Monday, July 16

Seattle To Portland

For those of you who are interested in my (mis)adventures at this year's Seattle-To-Portland ride, I'm sending out this post of what NOT to do on a 200 mile bike ride.
The bus ride was probably the best part of the trip, given that my tardiness allowed me to get nearly the whole bus to myself. I stowed my recumbent in the luggage bin and had everything in one place when I arrived. I set up the bent and trailer with my sign.
There were some issues with the idler pulley, so I stopped at a bike shop and hardware store for some specialty items. Then assurred that the bike would be dependable, I headed off for dinner and to meet my hosts in Seattle.
After finally resolving the bike, I then had the misfortune to get lost in one of the very hilly sections near Lake Washington (there are many). So after struggling with a recumbent and trailer up several 7% grades, I arrived very exhausted at their house. I had connected with this very wonderful couple during pedalpalooza, and asked if they would be willing to let me stay with them for STP. Dick and Mina were very kind and gracious given all of the stuff I had to deal with before getting there. I figured that this would be the easiest way to be near the start point. I had very much enjoyed talking with them about their farflung adventures around the world. They've had an envious lifestyle.
My first mistake, was to be less cautious about the distance from Dick's house to the U of W. By the time I got to the starting point, I'd already covered 7 miles. I finally got my start packet, and raced off with the last of the starting riders. I managed to keep a strong pace and finally caught the rearmost pack of riders in the exurbs of Seattle. I got the first 40 miles done by 11:30 which was still mediocre for me.
It was much more fun when I finally had some other folks to ride with and didn't have to contend with traffic alone. As soon as I reached the first large crowd, I new that my decision to bring the sign was not in vane. Many people saw it, and either avoided conversation (meaning guilt) or appreciated it. Many people thanked me for bringing it. I passed a lot of the same people and had many brief hellos and conversations, but few real connections. The one major highlight of this portion was the unbelievable sky. I enjoyed amazing views of Mt. Ranier capped by amazing cumulous clouds (If I'd had my camera, the ride would have probably taken another hour). Many of the same wonderful farm country greeted me again and I marveled at the vast swaying grasses of the farms. I caught up with Jess & Kronda a few times on the ride, which was amazing. The most incredible part of the ride of course, was the Tenino trail. This path is the main part of the route that I look forward to.
As the day continued to wain, I became nervous about my finish time and I was disapointed that I was making less than 10mph. I later found that this was a combination of being unused to the recumbent for long riding, and the trailer which acted as a drag brake in high winds.
I connected with one rider on the trail who was going slow due to some stomach discomfort. I stopped with him for a bit and we chatted while he recovered. Since I was worried about arriving before dark at this point, I had to leave before he did, so I just let the organizers know that he was there.
I continued on along the trail and despite my fatigue, I relished in the experience of floating through a green tunnel that stretched to the horizon. The sun mildly filtered through the leaves, and the car noise was mitigated by the brush. I returned to the road, and headed towards Centralia with thoughts of nothing but laying horizontal for an hour.
Though I didn't catch Erin, Matt, or *. But I did see Maria and it was great to have someone to chat with at the end. I also talked to a few other people and had some great conversations. After an ice cream, I lurched over to the massage area to find that they were not taking anymore. Then I went to dinner to find that it was meat lasagna. Since I'd had such a hard and disappointing day, I just ate what I could of this. I was simply too tired to care.
It was great to have time to chat with Maria and a few others for dinner, and then I crashed for the night.
I left the next morning and headed to Chahelis for breakfast so as to get some miles before eating. I chatted with Keith Blackwell who is working on extending this trail south from Tenino to Chehalis (just like the Boring folks are doing in Clackamas). This was very exciting and I told him that I'd refer him to some folks. It was really great to catch Matt and Erin during breakfast (boy I'm sad Erin's leaving). I had some pancakes and eggs, before running off to start the next day. The second day is also very wonderful for the first half. In fact it's the middle 100 miles which really make the trip worthwhile. The first 40 miles out of Seattle and the last 50 miles in Portland are both high traffic and noisy. But that being said, I really love going through Toledo, Vader, and many of the towns in the area. In Vader I caught up with a really fun guy who had the same bike I did, and he had some outrageous jokes. We rode along at the same pace for awhile and so had plenty of good-natured bantering. I wonder what he thought of my sign since his support vehicle was a full-sized van.
Anyway at the next rest stop after that I started with more sunscreen and water since the heat was getting oppressive. I also met up with Aimee who would normally have been about the same pace as me (without the trailer) and we talked at the next few rest stops. We also seemed to have a great camaraderie.
Shortly after lunch I left the ride and traveled south from Kelso to see what the Washington route would look like. I remembered how unpleasant the ride over the L&C bridge and Hwy 30 was, so I decided to leave the official STP route, and the helpful markers and make my own way.
For the first 40 miles or so it was great. I traveled south on only two-lane roads and kept pretty well on the route. I got plenty of gaterade and food due to the heat. However it was near Kalama that I made a fatal mistake. I took the wrong section of Green Mtn. Road which climbed about 2000 feet through only a couple of miles. For a recumbent rider who's riden 160 miles already, this was an unbelievable test of will (and of Aaron). I did persevere, but with a huge time loss. Finally I managed to get back to Old Pacific Hwy and stopped at a great farmstand on 279th. The woman who ran it was a former cyclist and knew all the hills and routes.
I got 4 pints of fruit to re-energize, and got some advice for routes. However after looking more closely at my map, I decided that I-5 would be shorter and flatter. This was a great decision since the traffic practically pushed me into Vancouver. I made 6 miles in about 1/2 hour. I also found someone's cellphone on the shoulder who was very grateful that a cyclist had traveled on I-5.
Unfortunately since Vancouver has nowhere near the transit system that Portland does, there were no buses running at 7:30 on a Sunday, but after continuing to downtown Vancouver, I caught the Trimet bus back to Portland. And yes I did eventually get to the finish line.
Total miles - 207