Many mornings, after the first bottle but before the first nap (the baby's, that is), I load up Jane in the car or in the Burley trailer behind my bike and head to Donny’s Cafe, the local hangout for coffee lovers, cyclists, or anyone who enjoys talking over coffee with friends and acquaintances.
There are a number of little groups who gather regularly at Donny’s, and somehow Jane and I found ourselves joining the table of local retired men, many of whom are cyclists. Most mornings, a handful of them will be sitting, sipping coffee and talking about boats, model trains, Jim’s most recent escape from the Kaiser facility (I mean visit to, visit to...), or about the other people who aren’t there.
After seeing their group every other day at the cafe at the same time that Jane (about four months old at the time) and I would arrive, I asked if we could join their table. I’m sure they thought it would be a one-time occurrence, and politely invited us to sit down. Within no time at all, Jane had worked her magic on them and one or another of them would make faces at her, or bounce her on his knee.
Still, I didn’t consider that we were accepted as “Honorary Old Farts” until we returned from a family reunion in Texas in July. As I carried Jane up to the patio where they all sat, I was greeted with calls of, “Well, where have you been?!” “You didn’t tell us you were going out of town!” and facetious “Who’s that?” which was answered promptly with, “That’s Jane’s mom.” I smiled and thought to myself: Nice! Like Jane Goodall with the great apes, they have come to accept me as one of their own.
On Thursdays, the whole gang of them (often six or eight men) will show up for a bike ride from the cafe to downtown San Diego or to the Chula Vista marina to have lunch. Although I would sometimes show up to the cafe on the bike with Jane in tow behind me in the trailer, they never asked me to join them on their bike ride. I hoped that they would, but I wanted to be sensitive to the “guy time” thing. After all, I’d already infiltrated the ranks AND brought an infant with me.
Then one Thursday in mid-July, I showed up to the cafe with Jane in the trailer, expecting to take a 45-minute ride with her around the golf course after coffee, when one of them looks up and says, “So! You’re coming with us today?”
What? Today? Me and Jane? “Um… sure!” I stammer, “ We’d love to come. Where do you guys go?”
“Little Italy. We have lunch at Filippi’s,” Kevin tells me.
Little Italy is about 13 miles away, and might be the farthest we’ve ever ridden with the trailer. But the route is simple, mostly flat, we have plenty of diapers and formula, and if it gets to be too difficult, we can always turn around and go home. Excited about the sudden adventure looming large before us, Jane and I load up to go.
As I write this, it occurs to me how much my life has changed. “Adventure” used to mean traveling alone across Spain, continuing over to Israel following my husband’s ship (the USS Austin that time) into three ports on a Mediterranean deployment, or hitchhiking alone from a remote part of northern Russia back to St Petersburg. Now, with a baby in the Burley trailer, “adventure” is taking a bicycle day-trip with a bunch of retired guys. I reflect on these adventures with equal fondness and gratitude that I can be in the right place at the right time. I wouldn’t miss any of these adventures for anything.
Riding up Harbor Drive
We all have a wonderful lunch at Filippi's and I meet Stephanie, their very patient and obliging waitress. I find that Jane is very well-behaved and content as long as she is dry and not hungry or thirsty. Although we leave the house that day at 9:15am, and don't return until after 3pm, Jane seems to be happy to be along for the ride.
Another great adventure for me, and a first of many for little Jane.