We started early, although not as early as most. It’s a rolling start, and riders can start anytime between 5:15 and 7:30 am (the one-dayer’s can start as early as 4:45). We started at 6:40, on a beautiful, cloudless northwest summer morning. It was a bit cool, but temperatures were forecasted to be pretty warm by the afternoon.
Corinne and I at the start line
We were treated to spectacular views of Mt. Rainier as we wound around Lake Washington and out into the countryside surrounding Seattle. We passed hundreds of riders and rode hard to get around groups. We hopped on trains whenever we could, and noticed trains forming behind us when we were riding well. The aid stations were super-crowded, what with 10,000 riders taking part, so our plan was to grab handfuls of food and stuff our faces quickly and get back out on the course.
Mt. Rainier in the distance
The first day went by pretty quickly and uneventfully. The course was pretty gentle, one big climb but most of the day was flat to rolling. Most of the route was on backroads, a couple of highways, and a paved path through Nisqually National Park. It was great to be away from the traffic on the path for a bit, and ride side-by-side without worrying about vehicles coming up from behind. It was also a nice break from stop lights which plagued much of the course.
We hit our end point for the day in early afternoon, Chehalis, where we were staying with friends. Chehalis was about 10 km past the official halfway point of Centralia, and in Centralia they gave us creamsicles as we rode through, which went down pretty nicely as the day was getting hot. Mmm, creamsicles… In Chehalis we collected our bags, stored our bikes for the night and my friend Katie picked us up.
End of day one.
First day mileage: 172 km; ride time: 6:11
We started a bit later, as the first day didn’t take as long as we thought and now we had a little less mileage to do. That turned out to be a mistake – more to come on that. Another beautiful, cloudless day, with a view of Mt. St. Helens for the first few miles. Our friend Kris had done STP last year in one day, and assured us the course was flat, with one climb in the first half. As we rode, we questioned Kris’ sanity as we kept going up and down, up and down the second day… I hate to see what he thinks as hilly!
Elevation profiles from my Garmin. Day One was pretty gentle with one major climb, but Day Two was not flat!
Me enjoying a downhill.
A highlight of day two was definitely crossing the Lewis and Clark Bridge over the Columbia River in Kelso. We rounded a corner and the bridge loomed into sight, only 210 feet high but it seemed to tower over the mighty Columbia. We were only allowed to be single file on the bridge, so we climbed up and rode tempo over it’s almost 1 km span and descended the other side.
Lewis & Clark Bridge
STP attracts all sorts of bike fashion…
It was after the bridge that our decision to start later came back to haunt us. We had started behind many beginner riders, and were forced to ride around large groups of inexperienced cyclists. I was in front of Corinne, and passed a woman who was riding way to the left, pretty much on the white line of a fairly busy road. I had a bad feeling about this particular woman, she seemed uncomfortable on the bike and visibly nervous with the speed riders were passing her. I was relieved to get around her safely, but that inner voice was right as she ended up swerving into Corinne as Corinne came up around her. I heard the crash behind me and turned to see Corinne, the woman, and another rider go down hard.
I pulled over and ran back to see if Corinne was ok. Some road rash, but she’s a pretty tough chick and was up on her feet quickly. The bike was another story, the rear brake jammed into the wheel, the rear derailleur hanger was bent, and both hoods were askew. Unrideable. An official stopped and cleaned up Corinne’s wounds, and called a sag wagon. We hatched a plan of her hitching a lift to the next aid station 16 km down the road where a mechanic could check things out. I’d ride and meet her there.
Once the bike was fixed up, we were back on the road again, albeit a bit later than planned. Once again we were behind a lot of beginner riders. It took Corinne a bit of time to get her mojo back, but soon enough we were riding hard, passing people, and hooked up with a couple of guys (one from Seattle, the other from Colorado) and made a mini-train the last couple of hours to the finish.
Crossing the finish line
Second day mileage: 157 km; ride time: 5:49.
Later that night at our hotel, where the front desk clerk told us we “cleaned up nicely”. We must have looked pretty grotty when we checked in!
The total mileage was 329 kilometers, which we finished in 12 hours over the two days. On the Amtrak back to Seattle, we started musing about doing the one-day next year, stay tuned…