Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

Greg (a.k.a. "Dad"), Elisa, Me, Shawn, Shelley - STP Finish, Holladay Park, Portland, OR

Saturday, July 17, 2010 - 4:55 a.m. Kingston to Edmonds Ferry. If we didn't make this ferry, we were in trouble, it's a long drive around from Kingston to Montlake. But no worries, after boarding the boat we all made a bee-line to the cafeteria for coffee. Our adventure had begun. Dad, Shelley and Elisa had all dropped off bikes and gear the previous night at our place. My step mom, Lynn, loaded up the tents, pillows, sleeping bags and such in the truck. She was gracious enough to drive down and stake out a great spot on the grass for us at the Centralia College Campus, which is the official half way point for the ride.

We arrived at the Montlake parking lot near Husky Stadium at 6:00 a.m. and those of us who hadn't picked up our packets yet headed over to the packet pick-up booth, scoring an official STP water bottle on the way, and making a quick pit-stop at the port-o-potties too. We quickly pinned our numbers on our jerseys,  and attached numbers to bikes, helmets and any bags for the luggage truck. We only had one bag between us for the luggage truck, as most were safely with Lynn.  It was overcast and cool, so I opted to wear the provided STP tyvek jacket.

Groups were rolling out about every 15 minutes, starting at 4:30 a.m. and continuing on until 7:30 a.m. There were about 10,000 cyclists who participated in this 30th edition of the ride. The STP is not a race, it is a celebration of cycling and all sorts of riders on all kinds of bicycles come out to join the fun. That said, from 4:30 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. the riders who roll out are aiming to complete the 204 mile route in one day, and they make good time. Not that anyone is timing them.

Our group rolled out at 6:30 and headed off across the Montlake Bridge and on along the shores of Lake Washington. We were on the two day ride plan, thus the camping gear.  More than a few cyclists got tangled up in crashes the first day of the ride. Most were minor incidents due to lack of experience riding in a group and people forgetting that there were 100's of cyclists behind them that they needed to communicate to regarding stopping, slowing, turning etc. By day two everyone had settled into a nice groove and the constant communication got almost silly. Almost.

How did we feel day one? Great! The sun popped out around 1 p.m. and we filled up at the REI food stops in Kent and the lunch stop in Spanaway. The food is "free" or included with your entry fee, however you want to look at it. Either way, it sure is nice to have food and beverages waiting for you every 25 miles or so. As the day wore on, butts and legs began to tire and chafe, or chafe and tire, respectively.

Rolling into the Centralia College Campus was bliss. I grabbed a free Darigold Refuel Chocolate Milk and chugged it down while my Dad and Elisa were off finding Lynn and our campsites. Aahhh, laying in the grass in the sun, knowing we didn't have to get back on our bikes for a while was delicious. Live music was playing and there were massage tents set up for those who were interested. Elisa took advantage of a great massage  before we set up our tents, lined up for the showers, then headed off to find dinner.

Azteca is where we ended up, as the food booths had mostly been wiped out by the time we decided to mozy out and get a real meal. I've never gone through so many bowls of chips and salsa waiting for a meal before; we were tempted to eat the plates by the time our food arrived. Needless to say, the town was swarmed and swamped with hungry riders.

10:00 p.m. Sleep.

5:00 a.m. Wake. Take down tent, etc. find bathrooms and breakfast. Coffee!!

6:30 a.m. Roll out. "Hey lady, slow down! You're going to fast, I have to stand up for the next 100 miles!", my husband shouted my way, getting quite a few chuckles from nearby riders. Yes, despite the padded shorts and Body Glide, our rears were feeling a bit tender. Some more than others.

Day 2 was rolling and hillier in general. The stretch between Centralia and Winlock offered quiet country roads and short ups and downs. Lot's of fun. More coffee was had in Winlock, plus a breakfast sandwich or two by some in our party. Then it was on to the lunch stop through more rolling, country roads. We arrived at the lunch stop in Lexington still cycling in clouds, with a gentle, light rain meeting us here and there.

We found Elisa, who had gotten ahead of us at the last pit stop, already in the long, but steadily moving lunch line. By the time we ate and used the facilities we were all shivering. Would the sun come out soon? We hoped for it, but it was still before noon, so time would tell.

As we had all been riding our own pace and kind of wondering where the others were for the first part of the day, we decided to stick together and use the pace line to help each other out from Lexington to the Lewis and Clark Bridge and on to the finish line. I wanted to make sure we all made it to the finish line in good shape, and together, so we could celebrate our accomplishment as a group in Holladay Park.

Riders get escorted over the Lewis and Clark Bridge in large groups by the Goldwing Touring Association. We ended up at the very front of the group of about 200 riders. Shawn, my husband, decided to scream up the bridge ahead of everybody. Elisa, Shelley and I all stuck together and shook our heads at all the water bottles littering the side of the bridge where they had been rattled loose by the jarring action of wheels going over the expansion joints. Luckily, we didn't lose anything, as there is no stopping allowed on the trip over the mighty Columbia into Oregon.

By the last "free food" stop in St. Helens the sun was out, we were tired, and the mellow music drifting out from the High School snack shack made it hard to drag our butts off the grass and back to our saddles. My Dad noted that some riders were calling it quits and catching rides at this point. We managed to get going after a prolonged break and really focused on using the pace line to pull our group to the finish together successfully.

After a seemingly wild goose chase through the city of Portland, we arrived finally at Holladay Park. Hallelujah and Amen! Where's the beer garden? My Dad bought a round for all after our bikes were all safely loaded in the bike truck bound back to Seattle. Everything tastes better after you've busted your butt for hours, and the Fat Tire Ale did not disappoint. As an added bonus, a friend of Elisa's was there to greet us and she offered us FOOT MASSAGES. It was as if the Gods had descended to bestow more blessings. Cold beer and a foot massage after 204 miles on the bike. Amen again.

And then run! Run, run, run to the bus. Oh, no! The last bus to Seattle leaves in, what?! 5 minutes. I was scrambling to change out of my riding clothes, forget about a shower. Elisa, Shelley and I were jogging out of the women's dressing room and I saw my husband waving me over to the panini stand in the hotel lobby. "We're going to miss the bus!", I yelped, as I eyed the sandwiches on the grill. We took them lightly grilled and ran. Whew. We made it on the bus and there were many jealous riders eyeing our sandwiches, and yes, they were delicious.

Home through traffic. Arrive in Montlake @ 11:00 p.m. Sunday, July 18.  Retrieve bikes from bike truck. Prop eyes open. Head home.

What a journey.

Ride on folks!  - Michelle

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