Seattle To Portland

Months ago Jason invited (challenged?) us to ride STP (Seattle To Portland) with him. I used to work with Jason at Linux Networx and we had a good cycling group there. The company is no more and we've all gone our separate ways. Jason went to Seattle for a job so he invited us out to ride STP. Four of us took the bait.

Wednesday I packed the van and Thursday after work I went to Kevin's home in Sugarhouse to pick him up and two other bikes (Robert and Anne were flying out). We drove to Nampa (just outside Boise) arriving around 11 pm and slept the night.

Friday morning we got up and drove to Seattle. Even though eastern Oregon and Washington are bland, I had never been through this area so I enjoyed taking in the newness. Dropping into the Seattle area we drove through thick pine forests down a canyon and past Keechelus lake. Rather enjoyable driving. We turned south before Seattle and drove down to Bonnie Lake where Jason lives. Off the highways the road winds all over following the hilly terrain. We got lost a bit, but found his home.

We settled in, talked, had a delicious pasta dinner (Jason worked as a chef for a few years and he can cook up a fine meal) then finally got to bed. I didn't sleep much.

At 2:30 am we got up and got ready. Jason cooked us a good breakfast of oatmeal pancakes and scrambled eggs. We loaded up the van, left the house around 3:30 am and arrived at the University of Washington (the start of the ride) near 4:30. We were dropped off by Spencer, who drove us and drove my van down to Portland - I'm very grateful for his help! We pedaled into the start area and lined up. We left around 4:55 am.

This event was sold out so there must have been nearly the limit of 9,000 riders. It's a huge event, but very well organized and executed.

Rolling out in the first wave of riders the dawn was just beginning and there was just enough light to see to ride. The morning was cool but it felt good to me. The mass of riders wound through the city streets making our way south.

We skipped the first rest stop but stopped at the second one sponsored by REI. Here's part of the crowd:

Out of the city the scenery changed.

Jason's happy to be riding.

Going through the suburban towns outside Seattle was OK, but slowed by all the stop lights. Somewhere along the way I got a flat. It was a slow leak so I pumped it up and rode on, making it to the next rest stop where it was mushy again. I checked the tire for thorns and put in a new tube.

Around 5 miles later I got another flat. A support crew stopped and sold me another tube, but it had a bad valve and wouldn't hold air. Another crew came buy and I bought another tube, but I was having trouble making it work with it's short valve stem and my moderately deep wheel. I ended up using the patched tube from the first flat. I wasn't happy about spending so much time with this flat and I was nervous that it wouldn't hold. But luckily it held to the finish.

Once we got out of the suburban areas and into the more rural, the riding was outstanding. At one point we took a bike path that was around 10 miles long. It cut through thick stands of pines and meadows.

At the end was a rest stop where we filled up on more water.

One rest stop was in a small farm town with one block of stores, railroad tracks, the coop and the worlds largest egg. It was a charming place.

We rolled on for miles down a country road that rolled up and over and around the hills. Often cutting through patches of pine forest that smelled so fresh and clean. You'd think a lovely place like this so close to a major city would be jammed with cars on a Saturday, but the traffic was very sparse. This was my favorite part of the ride.

Around noon we made it to Centralia, the apt half way point. 100 miles down, 100 to go. We ate some sandwiches for lunch, restocked and rested a bit then carried on.

The road was still quite nice and rural. Only a few miles out I noted that this was now the most miles I'd gone on a bike in one day. I was apprehensive about how this next 100 miles would go, but that was part of the adventure.

The miles seemed to go by OK. We crossed the mighty Columbia River over the Lewis and Clark Bridge. It's a tall bridge - 210 feet above the water. Two lanes for cars with a skinny lane on each side for bikes. The first part was a climb, and fairly steep for a bridge. Then mid-span it was trippy to look over the railing and see the water and boats so far down. The other side was a pretty good slope down.

After the bridge we got separated, but used the cell phones to regroup. We traveled along this highway that was not my favorite. The scenery was nice, but the cars whizzing by were distracting. This section seemed long, but maybe I was just getting tired.

We stopped at every rest stop to get food and water. We were slowing down, but still making good time.

At the last stop we were 30 miles from Portland. I have never had 30 miles go by so slowly. I wasn't sore or spent, I was just ready for it to be done. I looked around a bit and tried to enjoy it, but it didn't help. I kept looking for signs of the city, but saw nothing. Finally, 10 miles away, I saw some radio towers and I knew we were close.

We wound through some city streets, up and down some hills, over a bridge and then suddenly after one last hill there it was - the finish. There was a big balloon arch and a fenced corridor to ride through as the announcer called out rider's names and where they were from. It was a shock to be just trudging along and then suddenly engulfed in a boisterous finish. I suddenly felt happy to be done with the ride - to have completed it.

Here's the 1 Day patch / medallion they presented to us at the finish.

Jason's wife and daughter found us. Spencer and his family joined us too. We hung out and ate some food. Then we loaded up the bikes and headed for hotels. We dropped off Robert a few blocks away, then Anne down by the airport and Kevin and I not far away. I slept like a log.

We got up around 8 am, loaded the van and headed out. I was dreading the long drive home in one day, but it went OK, thanks to Kevin driving 2/3 the way (and the 2 hours I napped in the back) and being able to leave from Portland instead of Seattle (thanks again, Spencer!).

As double centuries go, this is an easy one. It's pretty flat and we had the good fortune of a tailwind most of the time. I was happy to prove to myself that I could do the distance, but I didn't get that much out of actually riding the second 100 miles. Now and then I'd think, "this is cool that I'm still rolling good after so many miles". But it's just more miles. I'm sure I'll always mix in some long distance rides, but I prefer the shorter rides where I can sprint and goof off and not have to worry about running out of juice with a pile of miles still to go. It was a good experience, but not a revelation that I want to do a lot of long distance riding.

Finally, big thanks to Jason and Carla for opening their home to us and playing host.

P.S. Jason posted Kevin's STP report on his blog.

P.P.S. Here's the STP 2008 jacket I received in my packet.


JLow said...


The pictures provided proof that you were there. Otherwise we might not have believed it.

KanyonKris said...