Thursday, April 19, 2018


A Church of the Open Road
‘do unto others’ project

Long time readers will understand that the Church of the Open Road is not so much a church as it is a state of mind; a state of mind achieved when touring the countryside on a nice motorcycle (or in a car or on foot.)  This non-churchiness does not preclude the church from engaging in missionary-type activities toward the betterment of others. 

Case in point:  The Redwood Valley fires of October 2017 were less reported than those, a few miles south, that ravaged Santa Rosa.  Still, individuals in that bucolic valley fled from terrifying flames through blankets of smoke in the thick of the night only to return two days later to ash.  Ironically, the neighbor’s house may have been untouched.

Such was the case for parishioner Brother Randy’s cousin Ken.  “One day, I had wealth,” he says with a chuckle.  “Now, after the insurance settlement, all I have is money.”

We surveyed the acreage where once stood his hand-built home of fifty years.  Charred oak and pine towered above the site.  Excavators had removed polluted top soil, and with that, remnants of foundations, remains of out buildings, access to a wine cellar once carved out of a hillside and stuff.  That stuff is the wealth that once was held.  Photos.  Collectables.  Rugs from around the globe.  Wines.  Tools: the tools necessary to live self-sufficiently on a small plot making your own food, your own wine, your own garden; and the ability to adapt and change the house as children are born, raised and depart.

“I had wealth.  Now all I have is money,” he said, standing outside the rented cargo container flush with borrowed and donated tools.  “I’d like to get back to having wealth.”

Randy deftly backed the rental trailer onto the driveway next to a newly constructed fence.  The olive trees we’d secured at Santa Rosa’s Urban Tree Farm had survived the fifty-five-mile ride north, as had my old New Braunfels Smoker.  The agenda was easy: fire up the smoker, throw on some ribs, and start diggin’ holes.

The day was post card perfect with an azure sky arching over verdant green hillsides.  Vast stretches of distant trees leafed green, untouched by a half-year-ago’s conflagration.  Splotches of standing deadwood made it appear as if the fire whimsically hop-scotched down the hillside, sadly placing one fiery foot on this square for a moment.

The digging wasn’t easy in the dense clay soil, but then again, I don’t spend a lot of time digging holes.  (My wife might disagree.)   

But as the designee for tending the bar-be-cue, I could climb into the back of the rental trailer, where the smoker had been leveled, and tinker with fuel and oxygen and rotate the rib racks – much lighter duty than hole-digging – while the others labored in the dirt.

As work progressed, the woman living across the street – hers, the house untouched –  parked her Mercedes mid-road and climbed out to check on her neighbor and offer a bottle of wine to enjoy with the meat.

A cousin showed up, then another with a guitar.  Accompanied by some blues and some yodeling, and after a coffee break where the ‘coffee’ was actually a nice, local Pinot, the work became lighter.

Word travels pretty fast in Redwood Valley.  That explains why so many escaped October’s terrible disaster.  That also explains why, by the time the trees were planted and the ribs and potato salad about to be consumed, the crew had expanded from three or four to nine or more.

Being the only non-relative, non-once-Sacramento-area-Church-of-Christ Sunday School attendee, I enjoyed an outside-looking-in view of a warm, informal reunion: Wine and potluck victuals.  Music.  Memories.  Laughter.  Love.  Five decades old remanences seemed only as distant as yesterday.

Too soon, the sun settled over the rim of a western hill.  Our trailer was repacked with equipment and our work was done.  As we rattled away, I realized that the day’s product was not that of a small orchard of olive trees.  Rather it was a new and healthier meaning of the concept of ‘wealth:’ A meaning I would be wise to embrace.

Ken, I knew, was well on his way to ‘getting back to having wealth.’  But maybe it was something he had never fully lost.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, March 12, 2018


Something I’m quite unlikely to do

My first real foray into motorcycle touring came in about 1982 when, fresh off a divorce, I purchased, new, a BMW R-65 from the venerable Ozzie’s BMW Center in Chico, California.  My black Beemer cradled an iconic 650 cc horizontally opposed motor and, when equipped with side bags, and with a duffel bungeed on top, provided an adequate mount for week-long explorations of Northern California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.  The thing was as dependable as tomorrow’s sunrise and I often marveled, after a 400-mile day, how an engine that was light enough for me to remove from the frame and cart around to the workbench with my own feeble arms – which I never did – could transport my lanky self so far, so cheaply and with so little problem.

There were downsides, however. At 6’4”, the frame on this German masterpiece was a bit small for my build.  Although it returned almost 50 miles to the gallon (on regular!) I often found myself wondering whether I’d find a filling station or find myself pushing the thing along a paved secondary route bordered in endless sage.  And the seat, honestly, was a bit like riding an ironing board.

Still, the adventure of cresting a rise or greeting a horizon was precisely what my 31-year-old psyche needed after those dark days of separation.  Four or five years later, however, with my career taking me from my home town and my leisure hours truncated by responsibility, I found that the BMW did more sitting around than getting around.  Realizing that in one twelve-month period, I’d only added 850 miles to the odometer, and after nearly rear-ending a Dodge van on highway 108 due, largely, to my rusty riding skills, with forty-three thousand miles on the thing, I returned it to Ozzie and he gave me a good price on an outright sale.  For the next thirteen years, I would ride nothing.

Decades later, the little Beemer still holds a place in my heart.

As I have come of age as a reader, one of my favorite genres is the memoir.  The book that introduced me to this realm of literature was Fred Haefele’s “Rebuilding the Indian” [University of Nebraska Press, 1998, 2005.]  In this volume, Haefele tells the story of turning a box of junk parts into a gleaming Indian Chief.  The Indian Motorcycle Company was founded early in the 1900s in Springfield, Massachusetts, adjacent to the site of the armory commissioned by General George Washington 130 years earlier.  The company’s storied history is punctuated with examples of innovation, success and failure.  From delivery vehicles to military motors, from single cylinder to in-line fours well before that configuration became the universal Japanese machine (UJM) – thanks, Honda – Indians had been the backbone of American motorcycles, along with what Mr. Harley and Mr. Davidson created out west in Milwaukee.

The Chief was a massive V-twin with a heavily valenced front fender and a broad, thick, well sprung bicycle-type seat suitable for long days on the road.  After “the war,” the Chief and its little brother, the Scout were the envy of anyone who wanted to explore our continent on two wheels. But the company fell on hard times, Harley was more prolific, and for a spell, Indians left the market. 

But the Indian Motorcycle spell did not.  Thus, Haefele, captivated by what used to be, and with little mechanical experience, bought that box of parts intent on putting a Chief back on the road and heading out to Sturgis to show the thing off.  The problem was, the box of parts was incomplete and some of the parts were not of the same motorcycle.  Quoting a review in the New Yorker: “Haefele describes how his search for vintage parts eventually involved an entire community of fanatical mechanics, impoverished motorcycle collectors, and renegade bikers – a collaboration, he realizes, that gave him skills as much social and spiritual as practical.”

It is a marvelous read, one that I return to from time to time as I find it inspires me both to do some things and to avoid other things.

A couple of weeks back, I was driving on California’s State Route 12, back-dooring my way into Sonoma, the historic home of General Mariano Vallejo.  In front of a derelict gas station turned coffee shack rested something that caught my eye – something familiar.  But I didn’t stop.

Today, while cruising though the area on Enrico, the Yamaha, I did.

Resting on its side stand was a ‘80s-era R-65, brown, not black, but otherwise the spittin’ image of my first tourer.  Thirty-five years hadn’t been exactly kind to this example.  The paint was deeply faded, the tires cracked like the hide of a road-kill armadillo.  The seat was solid, but sun-worn and by brushing my fingers across the cast aluminum jugs of the horizontally opposed engine, I could pick up a grimy, oxidized dust.  Yet the thing was straight, the frame true and sitting on the saddle felt a bit like coming home after missing too many holiday gatherings.  Immediately I remembered that I still owned the set of metric end wrenches – never used – that I’d purchased to tinker with the old bike when needed.

The coffee concession was closing and the motor-head boss about to button things up for the day.

“How much you take for that R-65?” I asked.

“Oh,” he said, “Probably two grand.”

“Does it run?”

“Did when I parked it.”

“Barn find?”

“Nope.  Got from a local doctor, original owner, who rode around town on it for years and years.  Finally, about three years ago, he came to me and said he probably ought to give the thing up.”

We walked over to the machine.

“I pulled the battery out and drained the fluid.  I was going to fix it up, but just too many other projects.  Like my R-80 I’ve got in the shop.”  He walked me into the one-time service bay.  A lovingly restored similar-era BMW GS sat looking as if it had just been freed from the showroom.  “I ride it every day that I can.”

“So, two grand?”

“Yeah.  About that.”

“Thanks,” I said, and we shook hands.  Before leaving, I snapped a few photos with my iPhone, thinking it would be fuel for thought.

And thought is what I gave it.  I came home and thumbed through “Rebuilding the Indian,” revisiting some of my favorite passages.  I suspect my mechanical skills are far more limited than Fred Haefele’s were when he found himself staring at a box of parts.  Then I thought, “I’ll bet Ozzie’s shop could clean it up, repaint the tank, refresh the tires, battery, adjust the valves, sync the carbs, replace the seals…”  I felt my eyes turn into those spinning dollar signs Warner Brothers once used to drive home a point in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.  Soon I arrived at this: With an additional investment of about thirty-five hundred dollars, I could end up with a really cool looking vintage German masterpiece still worth “about two grand.”

I sincerely hope the motor-head coffee shop owner finds success in pedaling that BMW.  I’m sure it will end up in good hands.

Just not mine.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, March 5, 2018


Tracking down lost yesterdays…

Venado is a spot on the map that may no longer be a spot on the road.  Once located west of Healdsburg (Sonoma County) on Mill Creek Road, there still exists an active weather data gathering station out there.  For a time in college, I thought being a weather prognosticator would be a cool job, and I still like hunting down where these sites are often wondering why these sites are.  Coincidentally, the human-interest column in Sunday’s local paper noted the passing of a woman, a Venado area icon of sorts, who’d walked back and forth to Daniels School a decade or so earlier than I walked to Rosedale (in Chico).  That’d place her scholarly days sometime in the late 1940s.

“Let’s go, Edward!” I said to the lab-mix puppy who always wears his traveling hat, even in the house.

Daniels School is out there, maybe at Venado – or maybe just near Venado.  There’s no sign marking the place name and no sign of the weather station.  But Edward and I enjoyed a little adventure traveling backward in time from a hip and urbane Healdsburg, winding along a picturesque creek, past farms and vineyards, through sun-spackled woodlands and into darkening redwood groves. 

Ten or more miles into deepening yesterdays, the pavement deteriorated, and the buildings became notably more “historic.” We turned back only when the banjo music in my mind became a bit too intrusive.


Press Democrat article on Venado:  Interesting read although you may need to copy the link into your browser...

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Wading into the frenzy, for a moment…

I received a text message from ICE yesterday.  “Holy Crap!” I thought. “I know my surname sounds Hispanic (It’s not, it’s bastardized Danish) but is the sound of my name ‘probable cause?’  I was born a fair-skinned baby in Glendale in ’52, went to school, held a professional career, contributed, and own my own home…”  My thoughts raced.  “I’ve got grandkids… friends… a wife!”

I wasn’t sure I should open the message for fear they’d figure out where I was and come swooping in under the cover of darkness; and, you know, ask questions later.

After many moments of trepidation, I clicked the link open. 

In my cell phone’s address book, I refer to my spouse in three different ways: by her formal first name, by a shortened version of that, and by an abbreviated version of “In Case of Emergency.”  I.C.E.

The content of the text regarded a copy of a message about a friend’s successful journey in a motorhome.

Fear manifests itself when something absolutely normal startles the poop out of somebody.  Terrorists know this.  Fear is a terrorist’s greatest ally. 

But fear should not be a tool in the hip pocket of a government charged, in part, with “ensuring domestic tranquility.”

I worry about the guys who do lawns in our neighborhood, the folks who work at the carwash I frequent, the crew members who installed appliances in my kitchen recently, the cook who prepared lunch for me yesterday at a local restaurant, the families who harvest our vegetables and tend our vineyards, the gentleman who served as my high school band director, the surgeon who completed a successful meniscectomy on my right knee last year…

I worry about a “domestic tranquility” that may no longer exist.  Which is odd, given that as a late-middle-aged white guy, I really have very little to fear.

© 2018
The Church of the Open Road Press

Thursday, February 15, 2018


…and not making it to the other side…

Pulling a bathrobe over my BVDs every morning, I step into some Birks and sneak out to pick up the newspaper at the foot of our driveway.  Something to read while enjoying my first cup of Joe.  Many mornings, an early sun lights the valley’s ridgeline opposite where we reside.  While the 101 corridor is the main route through our area, the faint traces of dirt roads and fire trails on that distant ridge capture my fancy.  Relatively new to the area, they become something I must explore.

Valentine’s Day 2018, such an exploration would be the weekly adventure I promised my wife when we moved in.  Edward, the lab-mix, would come along, too.  Checking a Topo Map App and my DeLorme California Atlas, I devise a plan.

The Mayacamas Mountains form a backbone ridge separating Sonoma/Mendocino and Lake Counties and Cloverdale from Clear Lake.

The map shows us that Pine Mountain Road is accessed, in our area, off Geysers Road.  At first, I missed the turn off.   Pine Mountain Road is a narrow, worn strip of nearly neglected pavement.  At the base of its climb, one caution sign warns “No Outlet.”  I check the map.  No, according to the Asti 7.5 minute quad, this connects with Adobe Creek Road up that-a-way.  A second sign warns us with a wiggly arrow and the words “Next 6 Miles.”  To me, that’s an invitation.

The pavement winds in and out of ravines past an eclectic collection of homes.  We drive past a fine looking adobe-colored house in a oak-studded spread that we can see from our driveway followed immediately by an ancient wood-framed get-away that once was painted green.  We recall that Charles Crocker owned a hunting lodge just a few miles south.  Our route climbs a ridge or two where the lot size comes acreage, and then whole sections.  Nine-plus miles up, the pavement ends, but mail boxes are posted at each junction and each junction is a road better than the one we’re on but gated and clearly marked “Private Property.”

Forty or so minutes dusty minutes out of town, Candi comments: “They get mail all the way up here?”  To which I respond, “They get a helluva lot for their 49-cent stamp.”

[I hesitate to take pictures of barns and houses and dirt tracks through meadows on private property this close to California’s Emerald Triangle, even though the product is somewhat more legal now.]

After an hour and fifteen bumpy minutes and about 19 miles, we come to the summit of the Mayacamas and stop for a few photos.

Clear Lake can be seen to the northeast rimmed by named and nameless peaks and ridges.

Near the summit, we are offered a grand view of Clear Lake’s dominant Mount Konocti, the volcanic and spiritual landmark for the Koi Nation, a subset of the Wappo, Pomo or Lake Miwok, each of whom watered at the lake.

Deer tracks and boar wallows, digger pines and acorned oaks cause me to think that the Lake County area of yore was more pleasing and abundant for its ancestral residents than its current populace.  [Note:  Lake County is the only California County never to have received railroad service.  A hundred years after that slight, Lake County is still one of the state’s poorest.]

The region is one of massive and dynamic forces.  The North American Plate pushing against the Pacific Plate caused the crust to buckle and ridge upon ridge to form.  Volcanic activity gave us Konocti to the east and Hull and Snow Mountains to the north, and countless cones of cinder and mud.  Just beneath the surface, a rising batholith heats subsurface water, forming the steam that is harnessed at the Geysers for geothermal electricity to power our other car: the non-Subaru Chevrolet Bolt.

Yet with all of the massive grandeur, subtle details exists to remind us of the region’s balance and delicacy.

Alas, at the top of the Mayacamas, Pine Mountain Road ends and a ramshackle gate blocks us from travel on Adobe Creek Road. 

We’ll not make it to the shores of California’s largest naturally occurring fresh water lake this day…

…and Edward – the quintessential Church of the Open Road canine – is left to wonder what might be around that next bend.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


History, like all living things, must be cared for in order to survive.
- the Church of the Open Road’s second principle

Whenever Dad would wax sentimental about some aspect of an otherwise long-forgotten yesterday, Mom would bellow: “Clayton! You have to stop living in the past!”

I think about Dad’s living-in-the-past malady as I wander down a path toward Wilder Ranch, a restored farmstead just north of Santa Cruz.

That we preserve such places offers a window into a past we should not forget.

Farmstead residences ranged from the elegant to the hovel.  Some still dot our rural landscapes.

Barns – among my favorite roadside attractions – could be rustic or things of architectural beauty as well.

Getting to and from may have involved a day’s buggy ride or a whistle stop from the tracks that passed through the property.

The advent of the automobile, even in its most primitive forms, provided independence but proved the death knell for rail travel.

Gone, also, is the everyman, jack-of-all-trades requirement.  When something broke, it got fixed – oftentimes by the owner – rather than tossed out and replaced.

When a gear in a drill press bound up, with some assessment, some deconstruction and some grease or oil and some reassembly, the user was back to drilling holes.  When the electronic ignition module on an F-150 or a microchip fails on an iMac or Dell, the user is kinda screwed.

Browsing through the working replica farm, I wonder if I have the stuff necessary to be a self-reliant problem-solver, the likes of which rural life in 1900 required: mechanic skills, physical strength, reason, patience.

Maybe all of that is a knack or a collection of knacks one acquires.  Or maybe it’s been bred out of us by the conveniences of today.

And if that’s the case, it’s good that we are offered the opportunity to look back with a degree of awe and wonder at what people used to do.

An hour’s respite from the saddle is well spent living in the past.  Thanks, “Clayton.”


Note:  Each of California’s State Historic Parks is worth a visit.  Wilder Ranch is a few minutes north of Santa Cruz on California’s scenic State Route 1.  Information about the Wilder Ranch Cultural Preserve may be found at:

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, January 29, 2018


Seasonal Affective Disorder be damned!

The new Klim Latitude Jacket arrived on the perfect January day.  Four or five days of thick, drippy tule fog, and my Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was kicking in.  Enrico, my Yamaha Super Tenere, was probably feeling about the same as me.  We both knew that the cure for SAD was a trip to some high ground somewhere above the fog.

The parcel from RevZilla arrived exactly as scheduled; the contents were just as advertised.  I donned my new Klim Latitude and marched around the house, past the mirror several times, adjusting the jacket to fit my girth and the sleeves to my spindly arms.  (Fifty years ago, pulls-ups in gym were not my friend.)  Given my odd shape, I was curious as to whether the jacket could be snugged just so.  Walking around the house was fine, but the real test would lay inside that blanket of moisture.

Thumbing the starter on the Yamaha through my winter gloves, it was as if Enrico's exhaust note was grumbling, “It’s about time!”

A block away from the house, I felt a draft that I knew was gonna bug me.  But the tabs on the Velcro® closures at both the elbow and the wrist were easy to manipulate even with those clumsy gloves on. 

A mile from home, I entered the 101 freeway and headed south at the speed limit.  Moisture collected on the face shield of my Shoei and I fingered it away; but even after twenty minutes at speed through this pea soup, nothing seeped through the Latitude.

Sunshine, if there were to be any today, would be found near the crest of the Maacama Mountains.  Heading east out of Santa Rosa, a twisty Mark West Springs Road is a delight when dry.  In January its curves can be more challenging when wet, especially considering the erosion caused by the rains that followed the area’s recent devastating fires.  I hoped not to try out the jacket’s impact protection.

North of Calistoga, I coursed further north on CA 29 as it climbs out of the Napa Valley on a six mile stretch that recalls Stelvio Pass.  Somewhere in that section, I broke through the fog.  The temperature rose from mid-40s to nearly 60.  Not enough to remove a layer or open a vent, but while having coffee at an outdoor table in Middletown, I fiddled with all of the zippers and closures, pleased with so much of the design of this unit.  I’m gonna like this a lot!

The coffee warmed my insides and on the 55-mile return ride, the jacket kept my outsides dry and snug.  Returning to the garage, I know Enrico was happy with the outing and I was happy with the bike, the jacket, the roads and the past three hours. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder be damned!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Cup o’ joe on the veranda –
turn of the LAST century style

The Davenport Inn and Roadhouse is located in an early 1900s brick building on the east side of the Cabrillo Highway.  Across the road, a little used, if not abandoned, rail line traces north south from Santa Cruz to the cement plant on the other end of town.  Behind it, a long, low warehouse with an orderly shingle roof, aging corrugated siding and old six-panel wood framed windows obscures much of the view of the Pacific, but from the upstairs veranda a glimpse of breakers and cliffs is clear to the south.

My wife hosts a “girls’ weekend” at home, so I’m asked to make myself scarce.  I’ve decided to secure a rustic, cozy room in a little town I’d only driven through before for a couple of nights.  The pillow-topped queen bed is soft and inviting, but I find that there are no Kleenex for my convenience and no television so the book I brought along to finish reading, I might actually finish reading.  The outlet on the bathroom counter next to the coffeemaker doesn’t have power to charge my iPhone, but the one next to the bed has a power strip attached into which the bedside lamp is plugged.  There exists no switch on said lamp, so in order to turn it on or off, one has to flip the toggle on the end of the power strip which lays on the floor near the bed. 

This morning’s coffee provided comes come not prepackaged but in a handsome, old-style tin and is sourced from a local roaster – a small company dealing strictly in fair-trade beans – and is free, which, to me, is the ultimate in fair trade.  I load the tiny Mr. Coffee with grounds and water and transport it to the lower level of the bedside table where its cord could reach the power strip, the toggle of which I have to trip to the on position, thus activating the lamp.  This prevents one from the dangerous practice of trying to brew coffee in the dark.

I am absorbing the blended aromas of sea breeze and fresh brew, when the magic becomes clear: It is a special gift to hole up in a hundred-year-old building so nicely preserved.  The quirks of a duplex outlet on the fritz or a light requiring an odd procedure to engage is just part of the enchantment.  A century ago, these conveniences would have been unheard of.  I recline on the bed taking note of the brick walls, mortar for which was probably milled and mixed just up the road, and of the clear grained redwood forming the room’s ceiling.  Not bad, I think, beginning to doze until the Mr. Coffee burbles. 

Moments later I’m sitting on a willow bough rocker on the upstairs veranda and writing these notes as I enjoy – and I mean that seriously – enjoy a cup of dark roast.

A low 8:00 AM January sun glares off the southward stretching pavement of the Cabrillo Highway.  Saturday morning traffic is sparse and the crush of the waves on the sea cliffs some two hundred yards away is a pleasant constant.  The coast in the area is one-time sea bottom.  Striations of limestone and sandstone push upward as a result of the on-going and eons-old collision of the North American and Pacific Plates.  The ocean gnaws at the cliffs.  I’m hearing the same sound as did the Ohlone natives, a string of lighthouse keepers, the railroad workers who hammered tracks to ties northward and the folks who built this hotel a hundred years ago.  I suspect that time means nothing to the sea.

From my willow rocker, I note a backlit and silhouetted someone walking atop the bluff across the highway to the south.  I promise myself I’ll check out whatever trail that someone is on before I leave town.

Perhaps I’ll do that now.  I’ve finished my coffee.

I look up from tying my sneakers in preparation for my sojourn across the highway and tracks and over to the bluff to find a couple of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s SUVs have just pulled into the wide spot in front of the warehouse.  Out of these two police cars emerge three police officers who discuss something for a minute or two and then head through a break in the stunted cypress and onto the railroad tracks and off toward the bluffs.  Figuring this might be Davenport’s biggest crime of the last 50 years and not wanting, personally, to be in the newspaper story about it – my apologies, here, to Arlo Guthrie – I decide to postpone any trek to the sea cliffs and, instead, brew a second cup of coffee, hoping that lone hiker hadn’t somehow slipped and fallen into the surf below.

Were that thought a reality it would have proven an awful way to start my day.  Worse, undoubtedly for him or her.

But it’s just an excuse, I know.  Sitting here on the veranda pretending it is 1910 all over again is more than fine and I’m happy to let my Saturday unfold slowly.


The Davenport Roadhouse and Inn is a rare throwback to earlier times and a wonderful place to stay.  A little history can be found on their website:

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Everything thing in life
relates in one way or another
to a scene from what movie?

A great saloon and dinner house fills the bottom floor of the Davenport Roadhouse and Inn.  Check-in for a night’s stay occurs next to a very tempting display of in-house baked pastries.  Reservations for dinner would not be required this off-season Friday.  After my customary mid-afternoon nap – these having become customary when I quit having to answer the bell about ten years ago – I engaged in my customary stroll through the back streets of whatever town I’m visiting.  Coastal Davenport had about two of ‘em.  I strolled twice.

Darkness had fallen about an hour before and wandering by the second time, the light from the Roadhouse’s windows, the commotion seen through them and the tinkling of a tinny piano stirred thoughts of Rick’s Café Americain.  I wondered if, somewhere in a backroom or upstairs, the proprietor was going over his books while wearing a white dinner jacket.  I also wondered about gambling.

I settled at a table at the elbow of the L-shaped room.  At the end of the portion of the room stretching to my right flamed a fireplace amid a fine brick hearth.  Tables, some placed individually and some pushed together into a row, filled the room.  From the long configuration darted a swarm of little children like bees from a hive.  A few families, locals, I assumed, had gathered to celebrate some tyke’s sixth or seventh birthday with brick oven pizza and enough soda to keep the kids rockin’ deep into the night.

To my left – straight ahead, the way I’d positioned myself – stood a handsome, full-service bar and a handful of cocktail tables.  A grayed woman, more elderly than myself, enjoyed something, I couldn’t see what, alternately putting it to her lips and then moving her hands in punctuated rhythm with tunes a talented jazz-man was playing on a tiny cruise ship sized piano.  The piano hadn’t eighty-eight keys.  I knew this because I’d seen two of these before – one in Hal B. Wallace’s classic Casablanca and one in my mother-in-law’s parlor, which we would inherit.  The gentleman in command of the piano rolled out one standard after another as the children danced in front of him and in front of the pastry display and the old woman across the room mouthed lyrics.  I’d spent much of the drive down listening to the Sinatra satellite radio station on the Harmon/Kardon in the Subaru.  I could have mouthed them, too.

I was hoping for a steak and they had a New York on the menu, but the catch of the day – locally sourced seafood on a bed of pasta with sautéed local mushrooms bathed in something creamy – sounded good.  As did a chilled bottle of Husch Sauvignon Blanc.

Thus, two-and-a-half hours of my solo Friday evening would be spent enjoying fresh and fine coastal fare in a bar in a coastal village while a cluster of first- second- and third-graders danced and frolicked to tunes from the Great American Songbook.  Two-thirds of the way through the bottle of Sauv Blanc, I found myself mouthing those words along with that senior citizen from across the crowded room.  Some Enchanted Evening.

Returning to my room, I checked the news on my iPhone only to discover that the boys in Congress – unable to compromise or find common ground about some pretty basic and pretty American ideals – had shut down the government.

The bastards.

As time went by, however, my thoughts returned to the old woman singing and to those tots dancing to the lyrical tunes of Gershwin, Porter and Rogers and Hart – the music of the times when, as a people, we got along better. 

And as I retired for the evening, I was warmed by glimmers of hope.  Enchanted evening indeed.


Next up:  A Morning at the Davenport Roadhouse and Inn

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press