The Columbia River begins its 1,250 mile journey to Oregon and the Pacific Ocean in Canada’s British Columbia. It is the longest river in the northwestern United States, and the fourth largest in the US by volume of flow. Humans have inhabited this region for more than 15,000 years, sustained along the Columbia by the remarkable salmon spawning migrations from the Pacific Ocean.
Sadly, these have declined precipitously since the mid-19th Century. The mouth of the Columbia, where it reaches the Pacific Ocean, was the farthest extent reached by the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803-05. In the mid-1800’s the 2,170 mile long Oregon Trail gave westward passage to over 400,000 pioneers venturing into this region.
For the Cycling for Change bicyclists, support drivers, and our mascot Curtis…
the days spent along the Columbia were some of the most beautiful of the entire Summer.
We cycled the river valley east from Portland to near Wallula where the Columbia turns north, but we continued east to Walla Walla Washington.
We tracked the course of the river for over 200 miles, the total distance to Walla Walla being nearly 260 miles.
This segment was divided into four parts with overnight stays in Hood River Oregon on June 6th (72 miles), Biggs Junction Oregon on June 7th (51 miles), Umatilla Oregon on June 8th (81 miles), arriving in Walla Walla Washington on June 9th (54 miles).
We enjoyed riding a closed segment of old US 30 Highway high on the south bluffs overlooking the Columbia and modern highway below. It is now limited to bicycles and pedestrians.
Summer blooms were an explosion of technicolor.
There were a number of memorable moments:
We stopped for an impromptu celebration upon reaching the 500 mile point of our journey, Mount Hood in the background.
Lissa Whittaker surprised us one morning, gifting each of us with a small stone figurine that she believed represented the spirit of the recipient. Mine was a bear and Christine’s an owl.
We housed in motels in Hood River and Biggs Junction…
but enjoyed the hospitality of private home stays in Umatilla (Chris and I with the Trevino family) and Walla Walla. 83 year old Rose McClellan, mother of 8 sons, provided Chris and me with a delightful evening. Her physician husband had died in 2002.
A rare routing “disconnect” occurred near the 1938 Oregon Trail monument east of The Dalles.
The map showed a paved secondary road. Too late to turn back, the “road” transitioned to gravel and at times dirt for nearly 20 miles.
Even the “good road” frequently lacked meaningful shoulders, weaving, bobbing, and presenting a real cycling challenge.
Exhausted, we concluded our 81 mile day on the 8th at Umatilla Oregon’s Our Lady of Angles Parish where we gratefully received dinner that evening and breakfast the following morning.
In Walla Walla, we were received with open arms at St. Patrick’s parish.
Father Matt was interviewed by both print and television media prior to giving a talk about our mission.
Dinner was festive and featured the most creative table decorations of the entire ride.
Of course even when there were no parishes to feed us, we somehow managed.
Peace Everyone. Pete
(June 10, 2010) 2 Emotional Encounters
While on the road today, we stopped at a service station/convenience store. We were resting and refreshing when a woman approached me from the gas pump where she was fueling her late model Subaru. She made eye contact with me as she drew near. When she was within speaking distance she asked me what I and the other riders were doing. I told her of our C4C mission on behalf of Catholic Charities. She smiled and told me that she had a 24 year old daughter who was severely disabled. Her daughter had the mental function of a 6 month old. Catholic Charities of Washington had provided services and assistance to her daughter for many years. She was profoundly grateful to the organization. We spoke for quite some time and she offered to put Christine and me up for the evening if we needed a place to stay. She also shared that she was an avid bicyclist and that she was proud of a 26 mile ride that she had completed early in the week. With tears she explained that her physicians had discouraged her from riding because her most recent course of chemo-therapy would not leave her with enough strength. At this point she was not the only person struggling with tears. She embraced Christine and me, saying “thank you”, and left us her phone number in case we needed anything. Please say a prayer for Kathy from Walla Walla, Washington. – Pete Schloss
(This from a Facebook post) “At a store in Skamania, WA today the riders were talking to a gentleman with his 10-year-old son. After hearing what we were doing the boy reached￼ into his pocket, pulled out all of his money, and gave it to one of the riders as a donation for C4C.￼ That 62 cents meant a lot to all of us. Thank you young man for your generosity. You brought a smile and a prayer of gratitude to all of us today.￼ – Christine Schloss