Some days are for adventuring new roads, others are for lazily taking in the familiar, a sort of peaceful Sunday ride, no Sunday required. Taking it easy, the sights and sounds known by heart, occasionally catching something before unnoticed in the periphery, pining for the former rural state of areas now developing and enjoying every calm second of the natural, such as that young wild-eyed white mare reeling at the sound of engines and breaking into a full run next to us as far as her pasture allowed, freezing a moment briefly between us. Lazy rides are the best rides.
Sadly for this format though, those rides don’t typically allow much in the way of blog posts unless something out of the ordinary happens to occur. I can ramble about the joys of riding for only so long before telling you to either ride or don’t, but peace, I’m out. Or I can post from my riding journal, but rarely does it make any cohesive sense and trying to smash it into something comprehensible isn’t always something I want to do. Hell, most of the time it’s just series of drawings, cryptic short phrases, prattling run-on descriptive metaphors, and screwy maps with reminders that only make sense in my head. Besides, contrary to what this blog might lead you to believe, the majority of my riding is neither planned nor is the camera involved. It is almost always with me, but doesn’t always find use, especially on lazy rides when I have zero intention of stopping no matter how cool a shot I just passed. (And yes, I regret almost every single one I pass, just not until days later.)
But our most recent lazy ride involved a stop years in the making, one that has been put off for this or that reason, mostly because every time we did stop they were closed. This time for lunch we hit up the Rock Café on Route 66. Finally. And yes, I called in advance to be damn sure they would be open.
Road food is not typically healthy (understatement). And road food is basically the same handful of options anywhere in the U.S. with a smattering of self-proclaimed “world famous” blue plate specials and local flavor added for a differentiating twist. Most of all, road food is rarely worthy of mention. Rock Café road food is worth a mention. Rock Café food is going to get many more visits from us on lazy Sunday rides.
Their menu is exactly what you expect in this part of the country with a few specialties, but its uniqueness is that the food itself is really good, especially the fried pickles, a personal favorite of mine that they do particularly well. With none of the typical stale grease taste you expect when you stop at a roadside diner, their food has a fresh, home cooked quality that usually gets lost in careless generic food prep. They say it’s because of Betsy, their stove. I am not inclined to disagree, but a staff that wears their love of the place on their sleeves certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Betsy is the two hundred pound stainless steel original grill from 1939, seasoned to perfection over the last seventy plus years and a mainstay of the cafe. In fact, she and the rock walls, made from local rock dug out as Route 66 was constructed, are the only survivors of the fire that gutted the building six years ago. Today, the Rock Café has the same small town laid back atmosphere it has no doubt always had. The wait staff is as friendly as if they’d known you your entire life and the dining room is always entertaining guests from far and wide. And aside from a bit of kitsch and Cars memorabilia (the owner was the inspiration behind the character Sally), both the interior and exterior lack the over the top tackiness found elsewhere on Route 66. Instead they maintain a more traditional 1930’s roadside restaurant look and feel, an otherwise almost vanished style that is comforting beyond words. In those hellos and how are you’s from the staff, the sound of people telling their stories of 66, the visually warm dining room and good coffee, lies a comfort that makes a perfect destination on lazy Sunday rides. Not to mention the fried pickles.
More about the Rock Café here.