VASHON - Generally, a tree's needs are pretty simple. It requires light from the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, water from the rain and minerals from the soil.
But a tall Douglas fir near the middle of Vashon Island has a rather unusual appetite: Sometime, probably decades ago, it swallowed a bicycle.
No one around claims to have seen the feast, but the evidence is clear.
About 7 feet off the ground, protruding through the thick bark of the stately fir, are the front and rear wheels, seat and left pedal of a small and very rusty bicycle.
"People have different theories on how it got there. I don't know if anyone knows for sure," said David Hakala, a cook at the nearby Sound Food Restaurant and Bakery.
Speculation is that the bike was abandoned or hidden next to the tree years ago and that as the tree grew, its trunk gradually enveloped and lifted the bike.
Parts of the hard-rubber tires have crumbled. Spokes, fenders, framework and handlebars are covered with a thick coat of rust. The only readable words are the "Top Flight" insignia on the rear tire.
It's pretty obvious the bicycle isn't going anywhere, but Hakala's knowledge of it is likely to carry him and his family on a skiing vacation.
His description of it was selected as the Washington state winner in a contest held by Washington Mutual Bank to identify some of the most unusual places and events in the Northwest.
The contest's other winning entry came from Marilyn Brenden of Silverton, Ore., who wrote about that city's annual davenport races, in which couches are fitted with wheels and run through the downtown streets by teams of runners.
Hakala and Brenden outdid about 3,000 other entrants in the contest, beating out such formidable competition as Bothell's Bigfoot Report Center, Port Orchard's Seagull Calling Contest and Portland's 24-Hour Church of Elvis.
Each winner receives a $10,000 Northwest vacation for themselves and their families. Hakala, 34, hopes to take his wife and two children, 6 and 8, for an extended stay at Crystal Mountain. The kids, he said, tried skiing for the first time last year and loved it.
Washington Mutual, meanwhile, will use both of the oddities in upcoming commercials, scheduled to begin airing next week.
But a taped radio spot plays a little loose with the facts when a folksy-voiced announcer says the bike is stuck with its "front wheel pointing north, back wheel pointing south."
That's exactly backward: The front wheel actually points south. Perhaps Washington Mutual could dip into its vaults and buy its ad agency a compass.