would do all of our shopping, eat lunch and then go home about the time the mall really got busy. I’d have all my gifts wrapped by dinner time.

There are plenty of delightful memories of taking Loretta on her Black Friday adventures. Bright and early on Thanksgiving Day, we’d send my husband out to get two copies of the largest yearly edition of the AJC (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) newspaper. During the parade we would scour through the numerous Black Friday flyers. We’d have two piles, one where we were going and one we’d give a miss. Next, we would coordinate our times and set out a plan of attack. More often than not we shared our experience with a friend or two. My best friend and neighbor Arlene, who got the other copy of the newspaper, joined us most of the time. As Loretta got older, she would also bring a friend to join us as well. In those days, we’d begin our adventure at 2 or 3 Friday morning. We’d hit those first few sales and then there would be an hour in the middle to wait for the next store to open. That’s when we’d enjoy a meal at the Waffle House. One year we ate at Steak and Shake. Those restaurants would be packed at 4 in the morning. It amazed me that more breakfast restaurants weren’t open to earn all that extra capital. I remember one particularly cold Black Friday. During one of our stops Arlene and I didn’t need anything in that store. Loretta and her friend Haley sat on a blanket in line waiting for the Kohl’s to open. Arlene and I stayed in the car watching an episode of “Midsomer Murders” on my iPad while drinking hot beverages. Those were the days.

None of that happens these days. Black Fridays moved from early in the morning to practically all day on Thanksgiving. Now it’s all the week before too, with some even starting at Halloween. Cyber Monday was only the Monday following the holiday and now it’s all of the time too. No reason to purchase a newspaper as our email is loaded with ads. Sadly there’s no or very little Black Friday shopping for us. The thrill is gone and so are any future memories. At least there are plenty of wonderful ones throughout the years.

Get More From Your Journey

Get more out of your journey than just one week of travel. Your pleasure can last for months or even years if you do it right with these travel tips.

  1. Study your destination before making reservations.
    I like to do this through reading both travel books/magazines and fictional novels. Watching movies and television shows filmed in the area help also. Right now NCIS New Orleans is on CBS. Even if you’ve never been to the French Quarter before, you’ll feel like you have just by watching  that show.
  2. Plan your itinerary, but be flexible.
    You don’t want to waste anytime trying to figure out what to do that day. Have a plan B or even C if things like weather happen.
  3. Choose the best Hotel, Motels, B & B or an Apartments for you.
    Choices for sleeping accommodations seem to be endless these days. Last year we had some friends who spent a week in New Orleans. A week may be a little long for most, but theirs seemed extremely long. Part of that was due to where they were staying. They stayed in a hotel on Bourbon Street during a very busy week. I don’t have anything against staying on Bourbon Street, but it can be very noisy and crowded. A couple of nights, fine, but a week. No. Location is important in choosing a place to stay. Personally, I prefer to stay in the French Quarter like they did, but on a quieter street like Royal. What is important to you?