Day 6: Through Ice Cream and Common Identity
Coos Bay → Langlois
↑ 1358 feet ↓ 1280 feet
The parking lot was filled with cars, families streaming out of their vehicles to enter Face Rock Creamery, Bandon’s one-shop stop for delicious ice cream, Vampire garlic cheese cubes, and all wonderful things dairy.
Cory and I were locking our bikes when a caravan of cars passed by. One by one, convertibles, sedans, and pickups drove by in a slow procession, American flags waving in the wind, banners displaying military units and deployment from wars once fought.
We noted the lack of Trump, Biden, or Thin Blue Line flags. This ride was a celebration of a United States without its politics, of what the U.S. fought for irrespective of the current political divide.
Cory and I waved as the cars rolled down the street. As we sat to share two scoops of Umpqua ice cream, I watched a family step out of a large SUV, walk into the Creamery and stand in line, four children in front, adults in the back.
“I wish there was something we could do for veterans today,” I said to Cory, watching the cherry ice cream slowly melt in our cup.
The family patriarch--a large, heavyset man leaning on a metal crutch, his military unit proudly displayed in gold lettering on his navy blue cap--reached the ice cream counter.
I suddenly felt compelled to act on my words. I walked back into the creamery and stood by the cashier, waiting for a moment where I could lock eyes with the gentleman. Instead, his wife and daughter saw me first.
“I’m sorry, you don’t know me, but I’d like to pay for your family’s ice cream.”
She didn’t say anything and just looked at me.
“It’s Labor Day,” I said quickly, nodding to her father as he reached over the counter to grab his ice cream. “Please, if that’s okay. It’s the least I can do.”
She blinked. “Let me ask my dad.” She walked the two steps over to her father.
“Dad, this young woman wants to pay for our ice cream,” she said.
I saw this as my introduction. “I’d like to thank you for your service, sir.” I said. “Please allow me to pay for you and your family’s ice cream today.”
His eyes were a watery grey-blue.
“That’s very kind of you, sweetie, but you don’t have to,” he said.
“Please,” I insisted. “It would be my honor.”
He slowly lowered his $20 dollar bill and tucked it into his pocket.
“I guess that just means I have money for breakfast tomorrow,” he said with a chuckle.
“What’s your name?” asked the woman standing next to him. She wore a white bob and glasses. I wasn’t sure if she was his wife or a family member.
“Lilly,” I said smiling. “Lilly, like the flower.”
As Cory and I climbed on our bikes to finish the journey to Langlois, they called out to us.
“Bye Lilly!” they yelled. “Thank you!”
I waved enthusiastically back as we rode away, strangers never to meet again, connected in a moment through ice cream and a common identity.