Many years ago my family took a summer vacation to Sunriver, Oregon. Sunriver is a small community in the high desert of central Oregon, just on the leeward side of the Cascade mountain range, that functions as a getaway spot for Oregonians coming from the nearby rainy section of the state. Once you arrive in Sunriver and get settled, the best form of transportation during the summertime is bicycling. The entire community, stores, and the like are completely accessible via nicely paved bike trails. Implication: kids LOVE it.
Anyway, that summer my mom packed the kids into the old Dodge Caravan and drove us the 3 1/2 hours to Sunriver from Portland. I don’t remember the year, but I couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12 at at time. Dad met us a day or so later in his ’88 Mazda B-Series pickup (the same truck I would total in just a few short years) carrying all the stuff that didn’t fit in the minivan, including a few bicycles and fishing gear.
It’s worth noting that as kids, we didn’t ride in Dad’s truck very often, but not for any reason other than efficiency. He used the truck primarily to commute to the park-n-ride where he caught the bus to downtown Portland and for hauling tools or junk around the property. Mom drove us most places on a day-to-day basis and when the whole family went somewhere, we naturally took the minivan.
At the end of a fun week at Sunriver we loaded all the gear back into the respective vehicles. Seemingly out of nowhere, my dad asked if I wanted to ride with him in the truck back home while my brothers rode in the other car with Mom. In all likelihood, the invitation was probably just a passing suggestion (or even merely a matter of logistics), but I remember jumping at the chance to ride just Dad and me.
It was a hot day and the Mazda didn’t have air conditioning like the Dodge van did, but I didn’t care–the windows were down and we were cruising. As we left Sunriver and escaped the large neighboring city of Bend and began our climb over the Highway 20 pass to western Oregon, my dad opened a bag and took out an album I had never heard: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. Now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t recall a time prior to this in which Dad shared any piece of pop culture with me that wasn’t an old war movie.
Right in front of the Mazda’s gear shift, under the vent controls, was a brand new Pioneer CD player and–something I would not realize until the truck became mine–behind our seats were two 6×9 speakers in dedicated boxes, also brand new and ready. Rumors went into the slot and Dad turned up the volume. And as we all know, the first song is “Second Hand News.”
The moment Lindsey Buckingham’s voice came in loud and clear with, “I knoooooow,” I was transfixed. There was no head bobbing or rocking out. I couldn’t think of anything to say or do and ended up staring at the track time on the Pioneer deck. What a song! There was wind, engine noise, and the thumping of the bass drum in the back of our seats. The album went on: “I can still hear you saying, you would never break the chain–never break the chain!”
After a few songs played, I probably said something stupid like, “I like this,” and then gazed out the windows at the passing trees and the distant mountain peaks while I listened. I don’t think Dad or I said anything the rest of the album. I never knew he liked Fleetwood Mac.
We grew up with Dad taking us on camping trips, golfing, fishing, Church activities, shooting, and telling us stories of his youth. There were no shortage of outings or moments with Dad. But there was something about this time, the first of many road trips with him, where he seemed like he was more than a father–he was a man with opinions and tastes and history that I was just beginning to glimpse and now, almost 20 years later, I still don’t think I’ve got the whole picture.