This past weekend, I rode Seattle to Portland (STP) with roughly 10,000 other cyclists; this was an annual ride organized by the Cascade Bicycle Club. According to their stats, most of the riders are from WA, only 248 are from out of country, roughly half are riding STP for the first time, and a fraction of the total ride the full 205 miles in one day. The rest of us do it in two days. I rode it with good friend Steve, as well as M and J.
Here we are about to leave for the start line at about 5:30 am. (thanks Peg for getting up to take the picture)
All smiles at the start line.
And we’re off. The person with the megaphone is yelling at mister 7274 for not wearing a helmet.
Still riding with the much faster M&J near the start.
We took a break at the Seward Park rest stop. Unfortunately just prior to this, Steve clashed wheels with another cyclist who braked suddenly and then someone ran into him. Fortunately, he escaped with just bruises on his wrist and thigh.
On the way to the REI rest stop at mile 24, I am overtaken by this mysterious bike. I manage to catch up briefly and the rider verified that this was indeed a Ti folding bike. She was much faster so I didn’t get any more information.
A little sleuthing turned up the name: the Burke 20, which does not appear to be on sale according to the website. No information on pricing either, but it would be an interesting thing to compare to the Helix (another Ti folding bike that has yet to see the light of day).
Unfortunately, before the REI rest stop I also lost track of Steve and when I tried to use Glympse to track him, the app gave me the impression that he was ahead of me. This turned out to be wrong, and we didn’t get back together until the overnight stop Saturday evening. For the record, Glympse didn’t seem to work very well during the whole ride, even in Portland.
The REI rest stop was a mob scene. I learned later that experienced riders avoid this stop by riding on, or by stopping at a Starbuck just before this point.
For the Washington State portion of the ride, all turns were indicated by pink road markings, although most of the time you just followed the line of cyclists ahead of you.
People working hard about 2/3rd’s of the way up “the Hill” which turned out to be not too much trouble.
Two Team Joy riders being greeted at the top of the hill.
Lunch stop was at Spanaway. With 10,000 cyclists, expect to line up for everything. This is the line for one of the banks of portapotties.
The food line was similarly long: about 15 minutes each.
Lunch the first day:
I could have also grabbed an assortment of cookies or granola bars. People who are severely allergic to peanuts should note that one of the two choices for sandwiches on both days was PB&J.
The only thing for which there wasn’t a line was filling up your water bottles. I ended up having to spend about an hour here. I would have been better off finding lunch and a bathroom elsewhere. There was a Home Depot just a few blocks away, along with some other stores.
Shortly after lunch we entered Joint Base Lewis–McChord, which restricted traffic to military personnel.
It was actual wonderful riding, with next to no car traffic. I did see the occasional sign that warned of things like: “live artillery fire over roadway”.
Just past the base and on the road to Yelm, we see the first sign for Centralia.
About 14 miles of the stretch between Yelm and Centralia was along a very peaceful multi-use trail. I was enjoying this enough that I only took this one lousy picture.
This gives you a slightly better idea of what it was like.
The trail ended at Tenino where there was another mobbed rest stop which I bypassed.
Some local people were situated just a little further along, and were selling bottles of water at a county park with bathrooms. Much better!
The end of the first day at Centralia College.
Overall, my strategy of eating either a pack of energy chews or a Kind bar every hour on the hour kept me from bonking, but my legs really started running out of gas for the last 20 miles or so. When I got to Centralia, just past this gate I lay down on some grass, and I didn’t get up for about thirty minutes. I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be able to do the second day, but after about an hour, I was up and about looking for my luggage, and figuring out where my riding friends were.
Here are the number of bikes in the guarded bike corral that had kickstands, my Tikit among them
and here are the bikes that didn’t have a kickstand
including these two Bromptons.
I saw about ten or so Brommies either at Centralia, or at the very end of the ride, but I never saw any on the road. Kudos to my fellow 16″ wheel riders!
A few notes about staying at Centralia:
- food options were varied enough, with a few vegetarian or gluten free options. There are also grocery stores in town.
- we stayed in the gym, but the great majority of people camped. I guess they knew it was not going to rain.
- if you stay in the gym, bear in mind that the men’s bathrooms on either side are different. One has more bathroom stalls, and the other has more shower stalls.
- unaccountably, if you wanted to get coffee with the paid breakfast, that was a separate line outside the cafeteria.
- they are smart enough to start serving breakfast at 4 am. We left Centralia around 6:30, and I got the sense that most had left by then.
Just south of Centralia, we get a small section of bike path just along I-5. However, the rest of the day was on roads.
Just after the first climb of the day is the small village of Napavine where apparently this woman gives out free banana bread every year. Regrettably I was not able to sample it as it had walnuts.
Rolling hills and nice country riding.
Another mobbed mini stop at Winlock which Steve and I bypassed. I guess we missed the world’s largest egg.
Miracles of miracles, we meet M&J who did stop at Winlock to check out the egg.
Lunch at Lexington was much more efficient. There was almost no line for food.
Lunch the second day included a garbanzo bean and potato salad with pesto.
A little past the lunch stop was the Lewis & Clark bridge where we crossed the Columbia River into Oregon. Here we are turning left towards the bridge.
We were directed onto an offramp to wait the canonical 15 minutes before we were allowed to cross as a solid mass of cyclists.
And off we go.
Welcome to Oregon.
Riders were warned not to use the shoulder because of expansion joints. Sure enough these were covered by large metal plates, and on the fast ride down off the bridge, about 20 feet passed one of these plates I saw many water bottles by the side of the road.
Curving onto HWY 30.
A look back at the bridge.
The next 40 miles was on HWY 30, which was the least pleasant part of the whole ride. In some sections there were two lanes of traffic in either direction but there was usually light enough traffic that the curb lane was left empty. Signs indicated to drivers that there would be cyclists on the road this particular weekend.
Road narrows to one line in each direction in the town of Rainier.
Other sections had a relatively narrow shoulder, and things would get a little dangerous if there was car traffic along with cyclists insisting on passing, as many of the pacelines would do.
There were also some sections of rumble strips on the approach to St. Helens.
One bright spot along this road: we meet up with M&J again just as we stop to take selfies at the city limits sign. Thanks to blue Colnago guy for taking this picture.
One final bridge towards downtown.
and here I am crossing the bridge, trying to look happy for the photographer.
Not surprising to see good bike infrastructure in downtown Portland.
Just before the finish, we see one of the bikeshare stations that are still in the process of being installed. Branded by Nike by the looks of them.
Here I follow Steve down the finish chute.
Another picture of Bromptons that did the ride. I was told that some of them belonged to one day riders.
Overall, it was a very well organized ride. All of the volunteers were wonderful, and my fellow riders very friendly. I enjoyed myself, although I was somewhat undertrained for the event, and I was seriously wiped out after the first day. My GPS stats showed that I spend about a total of about 10 hours on the first day, and 10.5 hours on the second, with an average riding speed of about 20 kph, which was about what I expected.
I did get of comments on my Tikit. Aside from the usual jokes about having to pedal harder, most people gave me a big thumbs up. I did see three other Fridays on the route (no other Tikits) as well as a Family Tandem and even a triple. However, nothing tops the dad of the year with the kidback tandem and trail-a-bike with a trailer behind that!
Interestingly enough, I also got a lot of nice compliments on my wool jersey.
I would certainly consider doing it again. The weather conditions were near ideal: overcast most of the time, and not hot (max of about 75°F). If it had rained or been very hot, it would have been much more difficult. My only regret was that I didn’t have any time to explore the cycling mecca that is Portland. Maybe next time.
A big thanks to my riding buddy Steve for inspiring me to do the ride, and to Peg for logistical support i.e. hosting before and the ride back to Seattle.