Friday, July 18, 2008
A Father & Son Motorcycle Ride 13,000 Years in the Making
I said to my 14 year old son Jason, "Your mom and the girls are going to church this morning and you and I are hitting the road on the motorcycle."
"So where we going dad?" "To check out a rock over by McMinnville, it'll be a nice ride out there."
My son looking unimpressed and a little less than eager asked "are we going to get a pop or anything?"
Sunday mornings are usually reserved for going to church. My church preference though is the road, the woods, the beach and today it would be to see a "glacial erratic rock."
We waved goodbye to my wife and my 2 girls as they rolled out of the driveway. I felt a little guilty because they soon would be sitting on a wooden church pew and I would be in the familiar saddle of my bike named "Liberty".
Jason reluctantly climbed aboard the bike and we were off. Later we arrived at "Glacial Erratic State Park" a forgotten little wayside with just a small sign marking the entrance to the parking area just off Highway 18 in Yamhill County.
At the trail head was a graffiti sprayed historical marker describing the rock waiting for us at the top of the hill. I read about the glacial erratic as Jason walked ahead.
I caught up with him and we hiked up the short trail and soon we were standing near a large rock overlooking the surrounding scenery of rolling hills, farmland and vineyards.
Jason looked at the rock for a second and said "we rode all the way out here just to see this?"
He cracked open his can of Dr. Pepper and took a long sip.
"Yep" I said, "and this is no ordinary rock, this here is a glacial erratic. If you would have stopped long enough to read the sign then you would know all about it."
He rolled his eyes, took another sip of pop and put on his best disinterested look as I explained:
"This rock came all the way down here from up in Canada during the Missoula flood about 13 thousand years ago at the end of the last ice age. There was a glacier blocking the flow of a river so there was a huge lake. The ice dam burst and a wall of water hundreds of feet high flowed down the Columbia River carrying huge chunks of ice along with it. Embedded in the ice were big rocks like this one".
"And?" He said. (It may have been my imagination or maybe he really was interested in hearing the rest I don't know)
"And this wall of water carrying huge chunks of ice flowed down through Montana and Idaho and into Washington and Oregon along the Columbia River and about where Portland is now some of the water came down the Willamette Valley."
"So" he said. At this point I didn't care if he was really interested or not. I wanted to finish the story so that maybe he would remember it and appreciate the experience we had together sometime in the future.
"So a big chunk of ice settled at the top of this hill and melted, leaving this here rock. End of story."
Shrugging his shoulders he said "cool" and headed back down the trail at a quick pace. He was probably eager to get back home as soon as possible so he could resume the video game he was playing earlier.
I stood there for some time taking it all in. I looked at the view from up there and touched the rock with my hand, noticing someone had spray painted "You Suck!" on the side of it.
I imagined the almost unimaginable pre-historic scene; the wall of water surging over the hilltops around me carrying chunks of ice bigger than a house.
My mind moved from pre-history to recent history. About the time I was Jason's age my dad brought me to see the rock. I was thinking that back then I probably looked just as bored as my son did.
This time was different though. Getting older seems to have the effect of giving me a broader perspective. I appreciate things more and I certainly appreciate my dad more now than I did then, when he was still alive. It's too easy to take people for granted.
Maybe because my finished journey isn't all that distant anymore and things like the rock, people, the world, are savored and taken in more slowly so as to be fully valued.
I was glad I brought Jason up there despite his disinterest. Because, I thought, maybe he would someday return, if only in memory, and he would look at the rock and understand it.
Maybe he would even bring his own family to show them. Maybe generation after generation would come and keep coming, until the time that the rock becomes dust...
Cars sped by on the highway below. Busy, unconscious, and in a hurry to get wherever they were going.
Long ago the rock arrived at its destination but it's purpose was not finished. It had waited silently for this moment 13,000 years in the making.
I was in church that day alright. I felt the presence of my dad on that hill and smiled knowing he would be happy that I was passing along the experience to my own son. I touched the rock and it touched me and it felt like the hand of God.
More information on the "Glacial Erratic" along with GPS coordinates.