Note: This post may contain an opinion, an observation, or a fact.
News reporters were following President Biden’s visit to Portland, OR, on November 14 and 15, 2022, and mentioned President Carter’s 1980 trip to Kelso, WA. Quotes are from Carter’s full diary of May 22, 1980. “The President [Carter] flew by Marine helicopter from Portland International Airport to Kelso Airport, Kelso, Washington. Enroute the President toured the disaster area surrounding Mount St. Helens.”
Kelso schools were closed because of the May 18 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I hadn’t finished my grading, so I needed to go in and finish a few report cards.
Not knowing about the presidential visit, I turned my father-in-law’s old beater ’55 Ford pickup onto South Pacific Avenue from Yew Street.
I noticed a Kelso Police patrol car across the intersection but paid little attention. At the next block, and each intersection after, there was a barricade and an officer. I’d been in the Kelso Police Reserve for several years and recognized each one as they waved me up the street. I didn’t know they were directing me, not just greeting. But I waved back as if they had just greeted me.
I kept the 25-year-old battered Ford at the 25-mph speed limit and by the time I was near the intersection where the motorcade was to turn on its way to the middle school when I saw gaining flashing lights. Thinking it was an emergency vehicle, I slowed and turned to the side of the street. An officer waved hard – directing me to continue through the cross street.
I pulled into a convenience store/gas station on the corner of North Pacific Ave. and Cowlitz Way and watched the motorcade as it turned on its way to the middle school. I talked with the reserve officer there and only then discovered that I had led a presidential motorcade a mile through town with the battered pickup I’d once driven on the sandy bank of the tidal Cowlitz River.