After a week of eating mostly hiking food — sandwiches, fruit, anything that could be easily carried — we decided one night to find a restaurant. A teenage girl at the bunkhouse gave us directions to an old inn built close to the winding mountain road.
The wooden-paneled dining room was filled with warm light. The waitress brought us a fresh loaf of homemade bread, which we began devouring even before we ordered our meals. The smell of spaghetti sauce and seafood wafted over from the other tables.
I looked around the room and spoke quietly to my husband. “See that group of eight in the corner? They are different ages and different backgrounds, definitely not related to each other. And it’s pretty clear from their body language that they don’t know each other very well.”
My husband took a glance over his shoulder. “I think they all signed up a weekend hiking expedition. This is their get-to-know-you dinner.”
I glanced at their footwear and nodded in agreement. Then I looked over to the young couple seated by the big mural, who were reaching across the table to hold hands. “How about them? What’s their story?”
My husband smiled. “A romantic comedy, for sure.”
The next day when we came in for breakfast, a group of women were sitting at the table where the hiking group had been.
I looked them over as I ate my potatoes. “The woman with duct tape on her finger is older than I am, but the other women are more like college age.”
“That’s easy,” my husband said. “Wedding party. The woman at the end was just saying something about the color of their dresses. The duct tape woman is the mother of the bride.”
His guess was right. When I began talking to Duct Tape Woman, she said, “I hurt my finger putting up wedding decorations.” She laughed and waggled a finger wrapped in bright purple duct tape. “We didn’t have any band-aids so we had to make due. I think we’re fifty miles from the nearest drugstore.”
“That’s going to look GREAT in the photos,” the young woman next to her teased.
I rooted through my camera bag and pulled out some band-aids. Duct Tape Finger took them gratefully. It turns out that the women had traveled from the northeast for this wedding. The burly man at the next table, who had taken off a leather jacket to reveal detailed tattoos on both arms, turned out to be a local. When the mother of the bride started fretting about ominous clouds, he jumped into the conversation.
“Could change any minute,” he said. “That’s how it is here.”
We’d spent so much time alone all week, hiking and driving and walking on beaches, that the extrovert in me couldn’t resist chatting with pretty much anyone who came in the restaurant. I drank three cups of herbal tea before I was ready to head out the door and start the day.