Sunday, August 16, 2009

Turkey Drumsticks, Bear Hunters, And The Deer Creek Fire... (oh, and sore legs!)

We had a massive fire across the vineyard from where we live a few years back, which burnt the whole side of the hill and beyond. When Mum got out of the hospital after battling severe pneumonia, I pushed her out in the yard in a wheelchair and we watched the helicopters flying over the house toting large bags of water. I said it was like watching huge dragonflies with huge nut-sacks at the time, but Mum had been in no mood.

The first photo is of our house this last winter, walking back from the lake (if you hear whistling it's because there is a cemetery off to the left just out of view).

You can see the proximity of the fire to us and how we view it from our backyard. In the winter, the leaves fall from the oak and ash trees, leaving us with a full view of the devastation that only goes away when the snow falls and whitens the mountain. Then spring comes and the leaves come out, and the fire ravaged hill disappears from view again.

So with all this nature and shit transpiring outside my door, you would think I'd been up to where the fire was and had a look around ages ago, wouldn't you?

Oh, I casually tried once or twice, riding my bike up a driveway or two, looking for an access road that "went up there" but never finding one.

A few months back, I was attending a local food gathering, and asked a true "local" about a road that went up there.

"You go down Crook's Creek a ways... there's a road to the left that comes WAY BACK and gets up on that mountain."

I filed that away until last week.

We have another road that I discovered about a month ago that is paved and goes up and over a mountain into Cave Junction the real back way. It is one lane wide, windy and paved reasonably with few potholes (paving stuff around here is a long story not worth telling unless you live around here. Needless to say, we've got nice paving on our very rural roads (as opposed to new machines in the health clinic or an open library). I discovered also that this road had a connection via fire road to the road my buddy Bruce lives on, where we start and stop our bicycle misadventures together. Connections and loops were good things on bicycle misadventures, as you don't have to rely on someone's wife to start up the old beater truck and come and get you from the local dump (which is where we were picked up last time we went out on a Sunday morning).

So that's where this story truly begins-- Thompson Creek Road.

I took Bruce up Thompson Creek (the paved one lane back road) for a Sunday morning bicycle ride, explaining to him that it was a severe climb to the top (but the paving was great!) and then there was a dirt road that was mostly downhill that led directly to the foot of his driveway. All he had to do was tough out the hill climb in the first half of the loop, and the second half was fox poop on rocks and gravy...

"How big a hill?" he asked, worried.

"Not too big," I lied.

"We'll see..." he said, because he knew what "not too big" really meant to his 58 year old legs...

He got up about two thirds of the hill and had run out of steam. He got off his bike and starting walking. I turned back and came down and we both stopped in the shade of a large tree while still in the middle of this one lane back road and got water. If I wanted to keep Bruce as a riding partner, I had to keep his riding enjoyable. One way to do that was to not leave him gassed out on a road by himself while he watched you peddle your way out of his sight...

It builds up resentment.

So while we were "resting" and drinking and talking about mountain lions and bears and foxes we once knew, we heard a strange 'whirring" coming from above. Something was coming down the road and we thought we ought to get out of the middle of it.

Enter "Brendon".

A tall, thin-boned dude on a road bicycle- a very nice road bicycle. He was coming down the hill much faster than Bruce and I allowed for ourselves and he saw us and braked easily and stopped where we were stopped and basically seemed very glad to see us.

We were fellow cyclists in the middle of nowhere too!

He said hi and we said hi and there was that familiar childhood boy banter about where you lived, where you got your bike, why you were out on this barbaric hill climb on a Sunday morning and so on and so forth...

Brendon had one of those goofy-tooths, a front tooth that sort of pointed out a little and lapped over the other front tooth. I kept staring at this, wondering "now why wouldn't he get that fixed?"

He mentioned that he was "doing laps" up Thompson Creek, that he rode up the steep hill TEN TIMES for exercise, and that was when I looked down from talking to this tall skinny goofy- looking dude and got an eye full of THOSE LEGS!

Turkey drumsticks.

That's what this guy had. From the tiny waste to the tiny knees, in between there were these huge turkey drumsticks.

"Turkey drumsticks." I said aloud.

"Huh?" "Wha?"

"You've been riding for a long time?" I asked him.

"Bout twenty years."

"Round here?"

"No. Mostly down around Marin."

"Bay Area boy, then."


"Me too."

"Do you know..." and so it went. Brendon turned and rode with us a bit, doing all the talking while Bruce and I huffed our way up the rest of the hill. If there was a way for him to turn on his seat and ride backwards and chat, he would have. He was riding that casual.

"We should all go riding" Brendon said casually.

"Huh. Wha?"

"I'm always looking for riding partners."

"I bet," I thought. "With those damn turkey drumsticks!"

"Sure..." I offered. "It'd be fun...?"

Those turkey drumsticks just kept pumping up and down effortlessly while my legs had that fire in them and Bruce stopped again to walk some more.

"Next time you're riding down Lakeshore..." I suggested, "...stop by and say hello. We can organize something then."

"I'll do that!" said Brendon, perhaps too enthusiastically for my liking.

Or for my legs.

So for a week I worried about my legs. I went out everyday and pushed them harder than I'd normally push them. I went back to Thompson creek every evening and rode to the top of the ridge and turned and came home. I pretended that I was better on a bike than I am, going faster on the flats, pushing harder on the hills. When Brendon came by with those turkey drumsticks and his 6-3, 170 pound frame, I wanted to be ready. Or as ready as I could be.

Look. All I wanted was to not keel over on the side of a hill, sucking air like a dying fish, while Brendon complimented me on "how well I was doing".

That shit don't fly with me. It wasn't gonna happen.

He eventually cruised by on his road bike, told me stories of racing cars up to the Oregon caves and back down again (three times!) and we set up a ride to go check out the burnt hillside which I pointed out through the oak leaves on our trees.

We were gonna ride on Sunday morning, which meant Bruce was invited (we have a new tradition of getting up and getting lost on Sunday mornings) which meant that I would be able to stop and rest with the rather noble excuse that I was "waiting for Bruce".

Well Bruce called and canceled with a mild tummy ache (and visions of sucking air like a dying fish, no doubt!) and turkey drumsticks showed up promptly at eight, and off we zoomed through our rural neighborhood, down Crook's Creek in an awful hurry, me focused on keeping up my speed and Brendon casually riding alongside me telling me his life story.

Abusive father. Loving but victimized Mum... Step-dad. Half-brother. Bad at sports as a kid until he got on a bike in his late teens and started racing others... Married once. Last girlfriend killed when an oak tree fell on her...Needed to get out of the rat race after that and came to aid his Mum...

My legs were screaming for mercy as he went on and we went on. Fire roads that just went up and up. Me trying to be a compassionate listener while trying not to puke. Brendon trying to make it seem like this wasn't too easy for him...

We climbed for about an hour and a half, and I pretty much had an overview of Brendon, his life, his current situation (a troubled half-brother who lies and steals from his Mum and a compliant and apathetic step-father who lets him, with Brendon in-between trying to keep the peace while getting over the violent and sudden death of his girlfriend by the oak tree in Marin...)

...and when we finally topped out we were where I had been where these pictures were taken- the top of the burnt hillside that I stare at from our house.

You can see our local lake in one of the photos, which is a thousand feet or so from here. we had ridden in a giant C shape to get here, so that's how far we'd come. I was surprised that my legs still felt pretty strong, and after we looked around a bit and ate something, we headed further back into the hills on an extension of this fire road, looking around and checking stuff out.

We headed down a steep road which led to another road that traveled down and we came upon another larger fire road and beer bottles sprung up on the side of this road and I said we were nearing a way out because the local yahoos were coming in to drink beer and shoot guns off and that usually meant we were near "civilization" if you want to call it that...

We headed down another steep stretch and Brendon really let it out and flew ahead of me. I remember thinking how he must have felt growing up, his dad beating on him for being too girlie and weak, growing tall and gangly with little coordination and then discovering that on a bicycle he could excel and be looked at as "Mr. Turkey Drumstick" with reverence from someone like me...

A car came around a corner and Brendon slammed on his brakes. There was a spew of dust clouds and when it settled, Brendon was at the window of the little four wheel drive "family car", talking to the driver.

I pulled up shortly, thinking these were town folks out "looking around".

Nope. Three burly dudes carrying three enormous guns. The kind of dudes who crush beer cans on their foreheads when they're done drinking them. Tattoos on their necks (because it hurts there, apparently, during the installation) and sleeveless Tees (for showing off burly arms). Brendon was apologizing to them for getting in their way when I pulled up. He was using his Marin County mannerisms. He was standing up with the crotch of his bicycle shorts right in their faces, making these manly boys stare at his man-parts which were smashed in his red Lycra bicycle shorts. Brendon's pants were so tight his testicles were four inches apart, and that middle thing? Don't know what it was but it sure looked smashed up inside his pants. And this was thrust into the window on the drivers side while Brendon apologized politely like a girl...

I had Deliverance banjos playing in the back of my head...

I thought I'd better step in and fix this right away.

"Holy fuck, look at the size of those muzzles! You boys out bear huntin' this mornin'?

The three burly dudes shifted their attention away from Brendon's red crotch.

"Yeah. Got into one back by the house. Chased it up here but lost it. You seen a bear run by?"

The other two dudes nodded. They were cool because they were huntin' bear.

"No, man. No bear." I said. "Saw piles of bear shit coming up (we did) and some tracks on the road. Not a big bear by the size. It had been down and into the berries by the scat."

These boys nodded. This was huntin' talk and they preferred this to staring at Brendon's red crotch and smushed jewels.

"You mother fuckers didn't wound it, did ya? I don't wanna run across no wounded bear out here on this mother fucking bicycle and get my fucking ass chewed in half. I mean fuck dudes. Go kill the sombitch so I can get home for lunch, OK?

The boys liked this. Two nodded 'no' while the driver nodded 'yes'.

"Yeah. I think I hit him, man. Fact I knows I did."

"You didn't hit him you fat fucker!" said the guy in the back seat.

"Fuck man, you couldn't hit a barn!"

"I hit the fucker, OK?"

"No fucking way!"


And this is how we left them. I tipped them a good-bye and pushed Brendon's crotch out of the window frame and we headed down the hill.

"They seemed like nice guys," said Brendon.

Oh lordy.

ADDENDUM- I got home and stepped on the scale after a shower. 249.8!!

Ha! I had broken the two-fifty barrier!

But I had no beer in the fridge and I was dehydrated and very thirsty.


Two tall glasses of water and there I was, back at 252...


The beer's gotta wait.


Jeannie said...

Now you know how we women feel.

meno said...

ha ha hah! Jeannie is funny!

Great details and pictures, as usual.

Shrinky said...

I just loved this, you paint a wonderful picture of your adventures. I think Brendon and me have a lot in common (except for thrusting my crutch in perfect strangers faces.. well, not unless they ask nicely).

You are doing great on the keeping fit regime, I feel tired just reading this.

Anne said...

I agree with Shrinky. Your writing puts me right there.

...And I would've gone out and bought the beer immediately before getting on the scale again. 249 is 249 no matter when you see it.

Cheesy said...

Guess it is time for me to go shop for a celebratory micro-brew eh??

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