Gorge dwellers redefine active lifestyle


News staff writer

August 5, 2006

Summer in the Gorge can be an exciting time. People flock to the water to windsurf or kiteboard, lace up hiking boots and hit the local trails; others head out to attractions such as Multnomah Falls for some sightseeing. And then there are those who spend their summer breaking world records, riding for the U.S national mountain biking team in New Zealand, or biking across the United States. Gorge residents are known for being active, but a few have taken that concept to new levels.

Hood River residents first heard of Rainer Hertrich last July, when he showed up on Mount Hood to continue a streak of skiing 619 days. That was nearly double the previous world record for consecutive days skied. Last week, Hertrich hit 1,000 consecutive days. While not a full-time resident (Hertrich grooms ski trails in his native Colorado the majority of the year), Hertrich nonetheless has achieved some level of local celebrity. While he has now nearly tripled the old world record, Hertrich has no intention of stopping anytime soon.

“I have not decided on a stop day,” Hertrich said. “I’ll keep going until life stops me or until I get injured or sick.”

Over the course of his epic ski trip Hertrich has descended 34.2 million feet according to his altimeter. While bodily injuries and age have not slowed him down, the lack of snow and unsure travel plans have almost brought his streak to an end several times. This time, though, barring injury, he is already set for when Timberline closes in the fall. He just recently received a call from a friend in South America offering him a house to use when he migrates south to tackle the slopes there.

While Hertrich is busy tearing down mountains on skis, a local rider has caught on with a U.S. national team by doing it on a bike. Spencer Paxson, who works in the Discover Bicycle shop, was recently tabbed by USA Cycling as one of 22 discretionary picks to complete the 60-rider roster for the 2006 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in New Zealand. Paxson will be competing as part of the U23 Cross Country team.

“This has been one of my big goals since I first started taking (mountain biking) seriously a few years ago,” Paxson said.

Paxson has been riding competitively for six years, and has been all across the country for a competition. However, the trip to New Zealand will be his first time competing outside the United States, and his first time competing for the national team.

“It kind of sinks in a little more each day,” Paxson said.

Paxson is currently in Utah, competing in the national cross country series which he hopes will “keep the competitive juices flowing” before he heads to New Zealand for the World Championships Aug. 22-27. In between races, he hopes to squeeze in a few work days at the Discover shop, just like any other summer.

Spencer Paxson has traveled all around the country to compete in mountain biking, jetting from race to race. One local family has taken a more direct route in their bicycling journey: straight across from coast to coast. The DeSitter family, Lou and Linda DeSitter and their daughters Sara, 17, and Teresa, 15, flew to Maine on June 16, where they picked up bikes from Mountain View Cycle that they had shipped ahead of time. They put their back wheels into the Atlantic Ocean and started pedaling, intent on putting the front wheels of their bikes into the Pacific.

Six years ago the family did a lengthy backpacking trip, and the idea of a cross country bicycling excursion began to form. Their journey has taken them through some of America’s biggest cities and landmarks, to the middle of nowhere, and it has been anything but easy.

“We’ve had all sorts of weather from hail to extreme heat,” Linda DeSitter said by cell phone from North Dakota. “We get up at 3:30 every morning to leave at the crack of dawn.”

Although they have had to camp wherever they can a few times, by and large the DeSitters try to find inexpensive hotels to stay at for the night because it keeps their spirits up.

During their journey the DeSitters have found kindness all across the country: From a priest who gave them a place to stay for the night after a tire blowout, to residents in towns like Stillwater, Minn., which according to the Stillwater Gazette, offered them laundry service, lunch and cold drinks.

The DeSitters just recently passed through Rugby, N. D., the geographic Center of North America, and plan to finish up their trek on Sept. 2.

“The kids start school Sept. 5 so we have to make it back around then!” Linda DeSitter said.

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