The Tree Bike: Fact or Fiction

There’s currently a story circulating on Facebook about the bicycle in the tree on Vashon Island. It’s a made-up story of a boy who left his bike by the tree, went off to war in 1914 and never came back.

I intend to set the record straight. In actuality there is a bicycle that a tree grew around on Vashon Island. But the true story of how it got there is quite different.

In 1954 Helen Puz (who is now 99 years old) moved to Center with her five children. At that time she had been recently widowed.

“People were very sympathetic and generous,” writes Puz in a document on display at the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum. “We were given a girl’s bike and my 8-year-old son, Don, seemed the natural one to ride it.”

Don was none too happy having a girls bike, said Puz, but it was better than none.

The neighborhood boys, including Don, liked to play behind a local restaurant called, “The Den.” (This restaurant is now called Sound Food.)

One day Don told his mother that he had lost his bike and he wasn’t sure where he’d left it. They both let it go because Don was a little embarrassed to be riding a girl’s bike anyway.

 This is a photo of the bike in the tree before someone attached the front wheel. Courtesy of the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum

Forty years later Puz read in the Beachcomber, Vashon’s newspaper, that someone had discovered a bike up in a tree near Sound Food. The bike was five feet off the ground and the tree had grown around it. News of the tree bike even carried to Japan where they made a film about it.

The mystery of where Don Puz left his bike had finally been solved.

If you’d like to see the bike in the tree, directions on how to get there can be found at roadsideamerica.com.

This entry was posted in Family Fun, Free, Museums, Roadside Attractions, Towns and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

106 Responses to The Tree Bike: Fact or Fiction

  1. Living Large says:

    Thanks for this post! I’ve seen dozens of my friends post this story about the kid going off to WWI.

  2. This is quite a story!

  3. Sheryl says:

    How interesting. Hard to imagine this really happening…until I saw the photo. Wow!

  4. Alexandra says:

    Amazing photo. Thanks for sharing this story, which I had never heard.

  5. merr says:

    Fascinating story/myth/legend/truth(?)!

  6. Kerry Dexter says:

    the true story is just as interesting as the made up one. I imagine seeing such a bike-in-a-tree could inspire many stories. and no doubt has.

  7. Jane Boursaw says:

    What a fun story. Do you know the name of the Japanese film about the bike?

  8. BEST historical snopes-like urban legend busting ever. I like the real story better anyway.

  9. Amazing photo–I didn’t quite understand the fascination until I saw the tree. I think the real story trumps the urban legend

  10. Donna Hull says:

    What a fun story. As a traveler, I enjoy local color that puts a face on a destination. Thanks!

  11. This post made me go digging. I remembered this story from a children’s picture book that I used to read to my boys. If I’m not mistaken, it appears in Red Ranger Came Calling (http://amazon.com/o/ASIN/0316102490/ref=nosim/kbauthor-20). I can’t recall what story was told in that book, though!

  12. Retro says:

    (Hi, Kris!) I was going to tell the Red Ranger story here – but why spoil it? It’s a charming book by Berkeley Breathed (author of “Bloom County,” “Outland” & “Opus”), who is a former resident of Vashon Island. His explanation as to how the bike ended up there is one of the most charming Christmas stories you will ever find.

  13. Cait Bagz says:

    What’s a picture and story… But, I think it’s only some urban legend or a kind of that. Anyway, you have good picture. I am still wondering, how can the bike in there?

  14. What a wonderful story. I’d never heard of this story. Love the image, too. Next time I’m in Washington, I’d like to check it out.

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  16. Jerin says:

    My only thought to this is.. did the boy leave the bike 5 feet up in the tree? why would he leave it there and not leave it resting up against the base? after all, trees grow from the top, not the bottom right? so if this is true.. the tree would not push the bike up wards and so wouldnt the tree grow around it near the base of the tree? not 5 feet up?

    Just a thought..

    • HeatherL says:

      I think trees do grow from the bottom up.

      • Jerin says:

        hmmm.. you might want to look that one up.

        • Loren says:

          Seriously… trees, like all plants, grow from the ground UP. I’m shocked any functional adult, or anyone over the age of 10, would think trees grow from the top down.

          …scary thought process…

          • Abdullah Osman says:

            all living things that are rooted to the ground or are growing as parasits develops from the roots onwards…up…down….sideways
            up as the age increses
            down and sideways goes the roots
            sideways as the tree grows older and bigger…like some of us … Lol

          • Stephen says:

            Sorry but Jerin is right here.

          • kev says:

            umm, no functional adult thinks that trees grow from the top down. but most plants do grow from the top up. meaning that if a bike was left next to a tree, the growth of the tree would occur well above the level of the bike. presuming, of course, that the tree was taller than the bike propped up against it.

            in order for the bike to have been raised by the tree, it would have had to grow out from an arbitrary center, pushing the branches up toward the sky and the roots down into the ground. but this isn’t the case. plants grow out from the ends.

          • Steve says:

            Lauren is an idiot. The only scary thought processes are hers.

          • Just an Observation says:

            Jerin is correct and Loren’s response was quick and made without doing a little research. All of the negativity from this point is just mean. (Jerin took the high road and never made a negative comment.)

            Just Google/Bing “tree growth”…

            It sounds as though the tree were probably young at the time the bike placed and while the tree grew upward, the bike was raised slowly up as the tree grew through and around the bike, kind of like how a tree grows over fence wire or nails and screws.

          • Bill brown says:

            Vertical tree growth occurs at the terminal buds on the ends of branches. It is obvious that the bike was lifted up and placed in the crook of two or more branches where the lateral growth of the tree slowly encompassed the bike.

          • mike funderburg says:

            Come on folks, trees grow from the top. Every farmer, cattleman and land owner that puts up a fence and nails it to a tree would have a fence ten feet in the air especially if it was a pine, in ten years.

          • Karen says:

            Oh for pete’s sake, why must someone always get snarky? No one is an idiot (and I’ll never see it if you call me one so… ;-)

    • Plant biologist says:

      If you think trees, which of course are plants, grow from the top down, then why do people plant seeds in the ground and not up in the air?

    • Nate says:

      He says he forgot where he put it. Perhaps it was stolen and put up into a tree in order to mess with him.

      • Practical Parent says:

        http://www.snopes.com/photos/natural/bicycle.asp
        He “forgot it and did not remember where it was” Meaning he did not want it in the first place. All kids do this when they get something they don’t want they hide it from their parents and say they don’t know where it went so they don’t have to be responsible for it anymore since it is gone.

      • Ann says:

        “Putting” wouldn’t have been enough. The bike would have to be fixed right onto the tree otherwise the tree would have just pushed the bike away as it grew.

    • ozark boy says:

      I live in the hills. We have lots of barbed wire fences. It is not uncommon to see sections of the oldest barbed wire fences several feet off the ground. This happens when the young trees near where the fence was originally strung grew out and encompassed part of the wire, and then dragged it upward as the tree enhanced its height.
      I can certainly see how a bike leaning against a young tree could be encompassed and dragged skyward in a similar fashion. It happens.

    • muchblessed says:

      You think a little like I do..nice story, but guess I am just a skeptic about most things unless there is proof. Any proof it is really 40 years old? :)

    • Alan B says:

      trees get taller and wider, they grow around anything touching or near them in time. growing up on a farm. I’ve seen many examples of this.

    • Ann says:

      Exactly, Jerin. I have been puzzling over this too. Grass grows from the bottom up, but not trees. I imagine that if the boy were so embarrassed by riding a girl’s bike he would not just leave it parked at the foot of a tree where it could be found. I think he got it up the trunk of the tree as far as he could lift it. He may have hooked it over a branch or some projection on the tree and then tied it in place. If he hadn’t tied the bike to the tree with something substantial (at least rot resistant) the tree would simply have pushed the bike sideways as it grew in girth.

      • Randy says:

        If you look at the pic closely you can see there was a branch that it was hooked over. Trees ONLY grow up from the top. Not at the bottom

        • marty says:

          It would be more accurate to say that trees grow “at” the top, instead of “from” the top, the latter implying that the tree grows downward. I’ve heard stories of other items being left in the crotch of a tree that have become incorporated into the growing tree. Likely what happened here. Whether it was Don Puz or not, that’s how it got there–and it is real. I was just there yesterday.

      • Dave B says:

        An earlier photo, where more of the bike is visible, shows what looks like a chain absorbed into the tree, at an angle that suggests it was once wrapped around the tree. (And please, I know trees don’t really ‘absorb’ chains, it’s just a figure of speach.)

    • Asmodeus1971 says:

      Trees like most plants grow in multiple directions but they do grow from the bottom up as well, otherwise how would the base of a tree be so large? Also do nuts, pine cones etc float in the air for the tree to grow down from? In otherwords DUH!!!

    • Ashley says:

      The tree could have just been more of a baby tree, in that case as the tree grew taller then the bike would rise as well, trees don’t grow just from the to our the base, compare it to how our bodies grow, when we get taller its not just our yet bodies growing or else we would all be waking around with baby legs, if the tree grew just from the to then the base of the tree wouldn’t be stable enough to sory the rest of the weight, it grows equally throughout which is why the bike isn’t sort high our sort low!

    • Randy says:

      Trees grow from the center at the top only and grow out in the trunk. If you put a stake in the tree at 6′ off the ground, in 10 years it will still be 6′ off the ground.

    • Chris says:

      This has happened in the uk. Generally were there has been a scrap yard. And a new sapling grows through the scrap and the items are enveloped in the tree. One tree in the uk has several items within the tree as the rayed the

    • heff says:

      Trees grow all the way around including from the bottom “limbs roots the trunck grows thicker around …

  17. Paul Meyers says:

    Still a very cool picture.

  18. Abdullah Osman says:

    I’m from Malaysia…this story was posted on Face Book and I followed the link here. Some stories are intresting and people will often make up their own version.
    The boy going to war is a beliveable yarn, but the true story is more belibeable. Thank You for clearing the fact.
    Abdullah Osman (PaDollah)

  19. holly says:

    why is the tire and handle bars missing?

  20. Paul says:

    Fascinating! I live in Asia but when I visit the States I’ll make sure to visit this! Truly remarkable if you were Don and you see your lost bike 60 years later.

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  24. Bill says:

    There are two different pictures of this bike…..one shows the front wheel, handle bar intact and still attached to the frame. Another picture shows the front wheel, fender and handle bar missing. I’m guessing that the “intact” picture is the older one and the other one is after the parts have been ripped off.

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  26. It tells how great God is. The bike blocked the way of the young growing tree, so in order for it to get it’s way, it has to grow around it since plants are not locomotive. Spiritually meaning no body can block your spirit of imagination, you can do whatever you plan to do.

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  28. Donald Wright says:

    The link at the end of the article doesn’t currently work because it’s missing the needed colon (:) after the protocol (http). The correct link is http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/1412

  29. I was on Vashon Island in October of last year and I didn’t see a bike in a tree and no one who lived there mentioned it as a highlight of something to see. Given that there’s not a lot to see (aside from the natural beauty of the island itself), it seems this would have been mentioned. And, I walked by that corner where Sounds Cafe is numerous times. Have you seen the bike, or do you know of anyone who has seen the bike?

    • Mark says:

      Reminds me of the old saying, “A woman needs a man, like a tree needs a bicycle”. I lived on Vashon Island in the 70s, and used to dine at Sound Foods. Never knew at that time, that there was this tree with a bike in it, until recently, when I have been back to take long, hard looks at it (It is off a very short path at the left (North) side of the old parking lot). Most everyone who lives on the island can show you where it is located. If you examine it carefully, it is clear that the thick old branch that is crushing the seat of the bike, apparently started its’ growth under the bike seat, lifting the bike, and crushing the seat against the trunk of the tree as time passed. The bike frame was held against the trunk by the vertical branch until the tree actually grew around the bike – this process can be seen by those of us who frequent the forests, where there have been old wires and various metal objects pinned against trees as they slowly formed – the trees don’t seem to be aware of the rule that says they can’t swallow man-made objects.

  30. Heather Larson says:

    I do know people who have seen the bike. The photo I got is from the Vashon Maury Island Museum and they’ve seen it.

  31. AE says:

    Still don’t believe it. Trees grow from their branch tips––trunks don’t rise up out of the ground. Mark a spot 1 foot off the ground off the ground and it will still be a foot off the ground next year, and the next, etc. And nope, the bike didn’t “rise” five feet in the air because the ground eroded out from under it. Any tree that lost that much earth would have its roots exposed. This is a hoax.

    • muchblessed says:

      strikes me that way too…

    • Ann says:

      You are right. Trees do not grow from the bottom up but from their tops. Just look at the new growth sprouting every year from the ends of the branches. Only grasses grow from the bottom up, but not trees. My parents have a farm in Wales UK and I’ve seen many fences that appear to grow into trees – but the fences remain on the ground. In London, UK, there are tons of Plane trees with wrought iron railings disappearing right into the trees – but the railings remain on the ground too. I have seen tree baskets or caging that cities put around trees to protect them not removed in time and the trees start to grow into them. This is not at all unusual. But there is no way that a tree could raise a bike into the air and grow around it at the same time. I think this is a case of the bike being tied up the trunk of the tree as high as the boy could reach for the purpose of hiding it. Whatever was used to tie the tree disintegrated after the tree had started to grow around the bike. If the tie had rotted first the tree would have been able to push the bike away from it as it grew. Something must have been holding the bike quite firmly in place. I say that the tie must have rotted or broken after the tree got a grip on the bike because if it hadn’t, and if it was actually wrapped all around the tree, it would have strangled the tree by ringing it (as beavers do).

  32. Lou Jost says:

    I am a botanist and have grown many trees in my life. No part of a tree’s wood moves upward with time. Hasn’t everyone noticed that fences nailed to trees don”t rise into the air over the years??? Trees grow when their cambium develops a new layer, making the tree thicker. The vegetative growing points produce new cells above older cells, but the wood below (which is dead except for the outer ring of cambium) stays where it was made. The people who criticized Jerin and others in the comments above would do well to think (or just open their eyes and look closely at the real world) before they insult someone.

    I therefore think either this is a hoax or the kid threw the bike into a fork in the young tree at its present height. The latter action would make it more conspicuous, so it would be an odd thing to do for someone who wants to hide the bike.

    • Alan B says:

      I have a chain link fence that has a big chunk of wood in it where a tree grew around it over time, and it couldn’t all be trimmed away without cutting the wire. on the farm where i grew up, there’[s a tree with a cable embedded into it. this happened during my lifetime because the cable was wrapped around the tree when i was a child. Botanist, u say?

    • MOW says:

      No, not really conspicous. Back then the tree would have been much smaller, the branches a lot less spread out, with sufficient foliage closely around the bike to make a good hiding spot. At least until winter.

  33. Randy Dowdy says:

    Good Lord people, look at the picture before running your mouth! It is plain to see that the bike is in the crotch where a limb grows. So when the limb grew, it solidified around the bike. And no, trees don’t grow from the ground up. See any old signs climbing the air? Any old fences up in the canopies? NOT. Neat story though.

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  35. Lou Jost says:

    Randy is right, a close look at the image shows a broken-off old branch coming out of the trunk at an angle rather than perpendicular to the trunk’s surface. This is clear evidence of an old fork in the right place to support the bike. In my comment above, I said it was either a hoax or the kid threw the bike into a fork at its present height. Now, noticing that branch angle, I think the evidence supports my second hypothesis and not the hoax hypothesis.

  36. Me cuesta creer que esta hermosa historia sea real. La verdad no creo que la bicicleta se pueda meter en un árbol de esa manera.

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  39. Tim Cook says:

    WWI? The bike obviously isn’t that old from what’s visible of it.

  40. Andrew says:

    I grew up on Vashon Island and have seen the bicycle in the tree many times, so I can verify that this is not an urban legend or anything. It is in the wooded area kind of behind Sound Foods, and, at least last time I was there, it was not marked in any way and you kind of had to know where tou were going to see it. The first time I saw it (40 years ago?) the bicycle was pretty much intact and looked very cool, but last time I was there it had been vandalized and only part of it was left. Also, I am pretty sure I remember Don Puz and met him a few times when he was a local police officer if I am not mistaken…..

  41. muchblessed says:

    Heather…interesting story…..thank you whether it’s true or not…:)

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  43. Alan B says:

    Y’all city folks might think this couldn’t happen, but I know it can. whether the picture is real or not, i couldn’t say.

  44. elizabeth says:

    looking at an older picture that the bike had not been vandalized in, you can make out a fork in some branches where the bike was placed and the tree grew around it.

  45. ulu uche says:

    Amazing !!!

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  51. Danthony says:

    Omg u people saying trees grow from the top are ridiculous. Haven’t u ever noticed that trees start out skinny and as they grow the base gets fatter? Meanwhile the top of the tree is skinny just like it was at the start. Do u think the base of the tree is addin new layers of bark over time somehow? Wtf is wrong with u? Go back to ur energy drinks and tattoos with ur uneducated ass.

    • Jeremy says:

      The “skinny” part IS the new growth. Yes, the tree IS adding new layers, and that is how you determine the age of the tree, by counting the rings, which are the new layers.

  52. charlene says:

    This is a cool story no matter the truth behind it…as for the argument about trees and how they grow lmao they grow out at the trunk and up from the branches the trunk never gets any taller only wider…carve ur name in a tree trunk and come back 50 years later I bet its still in the SAME EXACT spot

  53. mary says:

    Someone video’d the bike in the tree here. Shows that the bike sits in the crotch of an old limb, and the tree has grown outward, around the bike.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=06J1GLnvIss

    Quite an amazing run of comments about how tree’s grow. Poor Jerin – totally mistreated! He said “after all, trees grow from the top, not the bottom right?” Never did he say they grow from the top down. The resulting nastiness in people’s comments is appalling.

  54. Don Puz says:

    For those of you that are worried about the bike being about six feet up in the tree, I suspect I threw it up that high, yes trees grow out, not up, the tree developed a second leader at that point. I don’t remember fir trees down there when I was a kid, mostly just alder saplings which come up first as a forest rebuilds itself, later they die out as the fir trees out pace them. Yes, that is my bike, near the home where I lived as a kid, where my mom lived up until a few years ago, and now owned by one of my sisters. So the bike is really in the tree, but no one in their right mind would believe anyone chained up a bike on Vashon in 1954 or 55, when I tossed it, let alone in 1914 like the phony story.

    • Dureall says:

      Thanks Don. For your insight. A shame the parts were removed. I only hope they were put to good use.

  55. Ranger8901 says:

    Well including the Facebook story going around this makes 2 reports of how the bike got there incorrect. This is much closer to the true story though. Plus, the true story puts to rest about how trees grow. The bike wasn’t left there by Don accidentally, he was being bullied for riding a girls bike. Yup, even happened back then and he turned out okay. The bully one day threw the bike in the tree in between the trunk and a branch. Don was warned not to tell otherwise he would get worse. The bike was left there and as the tree grew, it enveloped the bike. Just a shame someone else decided to steal a piece of Washington state history. I’d like someone to take to stolen fork and put it up their rear.

  56. tom says:

    that sucks that some one stoled the handlebars in the will of it I live in puyallup Washington i’m going to have to go see it that’s cool don your bike is still there after all these years do you still go see it and laugh about it

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  58. W Carpenter says:

    I wonder which war they refer to? In 1914, nothing was happening militarily – yet. It was not until 1916 that the US was engaged in some minor punitive actions against Pancho Villa by GEN Pershing (interesting first use of airplanes by the military) and the Navy takeover of the port city of Vera Cruz, Mexico by GEN Funston. Both generals were later famous for their roles in WWI. Even the US volunteers in WW1 like the Lafayette Esquadrille and the Ambulance Corps were not until 1916.

    The only choice I can think of is if he was an early flier; a very few flew for the Mexicans as mercenaries in one of their civil wars as early as 1913. Unless the young man found a good war someplace that I don’t know about, I doubt he was going off to war.

    The bike appears to be a girl’s bike. Sexual divisions were very strong back then, and I doubt if a boy would dare to ride a girl’s bike, especially in public. If he did, he’d better leave town; homosexuals were not too popular then, either. I’d surmise that it was probably not a young man’s bike. Probably a young lady’s.

    Also, the bicycles made in 1914 were much more stylish and slender. I think that was a much later bike. In fact, it reminds me of a bicycle I had in the late 50′s and early 60′s.

    Tires were whitish-gray in 1914, not black as in the picture. This was because Harvey Firestone had not yet added carbon to his rubber, making it a much more stable and wear-resistant compound.

    Nice story, but I’m skeptical. Good read, though.

    Now, let’s start another story, a totally fabricated bunch of drivel, but one I’m sure will come back around as true. The REAL story is that that was the bike owned by my great-great spinster Aunt Susan, who also had a taste for rotgut whiskey. It was in the late prohibitionary era, and she used to ride that old bike down to Jake’s Speakeasy, where she’d spend most of her evenings. One evening, she was drinking even more than usual, and she challenged Ethel, another bar-fly, to a bike race the following day. Ethel took the bike and shoved it up into a tree to trick Aunt Susan. It wasn’t necessary, though, since when she came back into the speakeasy, Susan had passed out. The next day, Auntie S couldn’t even remember the challenge, being prone to blackouts as she was. She never could find the bike and assumed it had been stolen. Weeks later, she was wobbling home one cold night without her bike, and she passed out after falling into a muddy ditch, where she drowned. She was found by Jake the next morning. The bike remained there in the tree as a memorial to my aunt, so they say. I heard later the real reason was that the speakeasy drunks were a superstitious lot, and none of them dared disturb the bike for fear of a similar fate as Harvey’s. A kindly patron named Harvey attempted to remove it from the tree later that winter, and the moment the bike moved, he had a massive heart attack. He was only 42 years old, dead before he fell to the ground. Ethel disappeared suddenly just after Harvey’s death; nobody ever knew what happened to her. Several times late at night, her ghost was seen searching for the bike. Unfortunately, the only ones who saw her were drunk and had no credibility. The ghost story was not popular with angry wives at 3 AM. On a positive note, the ghostly visions made the speakeasy very popular among local thrill-seekers, and very prosperous. It eventually went out of business with the legalization of alcohol, and finally burned in 1948, after two hoboes cooking their canned beans set it afire. The tree survives to this day, still cradling great-great Aunt Susan’s bike. I know all this to be true. If there’s anything to this story, you’d better leave that bike alone. Susan was a mean drunk while she was alive; she’s a meaner ghost.

    Bill

    • mike says:

      Thank for that great story. And I think its the best of all of them. Im going with it.

    • Amused and Chastened says:

      W,
      Brilliant. It seems a lot of (your) Susan’s progeny have been posting here on tree growth. Your story is nice, but it makes me want to come clean, and tell the Absolut true story.

      In 1998, I worked as a summer intern (paid) for the Ministry of Tourism for Washington State. In that year, you will recall, there was a major tsunami arising in the Archipelago of the Azores and sweeping across the ocean inundating several small ocean-side communities of Oregon State. A large amount, over $15 billion, of disaster relief aid was sent to rebuild after the extensive damage there. Although Washington was not affected, the Ministry was concerned that tourists would be discouraged by the threat of similar deluges from coming to vacation there (I no longer live there). So, they decided to develop an advertising campaign that the marketing gurus named “High and Dry”.

      This campaign wanted to focus on the fact that Washington State is at a high elevation, or higher than Oregon, and in no danger of being swept away by ocean waves. It was decided not to sink to a negative campaign, showing people and property being swept away to their demise in Oregon disasters — although this idea came up as a favourite during focus group meetings for proof of concept. Rather, they wanted to show that Washington is just high or higher than others. The mountains had always been an attraction and the mixed tourist message from Mt St Helen had been abating to benignity. So that was one. I wasn’t on the mountain team. Another aspect of Washington State image was the logging industry. Now, I have to tell you, I had put on my Resume that I was once a logger in a foreign country to the North. Actually, my parents had sent me to go to college in that country for the cheaper tuition, and I heard about loggers in that country and never thought anybody would check [so let's not stress this here]. So, they picked me to be on the logging-as-tourism team.

      You have to take into account that the State of Massachusetts had a hard-nosed tourist campaign going at the time. They were mostly focussed on early American History and politics and stuff, for their positive campaign. But they also had a negative campaign aimed at Washington State (Oregon was still under water, so to speak) and they were sending out powerful celebrities, Kennedys even, to chain themselves to trees demonstrating against and demonizing the harvesting of soft wood in the whole North West. So we were up against that. So we wanted to put a good spin on logging to counter-act them. Of course, the tourists weren’t going to go logging on vacation. But we needed the link. So we decided to point out that logging was carried out only for a few months and after they left, there would be a lot of logging roads and trails for trail biking activities, which is a favourite sport for people then, even for people from New England and Massachusetts. Joe Junior was doing it.

      So our team, set out to map the gazillions of trail-biking trails so that we could print them on fliers to hand out at the Washington State Tourism offices. I humbly admit that I was the one who came up with the idea of doing the mapping by wearing a Google Earth transponder with a backpack power supply to get full mapping capability (back in 1998, you needed to provide your own power source for Google Earth mapping). Then the Ministry supplied us with a fleet of trail bikes to ride the ex-logging trails and collect the data. That was my project. I was one of the riders.

      There were 54 people in the logging division of marketing Washington State as a tourist destination that summer. Of those, 45 were trail mappers. To tell the truth, it was a lot of fun for us young people with lots of energy and a spirit of adventure and no sense of risk. We would go out to a remote area where logging had been clear cut recently, but young green trees had grown back about 10 feet high. The ministry set up portable bunk houses and a cook shack that we would come back to late in the afternoon, after riding the trails for the day.

      Google Earth would upload the data every night to a mainframe computer at the State University which would produce the maps. Now part of the problem was that the trails were not mapped already, so we did not really know where we were supposed to ride, just vaguely “over there, up there” that sort of thing. There was a lot of overlapping. But that was the best we could do and for the time it was state of the art. In the evenings we would sit around talking. There was a pretty even mix of men and women. And during the day of riding, at least one or the other would have come across a little glade planted with “local herbs” that are common in the high country of Washington State. I am not saying anybody inhaled, but it was something more to talk about. So, it was a sort of paradise for red-blooded Americans that summer.

      Anyway, all good things come to an end. And in mid-August, my group was on Vashon Island mapping the trails.

      There is a long grade there, a hill I mean, comes down behind the restaurant there (our camp was set up nearby). On the last Sunday, before we wrapped up the project for the summer, we decided to have a kind of trail-bike Olympics. It was the Olympics in Nagano, Japan, that year and it got us excited about mountain sports. That’s when Ross Rebagliati won the highest award for snow-boarding which was a popular sport for the trail-biker crowd (and at the university I was going to then). Well, to make our trail biking more challenging, some of the skateboarders among us who knew how to build things, created a “jump”. The competitors would come down this hill and up the ramp and fly through the air a huge distance before landing behind the restaurant.

      When it came my turn, I was waiting in a tent with a bunch of guys who were using a lot of those herbs, like happened with Ross, and when I came down the hill, I totally missed the ramp. My wheel hit a rock and the bike flew one way while I landed in a heap. I was not hurt, but one of the team I had grown close to wanted to take loving care of me and who was I to object?

      The next day, Monday, August 16th was our last there on Vashon. When we got back to Portland, it was discovered that one of the bikes was missing. We called up the restaurant and a guy we had made friends with (we left him lots of the herbs) went to check and found that the bike had travelled through the air at such high speed during my jump that it had embedded itself right into the bark and wood and everything. He was too short to get it (anyway it was bent a bit), so he left it there. The Ministry wrote it off, and I went back to school.

      That’s it. That’s the true, true story, man. Truly.

      • Joh says:

        i’ve seen the bike in the tree, i live near vashon, you all can say or think what you want but it’s a real thing here in Washington, come look if you don’t believe it. :)

  59. ella says:

    There is a tree with bike in it on the campus of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. Some of the old timers may remember where it is. I saw it close to twenty years ago – it could be hard to see now.

  60. Pingback: New Bike Racks in Burien: 1 of 10 Great Things Happening in Washington State | WABI Burien

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