July 12 & 13, 2008
Seattle To Portland
Odette agreed to ride the STP again this year, but she decided she wanted to do it on her own bike, not on the tandem. I convinced Alex and Carrie to join us. They had really only been riding for one season, but they were up for a challenge. I advertised for partners at work but got no takers. In about April Odette noticed that a place called Great Wolf in Centralia didn’t have a two day minimum and had vacancies for STP weekend so she made reservations for us without even checking what kind of place it was. (She later freaked out when she discovered that it was an elaborate indoor waterpark and that it meant riding an extra ten miles each way.)
Odette and I rode a lot to train for the event, both with Alex and Carrie and on our own. We started with the Chilly Hilly – something we’d never done before. Odette signed us up for the Flying Wheels century – but my work scheduled a fundraising seminar for that day. We rode the 70 mile loop ahead of time and I gave my registration to Alex. He and Carrie and Odette rode the century and were proud of how well they did on the hills. I did my own century the next day. By the time of the event we ended up with about 1,700 miles on the bikes while Alex and Carrie had about 850.
We had a bunch of “firsts” during the training rides. I’d never ridden either east or west Lake Sammamish Parkway before. I’d never successfully ridden the Fall City – Issaquah road back to the Lake Sammamish. (I’d never ridden Duthie Hill road, either, for that matter.) I’d never ridden up Inglewood Hill or Stillwater Hill or Boeing Hill. I’d never ridden on I-90 to High Point Way. I’d never been to Silvana.
On the day of the ride we got up at 5:00, ate breakfast and read the newspapers! We drove over to the UW on 65th so that we could avoid the traffic on 45th. (That was a good call as we didn’t run into congestion until immediately before turning into the parking lot. Alex and Carrie sat in a bumper to bumper mess all the way down the hill.) We stuck our bags into the truck for Centralia and got in line with hundreds of other bikers. Odette insisted on wearing black tights and her Tyvek jacket. We left the UW at 7:00 and regrouped in Seward Park. The climb out of the park was easy and we crused out to Renton and then by Boeing and PASC to the REI headquarters rest stop. Alex and I waited half-an-hour there for Odette and Carrie. We parked on the landscaping. I grabbed a bananna and a vitamin water before we left. (I think that Odette took off a layer there, but I’m not sure.) We rode to Puyallup and stopped at the Rotary mini-stop. A woman there checked Alex and me out before complaining that somebody had stolen her bike. The announcer talked about two guys on skateboards who had just gone through and about a unicyclist who was fifteen minutes ahead.
We rode up the hill (easier than I remembered) and got detoured up a couple more before stopping at the school in Spanaway for lunch (at about 10:30.) We waited a long time for Odette and Carrie there, and then rested a long time after they arrived.
From Spanaway we biked to Ft. Lewis, passing the skateboarders and the Unicyclist and regrouping in both Roy and McKenna. At the latter stop Alex and I found a portapotty that had been recently serviced and which had no line. Odette and Carrie waited in line to go indoors. We stayed on the trail from Yelm to Tenino – bumpy and too narrow, but better than the last time we rode it in an STP. We rested in Tenino and then rode on in to Centralia. I got there about 2:45 and bought the last seats on the shuttle to Great Wolf before Alex showed up. We got creamsicles and waited for Carrie and Odette. They arrived about 3:30 and we picked up our bags, parked our bikes in the corral and caught the shuttle to Great Wolf.
We jostled in the wave pool with a bunch of 10-year olds and packed into the hot tub with a bunch of other STP riders. We ran into the stolen bike lady from Puyallup at the elevators. Odette ran into Collin Romero from her work. We ate a big dinner at the buffet. The waiter didn’t know what beer they had and couldn’t figure out how to get it to our table. Odette tipped him anyway. The room was big, the bed felt really good and there was free wireless. The place evidently caters to families of tourists from out of state. (Starbucks didn’t open until 6:30.) They must have had a couple hundred STP riders trying to get out early in the morning. I expect they’ll do it differently next year.
We reclaimed our bikes and left Centralia at about 7:00 on Sunday morning. Odette started off wearing tights and Tyvek again. The route by the Chehalis airport was slightly different than I remembered. I missed the Dan Henrys while riding into the sun and went three or four blocks out of my way before I backtracked. I found Carrie and Odette when I got back on route but I thought that Alex was out ahead. I tucked in behind three guys in out of town bike jerseys (Spedy Bike Club from Minneapolis) who had underware on their helmets and drafted for maybe five miles before they left me on a hill. I waited after the hill in Napavine but Alex evidently went by without me seeing. When Odette and Carrie arrived so did the stolen bike lady from Puyallup who now had a sprained wrist. She asked Odette to cram her Tyvek jacket into her saddle bag and said she didn’t know if she could make it but that she was going to try to go on another ten miles. How she expectedted to get home from there I don’t know. I met up with Alex in Winlock and we waited a while for Carrie and Odette in the shadow of the worlds largest egg. We cruised through the rollers around Vader and ate lunch in Lexington. There was no toilet paper and no door on the stall in the restroom, but I took a dump anyway. Odette took off her tights and Tyvek. After a long break we rode downhill to Longview and the bridge. Alex and I got in line and Odette and Carrie showed up just before the pulse was released. There was a guy on a tall bike in the lineup ahead of us – we later heard that we was part of a contingent from C.H.U.N.K. The ride down the other side was fun – I told Alex to watch out for water bottles when we crested and as if on que there were a couple bouncing around after the first expansion joint and a bunch of them at the curb along with frame pumps and other debris. Further on there were a group of people fixing their wheels after the joint between the deck and the east approach.
The stop at the Gobel Tavern was in the sun so Alex and I sat on the guardrail on the wrong side of the road and waited for Odette and Carrie. The bank signs in St. Helens said 90 degrees and we took a long break, waiting half-an-hour for Odette and Carrie and then that much more while we ate watermelon and popcorn. I drank a couple liters of water during the break and stood under the mister. We stopped again in Scappoose and found minimal shade by burrowing into the brush. The rest of the way into Portland seemed to be downhill and was much shadier. I had forgotten about the short steep hill just before 200 miles. I remembered the place where it looked like we were going onto I-405 and I remembered the red bridge.
I got to Lloyd Center a little before 3:00 and just ahead of Alex. We waited half-an-hour for Odette and Carrie. We all crossed the finsh line together and immediately put our bikes on the truck. We checked out the booths and went to the beer garden for a little while. Never saw the stolen bike lady, or the skateboarders or the unicyclist or C.H.U.N.K.
We claimed our bags and stowed them on the bus. I changed into a tee shirt in the parking lot and burned my feet on the hot pavement. The bus was packed and hot and slow. I listened to music on my iPhone all the way back to Seattle – 4 hours in traffic. We stopped at a rest area before Olympia but the soda machines weren’t working so I didn’t get anything to drink. Our bikes were in Seattle when the bus got us there.
All in all it was a good ride although there were noticeably fewer tandems and non-traditional bikes this year than on my previous STPs. I felt strong and probably averaged 18 mph or so while on the bike (long breaks really reduced my average elapsed time.) No neck pains or back pains or cramping or even sore limbs. My weight was down 5 pounds the next day though, so I probably should have drunk more. If I do it again I’ll do it in a single day.