Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cafe-Quest Volume 1: Because Man Does Not Live by Mile-Munching Alone

One of the things I have missed of late is having a breakfast cafe located about 30-40 miles away down some great motorcycling road.  You know, that destination cafe where bikers meet for a belt-busting breakfast and fellowship with the moto-breathern (and sistern).  I previously had two such locations close at hand, one in De Soto, KS - Marie's Cafe, right on Kansas Highway 10 about 15 miles east of Lawrence.  The food was great (best biscuits I've ever eaten!) and bikers from several miles around would show early every Sunday morning and hang out before a mid-day ride south to the Flint Hills or north to Leavenworth County for some of the best roads in North East Kansas.  Marie's served great breakfast classics and had some of the nicest wait staff who, after only a few visits and overly generous tips, would greet you with a genuine "Hi hun, coffee while you decide"?  I was crushed when they closed.   The second spot was in beautiful Parkville, MO, about 30 miles north and east along the banks of the Missouri River.  The food and atmosphere of the cafe were just OK, but the ride was beautiful, the town picturesque, and the bikes that appeared on any given Sunday were nothing short of spectacular!  Early and late model BMWs, Triumphs, Norton Comandos, several Ducati models and Moto Guzzi's galore!  I fell in love with a 1994 1100 Sport that stoked and unquenchable passion for all things MG!  I'll always remember the Parkville Cafe for my first Moto Guzzi love affair!  But, now, they are gone!   Although I can still ride to those locations, its just not the same without the gathering! I feel lost in the wilderness without my biker-fellowship!

Our town is blessed with numerous outstanding breakfast eateries - Places such as  Milton's, Global Cafe, and Myrth are just a few, not to mention great local coffee shops, The Bourgeois Pig, La Prima Taza, and Z's Espresso, to name a few.  They would be great moto gathering spots but for me they are too close to home.  I need some distance between my domicile and my Sunday moto-gathering spot of choice.  There needs to be a great ride between my garage and great food!  Plus, I need other riders to show up too!  Am I asking too much? I don't think so!

So, today I begin the quest the moto-cafe-quest!  Volume 1: Elle's Diner in Tonganoxie, KS.

The Farmer's Platter
I pass by Elle's on days I commute by bike to work along US 24/40 East to Kansas City.  The place is not much to speak of from the outside but the large sign above the door "Breakfast All Day" was a sufficient Siren's song to snag me from the highway.  From the parking lot, Elle's has the appearance of a double double-wide mobile structure, inside however, is a down-homey feel that is comfortable, inviting, and appetizing.  I got a friendly greeting when I entered and chose to sit near a window to be able to keep an eye on my RT while I ate.

The Farmer's Platter was a thing of beauty and a culinary delight as well! - it will definitely bring me back to Elle's!  The one thing missing however, and this was a big one...  was the absence of moto-brethern.  The dining room I chose had a long table that seated a dozen or so Tongi good-ole-boys deep in their morning chatterThe room silenced as the stranger clad in riding gear conspicuously entered their domain.  I tried making eye contact thinking I'd get a "hi" a "howdy" a "nice bike" , or even the overly obvious "you 'aint from 'round here are ya"... but sadly no.   It had more the feel of a verse from Bob Segar's "Turn the Page" ... you know the one. Too bad...

 As I stood to leave I grabbed my riding jacket made one last attempt at eye-contact with the group.  I was able to force a smile upon one once cold set of eyes giving me a sense of real accomplishment!  Finally, some acknowledgement of my existence.  Baby steps...

Aside from the cold cafe reception by the locals, the ride was beautiful... Any day riding is a good day!
Despite the fact that I ride this road often, I still love US 24/40 between Lawrence and Kansas City.  The fast sweeping curves, the beautiful N.E. Kansas rolling farm-landscape, and the occasional spotting of wild turkey, deer, flights of geese low overhead, and bald eagles make this stretch of road a joy to ride.  Plus, it is a major thoroughfare for east-west US travel.  Route 40 is one of the classic "decade" roads of the US highway system that, when completed it ran 3,157 miles linking Atlantic City, NJ to San Francisco, CA. This particular stretch runs coincident with US Route 24, another classic US highway that linked Pontiac, MI to Independence, Kansas City and points further West including Topeka, KS.

My moto cafe-quest this morning was a success.  It was a great morning for a ride and I don't think I will eat another thing the rest of the day!  At least that's my story for now!!
Downtown Tonganoxie, KS
 The success of the day was not so much the experience at Elle's Diner but more so the fact that it taught me something.  Good food, a nice diner, and quaint small-town America is all fine and good - and, if that's the point of the ride... perfect!  But I was looking for more.  I was looking for the place where my tribe comes to gather.   The place where we share mutual admiration each others' machines, make friends, and set plans to ride.  And whether that ever happens or not, that's OK too.  Its the fellowship that counts.  I need that.  I think we all do!  -LD

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