Here are some random thoughts about this epic bike ride–
The Big Show
I didn’t realize when I signed up, but the Seattle to Portland Classic is actually a pretty big deal. Ten thousand riders converge on Seattle and make the attempt to ride down to Portland. I think it’s at least five times bigger than any of the century rides that I’ve gone on. It really shows. You’re pretty much in a massive group of riders the whole way down to Portland. The police block off traffic for you the whole way out of Seattle and often, there are so many bikers on the road that an entire car lane is reserved for bicycle traffic.
I was busy riding so I didn’t really take any pictures of the scenery. It was incredibly beautiful. This was by far the most beautiful bike ride I had ever done. I tried to just take it in and take mental pictures. Some awesome moments include seeing the Seattle area by Lake Washington and seeing Mt Rainier in the distance, seeing Mt. St. Helens near the end of day one, riding across the bridge into Portland and seeing Mt Hood framed by the bridge.
The Stuff of Nightmares
Just a couple of miles away from the middle of the ride, where most people stay the night, tragedy struck just about 20 feet in front of me. At a red light, a biker fell over and got run over by a truck. His screams were piercing. Since we were in town the ambulance sirens came quickly, within two minutes. Taro, Jiro’s brother, later emailed me the news article relating to the accident. He had suffered shoulder, back and lung injuries and had to be airlifted to the hospital. I pray that he’s ok. The sound of the screaming and sirens will haunt me for a while.
It’s really tragic that the accident happened where it did. He was literally minutes away from where he was probably going to spend the night, in the aptly named city of Centralia. Most of the STP riders doing the two day ride spent the night there. Since we registered so late, everything in Centralia was booked, so our stop would be further down the road, almost 50 miles down the road in Kelso. So we grabbed a quick lunch break in Centralia and rode on.
During the last twenty or so miles of a long bike ride, when everything below the belt hurts really bad, I find myself asking a lot of philosophical questions. Stuff like, “Why am I here? Why am I doing this?” Sometimes I don’t have an answer. The last twenty miles to Kelso were brutal. 150 miles is by far the longest I’ve ridden in one day.
Since we had ridden so many miles on the first day, we would only have a little over 50 miles to ride on the second day. That would be relatively easy, except that everything was hurting really bad. Just getting back in the saddle was the hardest part.
For me the end was kind of anticlimactic. It was done, our group of four riders, John, Jiro, Taro and I all finished. Taro and Jiro’s parents were waiting at the end, and John’s wife and son were there waiting too. I sat around, taking it all in. It was a pretty crazy experience, but for me the real ride would start tomorrow.
I am eternally grateful to Jiro’s parents. STP would’ve been miserable without them, because they transported my luggage to the end of the ride for me. Otherwise I’d have had to ride those 200 miles with all my panniers attached to my bike. I tried to buy them dinner in Portland, as a thanks for their hospitality, but they ended up paying for that bill as well.
Ride out of Portland
Portland’s a pretty bike friendly town it seems. Even so, my ride out of Portland is my biggest concern. I have maps and a guidebook for the entire coastal portion of my route, but I haven’t really figured out how to get to the coast yet. I spent the last few hours on Google Maps trying to figure out my route. I have a rough idea of how I’m going to get out of town, the rest I guess I’ll play by ear.