First Big Ride – Cycle Oregon I

Day one: Salem to Independence to Corvallis, 57 miles

Setting up in Salem September 1988, many riders, many new riders, many led on by the promise that anyone could ride from Salem to Independence for lunch came to ride the first Cycle Oregon. I was on my Bridgestone, still going strong. I remember saying goodbye to my wife and heading west on Hwy 22.

It’s one thing to ride alone or with a friend, it is totally another thing to ride with 1,028 riders (years later they would cut off the enrollment at 2,000 riders). The feeling is great, powerful, strong and capable. The line of bikes goes along the right side of the road, single file. Everyone at the same pace, no one trying to dash ahead. Everyone watching traffic. I learned from the first that each day was composed of 20 mile segments. I could ride 20 miles, get off to rest and eat and ride another 20 miles. That was all I needed.

When we got to Independence we found the miracle of Cycle Oregon: there were people with food! Somehow the organizers of the ride contacted local organizations and offered them the food concession for that day for their town for 2,000 cyclists and their entourage. Wonderful food, drinks, and snacks for the road to Corvallis. For the most part these were just regular folks who had gone out of their way to make sandwiches, potato salad, fruit, lemonade and more. Some later would be catered, but even then it was local. One of the main goals of Cycle Oregon was to introduce city people to country people. It certainly worked at the lunch stops.

And then we were back on the road with handlebar bags or rear trunks filled with food, water and warm memories of caring neighbors. We rode south on the Corvallis road (It was named the Independence Road on the southern end). We rode into the Benton County Fair Grounds, got our tents (mine was in a bright fluorescent orange duffle so it was easy to find among all the other bags.) In addition to my tent, there was my sleeping bag and pad, and extra clothing I might need. We then had to ride into the OSU campus to shower in the women’s gym. I stopped on my way back to visit my friend Sandra who lived in Corvallis near the campus. She was the Instructional Tech for Corvallis Public Schools; I was the Instructional Tech for Portland Public Schools. Then back to another feed courtesy of a group in Corvallis and off to bed. I slept well.

Day two: Corvallis to Harrisburg to Eugene, 47 miles

This was our second day, an easy 47 miles along the Willamette River. I didn’t even know you could ride beside the Willamette River on the way to Eugene as I had either gone I-5 or 99W highways to get there. But we took the Peoria Road that led from just east of Corvallis South passed Peoria to Harrisburg. The last time I had noted Peoria Road was the last time I was stoned and wondered how I had gotten to Illinois. But as many towns and cities are named for somewhere else, so was Peoria. There was a place to put your boat in at Irish bend and turn off to Oakville (lots of towns and streets with Oak in their name because of the great black oak copse that were everywhere since pioneer days and beyond).

As I was pedaling along at about 11 mph, a blinding flash flew by me with a couple of other guys in his wake. But this guy had only one leg and one arm. I would find out later he was prepping for Special Olympics in Korea and would often talk to classes in schools about himself and his disability, though I wouldn’t think he would call it that. He did not use crutches when off his bike, he simply hopped.

After stopping in Harrisburg for lunch near the river, we went on east toward I-5 but cut south just short of the freeway and headed to Coburg. After passing through Coburg We crossed the Mackenzie River and headed for the track field on the U of O campus. Now I was back in familiar territory. I had just finished the coursework on my Ph.D. here the year before. The Cycle Oregon trip was meant to give me space from my research on my dissertation before I began writing it up.

From my journal 9-10-88

Beautiful sunrise 6:30 a.m. Everyone beginning to stir. Dome tents that were trying to become kites as cyclists put them up, will fold like umbrellas this morning.

Most did not stake them out – part of the problem.

Gladstone performed last night, a local, Gary Keeler. Best tents – Sierra Design. Tandems look good.

Eugene – stopped at Keith and Suzanne’s to wash Groucho Goose shirt, Cycle Oregon sirt, 1 pr sox & red bandana.

Good ride today. Flat, sunny,great lunch in Harrisburg. Picture of W. river along the way. Wish I had someone to ride with. Next year Jeff or Keith should come along.

Maybe Betsy on Tandem! Must get Rebecca’s bike together. Butt sore today from seat. Anus OK, but around pelvic bones butt is sore.

Stopped at Armatige Park on Coburg Road at the Mackenzie. Wonderful. Well on to Eugene!!!

(Ran into Andy from San Juan tour. She helped me with juggling. Thro two balls across but don’t try to catch them!)

Day three – Eugene to Triangle Lake to Florence, 75 miles

Today is a big day, 75 miles, west, into the wind, to the coast.

We rode early to breakfast in Junction City at the firehouse. They gave us pins celebrating Scandinavian days and we headed out HWY 36 west towards Triangle Lake. We went past Chesire and the turn off to Veneta where the summer Oregon Country Fair was in July. As we get close to Triangle Lake the local minister put out some signs like the old Burma Shave signs on the highway: Be Patient, Don’t be naughty, Just Ahead, The Porta Potty.

Upon leaving Triangle Lake we headed over the Coast Range passing Deadwood, Swisshome and on to Mapleton. Then we turned west, into the wind and past an accident on the railroad tracks where someone got their tires stuck in the tracks and had a bad fall. An omen.

This was my first experience riding into the wind. Wind on the coast was predictable, usually going north to south as we were. But here on the road to Florence it cut in east inland and blew hard. So I learned how to ‘draft.’ When you draft with another cyclist, you follow him closely, almost touching his rear tire with your front tire. You strive to match cadence and speed as you progress, allowing you to save some energy and keep pace while going at a steady speed together, thus decreasing your ride time and strain against the wind. This focus also occupied your thoughts and made the time fly by.

But there were rules. In order to share the work we swapped off every mile. Him first, then me first and he could rest, then him first again, allowing me to catch my wind. It worked beautifully and we became friends for the rest of the ride. (I would later meet him again on Cycle Oregon II when climbing Crater Lake.) We both laughed and pointed to the woman on the side of the road who had stopped to smoke a cigarette. (I had recently lost 40 lbs with Betsy on NutriSystems and then had quit smoking in preparation for this ride.)

When we got to Florence we had to ride out North on HWY 101 to the fair grounds to set up out tents. After a catered dinner I crashed to await the next leg of the trip.

Day four, Florence to Reedsport to Coos Bay, 70 miles.

Today we ride on the Oregon Coast!

We started just north in Florence, just after eating breakfast, packing up our gear and taking it to the trucks and heading south toward Reedsport. Just outside of town, on our first hill as I was walking my bike up the hill, I saw someone with a flat tire on her bike. I stopped to help her remembering the saying, “If I give you a fish…” So I taught her how to change her own tire. We were quickly on our way.

O our destination today was Coos Bay. Coos Bay had a large log shipping enterprise on the Oregon Coast. Logs and wood chips were piled high and loaded on ships for overseas ports, such as Japan.

As we left Florence we passed the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you could rent dune buggies and ride the sand dunes. At that time they also had a camel ride, provided by “Lawrence of Florence.” On the other side of the road in the eastward direction were small lakes.

We stopped for lunch courtesy of volunteers in Reedsport. Here is where the Umpqua River joined the ocean. (It started in Glide near Roseburg. We would ‘glide’ to glide in Cycle Oregon 11 in 1998 when I retired.) Just a few miles to the east was Loon Lake Campground where my daughter Rebecca would provide “Interpretation” for the campers after she got her bachelor’s in Forestry. Most of my children became teachers of one sort or another. When your field was Forestry, you taught by providing interpretive talks around the campfire at night.

When we left Reedsport we were on the lookout for a lighthouse. We found one at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, six miles south of Reedsport.

There are 11 lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. Many of these light houses have been restored (and largely replaced by electronic warnings of heads, capes, or big rocks). This light house was set up in 1849 at the mouth of the Umpqua River. Umpqua Light house

I rolled into Coos Bay at about 3:00 p.m. and sought out our campground. I don’t recall its location, but I remember the Gardens at Shore Acres State Park. (

Once again, I was well fed and hit the hay to a restful sleep, though Ibuprophen was a part of my recovery each night.

Day Five: Coos Bay to Port Orford to Gold Beach, 78 miles

One big day riding the Oregon coast southward. I love Bandon, like the Tillamook of the south coast, same cheese. Nice little tourist town and very friendly for cyclist. Port Orford was a pleasant surprise, on the coast with beautiful vistas. Port Orford is a port without a bay.,_Oregon.


Just south of Port Orford was Humbug Mountain State Park. We had heard rumors about the curvy roads and the dangers of sharing the road with timber trucks, chip trucks and those big RV’s with amateur drivers. The rumor said that the Oregon State Police would have to stop traffic until the bikes were through the area and then return traffic to HWY 101.

From the Oregon State Parks:

Park History

The original land purchase from Carl White in 1926 was 30.6 acres near the mouth of Brush Creek. Sixteen other tracts were purchased between 1930 and 1975. Initial development of Humbug Mountain commenced in 1934 using Civilian Conservation Corps forces. In 1952, overnight camping was developed to offer visitors opportunity for an extended stay. Once known as Sugarloaf Mountain, the name was changed to “Tichenor’s Humbug” after an exploring party sent forth from Port Orford by townsite developer Captain William Tichenor in 1851 mistakenly went south instead of north, toward the mountain. Eventually, the name was shortened to Humbug Mountain. In 1958, a major forest fire burned much of the north side of the park. The balance of mountain timber was saved by a change of wind as onlookers watched, helpless but thankful.

And on to Gold Beach. Gold Beach is famous for its famous Mail boats that are hydrofoils that race up the Rogue River skimming over the water. This wa a place I ear-marked to return to and ride those boats. We road over a beautiful bridge over the Rogue River.

While there are many beautiful bridges on the Oregon Coast, this one is exceptionally beautiful. After the longest ride of the entire trip, we were eager to find food and shelter. But we knew we had only 29 miles to go tomorrow to Brookings. We were in the banana belt now. This part of Oregon had balmy temperatures.

Day 6: Gold Beach to Brookings, 29 miles.

If the ride to Brookings was too short for you, you could ride an additional six miles to the California border. A short day with a long bus ride ahead back to Portland. We had made it. The first of many Cycle Oregon bicycle rides had begun. I was happy to have ridden it. The next year I talked three of my friends to join me for Cycle Oregon II, saying this is really easy. You can do it. They believed me until they found out that the second day we would clime 5,000 feet to Government camp, and later climb Crater Lake. Two of my friends dropped out near Bend (by previous agreement) and the third, my friend Vivian from Minnesota, made it to Ashland with a brace that had to be repaired somewhere in the middle of Oregon.–L-N7PIVjVf


Biking in San Juan Islands

When I returned from my studies at the University of Oregon where I rode the bike paths on both sides of the Willamette River past Valley River Mall, over the bridge and past Skinner Butte and back home again. I had really enjoyed this bike I had won from The Bike Gallery in Portland after putting my name in a drawing. It had served me well in Eugene which was a bike friendly town. When I came back to Portland I wanted to go on an extended ride, overnight, camping and touring. I found what I wanted with the Portland Parks and Recreation rides to the San Juan Islands. The rides were scheduled by age. The 30 and 40 year olds ride was full, so I signed up with the 50 and 60 year olds. I was glad I had. I was 46 in 1987, and I had difficulty keeping up with the older riders. This is when I began to learn about fit seniors.

There were about six of us who boarded the ferry in Anacortes, WA plus our leader, a bike mechanic from the Bicycle Co-op on Morrison in SE Portland. I knew she was the leader because she had a shirt that said, “Wait for me. I am thy leader.” We were fortunate to have her because she could completely break down a bike and repair it before the next day of the ride. I don’t remember much about the others, except a 60 something small ethnically Japanese woman who was smaller than me but much faster. Another woman owned the Alibi Restaurant on Interstate in North Portland. The man who drove the pickup that acted as a sag wagon for us, had a large natural gas tank in the back that gave him a range of over 500 miles.

When we got to Lopez we were first off the ferry with our bikes and the sag wagon followed. We strung out, the first opportunity to ride together with our leader in front and me trying to keep up with the Japanese lady Mrs. Ito. We found a campground on the far side of the island where the sea kayaks came ashore to camp. We had been scheduled to prepare the meals in the evening, but there were lots of arguments about meal preparation and washing up after. These were not the arguments you might imagine, but arguments as to who got to do the meal or clean up. “Sit down honey, you made the dinner last night. Or “Now you’ve worked hard enough today. We’ve got it.” Or similar arguments when it came to clean up. I learned to strike fast and grab a place in the work line or be left out sitting on the side till the meal was ready. Mostly I got to do the dishes.

The next morning we started off back toward the ferry dock to catch a ferry to San Juan. I soon learned that Mrs. Ito was my challenge. I couldn’t ride as fast as she could up hill, but I could catch her going down since she used her brake a lot. The rest were faster or slower than us, but we stuck together till we got on the ferry to San Juan’s Friday Harbor.

Friday harbor was a bustling city full of docks with boats, sail boats, motor boats, and cabin cruisers. But San Juan Island was the biggest island in the group. We rode off on the main highway only to find extreme courtesy whenever we came in contact with cars. We were always given the right of way. Always. So we toured around the island and ended the day at a camp ground with a lake used for swimming. I got out my tent and set it up, grabbed my swimsuit and headed for the swim area. It turns out I did not need my suit as I saw a woman who was speaking French strip and dive into the water sans suit. Although I did wear my suit in, I took it off under water and swam free and cool until I had to get out and so put on my suit before exiting the pond.

We stayed in that campground on San Juan Island till the next morning and then we caught the ferry to Orcas Island. According to the bike guide we were upping the ante with each island, each one having more hill climbing that the last. This island was rated ‘advanced.’ I didn’t go up to Mount Constitution (2,400 feet elevation) though. I stayed in camp and rested and tried to help with dinner.

The final day was at Shaw Island, famous for the Benedictine nuns who ran the island. Nuns in habits welcomed us at the dock which they ran. They also had a school on the island and they, or one of them, was the county coroner for San Juan County. We had another lovely ride on Shaw Island and then got back on the ferry and returned to Anacortes. We all got into our respective vehicles and came back to Portland. We would gather for dinner in a month.

The night we gathered together again was filled with stories. The woman who owned the Alibi Restaurant had four passengers in her Cadillac, and four bikes on a rack on the roof. However she had forgotten the bikes when they decided to go shopping and pulled into an underground parking structure and knocked all the bike off the too and damaged her roof. Oops.

When I had a chance to talk with Ms. Ito, my goal of catching her going uphill was explained. I told her I could catch her going down but it wasn’t till Shaw Island that I could catch her going uphill. She laughed and said, “When I saw you at the meeting before the ride at Overlook House, I thought you were too fat to ride.”

Bicycle touring

When I was teaching Chemistry and Physics at Jefferson High in Portland my son John and I and two of his friends decided to go camping at Cape Lookout State Park and ride the Three Capes Loop on the Oregon coast near Tillamook. Nether of his friends, Maureen or Leslie, had ridden much, nor had John or I, but we wanted to ride some distances. I had a (French) Stella bike that was old, but serviceable, sort of, if you didn’t mind stopping often to put the chain back on the derailleurs. Betsy and I both had Stella’s that we bought on sale at the Schwinn shop on Broadway and 7th in Northeast Portland a few years ago. As part of our preparation we had gone to The Galleria bike shop on Sandy Boulevard near 52nd.

We took our ’72 red VW camper to Cape Lookout. John and I slept in the VW and Leslie and Mo slept in a tent at the campsite. The next morning we took off north toward Netarts, Ocean City and our first Cape, Cape Meares. Well it was our first cape beside Cape Lookout, which we really didn’t ride over the top of yet. We learned to climb, that is shift down and keep pedaling, as we went up and up after Netarts Bay. We were very happy to get to the top of the Cape so we stopped to see the Octopus Tree, the Cape Meares Lighthouse, and go to the bathroom. I don’t remember carrying water or food, though it would seem advisable, but we were novices at bike touring.

And then we got to go down! Wow, this was totally better than the climb up. Bicycling has three advantages over hiking: (1) You only have to hike up one side of the hill. (2) Your range is much greater. While I could only hike 8 miles a day with a full pack, I could ride 20 or more miles. (3) You kept going past grocery stores and restaurants, so you needn’t pack food for the trip. What we didn’t consider then was there might be road damage on the downhill. Fortunately we were not speeding, but braking on the downhill, so when met a piece of the highway that wouldn’t stay in one spot and therefore was just gravel, we didn’t spill.

After we reached the road to Cape Meares, the town, we were back on flat ground out to the highway that led back to Netarts and Cape Lookout State Park. Now we had to contend with distance. Since we had no experience with distance our hands got sore, our butts got sore, our shoulders got sore and we just pushed on. At this point in our bike riding we had no chamois pants, or lycra shirts or gel gloves or gel seats but we had lots of motivation to purchase these things if we were to continue touring by bicycle. When we got back to camp, we crashed, that is we fell into our sleeping bags exhausted (at least I did).

The next morning we were southbound over Cape Lookout toward our third Cape, Cape Kiwanda. This day we had our climb first thing. For about five miles we had nothing but up and horseshoe turns to get to the top of Cape Lookout where there was a trail you could hike on out to the end of the cape, about 3 miles. The trail overlooked some of the best whale watching on the Oregon Coast, but we weren’t interested that day. We did, however, get off our bikes for the last mile or so to walk them up to the top. There’s no shame in walking up a hill.

Once again the downhill was much better, and we didn’t brake as much as we had yesterday, but did keep an eye out for hazards, like the travel trailer by the side of the road without a wheel. We road down and down till we could watch the dune buggies on the state park between us and the ocean. We got great views of the sand beaches ahead of us and the white capped waves on the blue Pacific Ocean. We came off the hill and rode east till we joined Sand Lake Road that went past the turnoff to the dunes campground and through the unincorporated community of Tierra Del Mar, over a couple of minor hills and into Cape Kiwanda, the western portion of Pacific City. We had ridden 8 miles. We were tired and crashed for a while on the beach near the Cape. Then we had to ride back the way we had come. This time walking up the south side of the hill and racing down the north side. I completely lost John and his friends as the sped downhill back to the campground at Cape Lookout State Park.

When I got home I had a letter from The Bike Gallery stating that I had won a bicycle. I read it over several times and saw nothing that I had to buy, so I went to The Bike Gallery to ask them about the letter. I said this appears to be real and it appears I don’t have anything to buy to get the bike? They said that is right, that I had put my name in a drawing when we had come in to get parts for our bikes in preparation for the ride. Would I like to come over the Bridgestone section and they would measure me for the bike. HooHa! I had a brand new red Bridgestone bike.

The bike looked something like this Bridgestone, but in red with fenders. I took this bike to Eugene when I attended the University of Oregon for my Ph.D. program in Computers in Education.

It is interesting to note that I had won a bike once before when I as in the 7th grade as a result of a contest the Wonder Bread had with reindeer stickers on their bread and a jingle I wrote. Unfortunately the Safeway store I had won it from didn’t assemble the bike, so I tried to put it together and ended taking it to a bike shop to finish. That bike ended badly when I was coming down the street in Fort Collins and ran into a pickup which was backing out of a parking space. I went back to the bike shop and they showed me a bike meant just for paper delivery. They said they would give me the bike and $25 for my broken bike. I said yes and waited weeks for the new bike only to be told I had misunderstood. They would give me $25 for the busted bike toward my new bike. I was in debt.

Markets in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

Markets in the Sacred Valley are not the same

As farmers markets here in Corvallis or markets elsewise

Markets in Calca for example seem more like Fred Meyer, One Stop Shopping

Because of the variety of food, kitchenware, clothing and blankets



What do you expect? Have you seen the corn taxi that brings people and food to town

Did you get up early Saturday morning to get to market in time to find

The best stuff, that fruit, vegetable or meat for breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Were you here last week? Did you see something you wanted and came back?


The Corn Taxi



Or were you thinking of Pisac, the larger market with entertainment

Photo ops with goats, dancers in costume, people watching

Where you can get a blanket made from alpaca wool, which is warm because it is hollow.

Where music abounds and bargains are made and local art is taken home.





NWMT Coya, year 2

The best thing I did on this trip was to bring five disposable cameras, and give them to teenagers from the village of Coya. I showed them how to take pictures and asked them to return the camera to me at the end of the week. After developing them, I sent copies back to Coya for the DelPrado’s to redistribute. I would have to say that Melvin’s pictures were the best.

Coya from mountain where Melvin took the picture. We were on the lower left of the plaza. Across the plaza was the Mayor’s office and to the right was a school with a swimming pool.

The interior was much improved from the dirt floors last year. The Peruvian workers had been busy. It took my breath away when we first entered. The shape of the Kausay Wasi Cllinic ( medical center was becoming real.

NWMT had shipped a shipping container full of medical supplies. There was so much we had to allocate one room as storage.

But there were also some uninvited supplies, namely Medical book in English and boxes and boxes of K-Y jelly. What use could we put that to?

So we applied K-Y jelly to the wire bundle we were trying to pull through the conduit to the surgery!

Melvin was able to capture the community much better than I could have. His candid shots of home life have amazed me.


Another teen’s pictures of her family.

Back at the work center, work was progressing. The Peruvian workers made do without the huge concrete pumps that Jeff sold at home. The loaded their five gallon buckets in the street from the cement mixer and ran up the stairs to pour the roof.


Modesto (center) and I became amigos. Here they rest from their concrete runs to sit for lunch.

Here is the ophthalmological microscope my family contributed to the center. Notice Gumby and Pokey were there to help, thanks to Beth, a med tech from Milwaukee, Oregon who helped me reassemble it in Peru.

Me hermano, the mayor.

We brought Simon a new wheel chair. This one he had had for 40 years and it had been repaired and repaired until it couldn’t be repaired any more. Simon worked as a cobbler in Coya. We were prepared with a fictional ruse to smuggle his new chair on the airplane, feigning injury on Beth’s part so we could get it to Peru. Surprisingly the airline accepted it at the gate and returned it to us in Lima. So much for deception.


Finally, we acted the tourist in Cusco. Here Guido’s nephew guided me through the market. (Go Beavers)

This BLOG in memory of Jeff Bidwell, may he rest in peace.


NWMT Coya, Peru

In 2004 (March 26 – April 5, 10 days) I went with a group to Coya, Peru to change a prison into a medical center with Northwest Medical Teams. We had been invited by Guido and Sandra DelPrado who lived in Calca, Peru a short distance away. Sandra (Sandy) was from Portland and had gone to Jefferson High School where I taught, though I didn’t know her. She had been working for USAID. Guido was from Calca, Peru and had worked for US State department, one time interpreting for President Reagan when he went to Mexico. Now they were interested in providing medical support for the Sacred Valley of the Incas where Coya was located. Before we came any medical emergency had to drive to Cusco, an hour and a half away over the pass.

(Bill, Roger, Ben, Lloyd, Warren, Tom, Tom, and Dick)

Most of us had construction experience except me (In the vest in front) and Ben the tall guy in the back (an attorney). The Peruvians were in impressed that a ‘maestro’ and an attorney would come to Coya to pound nails. We liked that.

It turned out that the prison was for runaway horses, but it made a better story to say just ‘prison’.

This is the plaqza in Coya. This is where we bought bottled water. The X above the door to the right indicates a recent death. The building we worked on was right behind these stores and homes.

Cattle were driven through this street to graze alongside of the main road a few blocks away. The kids who watched us would yell “vacas, vacas” and we would clear the street.

To start we began digging to bring in water and sewer pipes. There was an inner courtyard (formerly for horses) and two floors of rooms. We also had to dig a deep grey water well and wire the building for 110 v since most of the donated medical equipment was American. The electricity at the pole outside was 330v, so we cut it to 220v coming into the building and then to 110v to the exam rooms and surgery.

No use standing around, grab a concrete block and move them over there.

We wired inside and out, sometimes rewiring where needed. Obviously Ben had been working on his knees, but being the tallest he often got the overhead work.

    For everyone of us from Oregon there was the equivalent worker from the Coya area, except for the teacher and the attorney of course. Later however we would meet the mayor and the women who ran the restaurant nearby and fed us lunch.

    School got out at 1:30 and the boys would hurry over to the worksite and make a place to play with their cars on the sidewalk across the street from the worksite. If they were too curious someone would yell for me (the teacher) to come and entertain them with magic and games to keep them from underfoot.

Note: Dollar Tree paper airplanes don’t last very long.

Looking out the upstairs windows was like pictures in a picture.

Sandy and Guido DelPrado.

Resting after work in Machu Picchu, the town, before going up to Machu Picchu, the national park. We had taken a train from Ollantaytambo to this town and then a bus up to the park.

Corn nuts for lunch! There was also ‘cuy’ on the menu (guinea pig) but I wouldn’t dare show my face at home if I had eaten it.

Don and Betty

Betty Lane lived on the Buckeye, on a farm North of Fort Collins, Colorado with her mother, father, and six brothers and sisters.  She had been sent to Fort Collins to attend Fort Collins High and later Colorado A & M, majoring in Home Economics, a good major for a girl of 20 from farm country.  Her older brothers were in engineering, Clark in Mechanical and Howard in Civil. It was 1930 and the depression was on.

Don Meskimen moved to Fort Collins from Denver to become an Aggie too.  He wanted to become a Veterinarian.  But first he had to complete his pre-vet coursework and apply for Vet school. He was 18 when he entered school.

I don’t know where they met, but it is rumored that Don dated Margaret, Betty’s sister,  four years younger than Betty.  Otto Montgomery, another vet student and one year older than Don, dated Betty.  And then they switched, dated a married the other sister.  Otto would say Don was a few years behind him in Vet school because Don took time off from his studies to run off and get married in California.

Don and Betty were madly in love and would talk her older brother into driving them into the country so they could neck in the back seat.  They ran away to California in 1933, he was 20 and she was 23. They lived in San Francisco in 1933.

In 1934, after moving to Los Angeles, they were married on New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 1934.  They worked in munitions plants in Death Valley, within sight of the Twenty Mule Team Borax wagons. Betty described her work there as standing by an assembly line with a pull cord in front of her. Should anything happen, pull the cord and run like Hell. The company he worked for was found to be owned by the Russians. Later after he had quit working there and moved back to Fort Collins, the company was taken over by the government and turned over to the employees.

Betty also talked about living in Los Angeles and attending a Free Methodist Church because her family was Methodist. Imagine her surprise at a more Pentecostal service, concluding in an invitation to come to the front and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. When others got up to go to the front she got up and went to the back and left.

It is probable that Don’s brother Bob lived in Los Angeles at that time too. Bob married Creadeah and Dovie was born there in 1939 before they moved to Fresno where Dovie still lives today.

On October 2, 1935 their first child, a daughter, named Gladys Elane, was born and they returned to Fort Collins to face the music. They both re-entered Colorado A&M and had their second daughter, Donna June, on June 25, 1936. Fortunately Betty’s father had bought a dairy farm near the campus (just west where they would later build the university Presidents house, later to become the alumni center). During the depression they got dairy products from her father and Don got salad greens from the grocery store he worked at on W. Laurel St. and College Ave. When he trimmed the produce he would take home the cuttings to his family.

When Don graduated in 1940 the family moved to Delta, Colorado on the west slope of the Rocky Mountains where he set up his first Veterinary practice. Betty used to chase him down using the party line, “Hello, Mrs. Johnson. Is Doc there yet? No, Mrs. Meskimen, he hasn’t arrived yet. Then Mrs. Jones cut in to say he had just past her place on his way to the Johnson’s”.

Their son Lloyd (me) would be born in Delta in a convalescent home August 26, 1941 and twin boys, Ronald and Donald would be born there November 10, 1942. Donald was a surprise and therefor suffered from oxygen deprivation and as a result had Cerebral Palsy. Shortly the family moved to Nebraska, first Fremont and later Coleridge where Don set up his final practice.

This story has been pasted together from my memory of stories Betty (my mother) told and from

My home on wheels

I liked living in a home on wheels
A home I could move from place to place
A home like a turtles back strong and
Something to retreat into, withdraw into.

When my home is on the road, it’s rolling
Me sitting in the drivers seat, CB on,
My friends and family riding down south
To school in Corvallis, Oregon State.

But this is the time of hitch hiking, remember
The Green Turtle? Free rides south to
The Bay Area? Like that only in Oregon
Unplanned stops in Portland filling the bus.

With kids in groups, avoiding the big dog
Under the table as they got on, rode
in the back, Jesus freaks in the far back,
Runaways in the middle, hippies in front.

Till they learn we are exiting towards Corvallis.
Panic sets in among the 23 passengers.
They don’t want all left off at the same exit.
A large group won’t be picked up.

So after Albany the blue bus named Buster stops at each underpass in the shade and each one Steps out to wait for the next ride.
The bus, lighter now, turns west.

The Destroilet

As I mentioned I owned and lived in a blue 1959 GMC school bus that had been made into a motor home by a wood shop teacher from New Jersey. I had purchased it from him in Corvallis in 1972 while working on my Masters in Science Education. I think I also mentioned that it had, among its other conveniences, a Destroilet.

The Destroilet is a gas burning toilet, for those who don’t have a sewer connection or septic system, like on a house boat, or a mountain cabin, or in an old blue school bus outfitted for travel (and with a dirty old man bus driver poltergeist who steals bras and checkbooks named Buster). It was simple and elegant. You crap into the hopper, close the lid and the propane burner comes on and burns all but the most stubborn remains which have to be cleaned out after the Destroilet is cooled. Any smell goes up the exhaust pipe.

But, there are a couple of things you need to know if you are going to be a responsible Destroilet owner. First, don’t park too close to anyone else in the RV Park. The smell when it burns is not popular depending on which way the wind is blowing.

Second, if the kids have been using it and you get up at night and sit on it to pee without turning on the fan because you don’t want to wake anyone, re-think that option because you will parboil your butt, as my wife found out. Ouch!

Third, while there is a very complete user’s manual that comes with the Destroilet, it does no good if you don’t read it. When the Destroilet quit working I used the user’s manual to completely disassemble it and carefully arrange the parts all the way to the front of the bus. But since I could see no reason for its dysfunction, I re-read the instructions. I found something I missed on the first reading, something at the beginning that either said WARNING, or ATTENTION, BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE. What is said was that if your Destroilet was not working, not even turning on, not even the fan, then you should check outside first. Check the exhaust pipe which occasionally gets pinched when you brush a tree limb. Since there is a butterfly switch in the exhaust pipe which isn’t turned on when the fan can blow air out, the rest of the thing won’t work.

Sure enough, the exhaust pipe was pinched together. I got up on top of the bus and pried it open to a sort of roundness it wanted and climbed down. But the Destroilet still didn’t work. BECAUSE IT WAS DISSASEMBLED, AND ITS PARTS WERE LAYING ON THE FLOOR, FROM THE BACK OF THE BUS TO THE FRONT!!!

I carefully reassembled the Destroilet, following each direction and picture in the owner’s manual. You know what? It worked just fine. How about that?

As a consequence, I had a new mantra in my life: Read the instructions first, all of the instructions.

Breaker Breaker

Although I had used my CB in my Nisson Patrol four wheel drive vehicle and on my Honda CX500 cc motorcycle, it really came into its own on the bus we called Buster, for the dirty old man bus driver poltergeist who inhabited it. “Breaker, breaker. Hey blue bus. Come back?”

I liked to listen in to the long haul truckers on the interstate highway just to hear what was going on down the road, but sometimes someone would cut in whom I didn’t know with a message I needed to hear. When we drove the bus to Fargo, North Dakota to visit my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law and his family, I got such a call near Walla Walla, Washington. A call about an emergency that I knew nothing about.

“Say, buddy, do you know you have a flat on the left inside dual in the back?” Well no, I didn’t know. “You may not see it or feel it yet, but I can see it’s flat from back here” said the 16 wheeler behind us, who knew about such things. He also told me there was a truck stop a few miles ahead. I thanked him, drove to the truck stop and stopped.

Unless you have had to deal with dual wheels on the back of a truck (or a bus) you would have made the same mistake I did. To save money and time I was going to remove the tire myself. I had a great hydraulic jack to lift the bus, a tire iron and a length of pipe to add to the lever, applied to the fulcrum, to unscrew the lug nut. (I was a physics teacher. I knew about simple machines.) But the more I groaned and the more I jumped on the length of pipe, the more it wouldn’t come undone. Then the mechanic told me why.

The first set of lug nuts, the ones holding the outer rim that I had to remove to get to the inner rim, were threaded backwards. Instead of “righty tighty, lefty loosey” it was loose in a clockwise motion. Once I knew that and once I had cracked the outer lug nuts in the proper rotation, the inner wheel was easily removed. Soon the tire was patched and we were on the road again.

The next CB call was from a truck driver headed west. “Breaker, breaker to the blue bus. You carrying any water on that thing?” Why yes we were. We had 20 gallons of water in the tank. “Well there’s a truck beside of the road a few miles past Butte who needs some. Do you think you could help him out?” Why yes we could, I said.

We saw the truck beside the road, on the other side of the road, with a barrier in between. I hailed the driver and told him we had water. He said his truck need it as it had overheated. We emptied a plastic waste can and began to fill it and a mop bucket with water to take to him. He came to us before we could get to him and took the waste can full of water and I followed with the mop bucket full. We did this several times until he felt he had enough water to make it into Butte for repair. He said thanks and we left feeling like a real road rescue bus. Buster was so proud.

When we drew near the eastern border of Montana the generator light came on and stayed on. Although I could plug in a trickle charger when we were staying somewhere, I needed that generator for the two batteries on board. Someone on the CB told me the next town was Glendive, Montana (who had recently (2015) been in the news regarding an oil spill in the Yellowstone river.) We found a gas station and pulled in to see if they could help. The mechanic was happy to help. He sent our two kids, John and Casey, and pregnant Betsy to his farm where there was a swimming pool.

The reason he was so happy to be working on Buster was easy to see once you got the hood up. It was a straight six GME engine and nothing else. The heart of Buster was simple and unadorned. The mechanic called his friends over to look at it in awe. Anything he would work on was available and visible.

In this modern age (1977) cars and trucks no longer had generators, they had alternators. So once he had removed the generator he had to call up his old friend, who was an old mechanic, to tell him what to do with it. He told him to connect it backwards and see if it could run. (When you reverse the wires on a generator, you have a motor. It was called ‘motoring the generator’ and it would tell you if something, some wire, was not working.) After following this procedure and identifying what was wrong they sent to the auto parts store to get the necessary piece and we were ready to proceed. Although he had been working on the generator all day, he looked into his fee book and charges me for one hour labor only. Whew, we dodged a bullet on that one.

While he was reassembling the generator on the bus my wife and family had returned from their swim. Before we left town we stopped at what had to be a national heritage site of the last Woolworth five and dime in the country. Exactly like to one I used to hang out in in Fort Collins where I grew up, it was like stepping into the past. We found a T-shirt that said, “Where in the hell is Glendive, Montana?” and left town with smiles and happy memories.

But when we turned on the CB, we learned that there were other problems ahead. According to the truck drivers ahead of us on the Interstate, there were three tornadoes following the Interstate eastbound. We were to trail them across North Dakota. We knew just where they were thanks to the CB. When they turned north to Jamestown, we continued east to Fargo. Whew, we dodged another bullet, a big one.