The So Cal Kid and Highway 1

Definitely started getting sick yesterday and woke up to a cold today. I got started late and decided to hit the the Holy Roast coffee shop (I’d question the name but I don’t have the energy) in Santa Rosa before I left town. The kid behind the register looked like a Southern California version of a guy I worked with on Wizard of Oz. He had long braids, wide open brown eyes, a sweet manner, no ability to do his job and no awareness of a problem.

So Cal Kid: Good morning! Can I help you?

Me: Can I get an Americano and a yogurt parfait? And change for the meter?

SCK: Of course! Oh, wait. We don’t have much change. I may not be able to give you change.

Silent face off while I look at him working in a coffee shop surrounded only by metered parking with no change at 9AM and no options. He looks at me quietly. Sweetly. Silently. Probably just waiting for me to speak. So I did:

Me: can we make change out of your tip jar?

SCK: oooh, I don’t know. (He looks at his compatriot coffee maker. She must do all the heavy lifting in the thinking department. She nods.) Oh, OK!

He digs out change.

SCK: thanks so much! Have a great day!

Me: yogurt?

SCK: Oh right!

He gets yogurt out of the case. Sets it down. Walks away. I pick it up and it’s sticky all down the side. I go to the coffee station and they are out of napkins.  I go back to the front.

SCK: (sweetly) Good morning! Can I help you?

Me: Do you have napkins? I’m sorry. There aren’t any in the coffee station and it’s all sticky…

SCK: Oh goodness! Let me clean that off.

He does and returns it to me with napkins.

I pick it up and go back to the coffee station for a spoon. They are out of spoons. I go back to the front counter.

SCK: (sweetly) Can I help you?

(He seems to have a reset button wherein he neither remembers me nor gets annoyed nor has any ability to forsee my questions)

Me: I’m so sorry. Can I get a spoon?

SCK: Of course!

He brings me a spoon. By this point I have to feed the meter again because this process has taken 15 minutes and I only planned to be there for 30. I run out, leaving all my stuff in the shop, shove change into the meter and come back in with a flood of people. I sit down at my table and realize I never got my coffee.


The very LAST thing I want is to see this kid again. Ever. But he’s plugged into a brain wipe and doesn’t remember that I exist or that I ordered coffee so I have to go back up and remind him.

He sees me come back up to the counter and get in line behind the flood of people but only attends to the kids in front of me. In every case, he rings people up, hands them change and cheerily tells them to have a good day while they stand there awkwardly and wait for him to remember that they ordered things. Then they remind him. Then he acts surprised, like “Oh, is that what we do here!?” and scrambles to get their food. But he’s so sweet natured about it that people laugh instead of getting annoyed. Is this a super power? I have to think so.

When I get up to the counter (now my 4th time in 20 minutes) he has that look that says he recognizes me but can’t figure out from where. Then he smiles:

SCK: can I help you??

Me: I ordered coffee.

SCK: Oh! Riiiiight.

Me: I didn’t get it.

SCK: Oh! Ok. Um. What was it?

I suppress a strong temptation to say “a pound of your most expensive coffee and a large Americano with 5 shots” knowing that he won’t remember and will just give it to me and wish me a great day (again). But his coffee compatriot sweeps him aside at this point and says, “Americano, right?”

Then she makes it.

Then she gives it to me.

And it takes about a minute.

Well, 26 minutes, actually. But about a minute of actual work on someone else’s part.

I fed the meter again, had breakfast and left.

Santa Rosa, I don’t know what you’re putting in your water but you might want to stop.

The rest of the day was long but beautiful. Here’s Highway 1 through northern California:

This little nondenominational meditation chapel sits outside Sea Ranch, CA. I don’t know what it’s supposed to resemble, but someone called it the “conquistador helmet church” and I like that.

Beautifully built by a local artist, both inside and out.

And then back to the ocean…

And the mountains:

Don’t you wish you’d been there?

Tomorrow: Redwoods

See you then.

Miner feats of strength at the Miami Boomtown Spree

It seems the further away I get from the East Coast, the more my NYC plates get comments. In the Chicago suburbs a couple in an SUV watched me circle in a gas station with my GPS and yelled “Hey New York! How you liking Chicago!” In Dallas, a guy at a gas station wandered over while I gassed up and said “What’s a New York car doing in Texas??” and of course, Brother Bernardo drove up the hill to the Black Madonna shrine to find the lady with the New York plates.

It makes me laugh and always leads to a conversation that starts with:

Are you from New York?


Where are you from?


And then we’re off to the races talking about New York and road trips while they tell me their New York stories and about their past road trips. It’s great.

My New York car and I spent the weekend with my brother Nate in Miami, AZ. Nate works for the forest service as a fire fighting hot shot so he’s usually posted in some small town or remote rural location close to a national forest. Miami is a small mining town right next to the larger mining town of Globe in northern AZ. The mining industry makes up most of the town’s infrastructure but there’s a historic downtown area with antique shops and the fire station draws a lot of 20/30 something guys working as hot shots that like to work hard and then rip it up.

During the years I lived in Tucson and Nate was stationed all over the Southwest, I’d see him a couple times a summer while he was on duty but it’s been quite some time since we spent any serious time together. However, my timing was great as I came in to Miami just in time for the Miami Boomtown Spree, which was a little carnival type celebration that started with an 8 mile hill race and evolved into mining sports, beer tents and live music. And lots of local color:

Miner sports, you ask? Oh yes, miner sports. Men competing in a bunch of competitions for the All Around Miner of the Year award inclusive of a banging jacket and bragging rights.

The first event was Mucking. I’d only ever heard of mucking in a farming context but in mining, mucking means clearing rock from a mine site. This timed mucking event involved filling a box with 1000lbs of rock. A small box.

How can 1000lbs of rock fit into such a small space?? This mountainous man, Adolf, got the fastest time of 56 seconds.

 He’s gigantic, not that tall but extremely broad. I would guess his shoulders are about 60 inches around. Maybe more. He might even be bigger around than he is tall. He also had great technique and efficiency in his shoveling. His shovel never cleared the side of the box, he’d use a little wrist flip to throw the rock in and most of his rock went straight into the box. When you combined that with his powerful shoveling, it was an impressive sight. The next guy, Bobby O, was about 25 years older, about 100lb lighter and on the sinewy scrappy side.

 He had less efficient technique but it was clear he’d shoveled some rock in his time, However, without Adolf’s shoulders or some speed, he just couldn’t keep up. He acquitted himself well with about a minute 20 seconds and then had a little lay down to recover. Mucking is serious work. Nate and I took a break during the middle of this competition to go get a cold beverage at the beer corral:

Yes, wine comes in a can.  If you’re at a small town festival watching miners mucking, you need a canned frosty beverage to complement it. After a couple more men competed, they gave the award to Adolf and moved on to women’s mucking. And the crowd increased exponentially. Apparently a buxom lass competed last year and it was the talk of the town; so, everyone hoped she would show up again this year. Among this year’s competitors were this girl:

And girl I call Ms. Yoga in the Suburbs, who was #2 last year (after the buxom lass):

When the men competed the crowd yelled:


Don’t Stop!

Looking Good!

The basics. But the women? Oh, that crowd had so much advice, all of it with so much potential for other situations. After Nate and I heard these phrases over and over, I wrote them down and we took turns shouting them during lulls in the encouragement. I would recommend them for any situation as I think they have broad appeal:

Bend your knees!

Stay on the back of the pile!

Keep it low!

Don’t slow down!

Big shovelfuls!

Keep going!

Remember to breathe!

Get it all in the box!!

And those girls didn’t do any of these things. They definitely filled up the box but that rock went all over the place and the guy holding the box kept flinching as gravel flew at his face. I respect them for climbing up on that mountain and competing but I really wanted some Amazon woman to stalk out of the crowd and give Adolf a run for his money. Didn’t happen and Ms. Yoga in the Suburbs took the crown this year. Still, bend your knees is always good advice.

The spike driving contest involved some complicated hammering of giant nails upside down into a wooden post at eye level with the back of a hatchet while not cutting your femoral artery on the downswing, not allowing the nail to go in sideways and then somehow getting it in so flush that the judge could scrape the post with a credit card and not feel the nail. You know, a piece of cake. Who doesn’t hammer nails upside down using an awkward two handed upward swing with a hatchet? You don’t? Wuss. It looked like this:

Spike driving is also hard work. We left before Adolf competed because we had barbequed meat and cold beer waiting for us but I assume he cleaned up and is proudly displaying his new jacket today. He remembers to breathe and keeps going. Essential keys to success.

Some of Nate’s hot shot friends threw a barbeque so we went to hang out with them and play a little bag toss. The ability to drink several beers and still toss beanbags a hundred feet into a hole is another select skill set. At the top of this pile of winners is a kid named Connor. If the town of Miami were a medieval fiefdom, Connor would be the king’s jester. He’s goofy and relaxed and says that making his bag tosses feels so good it makes him want to head butt something. He’ll hold his can of Bud in one hand and toss with the other hand, awkwardly pinning his upper arm to his chest and sort of casually flipping the bag with a lot of elbow and wrist. And the bag goes in about 70% of the time! I asked Nate how he did it and Nate said “Dude, it’s his super power. There’s no real explanation.” I prefer to think that he stays on the back of the pile and gets it all in the box.

After several hours of barbq and bag toss, we left to get some things done, had dinner and stopped by a bar downtown hoping to hear some live music but without success. However, the bartender, Dick, served us chili beer anyway:

And kept us entertained with his assessments of life and success. That beer is SPICY. Most flavored beer tastes more like beer but this one is all chili with a chili floating in it. I loved it. If you’re in AZ, it’s made by a local microbrew in Cave Creek so check it out. We finished the night by meeting up with the hot shots again at bar called the Huddle, sitting on the back porch rail lit by white Christmas lights on a mild cool night talking about this and that, telling stories, watching Connor entertain the ladies and laughing about the day. It was a good one. For sure.

I think New York isn’t lost. She knows exactly where she is.

Tomorrow: More AZ