Archive for July, 2009

Country Cookin’ in Platte City

July 25, 2009

By Ed Chasteen

 

City Limit

Platte City

Pop. 3866

 

            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.

B & G & Sweet Ice Tea

July 23, 2009

By Ed Chasteen

 

Dearborn                      Cook’s Corner Cafe

Edgerton                      Harmer’s Cafe

Excelsior Springs          Mill Inn

Kearney                       Sarah’s Table

Lawson                        Catrick’s

Lee’s Summit               Neighbor’s Cafe

Liberty                         Ginger Sue’s

Nebraska City              Johnny’s Corner Cafe

North Kansas City        First Watch

Orrick                          Fubbler’s Cove

Platte City                    Country Cookin’ Cafe

Plattsburg                     JJ’s Restaurant

Pleasant Hill                  Neighbor’s Cafe

Smithville                      Lowman’s Cafe

           

            The Mid Get Café set me on this road. I was 10 and lived in a little Texas town. So little that I was free to walk about. Each grandmother lived down a gravel road across the railroad tracks from one another. Walking one day from one to the other, I came across the Mid Get, a tiny building on a downtown corner. Maybe I had seen this place before. It must have been there. But today I had two dimes in my pocket. How I got them I can’t remember. Maybe that’s why that sign jumped out at me: Hamburgers 15¢.

            I opened the door. And magic happened. The smell of hamburgers drew me in. I took a stool at the counter. Except at home and my grandmothers’, I had never eaten. I showed the man my two dimes. “You want a hamburger?” He asked. I don’t remember ever being asked what I wanted. “Yes, please,” I said. “You can get a RC Cola with your other nickel,” he said. “Okay.” I said.

            Later that day at my grandmother’s I was telling everybody about getting a hamburger at the Mid Get. They all laughed. “That’s the Midget,” they said. Until I was grown and moved to Missouri, I thought all hamburgers came with lettuce, tomato and onion. And were made by the person who owned the place.

            Little eating places in little towns have been my favorite places since that day I was 10 and had two dimes. For years now by bicycle I have sought out small town cafes. Usually early in the morning. Too early for a hamburger. Just the right time for that staple of down home cooking: biscuits and gravy. And sweet ice tea. Courtesy of my grandmother, my mother’s mother.

            Many days in the early 1940s I spent with Mamaw. My parents were busy with the war effort. Summers were brutal. Early each morning she would brew up a giant crock of super strong and super sweet tea. All day it would sit in the kitchen beside the sink. With an ice pick, she would chisel off chunks of ice from the cold slab the iceman brought in his tongs. He would open the top of her icebox, lift the ice and drop it in. We would walk around all day with glasses filled with ice and cold, sweet tea, our principal weapon against sweltering heat. Before I came to Missouri, I never had heard of unsweetened tea.

            In the summer of ’87 I visited hundreds of small town cafes on my trek across the country on my Trek. From Orlando to Seattle and down to Anaheim, I pedaled. Alone and without money, stopping at places where the owner was on the premises. By their response, they fed more than my body. I had always said I believe a spark of goodness burns inside every person on the planet. My spark and their’s ignited each other that summer, lighting our way and lifting our spirits for the brief time we were together and giving us reason forever after to expect more of ourselves and think better of others.

            These 22 years later, I have restricted where I ride. On my very best days I can ride about 125 miles. And I live in a town called Liberty. So I drew a 125-mile circle around my town. I call this little place on the planet Greater Liberty. It includes 105 counties in parts of four states. Some three million people live here. A few big cities. Hundreds of small towns. Visit our website for details www.greaterliberty.org

            Over the next few years I want to visit each county-seat town in Greater Liberty. I want to drive there in my PT Cruiser HateBuster mobile, license # H8BSTR. My bicycle will be stowed behind my front seat. I will park my car at the local McDonald’s. Why McDonald’s? Three reasons.

First: Lisa Essig, owner of six McDonald’s in and around Liberty, has been a long time major sponsor of our Greater Liberty Ride for MS held every May. She has written to McDonald’s in county-seat towns to ask them to host us.

Second: McDonald’s started as a Mid Get in the 1950’s when Dick and Mac McDonald started selling hamburgers in California. Now thousands of towns have a McDonald’s. Nearly all Greater Liberty county-seat towns have one. Lots of people go there. It should be easy to draw a crowd.

Third: McDonald’s serves biscuits and gravy and sweet ice tea.

After parking my car at McDonald’s, I will get my bike out and go for a ride around town, joined, I hope, by local riders and others who might hear about my plans and come from wherever they are to join me. When we have ridden as long and as far as we decide is appropriate, we will make our way back to McDonald’s for a short visit with one another.

I’m thinking that every county-seat town also has a small café that’s been there for a while, where folks like to go for familiar food and pleasant company. A place where the owner is on the premises. Maybe in the kitchen. I would like to visit this place. And add it to the long list I’ve been compiling since I was 10.

Then to make my fondest dream come true, I would like to end our day with a Human Family Reunion, where who’s right is the wrong question and our sole (soul) purpose is to get to know one another. Meeting at some public place where everyone feels welcome, lots of folks will come, with a dish of their favorite food to share. We will put it all together for a potluck dinner. Following dinner, I will give a 20-minute version of my book, How To Like People Who Are Not Like You.

As we part at the end of the evening, I give out HateBusters membership cards. We have no dues and no meetings. Just work to do: help those hurt by hate; teach people how to like people. Go to www.hatebusters.com to learn more.

The 105 county-seat towns I hope to visit are shown on our website, www.greaterliberty.org. I won’t go unless I’m invited. My mother taught me that. So if you are reading this and would like to play a part in making all this happen, help me get an invitation. If you know someone in one of these towns, tell them about my dream of coming to their town. Ask them to invite me. Come join me when I go if you can.

Amazing, unbelievable things happened to me and the people who took me in that summer across the country on my bike. I wrote about it in Thinkin’ and Livin’ by Bicycle, available on line at either of our websites for a $10.00 donation. These donations make it possible to do our work.

Every Saturday this century our Greater Liberty Riders have gathered at our local bike shop to ride to a town some 15 to 20 miles away for breakfast. Snow, ice, rain or fog have kept us off the road a few Saturdays. Oppressive heat has kept our numbers small at times. But the plan is to ride. Every Saturday. All year! We number now 269 riders. Half-a-dozen to 30 or 40 typically show up on a given Saturday. No one is ever left behind.

Now to you 269 I turn for help. This won’t happen without you. Life’s a game of ping-pong. I have just served to you. I wait now to see what comes back across the net. And then to see how the game goes. Wondrous things await. I know it.

July 21, 2009

B&G &Sweet Ice Tea
By Ed Chasteen

Dearborn Cook’s Corner Cafe
Edgerton Harmer’s Cafe
Excelsior Springs Mill Inn
Kearney Sarah’s Table
Lawson Catrick’s
Lee’s Summit Neighbor’s Cafe
Liberty Ginger Sue’s
Nebraska City Johnny’s Corner Cafe
North Kansas City First Watch
Orrick Fubbler’s Cove
Platte City Country Cookin’ Cafe
Plattsburg JJ’s Restaurant
Pleasant Hill Neighbor’s Cafe
Smithville Lowman’s Cafe

The Mid Get Café set me on this road. I was 10 and lived in a little Texas town. So little that I was free to walk about. Each grandmother lived down a gravel road across the railroad tracks from one another. Walking one day from one to the other, I came across the Mid Get, a tiny building on a downtown corner. Maybe I had seen this place before. It must have been there. But today I had two dimes in my pocket. How I got them I can’t remember. Maybe that’s why that sign jumped out at me: Hamburgers 15¢.
I opened the door. And magic happened. The smell of hamburgers drew me in. I took a stool at the counter. Except at home and my grandmothers’, I had never eaten. I showed the man my two dimes. “You want a hamburger?” He asked. I don’t remember ever being asked what I wanted. “Yes, please,” I said. “You can get a RC Cola with your other nickel,” he said. “Okay.” I said.
Later that day at my grandmother’s I was telling everybody about getting a hamburger at the Mid Get. They all laughed. “That’s the Midget,” they said. Until I was grown and moved to Missouri, I thought all hamburgers came with lettuce, tomato and onion. And were made by the person who owned the place.
Little eating places in little towns have been my favorite places since that day I was 10 and had two dimes. For years now by bicycle I have sought out small town cafes. Usually early in the morning. Too early for a hamburger. Just the right time for that staple of down home cooking: biscuits and gravy. And sweet ice tea. Courtesy of my grandmother, my mother’s mother.
Many days in the early 1940s I spent with Mamaw. My parents were busy with the war effort. Summers were brutal. Early each morning she would brew up a giant crock of super strong and super sweet tea. All day it would sit in the kitchen beside the sink. With an ice pick, she would chisel off chunks of ice from the cold slab the iceman brought in his tongs. He would open the top of her icebox, lift the ice and drop it in. We would walk around all day with glasses filled with ice and cold, sweet tea, our principal weapon against sweltering heat. Before I came to Missouri, I never had heard of unsweetened tea.
In the summer of ’87 I visited hundreds of small town cafes on my trek across the country on my Trek. From Orlando to Seattle and down to Anaheim, I pedaled. Alone and without money, stopping at places where the owner was on the premises. By their response, they fed more than my body. I had always said I believe a spark of goodness burns inside every person on the planet. My spark and their’s ignited each other that summer, lighting our way and lifting our spirits for the brief time we were together and giving us reason forever after to expect more of ourselves and think better of others.
These 22 years later, I have restricted where I ride. On my very best days I can ride about 125 miles. And I live in a town called Liberty. So I drew a 125-mile circle around my town. I call this little place on the planet Greater Liberty. It includes 105 counties in parts of four states. Some three million people live here. A few big cities. Hundreds of small towns. Visit our website for details http://www.greaterliberty.org
Over the next few years I want to visit each county-seat town in Greater Liberty. I want to drive there in my PT Cruiser HateBuster mobile, license # H8BSTR. My bicycle will be stowed behind my front seat. I will park my car at the local McDonald’s. Why McDonald’s? Three reasons.
First: Lisa Essig, owner of six McDonald’s in and around Liberty, has been a long time major sponsor of our Greater Liberty Ride for MS held every May. She has written to McDonald’s in county-seat towns to ask them to host us.
Second: McDonald’s started as a Mid Get in the 1950’s when Dick and Mac McDonald started selling hamburgers in California. Now thousands of towns have a McDonald’s. Nearly all Greater Liberty county-seat towns have one. Lots of people go there. It should be easy to draw a crowd.
Third: McDonald’s serves biscuits and gravy and sweet ice tea.
After parking my car at McDonald’s, I will get my bike out and go for a ride around town, joined, I hope, by local riders and others who might hear about my plans and come from wherever they are to join me. When we have ridden as long and as far as we decide is appropriate, we will make our way back to McDonald’s for a short visit with one another.
I’m thinking that every county-seat town also has a small café that’s been there for a while, where folks like to go for familiar food and pleasant company. A place where the owner is on the premises. Maybe in the kitchen. I would like to visit this place. And add it to the long list I’ve been compiling since I was 10.
Then to make my fondest dream come true, I would like to end our day with a Human Family Reunion, where who’s right is the wrong question and our sole (soul) purpose is to get to know one another. Meeting at some public place where everyone feels welcome, lots of folks will come, with a dish of their favorite food to share. We will put it all together for a potluck dinner. Following dinner, I will give a 20-minute version of my book, How To Like People Who Are Not Like You.
As we part at the end of the evening, I give out HateBusters membership cards. We have no dues and no meetings. Just work to do: help those hurt by hate; teach people how to like people. Go to http://www.hatebusters.com to learn more.
The 105 county-seat towns I hope to visit are shown on our website, http://www.greaterliberty.org. I won’t go unless I’m invited. My mother taught me that. So if you are reading this and would like to play a part in making all this happen, help me get an invitation. If you know someone in one of these towns, tell them about my dream of coming to their town. Ask them to invite me. Come join me when I go if you can.
Amazing, unbelievable things happened to me and the people who took me in that summer across the country on my bike. I wrote about it in Thinkin’ and Livin’ by Bicycle, available on line at either of our websites for a $10.00 donation. These donations make it possible to do our work.
Every Saturday this century our Greater Liberty Riders have gathered at our local bike shop to ride to a town some 15 to 20 miles away for breakfast. Snow, ice, rain or fog have kept us off the road a few Saturdays. Oppressive heat has kept our numbers small at times. But the plan is to ride. Every Saturday. All year! We number now 269 riders. Half-a-dozen to 30 or 40 typically show up on a given Saturday. No one is ever left behind.
Now to you 269 I turn for help. This won’t happen without you. Life’s a game of ping-pong. I have just served to you. I wait now to see what comes back across the net. And then to see how the game goes. Wondrous things await. I know it.

Plant Trees

July 19, 2009

By Ed Chasteen

           

            Where do the locals go for breakfast? As I pedal the length of Central Avenue from the highway to the river, I’m eyeing possible places. Back from the river to the highway, I take a second look. And spot several likely candidates. Once more up Central. Johnny’s Corner Café draws me in.

The wall to my right is covered with clocks. Dozens of them. All sizes, I take a booth on the other side of the room, up near the counter. “How far you ridin’?” It’s one of the two men sitting at a near table. “Just around town. My wife and I drove up to see the Arbor Farm. She’s asleep back at the motel, and I came lookin’ for a good breakfast.” “You found it,” he says.

“Biscuits and gravy and ice tea,” I order when the waitress comes. I’m looking directly at all those clocks as I speak to the waitress. And I realize they all have the right time. “Who sets the clocks?” I ask. “We all do,” she says.

I’d noticed the man in the booth behind me as I came in. About the age of my children, he is sitting across the table from a grade-school age Asian girl. Father and Chinese-American daughter, I’m guessing. With a Chinese-American grand daughter of my own, I notice such things. The girl has her back to me as I turn to speak to the man. He and his wife have four teenage sons. Madelyn is the girl’s name. They flew to China and got her when she was 17 months old. She will enter fourth grade this fall. They’re having breakfast before they go fishing.

“You picked the best place to eat in town,” he says. Been here about 70 years. The owner’s back there in the kitchen. This place is packed on Sunday for their buffet”

Bobbie and I drove up I-29 about two hours to get here. Nebraska City, Nebraska: home of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day. Sterling and Caroline Morton set out for Nebraska Territory on their wedding day in 1854, and he became editor of the local newspaper just as Nebraska became a state. Before he died in 1902, J. Sterling Morton had served as acting governor of the Nebraska Territory and as Secretary of Agriculture in the administration of Grover Cleveland.

Both the Morton’s had a passion for trees. This prairie was barren of trees when they came. If settlers were to come, they would need trees to shade their homes and break the wind. Also to lift their spirits. Millions of trees. All kinds of trees. Through his newspaper, his many influential friends and his unflagging zeal for the cause, Morton, his wife and their disciples planted trees in such abundance that in the century and a half since they began, this little place on the planet has become a Mecca for those longing to become stewards of the earth and looking for inspiration.

Twenty-six of us ride a bumpy tractor-drawn wagon for an hour as our guide, a few years removed from her Florida home, tells us about the laden apple trees we’re passing by, the vineyard we see where young workers are pruning vines and the majestic cornfields that seem to have no end. More than 20 varieties of apples they grow here. Genetic apple stock from all over the world they keep against that day it might be needed. In a building we walk through a little later, we see thousands of tiny hazelnut trees being nurtured and bred.

            Knots of children, parents and teachers are out and about over these hundreds of acres. Paved paths meander through woods, coming then to wood mulch paths through still more woods. Here and there in the paved path is a footprint and a sign asking “Who walked here”? Then a short distance further, children lift a wooden cover to find the answer: crow, bobcat, opossum, crane, etc. The Taj Mahal of tree houses nestles in the canopy of several huge trees, offering a mesmerizing bird’s eye view of treetops.

Inside the visitor’s center, a white haired, mustached hologram from the bowels of a giant faux tree explains in children’s language how this all sprang from the mind and heart of J. Sterling Morton. On the far side of this same room are numbered pictures of some 20 persons who have been significant stewards of the earth: Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, etc. Beside the pictures is a listening station where one can punch a numbered button corresponding to the picture and hear a 60 second commentary on that person’s life.

J. Sterling Morton spent his life in this small Nebraska town. He ran for governor, senator and representative. He never won. He died 107 years ago. I never remember hearing his name. Having spent a day now amid the magnificent trees he planted and those he prompted, I can never forget him. No man ever left a more life-affirming testament to his time spent on this earth. Madelyn is fortunate to have come early in her life to such a place. I have come later and for a shorter time. Being here, though, for any time at all is a blessing.

Letter to Governor Nixon

July 11, 2009

Greater Liberty Riders

Setting at Liberty All Who Live with Limitations

Box 442            Liberty, MO 64069        816-803-8371    hatebuster@aol.com   www.greaterliberty.org

 

July 11, 2009

Office of Governor Jay Nixon

P.O. Box 720

Jefferson City, MO 65102

Dear Governor,

            I am a life-long Democrat. I worked for your election in Clay County. I approve of most everything you do. BUT!! I also support the Tour of Missouri. It’s good for our state. I’m a Democrat. I’m also a bike rider. Not a racer. A rider. I’m closing in on 150,000 on my bike. I ride thousands of miles every year. I ride to get places. I ride the roads. I obey all traffic laws. I support all efforts to make the bicycle more a part of our lives.

            I urge you, sir, to release the 1.5 million dollars appropriated by the legislature to help fund the Tour of Missouri. This amount was promised. Plans have been made based on that promise. My mother taught me never to break a promise. I’ll bet your’s did too. Let’s make our mothers proud. And at the same time make our state look good.

            And I’ll continue to sing your praises. I’ll work even harder for your re election.

Gratefully Yours,

Ed Chasteen, Founder

Greater Liberty Riders