The couple has visited every Cracker Barrel Old Country Store location except for one in the Portland suburb of Tualatin, Ore., which they may visit later this year, and one in Lavonia, Ga., which opens Friday morning.
The couple will attend the ribbon cutting ceremony in Lavonia on Friday, which would bring their count to 644 locations, or 99.8 percent of Cracker Barrel stores.
The quest to visit every Cracker Barrel store started 40 years ago when Ray Yoder worked for Coachman delivering recreational vehicles across the country. He said Cracker Barrel was more than a place to get some food during his travels.
“It took the boredom out of being on the road,” he said. “It has a down-home spirit, and everybody is friendly. It’s like being at home.”
Wilma Yoder eventually joined him on his trips, and the couple started visiting various Cracker Barrel locations, which were typically near an interstate.
After about 30 years of traveling and visiting Cracker Barrel stores, the couple started to gain attention from Cracker Barrel employees and leadership, becoming Cracker Barrel celebrities.
“It’s a good feeling. It’s something we’ve followed this long, but it’s gained attention in the last 10 years or so,” said Ray Yoder, who said the couple often receives gift baskets and other items when they visit, along with requests for pictures.
Ray Yoder, an avid checkers player, notices when a Cracker Barrel checkers board is turned the wrong way, or when items inside the stores are inconsistent with other locations, although he typically doesn’t say anything to store employees.
The couple does, however, follow two rules when the couple visits a location – buy something and leave a tip.
“We always buy something – a cup of coffee, candy or something. We don’t just pull into the parking lot and leave,” he said.
The consistency the couple displays during their visits mirrors the reason they enjoy Cracker Barrel, a place they said they’ve never had a bad experience.
“It’s the same good service and great people wherever you go,” Ray said.
The couple has only given Christmas gifts from Cracker Barrel a handful of times, despite their many visits.
The couple said they once visited eight different Cracker Barrel stores in one day and admitted to eating breakfast at a Cracker Barrel before having lunch at the Lebanon location.
The couple is sure to continue their more than 5-million-mile journey to visit every Cracker Barrel as they receive exclusive information about store openings to make travel plans.
Cracker Barrel was started in 1969 in one store that still stands off what is now State Route 109 in Lebanon.