Friday, January 14, 2011


[February 2005] ONCE BEFORE I’d stopped in Garberville. I’d parked the blue Beemer a few slots north of the corner where the Eel River Café is situated. It was July and I was overheated in my leathers. Just a quick bite to eat: breakfast and then on my way to wherever.

Unfortunately, just after I’d settled in with the local paper, while awaiting my sausage and eggs, a gentleman, older than myself, spots my leather jacket across the seat opposite me in the booth, slides it over and sits down.

“That your Beemer out there?”

“Yeah,” I said, with the pride one who owns a BMW cultivates.

The man began to regale me with his biking adventures. Trip to Alaska on a Honda. Now he owns Suzukis. Dirt bikes. Where have I just been? He’d been somewhere better. In the industry. Sells oil additives for motorcycles. How’re the eggs? Improves mileage and engine life. Why’d you get the Beemer? Broken ankle, once. Back to Alaska…

I decided not to eat at the Eel River Café again.

TODAY WAS A FARTHEST-THING-FROM-JULY February Saturday. Having just stayed at a far below basic motel in Shelter Cove some 25 windy miles distant and to the west, I found myself again in Garberville.

Powering down to about fifteen miles per hour, there is a café on the right. But closed. To the left, the Eel River. Further on a block or two, a restaurant associated with a motel. I nose my new RT into an on-street parking place but can’t get comfortable that, parked there, the bike would be stable. Astride the saddle, I peer through the window. Dishwater coffee is being served to the lone patron. The place is grey and tired, possessing that used-to-be-modern look.

I’ve got to find a better place to park or a better place to eat. Muscling the bike back onto the street, I fire her up and head further south. But only a short distance. Main Street is cut off by the new freeway. New about 35 years ago. A traffic round-about sits at the end of Main and I must edge right to find myself, 180 degrees later, in a lane that goes no place but back north.

Two blocks. To the Eel River Café. Again.

“I’LL BET YOU WANT COFFEE.” The voice was far too young to express that type of waitressing experience. Or waitressing confidence. What if I didn’t want coffee? Too young for such waitressing warmth this foggy morning. Or welcome, for that matter.

“Oh, man,” I replied.

She took that as a “Yes.”

The chill of the last twenty-five miles began to melt.

“Menus at the end of the table.”

I knew this from before.

I sat in the same booth. The one closest to the door. Facing the street. My jacket lay where I’d laid it before. I’d chosen this booth because there are old photos of Garberville Police motors on the wall. Harleys and maybe an old, old Curtiss.

Today, I thought I’d like a view of the street, I don’t know why. Maybe it was because all of the other booths were occupied.

The honey voiced young waitress had not been there a year and a half before. This I would have remembered.

“Bacon and eggs, please.”

“I can do that.”

“Rye toast, if you have it.”

“I can do that, too.”

Someone else was “doing that,” but there was something warm and comely about this young woman’s response to my order that made me glad the road had forced me back here. I could feel it in my fingertips. Hell, I could feel my fingertips!

“More coffee?” she asked.

“Can you do that?”

“Sure can.”

My server possessed an innocent Audrey Hepburn-as-Holly Golightly aire. Flitting – or flirting – from booth to table to booth again, doing that for all her customers. She had, perhaps, reached the age of my daughter. Just a kid. Black pants. Not slacks, but not jeans. And a black tee shirt with a white Highway 101 logo screened onto it, covering something with longer sleeves – I don’t know – maybe plain, maybe prettier. Dark hair experimentally streaked with blonde. And a pleasant school-girl smile to match her pleasant school-girl voice.

A brief if I could just subtract thirty years thought flickered.

MY CELL PHONE WORKED HERE. Between ordering and eating, I called home and was greeted with a terse: “Boy are you ever grounded.” It seems that Verizon’s “nationwide coverage” doesn’t include Shelter Cove, California, where I had spent the previous night, as well as a lot of other places I tend to ride on that motorcycle. And the pay phone outside the motel had been disemboweled, so a concerned spouse had no way of knowing whether I had lived or missed a turn somewhere.

“If I’da died, the authorities would have, no doubt, contacted you by now.”

The eggs came just as the phone call ended.

“Ever’thin’ taste okay?” Music?

“Better ’n okay,” I smiled.

The view through the condensation on the window was only interesting the moment that an overweight lady walked by with three dogs: two miniature dashounds on leashes – each going another direction – and a Bassett Heinz 57 cross pulling off in a third. Other than that comedy, Main Street was quiet and cloaked in fog that hadn’t been present over at the coast.

Every time a patron opened the door to the Eel River Café, the building inhaled a little of the moist, chilled air. And I shivered and questioned the reasonability of my sitting by this constantly opening and closing door.

Until more coffee miraculously poured into my cup.

“Thanks,” I said warmly.

“Yeah.” A cool “Yeah.”

I looked up. The coffee was dispensed by an old-enough-to-be-the young-waitress’-mother who had probably more than once heard kindly, or cooing, or warm – or worse – remarks from some graying codger on a motorcycle leveled at someone other than herself.

Like, perhaps, her daughter?

I finished quietly. Tipped well. And left, wondering, down the road a piece, if the young lady had ever befriended a stray cat.

© 2005
Church of the Open Road Press

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