Thursday, September 11, 2008

Motorcycling & Rafting On the Streams of Time

Highway 22 shoots like an arrow out of the western Oregon city of Salem towards and over the Cascade Mountains and the high desert beyond. The busy highway rockets hurried travelers past small towns like Aumsville, Sublimity, Stayton, Mill City, Lyons, Gates, Idanha, Detroit and Marion Forks.

Last Sunday turned out to be a glorious day. With late season warmth and sunshine, it was the last hurrah of summer before the cold winds swept it all away.

This made for an almost overwhelming temptation to turn the day into a ride. So off we went my son and I down Highway 22. We had no destination in mind, just a ride for the sake of riding and spending time together.

A thousand scents filled my nostrils and sparked memories of other days and other rides; diesel exhaust from a truck up ahead, wood smoke from a warm fire in an unknown home, meat cooking on someones backyard barbecue, the musk of the earth and dying leaves.

A numb butt, hunger and a full bladder from the mornings coffee forced a stop at Poppa Al's which was right off the highway in Mill City. The overly optimistic person who named it a city probably didn't foresee the end of big timber days. Over- harvesting, clear cuts and the late arrival of sustainable forestry practices doomed this would be city from the start. It's a town and will always be a town and that's as it should be.

Poppa Al's was a past frequent haunt of mine back in the river running days. My two older boys, now grown and distant, friends now gone, and I, would pull our kayaks and rafts up on the bank of the North Santiam River at Mill City. Then we would walk up the hill to Poppa Al's for a burger and hot chocolate. We shivered dripping wet in our clothes, semi-hypothermic as we waited for our orders to get filled. Those were the days before we knew about more adequate clothing like polypropylene for the ice cold white water.

As my son and I sat at an outside picnic table, dry and warm, we watched my Sportster attract other motorcycles like a magnet. Within minutes an older couple on a Victory pulled up, then a boy on a sport bike pulled into the other end of the parking lot, then came Harley's, about 3 of them.

Old memories came alive and my mind drifted back to the last time I was at Poppa Al's. I couldn't have known or even imagined back then that it would be more than 15 years before I would return.

All too seldom do I think about that whenever I'm doing something that it might be the last time, or possibly a very long delay before I could do it again. Maybe if I were more conscious of that I would appreciate and enjoy things more.

Poppa Al's looked outdated even 15 years ago, but with lots of character. The old place is reminiscent of a simpler, slower, and more care free time. I've done a lot of changing over the years but not Poppa Al's. Except of course the price of a burger and a coke.

We pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward the river for a look. I thought about how the boy, my son, would all too soon be an adult. He grew up different than my older boys; he never got the chance to experience the river. I wondered how it was that we were at that place and at that time. It was an unplanned ride after all. I don't believe much in chance or coincidence. I tend to think everything has a purpose, a message, or a lesson to be learned.

The sound of the waves as they surged and splashed over car size boulders were like a siren song. A call to return to the river. I glanced toward the horizon and the sun was going down, it almost seemed to pause its descent for a moment before disappearing completely behind the mountain. "It will be back in the morning" I abruptly said out loud, startling my son who was glancing toward the highway in the other direction .

Yep, I decided it was time, I would come back again with a river raft and we'll be dressed in polypropylene, my son and I. And I will not take that moment for granted.

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R.G. said...

I know exactly where you are coming from. I am told often that I am overly nostalgic. I find savoring and contemplating my brief history enjoyable. Besides knowing where you have been helps you determine where you should go.

Lance said...

Kano, I really enjoyed reading your post. I think it is great that your youngest son is with you on many of your adventures.

It is good that there are the "Poppa Al's" out there - they serve as placemarkers in our lives (as well as serving up great food!)

Earl Thomas said...

For me, the memories are of the Ice Cream Stands hidden along the back roads of the Adirondacks and around New England. I think about them from time to time while I ride out here in the Northwest and wonder why they don't exist like they do back east. I miss those places for their character and charm, and for the charming characters that they attract.


Heinz & Frenchie said...

Nice of you to take us on this journey of memories. We will be looking forward to your return to Poppa Al's and rafting.

irondad said...

You know, I go by that place a lot. My attention is usually focused on the Circle K intersection where I take the back road into Lyons, Scio, Crabtree, then into Albany. Or, conversely, I'm just coming out of there and thinking of the rest area at Gates. I've never stopped at Al's, though.

Interesting how there's probably dozens of such stories on the road to Bend, for instance, yet we usually never know about them.

Kano said...

rg -Yep, looking back at some of my older posts it seems I'm a little overly nostalgic too. I try to stay focused mostly on the present and look toward the future but it seems when I go out for a ride and take some pics it ends up being something nostalgic that I write about.

lance -I love to go to places that haven't changed much. When I'm traveling through an unfamiliar area and need to stop, I look for the kind of places locals like to go.

earl thomas -I know what you mean. I was stationed at Ft. Devens in Ayer, Mass. for about a year and there were lots of places like you're talking about around. I sorta fell in love with New England and think about returning once in a while. Where did you live in N.E.?

Heinz & Frenchie -Thanks and it's nice to see you back in the blogosphere! As far as the return, I hope to get a raft and gear with the next tax returns and be on the river by spring.

irondad -If you stop plan on spending some time waiting. They even have a sign by the cash register that says something like this: "we appreciate your patience, if you're looking for fast food go to Salem". Their food is good, but expensive I think for a place like that. $6.50 for a burger basket. That doesn't include a drink. Just a burger and fries. There's another interesting place nearby off the highway in Gates I think that has pheasants you can look at through windows by your table. I haven't been there in years and forgot the name of the place. Worth checking out though.