Union Gap and More Rain East of the Cascades
Sunday finds us in Toppenish, Washington. Luckily, it’s not raining at this moment – but even in the desert region of Washington state, rain has been our constant companion. As I sip coffee at the Quality Inn, Paul Goodlow, on the Weather Channel, tells me a fact that is all too easy to ascertain: it’s the rainiest October on record. Oy vey! Thanks, Paul.
In an attempt to salvage our west-coast bike ride, Elisabeth and I are contemplating a strategic move. From Kennewick, we can rent a U Haul van and transport ourselves further south – out of the rain, we hope. But today we pedal to Domanico Cellars vineyard in Prosser (and their tasting room! yeah!), where vineyard owner Jason Domanico will host us. Once again, we are indebted to Chris and BJ Ohlweiler for making these arrangements for us.
Yesterday, we departed Yakima after a wonderful time at David and Mary’s mountaintop home, which overlooks the city of Yakima and the valley. The climb up was challenging, but David took great care to route us in the less steep of the approaches. Then Mary served us an exquisite meal with some of the tastiest Cabernet I have had the pleasure of drinking.
Yakima, and A View Into My Past
Yakima, like so many Washington cities, has a network of bike paths to help cyclists navigate and enjoy the urban landscape. As we made our way east and south of the city, we wound past apple orchards, hops fields, and small family farms. We pass a historical marker dedicated to the Thorp family, the first white settlers to move into the Yakima Valley. Suddenly, the road made a half circle at the base of a steep mountain, and I could see a gap between the next steep incline. In between the lay the Yakima River, the old river road (where we pedaled), and Highway 97.
A tingle ran up my spine. I recognized the place.
When I was five years of age, my father transported his Floridian family to Kennewick, Washington, for eighteen months. Dad’s company, Continental Consolidated of Jacksonville, Florida, had sent him there to serve as project manager on the Hanford Nuclear Power Plant project, the first nuclear generating station in the United States.
On Sundays, our family would travel approximately 150 miles to Snoqualmie Falls to the resort there to have a breakfast fit for men of enormous appetites. My father loved the huge spread of breakfast delicacies, and I loved watching the waiter hover several feet above my stack of pancakes and drizzle golden honey onto them, scribbling most elegantly the initials of the resort. I watched, intently, for if he made a mistake breakfast was on the house. The waiter never missed however, and my stack of pancakes always wore proudly the perfect honeyed emblem: SF.
Grasping At Opposite Threads of My Life
I tell you this, because our route on those Sundays took us along Highway 97 and through Union Gap, the very same gap we traveled yesterday. In this and so many other ways, this trip is a giant, circular route for me. It takes me fifty-five years into my past to a time when everything in my life was a possibility. Now, as I pedal my way slowly into the past, it connects me to the present, where I can see clearly what my life has been – and, maybe if I am lucky, what it shall be in the future. It is like I have been able to grasp the opposite threads of my life and tie them together. It is impossible to know why this is important, but for some reason completing this task has helped me to feel more secure about the road ahead.
A Voice from The Past. “Get Down”, Yelled Uncle Frank!
Elisabeth and I stop at Union Gap to rest and munch a banana. I think back to a Sunday long ago, seated in the back seat of my father’s blue Ford sedan, next to Uncle Frank, my father’s friend and working compadre. Uncle Frank announced that we were approaching Union Gap. “Get ready,” he said, with obvious alarm. I looked over at him nervously and asked, “What’s up, uncle Frank?”
“Indians,” he said, looking at the approaching canyon as if we were entering dangerous territory. Then, “Get down!” Uncle Frank. “They’re going to shoot at us with their bows and arrows!
And before he could finish his warning, I lay trembling on the floorboard of the old Ford, rubber mat pressed tightly to my cheek. I could hear my father chuckle, but I was still shaking. “OK, we’re past them,” Uncle Frank said, with obvious relief in his voice. Slowly, I made my way back to my seat and slide up tightly against him.
“That was a close one,” Uncle Frank said.
As I finish my banana, I smile to myself and take one long last look at Union Gap. I think about Uncle Frank and all of the Sundays he pulled that trick on my five-year-old self.
It was a different time. It was the last days when a pioneer spirit inhabited the land, and cowboys and Indians still occupied the realm of America’s imagination. We had not yet entered the Space Age, not fully, and in many ways, we were still looking back. But the project my father was a part of would help change all of that, and how everyone saw the world and one another.