It all started with my sister, Julianne, giving me inspiration while she was riding across Iowa last summer. She was not even aware of the effect her feat was having on me. She and I after so many years found something in common other than our genetics, the sport of recreational cycling. Many others have inspired me as well and the increased wellness has helped. Last fall I talked to Julianne about her and I riding together on a longish supported ride sometime this year. She suggested the STP (Seattle to Portland) in the two day version, a ride she had done three times prior. I agreed. It seemed like a lofty goal to work towards, 200+ miles over two days. With that in mind I rode through the winter either outside weather permitting or inside on the trainer. Then sometime in February she called me and asked if I had signed up yet. I replied that I had not. She informed me that there were less than 1000 spots left and I needed to within the day or risk not being able to ride. I signed up, and added my 16 year old son Richard as well.
Richard and I rode lots together and lots more apart last spring and early summer. We also rode in Spokane's ADA Tour de Cure 100 mile ride in May. Then we joined my sister in the Flying wheels ride in Redmond, WA. We did the 65 mile version, we were ready! Fast forward to July 13. Richard and I drove over to Redmond to camp in my sister's back yard so that we could get a reasonable nights sleep before the STP.
We awakened @ 5 am to overcast skies and 59°F temps or there-a bouts. Quickly loaded the bikes and left for the University of Washington for the start stopping by Jack-in-the-box for grilled breakfast sandwich for breakfast and Starbucks for my double shot of espresso. We pull into a parking lot about a 1/4 mile from the start and unload the bikes. Gently peddle with the crowds to the start line where Julianne quickly asked a nice lady from Portland to take our pic.
They were starting riders in groups spaced ten minutes apart so there was a bit of a wait until we reached the front of the line. At 6:54 am we were off and I started my Garmin to record the ride. Kudos to both the ride organizers and the Seattle Police Department for traffic control! We left riding a sustainable pace of near IIRC 15 mph. Almost from the start the ground was littered with helmet numbers, water bottles, broken lights, bicycle pumps, and assorted cycling clothing that riders had dropped likely not even knowing. This would continue almost the entire route. You could stock a goodly supply of cycling gear if only you wished to stop and gather.
At every controlled intersection there was law enforcement stopping traffic for us cyclists. I commented to my companions that it would not be a good day to live along the route and have to get somewhere! After miles of slight rises and descents we came to the first challenging climb of the ride a block long hill of fairly steep grade then a left turn and continuing up for a ways. I decided to climb the steep part out of the saddle passing many cyclists and I do not think a single one passed me. It was almost easy, thanks partly to last month's challenge thrown down by Seattle Forrest on Bikeforums.net (this thread is being cross posted there). Last month I tracked my elevation gain and exceeded 30,000 feet! Training pays huge dividends as I would be reminded throughout the rest of the ride. At mile 24 we stop for the first reststop at the headquarter of REI.
We mosey down through the Kent valley and on into Puyallup where we face the other challenge, "The Hill" at the bottom of which Julianne tells me and Richard to ride at our own pace and wait for her at the Spanaway Junior High free food stop at mile 53. Once again I find myself passing lots of riders, of course I was also being passed by many myself. Richard waited for me where it flattened out a bit. We rode from there to Spanaway together at a good pace. This stop was crowded as well. You'll see the line to the portable toilets:
Richard appears to be having a great time!
Julianne as well! I also but did not think to do a self portrait.
After a rest for about perhaps an hour we left Spanaway and continued on. Through a number of small towns although the ride had finally become mostly rural, my type of riding and Richard's as well. Somewhere we turn onto a MUP (multi-use pathway) and follow it for miles passing riders and getting passed as well. The path was mostly shaded which was good because the sun had made its appearance and was warming up. We stopped at the Tenino Ministop where my sister ran into a friend from church. We actually stopped at each stop along the way either to rest for a few minutes or just to fill water and electrolyte replacement bottles. Where there was free food we got some of that as well.
Julianne had warned us that it would be interesting riding through Centralia as we were not stopping but most folks were so they simply did not think that others would be riding. Weaving through the crowds without incident we soon departed Centralia and continued on. We passed by an open barn at one point that I remembered from the news several years ago that had flooded with a handful of older luxury cars inside, Mercedes IIRC. Continuing on and then up a rather nasty climb up to Napavine. Julianne decides that it would be best to have my brother-in-law Mark Charles meet us at Winlock just 6 miles or so down the road as her knee was hurting. We met up with Mark, quickly loaded the bikes and traveled to our camping spot in Vader. Upon our arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mark and my nephew Tim had set up our tents! Mark prepared a wonderful spaghetti dinner for us. I found an outlet to plug in my phone but discovered I had left my charger for the Garmin in my tent at Julianne's house. I was kinda bummed about this, oh well enough of the whining! We had ridden 117 miles that day which was a pr for distance for me and Richard. It was not long until we turned in for the night because 5:30 am was fast approaching. We also discovered that my planned breakfast did not get packed in the car.
Morning dawned dry! I quickly dressed and packed up my sleeping bag and tent. Ate a PB&J sandwich for breakfast and drank two Starbucks Via, better than no coffee at all. On the ride back to where we quit the night before it started to mist/ rain. We quickly unloaded the bikes onto a wet street and donned our windbreakers. Julianne's knee was still bothering her. Off we go at a gentle pace. It was very soon that Julianne made the decision that she would drop out because of severe knee pain. I was saddened by this; riding with her was at least half the point of the ride but she insisted and I agreed that it was probably the best course. no point in risking injury just to finish. At Vader we said our good-by's and I promised to text her mile marker updates at each stop so she could track our progress and meet us at the finish line in Portland.
At this point the ride topography changed from nearly flat and occasional hills to mostly hilly and occasionally flat. I was feeling surprisingly good. I charged up the hills passing cyclists and of course getting passed as well. Some of these hills however had me wondering and even asking those around me if they would ever end, not too steep and I was embracing the pain of the climb. Richard and I picked up the pace, he struggling to keep up with me on the descents and sometimes dropping me on the climbs. On to the Lexington Free Foodstop where I thought to take a few pics.
See how tired he looks, although also very happy. So proud of him.
Just showing the crowd and weather....