We spent five weeks in Wilsonville, getting our medical and dental checkups, visiting with my old grade school class, and generally getting ourselves back in order after four months of pretty continuous traveling. During our stay, and just shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, several local service clubs in Wilsonville hosted a free all-you-can-eat omelet and pancake breakfast. Donations were accepted for hurricane relief, and the money piled up quickly. The omelets and 'cakes were delicious!
Last Monday we attended the 25th anniversary of ordination of Father Dan Adams, the pastor of the church we attend. The church was packed. Father Dan is well loved in the parish, as he participates with as many individuals and groups as he can, and always has a word of praise or encouragement for his people. At his Saturday evening Mass, Father Dan "signs" the liturgy for a group of hearing impaired people. During one of the Sunday morning Masses, he prays much of the liturgy in Spanish for the local Hispanic community. This special evening, Father Dan did both, praying in English and in Spanish, "signing" all the while.
Tuesday we invited Suzy's second cousin Pat Johnston to join us for dinner at Benihana's. Pat had never been there before, and we enjoyed sharing the flashing knives and flying shrimp that accompany meal prepration right at your table. Our chef, Kenichi, was good at his job, but not as accomplished as some we have seen. It was an enjoyable evening, which we concluded with a visit to Pat's home for some family chatter.
So here we are now, back at Champoeg State Park for a few days. The plan was to come here and get the motorhome serviced in the town of Woodburn nearby. Coming into the area we spotted signs offering fresh berries from a local grower. We stopped and sampled field ripened strawberries and a kind of blackberry called "evergreen." We now have bags of berries in our freezer to accompany the halibut remaining from the Alaska fishing trip. The berry lady told us that this was the end of the season for them, as the weather has turned and the berries won't ripen well now. We felt fortunate in our timing.
As we neared Champoeg, we passed large numbers of cyclists, and arriving here we saw a sign that read KLAHOWYA! Turns out we had crossed paths with Cycle Oregon, an annual event that brings bikers together to tour this state. This is the 18th year for the event, and about 2000 cyclists participated, ranging in age from youngsters riding along on the back of Mom or Dad's bike to graybeards who were in far better shape than I am.
We were extraordinarily impressed with the organization of the Cycle Oregon project. Since there were no motels involved, all the cyclists slept in tents and stowed their gear in packs of various sorts. Much of the campground was filled with assorted tents scattered about, with bicycles helter-skelter among them. Another area, on the other hand, held hundreds of identical yellow tents in neat rows, with bikes in ordered ranks nearby. We learned from one of the cyclists that this was an "extra cost" option. G.I. Joe's, a chain of sporting goods stores, provided the tents, and they set them up, tore them down, and transported them, along with the participants' belongings, from one stop to the next. The cyclist we spoke with explained that she didn't have the energy and stamina to ride 70 or 80 miles each day, and then have to deal with a tent morning and night. She told us that she had recently purchased a tent from G.I. Joe's for $25, but now willingly paid an extra $30 a day to not have to take on that extra burden.
Near each tenting area were banks of those familiar blue portapotties, and in front of each bank was a hand-washing station complete with antibiotic soap, paper towels and a trash container. Nearby we saw large trailers proclaiming themselves to be mobile shower rooms. I suspect there was a charge for the shower, but we didn't ask. A smaller truck in each area carried drinking water, with a pipe leading to an array of faucets so the bikers could fill their water bottles for each day's ride.
What was going on here at Champoeg was kind of a day off in the one-week 500-mile trek. There was a large central stage with live music, vendors selling cycling attire, participation patches, ice cream, food, beer, and other necessities of life. One setup offered massage therapy, probably very welcome after a hard day's ride! Within a huge tent / canopy arrangement, tables and benches were arrayed for the evening meal, and servers were setting out dishes of cake at the end of the cafeteria-style maze. A few steps away, Pizzacato (a major local pizza house) had set up their portable ovens which radiated heat for yards around. Close by they had carefully stacked what appeared to be at least 200 cardboard pizza boxes. We weren't alert enough to recognize the photo opportunity, thinking about it only later.
In addition to the food service and the central entertainment arena, the organizers of the event, along with the local Chamber of Commerce and some volunteer groups, had arranged tours, presentations and historic programs about the area, trips to local wineries, hot air balloon rides and a catered breakfast, even a lecture and book signing by an author who has written a history of the bicycle. On a first-come-first-served basis, participants were treated to pontoon boat rides along the Willamette River, and on a reservation basis, could take canoe trips on the river. All this was available just on Thursday, the day we arrived.
Oh, what about KLOHOWYA? We stopped at a booth manned by the Friends of Historic Champoeg and learned that this area had for thousands of years been a trade and cultural center for the native tribes of the region. Each tribe had its own language, but since trade was essential for survival, a simplified trade language was established. The language was known as Chinook Wawa and was known by nearly everyone west of the Rockies, from Northern California into Alaska. When the first Europeans came, they quickly discovered that this was the language they must learn if they were to be successful. In Chinook Wawa, "Klahowya" means "Welcome," "Hello," or "Greetings." Thus the sign at the entrance to the park as the cyclists arrived.
Yes, the weather has changed. Yesterday we had rain and the evenings are getting chillier. Several of our camping neighbors had campfires last night, and we are planning to get some firewood, build a fire and cook up some 'smores one of these evenings. Drop by if you're in the area and we'll tell some more tales from ... Our Life on Wheels.