The Charlie Bravo Story

Chama, New Mexico

Back to the trip; Chama, NM
After the night that Duff and I had on the Road from Hell north of Dulce, we elected to wimp out on the whole camping thing and instead splurged on a motel room in Chama. Macduff was so tired that he refused the can of kibble that I made a special trip to retrieve.
Chama is the home of Fina’s Diner, known across New Mexico for their breakfast menu; Fina’s sister, Jo, mans the kitchen and whips up the best huevos rancheros with green chili known to mankind; add two pieces of sausage chopped up and mixed in and call it the “Charlie Bravo”. And while her specialty breakfast burrito is excellent enough to earn her top billing on the New Mexico Breakfast Burrito Byway, she is also known for something else:
Her unwillingness to put up with any crap, especially from a short, middle aged guy from Arkansas.
I found this out the hard way. I was on one of my first trips out west, seven days on the road with three of my favorite riding buddies, except that they weren’t my favorites on that day. We were going through the type of spat that always seems to happen on a group ride around the third day, and then again on the sixth; three seem to buddy up against one, or at least that’s how it feels when you’re the one.
We all agreed to not eat breakfast that morning until we could find something better than the gas station food and freeze-dried camp food known as “Fart Fuel” we had been surviving on for some time. Then we saw a small cinderblock restaurant on the south end of Chama, this was Fina’s Diner. We didn’t know what a “Fina” was, and didn’t care; we just wanted some good, sit-down grub.
As we slouched in all disheveled and grouchy, the lady behind the counter said “seat yourself”. I thought I would be funny, and responded with, “no, we’re the customers, you’re the employee, and I don’t want to put you out of a job; you seat us”. Before those words had even left my mouth in jest, she shot straight back at me, “you either sit down and shut up or I’m going to body slam you and MAKE you sit down and shut up”, and she was NOT being funny. This was THE Fina, and I promise you that I did immediately as she said, sitting down and shutting up.
In the years since, Fina and I have become good friends, although you couldn’t tell it by how we talk to each other. She has went as far as to plop 300.00 down on the table and stomp away without a word when I once lost my wallet on a trip out west, then turn around the next trip and attempt to convince some New Mexico State Troopers having breakfast to march me out in handcuffs just so she could get a picture. And during the Corvacalypse when the governor of New Mexico had effectively put her state’s restaurant business out of business, I drove the Mini Van Go all the way out there to show my support for Fina. Of course, the first words out of her snarky mouth as soon as I pulled up to the drive-through:
“In a van?”
It’s 1059 miles from the Casa del Whackos to Fina’s doorstep, and I’ve been known to travel that far to grab me a burrito, my reasoning admittedly a 50/50 split between wanting a burrito or huevos rancheros and my desire to go give Fina a hard time.
So, that morning after the Dulce fiasco, we went to Fina’s for breakfast. As she had always seen me with only Charlie as a riding companion and never on a sidecar rig, I knew that she would never recognize MacDuff and I. So I did something that I knew would surely spark her notoriously short fuse: I pulled in front of her place, purposfully blocking her drive-through lane and nonchalantly parked the rig and began pulling off my helmet and gloves like I owned the joint.
Sure enough, I hadn’t even had time to remove my helmet before Fina came boiling out of the door like someone had kicked a nest of fire ants; maybe this time I had went too far. But MacDuff threw his charm at her and she simmered down, and I went inside for a massive plate of, you guessed it, huevos rancheros, scrambled with green chile and two sausage patties…
…I’m nothing if not predictable.
Go by and see her sometime and tell her Bret sent you, although I cannot predict the outcome of this announcement. She really is one of those special people that would do anything for anybody…
…well, almost anybody; I wouldn’t get smart with her and test that theory.
See you on the road.

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