One afternoon in the early 1990s, we were on a Sunday drive to Mt. Hood in our Mercedes W123 240D automatic. Alex was just a couple of months old.
We stopped at Merit Realty in a small strip-mall in Welches, and I asked the agent, “What do you folks sell up here, anyway?”
“Forest Service Cabins,” was the reply.
I had just sold a lovely 1972 Lotus Europa twin-cam to a client in Japan for $7,500 and the money was burning a hole in my checking account.
Forest service cabins were built on land leased from the federal government, 20 years in length. No bank would finance them.
We looked at several and found one that needed work but was in an excellent location overlooking Camp Creek. The asking price was $35,000, the sellers would take 20% down and carry a ten-year contract.
I remember thinking, “I could turn that little plastic car into a cabin in the forest!”
And that day we did the deal.
Fast forward 30 years.
Last weekend I was driving the new-to-us SCM Disco on Road 32, and the memories of my experiences with Alex came flooding back.
When she was 8 years old, I bought her a Honda XR50 motorcycle. As I recall, it had a no-clutch shifter. She was drawn to it and got joy in setting the choke just right before kick starting it. The memory of watching an 8-year-old girl kick-start a motorcycle with authority still brings a smile.
The Mt. Hood area is covered with old forest service logging roads. We had countless hours of fun riding on them. I had a Honda XL250 dual sport, which was the perfect size.
One day we took a ride I will never forget, which I want to memorialize here, such that it will not be lost to time.
There was a general store about three miles away in Rhododendron, down Highway 26. The back way to the store wound around and followed Still Creek, and probably was about five miles in length.
I recall asking Alex if she’d like to ride down the back way with me. It would be our longest ride.
I can almost taste my memories of the forest air as we kickstarted our bikes and let them idle to warm up. We topped off the gas tanks, pulled on our helmets and gloves and were off.
There was little or no traffic on Still Creek road, and today I question the logic and safety of going off into the mountains without telling anyone where we were headed. We would be far away from help should we need it. But times were different then.
I don’t think I got above 30 mph. But I still recall looking down from my lofty perch on the XL250, and seeing my elementary-school-age daughter, on her diminutive bike, keeping up with me.
When you are on an XR50, just inches from the gravel road, 30 mph is fast indeed. But we hustled along and 15 minutes later had arrived, both full of smiles. “I really liked that, dad,” I recall her saying. Or maybe I just imagine I recall it. Does it make any difference?
We got hot chocolate and donuts from a road-side stand. As we got ready to mount up and ride back, Alex said, “Dad, I see other kids on motorcycles riding on the side of Highway 26. That would be a lot faster. Can we do that?”
In that era, it was not unusual to see all sorts of two- and three-wheeled vehicles, unlicensed, on the wide shoulder of the highway. (Wide because during snow-season cars would pull off to chain up.)
Continuing my pattern of thoughtful parenting, I said, “Sure. Let’s just ride along where everyone else does.”
So there we were: Dad in front, daughter behind, riding on the shoulder of Highway 26 with cars and trucks whizzing by. I don’t even recall being nervous.
We pulled into the driveway of our cabin, shut off our bikes and put them on their side-stands.
“Dad, that was really fun. Can we do it again?”
Of course. Anytime we want.
For me, the image is indelible. My daughter on her motorcycle, fearlessly twisting the throttle and upshifting her own personal bike as she went on another adventure with her dad.