Coming Down from the Mountain for a Cuppa

Coffee Shop Cruising

It’s been too long since I’ve written on my coffee shop blog.  Since the last post, I did take a trip to Los Angeles and wandered my way along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), coffee shop cruising and couch surfing along the way.  Although I did take photos and notes about the places between Las Vegas and Los Angeles that I stopped to sip, gulp, and savor my cups of coffee at, there was a bigger purpose to my trip, one that would change my life and lifestyle significantly – meeting people who were happy, living in the moment, and loving life.

After I packed my bags to leave my friend’s home in Aliso Viejo, she suggested I drive out through San Juan Capistrano to stop near the Train Depot and mission.

It turned out to be a wonderful stop.  The mission was adorable and I found a historical little coffee shop, Hidden House Cafe where I enjoyed my first cuppa.  On my way out of San Juan Capistrano, I noticed the Hummingbird House Cafe.  The door to the cafe was open and the garden was so inviting that I wandered in and around.  I walked through the cafe to the back where I found people having coffee and an older gentleman laying brick on the ground.  The owner came out and told me that they were changing the back to make it easier for people in wheelchairs and women who wear high-heeled shoes.  I knew I was meant to be there.

The owner greeted me and offered to make an espresso.  He then introduced me to one of his regulars – Julianna, a woman with the beauty of a Greek goddess.  I took a couple of photos of her in the cafe, before sitting down with my espresso.  We shared our stories over the delicious hummus the owner offered to us.  Much of what we talked about was our mutual belief that what we need to do, especially women with women, is to love and support each other.

After a couple of hours it was time for me to head back to Las Vegas.  Before leaving, I got a message from work regarding a meeting that would need to happen.  I knew then that I did not want to return to that job, and that I was done with the unorganized chaos, competition, and drama there.  Although things could change, I had stronger sense that it was time to move on from there.  I made a decision to “come down from the mountain” and search for god, beauty, and wisdom outside the resort property.

Now, months later, my life has changed significantly.  I’m ready to write about the coffee shops in southern California and southern Utah, as a cruiser and from my perspective after working at one in the Zion National Park area.  A new lifestyle with a new perspective, that life is like a cup of coffee.

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The Bluebird Flies in Bluebird Skies

 

Bluebird Skies in Park City, Utah

I like to drive, a lot.  My car, which I nicknamed “Bluebird” is more than my travel companion, she’s often my vehicle to happiness, if not my source of it.  John Steinbeck traveled with his poodle, Charley, so I guess my “Charley” is Bluebird.

In mid-December, while on one of my little Bluebird road trips, I found myself in Evanston, Wyoming because a winter storm with icy conditions had the Interstate shut down.  That evening I was talking on the phone to a friend about my unplanned stop, and he mentioned that I was so close to Park City, Utah.  He felt that it only made sense to go check it out.  At least since August I’ve had many people suggest that I take a drive there for photography, writing, or even a winter job.  Park City is a place that the “new” ski bums migrate to, as well as artists.  Of course, Park City is also famous for hosting the Sundance Film Festival (www.sundance.org ) in late January.

After a hot shower and a good night’s rest, I woke up to below zero temperatures, no hot water because the pipes froze, and a very gracious front desk host with repeated apologies.  No worries.  I just let my car warm up for about an hour, and was off to the mountain ski town of Park City.

Java Cow Cafe & Bakery in Park City, Utah.

The Interstate had been reopened, the road was mostly ice-free, and the sky was clear.  It was a bitter cold morning that reminded me a little of my childhood winters in Wisconsin.  When I got to Park City at about 8 am, I headed to the historic downtown area.  I found it to be quiet and easy to find free parking.  The first block I walked on Main Street I found Java Cow Café & Bakery.  Another Wisconsin connection – cows.

When I went into the café, I found only two customers, both reading newspapers while drinking their morning coffee.  To the left was another room which was both an ice cream parlor and gift shop.  It was cute and probably a great place to bring kids.  The coffee shop itself had a wonderful bakery display which Luciana, the assistant manager, told me was filled with homemade items.  It reminded of Blue Spoon Creamery Café in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin with the selection of coffee, baked goods, sandwiches, and ice cream.  Well, at Blue Spoon its frozen custard, something I did not find in Park City.

Cafe & Bakery in Park City, Utah.

I decided to have what I call a “German Breakfast” which simply means a sweet and coffee.  The pecan bars were large, the pastry looked buttery, and the price was surprisingly reasonable.  Privately I toasted my breakfast “to Gregory” – my German father who really did eat cake for breakfast and his coffee would really be a “Java Cow” with more milk than coffee in his cup.  I ate most of the pecan bar which was delicious, but I couldn’t finish it – it was just too big and rich.

Java Cow Bakery & Cafe

Before leaving, I stepped up to the counter and asked the women working there about Park City.  They both lived there year-round and loved it.  They gave me recommendations for skiing, dining, shopping, and other things to do.  When I told them a childhood friend would be visiting with his family in February, they suggested Deer Valley as the place to ski.  They both agreed that one of the four Marriott hotels would be perfect for a family to stay.

The Main Street was filled with shops and restaurants and would’ve been more enjoyable to walk if it was later, when the shops were open, and about 20 degrees warmer.  From there I headed to Deer Valley and found it quaint and very beautiful.   It was one of Park City’s famous bluebird sky mornings – clear and bright.  Resort shuttles were just beginning to pull up at the mountain and dropping off skiers.

My visit to Park City on a Bluebird Sky morning was a great way to start the day.


Finely Ground at the Grind

It’s been about a year since I wrote on my coffee shop cruising blog.  Yesterday I had a bug to go to my favorite in the area, take some photos, and write about it.  Unfortunately it was closed yesterday, which pushed me to keep driving until I landed in Cedar City, Utah at The Grind Coffeehouse.

My drive there took just under three hours, which may seem a bit crazy for the normal person.  I accept that I may not be normal, especially where coffee shop cruising comes in to play.  I love it – being in them, people watching, spending time on Facebook, and sometimes talking to people.  I’m not sure I’m a big fan of coffee, but I do enjoy holding a warm cup of coffee in my hand, smelling the aroma of it, and allowing my mind to wander to other places.

It’s a social thing for me whether I’m with people or not – a way for me to be where people are, without being with people.  That is what I love about The Grind.  I find it to be a great place to write in my journal, sit in the morning sun in or outside, and to watch people with friends and family enjoying their drinks.

Now that it’s fall the college students have returned and it seems to have a little beatnik flavor to it.  This surprised me in Utah, but Cedar City is different.  The community has an artsy flavor and reminds me of a very small Portland, Oregon – almost like a small neighborhood in Portland.  It’s also similar to the downtown area of Fort Collins, Colorado.  With the new and used bookstore next door to The Grind, it reminds me of Matter Bookstore and the Bean Cycle, where I spent a lot of time while in the Fort Collins area.  Then of course, Portland and Fort Collins remind me of Madison, Wisconsin which is home for me.  I guess that’s why I’ve driven hours to have a cuppa at The Grind – it has the ability to take me back home.

Yesterday I got a dose of home while in Cedar City.  I enjoyed a spiced Chai Latte while I sat and watched people, remembering the coffee shops I’ve been to over the years.  There was an elderly couple at the table next to me playing cribbage and sharing a salad.  A few teenagers came in, got their smoothies and foo-foo whipped cream topped drinks and were talking about the day at school.  There a few people with laptops busy on Facebook, one man on Skype, and a group of college students discussing the Make-A-Wish fundraiser they are working on for a class.

Usually “the grind” stirs up thoughts of work, anxiety, and stress.  Yesterday The Grind put me at ease because it provided for me what I needed to settle my anxiety before heading home for the day.  It calmed my restless soul enough that when I drove through the mountains and found snow, I took the time to pull over, touch it, and take some photos.  A finely grounded day.