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Pre-STP, STP+E, Clueless Edition. Or, this could be very good or very bad

Old 07-06-12, 09:12 PM
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Pre-STP, STP+E, Clueless Edition. Or, this could be very good or very bad

As luck would have it, my new tandem and I will finally meet two days before STP. Had I known this several months ago, I would have registered for the ride, but that wasn't the way things worked out. I am planning to ride from Seattle, where the bike was recently built, back home to Eugene on 7/13 and 7/14, although I am perfectly willing to stretch the trip out an extra day.

My questions concern timing and route selection. I'm inclined to just follow the STP route to Portland on Friday, July 13, which is the day before everyone else will follow. We'll likely leave from near UW sometime between 3:30 A.M. and 4:30 A.M. lit up like a supernova. From the perspective of traffic, is this a reasonable idea? The captain has a strong dislike of riding with heavy traffic. How far south do we have to get before the car commuters thin out? What time do they tend to become problematic? My Seattle ignorance hole is enormous, so feel free to throw a shovel-full of local knowledge in.

We're not sure where we'll stop for the day on Friday, it will depend on traffic density and how we feel since we haven't ridden anything that flat in years (my stoker-bum hurts just thinking about it). It looks like we may have a problem if we get to Longview much after noon, but we'll just have to see how it goes. We could always hole up for a day and wait for the cavalry to ride by in the form of the 10,000 bikes doing STP.
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Old 07-06-12, 10:27 PM
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Friday the 13th, a very auspicious day to begin your ride. Generally, along with being about the flattest way between Seattle and Portland, the STP route is mostly the rather-less-travelled by motorists one, as well.
Have you ridden STP before, and thus are vaguely familiar with the route? The Dan Henry's will be painted by then, should not be too hard to follow. If you follow the STP route out from the UW, when you cross the Montlake bridge, stay to the right - you'll get to ride on a surface that, while still basically metal grating, has infill, so probably less slippery.
There may be some traffic picking up when you get down near Renton. I would suggest that you search for links to the "Interurban Trail, South" and pick it up after Kent (aka the REI foodstop). It will be off to the left (east) of the STP route and will spare you some possible early morning traffic, but even more will spare interactions with the potholes that seem to jump out of nowhere along that road. Eventually you will need to get back west to the STP route, likely before the RR crossing before Puyallup, but the trail would be a good detour.
The only other part that seems like there would be traffic would be the stretch past Spanaway, before Yelm, along the east side of what we used to call Fort Lewis (now, "joint base lewis mccord"). This section has those annoying rumble strips cut into the fogline area. You won't have all the other bikes to avoid, so it won't be as big a deal. This starts at about 55 miles into the route, so depending on how fast you ascended the Puyallup "hill", that could be between 7:00 and 8:00 -- at least it will be daylight by then.
When I've ridden STP solo, Kelso/Longview come along at about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and I still make it to Holladay Park in time for the 9:00 pm bus back. Availability of motels or friends' couches may play into your "how far" decision, too. There are places to stay in Longview/Kelso (also Castle Rock, over next to I-5); not so sure about Rainier, probably in St. Helens, etc. The Longview Bridge is about 150 miles into the ride, so if you could make it to St. Helens on the 13th you'd have roughly equal days on the road.
On Saturday, you'll only have about 2,500-3,000 riders coming past (one-day) to draft off of, and most of them won't be on the Oregon side until well after noon.
When you head up the approach at the Longview bridge, it would be really good to have all of your blinkies flashing. Motorists won't have had a bunch of other bikes on the road to alert them to watch for you.

I would resist any urge to take the shortcut up the Cornelius Pass road (to Beaverton) on your way to Eugene. It's not very bike-friendly.

There are some other ways to bicycle from Seattle south which involve taking the ferry to the west side of Puget Sound, etc. ... practical for one bike, less so for 10,000.
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Old 07-07-12, 03:23 AM
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As far as riding out of the U-district at that time of the morning goes - it's nice! I often get off work around 0400 and ride home from Pill Hill through the U-district up to Greenwood, or through downtown, Westlake, and Fremont. Either way there is VERY little traffic. Occasionally I'll see a bicycle or two (50/50 split between Darkwads and early commuters), I see about half a dozen vehicles with a few of these being delivery trucks and maybe the occasional early jogger. It's pleasant riding at this time of morning.

I can't really advise you on where the car commuters thin out, the one time I rode from Seattle almost to Mount St Helens I bypassed all of South Pugetopolis by taking the ferry over to Bremerton and riding from there to Olympia. I suspect that was far more pleasant than trying to make my way through mile after mile of suburb. Highway 101 was okay, the cars were respectful.

As far as when the commuters become problematic - definitely by 0800, at least between Pill Hill and Greenwood.
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Old 07-07-12, 04:31 PM
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I agree with above, from UW area follow STP route exactly, it should be no problem that early in the morning. You might plan a breakfast stop in Puyallup, there isn't much between there and Centralia as I recall.
What is your route from Portland to Eugene? There a a few nice choices.
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Old 07-07-12, 09:39 PM
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Thanks for the help so far. I'll add a few comments/answers to questions:

@ Moleman76: We've never ridden STP. We've done scores of organized and unsupported double centuries, but we never got around to this one. While there is hardly a road in the northern half of CA that I haven't ridden on, we are both pretty ignorant of the lay of the cycling land north of OR. This may lead to some entertaining misadventures on this trip, which I'll be sure to relay for your amusement. I expect that we will overlook a Dan Henry or two.

We may consider leaving even earlier so we can get clear of the JBLM stuff before it gets hairy. We have a great deal of flexibility with regards to when we get back home, which is nice. Thanks for the advice on the interurban trail and the lane position warning; it would be a shame to have our first tipping over so soon after picking up the bike.

@ Medic Zero: Taking the ferry to Bremerton is intriguing, but since it would force us to leave either much later or much earlier than we want to, we'll save that for a future adventure. For this trip, I guess we'll stick close to the STP.

@ Shifty: If you've got nice choices between PDX and Eugene, I'm all ears, or at least eyes and monitor. We may cross the Willamette on I-5 at Wilsonville and take the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. However, we're more likely to go through Lake Oswego (ugh) and take the Canby Ferry. That route came from a friend: https://www.mapmyride.com/routes/fullscreen/43128524/ I've had several uneventful trips along that route, so it has the virtue/vice of familiarity. Depending on our timing, we may merge this route with the WVSB to avoid that hostile stretch of Coburg Rd. from the Lane County line to Coburg.
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Old 07-08-12, 12:38 AM
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I'm not so sure that the east side of JBLM traffic is all that bad. Granted, I don't ride down there myself in the morning, but the really dense traffic in that area is on the I-5 side of things.

Even in Puget-opolis, starting on the road too early in the morning may mean that most of the espresso stands (every few blocks) won't be open yet.

Puyallup, Spanaway, and then Yelm would be places for breakfast.

Do you have a copy of the STP map? There's a link to a Garmin track at the Cascade site for the ride, and you can probably find others on the various on-line storehouses of bike rides. New for this year, between Centralia and Chehalis the route will stay on the east side of I-5. If the description you get is the "old" route, no problem, but there will be a gap in the pavement markings.

I grew up in Eugene, so I can give you a comparison between a hill down there, and the two "big" hills on the STP route: Bailey Hill road, from Kennedy Junior High, south to the "summit", is about the same as the Puyallup hill and the climb into Napavine.

Come back next year and ride your (Rodriguez?) with 9.998 others!
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Old 07-08-12, 01:48 AM
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I'm sure you've got this: https://shop.cascade.org/sites/defau...e-Map-2012.pdf
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Old 07-17-12, 03:54 PM
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How was the ride?
How is the new bike?
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Old 07-17-12, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by moleman76
How was the ride?
How is the new bike?
We had a great time and the new Rodriguez tandem is fantastic. Here's the over-long story:

While we were doing the final set-up on 7/12, my wife, who rides captain, mentioned to the shop owner that she has been having a bit of hand pain that is even affecting her use of a computer mouse. Dan took her upstairs to show her the mouse he changed to after he developed the exact problem, and then he sheepishly mentioned that he got a great deal of relief by changing to carbon fiber handlebars. He was embarrassed about the cost of the bars ($325), but my wife tried them out and bought them. After a 385-mile ride over three days she is extremely happy with them. R+E is really a great bike shop.

The first day's ride was pretty uneventful until we reached Centralia. It was approaching mid-day on Friday and the traffic was beginning to get annoying. I looked at the cue sheet for the STP and saw a host of warnings regarding traffic and road conditions over the next fifty miles, so we just stopped early. We put in a wake-up call for 1:35 A.M. with the intent of hitting the road shortly after the drunks landed but before the sober folks got up, then we set the alarm clock in the room as a back-up. The alarm woke us up and we spent an hour or so getting out the door. Just as we were leaving, the wake-up call finally came in. We realized we were an hour early when we passed a public clock in downtown Centralia that said 1:50. Oops. I guess I should have double-checked the accuracy of the alarm clock.

Saturday morning was glorious. There was lightening everywhere we looked and, after we left Centralia, we seemed to be the only people about. No cars passed us for the first thirty miles and only a dozen or so went by before we reached Oregon. In what I consider to be a remarkable lack of cooperation, the Lewis and Clark Bridge was not only strewn with debris but the shoulder that would have been just-barely-adequate to ride was coned off on the OR half for two workers. I suppose very few riders would do other than take the lane there, but it is always nice to have an escape hatch.

Things were uneventful and quite nice as we rolled into Portland. We left the STP route for some lower-traffic neighborhood streets, which may have been a mistake. It really gets old to stop every two to three blocks on a tandem, but we had had enough of door-zone bike lanes and it was late morning so traffic was picking up. We did watch a mail carrier attempt to door a cyclist. If there really were the number of cyclists in PDX that is often claimed, that mail carrier would have had to lose the habit of opening his door without looking long ago or he would have been fired. After cruising around town to take care of a few things, we again chose to stop early in order to ride the most heavily trafficked roadways in the peaceful early-morning hours.

Sunday morning we rolled on down Barbur (Hwy 99W) to Newburg. While we were whining about a third day of unseasonable south winds, we finally realized that the front brake was rubbing. After a bit of adjustment, we certainly felt stronger if unobservant. In our defense, it is a new bike and we don't have any reference for normal with regards to rolling resistance.

With the exception of several skunks (thankfully none of them sprayed), the ride was sheer joy as we rolled along the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. Just south of Corvallis, we encountered the Heart of the Willamette Valley ride put on by the Cycle Oregon folks. There were lots of kids and their parents doing the short loop and we saw several hundred doing their longer loops. At one point, they left the WVSB, but that was because, unlike us, they knew that the bridge on Fayetteville Rd. could not be crossed. We hooked back up with them again once we found our way around the out bridge and its guard dog.

All in all, it was a great trip. The new tandem is everything we had hoped for and then some. I am just as happy as can be with the service and products we got at R+E. Those folks really know their stuff and the prices seem to be more than fair. As far as coming back to ride the STP on the right day as part of the event, we'll probably pass. We're just too spoiled by our zero/very low traffic roads through the coast hills.

Oh, I would post some photos, but we managed to leave the battery out of our camera. Fortunately, that was our only senior moment of the entire weekend (other than the brake thing). At least it is the only one we remember.
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Old 08-09-12, 04:33 PM
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Yes, I would agree R+E is one of the best shops in the Pac NW. Very competent staff, probably the best tandem builder around (Dennis Bushnell). (And I'm not connected in any way with the shop. I do ride a Rodriguez fixie, though!)

Luis
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