Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Tradition Dies

We were too late for the early morning ferry, so we left Victoria very late, driving down through Washington State in the dark. It was late and everyone was hungry but we held off for an extra half hour to hit one of our traditional places.

The last couple of years have been very quiet in some ways. Obligations and on-call stuff at work have hugely eaten in to leisure time. Injuries make rough country hiking and caving and climbing and anything cold far less pleasant than it used to be. Shift work makes it hard to connect with old partners for long adventures. Most have matured into respectable jobs with very regular hours...but they don't have nearly as much fun! The people I do spend time with, family, for some strange reason like comfort and 'touristy' stuff- museums and shopping and cuisine.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, this one restaurant was our after-adventure stop for anything we did in northern or north central Washington. The death march to Cave Ridge? Oh yeah. Olympic Peninsula? Mt. Ranier?

It was a 24 hour prime rib joint. It looked like a dive- dimly lit with a questionable salad bar, cranky waitresses and a menu heavy on meat. Paradise. We had a lot of good meals there (ever had a cajun-blackened slab of prime rib? Too hot to eat, too good to stop.) A lot of good times. DGM threw caution to the winds and tasted alcohol. LG was slightly less vegetarian there.

I don't remember all the times we would walk in grubby from crawling in caves sometimes with tattered knee pads around our ankles, shredded jackets and occassionally bleeding; or still soaking wet and cold from rafting or diving at Hood canal. the waitresses wouldn't even blink. Sit us down, menus, coffee without asking. Honestly telling us what was good...

So with hungry kids and all, we put off eating a little longer.

There's a new owner. It used to look like the place a truck driver would go to get his heart broken. It's now a family restaurant, too bright, too much light. Smaller booths with lower backs. The salad bar still looks questionable, but it's no longer charming. The wait staff is all young. They don't argue and barely talk. Cajun-blackened steak and their in-house steak rub are no longer on the menu. The owner is there, too talkative to the (very few) patrons and mean, almost viciously insulting to his staff. And the foods not even good. I actually bent a fork holding down a rib eye steak.

It was a little sad. I could imagine ghosts of old conversations and laughter drifting by on their way into the past. Never again to be.

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