Across Continents

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Alpine encounters


"An armed society is a polite society"

Regaled in Alpine attire – Lederhosen, traditional hat sporting a feather tucked into the band on one side, long stockings – he’d entered the cafe through a side door, picked up a newspaper and found a seat in the corner. Late seventies. German immigrant I thought, but he never spoke so I was left unsure. Didn’t look much like a retired car worker.

I’d stopped in a Fifties styled diner in the small town of Pine Valley. Imagery of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe, of classic cars, on the walls. On the road since seven, it was now gone ten and I’d only managed sixteen miles. Struggling with the climbs. Realising my intended night’s stop at Brawley was quite out of reach. Only question was how much further I’d get tonight.

Leaving San Diego a bit later than planned, progress up into the hills inland had been tediously slow. By four, less than an hour of daylight left, I’d managed little more than thirty five miles. Barely crawling into the town of Alpine. Desperately tired. The hills hadn’t helped but it was mostly my own fault. Chatting until gone midnight. Now a compelling need for sleep.


I liked the diner. Tasteful. It felt homely. Locals drifting in, some sitting along the counter, others at tables. Two men in Sheriff’s Department uniforms. Ill-fitting. Radio on the table, barely audible chatter. No firearms or utility belts. Then the realisation these were volunteers. Left wondering what use they’d be in an armed society.



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