Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not just any sunday

Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes the world spins in such a way you stumble upon adoptive grandparents. A person who has acquired several decades of wisdom just happens to enter your life with the appearance and feel of a grandparent. As luck would have it, my neighbor Don, has shifted into the shape of a grandpa over the years I have known him.

Returning home means long conversations over coffee with Don, discussing my most recent travels. It means a return to the impromptu creek side assessments about life or pre-paid cell phone plans, or the endless observations about mother nature's artistic infusion of birds, beavers, or whatever else catches our attention while chatting next to the peaceful flow of water.

It also means going to the movies. Before noon of course. It's only five bucks before noon. He drives. We park downtown. We leave sufficient time to get coffee before the movie. I try to keep up with Don's inquisitive mind. I'm pretty sure we've sorted out most of the world's problems over such coffee stops.

Neither of us are very picky about what movie we watch.  Last week it was The King's Speech, today we saw The Mechanic. It's a Charles Bronson remake about a well trained assassin, full of well scripted macho dialogue, an extremely cool headed Jason Statham,  heart-pounding revenge, double-crossing, and as Don jokingly describes any film we see (regardless of storyline), full of "socially redeeming value". The movie played and the credits rolled.  We agreed it was a great movie.

I couldn't help make light of the brief nudity as we gathered our jackets from the seat backs.
"...and it was a bit of a love story as well," I said referring to the few gratuitous-however-brief-love-scenes scattered amidst an almost constant flow of bullets.
Not missing a beat, Don replied between chuckles "Yeah, that was touching."

Don drove up my driveway next to his house, I stepped out, thanked him for the movie and took notice of the beautiful sunny day. A January day they only dream about on the west side of the state. It wasn't long before I was enthralled with the gladiatorial battle being waged out the window. A few bald eagles have been hangin' around recently. But today it was a free-for-all above the bend in the creek between bald eagles and massive hawks of some sort. I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots overhead.

A moment later I found my friend Tom at the front door. "TOM! Hey there's some crazy sh*t going on..." He interrupts me. "YEAH, i know, i saw two sheriff's cars, a fire truck, an ambulance and some kind of search and rescue team turn off onto Hangman Valley road." I was rather surprised at how much his "crazy sh*t" differed from the "eagles vs. hawks" I was referring to. So I grabbed my jacket and we did the only thing that made sense on this beautiful day, we raced out the door and onto his motorcycle.

Tom jumped behind the handle bars and I jumped... in the sidecar. Now understand it takes a certain level of humility to ride in a sidecar. The reason being you cannot help but feel like the driver's bitch when riding at such a lower level literally and figuratively. A demotion no self-respecting male (or female) would necessarily enjoy feeling. However, having already ridden sidecar a handful of times with Tom, I took my place in his basket of death with a respectable level of sidecar self-confidence.

It was only as we turned onto the freeway, gaining speed, did I start to question the rattle that sounded like a loose bolt. Glancing down I quickly reviewed how this piece of tin was attached to Tom's side. The thought of being in a motorcycle accident is not a pretty picture. Sitting in a sidecar thinking that same thought induces intense paranoia. So I did the first thing I thought of to calm my nerves. I silently quoted the badass Shakespeare quote I committed to memory about death and buried the image of me someday wearing a t-shirt that says "I  the jaws of life" way down in my brain.

We leaned right as the motorcycle turned onto Hangman valley road. It wasn't long before we were stopped by a sheirff who was turning traffic around near the scene of the accident. Just then a woman passed us on foot and said "Someone drove their car into the river." Not able to see much we pulled U turn as directed by the sheriff who's glance gave the look of "nuttin' ta' see here boys".

We headed back the way we came, deciding to ride to the top of Tower mountain, a few miles away. The temperature was dropping, but the sun was still making its case as the afternoon grew long.

Up and up we went, darting onto a dirt road near the top I asked Tom if he had taken this way before. "NO." he shouted over the roar of the motor. We passed several signs which informed us that, regardless of how a motorcycle with a sidecar can take two men into the wilds of south Spokane, it was still forbidden to pass onto private property. But we pressed on, until we found ourselves staring down a steep, rutted, dirt trail. "I don't know. Maybe we should turn around." Tom said with a degree of timidness that took me by surprise. I suspected his logical assessment of our situation had something to do with his imminent clash with fatherhood in a few weeks. In addition to the deteriorating road conditions I knew the last sign we passed stating something about a $1000 fine for trespassing was also eating at him.

I admit, I too had concerns not only about how steep the oncoming trail looked but also the looming threat of a sign that actually name's its price on those who choose to cross an invisible line. But no official sidecar companion, such as myself, ever entertains the possibility of "turning around". No, the sole purpose of the poor sucker sitting in the deathtrap is to be the ultimate believer that given the awesomeness of our transportation we can challenge both gravity and property rights without suffering any negative repercussions.

So, having successfully made my case, Tom proceeded forward. And yes, while driving down the steep, muddy, rutted, section of the trail, we each had our own thoughts about what injuries we would suffer if the downhill incline proved to be too much, pinning Tom on the ground and dropping me from the sidecar pointed skywards.

Thankfully, none of our worst fears were realized as we crossed over Tower mountain, passed by someone's house, and used their driveway to regain access to civilization. Back on the road, Tom informed me over the noisy motor, "Boy, I never get the chance to engage the sidecar's drive shaft. That was awesome!" adding "But I gotta admit, I was getting a little nervous back there." Looking up at him, hating how much I felt and looked like a seven year old in a sidecar, I yelled back "What were you worried about, the terrain or the trespassing?" Without hesitating he replied "BOTH."

The cut of the cold air was starting to get to us. Finding an upside to my oyster shell existence I took a moment to appreciate the cereal-box size windshield placed in front of me. I ducked low, maximizing its effectiveness. We looped around and found ourselves on the other side of the accident, this time with a clear view of the SUV in the river. Turns out, a woman, drunk, missed the hard left turn, smashed over a guardrail, down a 20 foot embankment, and managed to keep driving for another 60 yards straight into the creek/river, dragged out by a rescue team, taken to the hospital and charged with DUI. Looks like we have a new challenger for the "Beyond Stupid" award.

It was at this point in the ride that Tom informed me he couldn't feel his fingers. Always quick to make fun I stopped short, realizing how much more the driver is exposed to the elements than the legend sitting in the protective sidecar. We headed for home, his fingers beyond numb, ready for the ride to be over.
Sometimes you're lucky. Sometimes the world spins in such a way you cannot help but give thanks to how your neighbor's shape shifted into the form of a grandpa, how you arrived home to find a bunch of bald eagles battling hawks in your backyard, and how your friend Tom dropped by the house riding his Russian Ural.

And it all happened on a sunny day in January.

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