In between two of the largest cities in the world, there is still a store that runs on the honor system. A big red house with an apple on its roof, right off the I-5. If you frequent drives from Washington state to Vancouver, or vice versa, you know exactly what I am talking about. Yea, that red building near Papé Machinery before Anderson Road, entering Mount Vernon—you must remember. Driving up on that soporific, straight as a chopstick and ever so barren highway, you couldn’t have missed it. The red cut-out apple smacks you in the eye, it piques your interest and you think to yourself, ‘You know, maybe I’ll check it out on my drive back,’ but I bet you didn’t. Because for months, we just marvelled at its sign, too. “Fresh cider everyday, 10 to 5.” It seems easy, but if you like to brunch and snack around before you head back home, it’s a very narrow window to commit to.
After months of distant admiration, we finally got there. Not on time, not open, but we let ourselves in. I mean, how can we pass up an indoor scarecrow when the door is obviously unlocked? Walking in, a handwritten sign assured that we weren’t trespassing, but it didn’t matter. I still couldn’t believe what we were experiencing.
Nestled in between Vancouver and Seattle, in the middle of nowhere, we had just walked into a fully unstaffed retail store. Thinking back about it now, I am almost saddened by my reaction at the time. Because it was doubt and disbelief that hit first, rather than discovery and glee. Even after being spoon-fed with the most colorful fairy tales as a child—everything from Hansel and Gretel, In the Night Kitchen, and Roald Dahl’s fantastical adventures—I was tainted. I couldn’t even trust what I saw in front of me.
6 dollars for a gallon, 4 dollars for 1/2 gallon and 2 dollars for a drink. Apple cider straight from the orchard.
All we had to do was take some cider from the fridge, count how much we owe and slot the money into the red box—and yet we couldn’t do it with a clear conscience. How is it that we are able to decipher the most misleading parking signs on the streets of LA, but not understand a sign that basically reads: take what you need, pay and go? The city has really gotten to us. Or maybe it was the surveillance camera on site. After reading about a visitor who wondered if it would be okay to leave Canadian money (at the time, the Canadian dollar was worth more than USD), we managed to pick up some apple cider. A drink for the road, and a half gallon for the fridge back home. I took a little sip, expecting a strong kick in the nose. But I was wrong, again. Growing up with drunk Christmases and supermarket-branded cider, I guess I expected some spice or fizz, but the taste was as clear as the signs. Old-fashioned, sweet and honest—just as quality, freshly squeezed apple juice should be.