The only explanation for this is a slow news day, or perhaps an editor looking for some quirky tale from the Pacific Northwest.
It is a surprise to see the rusty girl’s bike embedded in a tree about six feet off the ground. I searched around for it this summer on a bike ride over on Vashon, and finally found it in some woods on the northeast corner of 99th Avenue SW and SW 204th Street (see map).
It looked just like the photos I had seen, except I was scandalized that the handlebars were missing. How could someone deface one of Vashon Island’s treasures, I wondered.
I asked around later and learned that the front wheel has disappeared and re-appeared over the years; maybe it’s the same with the handlebars, and they’ll be returned some day.
View Vashon Island Bike in tree in a larger map
As the story goes, a former Vashon Islander, Don Puz, left the bicycle in a tree in the mid 1950s. Depending on the stories, either his mother was recently widowed or the family lost their house in a fire, but Don received the bicycle as a gift from the community.
Apparently Puz wasn’t too keen about riding a girl’s bike around the island, so he left it behind in some woods and promptly forgot about it. He told the Vason-Maury Island Beachcomber in 2009, that it has solid, hard tires and skinny little handlebars like a tricycle. “I was too big of a kid to ride it.”
Over the years, the tree actually grew around the bicycle, encasing it. The bike is solidly embedded in the wood.
After someone found it in the woods years later, Puz and his mother, Helen Puz, visited the site and Puz immediately recognized it as his bike. An island woman also claimed it as her own, but the Puz story is the considered to be the most valid.
In addition to making occasional national headlines, the bicycle in a tree figures prominently in a children’s book — “Red Ranger Came Calling” — by author Berkeley Breathed.