I ride the GS1200 north from sweltering Boise to Moscow to visit family and my hometown Troy Days. Later, my brothers and I ride some singletrack on Moscow Mountain before celebrating my nephew’s seventh birthday.
My dad grew up with his many brothers in the countryside near the little town of Troy, Idaho.¹ In the undulating Palouse Hills² opposite the valley town, my mom and her two sisters spent much of their childhood on a similar small farm. After marriage, military, the midwest, and what was for me second grade, my parents returned to Troy to raise three sons (Jesse would come later) in our mom’s childhood home where us boys would fill our days with imagined adventures around our pond and patch of woods.
Now many years have passed since we lived there and little connects us to that place—now in other hands—other than our shared memories. My mom has written of Our Old House:
When I drive by I always think I see myself standing in the large picture window waving, wishing I’d stop by and have a spot of tea.
But I know its only what I want because I didn’t want to leave, you see, and when I drive by, smell the row of lilacs I planted along the road, see the gray smoke curling from the chimney,
I want to pull in and stop, pretend I never left, unload the groceries, stoke the fire, straighten the photos on the wall and wash the dishes that have stacked by the sink for the last ten years.
You’d be there, too, in your blue pajamas asking for a story. We’d climb the narrow staircase to your room and turn on the lamp, listening for a moment to the frogs outside, that bellowed thousands strong.
I’d read your Sweet Pickles books¹ and sing that Bumble Bee song you loved. Then we’d lay quietly and never grow old, while time went on without us, down the dusty country road, slipping over the horizon, leaving a soft orange glow for us to read by.²
In recent years I’ve tried to make the annual, three-hundred mile pilgrimage to “Troy Days.”³ Starchy pancake-feed food, a couple fire trucks and horses paraded down main street, and an evening of under-age inebriation make a good time, of course, but my trip is not for those things. Troy Days is when and where my dad’s brothers reunite annually from their homes across the western U.S. In their company, my mind can visit our old house, find a place alongside my dad, my grandma and the rest seated around a fire, our eyes all reflecting the same eternal glow.
This particular weekend had an additional attraction, my nephew Kaden’s seventh birthday party. I don’t see my nephews often so I was glad for the coincidence of events.
Things were heating up in Boise when I left late Friday morning. I saw 96°F on the display and looked forward to central Idaho and beyond where I expected cooler weather.
It didn’t work out that way. It was a bit cooler through Valley County but beyond that it became progressively hotter. Road construction in Riggins and near Cottonwood amplified the experience, causing traffic to crawl and stop while I simmered in my suit.
By the time I arrived in Moscow, my gear and myself were much in need of airing out. I was glad to spend the rest of the day visiting my mom and brothers before considering further riding.
I arose somewhat early to attend the pancake feed in Troy. I enjoyed running into a couple of high school classmates there, Dena and Amanda, but was disappointed never to see any of my several uncles. Maybe they had a late night …
I went back to Troy in the evening, hoping again to cross paths with some Abbott clan. I had a really good time seeing more classmates, Randy,¹ Tara² and my old roommate Tod,³ but had to represent the Abbotts largely on my own. I didn’t see any of my uncles.
Now that both of my youngest brothers have motorcycles, the Troy Days trip also entails a little mountain riding. Uncles in hiding wouldn’t keep us from that little adventure. We met up at my brother Jesse’s place where my nephews helped the three of us get on our way.
We had only a few hours before Kaden’s birthday party so planned a simple ride to Moscow Mountain. From our childhood home near Troy, Moscow Mountain had been like the binding on our picture-book view. Fields spread toward it and the sun set beside it. I rode many routes across its back and to the old lookout while growing up.
In the early 1990s I began to notice several active logging sites on the mountain where before I’d seen none. Quiet, shaded mountain roads gave way to raw earth and roots ripped and shoved aside by iron apparatus, and piled with broken limbs. Ways that were open became closed. Roads I used to know like hallways in our house became unfamiliar.
Large piles of branches broken from dismembered trees still amass alongside the ever-changing mountain roads. After making our way up the gravel and dirt roads to the ridge, my brothers and I stopped at one such pile to contemplate the steep climb to communication towers above.
Jesse and I chose the easy road around but Joel took the narrow path, albeit sitting down. We all met at the top.
As the mountain was transformed in the ‘90s, so was my life in that time, uprooted and unfamiliar. It was raining steadily in the spring of 1996, already years after moving from the old house, when it struck me I should throw care to the wind and ride the mountain again.
The quiet sound of rain on tree, leaf and puddle was my only company as I motorcycled up muddy roads. Following unfamiliar paths, I was excited to happen upon a narrow, scenic trail leading to a sudden vista from boulders I’d never seen before.
The next time I tried to find that spot, the way had been gated off. It left my thoughts until fourteen years later, riding with my brothers. They were keen to show me some interesting place they’d discovered on the mountain. The trail there had changed but I recognized the area as soon as we stopped, where I’d once stood in the rain and enjoyed my own private discovery.
From the boulder vista, Jesse led us to some single track. I understand bicyclers have cut some nice trails on the mountain. This one had no signs but I expect it’s also their work. They have my thanks.
As I was weaving carefully through the trees, I noticed Joel was no longer visible in my mirrors. I stopped and waited. Soon Jesse turned around and came back. “What’s up?” It was odd we couldn’t hear Joel’s motor. Had he taken a tumble? Jesse and I began walking back down the trail.
There was Joel, around a bend, loafing about by his motorcycle parked in the middle of the trail. He showed us that his rear brake lever had become lodged under a small but stout root. Naturally we harassed him for such a lame problem.
Our watches told us we were risking the wrath of the women. It was time to get back to Moscow before Joel got hung up in a spider web or something. We took the most interesting, direct (that order) route we could. We cracked open our throttles on Mountain View Road and I achieved my GS land speed record.
“Maybe I should have cleaned out the bacon grease,” Jesse wisely observed as the grill heated up for Kaden’s picnic birthday party. Joel and I decided to watch the rising flames from a distance.
While his dad fought the grill, Parker was intent on riding something as long as it didn’t make noise.
Finally it was time to mark another year passed, another year beginning. In not long, it will be these guys out there, wondering why their uncles haven’t kept up.
The next day, I hit the road home—my grown-up home—stretching my legs in all the usual spots, glad for more reasonable temperatures, glad to be riding.
It was after midnight when I finally rolled into Boise.