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September 8, 2012

Newlyweds' travels take them to Cooperstown

'Breakfast With Strangers' on their agenda

By Charlie M. Holmes
The Daily Star

---- — Cooperstown is used to visitors, but not visitors like Courtney Dillard and Matt Webber. The newlywed couple from Portland, Ore., have decided to take on their life together in a unique way.

Instead of embarking on a traditional honeymoon — traveling to a town to take in the tourist attractions — Dillard and Webber are visiting towns across the United States to take time with its residents. At the end

of their journey, the two plan on writing a book called “Breakfast With Strangers: 50 Meals Across America.”

“We had seen people eating alone at breakfast and were always curious about them,” Dillard explained.

“And then we ended up having breakfast with someone at a breakfast counter. [After that] we decided to put an ad on Craigslist, ‘Tell us in 500 words or less why we should take you to breakfast.’”

Yesterday the two had the chance to find out how Cooperstown works from three of its residents — Mayor Jeff Katz, Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pat Szarpa and the director of communications at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Craig Muder.

Topics ranged from fracking in New York to how the Baseball Hall of Fame ended up in Cooperstown to the interesting people Dillard and Webber had met on their journey.

“The curator at the Mustard Museum just outside Madison, Wisc., — [he’s] part of eccentric America,” Webber said. “His story goes way beyond mustard. He successfully argued a case in front of the Supreme Court using a jar of mustard.”

Another part of the trip that the two say will stick in their minds is their stop in Detroit.

“In Detroit many of the buildings are standing alone,” Dillard said. “Their train station, which was major, has been abandoned.”

Dillard and Webber talked for several minutes, telling stories about the bad situations the people in Detroit were facing.

“But with all that said, I want to go back,” Webber said.

Then the topic of conversation turned to politics.

“For the people in power there seems to be this real splitting and digging in on their side,” Dillard said. “Part of what our journey has been is that the average person really isn’t like that.”

During their trip, Dillard and Webber say, they have learned that everyone has a reason for the way they think.

“I’ve been an animal welfare person all my life, and our very first breakfast was with a rancher,” Dillard said. “I really appreciated this person because ranching is hard. I also came to understand that he ad a right to see someone like Matt and I as really having no idea what we were talking about on his topic. I can feel what I feel about animal welfare, but it is probably true that I know nothing about what he is doing.”

Dillard and Webber say they plan on donating a portion of the proceeds from their book to Servas US, a nonprofit organization promoting peace through travel and relationship building. To learn more about their trip across the United States visit breakfastwithstrangers.com.