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Started April 27th  WALK ACROSS AMERICA  *  Fundraiser   *  DONATE HERE

No. 101 Walk Across America – Oregon was great – heat and fires a big problem

Jul 30, 2021 | America, Blog, Hiking, USA

Crossing the Columbia River, which acts as the border between Washington and Oregon, brought us into another world; the river seemed to mark more than just the dividing line between two states because suddenly, people were again the Americans I know and love. (Route)

Friendliness in every direction.

I got my second vaccination in the Safeway supermarket, super-fast, super-easy, and without an appointment. As a reward for getting vaccinated, I was given a coupon for 10% off my next store purchases and directed to the office supply store next door, where they would laminate my vaccine card for free.

Who knew? Getting vaccinated could be fun!

Right off, Oregon gave the impression that the pandemic was nearly over, with stores only asking unvaccinated customers to continue to masked up.

Normality seemed to have returned, and I was ready for life to be normal!

I took my bearings from the Scenic Byways – as always, these routes were gorgeous.

Oregon has a wide variety of scenic attractions. Coastal rainforest to desert. Snow-covered volcanoes magically attract the eye to the horizon. Endless vastness like the Wild West always has to offer around every bend.

Oregon is great!

Windy, it was, and the days became increasingly hotter, becoming our biggest daily challenge.

The heat and the intense sun made it hard for us. Butch avoids direct sun like the plague, leaving me wondering every day how we will be able to travel the big, wide world in the future if we have to avoid the sun?

I kept frantically trying to place the sunshade so Butch could sit comfortably in the trailer. But, as you can imagine, Butch was jumping back and forth, and the umbrella kept flying around, even though I had secured it with straps as best I could.

On the way to Condon, the sheriff stopped several times: “Do you need water? Do you have food? It’s still a long way to Condon. It’s 38 degrees. Are you sure you don’t want a ride?”

“Thanks so much, but I prefer to walk!” I told him several times.

“Okay, I’ll check on you again in about an hour,” and he continued.

It was soon apparent; everyone was looking out for everyone else here. I love areas like this where people still talk to and care about each other!

Jesse, a motorcyclist from Washington, stopped. He was wholly sympathetic to my dislike of the Seattle area. However, like me, he loves Oregon and always enjoys coming here to recharge and enjoy the people.

He even came back the next day specifically to intercept us on the highway and drop off some ice cream. Great.

At a canyon viewpoint, I met a group of Taiwanese. Great memories of Taiwan flooded my mind, and I was looking forward to talking with them about their country.

Surprised, I found that they were very reserved towards me and only stressed that they were Americans and had been living in the country for a long time.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that they had gone on the defensive due to the recent Asian-bashing in the U.S. – that is, discrimination against Asians because of Covid-19, and had feared that’s where I was heading by trying to talk to them.

The sheriff of the small community of Condon told the lady in charge of the Chamber of Commerce that I was on my way, and K’Lynn immediately contacted me on Facebook, telling me to be sure to stop by and see her. The Chamber of Commerce in small towns like this is tasked with supporting local businesses and looking out for the common good of the community.

Well known beyond the borders of her domain, K’Lynn was super supportive and went out of her way to make advertisements for me through her Facebook page.

K’Lynn’s efforts led to articles in newspapers and people stopping on the street to give me money for my fundraiser. I was handed bananas and cold drinks, or people honked their horns and cheered us on. It almost had the flavor of Iran about it – the most hospitable country I’ve ever passed through.

I was haled by a woman on the street, “Pushbikegirl, good to see you again.” “Excuse me, do we know each other?” I replied.

“Well, sure, you stayed at our firehouse in 2016. You were riding your bike then. The new building had just been inaugurated, and the next day we had a snowstorm,” she told me with enthusiasm as if it had been yesterday.

I could still remember the story, but unfortunately, not the lady’s face or name. Nor did I remember having been to Condon before.

But I could finally apologize for not getting the thank you postcard to her because the whole postcard shipment from Vancouver had disappeared in route. But unfortunately, it’s always embarrassing when you can’t apologize.

In Fossil, I was allowed to stay overnight at the RV Park, and had great conversations at the little diner in town, and was also able to provide Butch with Hamburger Patty’s.

I witnessed something that touched me very much; a son so lovingly brought his old father to the barber. He helped him out of the car, in and out of the shop, and back to the car—all of this without a trace of annoyance or stress, but rather radiating absolute contentment.

The clocks tick slower here. People have time to talk. They meet in front of the supermarket and tell each other the latest village gossip.

Between Fossil and Spray, Ian stopped, unpacked his grill from the car, and started cooking for us. Big Foot, or Sasquatch, (Wikipedia) was our main topic, as it is known to be native to the forests of America.

Out on the road, the traffic was light, the landscapes marvelous, and the people stopping to chat, super.

The sheriff of the next county checked on me and provided me with detailed route and camping info.

“I’m going to call it a day. I drove 300 miles today. Our sidewalks roll up pretty early here, so I can get home at a decent time. I love my job. We live in a very quiet neighborhood and rarely have any troubles. Friendliness is our way of life here.”

That’s precisely what I felt, too. For sure, your neighbor in these out-of-the-way towns knows when or if you got to church on time, but with the overall positive atmosphere, it’s a small trade-off.

Heike & Butch are walking for One Tree Planted – from Lilly Lindlar

Photosynthesis is not just the answer for at least one question in every quiz show, it’s also the reason that we plant trees to combat climate change. And the great thing is, every single tree has the ability to photosynthesize. However, that does not mean that any form of tree planting presents an advantage and it doesn’t imply that there is no difference between different tree species.

Now, one might think that the recent rise in monoculture tree plantations is a win in the fight against climate change. But more often than not, planting trees this way causes more harm than good. In the end, the motivation here remains growing wood that is easily accessed and doesn’t require much care for maximum profit. The effects on the ecosystem are usually simply disregarded. But repeatedly planting the same singular tree species in an area affects huge parts of the world around it. As the trees all require the exact same nutrients, the soil is slowly rendered unusable, making it impossible for any kind of plant to thrive in this environment.

As the plantations are often entirely artificial, there is not much of an ecosystem to begin with. Usually depending on the interplay of many kinds of plants and animals, the monocultures are characterized by eerie silence and bare ground. And especially when deforestation has already caused such huge losses both for animals and plants, those plantations take away a possibility for recovery.

Trees in monoculture plantations are also much more susceptible to many kinds of pests. An example for this would be the bark beetle, known for taking down entire spruce forests. As the insect is dependent on certain tree species, providing it with easy transferral opportunities like the same tree species again and again for miles means that huge amounts of trees are lost each year. Not really a wanted statistic, considering we depend on those trees.

It doesn’t just matter how the trees are planted. The species and categories of the saplings also play a huge role in successfully fighting against air pollution. As photosynthesis is the main factor in this, trees with larger leaves such as oak or maple are able to filter more CO2 out of the air due to the increased surface area. However, the different kinds of conifer trees, though small-leaved, are capable of absorbing heat a lot more efficiently. As a result, the right kind of tree to plant is all of them. Of course, it remains important to choose tree species native to the ecosystem they are supposed to integrate into.

One Tree Planted is doing just that. One of their many projects took place in 2019, when more than 5000 trees belonging to 80 different native species were planted in the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, a forest plagued by mining, wildfires and deforestation in the name of urbanization. By integrating the newly planted trees into the already existing ecosystem, both the saplings and already existing vegetation profited here, giving the forest a chance to start the recovery process.

Here is Heike’s fundraiser. Donations are very welcome!

A Canadian fellow I met on the road to Spray directed me to Lorraine a lovely lady and dog trainer, who took us in immediately and taught me lots of tricks on how to train Butch. It was impressive to see how she handled him and how quickly she got him to do what she wanted.

Butch was loved everywhere we went. He is highly socialized and is always happy to have people or other dogs interact with him. He loves to be the center of attention and can’t stand being alone for a minute. I can’t even visit the bathroom by myself.

A redneck stopped, “Hey sexy chick if you’re looking for a place to stay tonight, you’re welcome to stay at my place.”

I smiled at him and said, “Oh thanks, but no, not tonight,” and continued on my way. 

The canyon landscape continued to impress me. What always fascinates me in the USA is this insane variety of landscapes. Every day I experience postcard motifs here and still love the West as much as the first time!

“Don’t you want to go home again sometime?” I am asked again and again. “Home, in the days of Covid? Why would I want to do that? I have all the freedom in the world here, and at home, I have to submit to a good number of rules. So, no thanks, I would much rather stay here and enjoy life,” is my reply.

Here, we have the possibility to camp on every corner. Butch can romp around as he pleases; he is always outside and experiences something new every day.

In the meantime, I am convinced that he likes being a globetrotter. His curiosity about the world is impressive, and it’s fun to see and experience things through him that I wouldn’t notice myself.

Still, it’s exhausting as I get far too little sleep, as he is an early and demanding riser.

Lizzy and her husband stopped to see us along the road. “We’ve heard about you guys. Great to meet you,” and Butch was immediately in his element, happily playing with his newfound friends. “We have cattle dogs as well and love the breed very much.”

“Jody lives not far from here; I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you. We’ll let her know you’re coming,” and so we had another opportunity to meet new people.

Jody was great. She was pleased to have us in the house and told me about her adventures with her Mules. She has been on the road several times with her animals in the USA. The books about her journeys have also provided her with a nice income.

In Dayville, the church community has opened a biker hostel.

Hostel is a bit too much to say because there are no beds, but that doesn’t matter because, for a donation, you are allowed to sleep on the floor in the church, take a shower and use the kitchen and the WLAN. The cupboards are full of food, and everyone is welcomed.

I stayed two nights to get some rest. The first night I shared the dorm room with an American who snored so insanely I could barely sleep.

The next day I met the first Saudi I’ve ever talked with. A funny guy whose family is very worried about him traveling in the U.S.

As we all know, the world is so very dangerous. So, when we – or in this case, Americans – hear about Saudi Arabia, we immediately think of villains and misogynists.

The Saudis, according to him, are afraid of Americans. So, in the end, we are all worried because supposedly, all the others out there are always so evil.

Hassan has been living in the USA for 12 years and is now cycling across the States to finish his time there. He hasn’t been home once in all those years and doesn’t know what’s in store for him when he goes home again.

Of course, this immediately brought back memories because going home was not easy for me either, after just 4.5 years, and I could understand his nervousness in this regard. 

The conversation brought back wanderlust. The USA has almost become my second home. My enthusiasm for the country is still there, but it’s not quite as exciting as it was a few years ago.

As soon as the pandemic is over, I will travel to more exotic countries again. I miss foreign lands. Getting to know cultures is still my favorite hobby.

I took the shortcut to Burns. A dirt road where there was almost no traffic. The three drivers I met in the five days all stopped and asked if I needed something.

The scenery continued to be impressive, and we enjoyed beavers, otters, deer, and wild horses along our way.

Shortly before Burns, I was invited to spend the night with cowboys. “We now have to buy 30% of the feed because we have had hardly any rainfall for years,” the father of the family told me. However, he was still convinced that we humans have nothing to do with climate change.

Another cowboy parked on the side of the road, so I had a chat with him. We chatted about Covid, and he was obviously a Trump supporter.

“I’m not going to get vaccinated! Bill Gates took cells from five women who had cancer and used them to make the vaccine. Thus, in five years, we will see that all those vaccinated will get cancer, and Bill Gates can then sell his cancer drugs. No, no vaccine for me!” and I walked on, thinking about all the many conspiracy theories I have already heard in the course of my stays in the USA.

In Burns, I had the opportunity to mend my sleeping pad in a store – unfortunately unsuccessfully. For weeks I woke up in the morning on the bare ground and had back pain.

My friend Colleen ordered new shoes for me and had them delivered to the post office in Burns. The soles of my feet had been peeking out at the asphalt for a while, so the need was urgent.

The mosquitoes in Burns were almost as bad as in Canada, or as I imagine them in Alaska. They were swarming all over us!

At a gas station, an employee said to me, “I know you. Look, I have pictures of you on my phone.” His buddy met me in Washington a few weeks prior and took pictures of me and said that he would advertise for my fundraiser.

Just outside Burns, I was looking for a camping spot. A large farm was not far down the road, and I walked up to the house and rang the bell. No response. I called and rang again until a man said to me through the closed door, “What do you want?”

I introduced myself and explained my request. He then cracked the door a tiny bit and said, “We don’t let strangers on the property.”

“I am a woman and alone with my puppy. We don’t have a gun, and we will leave the farm at dawn,” Trying to persuade him.

“Pitch your tent right next to the highway. But I warn you! If your dog chases even one of my sheep, I’ll shoot him dead. And don’t start a fire!”

Asshole was all I had in my head at that moment, and if I had had an alternative, I most certainly would have kept going.

The heatwave was rolling in. Thirty-eight degrees turned into forty-three. Butch was already almost unable to move. Fortunately, I had bought him a cooling vest. But when he wore it, he acted like he was disabled. It worked well to cool him down, but he didn’t drink or walk a single step.

The heat was brutal. The vegetation provided no shade, and it was starting to get annoying. In addition, I was suddenly in a bad mood and doubting my whole plan.

I like the pace of walking. I have significantly less back pain than on the bike, but the combo with Butch and the trailer is tough.

When he runs next to the trailer, he runs from left to right and from front to back – depending on which side offers something exciting to see. He barks at every cow, chases every chipmunk, barks at signs or oddly grown trees, plays with ants, jumps for birds, grasshoppers, and bugs.

He snatches butterflies and mosquitoes out of the air while wrapping the leash around the wheels of the trailer. So, I have to stop and free him before we can walk on. But this routine usually takes place at dawn or very late in the evening because it is much too hot for him the rest of the day. 

Of course, progress has been slow as a result. Butch is growing and getting heavier and is already at 15 kg, which I’ve been pushing up hills along with all our gear. Luckily, he could sleep or at least rest in the trailer.

A day has just so many hours, but at least on a few days, we still managed 15 to 20 miles, but other days maddeningly far less.

Cars rushed by; for whatever reason, fewer people were stopping to chat. Massive fuel guzzling motorhomes passed us driven by people who surely don’t care a bit about the environment.

I felt absolutely stupid. I walked in the blazing sun at over 40 degrees and thought of Greta, who sits there lonely with her sign in the schoolyard and doesn’t back down or give up even in the face of vile and corrosive criticism.

I also thought of some of our politicians trying to do what’s right while listening to the complaints of their people.

Under the online newspaper article about me was the comment: Why doesn’t she walk through China? The Chinese are the bad ones, not us.

You can’t fix stupid – is all I can say to that.

A Trooper or Highway Patrolman stopped and was concerned primarily about Butch.

“I have a cattle dog, too. It’s way too hot for him out here. I’ll take you to the nearest R.V. park; you can get cold drinks there and wait in the shade until it gets cooler.”

A short time later, we were sitting in the patrol car and happy to be out of the heat.

But it was not cooling down at all. It was still 38 degrees at 8 pm.

My path was supposed to take me toward the Alvord Desert, but I began to rethink this plan. Then, Mary and Wes came along and were also worried about us.

“I saw you in Burns. It’s way too hot, isn’t it? Come with us, you can’ spend the night at our farm,” and I gladly accepted this ride as well.

The next day I was fortunate and was allowed to attend branding day. The cattle got their brands and vaccines—an exciting experience that I liked so much that I will write a separate article about it.

The cowboys were all talking at me:

“Turn around. Don’t keep going towards Nevada. We’ll take you back north. You can get off at Seneca and at least sit under a tree and rest there from time to time. Further south, you won’t get out of the heat at all.”

Of course, all this was clear to me, but saying goodbye to thoughts and wishes is not always that easy. But an hour later, we were sitting in the back of the rattling horse trailer jostled and shaken. Butch was scared and clawed at my lap. The other dogs that were sitting in the back of the trailer were also extremely nervous.

Once we arrived in Seneca, we walked east on a lonely road lined with trees, but we didn’t get far. The handlebar broke on my trailer. Back in town, I used the supermarket’s WIFI, the only place in the tiny village with a usable connection, and hoped to find a solution online.

Talyn worked at the supermarket and had a buddy who had been working at various bike shops for years, but he couldn’t find a solution either. So what?

The donkey idea came up once again. There was a woman in Burns who trains wild donkeys, and Talyn immediately drove me there.

But after two days, I concluded again that I have no patience for a donkey! Butch and the donkey in combination would be too much! So, donkey attempt number three was my last donkey attempt!

But how to go on now?

To make things worse, my computer broke down. So, all in all, I had the following series of disheartening issues.

Computer broken, camera broken – then the borrowed camera broken, a lens lost, trailer broken, sleeping pad non-stop flat. 

I contacted Ronny and also the Advertisement Burley company and fortunately got a new trailer sent to Talyn’s place in Seneca. Many THANKS, Burley.

Talyn cooked us self-caught salmon with baked pineapple on the grill. Delicious!

Ronny came to visit us and helped me set up the new trailer, which I planned to use as a rickshaw from then on, because pushing it with Butch was just too annoying.

At first, the rickshaw setup made a good impression, and I was happy about the improvement. Only, unfortunately, I tested the Burley mostly without Butch.

If you pack the cart so that the center of weight is over the wheels, the rickshaw works wonderfully. However, if you have a dog in the cart that can’t be stacked where you want it, it gets tricky.

As soon as Butch sat further forward to get comfortable or to try to be closer to me, the effort became far too great, and shoulder and back pain was the result and only got worse each day.

It’s not working; I kept telling myself! Do something else! And yet I couldn’t throw in the towel just yet!

Ronny offered to transport Butch in the car – as a Sherpa service. But I didn’t feel like that was the answer either.

The moment came when the pain was too much, and I sat down at the side of the road and said to myself: Heike, this is bullshit what you are doing here!

I’m not walking one step further.

I waited for a ride; five hours later, a car came, and we were sitting in a horse trailer again. But this time only for a few miles. After that, a Trooper picked us up and drove us to Vale, the first place where there was phone service. About 50 miles in the wrong direction.

Another day with the thermometer showing 43 degrees and that at 5 pm.

In a dog park I met a dog owner whose dog had been shot because he had gotten too close to the property owners livestock. In Oregon, you can shoot dogs as soon as they harass your livestock. 

Then the following day, the smoke came. Oregon is burning in many places. It’s burning in Idaho, Montana, and there’s no end to the heat in sight. So what?

The climate crisis is in full swing, the very reason I started this walk, but it is precisely the climatic extremes that have thwarted our plans.

My Walk Across America is therefore canceled with a heavy heart – it was not meant to be!

But I will continue to collect money for reforestation because my adventures go on, and so does the climate crisis! 

See you soon – the new adventure will be starting next week, and of course, I will write about it again!

The fundraiser stands at $ 6,180 – so we have already planted 6180 trees!

THANK YOU to everyone who has donated so far!

THANK YOU to Ronny, who helped us a lot! THANK YOU to everyone else who has given us so much love!

THANK YOU also to the following companies who supported our fundraiser walk! Advertisement

sponsored a jogging stroller

sponsored my travel health insurance

sponsored a quilt

Are you interested in supporting Butch on his adventures?

Food, toys, medications, vet fees, etc.

Of course, you will receive a postcard as a thank you.

Butch would be really happy about it! Big thank you!

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Did you like the article? Feel free to share it with your friends!
Big thank you!

I wish the flood victims in Germany all the best!
To my American and Canadian friends: stay safe during the fire season!

11 Comments

  1. Such stark contrasts you and Butch have endured! I’m grateful for those who aided you and shame on the weird, paranoid, narrow minded Americans who can’t cope with reality. You are welcome here anytime, and of course, just a call away for further help with Butch.

    I look forward to your next posting.

    Reply
    • Dear Lorraine,

      thanks very much for your message! Much appreciated and no worries I had a great time!
      Thanks for the offer to learn more about dog training! I am really proud of Butch and how he is growing and behaving these days!
      Butch simply loves the world and it is great to have him on my side!
      Who would have ever thought that a dog can change my life that much! And how much fun it can be to have him.

      We stay in contact and thanks for the offer, I have a few more questions for sure!

      HUGS from the road, Heike

      Reply
  2. I like her drive. It must be a strenuous journey most of the time. The dog is a bit of company. Next time take a female neutered cat – they have been known to be good company and are just as great. Check it out with cat travellers. By car, by Bicycle too. What are you doing for raising your own money? It must cost a lot to travel anywhere these days. Food has gone up too, not only the cost of normal people’s values, like rent, or house payments, insurances, all these things are expensive. You need health insurance and others, it is good you are at the age when it is still possible.

    Reply
    • Dear Martha,
      big thank you for your comment!

      Traveling with a cat and a dog at the same time sounds pretty exhausting to me. One pet is enough for now 🙂

      Yes, the US is expensive, very much so!

      I have a donation button where readers can support us. Sometimes I am able to sell articles for magazines. Living cheaply is the trick, but once the pandemic is over I will head for cheaper countries for sure!

      Best greetings Heike and here is the donation button 🙂
      https://www.pushbikegirl.com/sponsor-me/?lang=en

      Reply
      • Hi Heike, I’m glad you two are safe and escaped the heat and fires. It’s still burning.
        Butch keeps you busy. That’s awesome. Good puppy 🙂
        Don’t beat yourself up over having to discontinue the walk. You made a difference and people aware!
        Stay safe & happy trails!

    • I am so glad we crossed paths Heike! Your passion is inspirational!! That’s all you can do is keep on traveling and spreading the word about climate change. You are making a difference. Sharing your stories brings us all closer together. Hope we cross paths again! Much love to Butch!!

      Reply
      • Thanks for stopping and helping……very nice to have met you!
        All the best Heike & Butch

  3. I was so worried about you and Butch over past month. The lack of recent postings had me assuming the worst. Actually, just the second worst: mission aborted. But what else was there for you? In light of an unprecedented heat wave, enormous fires all around, trailer failure, injury, leaking mattress, and God knows whatever other horrors, what other choice was there?
    None at all. On to the next adventure, a little wiser, a little more humble ( not that you needed that), and a little richer for the experience. Good luck wherever you go, whatever is ahead of you.

    Reply
    • Dear David, thanks for thinking about us! And big thank you for this wonderful comment!
      Best greetings Heike & Butch

      Reply
  4. Hello Heike another wonderful tale of heat dust and Butch.It really is a tough challenge and I guess mush harder with Butch in tow.I could almost feel the heat coming out of your pictures and writing.You have made the right choice in giving up the walk.I once did a ride in 43c and I have to give up after a few hours cycling mid summer. Now that it is autuum in the states hoping you can have a better days ahead.

    Reply
    • Hello Sing,

      big thank you!

      Sadly I have to leave the country…..but I have a new idea…..

      Best greetings to Australia, Heike

      Reply

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