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My Seattle-to-Portland Journal
In February of this year, at my mother’s 95th birthday party, I told my family that I was going to ride the STP (the Seattle to Portland, 205-mile bike ride) in an effort to get in shape.
This was news to my wife and everyone else as I am not a cyclist.
I told everyone who would listen that I was training to ride the STP (to give me more incentive!).
My brother, who at age 71, is 18 months younger than me, states that he will ride with me. He is an accomplished cyclist having ridden coast to coast and also the Underground Railroad route.
Registration opened for the 2012 STP. I was online at 7:45 a.m. and registered. I weighed in at 209.8 pounds this a.m. — not good, but I am focused on not letting that get to 210.
Taking the bike to Mike's Bikes for new tires/tubes and service this morning. Bought a biking magazine and have been pouring over it looking at new bikes, clothing and equipment.
Ordered a jacket, tool kit, rear light and the bike shop is installing an odometer (they call it a computer).
I picked up my bike and it looks really good for a 34-year-old, 32-pound machine. In bike years, this bike and I are about the same age and I think the bike looks better.
I meet up with about a dozen or more riders at the Sequim Community Church parking lot for a little 20-plus mile jaunt. Nice people, all look like they have been doing this for a while and have good-looking equipment. About eight miles into the ride, I am at the back of the pack and I tell a nice guy who was keeping me company that I think I will turn around and head back. The small hills that we had encountered had really sapped me.
On the way back, I am concerned that the others would finish their ride and beat me back to the car even though I was going only half as far!
I totaled 12 miles, average speed (per my computer) was 11.3. At that pace, it will take more than 20 hours to do the STP if I am to stop at any rest stops. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have ridden another mile.
Stopped at a convenience store on the way home and got a cookie and some Gatorade.
Began my in home workout: 105 leg extensions and 200 arm/shoulder reps on my home gym (a gym that hadn’t seen me for a while).
Headed out to ride the Olympic Discovery Trail. Rode 14 miles, average speed 10.4 mph. Really went better today but there was wind. Feels like my seat could be further distant from my handlebars.
Saw a biker with really good form go by me at a good speed, making me realize what a beginner I am.
Bought an air pressure gauge and found my tires at 80 pounds were 20 to 25 pounds underinflated. This could be big! Did my home workout.
Weather was bad, so no riding, then left for Palm Springs and 10 days in the sun playing golf!
Stopped in at several bike shops on our vacation, looking at the latest and greatest. Bought another bike magazine and am starting to realize that my 34-year-old, 10-speed bike is not only very heavy at 32 pounds, but also is under geared! I am seriously looking for a new or newer bike.
Returned home from Palm Springs and began my search in earnest. Weather was so bad I wasn't not riding, so looked for a faster machine.
I went to Portland and bought a used Greg Lemond model, a 20-pound bike with 30 gears, that I had found on craigslist. Now I needed shoes because the pedals required shoes that clip in and out.
So, I took the new bike to the local bike shop, got it serviced, order some new shoes and got bike gloves. The bike shop likes my new bike.
A few days later my shoes arrived and I took my new bike out for a spin. I was cautioned about the shoes, as you have to clip out before stopping or else you will fall over (the rider is “attached” to the pedals with this type of shoe/pedal).
Later that day, I fell over in my own driveway because I clipped out with my right foot but I leaned to the left and my left foot was still clipped in! Fortunately I had my helmet on and no damage done.
Week of March 26
I got only short rides in but I managed to fall twice more. I rode to the end of Lost Mountain Road and did fine, but on the way back, I couldn’t make it up one of the hills and when I went to clip out I couldn’t get my foot released and fell to the right, down the hill side about 10 feet. No harm done, but I was now very concerned about falling into traffic or over a cliff, etc.
Also, I was surprised that I couldn’t make it up that hill with my new 30-speed bike. I started checking on gearing and find that my lowest gear was a 25-tooth gear when there are gears with many more teeth available, so I had the bike shop install a 32-tooth gear. Now I can really climb I was thinking!
Finally a nice day and after church I had some time, so I rode from the Sequim Walmart to downtown Port Angeles via the Olympic Discovery Trail. No problem! Rode all the way without stopping and made it up all the hills.
Got off my bike at the long-term parking area along the waterfront and then realized that my butt was totally numb and my upper hamstrings were beginning to hurt. Felt like I had bone bruises in both my sit bones.
I still had to ride all the way back to Sequim. I decide to ride back on Highway 101 and just take it easy.
After a 15-minute rest in downtown Port Angeles, I headed back. Stopped at the transit stop near Monroe and damned if I don’t fall again when I can’t unclip. Fell to the right onto the sidewalk, giving lots of motorists a couple of yuks! Still not hurt!
After a short rest, I was back on the bike and made it to Wilder Auto and spent some time casually cruising their inventory looking at all those snazzy cars I could be driving if I weren’t killing myself with this bike.
Back on the road and I made it beyond Olympic Cellars and pulled over on a grassy spot, grabbed a fence post (so I didn't fall over), parked my bike and took a 15-minute nap on that soft grass.
Back on the bike, went to R Corner and took off on Lewis Road to Heuhslein Road and then get on Old Olympic Highway to Kitchen-Dick, south on Kitchen-Dick to the Discovery Trail and start on my final leg. My butt was now so sore that I know it couldn’t get any worse and I just kept plugging along.
Stopped near Carlsborg Road and a passing cyclist saw me leaning up against a fence and asked if I am OK. Yep, just got a sore butt.
Made it back to the Sequim Walmart after a total 26.5 miles and four hours and 15 minutes and I could hardly get in my car to drive home.
Obvious that I now needed a new seat!
The bike shop fit me for a proper seat so I got a new seat and a new pair of well-padded bike shorts. (And my family thinks that golf is expensive!)
I joined the Sequim Spoke Folk with the intention of riding three days per week. The next three rides included a fall in the parking lot, a fall at a rest stop (both the result of failing to “clip out”) and a spill at the corner of Hendrickson Road and North Fifth Avenue when I hit a curb while attempting to enter a sidewalk. The latter spill took out a fellow rider.
Through it all, the Spoke Folk are supportive, telling me that many others had done some or all of what I had done. This helped ease the embarrassment a little bit — but not much!
Fourth ride, no spills! Many of these riders are very strong. A rider I will forever be calling “Super Dan” told me that he has lost 60 pounds and rode the STP in just over 13 hours, then got a ride back to Chehalis and the next day rode the second half AGAIN.
And I am going to try and do it once and in two days!
I decided to ride solo for a while to try to build up more miles. I have been riding three days a week for two weeks and have gotten stronger, but a really long ride still looks really long!
I attempted to ride from Sequim to the Elwha River and back. Weather was OK, but winds were forecast. Made it to the Elwha, but took two falls when my chain slipped off the rear cassette (gear cluster).
Both times I was going up steep hills, in my lowest gear when suddenly I was freewheeling and of course lost momentum and fell because my feet were clipped to the pedals.
Rode back from the Elwha to Port Angeles where I met my wife for lunch. Just as I pulled in to the restaurant, it started raining so I rode back to Sequim in her car. Rode 33 miles, though.
I had my best ride yet, 30 miles and averaged 15.2 mph with two short rest stops.
I joined my brother for a 65-mile ride from Burlington around Lake Samish and I am spent! Was so glad to be done! Continue to ride 20- to 30-mile rides, three days per week.
I took a hard fall in Sequim Bay State Park on the Discovery Trail when I took a turn and my bike hit a patch of slime on the roadway and the bike went out from under me. Bad hip bruise and I break my front wheel — expensive.
Ordered new wheels, $416. This sport is way more expensive than golf!
Suddenly, it’s STP day.
At 4:30 a.m., we leave my brother’s house for Seattle with two very sleepy wives in tow.
Arrived at the start line and off we went at 6:30 a.m. — with a small portion of 10,000 of our closest friends!
My two biggest fears on this ride were not making it up “The Hill” in Puyallup (about a mile long, 7 percent grade) and getting involved in a crash somewhere along the way. Made it up “The Hill," no problem. Never got involved in any crashes although we saw medics and ambulances along the way tending to some not so fortunate.
2:30 p.m. — Did 100 miles and was feeling fine, finishing in Centralia at this time.
Sunday — We were up early with hotel breakfast bar waffles for fuel and our very supportive wives encouraging us and we were off at 6 a.m. For me, the second day was much harder with dozens of hills, many substantial hills as we traveled staying west of Interstate 5 through Winlock, Vader, Castle Rock and Lexington. On both days, these little towns had crowds of people cheering us on.
Finally, we were at the Lewis and Clark bridge spanning the Columbia. Hundreds of riders were gathered waiting for the police to close the westbound lane so we could cross. Stopping on the bridge is forbidden and this is a climb! Going down the other side is steep and riders came flying by me doing 40 mph (I hold it to 30, worried about what might happen if I blow a tire or someone goes down in front of me).
We were in Oregon with about 60 miles to go. Rainier, Goble, Deer Island, St. Helens, Scappoose all went by, including a lot of hills.
On one stretch, I could see a good mile ahead, up a long hill and there were riders, without gaps the whole distance. Wish I could have had that picture.
As I neared the intersection with Cornelius Pass, I hit the proverbial wall. Suddenly, I was done and still have 30 miles to go.
I had gotten well ahead of my brother and used that time to take “butt breaks” every five miles until he caught up with me.
We made it to Linnton, and we were directed off U.S. 30 up a HILL! A STEEP HILL, which provided access to the St. John's Bridge. Riders were tired and the moans were loud!
Once on top, we had a pretty easy ride the final 10 miles through north and northeast Portland and then the finish at Holladay Park in the Lloyd Center area.
Thousands of people in the park, a band, many food/drink vendors, my son and one of my daughters with her husband, and our supportive wives. Done! Finished at 2:30 p.m.
Going up Interstate 5 at 4:30 p.m., we went under an overpass that was still full of riders pulling close to the finish.
Besides finishing, memorable moments will include seeing several paracyclists, the variety of people (all ages, shapes and sizes, but most were trim) and the variety of conveyances from a unicycle, a skateboard, recumbent bikes, and of course the standard road bike; the colorful mass of cyclists; the organization of the STP by the Seattle Bike Club; and the generosity of the many vendors along the way giving out food/drink freely.
I might not do it again, but it will remain one of my favorite lifetime memories.
Ray DeJong is a Sequim resident.