Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Bike and Two Brothers Coolly Cruise the Sierras

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Bike and Two Brothers Coolly Cruise the Sierras

Article excerpt

We were contractors, doing blister-rust control work to protect trees for the Forest Service in the Sierras several summers. Every summer was notable for several reasons, usually having to do with the wildlife, such as coyotes, hornets, and rattlesnakes. That summer was most notable because we had the largest crew of any of the summers.

We had to scurry to get enough contracts to keep everyone working.

My brother Gerrit and I left the rest of the crew camped in the forest, working toward completion of a 240-acre section. The work involved digging out gooseberry and currant bushes, intermediate hosts for blister rust, an orange-colored fungus that kills pine trees.

We climbed on Gerrit's motorcycle. He took the front position and handled the controls of the machine. I handled the passenger's position.

We rode the graveled logging road to the highway and rumbled 650 cubic centimeters of internal-combustion engine over mountain highways toward the next group of lots advertised for bid, about 200 miles north of us.

Summer heated up the westfacing slope of northern California's Sierra Nevada above the Sacramento Valley. Mountain roads curved and twisted enough to provide satisfaction for two young men leaning cooperatively toward the pavement - left in every left turn and right in every right turn - the way sunshine and shadows of trees alternate on rapidly passing pavement.

The wind created by our speed along the slope of the mountain didn't cool us much, hot as the day was. We had spent so much of our time in the American River when we worked on earlier lots, swimming and browning in summer sun. The seriousness about working hard and earning money had descended on us as strongly as summer heat descended on the mountains.

TWO on a motorcycle leaves little room to carry any luggage. We had no sleeping bags, no supplies. Closer to the Oregon border, we tired, worn down by heat, by leaning, by our restricted positions, vibrations of the machine, by the constant roar of the two-cylinder, lightly muffled motor.

We pulled over and conferred at the edge of a small mountain town. Gerrit said, "We could make it all the way to the lots before dark, but then we'd be out there, and all available beds would be in here. …

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