Friday, April 19, 2013

american as lemon pie

For at least thirty years I have driven past the Marion Forks Restaurant on the Santiam highway between Salem and Bend.

I have noticed the place for two reasons.  First, the restaurant marks the half-way point on the Salem-Bend trip through the Cascades.

But that is not what has caught my eye over the years.  The place looks as if it  embodies what is good about the American spirit.  Scenic.  Rustic.  Optimistic.

Optimistic because even though it is on a very busy highway, whenever I drive past, the same two trucks seem to be parked there.  And nothing more.

The site once housed a fishing lodge long before the highway was built.  The lodge disappeared in a fire decades ago -- to be replaced by the current restaurant on a site closer to the river in 1973.

But I have never stopped there.  Until today.

It is the Cotton Syndrome writ large.  No matter how curious I have been, the “keep driving” attitude has kept me from pulling off the highway.
This morning I left Salem heading back to my brother’s ranch in Bend.  The trip was going well.  Light traffic.  Plenty of rain, but no snow.

Near the summit of the pass, a construction crew stopped the traffic.  That is when I noticed it.  My fuel light was on -- and the needle was well below the red on the “Empty” indicator.

I knew the nearest gas station was on the other side of the pass was in Sisters.  And I doubted I could make it.  So, I turned around -- in the hope I could make it back the 30 or so miles to the nearest town.

When I made it to Marion Forks, I decided to play a hunch.  Maybe the proprietor would have a can of gas I could buy.  Just to ensure I could make it to a station.

And I was correct.  I barely got the first words of my dilemma out of my mouth, and the guy who runs the restaurant -- Wayne Rettinger -- offered to sell me two gallons of gas.

That was enough to get me the rest of the way to Detroit.  On the way back, I decided it was time I indulged in an American tradition at the restaurant.

I ordered a piece of lemon meringue pie and a cup of coffee.  And had a fascinating conversation with Wayne about the history of the place and the joys of running a restaurant in the wilds of the Cascades.

Several readers have commented on the “charmed” life I lead.  I like to think of it as a blessed life.

But I do know something.  Sometimes it helps to stop and meet people along the path of life.  Good Samaritans abound.

Thanks, Wayne for helping me along the journey.  And for a piece of pie that will be as memorable as the trip.

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