Monday, August 11, 2014

Cycling Memories

As we tackled the steep incline my family once called "The Big Hill" on the mile-long driveway, now paved, no longer the rutted dirt road of my childhood - dusty in the summer, muddy in the winter - I marveled at the memories of walking this route to and from the school bus stop on the Issaquah-Hobart Road from elementary school through high school. I remembered the box under the driveway arch where my siblings and I stashed our farm shoes before pulling on school shoes and racing to catch the bus. I remembered the huge puddle that froze at the foot of The Big Hill each winter where we took turns with Mom's high school ice skates. And I remembered my parents' warnings about the black bears every spring: "Never get between the mother and her cub."

May Toy Lukens and I are training for a 200-mile bike ride from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada now less than a week away. I've logged approximately one hundred miles a week since early spring and joined a community of strong, independent women cyclists who have challenged me to push myself beyond what I thought possible. 
Those of you familiar with the environs southeast of Seattle as well as my long-ago Issaquah High School classmates will know the route May and I rode last Friday. Starting in Renton, we took the May Valley Road to the Issaquah-Hobart Road and out to Hobart. I smiled to see that Hobart is still nothing more than the store/post office/gas station of my childhood, the place where my siblings and I sold the buckets of blackberries we picked to earn money for the school clothes we later ordered from the Sears catalog.

As we rode, we passed the iron arch my father built over a half century ago to mark our driveway when our farm joined only two others on the southwest side of Tiger Mountain, long before developers began subdividing  the land adjacent to our neighbor's horse ranch to create Mirrormont Estates, before Highway 18 sliced through the mountains from Interstate 90 to Interstate 5, before Bonneville strong-armed the construction of a second massive power line destroying all in its path.

As a kid, I watched the construction of Highway 18 on horseback from the top of the ridge far above my childhood home. Fortunately, my family had moved and I'd left for college by the time Bonneville's destruction began. But by then the damage done to the community was complete. All that remained was the devastation of the environment.

From Hobart, May and I rode the hills to Ravensdale, and there we turned around. As we neared the white arch, now streaked red with rust, I made a decision. "Are you game to do more hills?" I shouted to May knowing full well she's a much stronger hill-climber than I am. After all, this is the woman who started our summer training saying "I love hills" in response to my moaning and groaning.

The climb was even steeper than I remembered, but then I never biked it as a kid. I walked it. I rode it on horseback. But never on a bike. I bought my first bike the spring of my senior year in high school. I'd landed a summer job in town and needed transportation. A classmate's father owned the only bike shop in Issaquah. I knew nothing about biking or 10-speed gears. It took a while just to find my balance. I have no memory of the number of times I actually made the ride to or from work. Most days I think my dad or one of my brothers took pity on me and threw my bike in the back of a pickup.

Awash in a flood of memories, I stood under the second arch Dad built in front of my childhood home at the end of the long driveway. The house is now remodeled in a feeble attempt to change a solid brick box into some sort of Tudor with a tower,  the endless clicking static of the Bonneville lines fills the air, and the view of Mount Rainier that filled the front windows of my childhood is now marred.

My heart filled with tenderness for the teenage me. That younger me would never, could never have possibly imagined, even in her wildest dreams and overactive imagination, that some forty years later a much older version of herself would be seating on a bicycle, sweaty and exhausted, in front of the house munching wild blackberries and remembering her younger self.

No comments: