Bikes, Blueberries, Blue Skies, Beautiful Children and Death Threats


By Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie – My Papa Wheelies Dad bicycle gang based out of Portland, Oregon met up along the Springwater Corridor near the Sellwood neighborhood. We were gearing up for an afternoon of wholesome fun. The plan: pedal our troop of eight cargo bikes, bakfiets and trail-a-bikes, totaling about 16-18 adults and children along a dedicated bike path for 8-9 miles until we reached Armstrong’s Berry Farm. One adult member of today’s gang is honorary – not a papa but a mama, but we’re casual and inclusive like that…

Cycling West - Cycling Utah Magazine logoAfter much merriment and some uphill effort and a bit of traffic on the final mile push to the farm, we arrived in staggered waves of a minute or two. Josh (Baby Wheelie at 26 years young) and myself – referred to as Papa Bear or incorrectly mocked as Grandpa Wheelie, sometimes, since I’m the oldest at 48, but have no grandchildren, besides, I arrived in front with two children in tow, so suck it – reach the barn door and spill off the bikes. We are ungreeted by an elderly farm couple.

Josh offers up smiles and I toss out an “Afternoon.” Crickets and a grunted hello.

Josh lets them know we have a pack of cyclists bringing them business. I come in to the barn and lean against a table to have chat with the old man – New Mexico ranch style – nod, wait, wait some more, then speak.

“We just biked over from Sellwood.” He squints. I tell him that’s back in Portland by the river.

“You know they have this thing called a car now.”

I chuckle.

“And I own one, but try to let cobwebs build on it. Biking is so much more fun, better for us, the Earth…”

He grunts, folds up his newspaper and points up to the rafters. Three vintage bikes hang up there covered in cobwebs and missed opportunities. Nothing sadder than bikes three feet off the ground forever. That’s when the bulk of the Papa Wheelies roll through the gate and starts disembarking out by the blueberry patch. You hear laughter and a family fun vibe, like a ramshackle carnival has arrived.

“And here comes the rest of your profit center for today.” I gesture at the gang.

That’s when the elderly woman who is preparing weighed containers for us to use turns and says. “I hate bike riders.” Then the old man chimes in. “They run stop signs and get in the way. I don’t think you people should be allowed on the road.” I start in about how there are good and bad road users in every transportation mode….

“You’re just in my way.” He adds before I’ve even completed a thought. I try to stay reasoned and calm, but as I start to get angry, something happens… I just feel bad for these two aging dinos with bitterness in their hearts. I do the unthinkable for Joe Kurmaskie, even five years ago.

I walk away.

I head over to the gang, still deciding if we should still pick there or not… when I hear the woman say something to Josh. He was telling her that this group are all dads and moms and we try to follow the rules and be safe for our children.

She cuts him off with, “You bikers make me so angry I’d like to run all of you over… and your kids.”

Josh marches over to us. I’m already taking blueberries out of some of the kid’s hands. I say. “We not gonna play Sun City (apartheid musical protest reference, for the younger generation, Google it).”

Josh and I tell the gang what just happened. We all look back at the old folks who stand there like statues as we pedal a couple hundred dollars worth of blueberry money back out the gate.

We regroup at the front of their entrance – take a thumbs down photo of their sign and look up where another reasonably close farm might be. Turns out Josh remembered one very close – he pedals up the hill ONE block – paradise – Powder Blue Berry Farms – Like a scene out of the Coen Bros’ O Brother, Where Art Thou where they hear the sound of singing from the sirens down by the river – we roll up to a pack of fresh faced farm girls in tank tops and their Cougar mom – and a pair of strapping young guys getting on farm equipment.

“Don’t worry bout those old crabapples. We love bikers. That couple has just a small patch and we don’t see them as competition, but still they find out what the price of the berries are each set week, by the u pick group, then cut it by 25 cents to steal away business.” Cougar Mom rolls her eyes.

The next hour or two is spent in berry heaven. Kids running between the rows, faces covered blue. Farm animals the kids look at. The gals gave us frozen ice cream containers to pack home more berries for the freezer.

Instant Karma on the bitter harvest down the road. I felt pity that they’d grown brittle and hollow and forgotten what it means to be kind, no matter how people arrive at your door.

Like our berry farm friends on Facebook and they have the fattest berries for the taking each season!


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