By Ed Chasteen
This green sign with white letters stands at the base of the steepest hill on HH, a roller coaster five-mile road that snakes its way from Interurban Road. The seven miles from Ferellview on Interurban to its intersection with HH are, by comparison, tabletop flat. Riding Interurban no sign announces HH, but a long silver guardrail appears to my right just as a road on my left appears. Turning left, I spot HH up the first of many hills to come.
Laboring uphill has always appealed to me more than flying down. Stopping is no problem at all going up. None of my several biking accidents have occurred going up. Potholes, debris and other road hazards don’t come at me so fast going up. By the time I come to that steep hill on the edge of Platte City, I have ridden my brakes down the backsides of many lesser ones.
Whether on foot or on a bike, I’ve never been fast. My dad as a boy was called Lightnin’ by his ironic friends. Mine called me Speedy. So to get to a place quickly has never been my goal. To enjoy the journey! To have a destination in mind! To make friends along the way! This is why I ride.
This brings me today to Country Cookin’ Café, Platte City’s home of comfort food, attentive, efficient service and love of country. The counter and the front room are filled this Thursday morning. I take a seat in the back room. One other diner sits here, at a long table, where shortly he will be joined by 14 friends. He tells me that every Monday and Wednesday, they play golf. Every other Thursday, they come here to breakfast. He is 81 and grew up here. The oldest player is 94.
He points out his brother’s picture on the wall and names several friends also pictured among the dozens of photos hanging on three walls of the room. All are dressed in their military uniforms and all have their roots in this place. Two American flags adorn the back wall. A quilt hangs on the wall at the far end of the room.
His brother was killed in the war in 1944. At age 16 he joined the service in 1945. Took his dad months to talk his Mom into letting him join. She was never easy about it. I don’t ask his name. He speaks, I think, for many thousands of his generation. Hearing him and being in this room, remind me of my grandmother’s dining room in the 1940s when I was a small boy. As I sat at the table and looked across the room, I saw pictures of five uncles in their uniforms. “They’re away in the war,” I overhead the grownups say.
My biscuits and gravy and ice tea come shortly. His table fills. My self-chosen lot in life is to find goodness in every person and place. I try never to compare. I look for something to compliment. This place is known, folks tell me, for their biscuits and gravy. Rightly so. How it could be better I haven’t a clue.
I prefer a circular route. So I choose another way back, a little longer and not many hills. This Thursday morning ride to Country Cookin’ is reconnaissance. Our Greater Liberty Saturday Riders are scheduled to do this ride two days from now. I want to see how long it takes me. It will take most everyone else about an hour, give or take a few minutes, I figure. So if it takes me two hours, I’ll know to start an hour early on Saturday, putting us all there for breakfast about the same time.
So on Saturday, I show up at the Christian Church in Ferellview at 6 AM. Just to be safe I’m giving myself a 90-minute head start. That’s my plan. But I see lightning. And the sky is ominous. I decide to wait. And the overcast begins to work on my mind. The longer I wait, the less I want to ride. I’m still waiting about 7 when Mike drives up. Still there at 7:30 when 15 have come. And I announce to all that I will drive to Country Cookin’ and meet them.
I take a different route. I’m there a little before 8, and the waitress puts reserved signs on three tables in the back room. “When do you expect them?” She asks. “About 8:45,” I say. At 8:15 Kevin appears. A few minutes later, all have come. “Wow! You guys are fast!” “It’s only 12 miles,” someone says. “I’m impressed,” I say.
Kevin, Deren, David, Frank, Bob, Rodger, Rob, Petra, Lela, Deb, Chris, Craig, Bill, Lyle, Mike and me. Pitchers of water and glasses of ice on each table. Our orders come promptly. Biscuits and gravy again taste so good I almost forget I came by car. Everybody seems pleased. With this place. With themselves. With each other. By 9:20 we all are in the parking lot. Ready to ride.
Next Saturday? Smithville. We ride from Biscari Bicycle at 7:30.