Famous through many reaches of the internet for its obscurity and uniqueness, the curious bicycle in the tree is deserving of an equally obscure and unique history. For this reason, there are many variations of its origins.
One of the more popular tales passed between locals, tourists, and far off enthusiasts is a short and elusive tale of a young man and his beloved bike. This version of the story claims that circa 1914 a local boy, enlisted in the United States military to help fight in World War I, abandoned his cherished bike resting on a tree limb in an island forest he frequented. Over the years the tree slowly grew around and consumed the bike, creating the impressive phenomenon we bear witness to today.
This concise and evocative tale draws allure from the parts of the story left untold. Did this island boy ever return from the war? Did he return to the island having forgotten about this bike? Is this boy’s family still connected to the island? If so, what do they have to say about this mysterious story? How did the tree grow around this bicycle? Why was a bike in good condition left to live out its days on the tree?
Alas, this story is just that. A fabricated account of the past.
If you are content with the aforementioned star crossed, war-torn, relationship between an island boy and his bike, stop reading here. If you are curious as to what actually happened, continue…
THE REAL HISTORY OF THE BICYCLE IN THE TREE
According to journalism coverage from Vashons Beachcomber and the Seattle Time’s this bike was owned and intentionally deserted by then-local Don Puz. Puz maintains that around 1954 this bicycle was gifted to him in honor of a house his family had recently lost to fire. According to Puz, this bicycle was not ideal given its thick tires and thin handlebars.
After an afternoon of playing with friends in the forest, near the current high school and across from the modern-day Country Store & Farm, Puz left the bike. Either intentionally or not is disputed. But, one thing is for sure. Puz did not go back for the detested bicycle.
Years later, images of the infamous bicycle in the tree began to surface in newspapers around the area. Puz immediately recognized his old bike and opened himself up to media coverage to provide insight.
NATURE AT WORK – HOW THE TREE CONSUMED THE BIKE
Shown by the rings of a tree, they grow outward season after season. Typically, if something stands in the way of a tree’s outward growth it will move out of the way of the obstacle. In the case of Don Puz’s bicycle, it was likely lodged in a crook where the tree was forked. This given, there was nowhere for the tree to grow besides around the bike. A tree treats something like this almost as if it were a wound or a scar. So, the tree essentially scabbed over and grew with the bicycle inside of it. This scab is showcased by the layer of bark between the bicycle and the inside of the tree.
The Current State of the Bike in the Tree
The aged bicycle remains in the tree today, roughly seven feet off the ground. It has lost many of its original parts either to time or to the hands of vandals. However, Vashon would be remiss if it let a piece of art and history slowly be deteriorated. So, many local organizations have added their parts and touches to keep the bike as in-tact as possible.This bike remains a staple tourist destination. It has also gained internet popularity as it travels over Instagram, Facebook, etc in the form of memes and info-graphics.
Additionally, there are many modern bicycles to be found around the island jammed into the nooks and crannies of trees. Whether this bicycle in a tree has become a sought after property addition, or the island has a handful of forgetful bike-owners, is unknown
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8 thoughts on “The Story Behind the Bicycle in the Tree on Vashon Island, WA”
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Read Berkeley Breathed’s book “Red Ranger Came Calling”.
The bike is an important part of the story.
(He is the author of the comic series “Bloom County” and lived on Vashon Island.
Is this in a location open to the public?
Yes, the location isn’t fenced or gated off in anyway. This is unfortunately one of the reasons it’s not in the condition of was when I was a kid. It’s just a short walk into the woods from a parking lot that used to have a cafe, very close to the high school.
Just saw the bike in the tree today. Was great too see it in person
Another story is that the rider is still sitting on the bike having died there. OoooooooooOO