Sunday, July 23

Seattle To Portland

This weekend's STP was an incredible experience. 7-8000 of us went to the University of Washington just so that we could ride 200+ miles in a single weekend. There were so many awesome people on amazing bikes that I truly had sensory overload.

We started out at the Amtrak station in Portland where I saw a few of the Portland crew heading up on a train line added just for STP. The ride was incredibly beautiful and scenic. I chatted with Carl Larson who's been a great advocate in Portland, and also with Ellee Thalheimer who was doing STP in one day. What really cracked me up was that I sat next to a woman who was visiting Seattle and showed her on the map where I was staying overnight (which was about 4-5 miles from the station) and she looked at me incredulously, "You're going to bike 5 miles?!"

It was great fun to arrive at the Seattle station and put my bike together along with a couple dozen other people. We all shared tools, advice, and encouragement. I connected with a friend of one rider who helped us all get from the station to the University and that saved a lot of time.

Saturday morning I got the the start at 4:30am just in time to see the first of the insanely fast one day riders going off. There was a huge amount of support, both mechanically and logistically. I had a chance to true up my wheels before handing off my bags and .

Unfortunately I made the mistake of doing an errand in downtown Seattle and then had to figure out how to get from downtown over to Lake Washington Blvd which was across a highway and a small mountain range. Even with a Seattle map it was very difficult to find out how to get across, and I probably did an extra 3-4 miles. But I did get to see the Space Needle.

After connecting with a couple of local cyclists, I found my way to the lake, and had a blast cycling through southern Seattle and on down Washington State. I passed the aftermath of one crash where a cyclist went down when two riders got to close to each other. There wasn't much we could do for him, he was just scraped up. So we put a light bandage on him and I rode with him to the next rest stop so he could get it dressed. On that note it amazed me that people always think that cycling is dangerous. But on a ride like this with thousands of other people, most of the crashes involve nothing more than minor cuts & scrapes (more on that later).

At the same rest stop I met up with Bob who is a handicapt cyclist. Now I've met several handicapt cyclists before who use arm-powered trikes, but this individual had only ONE ARM. He powered, steered and shifted all with his one arm (Lance eat your heart out). This really blows every excuse I've heard out of the water. If a guy with only one limb can cycle to work every day, there is no reason why people with all four limbs can't do so.

As we left the suburbs of Seattle behind, we began winding our way through smaller farm towns like Puyallup. The scenery here became much more pleasant and the roads much quieter. Somewhere out here in farm country I passed the second really interesting bike. The guy had cow fabric around his bike rack, and a horse head attached to the handlebars. His decorations would be perfect on any shift event.

At the halfway point I caught up with Greg Raisman who was driving his cadillac. With the dash mounted cupholders and stereo system, he could even make Timo jealous. I thought it would be fun to ride with him a ways and enjoy some tunes as well. But to my amazement the longer bike didn't slow him down one bit. He left me in the dust on the first descent (I'll show you that a cadillac is not a [bike] to scorn).

I was able to chat with so many interesting people on the ride. I rode alongside two guys who had just crossed the country, and arrived in Seattle shortly beforehand. They decided to ride with us (since they were going that way anyway) and did another 130 something miles that day (fully loaded). I talked with a guy from New York who recognized my Transportation Alternatives sticker (yes I took the old commuter bike on this trip).

There were also several people on tandems, trikes, folding bikes, fixies, high-tech carbon bikes, a unicycle, a scateboard, and everything else you could think of. We also had a lot of support from the folks we passed. People would come out to chear us on, sell lemonade, or give out water. In Roy we even had a local dairy giving out chocolate milk.

At Tenino we had the opportunity to hop onto a beautiful rails-to-trails. The ride was so much more pleasant with only quiet bike traffic. I said hello to Elly Blue who was looking spiffy in her bike regalia, and then I continued on this great trail. About 15 miles from the midpoint I was passed by a two guys on a tandem recumbent trike. As many folks know I've become not only a bike-junkie, but also a trike-junkie. I figured that his is probably my only chance to see a manufactured tandem-trike up close. So I made it my point to keep up with them until their next stop. Well apparently I didn't realize what I was getting into, because they were averaging a 20mph cruising speed and had much less wind resistance. I did a pretty good job of keeping up for 10 miles or so, but they did eventually lose me on a long descent and got to Centralia about 10 minutes ahead.

Well it was a huge thrill getting into Centralia and setting a new personal record of 105 miles in less than 9 hours (including getting lost time). Not only that, but I did it with no lycra, no jersey, no carbon, and most importantly; no support SUV (not that I'm against some of the useful bike gear, I just want people to understand that it isn't required). I sat around like a zombie for awhile before connecting with my friend Eric. We had a blast enjoying lunch at local spot in Centralia and chatting with the people. After that I rode back a mile or so to get some great shots of people coming in.

Centralia College had become transformed into a tent city (albiet a high tech one) during the afternoon. Every patch of unpaved land was covered in tents occupied by exhausted bikers. They really pulled out the red carpet for us (literally) I did some more work on my bike thanks to a local mechanic near Centralia College, listened to some good blues tunes, and then headed in for the night.

The next day I decided to take it easy, since Portland is nothing new to me, I wanted to drink in my fill of the beautiful rural areas which are normally too far away (and sometimes unsafe). So I woke up at a leisurely 5:30 and had a great pancake breakfast (sans ).

We each headed out individually this time and cruised out of town through the most beautiful countryside I've seen in a long time. I soaked in the countryside and had a wonderful ride through this area. But then the hills came. Those who have ridden with me know that I do very well on flat roads and inclines, but I have real trouble with descents. So I ended up losing a lot of time compared to those around me. I also took very few pictures.

One thing that was interesting was that only a few people caught the non-sexual innuendo behind my sign. A lot of people may have thought I was just being lustful, but I was just using the humor to make a point to the 90% of riders who ride in their vehicles with their 'vehicle' on top and then drive the bike for recreation.

Some of the interesting comments I heard from people around me; One driver asked what we were out riding for. The guy quickly responded "Self punishment." To which I responded, "It's the Ride for Masochism 2006."

I believe it was in Lexington that we stopped at a school where the kids were selling food and drinks to the riders. The group was raising money for the "Future Business Leaders of America." It's a big sticking point to me that we spend so many millions of tax dollars on road widening and improvement projects, but yet schools have to do fundraisers for basic necessities. So I told these kids in business terms what was going on. I said that the cost of sending a child to college is about $6800 per year for 18 years [source unsubstantiated]. Meanwhile the cost of owning and operating a motor vehicle is $7200 per year [AAA]. Therefore if a parent gives up one car shortly after their child is born, they save enough money to pay for a full college sholorship.

We passed through some more interesting little towns (like Vader) and eventually reached our lunch point. Here the food started getting scarce and there were some limits on what was available. The park was beautiful though and I had a great lunch with Greg Raisman, his wife Beth, and some of their friends.

We all headed on toward Longview and towards Oregon. A couple of miles from the bridge I saw traffic backed up in a huge line, While the right lane was filled with bikes speeding by. The drivers were probably upset, but it was much more safe and peaceful to be able to ride comfortably past so much traffic (and they were probably warned ahead that there would be a traffic jam). The reason for the traffic became clear when we reached the Lewis & Clark Bridge (which niether Lewis, Clark, or anyone on foot would be willing to cross). As with most other state river crossings, there is only enough room for vehicles and nothing else. So traffic had to be held back while several hundred cyclists at a time were sent across. It was pretty grueling due to the high span and thus the large incline. But we made it to Oregon and on to Hwy 30. While I expected that the whole of Hwy 30 would be miserable (as it is near Portland), the outskirts by Goble and Dear Island were actually beautiful (due to the road being only two lanes here).

I saw a most incredible crash along Hwy 30 where two cyclists had ridden close to each other. The first thing I saw was a woman riding on the gravel at the edge of the road and I just knew she was going to fall. She fell into the path of oncoming riders and the man directly behind her actually rode over her head. A few yards down he threw himself off the bike and practically endoed himself in his concern for the woman. I checked on both of them, and it turns out that the helmet had saved her from getting injured. What was so amazing was that in this particularly scary crash, the worst injury sustained was a slight scraping of her skin. These crashes are usually not debilitating because of the high degree of manueverability and low weight of the bicycle.
Interestingly enough I kept thinking we were almost done by the time we hit St. Helens, because for me these areas are withing cycling distance of home, so it seemed really close. But after doing 175 miles, there was definately plenty of distance and hill climbing to tire us out. For any of you who have ridden to Sauvie's Island, or Scappoose, you know how unpleasant the road is. So I'm going to look into alternative ways to Portland, probably on the 205 crossing. I left the ride and took Kittridge Ave to Front Street. This route has more tracks, but hardly any cars on the weekends. The ride into Portland was pretty common, and I took my favorate bike paths to Lloyd Center. At the end I got my badge of honor and chatted with some folks at the park.
This was definately the most grueling, exciting, amazing, and memorable ride that I've done in at least 5 years. Thanks to the Cascade Bike Club, the volunteers, the supportive residents along the way, and everyone who helped put it on.