Photo contributed by Wanda Hunt
Hermiston residents Richard Scarlett and Jerry Cullers enjoyed reminiscing this summer about a bicycle trip they took 50 years ago from Seattle to Montreal, Canada.
The two met as grade schoolers at West Park Elementary School in Hermiston. They maintained contact as teens, even when their families moved to Washington within a couple of weeks of each other — Cullers’ family to the Renton area and Scarlett’s to Tacoma. The fast friends often spent weekends together at each other’s houses. As young teenagers, the pair even rode their bikes to Hermiston on a couple of occasions.
Plans for the roughly 2,800-mile journey fell into place after the pair wrote to Dan Evans, Washington’s governor at the time. The 17-year-olds received financial support from the governor’s office, who also put them in touch with officials from the Seattle World’s Fair. The connections continued, which led to the Leo Scherrer Co. of Seattle, who donated bicycles for the trip.
On June 17, 1967, a contingency of mayors attending a convention saw the duo off at the base of the Space Needle, the site of the 1962 World’s Fair. During the trip, they camped, stayed in the homes of mayors and occasionally in motels. The most unusual accommodations included the back of a U-Haul type truck and a jail cell — although they weren’t actually incarcerated.
The teens mapped out plans for trip, which included stops to meet officials, speak at civic groups and participate in youth activities. They anticipated it would take 40 days — it ended up taking 62 days before they arrived at Montreal, Canada, the site of Expo ‘67.
Cullers said that the people they met along the way were friendly and went out of their way to help them.
“It was probably the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done,” Scarlett said. “It was the trip of a lifetime.”