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About Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current | View This Issue
S ERVING THE S ILVERTON A REA S INCE 1880
50 C ENTS
V OL . 135, N O . 16
A U NIQUE E DITION OF THE S TATESMAN J OURNAL
W EDNESDAY , A PRIL 6, 2016
Silverton couple tour
the world by bicycle
WILLIAM L. SULLIVAN/
SPECIAL TO THE STATESMAN JOURNAL
Maiden Peak Shelter can be buried in snow
in the winter.
CHRISTENA BROOKS/SPECIAL TO THE APPEAL TRIBUNE
Laura and Rod Wanker sit on their front porch at home, two weeks after returning from two months cycling in Southeast Asia.
Pair has logged
70,000 miles in
last 2 decades
SPECIAL TO THE APPEAL TRIBUNE
As they’ve traveled the world dur-
ing the past two decades, Rod and Lau-
ra Wanker have learned to ask locals
the same three questions:
“Is the road good?”
“Is the road bad?”
“Is the road under construction?”
Whether they’re in Myanmar or
Mexico, this Silverton couple inquires
about road conditions like another
tourist might ask for a bathroom, taxi
or hotel. This is critical information
because they travel by bicycle, pur-
posely pedaling to places and people
far off the beaten path.
By the numbers, the pair can ac-
count for 11,225 miles of bike touring
where they carried their own gear, and
another 7,500 of supporting touring at
events such as the Oregon Bicycle
Ride. They’ve each logged an estimat-
ed 70,000 miles on a bike, much of it to-
Clearly, they love bike tourism – not
with warm and fuzzy feelings but with
a fierce passion that’s lasted a lifetime.
At 68 and 56 respectively, Rod and Lau-
ra joke ruefully about being “elder
statesmen” in the international biking
crowd, but age has not changed their
COURTESY OF ROD AND LAURA WANKER
Laura Wanker rides through the Bagan Archeological Zone in Myanmar. Although she's
posing hatless for this photo, she noted that the couple always wears helmets.
commitment to experiencing the
world this way.
“We like a challenge,” Rod says.
“We don’t do well going on vacation
and just lying on the beach, reading
books. We get a lot of satisfaction out of
trying to figure things out.”
Figuring things out – at least the
ahead-of-time part – falls to Laura, the
planner. A part-time tutor with the Sil-
ver Falls School District, she is
thoughtful and meticulous. She spent
months preparing for the couple’s two-
month bike trip in Vietnam, Cambodia,
Laos and Myanmar this winter.
Her planning process goes some-
thing like this: choose countries, read
blogs and websites, check routes and
elevation on www.RideWithGPS.com,
use Google Maps and Google Earth to
If there were ever a year to remind
Oregonians that weather forecasters
don’t know quite everything, this win-
ter brought proof.
The rainy season began with a seri-
ous amount of pessimism, as forecast-
ers and climatologists fretted about a
strong El Nino fueling a third straight
winter of thin snowpack.
Oregon was already mired in a his-
toric drought — following one of the
hottest and driest years on record in
2015 — and the consensus was more
bad news was headed our way.
“I remember being really worried in
October,” said Kathie Dello, deputy di-
rector of the Oregon Climate Service at
Oregon State University. “All the signs
were pointing to another bad year.”
Yet the nightmare scenario never
Now, the Beaver State has a robust
snowpack and healthy reservoir stor-
age. Even with summertime temper-
atures gracing the Willamette Valley
this week, the Northwest should have a
fairly normal summer in terms of wa-
“The take home is that we’re in ex-
cellent condition at this point,” said
Scott Oviatt, snow survey supervisor
for the Natural Resources Conserva-
tion Service in Oregon. “It remains to
be seen how quick the snowmelt oc-
curs. If it happens too quickly, we could
still have issues.”
So what happened to all those pre-
dictions of doom and gloom?
Well, in a word, Oregon got lucky.
The power of El Nino tilted more
northward than expected during De-
cember, sending a deluge of precipita-
tion that happened to coincide with a
system of cool air.
The result was massive snow in Ore-
gon’s mountains during late December
and early January — a whopping 200
percent of normal in some parts of the
Eventually El Nino’s wrath moved
south and Oregon did experience a
warmer than normal winter, particular-
ly in February. Snowpack dropped all
the way down to 70 percent of normal in
the Willamette Basin during February,
and a large-scale melt-off seemed pos-
See BICYCLE TOURING, Page 4A
See SNOWPACK, Page 3A
Most signs are pointing
to a regular summer at
The reservoir east of
Salem remains on pace to
reach its maximum sum-
mertime water level de-
spite dry weather expect-
ed during coming weeks,
officials with the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers
The lake’s level was
1,541 feet above sea level
Friday, which is slightly
above average for this
time of year and 40 feet
higher than a year ago.
Maximum capacity for
summer is 1,563.5 feet.
“I would say that with
anything close to an aver-
age runoff for the rest of
the spring, we’re pretty
confident that we’ll be
(full) by May 5,” Army
Corps of Engineers public
affairs specialist Scott
See WATER LEVEL, Page 2A
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