Posts Tagged ‘Washington’
Posted on July 16, 2010 - by Nadia
July 15, 2010
Sumner wrap up
Been here three days trying to verify Josie’s existence here, to get a sense of the place and its surround, the get a feel for EJ Whit. Vicki Connor at the Ryan House and the Heritage Quest Research Library on Main Street have been very helpful.
SUMNER — Almost at the end of the reel. Almost at my wit’s end. I found her: Josie. Josie! I almost yelled my relief out loud.
For two full days I’d wandered through the year that brought the summer of 1890 to the summer of ’91. On the big screen microfilm, The Local Matters section of the Sumner Herald – the only section that really mattered to me – read like a year-long 19th century Twitter feed:
Seed potatoes hard to come by.
Weather for walking alone with the moon.
By way of a mild suggestion we would respectfully call attention to the present condition of the walk in front of Ryan’s hall.
The Sumner baseball club will play a match game with the Puyallup club on the latter’s grounds tomorrow, (Saturday) morning Bet on the Sumners as success is sure unless energy fails.
A.M. Rousseau returned Tuesday night from a two weeks’ visit to friends at Tenino. During his absence he devoted his time to hunting, fishing and getting sunburnt.
Never mind that the man she would marry, who would become, among other things, my great grandfather, was present on almost every page. Elmer John White founded the Sumner Herald in 1889. He owned half of it, served as editor to his partner’s publisher, and wrote columns under the pen name Eli, and some people called him that, though he generally went about daily life by his initials, EJ.
He is a funny guy who urges temperance. Any topic that gets too heated deserves to be taken with “sugar and lemon.” He is well liked. Well enough to run far ahead of the rest of the Democratic ticket in his 1890 bid for the state house, but not well enough liked to to actually win, as Republicans swept Pierce County, as they were wont to do back then.
I enjoyed getting to know EJ in Sumner, but I’ve always known more about him. In the life that lies ahead of him, he keeps writing in his distinctive down-home, third-person style and is noticed and written about, so it’s fairly easy to feel like I know him. It’s her about whom I know so little. Every confirmation of a fact is a bit of grout that holds the fragile tower I’ve been building together. Every correction knocks a clinker to the ground and puts the enterprise on stronger footing. (more…)
Posted on July 13, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 39: July 12, 2010
Packwood to Sumner, Washington
Moss-covered trees, ferns, wildflowers and waterfalls lined Skate Creek Road for the first 20 miles of the morning for a mostly uphill start to the day. Mount Rainier made a cameo appearance toward the end of that stretch, upstaging the throngs of daisies that cheered me along. Rolling highways then until a surprise cutoff from Alder to Eatonville made for a really fun roller coaster ride for 10 miles that flew by despite many logging trucks. Ortonville Road cutoff from Eatonville to the bike path to South Prairie, wrong turn on the bike path, then doubled back, continuing on through suburbab rhubarb and strawberry fields to Puyallup and on to neighboring Sumner, the end of my trip.
Hooray! Sumner. This bedroom community of Puyallap has been in my sights for almost seven weeks now. This is where Josie got off the train she boarded in Clayton, New Mexico. This is where her sister lived. Where she worked as a typesetter. Where she married Elmer John White. Where she started the next chapter of her life. This two-block town, this is my destination.
I got in toward 8 after navigating suburbia for the first time in a long while. I took a bath. Unpacked. And at 10 went to find dinner at the only place open, and found my self being rewarded with a knuckle bump from the unlikely character of Johnny Rocket. The journey never ends.
Gliding along Skate Creek
Skate Creek Road skirts the south side of Rainier National Park from Packwood to Ashford. It is a flatter, forested version of Hwy. 123, which runs into the park’s south boundary and contains some steep climbs, or so I heard. So close to the end, I didn’t feel that getting a few miles closer to Rainier was worth the delay and hills to see for myself. Now, I was focused on my suburban destination.
All the locals I talked to about Skate Creek said the same things: It’s beautiful, but not safe for riding. No shoulder. Tight turns. This, it seems, is a concerted effort to keep it to themselves. The windy pavement affords very short sightlines, so I did put of riding it until the weekend traffic was done or asleep, but Monday morning I had the road mostly to myself until the very end. Its pavement is compromised by underground springs and it slumps and buckles in large drooping swaths here and there that are all but invisible at high speeds. I saw an RV hit one and the ensuing fight for control was momentarily scary.
Along the way, vast crowds of daisies cheered me along, vigorously nodding and waving in the breeze, shouting their floral, Allez! Allez! The Nisqually River roared.
And a deer came out to see what the fuss was all about. It was lovely, if (yes, I have to say this after so much heat,) a little chilly. Finally, I was in the true Pacific Northwest.
Thanks everyone for reading along. It’s been a remarkable experience
Posted on July 11, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 38: July 11, 2010
Nachez to Packwood, Washington
A flat road this morning, freshly chip sealed, making a small shoulder simply inaccessible. Never mind it was quite early and there was little traffic. At least it was windy. I was a stinky grouch. After the first 30 miles I took a swim and a break and everything improved dramatically – the climb to White Pass is not steep, just a steady churn. The traffic wasn’t as bad as everyone said, especially once I got the milk trucks to give me a little more space, and the scenery went from interesting to, of course, Rainier.
Yakima is a huge valley that collects solar heat and turns it into fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, it threatens to do the same to the people who live there. After several days of hitting the 105-range, Yakimites headed for the hills. Rimrock Lake is a huge reservoir filled with milky green glacier melt water and topped with water skiers straight out of the ‘50s advertising literature. It is generously appointed with boat ramps and picnic areas. The lake cries out: Jump in me!
Poor evening planning on my part has left me without a shower since … uhm, Walla Walla, which is the entire heat wave. (This dose of too much information brought to you by Wet Ones Extra Gentle hand and face wipes.) The additional disappearance of my toothpaste yesterday morning added to my personal hygiene woes. So it was that I was stinky and grouchy and pedaled poorly all morning, despite rolling out of my spot behind the Christian Life Building at 5:00 to steer well clear of any early service. Out of tortillas (poor, poor planning, I tell you) I joined the ag workers at the corner store for a lousy breakfast of things wrapped in cellophane.
In that state, I heard clearly the cry of the lake and waded right in.
Everything changed. I was clean, my mind was clear, I had ridden 30 miles by 10 and stuck with my plan to leave the road to the day trippers and departing RVers for the noon hour. I read. I lolled in the sun. I found my toothpaste. I smelled … grilling onions?
Down the beach from me a Mexican woman had laid out a picnic that engulfed an entire table. Most of her family was napping. Luci, her youngest daughter was in the water, splashing and talking to nobody in particular. I was reading. And the smell of a family gathering wafted into my nose and connected to my brain and the cause of my unrest became clear: I missed my friends and family.
For the first time this whole trip I was kind of lonely. I missed the barbecues and river beach time of Missoula in summer. I miss doing things for other people, with other people. This trip has been 99.9 percent free of whining. No severe pain. No deep regrets about route finding. No fussing about the diet. And no homesickness. All of those things clog the gears of the daily grind that it takes to have a good bike trip, yet they show up now, on the penultimate day pedaling. Acknowledged, they could be released.
I bundled my stuff and rolled up the shady shoreline. I stopped to ask if I could take a picture of the senora’s picnic. She thought that was weird but acquiesced if I would eat something. So I had a fajita with fresh salsa and learned a bit about the apple warehouse life. Who knew they pack apples year round?
It was good to sit and use my abysmal Spanish. She appreciated the effort, (which is why Spanish is more fun than French.) I left very full, but aware of that nagging emptiness.
White Pass is nine miles above Rimrock Lake, past a couple of other little lakes that would be fun to hang out at too. The road is lined with huge walls of rock boxed into chicken wire cages. It is evidence of past rock slides and bulwarks against future ones. I heard later that White Pass is the only pass through the Cascades that is guaranteed to remain open all winter. Never closes. It’s a military thing.
After the pass, the descent is quick and long. I kept my hands on the brakes and my eyes in the rear view mirror, ready to hop into the narrow shoulder if traffic showed up. It was pretty quiet, but it wasn’t really a sightseeing posture. A sign said scenic overlook ahead, and I thought, I’ll cross over to it if there’s no traffic. There wasn’t and I skidded into the gravel lot, and well, there it was, Mount Rainier, bigger than life, just sitting there decorated with snow and a few puffy clouds. What a stunning sight. I could have cruised right on by. I sat and looked and talked to people for a half hour.
I got the milk trucks to stop running me off the road when I saw one coming up on me on the climb. He had oncoming traffic, two cars passing him at once and me to deal with. I saw a break in the rock boxes and stood up and sprinted for it, pulling in in time for him to pass most easily by. He waved thanks and after that the milk trucks that have bothered me for two days started giving me lots of time and space. I think he radioed that I was OK.
This is my last night camping out on this trip. I’m in a genuine rainforest and it’s pitch dark black, a rarity on this trip. I’m staked out in a sloppy way on a slope by a side road under a towering cedar. A creek is rushing by somewhere. The soil is so loamy my stakes barely hold. Entirely new noises fill the air. A bug that sounded as big as a bat was trying to get in the tent. I think it was an owl that just roared at some bird squawking in its space. This is a long way from the abandoned ranch house in New Mexico, the rock art canyon in Utah, the hotspring in Idaho. I’ll miss nights in my protective nylon space.
Posted on July 11, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 37: July 10, 2010
Pine Creek Resort to Nachez, Washington
Another scorcher of a day, ride was mostly downhill or flat after a five-mile climb to the summit on Hwy. 97. Despite dire warnings to the contrary, Hwy. 97 was fine to bike with little traffic and wide shoulders, though I started early to beat both heat and traffic. Later I was told it is famous for drunk drivers. I wound my way from Union Gap to the far side of Yakima on an unsigned greenway that was a nice break from highway riding, but dumped me out at a confusing overlap of I-84 and Hwy. 12. It took lots of conversations and riding one exit stretch on the Interstate to find the workaround, South Nachez Road. The final dozen or so miles was tough with no shoulder, the sun blinding both me and drivers coming behind me and thrashing wind.
There is a road to Reno where the ancestors wait to bless the bettors. As far as I can tell, it’s a long way to Reno from the outskirts of Toppenish but the early wagers caught my eye as I pedaled along Hwy 97. There wasn’t a car in sight so it was easy to just stop and give the crazy scattering of change the once over. A half dozen quarters, lots of dimes and nickels, countless pennies. What in the world happened here? I glanced around. tThis was quickly adding up to enough change for a convenience store ice cream break. I stooped and started picking up coins. I didn’t have many in hand when something made me look up. Well above me, a rag tag collection of scarves and beads fluttered in the wind, tied to a stretch of field fencing.
The place had a funny feel and there was a steep little worn route leading up the hillside, so I went up. On top of the hill, a fenced in square held a commanding view of the valleys to both the north and south. Inside the fence, collections of junk – plastic bottles, old shoes – were piled on what seemed to be a handful of very old graves. Coins, lottery tickets and pull tabs were left as offerings. This was clearly a sacred site. I did what anyone who knows what happened to Greg Brady when he took the idol from the cave in Hawaii would do: I carefully put the money on one of the entry gates and recommitted it to whatever its original purpose was.
Upon later inquiry I learned that the site dates to the 1800s, and is a traditional burial site for the Yakama Nation. Tribal members headed to Reno toss money out of their car as they go by, with the understanding the ancestors will watch over their wagers in the future. A larger, better kept burial site is on the hill behind a fruit stand on the west side of town.
It was a week for cemeteries and legends that started with a walk through the Goldendale Cemetery on Friday. The front part of the large grounds is mowed and the stones are in good shape, in straight rows. But in the back, where the stones are generally much older, from the 1860s, 70s and 80s, many of the monuments were broken, pieced together on the ground or stacked in their parts. The grass isn’t mowed and wild grass blows fluff and long. I asked what happened to that part of the graveyard. The woman at the museum told me it had been vandalized. And that a guy who had tended the cemetery had chopped down a bunch of trees and they’d fallen into graves. That latter bit sounded just strange to me and I chalked the whole telling up to just one more example of how weird Goldendale is odd.
Riding the Northern Pacific
I spent two hours at a train museum dedicated to North Pacific memorabilia in Topponish. Among the cool things was the almost completed restoration of a locomotive, one sister of which is located in a park in Missoula, the other in Helena.
Headed to Sumner
My trip is winding down. I suspect I will arrive Sumner Monday evening. Anyone want to join me for dinner Tuesday? Come on down! I’ll have 2,200 miles on the odometer and legs and many too many memories to even catalog at this point. My battery is very low so I’ll save longer summary posts until I am there. Thanks for reading, everyone.
Posted on July 10, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 36: July 9, 2010
Goldendale to Pine Creek Bar and RV campground
The last noodle of common sense left in my noggin after yesterday’s heat advised me to stay off the road until today cooled down. I did that, pedaling just far enough to set myself up well for an early start to Yakima tomorrow. Highway 97 gains almost 2,000 feet between Goldendale and the summit, mostly in pleasant, staged rolling hills with a wide shoulder.
In 1870, Calvin and Jenny Keys and their four kids lived and farmed and kept house in Klickitat County, near Goldendale, Washington. When the census taker came knocking on their door, the oldest son was nine, the youngest, a girl, three months. Calvin was 40, Jenny was 34. They were starting over. Done were the days of drought in southern California. Done were the endless rains of the Olympic peninsula. Here, cattle ranged free with few acres plowed or fenced to keep them out. There were enough people to make it feel settled, but not enough to be unsettling.
This is where Alice Josephine would be born in the hot summer of 1872, after a winter that recalled, for the few who had been around then, the devastating freeze of 1961-62. That was the year the livestock died and settlers were left with no choice but to move on. That was the year people started talking about planting hay, about sewing flax, about putting up feed and barns that would allow them to weather such a winter. This year, 1872, was the year they really got serious about such things. Josie was born onto the high country north of the Columbia River in the year that it got settled. Where there had been a few hundred living, now there were a couple of thousand. Fences went up almost as fast as cabins, and the frustration of open range ranchers like her father Calvin grew.
The Keys clan stayed in Goldendale as long as they could stand it. Time was money, for now. The ranch wasn’t big, but it was worth almost $1,000. That was enough to pull out and start over again someplace less crowded. Before Josie was a year old they had done just that, heading south to Pueblo and Trinidad, the ranching towns of southern Colorado that offered more range, and less snow. It was the beginning of Josie’s life on the move.
In 1902, Winthrop Bartlett Presby figured he had what it took to show the world that Goldendale was no backwater. He sunk $8,000 into a fine house, with 22 rooms and fireplace tiles imported from Spain. Today, the Presby Mansion is a museum featuring the everyday doings of turn-of-the-century Goldendale. It is beautifully restored and maintained and includes a research library with indexed census, marriage and death records, among other things
Outside, the old carriage house features a frontier school room and newspaper press shop as well as a collection of threshing and farming equipment.
The Sentinel, Goldendale’s newspaper, is the fourth oldest in the state and its progression is represented in a pressroom display featuring an early printing press, linotype machine and printers lead.
Architecturally, the house is over the top, with its widow’s walk so far from the sea, it’s wrap around porch, and its stifling third floor. Its hard not to imagine that Mr. Presby had a pretty big ego. Apparently, it was at least a bit bigger than his income. Household gossip tells that he died in debt, and the house was seized by his lien holders. His wife held no claim to it, as she had divorced him earlier, on grounds that he was an insufferable grouch.
Roll on, Train fans
I won’t be here for the Train concert at Maryhill Winery tomorrow, but Jesen gave me a hint of what I’ll be missing in his family’s RV at the Pine Creek Inn, 13 miles south of Goldendale. Belting out a full-on rendition of Hey Soul Sister, the Spokane teen had a rapt audience singing along, watching his every move. The RV was humming, and that’s how it should be the night before going to see a big concert – a little show, with a lot of friends.
Selena and Scott saw me roll into Pine Creek and struck up a conversation while their three kids paced the gravel driveway, watching for their friends to drive up in their deluxe RV ride. When Jim and Gina and their five boys arrived, the stage was set and I was just lucky enough to be invited in for a bit. Selena and Scott are from Portland, Gina and Jim from Spokane, and a few times a year they find an excuse to get together. This year, the excuse is Train and the first concert ever for the three Portland kids. Oh, what a time tomorrow night will be!
Jesen brought the musical talent, but everyone threw something into the pot. Jared did a backflip standing right there in the RV. In his socks. Brett and Andrew lured the herd of lop eared rabbits that lolled around the parking lot into the lair they made of celery and bread. Sam and Brock held down the couch, Kate bravely yawned and claimed the sole girl spot in their big bunch of boys and everyone sang along with Jesen.
Camping. Regardless of tent size, it’s summertime in America if there’s a singalong, the burgers are a little burnt and old friends welcome a new one into the circle. Thanks gang. Have a great time at the show.
Posted on July 7, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 34: July 7, 2010
Walla Walla to Crow Butte State Park, Washington
Concerned about wind and traffic along the Columbia River, I got an early start and was happy that neither fear was realized. Traffic was very light along Hwy 12 from Walla Walla to Umatilla, and not much heavier along Hwy 14 in Washington. I spent my time on the Interstate bridge crossing at Umatilla wondering how I was supposed to have gotten on that nice bike path, but survived the crossing on the shoulder of the vehicle lanes. The wind, don’t say it out loud, it’ll jinx me for tomorrow, but the wind … was at my back. I covered the first 60 miles by lunch time, holding steady at 20 mph for long stretches. It almost felt like I was biking instead of hauling.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Fish. Nothing. Nothing. Fish. Nothing. Fish. Fish. I wish I knew what kind of fish I was seeing on the close circuit fish cam on the fish ladder at the dam at Umatilla. They turn a corner, look dazed and are gone, headed up stream. I like to think that among them are salmon intent on spawning in Redfish Lake outside of Stanley, Idaho. Based on early counts down here, they were already expecting a banner year up there. It is amazing to see the obstacles we’ve put in the way of salmon, amazing to know that any of them respond to the urge to get back home with such vigor that they find a way around.
So, these two salmon were swimming along, headed up stream and one ran into a cement wall. “Dam,” she said
Layers upon layers
Onion prices will hold steady until September, then they’re likely to drop. Onions shipping now have over wintered, they’re good, but they could turn any day. That’s just the kind of onions they are. Such is the wisdom – minus routine profanity — gleaned at a cinderblock bar, restaurant and convenience store at the end of a work day in Paterson, Washington. Biking along the Columbia, I dodged the occasional onion in the shoulder, escapees from the business of feeding the world.
Long, long trains of Powder River coal roll along the far shore of the river, headed west full, headed east empty. As I sit in my tent listening to them across the inlet that is the feature attraction of this park I am reminded of past experiences sleeping along this river: Trucks, trains and frogs all make for a loud night.
From a bike, the Columbia is an ocean threading between the dry cliffs of continents adrift. Swinging around the corner as Hwy 12 turned into Hwy 730, the river unfolded into yet another of the many, “Oh wow,” moments of this trip.
Some like it hot
Not matter how cool and refreshing the label on the bottle, grapes like their days hot and dry. They got their wish today as temperatures broke 100 on the highway. I thought it was a little cruel of Canoe Ridge wineries to flash their label at me. It wasn’t the first time on this trip I’ve had to tell myself, you can paddle in August, though as it’s going, I’ll be able to squeeze a float into
July as well.
Posted on July 6, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 33: July 6, 2010
Elgin, Oregon to Walla Walla, Washington
I wanted to leave the highway and cut across the mountains and wheat fields to Walla Walla, but my map just hints at the possibility, the hunting guide serving as convenience store clerk said No and I’m feeling a little risk-averse after the Hell’s Canyon adventure. I shared the highway with lots of nice but large timber trucks. A 20-mile climb was followed by a descent of about the same, the down steeper than the up but tangled with cross winds, a harbinger of my coming days. And yes, this marks my entry into the last state of my journey.
In the mid-70s a machinist planted some grapes in Walla Walla and started what has today become a center for American grape growing and wine making. The last five years have seen a bit of a boom of new vineyards being planted and new wines produced and I have staked out a spot for the night at one of them: Waters winery and vineyard. It’s a gorgeous spot with young vines staked out on a rolling south-facing hill.
Waters had its first crush in 2006 and its grand opening in 2007. Although the tasting room is closed today, Robbi and Christa welcomed my arrival and left me at the end of the day with a variety of wines to sample. After serious consideration, I decided the 2008 Syrah paired nicely with my fresh corn tortillas and peanut butter dinner, though I’d like to come back and try the whole selection again with some of my more discriminating friends. Thanks for setting me up, Bucky. Waters is terrific and everyone working here treated me better (even) than family.
My highway route to Walla Walla took me through the town of Milton-Freewater. I spent much of the morning forgetting its name and thinking of it as Milton Freeman. As I rolled into town I screeched to a halt at a genuine tortilla factory. I have pretty much lived on tortillas this trip and there was no way I could pass up the chance to buy them hot off the griddle. But I didn’t need five dozen.
The guys who were bundling them cheerfully packaged up two dozen small tortillas for me. When I asked how much, they waived off my money and kept up their clowning for my camera. I ate several then and there, had more for dinner, and am regretting not buying the standard five dozen pack – I’ll be done with my two dozen by the time breakfast is through.