What We Loved About STP: Everything

Over the weekend we experienced our first STP – Seattle to Portland – a 204-mile, 10,000-plus-rider trek run by Cascade Bicycle Club. What a ride! At the risk of sounding hokey … it was as much about all the people as it was about the pedaling (and the pedaling was pretty spectacular). But the people made it truly stellar. And indeed, very heartwarming.

Some of what has left such a glow:

  • Our fellow riders. Such a diversity of cyclists, all committed to covering 204 miles (some of them in one day). There were plenty of super-strong riders. There also were plenty of less strong, less experienced riders and, given the way our butts are feeling right now, we can’t imagine what going this distance was like for them. There was the guy covering 200 miles on a unicycle, and the one hauling a dog. Kids on tandems with a parent, and a number of kids who looked no older than 12 riding regular bikes with a parent or two trailing behind. There was the bike with two parents and one kid (what is that called? A trip-dem?) There were the costumed riders, and the ones who have been doing it for two decades (or more), and the 78-year-old guy, and the riders from all over the world …
  • The rest stops. There were the major stops, with sponsors such as Clif and REI, and the mini-stops, run by community organizations as fundraisers. Not only were there LOTS of them, but they were packed with volunteers who were downright friendly and caring, even after hours upon hours of pouring water and spreading peanut butter.
  • The unofficial stops.  Some residents just set up their own little stops, like the kid with the lemonade stand or the guy on the side of the road spraying us with water as we neared the finish.
  • The top-notch mechanics. We had first-hand experience, and what a great experience it was.
  • The diversity of overnight lodging possibilities. Many people camped out at Centralia College, either inside or outside. Others stayed in motels there or further down the road. Still others, including us, paid to stay with area families, who host STP riders to raise money for a variety of organizations. We had such a great time with our hosts, a newly retired teacher and firefighter, who made us right at home, fed us, chatted with us, and overall were a key to our great experience.
  • The festivals at the halfway point and the finish. Two big parties, a chance to kick back and relax and celebrate and just have a great time. With both chocolate milk and beer as recovery drinks.
  • The support crews and decorum enforcers who traveled the route by bike, motorcycle and car.
  • The Cascade folks who made it all work flawlessly. OK, they’ve been doing this for so many years that they should have it down to a science. And they do. Like clockwork, perfectly organized, perfectly executed, a massive event with intricate logistics that flowed seamlessly.
  • The scenery. Coupled with the weather.
  • The diversity of riding experiences. On the first day, with a greater density of people starting at the same place and more or less the same time, we got the pleasure of a number of impromptu pacelines as riders of similar speed and abilities joined up.  That was simply a blast and we rolled at a nice zippy clip. On the second day, when we started a bit late and also behind a lot of fast riders who closer to Portland, we took our time and stopped to take a lot of pictures. In between we motored speedily on our own — but were happy to stop and savor the full experience, not just the “we’re tough and we can ride far and fast” experience.
  • The folks scattered here and there along the route, ringing cowbells and cheering. These people were terrific and such a great boost.
  • The finish festival — and especially, the crowds that lined the blocks heading into the festival and those at the finish itself. It actually made us sort of misty-eyed. Riding those last several blocks was just one big happy grin. Not because we’d finished the ride, which for us wasn’t a huge deal. But because these people made it so spectacular for us.

See below for lots more photos!

Ann Weatherill Cycling Classic, Walla Walla

For our second century in June we drove four-plus hours to Walla Walla, and a climate and landscape dramatically different from that of Seattle. And all for a great cause:

The Wheatland Wheelers ride honors Ann Weatherill, a cyclist and middle school teacher in Walla Walla who was struck and killed by a motorist while on a Mother’s Day ride in 2004.

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington and the local cycling community worked together for the Ann  Weatherill Safe Passing Act, which  makes it illegal to pass another vehicle if there are bicyclists or pedestrians approaching from the opposite direction on the roadway.

For that reason alone, the ride was worth doing.

But there was a last-minute hitch before we could get going …

In Paula’s hasty packing the day before, she’d grabbed a pair of bike shoes without bothering to look at them. Turns out they were her mountain bike shoes. No way would those cleats work with the Look Keo pedals of her road bike.  The day seemed headed for disaster.

But! Amazingly and day-savingly, Allegro Cyclery in downtown Walla Walla opens at 8 a.m. on Saturdays!

So we planted ourselves in front of the store at 7:55 a.m, and promptly at 8 got some emergency Crank Brothers pedals  (cheaper and faster than buying yet another pair of shoes …) and while we were at it, a couple of jerseys.

After riding “home” to drop off the jerseys at our Airbnb cottage, we started the century some 90 minutes after most other 100-mile riders.  That put us just about last at every rest stop — which helped us get to know the fine folks of the Wheatland Wheelers really well. What a friendly and helpful group of people. And an added bonus: the daughter of one of the club members strummed her guitar at every break.

As for the route itself: a tremendous diversity of wheat and alfalfa fields, vineyards, apple,  pear and cherry orchards, a lot of windmills, and the striking Blue Mountains of Oregon and Washington.

Oh, and the bees. Lots of bees, kept on hand to help the alfalfa thrive (and to produce honey while they’re at it).  An added element of interest!

For recovery the next day, we made our way to several wine tastings, plus the Walla Walla Multicultural Festival.  Sort of like a street fair in New York. Sort of.