Anyone who has traveled I-95 up or down the east coast has seen them. Endless billboards, counting down the miles to Pedro’s Place – South Of The Border at the NC/SC line. Sayings that these days might trouble the Easily Offended, but meant and usually taken in good fun.
YOU NEVER SAUSAGE A PLACE!
(YOU’RE ALWAYS A WEINER AT PEDRO’S!)
Growing up in western Pennsylvania, my family vacationed in the mountains of North Carolina, where my dad was from. On the one occasion I can remember when we went to the Outer Banks, we drove across North Carolina to the coast. I don’t remember how we got back, but we never went that far south.
Kathy’s family, on the other hand, made an annual summer vacation trek to Florida from Ohio. Back in the 60s, there was no I-77, or at least it didn’t go as far as it does now, so the preferred route was the PA Turnpike to somewhere in eastern PA, probably Breezewood, then over to I-95 to Florida.
So imagine, riding down I-95, July in North Carolina, 3 kids in the back seat of a Volkswagen Somethingorother with no air conditioning, Day 2 of a 3-day adventure, tired, hungry and bored. Those signs looked like an oasis to a person dying of thirst in the desert. The closer they got, coming from either direction, the higher the hopes. Seeing the signs for miles and miles, until as the border approached, the Sombrero-topped observation tower and the 100+ foot tall Pedro statue loomed on the horizon. Three kids silently willing dad to take the exit. But he drives on by, hopes dashed for another year.
So on our trip out to Bolivia, NC this past week, Kathy realized a lifelong dream – I took her to South Of The Border! 🙂 And it was about what we expected. We had an average lunch served by an enthusiastic but largely ineffective waitress, prepared by what I imagined to be a single moody cook, preparing each meal in the order in which it was received. The interior of The Sombrero Room Restaurant, while clean and cozy, looked like it might have been salvaged from a former Chi-Chi’s. We didn’t go into any of the shops, but they looked to be filled with the kinds of things we call “mommy-can-I-gets,” to tempt gullible kids (and their parents) into leaving some of their money behind for Pedro’s safekeeping.
The place evidently attracts a crowd during peak tourism season – it’s been in business and growing steadily for 70 years. There is something for everyone – a gas station, truck stop, motel, two restaurants, a convenience store (actually two), a campground and more shops than I can count. Not to mention the observation tower and 100 foot Pedro! But on this grey chilly Thursday in March there appeared to be more employees than guests. It’s certainly attractive – clean and colorful and large enough to make it impossible to miss and almost as impossible to ignore. I’m sure many strong-willed dads continue to resist the pull of the place, but many more likely succumb to the wishes and requests of their passengers.