Zombie Coffee sign in Washington DC

I’m not, by most standards, much of a coffee drinker. I don’t use it to wake up – I usually go for decaf even when I do drink it – and still don’t know the difference between an espresso or a cappuccino.

Coffeehouses, though, have become a big part of my routine, especially on the road.

This is a big step up from years past, when I was more likely to be spotted at a convenience mart or “eat here and get gas” food stop. I used to do a fair bit of driving at times when there wasn’t a whole lot open, though when my schedule got normal and I kept insisting upon heat lamp gas station pizza as a go-to snack – well, I have my good points too.

Today, though, it’s all about the coffee shops, primarily because my town has some great ones that we have been frequenting since the nearly trenta-sized Owen was more like a venti. (is venti the right word here? This tells you how little I know about coffee.)

Brady and baby Owen, back in the day

Back in those days we’d stop off at the local barista every Saturday after walking through the farmers market. Sonya and I would get frozen flavored drinks while the baby would recharge with a bottle and/or a nap. These days, as Owen pushes age three, he goes without the nap and he’s exchanged the bottle for a cherry soda, but the sentiment is still the same. Good family time.

And so I seek out similar shops when I’m traveling, in part because I like to try local shops and cafes, but also because it makes me feel a little closer to my loved ones when I’m away. And fortunately, there are plenty of good coffee shops out there in the cities of America. Last week in Richmond, Virginia, I stopped at two in the same day – the Harrison Street Cafe, where I read old Marvel Comics over a mocha something or other, and then the Globehopper Coffeehouse, where I tried a flavored concoction that had the word purple in the name, if I remember right. Definitely a good change from the days of gas station gastronomy.

The funny part is, though, I’ve noticed that highway gas stations and truck stops are now catering to the latte crowd. Italy, Texas, on I-35E; Joliet, Illinois, on I-55; I could go on and on. There may be fewer hipsters on hand at these joints, and the drinks may not be quite the same as the blends at the cafes, but they’re decidedly more upscale than the pitch black bucket o’sludge you could grab from the gas ‘n’ go shops I used to frequent. And why not? Maybe some of the truckers out there on the road hang out at the local cafes with their kids where they live and they, too, want a taste of home.

If nothing else, it keeps us away from the heat lamp pizza.