Number Six: Washington

Somewhere out there is a big mountain, but before we get to Seattle, there were the Tri-cities.

The Tri-cities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland are located on the Columbia River, just after the confluence with the Snake, with Kennewick south of the Columbia and Pasco north. Richland is just down stream on the west side, which is actually the same side as the south side. We took an unplanned day off and learned why there are three cities instead of two.

Pasco, or rather a windy, dusty prairie just north of Pasco, was picked as the site for the manufacturing branch of the Manhattan Project. It built at least two atomic bombs during the war, one that was used for the one and only test and ‘Fat Boy’, which was dropped on Nagasaki. The plant also produced most of the world’s plutonium and was central to the development of the original fleet of nuclear submarines.

Richland was a ‘planned’ community, planned and built to house the engineers, officers, high level government employees and their families. For the most part, the houses look like the worst of the post war housing projects. The entire thing was planned in a manner of weeks. The workers, who built and manned the plant, lived in dormitories, which were strictly segregated by gender (married or not) and race.

Recruiting workers posters, at all levels, emphasized the clear mountain air and pine forests Washington is known for but didn’t quite mention that isn’t where you’ll be. It was actually a wind-swept desert; sustained winds of 30 were common and gusts to 70. High winds are still referred to as “Termination” winds because after an especially bad day, there would be a line at the paymaster to pick up termination pay and catch a train somewhere, anywhere else.

We did manage a very pleasant ride along the river going through each of the three cities, although we had planned to be out of town doing another mountain. Even in town the 30-mph wind was a little stressful on the river crossings. The Columbia is one big river.

IMG_1767When we did get to Seattle, we managed another good bike ride along the river, through the UW campus, into some upscale burbs, but in general, did not enjoy our stay there. The maze of freeways is worse than LA; the hills are worse than San Francisco; the traffic congestion rivals Washington, D.C., the cost and scarcity of parking motivated us to figure out their public transportation. It always left us a couple or more blocks from where we wanted to be, always up or down a hill that we couldn’t do with or without a wheelchair. We thought we could manage our cost of living by staying a few miles away from downtown (and it was a lot cheaper). But the 12 mile commute seemed to take 45 to 60 minutes regardless of the route or time of day.

Seattle is no longer on our list of places one might live. And the weather was actually pretty good.

On another day, we intended to ride the other direction along the river. However, we forgot to bring the bike computer with us. We spent a couple hours riding around the Boeing employee parking lot, up and down some serious hills, chatting with several helpful people who didn’t know where the trail was, and eventually finding our way back to the car. Since we didn’t have the computer, we still don’t know where we were.

The Fremont Solstice Parade just happened to happen while we were in town. It is so famous and infamous that it greatly contributed to the congestion, especially at the park we thought we were visiting and perhaps biking. From the little we could see, it was quite a spectacle and probably influences the world-wide price of body paint. I won’t be posting any pictures; there are plenty out there. I don’t think you will find us in any of them.

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