Lisa and I have decided
to do the STP this year. She has done it 4 times previous, but since I
have never ridden it, I want to add it to my list.
We register on line, early in the year, to ensure we can get a spot, and since it is cheaper to register on line than in the mail. The ride is limited to "just" 8000, and the ride does sell out this year. Much planning and debates go in to the logistics of making this work for us, and we finally setlle on a plan. We till drive to the start, and park the car for the weekend, load our bikes on a truck rented by the Wheelmen, and take the bus provided, up to Seattle. It drops us off at the dorms of the University of Washington, and we walk our bikes one one huge bag, down the hill 3/4 of a mile to the Silver Cloud hotel to spend the night. We get in about 200 on friday afternoon and have plenty of time, so we walk across the street to a mexican restaurant for a bite, then walk around the shops and find an itallian place for dinner. Then its back to the hotel, and to our surprise, we have OLN which is providing coverage of the tour de france. Its hot out, so the a/c of the room and tour provide us a great way to rest up. I havent been feeling real strong last couple of days so look forward to the rest day. After dinner and a little more tour, we get to sleep, tommorows an early day. Up at 445, dressed in our gear and downstairs for a nice continental breakfast with many other riders. When we got up, our bill was slipped under the door, and we could check out quickly by using the menus on the tv so never had to stop at the counter (pretty cool), then we hike down the street 1/2 mile or so to the start. Drop our bag off in the truck bound for Chehalis and get started. The start us off in bunches, and our bunch has maybe 400 riders in it. The day is cool, with light clouds, that are bound to burn off soon. Its expected to be a warm one, and we dress light. Bikes move in mass, a very large peleton, with riders constantly manuevering for position, and passing on both sides. For most of the ride I found it difficult to find an open spot where we could ride at our pace, without being slowed by other riders and without getting run in to by other riders with varying degree of group riding skill, courtesy, or sense. When prepping the bike for this ride, I had taken out a large glass chip that had embedded itself deep in to the tire, I had some concerns about the tube, but opted to just go with it. But at mile 17, it went flat. So I immediately turned off in to the first driveway I came to, and as luck would have it, there was a bike mechanic tent right there! I simply stopped, and the mechanic grabbed the bike put it on a stand and actually replaced my tube for me. I dont think I ever had someone change my tube while I just stood there, we were back on the road within minutes. We ride through the suburbs as the sun rises over Lake Washington. Heading out through Kent, Puyallup, where we encounter "the hill" which is one of the bigger climbs of the ride, at mile 43, which really isnt that big of a deal, its enough to get your attention, but not a real problem. Then on to Spanaway for lunch at mile 55. Pretty good food for lunch, and a good site. Then off through Roy, Yelm, Tenino, Centralia and finally Chehalis. There was a particularly dangerous stretch of road, I believe highway 507, near Yelm, where the car traffic was quite heavy, the shoulder not really wide, and the bicyclists riding and passing 4 abreast, choosing to forgoe any decisions regarding their safety, under the beliefs that the sheer number of riders, (or perhaps the fact its an organized ride?) would protect them. We passed two separate accidents, with riders laying on the ground, and heard of another car/rider accident. We proceeded with particular caution on this stretch. Stopped at the last rest stop of the day for us, in Centralia, which was the end of the days ride for many, where we were able to have an ice cream bar to celebrate the 100 mile mark. Then back on the bikes to get to Chehalis. For the last 20 miles of the day, the stream of riders has thinned a bit, and with Lisa spending the majority of the ride behind me, is now anxious to "stretch her legs" So we pick up the pace she leads us on a very fast pace for the reminder of the day. We get to the park and out bag appears to have been picked up since it isnt the pile left in the grass. So we get directions to the St. Johns Lutheran church and head off through town the mile or so to the church. Our bag is there, in our room, which otherwise serves as the 2nd grade classroom. They have a nice community center, with new shower facilities. We clean up, rest, stretch and wait for dinner. Fairly good sphagetti dinner. Then since its 600 and there isnt much to do at the church, and not much around it in this part of town, we hike back the mile or so to the nearest Safeway, and spend time in the air conditioning of the store reading the sunday paper. It is still a very warm day. Take some sorbet back to the room, sit in the shade and argue politics until its time for bed. Once again, we rise before 500, get downstairs for a breakfast of eggs, potatoes, cinnnamon rolls, and fruit. The church will take our bags back down to the start to be loaded in the truck, so we just have to get on the bikes and begin. We start out about 600. It is outside of Chehalis that we see I-5 as we cross over. This is the only time we see it, and never ride on it, was not really sure, you could go from Seattle to Portland, without hitting I-5 anymore.
The route from here takes us through Winlock, home of the worlds biggest egg, Castle Rock,and Longview where we are to cross over in to Oregon. Apparently there was another bike accident on the bridge where a woman broke her ankle, so traffic was stopped while she could be removed. This backed up lots of car traffic and bike traffic. While this is cleared and the cars were allowed to pass, we have amassed a group of perhaps 1,000 riders, whom they let all pass over the bridge, in one lane, all at the same time, while not stopping the traffic coming in the other direction. It was a somewhat slow trudge across, with little room, nor reason to do much passing, but we get across without incident. Its another warm day, perhaps mid 80s opposed to previous day of low 90s, but much better than the showers that were forecast from earlier in the week. After Longview, its highway 30, through Ranier, St. Helens and in to Portland, returning to the Loyd Center park and Double Tree hotel where our bag and car await. We get in little after 200 which seems to us as a pretty good time. At the park , we ride in to a great finish line, lined with people all cheering for everyone who is coming in, its a nice feeling. Mike, our spinning instructor is there and gives us congratulations, telling us that he is proud of us. We sit browse the displays, have ice cream again and much water, and then head for home.
STATISTICS: Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic
* 8,051 riders - including volunteers and safety riders
* 1,845 one day riders (23%!!)
* Oldest rider: 82
* Youngest rider: 3
* 27.8% female and 72.2% male
* Riders from 42 states, plus British Columbia
* 75% from Washington; 15% from Oregon; 4% from California; 1.5% from British Columbia and 1.5% from Idaho
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