Last weekend G and I, and a couple of our neighbors rode the 30th annual STP (Seattle to Portland) ride. It was the first STP for all of us, and I think we were all more than a little curious what the event was all about, since it seems like almost everyone around here that's into biking has either ridden it, or knows someone who has.
G and I had ridden a couple of centuries beforehand, so I wasn't too worried about the length of the ride, but more the sheer number of riders involved. The STP is capped at 10,000 riders, all of them starting throughout the morning at UW. We all decided to skip the madness at the start line and meet up with the ride along Lake Washington, a few miles in. This was the scene at the first food stop, somewhere down in Tukwila:
It felt like all 10,000 riders were at that first food stop! We sent one of our group members into the fray to snag us some bananas and bars and whatnot.
I know this sounds elitist, but it was at this point our group, which by no means considered itself "expert road bikers" in any way, expressed a little consternation about the "amateur hour" aspect of the ride. We'd seen plenty of people so far that definitely looked as though they hadn't attempted a ride of this magnitude before (which is great, anything that gets more people on bikes is a magnificent thing in my opinion) and looked as though they were going to have a hard time making it the 200 miles to Portland. The only reason I bring this up is that it made for a few harrowing moments later on in the ride, as it became clear that certain basic skills and protocols (passing other riders only on the left, riding in a straight line, etc.) hadn't been established with everyone yet. More on that later.
The ride itself was great. It was incredibly organized, and the logistics of what had to go into making the ride happen boggle my mind. There was tons of food, clean bathrooms, Dan Henrys everywhere, and even volunteers sitting next to spots with particularly gnarly railroad-track crossings to warn the oncoming riders. I've got to hand it to Cascade.
The weather the first day was gorgeous, and the route was amazingly flat. We passed through Seattle, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, Spanaway, etc, etc with nary a hill in sight. (In retrospect, I totally should have ridden my single-speed) I saw plenty of entertaining rides and riders, and managed to grab a few pictures:
- Young rider with homemade rear-rack speaker system, made out of Erector set and compter speakers (which was blasting the Beatles!?!):
- Crazy leopard-print bike-shorts guy (that I kept seeing throughout the 2-day ride):
- Some awesome homemade frame-carrier cargo dealies that would probably make Kent Peterson proud:
We passsed through the aforementioned towns and then some, on our way down to Chehalis, our stop for the night. In typical NW fashion, we were spoiled with gorgeous scenery: farms, rivers, lakes, views of Mt. Rainer, and the like:
We arrived in Chehalis much earlier in the day than I expected we would, as we had kept a pace of around 15.5 mph throught the day. Out hotel had a pool (!!), so a little swimming and the TDF on TV was the evening's entertainment.
After a hearty breakfast at the local Denny's, we headed out on day #2 only to hear rumbles of thunder and a few flashes of lightning. The smug part of me completely took over, as our group (all of whom were running full fenders) pedaled past rider after rider with serious cases of butt-stripe. Seriously, we saw almost no-one with fenders, which is funny considering where we live. I could go on and on about the need for fenders, but people have done that before, with more success than I ever could.
The rain eventually subsided, and gave way to the typical overcast skies that we get to see 10 months out of the year. The ride was uneventful for the most part, until a chain-reaction of swiftly-braking riders caused a small pileup in our paceline. No one was hurt, but the whole thing shook everyone up a bit. No more than 15 minutes later, someone zoomed around G on her right as she was attempting to pull off the road, and almost caused a wreck. It was at this point that the aforementioned "lack of basic riding skills" became a bit of a problem. G got a shot of adrenaline out of the whole incident, and ended up pulling us the last 10 miles into Portland at some blazing pace, probably over 20 mph, mostly in an attempt to "get away" from people who might run into her. It was awesome.
We didn't have the energy or the time to hang out properly in Portland, but we did have a nice meal and some beers before falling asleep before sundown. Tired, but feeling a great sense of accomplishment, we woke up the next morning to some uber-tasty french toast at Kenny and Zuke's before heading out to pick up the DORKIEST RENTAL CAR EVER:
We had waited too long to get a spot on the train back to Seattle, so we drove ourselves and our bikes back in the "PT Loser" that was the color of a stick of butter. I suppose that's the cruel irony that occurs when someone who doesn't like cars has to rent a car.
In summation, STP 2009 = good time for all.
P.S. More photos here: