Monday, May 17, 2010

World Peace Guy

If you live in one part of Spokane, you have the "opportunity" to drive up and down, and ride up and down, Hatch Road. Hatch has the interesting distinction of being a half city road and a half county road. I don't really know how it works, but I do know that you are in the City of Spokane on one side and not on the other. In any case, Hatch Road connects Highway 195 with the top of the South Hill at 57th Street. It is 1.5 miles long and it is quite steep. I don't know the total elevation change, but from my perspective the gradient goes from "oh my gravy, this is steep" up to "crocheting would make a better hobby than this" steep, with a very few meters of "sweet Jesus thank you for leveling out the road even if it is only for 10 yards" (you have to proclaim all Jesus-related distances in American or Imperial terms; Jesus doesn't do metric).

I once heard that Hatch had a similar gradient to one of the famous Tour de France climbs; the difference being that Hatch is 1.5 miles and Col du Whatever was 8 miles, but it does give you an idea of what the Euro-pros ride.

None of this is really the point to today's ramble, however. Theoretically I could go on at great length about the MR riding up Hatch most days (or is that racing up Hatch?), but the reality is that when I make the MR, I usually turn off and head home rather than take the 2nd trip up and when I have, I have been far enough away from the action that I can't really do it justice. You will have to get that story from Rider One or Two.

In any case, about 2/3's or 4/5'th of the way up the hill, there is a two-part concrete barrier on the right side of the road. I have no idea why it is there. It is, however, a handy reference point and I have heard many tales of the hill that mention this barrier. It is noteworthy in the story because it's handy as a reference point and because of the words that are painted onto the barrier, "World Peace." So you will hear someone say something like, "I was in front up to World Peace but then I was passed by _____," or, "We were spread out, but the group came back together at World Peace," or, if it was my story, something like, "I blacked out from lack of oxygen and hit my head on World Peace."

World Peace is such a landmark on this hill and for the MR, that it is mentioned on the MR jerseys.

Unfortunately, the world at large was not always at peace with World Peace. At times people would paint over the positive message with ideas or suggestions that were, shall we say, less positive. At times people would comment directly on the World Peace message. For instance, someone covered up World Peace with "F___ Terrorists". Other times, people would just paint over World Peace with random messages, like "F___ YOU!" It was one of these times that prompted me to become like the Dread Pirate Roberts of painting jersey barriers on Hatch. In other words, I knew that others ahead of me had repainted World Peace many times but my turn had come.

I was motivated by two things. I knew that World Peace was part of the MR lore. It was an important symbol or icon in the ride, almost daily. At the same time, I had two kids in elementary school and their route to school every day was to go up Hatch in the morning and back down in the afternoon. I didn't like the idea of my kids seeing "F___ YOU!" every day on the way to school. Putting aside that they didn't know the word yet, it just didn't seem like a nice send-off in the final minutes before school started. Besides, saying "I was hanging onto _____'s rear wheel until F____ YOU!" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Like most everyone who rides or drives up Hatch, I also waited for the mysterious painter of World Peace to come in and re-paint this pleasant thought, but after enough time went by, I had to accept that whoever had been re-establishing the message had other things on his or her mind. And, lacking the sense of most people who go up and down the road, for some reason I decided that I would be "World Peace" guy for a while.

The first time I did it, I waited until late dusk and drove up to the sign. I had no idea whether this would be considered defacement of public property or whether it was illegal in some other way, so I figured that darkness and hiding behind my car was a good idea. I spray painted my message and got out there quickly. Interestingly, just a couple of days after I did my work, someone else came along and painted over it with "Kill Terrorists". I thought that this was an unnecessary response to World Peace and it steeled my resolve to put up and keep World Peace on this barrier.

The other thing that I did was resolved to not tell anyone except my wife and two kids. I'm not sure why, but I liked the idea that someone else had started it, I was doing it for whatever my term as World Peace guy would be, and then I hoped that someone else would take over for me later. Honestly, my proudest moment was going to be the day that I showed up to re-establish the message and find that someone else had done it.

There were times that I had to take a bucket of paint and paint the whole surface before I could spray paint my message, and other times it just took a quick touch-up. I almost always did my work early or late, but my favorite time was on a December 31 as my family and I headed out to a New Year's Eve dinner. I just liked the idea of Hatch travelers finding "World Peace" back to celebrate the first day of the new year and my kids loved the cloak and dagger nature of it all.

I don't know for sure how many years that I took over painting World Peace. Sometimes I would paint it 2-3 times in a month, but other times many months would go by with the sign unmolested.

I was surprised one day a couple of years ago to discover that someone had started some kind of work on the jersey barriers. I wasn't sure whether they were going to be moved or what was going on, but it turned out that the first person who painted World Peace in the mid-to-late 90's had taken it back on again as a service project. He repaired the concrete surface, painted it white, stenciled the words nicely and then put multiple coats of anti-graffiti coating on it. I didn't know who or why this was being done until it was reported in the Spokesman Review. Here is his story: [Partial link - so see story below at "Message on a Mission"].

After that, I did tell a couple of people about my stint as World Peace guy, but very few. I decided a while ago that it would make a good blog topic and sat down after riding on Sunday to tell this story. I did a search to see if I could find a link to the Spokesman story and was surprised to find that the original World Peace guy, Steve Osmonson, had passed away this month but that his message on Hatch Road was mentioned in his obituary. His obit is here, down a ways on the page: [The link died - so see "Steve Osmonson" below].

I never met Steve and now never will. I don't know who else will take on the job of being World Peace guy after this and I don't know if I will. I do hope, however, that somebody will. Maybe it's your turn to be World Peace guy.
Rider Three - Former World Peace Guy


  1. If I ever try to ride up Hatch I'm sure the response of my system will be much closer to whirled peas than to World Peace.

  2. Steve is my dad. Thank you for carrying on his message, it means more than I can ever explain.