The Cozy Kitchen

Bicycle Touring, USA Add comments

My Bike on the California Coast

On an Oregon State Park beach after watching the Pacific sun dim to a bearable brightness and then slide behind dark gray clouds coating the horizon a Canadian kid came over to me and said hello. Comeau was too touring by bike. He’d been on the road over a month cycling from Edmonton, Canada to Vancouver and then down the coast. He carried a fraction of the gear I had and barely enough cash to buy a bus ticket home.

Comeau showed me some of his low-budget travel maneuvers. We walked into Best Western’s along the coast, filled our stomachs with eggs, waffles and pastries and our pockets with fruits and granola bars for the questionable price of a confident posture and coy smile.

Most of the Oregon coast was a beautifully scenic ride along ocean cliffs and through forests as we traveled from small surf town to small industry town.

In a particularly unaccommodating community characterized by the logging industry and dune buggy rental shops, my Canadian friend and I visited a small diner called the “Cozy Kitchen”.

Comeau asked our waitress Lisa for some hot water with which to mix his oatmeal. Despite my concern with asking a business to supply hot water so he could eat for free at their table, she kindly brought a steaming kettle along with honey and brown sugar on a glimmering silver platter.

Considering the sun was setting and the ugly little town didn’t have much to offer for a place to setup our tents, I wondered how far Lisa’s kindness might go.

“Maybe she’ll let us camp in her yard?” I posed to Comeau.

“Do you happen to know anyone who lives south of here who might let us set up our tents on their front yard? We’re cycling the coast and there’s no parks around here…” I asked Lisa when she returned.

A bit dumbfounded, she leaned her arm against my booth as she perused her memory.

“Well I’ve got an Aunt, but she’s might not be too…umm….”

“It’s OK, my mother wouldn’t be comfortable having two dirty guys sleeping in her yard either!”, I interrupted. “I just figured I’d ask, because you were so friendly… “

Not yet discounting our luck, I watched Lisa pace back and forth behind the counter on her mobile phone. From the frequent peeks over her shoulder, it was obvious she was making a private call she didn’t want us to hear.

“I just talked to my husband. He could put your bikes in his pickup truck and take you to our place if you’re interested. We live just a couple of miles from here.”

“Aww…he doesn’t have to do that”, I said noncommittally.

“Oh it’s no bother, really!”

“Well, OK then! Thanks!”

Dan came quickly in his rusty Ford F150 and with one beefy arm, lifted our heavy bikes into the truck. Smiling, I opened the door for Comeau so he could sit between Dan and I on the leather bench seat with his legs awkwardly placed over the center axle hump on the floor.

After effortlessly hoisting our bikes back out of the truck, Dan offered us the option of pitching our tents on the spare lot next door, a 500 square foot patch of crushed stone and weeds, or on his giant front porch. We chose the later.

While setting up camp under the glow of an exterior house light sourced by an extension cord, we took breaks to ask the names of each of the fifteen cats darting around the yard.

We chatted with Dan’s teenage son, quite a friendly chap, who seemed to be missing a fair bit of general knowledge as well as a number of teeth.

Our friend Dan, the lumber truck driver, responded to most statements and questions with the same two words. “Mmmm hmm.”

There were two memorable exceptions to this. The first was on the ride home when I asked Dan where he had met Lisa.

“Right there at the Cozy Kitchen!” he exclaimed sitting upright in his old Ford.

“Really?” Comeau and I both sounded.

“Mmmm hmm.

The second exception was later that night on Dan’s porch. Comeau inquired as to whether there were other industries in the area besides logging.

“Mmmm hmm. They all get shut down though. It’s those environmentalists…” Dan responded.

Leaning on his wobbly railing, he peered out over his little city lit by the yellow lights of the lumber yard, while below his cats scurried around back and forth and through a window behind him his son’s face strobed white, blue and green from the glow of a five foot flat-panel TV taking up their living room wall.

It was obvious the three of us didn’t share the same ideals.

We stood in an awkward silence wondering what each other was thinking. The space between us, that space Dan and Lisa’s kindness and hospitality had done such a fantastic job of narrowing, began to widen…

I looked out over the city. The yellow lights were blurred to large bulbs in the daze of my thoughts. Taking a step back and a breath that said it was time to get some sleep, in that elegance of ambiguity, I broke the silence concluding our converse…

“Mmmm hmm.


5 Thoughts on “The Cozy Kitchen”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Another great post and your words paint more images in my mind of what you are up to. Hope all is well.

  2. Dad Says:

    Love your description of Dan’s son
    Stay safe
    Love ya

  3. Gert Says:

    yeah man this was a good one.

  4. Uncle Tim Says:

    A great combination of Hemingway descriptiveness with a surreal venue and a “Sling Blade” type charcter.
    Laughed my ass off.

  5. matt Says:

    john, you’re such an environmentalist…..stop shutting down industries.

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