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23 July 2015 - 1:53pm

Seattle to Portland -- 200 miles in 1 day


Cycling Report – Gerd Rosenblatt

July 11, 2015

On Thursday morning, July 9, Lori Cherry, Sue, and I left Berkeley to drive up to Seattle to do the classic Seattle to Portland bike ride (STP) with our friend, Ron Kaplan, who lives on Bainbridge Island outside Seattle. We got to Albany, Oregon, that night and to my niece, Sandy’s, house in Seattle by noon on Friday where we met Ron. Nice family visit.


Craig Robertson had suggested doing STP to Lori and me right after the Grand Tour in 2014 as a fun and fairly flat double century that would be suitable for the trike. The ride is huge, limited to 10,000 riders! Ron and I signed up right away in January, when the ride was open only to members of the Cascade Bike Club, and had bib numbers in the 2000s. Lori missed the first sign-up but thankfully got in on the second chance in June after some of the initially signed-up riders had cancelled. Hence, her high number.


Lori had done STP before with Craig on his tandem. Ron had done it a couple of times as a two-day ride, which is the way at least ¾ of the riders do it. The oldest rider on record over the 35 previous years of STP was 89 – I don’t know if that was a one-day or two-day rider. This was to be my first attempt and I signed up to be timed. The timed start is in waves between 4:45 and 5:15 and the timed finish closes at 9:00 PM with a few minutes grace. Before the ride I figured we had a one in three chance of getting in by 9:00 PM from the official start – it meant averaging over 14 mph, faster than any ride I have done on a trike.


Friday afternoon, Lori, Ron, and I scoped out the start, 2 miles downhill from Sandy’s house, on our bikes. Seeing the start in a University of Washington parking lot, envisioning the mob scene of 10,000 riders, talking to a helpful Cascade volunteer, I began to have second thoughts. To Lori’s and Ron’s relief, I decided to forego the timed official start and to leave directly from Sandy’s house at 4:15 AM, starting at least one-half hour early and cutting 2.3 miles off the course, saving us 45-70 minutes in the evening, and spreading us out right away from 10,000 riders.


Saturday morning, Lori and I got up at 3:25, had some breakfast, left Sandy’s house at 4:16, biked about a mile down the hill where we met Ron on the course at 4:22 AM. We only waited for Ron a minute or two but in that time a constant stream of other early-starting riders passed us. We needed lights, of course, but there was essentially zero traffic at that hour. It was cool and cloudy. Some of the early starters were slow riders so although we were passed by many, we more-or-less stayed with a few, passed a few.


The first 41 miles are very flat, first following the shoreline of Lake Washington, and then flat-land a few miles east of Puget Sound. We made good time and averaged 15.3 mph. At mile 41 (official mile 43.3) we encountered the first and longest hill of the ride. Cf. large elevation change in profile above. From that point on the ride was ups and downs, mostly quite gentle, and my average dropped to 13+ mph for the rest of the ride. We were also slowed down by a mild headwind, a south wind opposite to the normal Pacific Coast pattern, that persisted all day.


The course has lots of so-called “mini stops” put on by various groups but we mainly stopped only at the official Cascade Bike Club stops at miles 22, 55, 100, 145, and 175. The rest stops were huge and crowded and had plenty of “port-a-potties” (256 in total they say) for that many riders. The food was OK for me – turkey and cheese sandwiches or wraps at every stop – but there wasn’t much for Lori’s gluten-free diet. There was only water to drink which was often hard to find. Because of the number of people involved, it was always quite a walk from where you parked your bike to the food and water, which added to the time spent at the stop.


At mile 53 we entered Joint Base Lewis-McCord. This was a new addition to the route, adding miles but giving us 10 miles of pleasant, scenic, traffic-free riding. There was a major rest stop in the military base at mile 55 (cf. photo). We arrived there at 8:11 AM. Unlike the first stop at mile 22, when we were still a bit ahead of the main pack, this was a mob scene. Somehow, Lori, Ron, and I managed to keep track of each other.


After we left the base, at mile 70 we stopped at a “mini stop” for a couple of Clif bars and water. I saw another trike parked there – a steel European trike with a large plexiglass fairing, much heavier than my CarbonTrikes but more aerodynamic. The rider said he was doing the ride in two days and would stop overnight near where the ride left Washington State (official mile 154). We left the stop before he did and never saw him again. At mile 73 we entered a well-kept bike trail for 14 miles, a really nice part of the ride, in the trees. On the bike trail we encountered rain for the first, but not the last, time. Gentle sprinkles. Never saw the sun all day, kept on my knee warmers and vest. By this time we were being passed regularly by huge pelotons of cyclists. Many of them we saw over and over again because we were a bit faster out of the rest stops. We were in a pattern we kept up most of the day: Lori leading, I following her closely, Ron behind me. Lori said the ride was the best people-watching ever.


At the half-way point, mile 100, just before noon at 11:50, we entered a huge rest stop at Centralia College. Thousands of riders. This is where many of the two-day riders camp overnight. I was handed a orange popsicle and a chocolate milk as I coasted to a stop. Both delicious. A woman took my picture and then another woman asked first my name and then my age. She immediately announced both on her public address microphone. She then asked how far I was going and I told her we planned to finish today. To my embarrassment, another announcement and applause. Lori bought some food from a vendor, I got a sandwich from the club tent.


After lunch it was up and down with a headwind and I felt like I was dragging. More sprinkles. We averaged 13.1 mpg over the next 55 miles after Centralia, even though on average it was more down than up. As we were leaving the last rest stop in Oregon, mile 145, ca. 3:40 PM, another trike pulled in. It was a younger guy on another faired steel trike. We didn’t see him again on the road but he finished shortly after us so he was probably slighter faster than I was.


At mile 152 we crossed the Lewis and Clark bridge into Oregon. Then headed south on the Columbia River Highway, US 30, for 40 miles to Portland. More sprinkles. More up and down. Traffic. But our speed picked up a little. Then some real rain that soaked our jerseys and stung my eyes. Sometime around mile 162 near the town of Goble we lost Ron and thought he had stopped at the “mini stop” there. Turned out he had had a flat but we didn’t know it. We saw many, many flats all day and could not understand it because until we got to US 30 the roads seemed fairly free of debris. Made me glad that I had put on all new tires for this ride.


At 5 PM we had 45 miles to go. At mile 174 we stopped at the last rest stop in St. Helens. Ron came in as Lori and I were leaving. Ron caught up to us a few miles down the road. I was finding the ride more difficult than the Grand Tour and was ready to have it end. Many of the same cyclists that had passed us repeatedly all day passed us again on this last stretch to and in Portland. We turned on our lights although it was still more than an hour before 9 PM sunset. After a slow last 10 miles through the city streets of Portland with many stops for traffic lights we pulled into the finish at 8:44 PM. A madhouse. Lori and Ron immediately went to find a beer. I looked for the Cascade Bike Club tent to turn in the timing chip I had not used. We were unable to call Sue but Lori was sure, correctly, that Sue would somehow find us.















CarbonTrikes Race SL


Comparing to the Grand Tour two weeks previous, my average was essentially identical, 13.7 vs. 13.6 mph. The Grand Tour has 5750′ of climbing while Seattle to Portland depends upon how you measure all the little climbs. The official climbing is 5024′, my Garmin GPS uncorrected registered 8155′, web corrections lowered this to 3965′. So call it similar but a little less. As mentioned earlier, I found STP harder, perhaps from the constant, although not strong, headwind. STP is 7 miles longer.


This was Ron’s first ride over 125 miles and he did great. It was nice to have him join us; he could have finished two hours earlier without us.


Because I signed up for a timing chip and did not use it, I, along with 123 others, am listed on the Cascade web site as “did not start”. There were well over 10,000 riders with only 252 timed finishers (out of 454 assigned chips). If we had gone to the official start and been timed I would not have finished by 9, probably would have gotten in around 9:30-9:45 PM. The fastest finisher did it in 10:26, apparently riding by himself at an elapsed average speed of 19.7 mph. The oldest rider we saw was 3 years younger than me, 79. He passed us easily.


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