In 1977, I was a young teenager, and I began to venture out of my home on the only means I had, my bicycle. At first the 10 speed I had took me to Waldo Junior High. I hated taking the bus and could get to school in about 30 minutes. The truth is I had a hard time waking up in time for the bus and I missed it a lot, so the bike was about the only way to get there on time. But that experience began getting me in shape. The summers I would venture to my friends houses, some were 3 miles away in the country. We lived on the outskirts of Salem, near Cordon Rd., and some friends lived on virtual farms. Then I began going further.
Over the course of the next six years I would travel through the farmlands east of Salem. I discovered the squarely gridded road system that followed the farmers’ property lines. I found the town of Pratum, more of a wide spot in the road, and an intersection, with a grain elevator and coop. I would stop in Pratum to get a cold coke from the old vending machine. I began following roads like Silverton and Sunnyview to their furthest extreme. I would end up in the town of Silverton some 20 miles away. Round trip it would be 40 miles, and I began doing this ride almost weekly.
I remember the corn, berry, and wheat fields between Salem and Silverton. The partial cloudy days offered partial relief from the hot summer sun. I would race the cloud shadows on the roads. I learned to take plenty of water and a tool kit to change a flat, and an air pump. I became very self sufficient. Then the traffic was always very light, and people were pretty polite, nearly always moving over to make plenty of room for the lone cyclist. I met few other cyclists out there.
In the 1980s, I began taking off after school into the Salem downtown to hang out with some friends at the Game Alliance of Salem. I got into role-playing games and we had the use of this big room in back of a game store. The store was on High street, where now a shoe repair store is. I would ride down to the Game Alliance most nights of the week, and sometimes stay there well past midnight, especially in the summers playing various role playing games (AD&D, Champions, Call of Cthulhu).
And, I still took rides into the country often, venturing west, to Monmouth, and once far east, up the Santiam Highway. I had one incident while riding at night into the downtown. One night on D Street I ran into a parked car near North Salem High. I did not see the dark car in the poorly lit area of the road. I destroyed that bike in a split second, the impact bending the frame and forks. It was my favorite bike, a gift from my parents. A red Raleigh Reliant bought from the Bike Peddler. The event was enormously stressful to me. The accident seemed simply stupid and wasteful and taught me an important lesson in being careful with the things you value, especially if they can’t be easily replaced . I tried to ride the bike afterwards but I ended up having to rebuild another to suffice.
One summer, I took a part time job weeding onions in Lake Labish. The lake bed is all that is left the the former lake, the marshes and lake having been drained in the 19th century to make way for agricultural lands. The lake bed is a dark loamy earth, perhaps one of the richest soils in the world, and some of the most sensitive of crops are planted there. That year it was Walla walla onions. I would get up about six in the morning to ride to the field, about five miles from my house. I would ride down Cordon road northwards, then into the windy roads into a region of orchards. The farm dogs here would chase me coming and going. For two weeks, I would weed in the field until about noon, even though that year the summer heat got up into the 100’s, very unusual for the Willamette Valley. One morning I woke with a cough and flu like symptoms. I had gotten a pneumonia bug and was forced to quit the job and spend a month laying about the house getting better. That summer was over before I had gotten to enjoy it, but I did learn to appreciate crossword puzzles and word searches.
My time cycling the area around Salem taught me a lot about being self-reliant and what I could do if I set my mind to complete something. Nothing stood in my way when I cycled. I don’t recall being stopped by rain or cold or any other weather from getting where I wanted to go. I learned that I had a talent for dead-reckoning. I always know where I am and where north, south, east and west are, regardless of where I am. I can find my way to a location without directions, if I have been there once before.
Some of the most powerful lessons I learned in the 1990s. My studies of the tribes of western Oregon led me to a greater understanding of the original peoples of the area around Salem. The Santiam Kalapuya had villages in and around Salem. Some of the place-names that survive are Chemeketa and Chemawa, probably original village names for a village at Lake Labish and one where downtown Salem is today. The realization of what had occurred historically to their lands in the 1840s and 1850s is extremely powerful. The farmlands east of Salem were appropriated by settlers before the tribes had signed the treaties. There was never a war with the Kalapuya peoples over the land, and many instead became farm workers for the settlers. By the time of removal of the tribes in 1856, there were only a few dozen in the area of Salem, most having died of introduced diseases.
One Kalapuya man Chief Quinaby remained around the town well into the 1880s and became a symbol of the last of the Kalapuya people. Those few Indian people who remained in the towns off of the reservation at Grand Ronde, made it appear that the Kalapuya people were dying as a race. Most of the average Oregonians never saw Indians, the tribes being forced to remain on the reservation by federal policy. So the mild summers I had been cycling through the countryside, was a product of 130 years of colonization of Oregon. My great ancestor, Chief Santiam, who signed the treaty of the Willamette Valley, through me, and other relatives, had returned to the traditional homeland. I grew up in my original homeland, and my sense of the world developed there.
Cycling was good to me for many years. After graduation from McKay High in 1983, I moved to Petaluma, California to live with relatives for a time. I lived in my aunt and uncle’s house for about 2 years. That house was the home of my great aunt Eva and great uncle Axel and was being rented by my aunt and uncle, Katie and Del Morris. The house on I Street Extension was a couple miles from the downtown. I Street Extension was the original homestead of my mother’s side of the family, the Evans family who immigrated to the United States from Ireland. The road was gravel for a portion, then became a rough two lane road the widened to a wide city lane. There were lots of hills on that road, but I had a job with a rubber stamp manufacturing company and I would ride into work everyday once them moved into the downtown. Previously the company had rented the two original homestead houses of my great grandparents and great great grandparents. The business was originally run out of the barn of my ancestors.
After a few years I moved into a series of roommate situations. Over the next 8 years, I figure I moved into a new rental situation about every 6 months. For a few years I maintained my reliance on my bike for commuting. I did not get a license and a vehicle until I moved out of Petaluma. Still I would ride my bike to most errands and to took many trips to the coast, once Santa Rosa to the coast down Highway 1, to Two Rock, through Petaluma and back to Santa Rosa. Several times I took Highway 12 in a full circle through Sonoma, Santa Rosa and Petaluma. Several times I would travel to the coast to go body surfing. This was always an very enjoyable time for me and the summers in California seemed to go on forever.
I then discovered mountain bikes. I began taking off road trails into regional parks for a new adventure. I had a small truck so transporting the bike was easy. I discovered the ridge trail at Bolinas and took that alone or with friends on many excursions. The trail had a great view of the coastal hills and the weather was always perfect. The trail circled back on Highway 1 to Olema. Mountain biking became a passion for me. I would take weekly trips up Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa. The three tiered hilly terrain was perfect for the technical uphills, and the ultra fast downhills. I even did a race at Annadel, the Rockhopper in 1986. I finished the race and wanted to go further in racing , but I did not have the support to continue training. in about 1989 I lived in Two Rock, across from the Coast Guard Training center. It was quite remote, and I was working in Santa Rosa as a manager in the Marys Pizza Shack near Annadel. During the summer, I decided to ride to work for much of the season. It was a good 25 miles, 50 miles round trip but I did the commute on my bike for much of the summer.
The latest chapter in cycling was in Eugene, Oregon while attending the University of Oregon. I had a small truck, but most of the time I simply parked it and rode the bikes around town. Its so much more convenient and cheaper to ride a bike there. Parking at UO is absolutely the worst among state universities, and the area is riddled with bike paths. Many of my final years in Eugene were spent riding across the gravel parking lot of Autzen Stadium to cross the bike bridges over the Willamette River to the University.