Saturday with Dad

When I was a kid, my dad owned a Honda 360t – it wasn’t a big motorcycle, even for the day.  But it  had a fairing and saddlebags, and he commuted to work  in Los Angeles with it in the summer.  On weekends, he and I would ride out to Chino.

I loved those rides.  Neither of us wore a helmet; it was too beautiful of a drive.  We wanted to experience it fully, not watch it go by like a movie through the glass.  How he withstood my long, blonde hair whipping his bald head over the miles is beyond me, but at the time, I didn’t think about it.  I was feeling the rumble of the engine under my butt,  taking in the smell of grassy fields in my nostrils, and keeping a keen eye out for the horses I knew we’d pass.  I had my dad in front of me, patting my knee to point out things he saw first.

We’d pull out of the neighborhood and wave to my friends.  I was so proud to be seen on Dad’s gleaming red bike.  Soon, we were motoring through the lovely groves behind the dam and smelling blossoms or ripe oranges, depending what was adorning the lush green trees lining both sides of the road.  We turned right onto the road filled with trucks pulling trailers full of debris and junk, heading to the dump.  When they turned off onto the side road while we continued curving right, that was when our fun really began.  We were headed into the beautiful country, and there was no more talk.

First there was the busy stable on the left, across from Carbon Canyon Regional Park.  There was always something going on there, so I was always looking left while Dad loved looking right at the children playing frisbee or tag in the creek-lined park.  He loved this side of the dam, looming above the trees and wondering why this pretty little creek needed such a big dam.  We never did figure that out.  They didn’t call this area Carbon Canyon for nothing: there was an ever-present threat of fire, and the entire area turned black every couple years from this road to my back fence.  But never did it flood, to my knowledge.

After that was just openness; some areas with trees close around the road, where we would slow down and enjoy the shade, and others wide open with grass on either side.   Then the landscape got a little rougher and the road was cut a few feet into the hills.  Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the road dropped back on itself, down and to the left for about 50 feet, then again, to the right.  The road was really narrow at that point, and if we ever passed a car in that S-turn, we were sharing paint – it was that tight.  This was the highlight – everybody loved that little chicane.

But then the road was straight again into the actual town of Carbon Canyon.  The sign still said “Sleepy Hollow”, and it was such a drive to anywhere that only a few eclectics lived out there. But there were beautiful new homes being built in lovely tracts interspersed with the older farmhouses.  Funny; looking back, I don’t remember any shops or offices, not even a gas pump through that town.  It was a surreal and amazingly desirable little enclave.  But I remember thinking then how incredibly dangerous it would be when those fires whipped across the hillsides.  All that separated us from home at this point was about five miles of Shell Oil fields: easy, rolling hills – about four lines of them – with a couple oil pumps here and there, a shepherd and his flock, some cattle, and more wildlife than you could identify.  We’d sneak in there on occasion, my brothers or friends and I, and swim in the pond, hunt mushrooms under the cow pies, watch red tailed hawks overhead, spot the occasional mule deer, and dodge the seemingly omniscient airplane patrols.  I think we spent more time under bushes dodging sightseeing pilots than ever an actual official.  But Skip had been marched out of there once (he claimed) after being spotted by an eye in the sky and then chased down by a patrolman in his pickup truck, so we weren’t taking any chances.   My brother actually hiked all the way to seeing Carbon Canyon Road once – I’d never made it but halfway on horseback, by myself.   But that’s another story….

Through town, which was probably a mile from first house to last, and then we were nearing the end of the road.  Shortly up ahead, lay the Chino prison.  We always drove in through the gates.  The employees’ housing was so quaint, and out of another era.  It seemed unreal to me, but to Dad, it probably felt like his childhood.  Sweet little houses, mostly in shades of olive and white, but with neatly manicured yards and the occasional happy children playing around them.  We would turn around at the guard shack and head back.

The ride was just as wonderful in reverse, but it seemed to fly by too fast this direction.  We were home all too soon.  Mom always had lemonade or sun tea waiting for us, and there were cars to wash in the fading sunlight after dinner.  That was its own joy, of course, and was a perfect end of a perfect Saturday.


6 thoughts on “Saturday with Dad

  1. I’m envious, in a way; my father and I never did anything together. He was a long haul trucker when I was little and my parents divorced when I was eleven. My mother painted him as a bad guy in the breakup, but years later (29, to be exact) I put the chronology of events together and discovered the reverse was true. I tracked him down (we had not spoken in that time; he thought I hated him) and we reconciled in an emotional meeting.

    We talked for three days filling in the blanks and he confided in my first wife that he was proud of what I had become. When he passed away there was nothing left unsaid between us and he knew I loved him after 29 empty years.

  2. I rode motorcycles for a couple of years in California before a bad crash and the end of a relationship found me in the midwest. I’ve only ridden a bike a couple of times in the intervening 13 years, but have always wanted to get another one. My wife has been against a bike for the obvious reasons, despite my pleadings. She recently relented and went on a ride with a friend on a Harley for the first time and the first words out of her mouth when she got back were “you have got to get one of these!” Score! Now I just need to get a job and then I can get the bike.

    You have a gift for the discriptive in your stories.To those that have never been on a bike, they don’t understand what it’s like. The feeling of nothing around you but nature, the smells as they come and go, the changes in temperature as you go from shadow to light, from hills to valleys.

    • Sweet!! It’ll probably be the best investment you ever made in the both of you. There is not much in life that is sexier than a ride with your hunny – the time shared in close, but non-threatening proximity, sharing joys, dangers, and roadside food – that’s what love is all about.

      Thanks, Aaron – one of my favorite writers in Gene Stratton-Porter – you can smell the ocean breeze and lean into the turns when she describes driving PCH through Laguna in “Her Father’s Daughter”. If I can bring someone joy like that with my writing, I’ve succeeded.

  3. Cool story Brenda! I enjoyed reading your memories of your special rides with
    your dad. I love all the descriptions and details! Still can’t quite picture what hunting for mushrooms under the pattys would be like…hahah! you’ll have to tell me more about that sometime! 🙂

  4. I loved reading this…having been down the same roads endlessly I clearly pictured each and every detail. I never rode behind my Dad on a bike, but sat shotgun in a variety of vehicles, and have ridden it myself on a bike many times.

    I love taking my kids for rides…it is a solitary closeness, a time without words, but with visions and memories that I am sure they will blog about in years to come. The long hair whipping him on his shiny head were like hugs to him Im sure.

    I remember when you and Bob first got together, he had a bike didnt he? Long trips to the beach on the back…perhaps you two should get another one!

    • Nope – Bob never had a bike, but the guy who introduced us did. :/

      It was your photo of the kids in the convertible that inspired this one…. You are such a great dad!!

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