Friday, July 2, 2010


SOMEBODY WAS IMPACTING the rounded end of a ball peen hammer on the set of nerves bundled just behind my right eyeball. This somebody had been doing it all night. I awoke to an empty room and a head pounding in response to my last-night-in-Jackson celebratory double enjoyed at the balcony of the Towne Tavern overlooking the square. The perch is a great place to people watch, both those sharing the balcony and those on the square below. Up here and at an adjacent table sat the editor from a big publishing house in New York who’d read a sample of work I’d submitted. Her words about my feeble efforts in a voice nicely positioned between business-is-business and this-ain’t-New-York-City, along with her creamy, dark complexion, warm, smoky eyes and off the shoulder sweater battled some pretty fine scenery and roadways for a highlight of this trip. Aged about that of my daughters, I wondered how the young, these days, got so smart and sophisticated so early in life. Down below, a worldwide array of folks wandered the curio shops around the plaza. Of particular interest was the fellow who’d backed his 250 Honda Rebel in line with the Harleys parked out front of the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. I glanced at my watch to chronicle the elapsed time it would take tonight’s latter-day Paul Reubens to get his rear-end kicked out to the curb. But the gang over ta the Million Dollar must have been a forgiving bunch this eve. That or “Pee Wee” ponied up a round for the house.

MY MODUS OPERANDI on departure days is to log some miles before breakfast. Breaks the ride into segments. Rests the butt. Keeps one fresh. Victor, Idaho, some twenty-eight miles from Jackson, up a 7500-foot Teton Pass, would be my first stop.

The fifty-degree morning did what it could, but any irregularity in the pavement reminded me that the smithy was still working on my interior head. Usually the Knob Creek 9-year small batch is my friend, but the double the night before departure proved that friends sometimes betray friends. The very first sip of organic dark roast at the Sunshine Deli and Café now serving breakfast! began to soften the blows and by about the third sip, the world had come into focus.

The first thing I realized was that I had a problem: a coffee problem. My occasional imbibing is just that, occasional. I never have any alcohol until I’m done riding for the day and I simply should have been smarter than to have a stiff one the night before. So it wasn’t the Knob Creek. It was the coffee. Whether or not I have fouled my brain the night before, every morning, that first sip of coffee melts whatever is going on in my head and opens the gate for each new tomorrow. So caffeine addiction: that’s a problem.

Second thing I noticed was the waitress who served me. In fact all of them. Not the stereotypical older, painted-up well-past-mid-life woman who had clearly worked greasy spoons since birth, calling each male customer “honey” in a voice that crackled dryly over decades of tobacco use. No, the gal waiting on me looked very natural in jeans and Keens, nicely rounded and lithe, and intelligent in her discourse up and down the counter, but just sassy enough to be entertaining this morning. She may have been the inspiration for the name of this little bid’ness. Sunshine. And, like the editor on the balcony the night before, young enough to be a daughter.

“May I have the world famous French toast and bacon?”

“You sure may, fella. More coffee?”

My third awareness was of the guy seated just around the corner at the counter. Age of a nephew of mine. Head shaved smooth. Apparently that’s the thing now. Body art tattoos wrist to shoulder that I’d didn’t have the eye for – and he likely won’t some fifteen years from now. If he lives that long.

It was 8:45 AM and he was halfway through a Sam Adams India Pale Ale. At maybe twenty-two. Next to him was an acquaintance that was doing his best to monitor and direct his conversation, keep him from falling off the stool and perhaps limit his exposure to more of the Brewer Patriot’s finest.

“It’s all down here from here,” the tattooed one said to whomever was in the room.

“Naw,” I said. I cocked my thumb over my shoulder. “It’s all down here from the pass.”

His partner laughed.

So did he. “Look,” he said, “I don’t even know how I got here this morning. Pulled an all nighter last night.”

“Get done at 5:00?” his partner asked.

“Nope. 3:30 I think. Which is worse ‘cause you can’t see where you’re going.”

He drained his ale and I winced. Hammering returned to my head, if only out of sympathy. I took another slug of coffee.

Tattoo and his sidekick talked and like a turbulent morning tide, their voices flowed and ebbed and flowed again.

“You know, there’s a centipede in the bathroom back there,” Tattoo said. “They’re poisonous, aren’t they?”

“I wouldn’t eat one,” his caretaker responded.

A bit subdued laughter rolled through the patrons of the house.

A cell phone rang and his colleague stepped outside to take it.

Tattoo pushed the bottle away and called over one of the young wait staff.

“Teton Mimosa, please.” He grinned broadly. His teeth were clustered into groups of two or three.

“Teton Mimosa?” I asked, looking for his buddy.

“Yeah. PBR and Orange juice,” Tattoo said.

I thought he was kidding until the thing showed up.

I focused on my French toast. Crusted with something sweet and crunchy, I began to believe that World Famous was not just idle bluster. “And maple syrup from Vermont.” Sunshine wanted me to be sure I knew.

Eventually the friend returned and said he had to “git.” He was due to guide a group on a raft trip down the Teton River rapids. He slipped a credit card across the counter, which was scooped up by the help.

“Me, too,” said Tattoo, who also produced a credit card.


It was five or ten minutes before I finished. I’d declined a refill of my coffee, but by the time my bill came, I’d reconsidered. “Just half. Don’t want any of it to go to waste.”

“You’re such a liar,” Sunshine said with a laugh, as if we’d known each other since high school. That’d be forty years ago for me, and about eight for her.

She returned to fill my cup and scoop up the money I’d laid on the counter. “You’ll see us again?”

THE YOUNG MAN had wrested an older green Specialized® mountain bike from its mooring having won his skirmish with the cable and lock. He looked at me and shook his head twice. Violently. Then he straddled the machine and began to pedal.

After just two strokes, he was riding straight and true toward where ever it was he was going. I pictured him wearing a yellow jersey. Perhaps he did as well. Passers-by would never suspect the content of his morning repast.

Moments later, after donning my protective jacket, helmet and gloves, I motored by. Tattoo waved and I hoped for him the best. The ball peen had quit hammering in my head. For Tattoo, it would likely continue for some time.

© 2010
Church of the Open Road Press

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