Notes from the Stoker: What Grows in Umatilla County

I cannot see directly ahead when I ride behind Charlie on the tandem bike. His broad back blocks the view. I certainly can see what is beside us.  The other day we took a long ride on the backroads and I kept a mental count of what we saw.

This is what I wrote when we got home.

Riding the tandem bike through the countryside of Umatilla County has been a feast for the eyes and nose, but not the taste buds. No, we would never stop to taste those strawberries that are so perfectly ripe at the side of the road. And we wouldn’t dare pluck the blueberries off those bushes, the miles and miles of blueberries growing out….well I am not going to tell you where. Melons, cantaloupe to be exact, we spotted just starting to form into the roundness that will serve as bowls for the fruit and some vanilla bean ice cream, a specialty at our house. We are not touching those until they are ripe, and only in the store. But those apricots falling off the tree into the road, we will pick up a couple next time we pass, pretending we are stopping only to gulp from our water bottles. I saw a plant, a mysterious plant I had never seen in this particular field. I asked Charlie as were climbing a two-mile hill and he huffed and then he “puffed” out…”HEMP”. If you want to find that field you need to get on your bike and ride where the riders ride. You’ll know it when you see it.
There was the usual corn, “knee-high by July”. Hay fields were mowed and the alfalfa waited patiently in rows to have the perfect moisture content to bale.
Nearly 30 miles of agricultural touring and we turned into the wind, which they harvest around here also, and headed home. The variety of crops was enlightening but did nothing to fill the emptiness in my stomach. We made it home for a 9 pm dinner of nothing grown along the backroads around Hermiston. Except, well, maybe, a strawberry that found its way into the pocket of Charlie’s cycling jersey. nummy.

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