Like Riding A Bike, You Never Forget… Your Kid

, , , , | Friendly | May 22, 2020

This happened when I was about thirteen, long before mobile phones were around. 

My parents were members of a motorcycle club affiliated with the military base where my dad worked. The base encouraged active-duty personnel to join the club in order to help reduce the number of injuries and deaths which tend to happen frequently when young service members get their hands on a motorcycle.

One of the ways the club did this was by organizing fun events, such as poker runs or weekend camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains, about two hours’ drive east of the base. 

The club had spent the holiday weekend at a National Park high in the Sierras, and the twenty or so motorcycles and two cars were heading back to the base. Once we finally hit a freeway, the club stopped at a highway rest area for a bathroom break and to stretch our legs a bit. I’d been riding as a passenger behind my dad, the club president, all the way down the mountains. When we stopped, I wandered around a bit until the line in the men’s room went away and then used the restroom myself.

I finished up, washed my hands, and walked back out to the parking area to find that the club had left without me.

I was ever-so-slightly freaked out — not quite in tears, but completely panic-stricken. A man and woman who rode bikes — but were not in any way affiliated with the club — saw me freaking out and managed to get a coherent explanation from me. I asked if they had a CB radio, because several club members had radios on their bikes and so did both chase cars. They did not have a CB, and there weren’t any eighteen-wheelers at the rest area at the time.

I was just about ready to try calling the police, but the two bikers said we’d probably be able to catch the club before they got too far ahead. I knew which way the club would be going — we’d used the same route every time we went camping — and most of the club members were wearing identical windbreakers with a distinctive color, which I was also wearing.

I still had my helmet, so I rode behind the woman while the man tore off down the freeway at a significant fraction of light speed. The woman followed at a much slower speed. We ended up riding for about thirty miles when I saw my dad on his bike and the male biker who was helping me running flat-out on the other side of the freeway, heading back toward the rest area.

I pointed them out to the woman rider, and she pulled off onto the shoulder to wait for them. My dad and the woman’s partner arrived a couple of minutes later. I thanked both of them profusely, and so did my dad, and we waved goodbye as they left. Dad drove us back to the base to catch up to the rest of the club, where I found out why I’d been left behind.

When I didn’t show up at my dad’s bike, he assumed I’d chosen to ride in one of the chase cars for the rest of the trip. Since I’d been riding with my dad before the rest area stop, the people in the chase cars assumed I was still doing that. It wasn’t until the other biker caught up to the club and flagged them down that anyone realized I was missing.

Because I was a fairly typical teenage male and more than a little freaked out at being abandoned, I’m now ashamed to say I never got the names of the two bikers who’d helped me. They’d gone considerably out of their way to help a freaked-out thirteen-year-old stranger. I can only hope they earned plenty of good karma for their trouble.

My parents were never allowed to live down the fact that they’d abandoned their oldest child at a California rest area, and the club imposed a new rule requiring the Road Captain — the rider in charge of the group when we were on the road, selecting the routes and deciding when and where to stop for gas or food, etc. — to double-verify everyone was accounted for before the club got on the road.


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