Route 1 Diner


CHEAP EATS The closest chicken fried steak to my shack is at the Route 1 Diner in Valley Ford. You probably know it, if you've ever been to Bodega Bay. And if not, what the fuck? The Sonoma coast has the prettiest beaches in the world. Surfers don't like it because they get eaten by sharks, but, other than that ...

Anyway, I'm not a beach reviewer.

Two chickens, like I said. That's all the chickens I have left is two chickens. One lays eggs, and the other one eats them. Or: tough times for a chicken farmer. Oldest trick in the book is to suck the egg out of an egg, then fill it up with Tabasco sauce and put it back in the nest.

But I treat my chickens with a little more respect, I like to think, than most backyard farmers. Instead of Tabasco sauce, I'm whipping up a little roux — butter and flour — then adding onions, fresh jalapeños, tomatoes, and hot sausage. Season to taste, and this way if the oldest trick in the book doesn't trick her out of the nasty habit, she'll practically already be jambalaya.

One way or another, I'll be eating lunch again in no time, by my calculations. But right now I'm still eating breakfast because it's only 10:30. And I'm all-the-way out of money, so I have to put it on the card, but there's a $10 minimum, so I have to have coffee too, even though I'm already overcaffeinated, and therefore I can't stop writing on napkins.

Guess what. Now that I ain't getting any at home, I can order eggs in restaurants again! Chicken fried steak and eggs ($8.75). Route 1 Diner, Valley Ford, on the way to Bodega Bay — for you. For me, it's on the way to the city and back.

The eggs are not as fresh or as free-rangy as I'm accustomed to, but the chicken fried is great. Big, thick slab of cubed steak in a nice, crispy breading, draped over a mound of hash browns and just drowned in gravy.

Speaking of which (gravy), Satchel Paige the pitcher was here with his little Thai fambly, and his big American fambly threw a little picnic party for him recently. In Sacramento! So even though I didn't get to ground out weakly to second against him, or eat no all-you-can-eat sushi with him, or laugh at his little tiny daughter for almost choking to death on cantaloupe instead of chicken bones, I did get to see my old big old friend, and hug him and stuff. And talk about how good the chicken wings were, just like in the good old days.

Except this time I was in Sacramento, which can be very disorienting. Warmth. Mosquitoes. Fireworks. A keg. And when I got back to the Bay Area, you're not going to believe this, but I swear to you there was a small, compact car on fire at the MacArthur Maze, on the ramp from West 80 to South 880. Couple fire trucks, police, flares, one lane open, and traffic slowed some but not too bad because it was one in the morning, or at any rate after midnight.

Went to sleep in West Oakland, and by the time I woke up, in West Oakland, the media had blown the whole thing entirely out of proportion. Other people had to have seen this. Right? I swear, it was an old Pinto, slapped on the ass, or something. No big deal, a little campfire fire, they were roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

And by four in the morning it wasn't a Pinto anymore, it was an oil tanker, spun out and exploded. And the freeway had melted and collapsed and the MacArthur Maze as we know it was no more, snarling traffic all day, affecting the travel plans of generations to come and just generally ruining everything.

You'da thunk I'd have heard something like that right outside my window. Big rig goes boom, couple football fields of freeway crashing down, sirens, states of emergency, and so on. Yeah, right.

My point being: damn, those were some damn good chicken wings! Eh, Satch? To knock me out that hard. I must of ate about a bucket of them myself.

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