Tuesday, July 21, 2020


...a chance conversation with a really good mom...

The woman must have been at least 80.  As I rolled up on the Yamaha, she was sitting on a bench backed up to the Calistoga Roastery clutching a heat-sheathed cup of something.  I suspect coffee.

I backed Enrico’s rear tire to the red-painted curb.  (I’ll explain this later.)

“I don’t think you can park there,” the woman said.  Her voice sounded as if it emanated from vocal cords made of razor wire.

“I know,” I said.  “I’ll just be a couple of minutes and I don’t want to take whole parking space from somebody in a car just for the bike.”

“Oh,” she said.  “That’s a nice idea.  You go inside and I’ll keep an eye out for the cops.”

Parking along Calistoga’s quaint downtown main drag is a combination of parallel spots and diagonal slots.  The transition is mid-block and at each transition zone, about twelve feet of curb is painted red.  The northern-most Napa Valley town is a mecca for motorcyclists of all stripes with all of the roads leading in and out of the berg – CA 29, CA 128, Silverado Trail – motoring delights for folks on two-wheelers.  Giving over about six of each of those twelve feet for motorcycle parking would likely ease stress on parking slots for cars.  I'm gonna write the City of Calistoga about this stroke of genius on my part...

I popped into the roastery, picked up two pounds of whole-bean and was out in two minutes.

“That was quick,” the woman said.  “Where are you going?”

“Home.  Cloverdale.  I come over here every few weeks to buy coffee partly because of the coffee and partly because the ride is so pretty.”

“We looked at Cloverdale when we moved.  Too hot.  Ended up here about 30 years ago.”

“That’s nice,” I said, unhooking my helmet from its lock.

“How far is it from Cloverdale to Boonville?” she asked.

“Twenty-eight miles,” I said.  “I ride that road quite frequently.”

“You think the coffee’s better here?”

I laughed.

“My daughter just moved to Boonville.  Husband got laid off and they couldn’t afford their place in the City.  Bought a place with a cabin and acreage...”

“Boonville’s nice.  Sorta remote.”

“My son lives in Sacramento. Well, El Dorado Hills.  You know where that is?”

I was beginning to feel a bit stuck.  “Yes.  I used to live out that way.” 

“What did you do there?”

“Education.  What’s your son do?”

“Some sort of science.  Something about rocket engines and the sort.” She paused – but not quite long enough.  “Cloverdale’s nice.  A bit too hot for me, but nice.  What kind of people live there?”

“Oh, a nice mix.”

“We had Thanksgiving last year up in... in... Placerville.”


“Oh?  You know it?”

LA Times Photo
“Historic downtown.  Just like this.”  I waved my arm up the street.  “Used to ride up that way all the time.”

“Daughter said something at dinner and son replied with something about President Trump – he loves President Trump – and then he got up and stormed away.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Yeah,” she said.  “People... We share so much in common.  My kids even share blood!  It shouldn’t be like this.  I felt so bad.  Keep asking myself, 'Where did I go wrong?'”

Social distancing protocols prevented me from approaching the old gal and offering a hug, but I sure wanted to.  I waited for a moment and then asked, “Did you do the best you could do, Mom?”

She took a first sip of her coffee.  Her eyes crept over the rim of the cup.  “I think so.”

“Well, then.  You did the best you could.”   My smile was concealed by my helmet, but I think we made eye contact.

Straddling Enrico, I fired the Yamaha up.  Lifting her paper cup and tipping it toward me, she nearly hollered: “You be careful on that thing.”

(c) 2020
Church of the Open Road Press