Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mount St Helens Eruption and Cold Beer

A geologist wished me Happy St. Helens' day last week. It has been 31 years since Mt. St. Helens' last really big eruption. I was not in Washington State when the eruption took place. I had been living in Washington State and the mountain had just started to do a little groaning when I left.

People that lived in Washington State at the time generally have the association of where they were and what they saw when the eruption took place. But I was not in Washington so my visual association of the eruption was a bit delayed.

I returned to Washington State in late August after the big eruption and a few other smaller ones as well. I had traveled via a truck filled with antiques for an auction in Seattle and was dropped off at Ritzville with my bike so I could head down to visit my parents before the auction in Seattle. The dry land wheat fields outside of Ritzville were covered with 2 to 4 inches of ash and the area looked like the moon with blue sky. It was very hot and towers of ash rose in giant dust devils into a deep blue sky. I said goodbye to my friends who looked a bit worried at that they were leaving me to my own devices in such a harsh landscape and I headed south towards the tiny hamlet of Ralston.

From Ralston I headed south past Washtucna and followed the former Palouse River valley called Washtucna Coulee towards Kahlotus. This is a quiet stretch of road and perhaps extra quiet since the temperature was over 100 degrees. 

Views of Washtucna Coulee looking northeast (above) and southwest from the turn off to Lyons Ferry 

A car pulled up beside me and the passenger rolled down his window and asked "What are you doing out here?" A legitimate question! I gave a short summary of my recent life, where I was heading and ended with the observation that I was used to the heat and was looking forward to resupply of fluid in Kahlotus. Through this brief conversation I maintained my cadence cranking up a rise as the road angled up the sidewall of the valley. The car passenger then said, "Well maybe this will help get you to Kahlotus" and handed me a cold beer. They wished me well pulled ahead and I noted the plates were from Minnesota. The car then slowed allowing me to pull alongside. "We think you need two."

So my association with the St Helens eruption is ice cold beer on a hot August afternoon while pedalling down the Washtucna Coulee. I have another association as well - Minnesotans are really nice!


DaveOnFidalgo said...

Thanks. There are many memories of May 18th, 1980. As I recall, Ritzville might have been in total darkness at noon. Now, where were you on October 12, 1962? Are you old enough for that date?

Dan McShane said...

Old enough but I was in Pennsylvania for both St Helens and the Columbus Day storm.