Tacoma Bound

by connal on April 1, 2009

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Tacoma, Washington is by no means the most exotic of destinations but it’s all part of the preparations for our trip, plus it gives us a chance to work out the kinks in this whole blogging / photo posting business.

We’re headed to Tacoma in the first place because that’s where Anjel grew up, and where her mother and sister still live. Her mother has a nice house with a huge basement and she’s been kind enough to let us store the majority of our belongings there for the next 18 months. As I mentioned in previous posts, it turned out to be cheaper to rent  a truck and drive it up there (factoring in gas, return trip, etc…) than to rent a storage place for 18 months. It also gave us a chance to make a mini-trip out of the excursion, stopping to see some friends and family along the way.

Budget Conn

After a few early morning delays, we finally hit the road around 9:00, leaving Walnut Creek and pointing the truck North on Hwy 80 towards 5, settling back for an estimated 10 hours on the road. The destination for the day was Salem; the capital of Oregon and home of Frank McAuley – a friend of the family for the last 40+ years. He and my father met a week before they started High School and have remained close friends ever since. Though Mac originally grew up and lived very close to where my parents live, he served in the military after college and consequently lived a great many places, very few of which were nearby. It meant that my exposure to him, while growing up, was usually limited to a day or two at a time, maybe once a year. As I said to him at one point after Dad’s funeral: “Up until a few months ago, I had always kind of thought of you as Dad’s idiot friend.” Which he took with a smile and a laugh as I knew he would. Frank is a great guy, a wonderful musician and a complete fool (and would never deny it). I was lucky enough to have a few chances to get to know him in the months before Dad passed, though I never really understood the relationship that he had with my father until the Rosary the night before Dad’s funeral

As common at a Rosary, Dad’s brother Dave said a few words in remembrance after the service, and then opened up the floor to anyone else who wanted to say something. Several people came up and shared wonderful memories of dad – and then Mac came up. Part of me wishes I had a recording of what he said that night – part of me is glad I don’t because though I can’t remember all of the details, I just remember it as the most moving, most loving, most heartfelt remembrance of my father that I have ever heard. We all have our own vision of our parents – what they mean to us, who they are to us, but it’s not very common to get to truly understand how their good friends see them. People who, in Mac’s case for example, have over 40 years of shared times – from stupid things done together in High School, to stupid things done together in College, to stupid things done together well into their 50s. And of course mixed in there are all the difficult times too – the times when friends turn to each other for help. Something I know was a strong part of their relationship.

Mac's BultacoFJH Sherpa T

So our stop in Salem was intended to give us a day or two with Mac, but also to bring him something. Back in college, Dad and Mac would throw their Bultacos into Dad’s VW bus and drive up in the hills for afternoons of dirtbiking. Dad has owned a number of bikes over the years (mostly vintage Trials bikes) but had never actually purchased a new bike for himself until two years ago when he picked up a Suzuki V-Strom 650. He rode it to work from time to time but he much preferred to use the bike for getting away. It was that bike that he and Mom rode when Anjel and I spent several days riding with them through Yosemite, visiting the ghost town of Bodie, and then heading up 11,000 feet above sea level to see the Bristlecone Pine Trees – at 5000 years old, the are the oldest living things on the planet. A year later we went on another trip, this time to Bryce Canyon, Utah and this time with Anjel’s sister Sophie along for the ride.

When dad passed his bike had less than 3500 miles on it, barely broken in, not ridden (I’m sure) nearly as much as he would have liked, but almost every one of those miles were spent alongside me, his brother, or both; and frequently with Mom on the back. It was, as motorcycling has always been for him, a way to spend time with friends and family.

All of this is leading somewhere – which is to explain why we were going to Salem in the first place. Anjel and I both have our own bikes (as does my Uncle Dave) and no one else in the immediate family rides. Though we were in no rush to get rid of the bike, it seemed like a shame to let it just sit (especially to sit for the entire time that we would be gone) so we thought of what to do with it. I called Mac and asked if he would have any interest in owning the bike. He hasn’t owned a bike for years and said he would be thrilled and honored. We agreed on terms and loaded the bike up to make the trip North.

The drive itself up to Salem was 100% uneventful. The truck had no cruise control, tape or CD player and an awkward passenger seat that caused your legs to fall asleep no matter what position you were trying to nap in. Plus, I left the gas cap behind at a gas station in Dunsmuir. Throughout the day we sampled the finest cuisine that Carl’s Jr. and Taco Bell had to offer and meandered along in the high 60s while shouting back and forth to one another as the in-cabin road noise was comparable to driving a convertible with the top down. The best part of the trip was probably the last 90 minutes or so when Anjel passed the time by reading aloud a few articles from the Motorcycle touring magazines I brought along (New Zealand, Russia, Ireland). We arrived in Salem almost exactly 10 hours after leaving Walnut Creek, went out for a nice Chinese dinner and then stayed up late drinking beer and looking at Mac’s extensive collection of guitars.

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