by Anton Luru
There’s something to be said about getting lost.
I’m not talking about trying to find a location, making the wrong turns and finally having to stop at the local convenience store to determine where it is you have to find.
What I’m thinking about is finding yourself out in the middle of nowhere and not really wanting to have a set direction or course to follow. Let the road determine your direction and leave the wondering of where the hell am I to the wind.
It’s like the Bob Seger song, ‘Roll Me Away’. “I could go east. I could go west. It was all up for me to decide.”
Today was that sort of day. After having family from New York here for a week, my son Leeland and I were definitely in the mood for a short and scenic road trip. Away from the daily schedule of showing the New Yorkers the wonders of the Pacific Northwest, away from schedules and demands. Nothing but the bike and the road before us.
God smiled down on us today.
Leeland and I headed for Sportsman’s Warehouse to restock badly needed fishing supplies. The day started overcast and slightly chilled along the Cascade foothills, but as the day progressed, the sky cleared and the sun shined down illuminating the day with grand possibilities for a small adventure to parts unknown.
After leaving the warehouse with saddlebags full of necessary fishing accouterments, we started up I-205, northbound for home.
However, without any warning, I found myself turning onto Sunnyside road heading east for Damascus, Oregon. A rather long short cut back to Troutdale.
After passing Damascus, another small road caught my attention and I turned south following it down past the nicely groomed yards of the newly built weed houses cropping up in the area. Soon, we were past the boundaries of Damascus and winding down the road into a small valley.
There another road to the left caught my attention, and once again another turn this time heading east along a country road that for some reason has never caught my attention before.
After a few miles passing horse ranches and hobby farms, we found ourselves at a crossroads. The Bob Seger tune came into my mind. However, this time I had one other choice….straight, left or right. We continued straight and found ourselves on Wild Cat Mountain road. Again, with all the times that I have traveled throughout this region either on my bike or in my Jeep, this road never caught my attention. Again I say, God seemed to be smiling and directed me hither.
For miles we rode on without seeing another vehicle. Passing small farms and bungalows hidden within the thickening forest. Ahead of us, clearly insight beckoning us forward was Mount Hood. Clear and looming it stood before us as we began the easy winding climb up Wild Cat Mountain.
Twisting curves carefully guided us up ever closer to the Mountain. The smell of the meadows with their colorful blooming flowers welcomed us as we explored further along this quiet and serene world we were traveling through. With each turn brought another view of the mountain and each time it seemed even closer. “Have I found another route to the mountain”, I thought to myself as we continued counting off the miles.
Finally, at the top of the mountain, the road began to descend into the Clackamas valley. At an old forest fire burn just as we began our decent down the mountain, we pulled over for a short break off the bike and to gaze out at the forested valley before us. No sounds from the city met us here. Only the singing birds in the forest and the sound of our feet treading over the ground as we walked along the burn. Leeland explored the remains of the burned forest as I lit up a cigar and stood reveling in the sights before me.
A Red Crested Hawk soared overhead, and once again Bob Seger's song flared into my mind, “Just then I saw a young hawk soaring and my soul began to rise. And pretty soon, my heart was singing!”
This is the freedom and experiences a motorcycle gives to me. This is what I mean when someone asks me about the Zen of riding or what a blue highway means. Just me alone or with my son or wife and the road before me. No set destination. No time limits. No hurry. Just the wind in my face and the road beneath me.
After a bit, a truck came up the road and slowed down to a stop next to me. The woman in the truck, smiling pleasantly, asked me if everything was ok, did I need any help. Where else would you expect anyone to stop and take the time to ask a total stranger if they were ok?
Considering today’s times and the way people treat or suspect others, I found myself pleasantly surprised and told her “Thanks, but we’re just taking a short break before continuing on.” Exchanging pleasantries, I asked her if the road continued down towards Estacada. She smiled and said, “No this road continues for quite some time and I believe it comes to a dead end up in the mountains.” With that she bid me goodbye and continued up the road disappearing around the curve.
Standing besides the road, I regretfully looked down at my watch. 3 PM. I have a barbecue to attend at 6. A time limit. I looked down the road and considered my options. What to do? What to do? My best and wisest option was to choose to head home and not face the wrath of my wife if Leeland and I returned later than expected.
I may preach the sermon of the road, but I’m also no fool. I called to my son to saddle up and we headed back the way we came. Of course we could have taken the same way back and gotten home earlier. But the other roads we passed were calling and in reality, we liked being lost this day. What’s another hour or two?
At another cross road we turned north and slowly Mount Hood began to recede into the background. Had no idea where the road would take us. I was navigating by the sun and a basic sense of direction. Down this hill, around that curve passing yet again another road beckoning us to transverse it. Homeward bound. Slowly but surely.
Soon we found ourselves back in Sandy. Back amongst the motorist speeding along Highway 26 without any regard to the world around them. Traffic backed up in Sandy. Two State troopers speeding by us with lights and sirens blaring probably enroute to an accident along the highway. Away from the Zen of motorcycling. Back amongst the hordes and civilization. Not long after safely home.
God smiled on me this day. Thank you. You can’t plan for this type of ride. Getting lost has its benefits.
The summer is still young and the days will still be sunny and bright in the days to come. There will be many more roads to follow and many more sights to see. However, I think I’ll saddle up later on sometime, take a ride and find out just what’s at the end of the Wild Cat mountain road.