Sunday, August 14, 2005

An American Experience

Girl Wonder's cousins just finished up their first American Experience. Despite Phillip being 18, and Valerie being 21, neither had taken a plane before, nor had they ever left their own French borders. So they crawled aboard a KLM flight in Paris and headed West. To be sure that their American Experience was complete, we exposed them to pickup trucks, motorcycles, guns and crime - sometimes in odd combinations.

I figured that the most fun thing you can do at almost any age is ride a motorcycle. Thus, I decided to introduce the "cousins" to trials bikes. Neither of these young folks had ever piloted a motorcycle, so I organized a little training outing near Gold Bar, Washington. And this was when things got strange. I've never had any trouble in our local riding area, but this particular day would be different - different in a way that would validate all the perceptions that Europeans have about America and crime.

I had driven out with three bikes to our usual spot -- a wooded area with soft, loamy ground and a small trail system. This particular spot is about 3 acres in size and connects to a much larger trail system. It is a good area to teach new riders -- and my job was to instruct these two newbies how to do the basics and get them riding. I succeeded, but not without enduring a remarkable American Experience.

The day was going along rather perfectly until our cooler got stolen - a cooler with about $100 worth of steaks and French cheese that was supposed to make its way to a buddies house for a BBQ after the ride. Ultimately, GW is to blame for the loss of the cooler. She decided to leave it outside the truck so it wouldn't "get too hot." I had instructed her not to stray from the vicinity of the truck as I was working with Phillip. A few minutes later she showed up with Valerie who was struggling more. I wasn't pleased about this, given that Valerie has never ridden any motorized two-wheeler before. So I took over and asked Juliette to look after Phillip.

When I returned to the truck, I noticed that the cooler was missing. Apparently GW interpreted "looking after Phillip" to mean that she should take him deeper into the woods. So I waited with Valerie for a good half-hour without keys to the truck, and hence, no access to water, food, or my handgun -- which was under the seat.

Next to the spot where we parked, about 100 yards away, were some young "kids" -- maybe 17 to 22 years old. They had yelled at Phillip earlier for riding near them. They definitely weren't there to ride. They had set up an outside shitter that reeked, some tents and a trailer, and they were just hanging out around a fire pit, sans fire. They had the look of someone that might be having steak for dinner...

After GW returned with Phillip and sustained a caustic lashing from yours truly, I rode into what turned out upon closer inspection, to be a meth-encampment occupied by a half-dozen dentally challenged low-lifes. They were quiet as mice, which I found odd. One of the young men was sitting there with a baseball bat -- and there were no gloves or balls or bases. I asked if they knew anything about the disappearance of goods from my truck. "We didn't hear no breaking glass or nuttin'."

Realizing that I wouldn't get anywhere with them other than to provide some good campfire stories, I bid them farewell only to find out that they had apparently booby-trapped their site with chicken wire buried just below the leaves and loamy soil (Later I could see that it had been weighted down with some car rims). So, as I rode across this snare, the knobbies picked up the wire and proceeded to wrap me up in this entanglement like a fly in a spider's web. SLAM when the bike! I could not free myself because my leg got wrapped up in the wire along with everything else. So now I am surrounded by potential bat-carrying meth-heads, with nothing more than my helmet and my two spyderco knives for protection.

Fortunately, they seemed so fascinated by the situation that they actually helped me get untangled - all the while asking me "how much is that bike worth?" Hmmmmmm. Just about the time that I freed my leg, GWshowed up with my Glock, concealed in its fanny pack-looking holster.

So these fine young folks hung out with me for the next 20 minutes while I made several hundred cuts through the wire with snips to get that wire off the axle, brake line, rotor, sprocket, chain, etc. Other than some cuts into plastic bits, the damage was surprisingly light. "That stuff is all over the place here... you'd best not ride around here." The fact that they had yelled at other riders for being anywhere near their little encampment was not lost on me. I've ridden in this spot for the past two years and never seen chicken wire out there before. It doesn't blow around like tumble weed.

After I got the bike freed from its meshed-bondage, I left GW with her cousins and the Glock, and I took a short ride to make sure the bike was
O.K. In my absence, some guy showed up with a baseball bat, allegedly
looking for a "17 year old punk" who had stolen something from him, and he indicated that this punk had been hanging out with "those people over there." (IOW, the meth-heads.) GW thought his gig was a bit dubious and was prepared to gun the SOB down if necessary. He left without incident.

When I returned, we rode for another ten minutes doing some exercises, but the meth-heads started getting loud -- screaming and carrying on like they were engaged in some tribal ritual about to go awry. They must have drank the Kool-Aid and it was clearly time for us to split. And that we did.

Interestingly enough, this encounter had no negative impact on their vacation. Just before they left Seattle, Valerie said, "If we had know how much fun America was, we would have come a lot sooner." Ah... kids...and their crazy perceptions!