-- John Kerry, feeling pretty flush as he embarked on a 15-day tour of America, flipped the manager of Wendy's here a $20 bill and sprang for John and Elizabeth Edwards's 27th wedding anniversary lunch Friday.
Intimate it wasn't. Kerry and his running mate pulled their 17-vehicle caravan up to Wendy's to accommodate the Edwardses, who dined at Wendy's on their first anniversary and have celebrated the occasion at one of the restaurants ever since.
On this anniversary, they were joined by John and Teresa Heinz Kerry, Tom Brokaw, George Stephanopoulos and 100 other members of the media -- many of whom were pressed against the Wendy's window or at the counter when the foursome ordered.
The entourage rolled out of Boston on Friday morning for the start of a post-convention 3,500-mile trek through 22 states, the buses sporting the slogan "Believe in America."
"So you understand, this is our anniversary," Elizabeth Edwards told the manager. " We always celebrate our anniversary at Wendy's."
She knew her way around the Wendy's menu, quickly ordering a Classic Single Combo without cheese. Lettuce, tomato, mustard and onion on her hamburger. And a Diet Coke.
Ditto for her mate, but he went with cheese. John Kerry went for the chili and a Frosty dessert.
Edwards happily approached a table of Marines, who didn't look like they wanted to be distracted from their combos. Kerry, who always gravitates toward men and women in uniform, came over and asked the men, "Where are you guys serving?"
Their answers were clipped. Later, the Marines -- none of whom would give his name -- said they were Bush supporters. "He imposed on us and I disagree with him coming over here shaking our hands," one said. "I'm 100 percent against" Kerry, he said. "We support our commander in chief 100 percent."
As the power couples ate inside, traffic outside came to a standstill as drivers and pedestrians gawked at the scene. But it was Ben Affleck to whom the local media and excited young ladies swarmed like ants to a gumdrop.
A Democrat and friend of Kerry, Affleck said he joined the trip to learn about the political process. Asked by a reporter what he thought about the trip so far, he said, "So far I've been asleep, so I haven't formed any concrete opinions yet. I'm going to wait for the talking points."
Do you know where you are? asked another.
He hesitated -- and then thankfully came up with the correct answer.
A third asked if he had any political aspirations. "After I've seen the glamour and the glory?" he responded. "Thanks, guys."
Teresa Heinz Kerry attracted considerable media attention when she strolled out of the restaurant, soft drink in hand, to answer a few questions. She described watching her husband and children speak at the Democratic convention Thursday night as "pretty surreal," like something "happening to somebody else. . . . Once the kids started having fun, I started having fun."
Asked whether she gave her husband any advice, Heinz Kerry said, "Of course, I always do." Among other things, she told him, "Remember your mom" and to talk about his parents. Kerry's parents are deceased. He referred to both in the opening minutes of his acceptance speech.
"I thought he did very well," she said, "and I think President Clinton set him up when he said, what was it -- 'Take me.' Oh, yes, 'Send me.' " She went on to praise convention keynote speaker Barack Obama, the Illinois state senator who is running for the U.S. Senate and whose speech electrified the delegates.
"Barack Obama will be president one day," she said. "I know it in my gut."
Heinz Kerry was told that Newburgh is heavily Republican and a local television reporter asked her how she felt "in the heart of enemy territory."
Sipping her drink, she responded, "It's not enemies. It's Americans. We're all Americans."
She called the next few months of the campaign "the last sprint" after many months on the campaign trail, and then another reporter asked how she was handling all the scrutiny. "I'm 65 years old. What am I going to do about scrutiny? You have to live your life."