You know, it never fails. Every time July rolls around people ask me if I will be riding the STP this year.
It makes me smile when people seem honestly shocked that I am not riding. It make no difference which rides I AM riding in that year, or how hard they may be. To my non riding, and, to some extent, my riding friends, my not heading south this next Saturday morning seems strange.
Part of the reason, I know, is the sized of the ride. This is, bar none, the largest group of cyclists for any ride in the Northwest. 10, 000 riders (and one skateboarder)
will point their noses south leave Seattle. About 25% of these riders will finish in one day, the rest will camp out somewhere along the route, and finish the ride the next day.
Editors Note: I have heard valid reasons as to which of these methods is the most difficult. The two-day ride requires you to ride a century, most likely sleep on the ground or in a school gym, and then get up to ride another century the next morning! Really? How many people want to get on the bike the next morning after a century?
That being said, riding in one day means you ride 206 miles in one LONG day. You can see here it took a lot out of me in 2014. It hurt to smile.
Given the popularity of the ride, and the fact we go through damn near every town between the two big cities, it, beyond all others, is the best known ride in the area. Shoot, it wouldn’t surprise me if some people think it’s the only ride in the area. This might add to the incredulity of those who give me strange looks when I say I am not going.
For us northwest cyclists, though, the STP is a goal that calls us all. When riding around the state, it sometimes seems like every other rider we pass has an STP jacket or jersey. The hardcore riders take pride in wearing the “One Day Rider” colors.
In 2008, my first year cycling after giving up on my attempts to summit Mt. Rainier, I took the plunge and signed up for this ride. There I was 43, new to cycling, with my single longest ride being the 33 mile Chilly Hilly the year before.
But, I had a new bike, the Specialized Tri Cross
And I needed a victory in my adventure career. It had been a while since I had one.
I tried to do everything right. Including going to the “How to Ride the STP” meeting at REI. It was there I learned about the Dan Henry road markings to keep me on track
Not having any cycling buddies, I made up my training on my own. All I could think of was to ride as many miles as often as I could. On one ride, I discovered the faded direction markers from years gone by, and followed them. This allowed me to practice on the biggest climb of the ride (Which honestly wasn’t that bad!)
I also completed my first century ride in May. It was a “go no go “ride in all honesty, if I couldn’t do this one, I was going to bail on the big one. As you can see, me, sporting my tennis shoes and flat pedals, made it no problem.
I won’t go into the stories of the rides themselves, just know, all three time, this tired ass crossed the finish line. And yes, I rode it on one day both in 2012 and 2014!
(Somehow I never got the pictures at the finish line of the first one day ride…..)
In 2013, I rode the Crater Lake Century. But I helped two other people complete the STP. That year Mighty Manda and Auburn Liz showed me how tough they were. Just like I was, they were new to cycling, and yet they decided to ride the STP in their first year. I was watching Facebook and my text messages non stop that Sunday waiting to see this!
They did me proud! The following year, Liz rode the same single day STP I did, surviving 97 degree heat!
So what is it about this ride?
It’s the excitement generated by 10000 of my best friends heading down the road. It’s the chance meetings and conversations you have with these riders along the way. It’s the energy and support of the way station crews that keep us fed. It’s the thrill of crossing the Columbia river and seeing the “Entering Oregon” sign. I got an adrenalin surge all times I saw it.
It’s the encouragement you hear from the other riders right when you need it, and the glow you get when you feel someone riding your back wheel trying to stave off exhaustion. It’s the cheers of the people who come out on the route to urge us on, and the appreciation for the good Samaritans who shoot their sprinklers on the road to cool off hot, tired riders.
It’s the hotdog, brownie and Diet Mountain Dew you down with 30 miles to go after riding 13 hours, and salutes from Harley riders who know you are showing the world what a bad ass biker really is,
Finally, the wave of triumph you feel when you hit the finish line. The glow of the after ride beer, the hoy water of the shower and crawling into bed for the best sleep of your life.
Most importantly, it’s the nods to and from other riders who rode the same day, the half-smile you give anytime you look at a map with Washington and Oregon listed, and the memories of the ride itself. I have many.
I will admit, even though I have retired from the ride, I still get a twinge when this time of year comes around. I feel I should be in top form and heading for Seattle at 330 AM. But then I remember, I’ve been there, done that AND bought the t-shirts. Plus I have proof of the mileage total
I will leave you with this. If you are a rider and have ever considered doing this, sign up next year! You won’t regret it. If you aren’t a rider, use this as an incentive to start. How many of your friends have ridden a ride like this? It’s fun with a group of people to work it into the conversation. Finally, thanks to Cascade Bike Club for doing this every year!
LIKE the wind!