Seattle to Portland Ride 2011

Fun with refrigerator magnets at the halfway point

I’ve crossed something off my Bucket List! As a little girl growing up in Longview, Washington, I would watch for the bicyclists in the Seattle to Portland bike ride to come through town every summer. I remember being at the intersection of Fisher Lane and Westside Highway, waiting for cyclists to pass and telling Mother Superior, “I’m going to do that some day.” Well I did, finally! Bucket List pic to the right, taken on West Side Highway, one mile north of that intersection!

The Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (STP) is a 204-mile supported ride organized by the Cascade Bicycle Club. It started in 1979 as a race but is now a noncompetitive ride capped at 10,000 participants.

Team Awesome, AKA Dan and the smyelin’ babes!

I participated in this event with high school friend, Theresa Heim-Stohler and riding friend, Dan Kalowsky. None of us had done the STP before.

Theresa and I loaded our bikes on my car and headed up to Seattle the night before with Mother Superior. Thanks, Theresa, for the wonderful suggestion on staying in the Seattle area the night before rather than driving up at 2AM! We met Dan at 5AM at the start in the parking lot of the University of Washington. Mom then drove my car back home to my house. Thanks, Mother Superior! We couldn’t have done it without you and all your driving!!!

My special Medical Support jersey for the STP.

I volunteered as part of the medical support team on this ride. To accommodate the first aid supplies I wanted to carry, I added a rear rack and bag filled with various dressings and bandages, ice packs, Benadryl, Chamois Butter, glucometer and glucose gel, etc. I also wore a special red jersey with a star of life on it to designate I was part of the medical response team. I have to admit, I was so surprised by all the thank you’s from other cyclists during the ride when they recognized my jersey—I didn’t expect that at all. I would have carried all the first aid supplies anyway, I always do, so it made sense for me to participate officially in that capacity.

Kent REI Rest Stop

We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather. There were broken clouds, cool but not cold, at our 6AM start. They started us off in waves as riders accumulated at the starting line. The route took us past Lake Washington, to the first major stop at the Kent REI. This was the best stop of the whole event, with 70s disco music, a costumed emcee at the entrance, girls carrying trays of food for the riders, etc. We were energized…I danced the whole time we were there!

STP Day 1

We headed back out on the road toward “The Hill” in Puyallup, a 7% grade one mile climb. At mile 53 we hit Spanaway and pulled into the High School for the midway food stop. Volunteers had free food for us, wraps, fruit, bars, cookies, water, juice, Nuun electrolyte drink, Jamba Juice, etc. We just kept filling the pouches on the back of our riding jerseys then had a little picnic on the football field. The sun was out but it wasn’t too warm.

The next half of the trip skirted behind Fort Lewis Army Base, a road with a narrow bike lane and fast traffic. We stayed on this path until Yelm where we hit the Yelm-Tenino Trail for 14.5 miles. It was nice to have a dedicated bicycle trail after miles of fast traffic roadway.

Theresa and Dan enjoying beers!

After a quick stop in Tenino for water and a snack, we finished the last 15 miles into Centralia. We enjoyed a free orangesicle, stashed our bikes in the secure bike corrall for the night (Centralia PD provided security), and headed to the beer garden for a couple cool ones (and pizza). The midpoint stop is held on the Centralia College campus. A lot of folks packed tents (you are allowed to check two bags each that STP transfers from Seattle to Centralia and from Centralia to Portland) and camped on the grass, others threw sleeping bags on the gym floor for the night. We were lucky enough to have one of my high school BFFs, Seriny, who lives in Chehalis, come pick us up and host all three of us for the night. Seriny and Jason, you are both awesome! Thank you for the hospitality, food, drink, comfy beds, and ride from and back to Centralia!

We dropped off our bags, picked up our bikes and hit the road at 6AM for day two with similar weather, perhaps just a shade cooler. We started out ahead of the bulk of the riders so it was nice and sparse, but after stopping to do a medical assist at mile 4.5, we were taken over by a huge crowd of riders. (I’ll do a medical assist summary in a bit.) This was a beautiful section of riding, rural, little traffic. We pulled into Lexington, just north of Longview, at mile 144 for the midpoint lunch break. Just as the day before, volunteers had free lunch for us.

 


Mother Superior noticed prior to the ride that the route was going to pass right in front of the Canterbury Inn where Grandma Janet lives. So we gave a heads-up text to Mom when we left Lexington and stopped to visit Mom Sup and Grandma four miles later. It was so great to stop and visit Grandma and be greeted with cold washcloths for our faces and fresh fruit from Mom! Mom and Grandma had been sitting out front for an hour enjoying watching all the riders pass…they were cheering and clapping for them and the riders waved and hollered back and rang their bicycle bells as they went past.

From there we hit the Rainier Bridge to take us over the Columbia River into Oregon. The Goldwing Touring Association escorted us over the bridge in big groups, shutting southbound traffic occasionally to let us have the roadway to ourselves. The bridge wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had psyched myself into…in fact, pretty easy (but hey, thanks to Dan’s Skyline Blvd. tour the week before, EVERY hill was easy!)

Waiting at Rainier Bridge

So we followed Highway 30 all the way into Portland from here. Notably, the worst part of the ride, trafficwise. Highway 30 is horrible in a car, let alone on a bike, as it’s narrow, curvy, and fast traffic. We fortunately missed a patch of tacks in the bicycle lane (http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/07/post_121.html) between Scappose and Cornelius Pass. Right at Sauvie’s Island, at a crest in the road, we got our first glimpse of Portland in the form of the spires of the St. John’s Bridge spanning the Willamette River! Woooooo Hooooo! We exited Highway 30 to the NW Bridge Avenue hill approach to the St. John’s Bridge, wound through North Portland and along the bluff, and finally crossed the finish line at mile 204 at Holladay Park by Lloyd Center Mall!

That’s us…Dan, Theresa, and me, approaching the Finish Line!

A terrific event! So well organized! I would do it again in a heartbeat and encourage all my riding friends to do the same!

I had seven total medical assist stops on the route; two the first day and five the second. Most were sore knees, scrapes from minor falls. I did treat two bee stings to the lips, fortunately no allergic reaction component to either. The most significant injury was a broken clavicle sustained during a low-speed collision and crash at the Winlock food stop. Will definitely do medical support in the future and have a list of things to include next time…like waaaaaay more ace bandages!

Elevation Profiles

Day 1

 

Day 2

 So until next time…Ride Safe!

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