So last weekend would have been the 2020 STP, the Seattle to Portland bike ride. 200 plus miles from the University of Washington to the Rose District of Portland. Close ro 10,000 of my best cycling friends ride it every year.
Covid cancelled the real ride this year, though Michelle and I will be riding the virtual STP starting Saturday!
On Facebook, people are posting memories of their rides. and it started me thinking of my 4 times on this one. I decided it was a good time to share them with you!
I grew up hearing about the Seattle to Portland ride. Anyone who rides a bike in the northwest knows it is one of, if not the, premiere ride here. In high school and college, hell even beyond, I wasn’t a rider. I discovered cars. So I had no inclination at all to ride it.
This all changed in 2008 when I stopped climbing mountains and started riding the bike!
Yep.thats me, mustache, tennis shoes, COUG Jersey and my first real bike I just finished my first 100 mile ride. It was the Flying Wheels century, end of May 2008. It was and still is a great tune up ride for the STP.
I had signed up for the STP before this (it sells out) and I was worried about finishing. Completing this ride made me much more confident!
My first ride was a two day ride. I loaded my tent and gear on to a truck and would meet it in Chehalis, a bit over the half way point. My plan was a little bit shorter 2nd day.
The ride did NOT start auspiciously. I took off VERY early from the house 25 miles south of the starting line. I was halfway there when I realized the water bottles I put in the fridge the night before were STILL IN THE FRIDGE!!! I had to turn around and go back!
The result was a lot more traffic AND a later start!
It’s been a long time since this one, but here are the memories that stand out.
The staging area was filled with energy, bikes everywhere and each one ready to go! But I don’t remember the actual start!
I remember hitting “the Hill” in Puyallup, about 40 miles in, one the biggest climbs on the route! I topped and and thought “Really that’s the hardest climb???”
My next memory is pulling into Centralia, the official half way point and being given a creamsicle, my favorite ice cream as a kid! It was 90 degrees and hit the spot!
10 miles later I was done, and set up my tent.
The free food line was WAY too long, and I got there too late for a shower. (it closed an hour earlier) So I started walking to Denny’s down the road. As I did, I noticed a vacancy sign at the motel across the street. I walk in and the desk clerk said they just had a cancellation. They had one room, air conditioning, deep tub, $175. At that time I had NEVER paid that much for a hotel!. My credit card was out so fast it made her head spin!
I went back, took down tent, took my shower and THEN went to Denny’s. The server hearing I was doing the ride made sure to give me the biggest piece of carrot cake they had. My bill was $12 and she got a $12 tip! I took a long bath and slept like a rock!
On the two day ride, they close the southbound lanes and take us in a herd! I was on top of the bridge when my chain came off!!!! I jumped off, fixed it (with people behind cussing me) and got back on in record time!
The rest is a blur, but I made it to the finsh!
This was the only time I took the bus home to Seattle… THAT was a miserable ride…
Four years and a lot of miles later, I decided to ride again, but this time in one day!
Michelle was meeting me in Portland, so there was no need to put stuff on a truck or to go to the starting line. I decided to start at 445 AM the official time, but from the bike path adjacent to the the starting line. (I DID remember my water bottles.)
I took off. My mistake in the fist half was stopping at the wrong rest area for bathroom break. I stood in line for 30 minutes! But there was no choice. I was counting the seconds as I was short on time! But when you gotta go you gotta go!
I was lucky on this ride, the first half was cool and drizzly. I made good time even with the bathroom stop. Good thing I did, as south of the halfway point I got the only flat I ever had on an STP! I changed it, but at 120 miles I was tired. As I rode, it didn’t feel right. I checked and tire wasn’t fully not the rim. I had to stop again, flatten it and reseat it, only to find I only had one more CO2 cartridge, and 80 miles to go!! I pumped it up best I could with my tiny pump and got into the Vader rest area.
The mechanic took my bike and sent me to water up, When I got back the tire was fully inflated and I was good to go. I bought a better pump after that!
I rode the bridge alone that year, and hit Oregon. It was nip and tuck for me to get to the finish in time. I had lost too much with the flat and the restroom. I did stop for a Diet Mtn Dew and a subway! It helped!
However there was also a tailwind, and the coolness of the morning left me with a lot of reserves. I buckled down and made the ride! Two minutes before the official closing I crossed! I was a one day rider!! 206 miles!
Michelle got me to the hotel, into a tub, got me room service and put me to bed!
I wrote at that time I would NOT do 200 in a day again!
I did not ride that year, but Mighty Manda and Auburn Liz, two amazing women I worked with did! I am still VERY proud of them! I kept an eye on Facebook all day to see that they finished!
I had switched to cleats and got the itch. I could be faster! I signed up for another STP….
The week before was a record heat wave, we were close to 100 degrees all week long! I decided to start at 4 AM and try to beat some heat. It was already 70!
In Kent, about 30 miles in, Auburn Liz and her hubby passed me. She yelled, all in fun, “Keep up old man!” and they were gone!
The heat kept climbing. I was watering up every chance I got. I had two water bottles and a camelback backpack. They were dry at each stop! I saw the temp say 97 at one point!
In Vader the line for water was long, and I was in it. Somehow I had passed Liz and her hubby, they pulled up, saw the line, and decided, well he did, they had enough water and kept going!
Ten miles or so south of there, heading up a hill, there was Liz sitting in the shade. She was bone dry… I had been passing people getting attended to on both sides of the rode for miles. She looked bad. In my yellow bag I had one emergency bottle of water and and one last electrolyte tablet. I gave them to her and went in search of her husband.
He did not leave her on purpose. He was leading and thought she was right behind him. Four miles down the road I found him. “Dude you are in SO much trouble!” said I. And I told her where I left her. He went back and I continued on. (they finished after I did!)
In Oregon I pulled into the first rest stop. They had hot dogs and brownies and cold water! I sat and ate and drank. I was ready to go.
However, highway 30, the last 50 miles has no shade. The sun was hot and I was hurting. 25 miles from the end I called Michelle and said I was done come get me!
She did the exact right thing! She is an athlete and knows the brain gives up before the legs. And she knew I would be SO disappointed in myself for quitting. She went into coach mode! “GET YOUR ASS ON THAT BIKE AND PEDAL! 25 MILES IS NOTHING FOR YOU!! DO IT! YOU CAN MAKE IT!”
And I did!
But I was fried!
Michell grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and got me to the hotel. Again, when I was in the tub, she got room service. But halfway through pasta and beer I was, so I am told, speaking in tongues. I was put to bed and didn’t move!
I was DONE with the STP!!
One day in January, Rob of the Oregon Coast fame
Texted me to say he was doing the STP. Then he told me he was doing it one day.
Rob had never done 100 miles in a day. Thats an epic ride, 200 in one day is done by VERY few people. I looked at Michelle and the mantra for the year was coined, “We can’t let Rob die.” I signed up for one more time!
We took off early from the hotel in Seattle
I planned a route to got us to the course. And we were pointing our noses south and pedaling away!
As we rode, we both noticed, though neither said it, that we were making GREAT time! Somehow we scored a tailwind, and we were an hour ahead of schedule at the halfway mark!
He and I ride well together. We kept out pace, never wavered, skipped every other rest stop, and were soon at the bridge. I told him just to keep going do NOT stop not the bridge! And we were soon in Oregon, We made such good time we had a chance of getting to the finish before our sherpas! They were stuck in I5 southbound traffic.
It was not as hot as 2016, but I was feeling the miles and the sun at the last rest stop!
But in the end, we crossed the finish with time to spare!
Rob competed his first and I my 4th STP!
There is something about this ride.
The energy and camaraderie of the riders. The anticipation of riding. The support of the staff and riders. Plus the memories of the rides, stay with you forever. I never thought I’d ride it ever and I sure as hell never thought it would up being 4 times.
Now its 2020. I had no plans for any big rides this year. But then Covid hit, and the Cascade bike club is on the ropes! it is possible the STP will be no more!
So when I saw this virtual ride, I knew I was going to do it! Better yet, I have the most amazing new partner to ride with me!
We have 20 days for 200 miles! There are headwinds, work schedules and hills Not to mention whale watching and bald eagles. All which will conspire to slow us down! But, come the end, I plan to show y’all our finisher patches!
I have had many epic rides in the last 12 years. But none, not one, will compare to the Seattle to Portland. I hope it survives COVID, there are plenty of up and coming riders that need todo this!