Throughout my life we, as a family, would drive up from the East Bay to Vallejo to visit my grandparents. Occasionally it was just for a visit, mostly it was for a holiday bbq or dinner. The seven of us, mom, dad and 5 whining siblings, would load into the old brown Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon. The reason it was called a Vista Cruiser is that there were two windows, in the roof, above the back passenger seat. I guess one could look at the stars if one were laying on one’s back, in the back seat. Any way. Being 4 out of 5, I often found myself in the way back. I was either lying down on the back deck or there was this funny little fold up seat to use. Neither was comfy.
Now as an adult I have timed the commute from El Cerrito to Vallejo: Less than 20 minutes without traffic, upwards of an hour plus with. Both my favorite, and least favorite, part as a child was passing Tank Farm Hill. Back in the 60’s and 70’s the owners would paint the tanks in colorful ways. Somehow this was meant to offset the horrendous smell that would accompany that mile or two stretch of highway. Nonetheless, my heart drops a little every time I round the corner and all I see are the monotone shades of a boring petrochemical company.
The backup for the Carquinez Bridge would start right about Tank Farm Hill. While commenting on which paint job was the newest, the patience of the entire group began to fray. The stop and go to the bridge was painful. I will say that Fastrak has made a significant difference and if there has not been some sort of traffic accident or tank explosion, one slips right passed the back up and through the Toll Plaza these days. Back then the toll was a quarter in each direction. Once clearing that hurdle, traffic seemed to still move at a snail’s pace. Maybe more families were trying to get away to the mountains, I do not know. It’s just that I have not experienced traffic north of the bridge as heavy as I remember it as a child. Then again, I have alcohol to look forward to when I land now.
Invariably, someone would start (ME) asking, “Are we there yet?” (Parents tell me, which is more painful: Are we there yet? or Why?) To which my mother would reply: Not yet. Of course all of this would happen in the last mile of our travels. My father would either take Tennessee Street and go the back roads or wait until Redwood and come in the side way. Six of one. But as kids, for some reason, we would rather stay on the freeway and take the exit we thought was closer to my grandparent’s house. I remember hearing my mother say, “Oh Vern, just do what they want.” A Pyrrhic victory for sure.
Just last week one of Vallejo’s own favorites finally opened his coffee bar: Moschetti’s Café on the corner of Florida and Marin. For the last several months, whenever I popped in to Fabrice’s coffee cupping, down at the roastery, there would infallibly appear one kind face after another asking . . . Are you there yet? Pleasantly and softly Fabrice would answer: Not yet, not yet.
But finally it is YET! Moschetti’s Cafe is open, comfortable and well-appointed. I find the coffee to be nothing less than fantastic. As I follow along on Facebook I see that my favorite, the Croque Monsieur, is now being offered. Look for me on Saturday Fabrice and don’t you dare run short of Bechamel!
Until next time,