June, 1972: the Bellingham to Salem ride - Looking Back With 2020 Vision, Part I - CycleBlaze

December 28, 2019

June, 1972: the Bellingham to Salem ride

Another remembrance of things past, brought to us once again by my first partner, Carol Jo.  She tells me that her memory is failing as she ages, and so she’s started going through old memorabilia and making notes while she can still remember the subject and story.  She’s also started forwarding on photos that she thinks I might be interested in.

It’s well off topic again, but the photo that arrived today at least has a bike touring story attached to it, so I might as well set it down here and pass it on before I forget more of it myself.

The Happy Valley household, 1972: Alan, myself, Carol Jo, and Larry.
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At the time this photo was taken, Carol Jo and I were living in Bellingham while I was completing my bachelor’s program in Environmental Engineering at Huxley College.  We were living in a tiny house with two friends in a funky neighborhood near Fairhaven that was known at the time as Happy Valley.

After my graduation that May, I had the summer off until beginning my master’s program in Seattle.  Somehow I talked Alan and my brother Stewart into bicycling with me down to San Francisco.  I can’t recall now what inspired me to do something like this, but I think it was the influence of my friend Dennis from the army: Dennis was a bike racer when he was a student at MIT, and after I got out of the army I got my first touring bicycle, a metallic blue Peugeot U-08, and started going out on rides in the county.  When Dennis was in town visiting, he, Alan (his friend from high school) and I would go on rides together.

Yes, thinking back on it now, I think I must have Dennis to thank for all of this.

Anyway, the ride.  No one had any money to speak of, so it was a real shoestring affair.  We took camping gear, Alan and I sharing a tent and my brother Stewart carrying his own.  I didn’t keep a log (that I can still find anyway), but as I remember it now we kept a fast pace, covering about a hundred miles per day.  I think we made it down to the Olympic Peninsula on our first day, camping on Hoods Canal somewhere.  It was pouring rain in the evening, and I remember Alan and I playing go (the Japanese board game) by flashlight in our tent, and Stewart reminds me that at some point in the night he heard Alan curse loudly and overturn the board. 

The next morning, with all of us feeling soaked and miserable, Stewart excused himself from the expedition and caught a ferry back to Seattle.  As far as I know, he never really bicycled again.

Alan and I continued on, biking across the bridge to Astoria at the end of either the third or fourth day, and spending the night there in a cheap motel.  I don’t remember much about those days except for how bad the logging trucks were around Raymond, and for what a thrill it was to cross the Columbia and enter a new state.  It felt like we were really doing it, and were pumped up for continuing south to San Francisco.

The next morning though it all fell apart when we splurged and went out for breakfast at the Pig and Pancake.  Alan really loved breakfast and especially pancakes.  The whole time we lived with him, he maintained a sourdough starter and we had sourdough pancakes for breakfast nearly every morning.  He’d been looking forward to this breakfast in Astoria, and it was a real motivator for him.  

The big meal though was a big letdown.  An impersonal chain restaurant just couldn’t come up to his standards, and the disappointment just seemed to take the enthusiasm for the ride out of him.  A day later, camping out in the rain again, he decided he’d had enough too.  The next day we biked east to Salem, spent the night on my sister Elizabeth’s floor, and caught the train back to Seattle the following morning.  

We parted ways at the King Street Station, I biking north to my parents’ home near the UW and he across the floating bridge to his parents’ home on Mercer Island.  The next day, I heard from Alan’s brother.  Alan had been in a crash, going over the handlebars when his front wheel fell into an expansion joint on the floating bridge.  I’m sure we weren’t wearing helmets, and even though he sheared off the tip of his nose he was fortunate not to have gotten a concussion or worse.  Ever after, he had a bright pink patch on the tip of his nose that he had to carefully protect from the sun.

I’ve tried in the past to recall what happened to that U-08, without success.  Putting this story together with my remeniscence of the ride the next autumn back to Indiana, I think I must have disposed of it somehow when Carol and I prepared for our planned two years in the Peace Corps.  

It makes me a bit sad now that I don’t even have a photo of that bike, although I have a very clear one of it in my head.  Maybe Carol Jo will uncover one in her archives,  so there’s still a faint hope.  Among other things about that bike, I recall very clearly that by the time I got rid of it I had completely ruined its Brooks saddle by leaving it out in the rain too often.  It had a shape like the spine of a dead animal at the end, and was very uncomfortable to ride on - even worse than a new, unbroken one if you can imagine that.

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Bruce LellmanI can't imagine what an unbroken Brooks saddle feels like, especially taking one on a tour.
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3 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetI'm still stuck on "I had the summer off". I and most others I knew worked all summer, every summer, to pay for university. Our parents would help out when we ran out of money, but nobody ever had the summer off. But then, none of us ever were drafted.
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3 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyI love remembering key people like Dennis, who planted that crazy distance cycling idea in your head. What a great adventure, and how cool that you and Alan made it to Salem!

For me it was my friend Jean's dad who suggested that it's easy to ride more than a few blocks. I don't remember how far we rode but I was on my yellow Free Spirit from Sears. Freedom!! Later I rode my brother-in-law's old Schwinn Varsity, which was way too big for me .. but I was convinced that it was much faster than the Free Spirit.

I hope you find a photo of your Peugot. Would love to see it!

Thanks for sharing these great memories that bring back fond memories of my own.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetI don’t recall the economics very well now, but I know I was going to school on the GI Bill, back when state colleges were virtually free compared to today’s horrible situation. I think maybe I was getting some sort of grant to help with living expenses too, but I don’t really remember. Also, I think Carol was still working through that summer, as a service rep for Ma Bell.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetAnd, come to think of it, I’m not so sure I had the summer off - I may have just been between quarters, and taking summer classes. I can’t quite get the chronology right now. I’ll have to see if Carol remembers.
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3 weeks ago
Suzanne GibsonWould never have recognized you in that picture, Scott! I'll have to do a thing on my first bicycle adventures some day.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonEven I didn’t recognize myself. Probably the worst photo I’ve ever taken - home made haircut, the fullest beard I ever had, and I even look fat!
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3 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekMore vintage Scott Touring stories!
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3 weeks ago