A Memorial Day Ride to Remember

Memories of the Future

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Jack Lewis, Malia Alyssa Lewis

Between W2 and Dayton lies Waitsburg. On that earlier journey, we ate a Father’s Day meal that couldn’t be beat at the Whoopemup Hollow Café, a mecca for Cajun food served on the wrong side of the Mighty Mississip’, while Daughtergirl told me about student-directing her middle-school chorus. On this trip, she pointed out the abandoned house where she recalled partying with high-school classmates. Then we stopped off at the Laht Neppur Brewing Company and picked up a growler of their Brown Nut Ale, strictly for saddlebag test purposes.

It’s always important to get the real story.

For us, the story lay still ahead, up the road in Colfax, where the windy hill waited. Just at dusk, flowers in hand, we made it there at last. Gliding past the lines of flags and ceremonial veterans’ crosses lining the driveway, we crunched halfway down a gravel side path and cut off the bike’s quiet idle. With only the wind left for backing vocals, we stood over her sister’s granite marker and wondered.

I always suspected our second twin would be harder to handle than her sister, but who can know? That hindsight is only 20/20 when it’s penciled in and colored by imagination, the only coherent form of memory. With a conspirator in the house, Daughtergirl herself might have turned out far less tractable. The only certainties with children are a) they’ll surprise you, and b) you’ll learn more than you’ll teach.

One of my kids taught me that some regrets are legitimate. Asserting otherwise is too arrogant, even for a middle-aged guy on a BMW. It stayed quiet, there on the windy hill, and I shivered in my gear. Riding suits armor only your joints, and no matter how sunny it is, that hillside is the coldest place on the Palouse.

Finally I admitted, “I still talk to her sometimes.”

I hugged my daughter then, the one I still could. A man ought to keep his family close.

As close as he can.

A friend of Daughtergirl’s put us up on sofas in her very first apartment that night. Sofas, they have! In my day, students were lucky to have cinder blocks and boards, and we slept on those!

On Monday, we rode back into the present. I dropped my kiddo back in Portland and beat it up the interstate to finish my day at 560 miles with about 1100 regret-free miles. At more introspective velocities, economy improved to 44 mpg—better than our Toyota with damn near the storage space. Washington is a big state, but I was only slightly tired. This bike is effortless.

Our overnight hostelier called later and told Daughtergirl the road-jiggled Brown Nut was fresh and tasty. In my day, students drank Lucky lager with riddle caps—and we were happy to get it!

At their age, I had no idea where I was going, how I would get there or who would put up with me. Afraid of all the wrong things—how can we possibly raise two babies at once?—I was unprepared for everything. A perennial issue, but Daughtergirl is different from me: better and faster, moving confidently along unexpected two-lanes, apexing late and turning-in crisply.

Her life shows no burnt valves, no patched tubes or crudded-up carb. Like a six-cylinder wonderbike, she’s so brisk, so efficient, so well-finished that it’s hard to tell what went into her, what kind of blood, sweat and gear-grinding it took to accomplish this shiny, powerful, integrated vision of a girl.

She’s unafraid of adulthood. She’s not afraid of regrets. She’s not afraid of anything.

The future is hers.

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