Inspired to Take the Road Less Traveled

A Florida woman and her husband discover unexpected delights while driving from Florida to Colorado.

By Joyce Nutta, Celebration, Florida

One by one, I watched the mile markers zip by. My husband, Giorgio, and I had been on the road for eight hours—heading from our home in Florida to Colorado, where I’d be leading a summer workshop for teachers.

Giorgio thought driving instead of flying would be fun. Me? My back ached. My stomach rumbled. Every passing scene looked just like the one before! Fun? I thought. Why did I let him talk me into this?

Don’t get me wrong, I like road trips. And with two kids in college, every dollar helped, so I was grateful to land this job during my summer break from teaching. I had figured I’d jet out there and back. No hassle. Not a penny wasted. Giorgio, though, had other ideas.

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“Let’s drive!” he’d said over dinner one night, his eyes lighting up. “I’ve never been west of the Mississippi—and just think of all the local culture we’ll see. Besides, I’ve mapped out the route and calculated expenses. We can both go for a little less than the cost of your flight and rental car.”

“I don’t know...” I’d said. But by the time Giorgio had loaded the dishwasher, he’d convinced me.

Now I shifted uncomfortably in the passenger seat of our pickup. How many more miles to New Orleans? I wondered. It didn’t seem like we had been missing out on anything...especially local color.

Finally, we reached our motel, just outside the Big Easy. We were starving but had no idea where to eat. There in the motel lobby, a memory from my childhood came rushing back.

I was 12 and on a family road trip. Dad asked clerks, waiters and anyone else we met a simple question: "If you had friends here from out of town, what’s the one place you would make sure they visited?" I walked up to the front desk and asked the same question.

“Well, it’s dinnertime,” the attendant said. “So I’d say go to Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge!” She even drew us a map of the back roads to get there.

Mulate’s was mobbed. “An hour for a table?” I moaned. Wait...what was that sound? I looked around and saw a zydeco band gathering on a stage nearby. Kids played concertinas, grandpas played fiddles, and every generation between joined in, even some of the diners!

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Giorgio and I couldn’t help but clap along. Before we knew it our table was ready. The crawfish étouffée and filé gumbo were out of this world. I snapped a photo of Giorgio’s face, red and sweaty from the Tabasco, and e-mailed it to our kids: “Mom and Dad are enjoying their summer break too!”

Bright and early the next morning, we set off for Austin, Texas. A few hours on the road and I got antsy. There didn’t seem to be anywhere interesting to stop and stretch. Then I spotted a little roadside stand selling pecans. “Let’s check it out,” I said to Giorgio. He steered the truck to a stop on the gravel and we hopped out.

There were all kinds of pecans—plain, salted, barbecued, sugar-glazed...even cayenne-peppered! I filled up a shopping bag and walked up to the counter. I knew just what to ask the cashier.

“That’s easy,” she said in her sweet drawl. “I’d make sure they had some real Texas barbecue at the Salt Lick.” She motioned for her husband to come give us directions.

After winding through Texas Hill Country for a good hour, we spotted a large compound. Dozens of trucks and cars were parked outside and sweet, woodsy smoke rose up to the sky. We didn’t need to read the sign to know we’d arrived at the Salt Lick.

Everyone from families in their Sunday best to hungry-looking cowboys waited round an enormous fire pit filled with grass-fed beef and homemade sausage. Barbecue never looked or smelled so good! I ordered a combo plate with beef ribs.

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“You sure you can eat all that?” our waitress asked.

“No problem!” I said. Laughter came from behind me, then all around. What was so funny? Giorgio leaned in.

“Honey, everything is bigger here in Texas, including the portions,” he said, just as the server set a plate of brontosaurus-sized ribs in front of me. Wow! He wasn’t kidding!

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Your Comments (12)

How blessed I felt reading this story..Having raised my children on a farm in Indiana, we seemed to be away from the city bustle. The peace and close to nature is a wonderful life. I felt really blessed. I would walk through to beautiful woods, feeling I was in God's church, and very close to GOD. My company was small and large animals. their curiosity matched mine, and I felt so greatful to have this amazing closeness to GOD in GOD's house.

Sure wish we could go to Mulates again. Wonderful food, people, and atmosphere. Good prices too.

This reminds me of our trip in an RV from Ohio to Colorado for a neice's wedding. From the wedding we continued on to Utah, where we did some sight seeing and ate in an Indian resturant, We continued on to Arizona, where we met some wonderful people and they took us to another interesting place to eat, next we ended up in Texas at Billy Bob's for our anniversary. It was a wonderful trip and there is so much to see in the USA. God bless you and thank you for sharing.

My mind's been in the retire-to-an-RV mode, so one of the first things I thought of when I read this story was "Travels With Charley." John Steinbeck interacted with local America. He drove mostly backroads and, starting on Long Island, it wasn't until the superhighways of the midwest that he hit highway speeds, noting that the minimum driving speed was his average until then. Another wonderful way to go--slower. But we are all in such a hurry, aren't we?

Reminds me of traveling with my Dad many years ago. We always found interesting places on the way to where we were going. I never thought of her Dad's exact question though. I will try to remember it.

We have travelled to many places in the U.S. and met many people and places by asking "Where is the best place to eat tonight". Keep sending the great stories.

My husband and I always try to take a road trip every year. As I drive, he reads the map. We did discover one trip in Vermont a dotted line in the mountains meant "DIRT Road" as we laugh about it now, we found some of the most breath taking views on the mountain we may have never seen ;) That one "question" Will always be asked from now on. It is VERY TRUE We have so much to see here in the USA and experience the beauty God gave us. To God Be The Glory. Thank You.

PERHAPS WE SHOULD TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED ONCE IN OUR LIVES EH???

Thank you for your kind comments and encouraging insights. Hope your travels bring you many unexpected blessings!
Joyce

Thank you for sharing! I hope I can remember to ask that question and have a memorable time on our next vacation. God Bless...

I hope you do have more stories to contribute too. This was fun. And very enlightening to dare to ask where people would take visitors they really loved to local destinations. Your Dad was a genius --thank the Lord it was spread to you as well.

What a beautiful story of "going with the flow." I believe as we cultivate this "childlikeness," we please God more and more each day. These are the moments in which miracles are made. Thank you for sharing and look forward to your next "on the road again" experience.