June 24 – July 26, 2021
Our drive to Richland, Washington the next day would take a little less than six hours, meaning we didn’t have to rush out of camp early in the morning. Heir Angst had recommended that we stop along the way to check out the Stonehenge Memorial just off the I-84. This is a concrete replica of England’s Stonehenge located in Maryhill, Washington; it was commissioned in the early 20th century by the wealthy entrepreneur Sam Hill and dedicated on 4 July 1918 as a memorial to the people who had died in World War I.
Construction of the memorial began in 1918 and was completed in 1929. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021. The Maryhill Stonehenge was the first monument in the United States to honor the dead of World War I, specifically soldiers from Klickitat County, Washington, who had died in the then-ongoing war. The altar stone is placed to be aligned with sunrise on the summer solstice.
Following the then-prevalent interpretation of Stonehenge, Hill thought that the original monument had been used as a sacrificial site. He was a Quaker and commissioned the replica as a reminder that humanity is still capable of being sacrificed to the god of war. The monument is located within the former site of the town of Maryhill which later burned down, leaving only the concrete replica standing.
We were traveling to Richland for two reasons, the first to check in Guillermo and his family. He worked for me at UCLA and ran our large Gameroom for several years, until personal computers and online gaming proved to be the death of video game rooms. The second reason is that it would put us about four hours out from the start of our bike tour and make the commute there in time for its Sunday start an easy task.
We landed at the Riverfront Hotel by midafternoon, our home for two nights; its a large complex with some conference hosting capabilities that might have been luxe at one time, but now catered to a mixed blend of clientele. Our room was a little tight for us and the bikes (we bring them in each night to protect them from theft) but after years of travel we’ve become adept at squeezing them into tight quarters. We’re also finding that more and more lodging options are forgoing carpet for tiled or laminate flooring.
We unpacked, had a cold one and then drove a short distance to Tri Cities Tap and Barrel, a recommendation of Guillermo’s. A single storefront wide with bountiful outdoor seating, we opted to sit inside as it was very warm outside. Approached by our waitress, we ordered a bottle of Albarino from Coyote Canyon Winery, a local concern about 30-miles away in Prosser. The wine was delightful, and we would seek it out, unsuccessfully down the road, as it starts off with tricky sweet fruit flavors and then gives way to a clean crisp finish.
For food we ordered the Salmon Platter (house smoked salmon, served with lemon dill cream cheese, capers tomatoes, red onions, and warm pita) figuring that would be just right for a light dinner. Imagine our surprise though when our waitress came to the table to apologize that she’d made a mistake and put in an order of the Butcher’s Block, the house charcuterie platter and would we mind taking it as well if it was on the house?
It didn’t take us long to make that decision and so we would end up eating twice as much as we intended, both platters featuring high quality and tasty ingredients. Not satisfied though with eating twice as much food as intended, we finished off the night with the Double Trouble Chocolate Cake, a decadent mashup of dense chocolate cake topped by a salted chocolate ganache and raspberry coulee drizzle.
We settled our tab of $76 including tip and waddled out of the venue into a still warm evening, drove back to our room and let a comfortable food coma wash us towards a good night’s sleep. All we had on the agenda the next day was a bike ride and then to meet up with Guillermo and his family at their house for dinner. I brewed coffee in the room with our handy coffee kit, ate some of our food, grabbed the provided hotel breakfast (which included a tasty burrito you warm in the microwave) and got ready to ride.
In more and more towns like Richland, bike paths have been created that run along a river or like in Charlotte, next to creeks and streams, a welcome resource in cities that often are not bike friendly. We would take advantage of Richland’s which ran directly in front of the hotel. This 7-mile Riverfront trail is part of the longer 23-mile Sacagawea Heritage Trail and joining it we rode north through parks and neighborhoods.
Along the way we passed a surveillance station monitoring the environment in and around the Hanford Site for radioactivity, the by-product of operations at this decommissioned nuclear production complex operated by the United States federal government. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in Hanford, the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the atomic bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.
The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, and decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste stored within 177 storage tanks, an additional 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste, and areas of heavy Technetium-99 and uranium contaminated groundwater. In 2007, the Hanford site represented 60% of high-level radioactive waste by volume managed by the US Department of Energy and 7–9% of all nuclear waste in the United States. Hanford is currently the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup.
We reached the northernmost end of the path to find the conning tower of the U.S.S. Triton, the first vessel to execute a submerged circumnavigation of the Earth in Operation Sandblast in 1960. Triton accomplished this objective during her shakedown cruise while under the command of Captain Edward L. “Ned” Beach Jr. She was the only member of her class and had the distinction of being the only Western submarine powered by two nuclear reactors.
We turned around and made our way south, riding a few miles past the hotel and as we began to hit a less friendly part of the trail, decided to turn around and head back to the room. We showered and changed into clean clothes and then set out for lunch and a brief stop at the local REI. Some travel themes revolve around visiting all the major league ballparks, or craft breweries, or any other object of desire. Ours seems to be stopping in at all of the REI’s.
Lunch was at a Sonic, only our second time in many years on the road where I had a chili dog while Joanna enjoyed a Toaster Grilled Cheese and a Caramel Shake. This is entirely palatable food at a reasonable price, and it is likely when duty calls that we will stop again in the future, but then again, we don’t generally consume that much fast food so it could be a while before we do. Dinner that night with Guillermo and his family was a delight, so good to see this happy unit in their beautiful home, perched high atop a ridge overlooking the Tri-Cities. It continues to be one of the great blessings of the way we travel, this connecting with friends we share so many memories with and is a central motivation for being on the road. Along with the sites, the food, the beer and the wine.
Stonehenge Memorial: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/maryhill-museum-and-stonehenge
Riverfront Hotel: https://www.richlandriverfronthotel.com/
Tri Cities Tap and Barrel: http://www.tricitiestapandbarrel.com/
Coyote Canyon Winery: https://www.coyotecanyonwinery.com/
Sacagawea Heritage Trail: https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/sacagawea-heritage-trail
Hanford Site: https://www.hanford.gov/