Last Sunday, Clif and I had planned to ride from Hallowell to Richmond—a twenty-three-mile bike ride—but when we got up, we changed our minds. Although the day was bright and sunny, there was a very brisk wind and the temperature was about forty degrees. Too cold!
“Let’s go to Plan B,” I suggested. “How about a trip to the Red Barn, for homemade chips and fried chicken, a walk on the Rail Trail in Augusta, and then dessert at the Dairy Queen?” (Full disclosure: I love peanut buster parfaits. Fortunately, I only indulge once during the summer/fall season.)
“Sounds good to me,” Clif said, and to the Red Barn we went. The place was packed, as it always is on Sunday afternoons, and we had to drive around a bit before we found an empty space. However, the terrific staff—who are paid a living wage, I might add—were their usual cheerful, quick, and competent selves. I waited no more than five minutes for chips and chicken, cooked fresh and piping hot.
Because the day was sunny and involved a walk, we brought Liam, and by then it was warm enough to eat outside rather than in the car. The Red Barn is extremely pet friendly, and other people brought their dogs, too. At first Liam was excited and yippy, but he soon settled down so that we could eat our meal with only a minimum amount of barking and disruption.
After the big meal, a walk was certainly in order, and we drove to Hallowell where we could park the car and walk a portion of the Rail Trail. In Liam’s younger days, he would zip right along, and we would go several miles. However, Liam will be ten in January, and nowadays he likes to amble and sniff. Clif and I don’t mind. When we take the dog for a walk, we are doing it for him, not for exercise for us, and we let him take his time.
On the trail, I met Denis Ledoux, a writer who is in the Franco-American artists group I belong to. It was a bit of a surprise to see him out of context, so to speak, as he lives a fair distance from Augusta. He had come to visit a friend, and they were walking the trail together. Denis and I talked about what many Francos talk about when they get together—cleaning the house, garage, and yard.
As I’ve written before, Francos have a zeal for cleanliness and order that borders on fanaticism, and it is one of our big topics of discussion. There are, of course, individual Francos who buck this tradition, but even so, cleaning the house usually hangs heavy over their heads. It’s a rare Franco, male or female, who breaks free from the grip of cleaning the house.
We also talked a bit about writing and the goings-on within the Franco Artists Group, one of the best groups I have ever belonged to. So many talented writers, artists, and performers in this group.
After saying goodbye to Denis, we continued on for a little longer. Asters and thistles were in bloom, giving modest bursts of color to the fall landscape. The wind had stopped blowing, and it was so warm that I had to take off my jacket.
“We could have gone on that bike ride,” I said.
“I know,” Clif replied.
Ah, well! We had made our decision. After the walk, it was on to the Dairy Queen, where everyone had ice cream, even the dog. As the young woman made up Liam’s doggy ice cream, she said, “When you make a dog a treat, it should be a real treat,” and she studded his ice cream with four dog biscuits.
After we finished our ice cream, it was late afternoon, with plenty of daylight left. On the way home, I said to Clif, “Let’s go for a short bike ride along Memorial Drive.”
And so we did, sliding the bike ride into a day filled with good food, sun, the dog, a walk, and an unexpected meeting.