OK, I finished the A-Z Challenge, so I am going to restart it. This time, however, I am going to focus on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is A for Ardella’s.
Audreey and Ardella’s
Ardella’s is not an only-in-Mendocino County sort of establishment, but it sure fits nicely. Located on the north end of Willits, on the east side of the 101, Ardella’s is a breakfast/lunch restaurant which constantly beckons me and Annie, to come on in and set a spell. The food is superior to that of any other of its kind, that we have found.
One of the many times we’ve been there was back in December, on a wild and wintry Sunday morning, when we had donned serious winter-wear, and ventured out for our morning walk. There was a hard, driving rain, and had it not been for the fact that I would have gone anywhere Annie wanted, under any circumstances, I would have asked, “Are you nuts?”
As it was, my umbrella did reasonably well for the first half-hour, before the wind began to have its way, but I eventually gave it up. Annie’s umbrella was a brand-new one and quite sturdy, so it gave me the opportunity to get a little closer to her. We had ventured out in the first place by convincing ourselves that having breakfast out would make it all worthwhile. So we concluded our walk so as to end up at Ardella’s, exactly at eight, just as the doors opened-or not, as it turned out.
Yes, as sad as it all was, being soaked, from my boots up through my thighs, the rain having gone through my sweat pants and my woolies underneath, the staff at Ardella’s was still getting the whole place set up, as six or seven of us huddled out front. “Oh well,” I said. “You can’t rush a good thing.”
Meanwhile, looking around me, I spotted a woman who must have been in her seventies, if she were a day. She was at the near corner of the restaurant, but drifted over to us a minute or two after we arrived, simply because, I assume, misery loves company. Having put on a brave face for Annie, and being absolutely determined not to whine at the whole miserable condition of my wardrobe, I struck up a conversation with the old lady.
Her hair was partially tucked under a misshapen and nondescript hat, gray and damp from the rain, and her clothes were mismatched and designed for comfort, if not for style. She was diminutive in stature, at least a couple inches shorter than Annie’s five foot tall frame, and she looked as though the wind could have whisked her away, if it were of a mind.
Greeting her as she approached, I said, “I guess they need to see how badly we want to eat here. They don’t seem to be in any hurry to open the doors.”
“My umbrella broke,” she announced sadly. “I’m going to have to find another one.”
“Well, this is not a good day for no umbrella,” I commiserated. “It’d be nice to get out of this rain. It’s two minutes past eight, not that we’re keeping track.” I tried a half-chuckle, and to my surprise she gave out a guffaw to match my own.
“I’ve seen worse,” she informed me.
“Yes, I have too, but I usually have enough sense to get out of it.” I figured she was just being neighborly, and that worked for me.
“I’m hungry,” she said. “But my umbrella’s broke.”
I wasn’t sure what the connection was, but I figured I would keep the conversation alive. “Do you live nearby?”
“I lived in Ukiah for thirty-five years,” she said, “with my husband. He died. He was lumberjack.”
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. Were you born in Ukiah?” It was seven after now and the rain continued to beat down, though at least we were now under the overhang.
“No. Covelo. We moved to Ukiah after we got married.”
“What’s your name?” I asked, just to keep the conversation going.
“Audrey,” she responded. “But my umbrella’s broke.”
We carried on in like fashion until 8:15, when the doors finally opened and the fifteen or so (by now) patrons streamed in like fish from the creek. Annie and I headed for the far corner, where I shared a few tidbits with her from Audrey’s and my conversation. To be honest, if I thought we could have made it home and gotten a pot of coffee made, faster than we could have gotten mugs at Ardella’s, I would have gone for it.
As it was, Elk, the young man who waited our table, was there quickly with hot coffee and menus. The coffee was very hot and we quickly settled on our choices. Annie always gets the poached eggs on corned beef hash, and I get the egg scramble with the spinach and the portobello mushrooms. I asked Elk if having so many patrons descend at the same time was daunting, and he just smiled and told me that no, it made the time go by quickly.
I remember going to Ardella’s a bit later than normal once, and it was crowded and boisterous. Didn’t bother us a bit, and we enjoyed our usual breakfast with gusto. When we went to pay the bill, the waitperson told us our money was no good. “Your breakfast has already been paid for, by the two gentlemen sitting up front by the door.” I remember seeing Jacobo and his dad, Marshall, as we came in, and saying hi to them. And they had bought us breakfast. Only in Mendocino? Probably.
That rainy Sunday, when we had met Audrey, Annie couldn’t just walk out the door, after paying for our breakfast. Not only did she pay for Audrey’s breakfast, she sent me over to Audrey’s seat at the counter, with her new, sturdy umbrella.
“She needs an umbrella more than we do.”