First I must set the scene. As the week progressed towards STP, the weather reports, especially those for Oregon went from bad to worse. It was... worrisome to say the least. The thought of biking US 30 in temps in the mid 90s was actually frightening, and I had doubts as to our ability to do it at all.
Dh and I talked a bit about circumstances in which we'd call off. Since we were doing the ride unsupported, we had no good plan for failure, which is never a good thing. Though I suppose, with a credit card, there is always a solution, right?
Friday was a day of frenzied getting everything together. Dh had checked over the bikes already, so that was done, and I'd gotten camping gear together, so that was done, but there are always a zillion details to attend to. We also went into Seattle to pick Perry up at rowing camp, and to get our rider packets at REI.
At rowing camp, the instructor, who teaches PE at his school, as well as crew, told us that Perry just did not stop. Always full of energy. Which, um, we know. I mean... at his middle school continuation ceremony, the teacher who roasted Perry said exactly that. That just keeps on and on, high energy. Until, not. And then he showed a photo of Perry on the way home from a day of noxious weed pulling, sound asleep with his head on the teacher's shoulder. It was so funny. Anyhow, we took our not exhausted yet child to REI.
Picked up packets. Bought t shirts, and a key chain for Linnea who was quite vexed that, yet again, she didn't get to go.
We got to bed Friday night, tired, and for me, dreading the 4am wake up. Once the wake up is done, the only thing I really dread on the whole ride is the hill into Napavine!
I ended up waking up at 2:45, and not being able to get back to sleep. Sigh.
4am. Since I'd been awake for a while, at least I didn't feel nauseated or anything. We got out reasonably fast, with -it turns out- nothing forgotten, which is always good. Of course the Dept of Transportation had to close the 520 bridge over the lake so our trip into Seattle took a lot longer than it otherwise would, and of course the traffic to get to the starting parking lot was long and took forever.
In parked. We were leaving the car there, and it didn't take long to get the pre-ride stuff done: potty, numbers on bikes (we do that last minute in case they don't stay on for the drive!), luggage dropped off on the truck to Winlock, selfie taken...
Off we go!
It was about 6:30 am. And it was already hot. Most STP starts we've needed jackets in the early am. Not Saturday.
We passed by a bad accident even before we reached the University Bridge, on Eastlake Ave. I know there was an accident there last year as well. Anyhow, she did not look in good shape. :( I wasn't able to find any report on her condition. I felt sick to my stomach.
The beginning of the route is beautiful, though the Arboretum, then down next to Lake Washington, to Seward Park. Then you make a right. Straight up a steep, though short, hill. If you haven't already geared down, it's too late! Good thing we know this, we were already geared down, so up we went.
The REI stop, at 25 miles in, is the first stop. Before that however, was our first encounter with a dangerous rider: Mimi's dad. Mimi is -according to the sign on her recumbant trail-a-bike- 7 years old and she was doing her first STP. Which is awesome. Her dad's name, judging by what people were calling him, is "Asshole!" He clearly had no idea of how long his bike + Mimi's tag-along were, and it was only the skillful riding of others that prevented him from knocking two cyclists over that first time I encountered him. We saw Asshole and Mimi several times, and his riding didn't get any better. I also heard several other riders commenting about him, so it wasn't just us.
The REI stop is always fun. Two years ago, it was The 80s, so everyone had leg warmers and 80s music was playing. Last year has faded, but the theme was... polka. So yeah, when we got in the live band was playing a polka. Then they played Edelweiss, which isn't a polka, they admitted, but hey, it fits the theme! Thanks for the earworm, guys!
We made the stop short, and got out quickly. Temps were going up and not wasting any of the relatively cool morning time was important.
After the REI stop, there is a short bit of semi-rural area. That's when we saw another guy. The call of "Car BACK!" which means... car coming, get out of the effing way would sound and... he'd pull into traffic. He did this several times. A gal right behind him finally shouted at him, "Dude, don't be an asshole! Car versus you, car wins!" Everyone laughed, but it really isn't funny.
Then there was The Hill. It's not that bad of a hill, all things considered, but I think it's... the first big challenge of the ride, so has taken on mythical proportions. Conquering The Hill is an STP milestone. I suspect that has happened because that's where many people realise HOLY FUCK WHAT THE HELL DID I SIGN UP FOR? We all did it ok. At the top, dh had to stop because the clip on his shoe was stuck to his pedal. He managed to get it off -phew!- and re-tightened. He only had one screw in, but was able to get a much needed second one later in the day.
We got to Spanaway, 50 miles in, the traditional lunch stop. The Spanaway stop sucks rotten eggs. It's too hot, the lines for the potties are epic, and the food isn't always great. It was worse than usual this year in that the water lines were about 20 minutes long
. That should have been remedied right away. It was awful. The temps were probably already in the 80s, the sun was beating down, and waiting for water was no fun. I had a splitting headache.
I was really
worried about Perry at that point. He was whiny, which is not typical of him, he looked tired and red. Dh and I got a bit more hands on at managing his food and water, ie we started reminding him non stop. Eat, drink, whatever.
After more sunscreen and ibuprofen, off we went.
The area around Spanaway is an area we call the "Military stupid zone". On I5, or on these smaller roads, the whole area around JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) is an area of bad traffic, and bad drivers. On I5, typically the traffic stops for no reason, only the right lane moves, the accidents are more numerous, and it's not a fun area to go through. On STP, it's a scary area. It was around there that a truck threatened Perry last year, and where the asses downshift their diesels in front of cyclists most often.
As we're biking... an emergency vehicle passed us, sirens blaring. Shit. Then a second. We passed the accident a few minutes later. Cyclist down, though this gal was at talking, and the situation didn't look as bad. Still, gulp.
Wanted to fill up water at McKenna mini-stop. They are out of water. We have enough to go on with, but still disconcerting.
After a bit, we got on a 14.5 mile section of bike trail. It's always hot, there is very little shade, but no cars, this year most people who were not part of the ride stayed OFF the trail. Last year there were parents with small kids, and that's always scary when you're going even slightly faster than walking speed. Which, of course, we all are.
Perry got a flat on that section. Grrr. It looked like, and this was verified when I fixed the tube after we got home, that that brand of patches isn't that great. Sigh. The other brand we have was great, but I can't figure out what it was, since there is no name or anything.
Anyhow, fixed the flat. The heat is awful, it's bright, and the water in our bottles is warm enough to make tea.
The Tenino rest stop was up next. It's run as a fundraiser by the high school basketball team, and this year? I suspect their forethought saved quite a few people from medical problems. The water there is cold, and there was plenty of it :) . There were no lines. In addition, they'd set up a line of pvc piping shooting water up 6+ feet into the air. Cold water. Many people got soaked, finally cooling down. Damp and in the shade, I felt SO much better, my headache subsided a bit.
It came back within minutes of being back out in the sun and heat, but still, I felt better.
This section was where Perry had decided he didn't need us any longer and taken off. AC did that this year. Only unlike Perry, she didn't stop to wait at the gas station at the entrance of Centralia. Sigh.
100 miles done. 20 to go. Temps are apparently around 95F. Fucking HOT.
Centralia mid-way point. We found AC waiting for us (sigh...). We got creamsicles. This is the only time I'd ever eat a creamsicle, because things taste very different when it's hot, they are cold, and you've just biked 100 miles.
We spent a bit too much time in Centralia, doing various things. We didn't feel in a major hurry, it was still brutally HOT, and we needed the rest. Eventually we headed out to Winlock.
After Chehalis, we stopped for some energy gels. Those things are gross, especially warm, but do they ever work! Dh's knees were bothering him and while I was having zero issues with fatigue, my head was still in pretty awful pain. We told the kids to go on up ahead to where we were camping, and they zipped on up ahead, soon out of sight. Gulp. My babies!
My personal bugaboo, the hill into Napavine, was next. I made it, if slowly.
Last six miles to Winlock. Rollers. Which are hills following each other, the idea being that you use the speed you get on one downhill to help you up the next. We were just outside of Napavine, about to hit the first hill when....
Flat tire. Crappity crud. It's late, we now had to change a flat, and we may not make it to Winlock in time for dinner... and who knows what is open in Winlock this late?
My phone rang. I picked up the call, thinking it might be AC or Perry in trouble, but it was my brother...
Standing by the side of the road, temps still in the 90s, I'm hot and sweating, and my poor spouse is changing my tire as...
I squee with excited excitedness because I have a brand new niece!!!!!!!!!!!
I'd have missed the call without the damn flat.
There are truly few bits of news that are as incredibly wonderful as people you love having a new baby that you get to love too.
The next six miles literally flew by. Still concerned about dinner, it's still hot, and I hoped the kids weren't worried about us, since the flat repair took some time.
When we got in, we biked to the elementary school. A quick look at the field showed our red tent set up.
Instead of finding what we could have, ie two teens flopped on the grass eating the free pretzels, we found a tent all set up, sleeping pads blown up, and sleeping bags fluffed. And the kids, having done that, eating pretzels. I am so proud of them, they thought to pick up our luggage and made camp. It may seem obvious, but with teens? You never know.
120 miles, 13.4 mph average, 9h18min on the bike.
But we have a small problem. AC had a cushy gel seat on her bike. Last Tuesday -note that STP is Saturday- she points out that the lycra cover of her seat is torn. The seat is too old to find a direct replacement, and that's a pretty major equipment change very late in the game. We decided to just go, after all, it was just a tear in the lycra. However, now, we have a problem: the lycra continued tearing, and she lost the hunk of foam at the front of the saddle, straight down to the plastic frame. We need to figure something out, because the bike is not ridable under those conditions. Still, first, dinner.
Dinner presented a challenge. We went down to the Senior Center. I'd purchased dinner, breakfast, and camping vouchers for all four of us last February, but... huh. They show dh, and the kids paid for but not me. We have no cash (long story, but dh swapped out his wallet and didn't put the cash in the bike bag), so no way to buy me dinner. I'm looking at these old ladies and going I did this for three people there is NO WAY I didn't get it for all four of us. Since they'd apparently had LOADS of problems this year, she let me in. I checked when I got home and yes, I had paid for all of them. They marked me as paid. I did, but I'll still send a thank you note with a donation for letting me in, on my word that I really had paid. Which I think they did because....
Mine wasn't the only effed up registration... they ran out of food, both that evening and breakfast the next day. People were quite pissed, but it seems like there was some serious miscommunication between the Senior Center and the guy from the school district who arranges everything. The ladies didn't want to feed anyone from the elem school, saying we hadn't pre-registered, but only the people from the HS had. Which was not the case. It was a bit of a mess.
It was hot, people were testy, but they managed to get people mostly fed. Alas, unlike previous years (we've eaten there 5 times), this year they put bell peppers in the tomato sauce, so ew gross, I got as much sauce off the pasta as I could and ate the pasta as plain as possible with loads of salt.
And during dinner, bro texted a photo of my niece!
Cold shower after dinner, brr, then off to collapse in the tent. Perry opted to sleep outside. It was still hot, there was barely a breeze, but we were so tired we all feel asleep quickly, having set the alarm for 4am. The plan was to get up early and attempt to beat the worse of the heat into Portland.