Camas man promotes cycling, history through Vancouver Bicycle Club events

History on wheels

Joe Blanco moved to Camas from Pennsylvania in October, and hasn’t wasted time getting involved in his new hometown. He leads bicycle and walking tours focusing on the history of the Clark County area.

History on wheels

Vancouver Bicycle Club events

30th annual Ride Around Clark County When: Saturday, May 4, starting between 6:30 and 9 a.m.

Distances: Four loops including 18, 34, 65 to 100 miles. All distances start and finish at Clark College on Fort Vancouver Way.

Registration fees: Adult 100-, 65-, or 34-mile routes cost $35; and adult 18-mile route costs $25. The fee for youth riders ages 13 to 17 is $15, while kids 12 and younger can participate free. There is a $5 discount for pre-registering online prior to May 1, or by mail-in registration postmarked by April 29. VBC members are offered an additional $5 discount for any registration including day-of-ride.

For route details or to sign up: Visit www.vbc-usa.com/r...>

Rides around Clark County with Joseph Blanco

Camas-Washougal Stroll: Monday, April 15 at noon

History on Display: Tuesday, April 16 at noon

Scenic & Serene on Old Evergreen: Tuesday, April 23 at noon

10-11-12 Ride: Wednesday, April 24, at noon

To view route details, visit www.vbc-usa.com; click on “Ride Calendar.” To sign up, contact Blanco at (610) 442-1165 or joblanco@me.com.

A Camas man has taken two of his lifelong passions and fused them together to promote the beauty and background of the local area.

“I love biking and history — they are my passions,” said Joe Blanco. “If I can mix them, I will mix them.”

And mix them he has.

Like many children, growing up Blanco went everywhere on his bicycle. In his early 20s, he began bicycling for fitness — first road bicycling then off-road.

About 13 years ago while living in Pennsylvania, he took his interest a step further and became involved with a non-profit cycling education and advocacy group in Bethlehem. He went on to become certified to teach basic education classes through the League of American Bicyclists.

Blanco’s interest in history was also planted at a young age, and continued to grow as he earned master’s and doctorate degrees in American history. He has taught courses at the college graduate level, and spent much of his career in the private sector as a vice president of organizational development and training. Blanco, now 68, retired from full-time work in 2003.

He and his wife, Susan, have lived in several different states including North Carolina and Arizona, and in each location he always sought out projects and volunteer opportunities that allowed him to channel his long-held interests.

So when the couple moved to Camas from Pennsylvania in October 2012, he wasted no time in immersing himself in the local community.

Blanco is currently serving on the board of the Camas-Washougal Historical Society and the Vancouver Bicycle Club, and volunteering as a historian and speaker for activities associated with National Parks Service and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

With the VBC, he has developed a series of bike rides and walking tours, several of which highlight the historical nuances of the Camas, Washougal, Vancouver and Clark County areas.

“The rides I lead are geared toward people who don’t want to ride 20 mph and just go from point A to point B,” he said. “That is the approach I take with all of my rides, as well as emphasizing safety and instruction.”

The “Camas-Washougal Stroll,” ride takes participants past sites including the Pendleton Woolen Mills, Cottonwood Beach, the Camas Cemetery, the John Roffler House and the Pittock Leadbetter Mansion, and includes a pit stop for coffee at Caffe Piccolo in downtown Camas.

“History on Display” includes bicycling around the Vancouver National Historic Site and the Kaiser Shipyards Memorial.

The “Scenic & Serene Old Evergreen” route takes bicyclists along the Old Evergreen Highway, and participants in the “10-11-12” flat route travel 10 miles at speeds of no more than 11 mph. The ride begins at noon.

“I get riders from all over the county,” Blanco said. “Anybody can come on a bike ride. It gives people an appreciation of the area and its history. Camas-Washougal is so rich — there is so much history.

“It’s a different twist,” he continued. “I think that is what makes history interesting, telling these stories and tidbits that may not be part of a person’s general knowledge of an area.”

Currently, Blanco is also heavily involved in the promotion of one of the Vancouver Bicycle Club’s most popular events. On May 4, the 30th annual Ride Around Clark County, billed as the “largest cycling event in Southwest Washington,” is expected to draw hundreds of participants.

“The Vancouver Bicycle Club welcomes cycling enthusiasts of all ability levels,” said Dennis Johnson, president of the club. “Our mission is to promote cycling, educate, and encourage safe riding.”

Blanco said riders from age 4 to 70 and older will pedal through some of Clark County’s most scenic country.

“There are a lot of good opportunities to see the county in this ride,” he said.

Riders start at Clark College between 6:30 to 9 a.m. Routes are marked and riders are encouraged to travel at their own pace with a choice of four distances: 18-, 34-, 65-, and 100-mile loops.

Restrooms, first aid, food, and beverages are available at three rest stops and the start and finish points. Local bike shops, including Camas Bike & Sport, will volunteer mechanical support at the starting point and at all rest stops.

Entry fees range from $15 to $35, depending on the distance.

Proceeds from the event benefit several different organizations including American Diabetes Association, Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Oregon, Bike Clark County, Friends of Three Creeks Library, Volcano Rescue Team and Waste Connections’ Christmas Bicycle Program.

“As a big club, we get involved with advocacy, safety and education,” he said.

Three of the Ride Around Clark County loops travel around Lacamas Lake in Camas.

“There is something for everybody in this type of ride,” he said. “There is support throughout the ride — mechanical support and food and drink. The only thing we keep our fingers crossed on is the weather.”