If you’re like me .. you’re a bit of a history buff who loves antiques and appreciates everything “old”. As I travel, I’m consumed with awe and wonder as I study the architecture of everything .. especially old houses, castles, churches & bridges. My mind is totally blown when it comes to the Egyptian and Aztec pyramids, or even the Parthenon .. but that’s an entire discussion in itself.
I’ve always had a deep appreciation and understanding of engineering, physics, math and chemistry. Maybe because my Grandpa Cleon was a tool maker who could do trigonometry in his head .. and he only had an eighth-grade education! I guess we could go into a rather lengthy quantum physics discussion on how everything in our known universe is related .. but let’s not waste our time in debate right now .. I do enough of that each time I ride and “contemplate”. For now, just let me whip up a mix of some thought & theory and a dash of facts to consider.
The dictionary defines nostalgia as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations”. Undoubtedly, my childhood years spent with loving grandparents are among the most memorable of my life .. and the key ingredient of that fact is the derivative “Love”. Memories associated to someone who actually made you “feel” loved become a part of your character .. just as their “energy” can never be destroyed and remains with you eternally.
Personal objects or possessions can trigger these feelings .. and they immediately take you back in time to enjoy moments in that “happy place”. You can linger there in thought indefinitely .. but if only for a moment, at least the lingering smile on your face and the warmth in your heart provide the evidence of your brief transition. With that thought in mind .. that’s my objective for today.
Mildred Lycette Norm wrote, “anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness, possesses you .. and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions”. Boy .. does that strike a nerve with anyone? I’m guessing we all have certain “treasures” that we’ll never part with, come hell or high water. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. Those treasures trigger the smiles and warm the heart when we need it most .. and we know exactly where to go to find it. Well, most of the time .. knowing you “have” something and actually finding it are worlds apart at times. Nevertheless, when people surround themselves with objects that make them feel loved .. that’s a perfect coping mechanism for surviving this twisted maze of life’s uncertainties. But the cross-wired mind of a “hoarder” is probably a whole different animal .. and “object” obsession is clear out in left field while I’m attempting to round first here. Typical me, I’ve digressed.
For years I’ve subscribed to a motorcycle magazine called Friction Zone. It’s actually free at many Harley dealers around the country, so I grab them on the road and check for upcoming events in the area. Every month it has a few “destination rides” which include tank-map tear sheets and pictures to entice and assist in your “adventure”. The February 2007 issue featured a place called Barrett Junction Café & Mercantile. The place is over 100 years old and it caters to motorcyclists .. but the most intriguing fact for me was that it had remained open for business 24/7 since 1947! I was drawn like a magnet .. and Barrett Junction worked its way up my “bucket list” of destination rides. It’s been around longer than I’ve been alive!
Last month, I mentioned I was wandering the Southwest before meeting up with my nephew, Brian, in Virginia City, Nevada. After meandering up through Oregon and then southward down the coastline .. I told Brian about Barrett Junction and it soon became our destination. It’s actually located 30 miles southeast of San Diego on scenic Hwy 94 just a few miles past a little town called Delzura. It’s a one-time stagecoach route in the middle of nowhere 10 miles from Tecate, at the Mexican border. We soon found the hidden jewel.
At first glance, I noticed a van and a truck parked in front of the rustic log frame porch with a tin roof, wooden floor & siding and it reminded me of an old western town storefront. A big sign overhead read, “Welcome to Barrett Junction Café & Home of the Famous Fish Fry”. This was my kind of place, and the sign by the front door read “One million customers agree .. It’s the Best!”.. referring to the fish dinner.
When I first walked through the front door .. “nostalgic” was the word that came to mind. The vision was something that Norman Rockwell probably captured on canvas. Five red stools at the counter on which an old-fashioned jukebox with it’s own speakers sat. You just don’t see many of those anymore. The “happy days” were flooding back when I looked around at the several tables adorned with red n white checkerboard oilcloth tablecloths .. now I was picturing my Grandma Bernice’s kitchen table. Walls and shelves were filled with many relics and pictures circa “days gone bye”. I loved it. Then the man attending to a table, wearing a plaid country flannel shirt & jeans, kindly said “grab a seat and I’ll be right with you”. It wasn’t long before I discovered he was Leon Herzog, the seventh owner of the historic establishment.
I’m full of questions and he happily proceeded to give me a whirlwind tour of the entire grounds and buildings. I was amazed! The wooden wall along the storefront, beautifully landscaped with natural cactus, boulders and an old windmill with water tank was quite deceiving as to what was actually hidden behind that wall. I didn’t notice the huge gate in the middle of the wall at first .. but from the inside I soon discovered what treasure lay behind “door #1”.
Not long after WW2, the initial Café was expanded by a huge Quonset hut and called “the Barrett Room” .. and we walked from inside the original Café (built in 1917) into this huge dining/concert hall that seats 100, and has a nice stage and a full bar. I was listening to Leon as he explained the many activities that could be enjoyed “behind that wall” as we walked out of the dining hall and into the huge outdoor concert area, which had its own wooden corner stage with covered roof. Through the privacy of those gates near that stage, patrons could enter the 50-acre grounds for ample parking and camping and never be seen from the road. It was the ideal spot for car clubs, motorcycle groups, and just large parties. He said he’s had hundreds at a time back there for various events.
When I told him his place reminded me of the Hideaway Grill in Phoenix .. he was quite aware of their reputation and many other famous “biker bars”. His goal is for Barrett Junction to become the largest biker bar in all of California .. and it sure has the potential of being just that.
As we walked through the horseshoe pitchin’ area and many outdoor tables .. I couldn’t help but see all the rustic landscaping and the many tools and settler-era relics displayed everywhere. All “triggers” for my imagination to put stories to each relic and wonder what their absolute “truth” was .. if only they could talk. Isn’t it amazing how “time” can warp the truth? Maybe that’s the fascination with “antiques” .. but isn’t that the way it is with everything we trust to “memory”?
Marcel Prust said, “the remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were” .. and Adrian Rich states “every journey into the past is complicated by delusions .. false memories .. false naming of real events”. “People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one .. and if you repeat it frequently enough, people will sooner or later believe it”, says Psychoanalyst, Walter Langer.
I guess one way of proving a “tale” or preventing any future distortion of “fact” was evidenced by the mounted “World Record for Large Mouth Bass” caught 4-1-2002 in Barrett Lake. It measured 39 inches and weighed in at 55 lbs 4 oz! It’s a great conversation piece above an old 76 Gas Pump in the Barrett Room .. no dispute. But I wonder if there’s been a new record catch in the last ten years. It’s hard to imagine.
We all remember what we “want” to remember .. even if the truth is we’re lying to ourselves. We want to make ourselves feel better even if we know we were wrong somewhere down the line .. so we “bend” the truth to appease ourselves. But in the darkness of the night our hearts remind us of the facts that cannot be changed .. even with time. So why wouldn’t the admiration of nostalgic antique “relics” and finding the triggers to our “happier times” be good food for our Soul? Maybe it’s just that the gap between “happiness and pain” .. “love and hate” .. is so infinitely small that we close ourselves off from even the “possibility” of pain or regret? But our Soul does hunger for that food without the pain .. and that’s just another conflict in life.
Maybe .. the brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past. After all, you can’t go on successfully in life until you let go of your past mistakes, failures and heartaches. If we could actually learn to “let it go” and get on with our lives .. maybe the craving for “nostalgia” might even be a bit less painful for some. Somehow, improbable as it might be .. we’ll find ourselves not quite free of the past, but lurching toward the future .. inch by bittersweet inch.
I called Leon the other day and he actually remembered me. I see from Barrett’s website that they no longer maintain the 24/7 hours of operation .. not a big surprise with the present state of our economy .. but they ARE still in business after all these years and more than worthy of your patronage.
As I’ve said before .. we are each on our own journey .. our very own adventure .. encountering all kinds of challenges .. and the choices we make on that adventure will shape us as we go. Those choices will stretch us and test us and push us to our limit .. and our adventure will make us stronger than we ever knew we could be …
It’s not just the mindset of a biker who questions himself and ponders all questions past, present and future. Even though the hours of solitude while straddling an Iron Horse and contesting the wind does provide the greatest of opportunities. But in that time, we doubt ourselves .. debate others .. and are never content with the verdict regarding our “sanity”. Mark Twain wrote, “Let us consider that we are all insane .. it will explain us to each other .. it will un-riddle many riddles”. I couldn’t agree more.
You’ve heard me ramble on long enough .. but if, and by any measure, our little trip down “memory lane” has prompted you to crack a smile as you flashed back to a happier time .. then my job is done here .. and you’ve put a smile on MY face .. whether you can see it or not. Just believe it.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …
PS: Brian and I concur, the fish was outstanding and just hit the spot!