Sunday, July 6, 2014

A second breakfast

At 6:40 I leave the old farmhouse in Caspar in mist and fog, strong and in high spirits. The whole day stretching out ahead.

At 8:45 I reach that big downhill to the Navarro River and Highway 128. And the matching long steep climb back up to the coast, the pattern of Highway 1 that all bike tourists learn well. Lots of work for zero gain.

That feeling is a definite clue that breakfast has worn off. Granola and almond milk and strawberries, vaporized. Time to refuel. The question is, do I stop in Elk, if there's a place to eat? It's kind of too soon, only 20+ miles. Press on through hunger to Point Arena?

In Elk, Griffin House is a non-starter. Only lunch and dinner.

It's not a long town, and coming up quickly on the left is the other cafe. Decision time. Lo, other bikes are parked there! With tourist gear.

First and last, we listen to the stomach, which is saying stop, stop now.

Also, many bike tours teach you this: when an opportunity is presented, take it. The odds of it repeating itself down the road are nil. The world doesn't work like that. It's not a constant festival of goodness, with every town offering a buffet like a supported event. There's a finite amount of goodness to be had, usually not enough to go around. If it's here in Elk, odds are it's not in Point Arena.

So I lean the Waterford next to the touring bikes, strip off the armor, and go in.

The place is hopping, with mostly locals. A promising sign. I slide in at the bar and when the waitress makes time for me, I order the huevos rancheros. Gluten free. The coffee is dark and strong. Excellent.

While they make it, and whilst feeding there's more than enough time to chat with my fellow patrons. Two schoolteachers from an island near Seattle, touring down the coast on summer break. The one who just retired is quitting in San Francisco. He asks about getting to the airport. The other looks about 40, and he's going all the way to San Diego. (OK, but if you find a good breakfast place, stop!) They're camping and doing 40-60 miles a day. Often stopping for 2 hours at a time.

Brett, the physical therapist who knows everything about my crazy life in the Big City. "It's all about money" he says, rubbing his fingers together to illustrate. He's talking about the insurance companies that stand between him and his clients. "I fight it every chance I get." Looking determined, maybe the healthiest, strongest 60-year-old ever.

On my left, a woman in her 50's who asks where I've been. I figure she's never heard of these places but she knows them all. Her great-grandfather was a founder of Caspar and a good part of her family is buried in the little cemetery down the road, above the Navarro River. "And me too, someday" she says. Looking down for a split second, her facial muscles relax into sadness. Many of the people she knows and loves are gone.

The moment passes. Her car is waiting outside; she's just getting coffee to go. Every time she asks the waitress for something, like sugar or a bigger lid, she calls her "Sweetie" or "Honey".

A woman of a similar age is eating at the bar. They know each other. She wants me to tell her, how do you leave 3 feet of space when passing a bike, without crossing the double yellow line? I say, we're new at this. In Europe they know what to do. She offers a key local fact: it's July 4th weekend and there's a parade today in Point Arena. Not sure when it starts, maybe noon. I'll want to get on the road soon and hopefully miss that!

A 20-something college student sits down between us, with his simple eggs and potatoes. His mom works here and he helps out sometimes. He's studying finance and business and University of Nevada, Reno (where his dad lives). Next year after graduation he might go live with his grandpa in Martinez, to take care of him. They don't care for outsiders in Reno.

Not like Elk. I have to remind myself time is passing, pressing me to get back on the bike. Maybe someday we'll live in this town, come to this cafe every day. Get rich in stories.

1 comment :

  1. I love those moments in cycling - and I love that cyclists can be like this. Can talk, be friendly, help one another. (Perhaps they don't do this in Reno?) It gives me hope.
    That first shot looks so peaceful.

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