Holy cow, I wrote a book!
Note: You probably want to start with
There are a lot of groups that wore matching jerseys to build team spirit.
Here are a few riders that caught my eye that I haven't already mentioned:
Our detour to Toledo bypassed the towns of Napavine and Winlock,
which meant that we missed out
Napavine night life,
banana bread lady,
The World's Largest Egg.
I found a funny picture of another rider
trying to eat the world's largest egg,
and check out that bizarro bicycle towing contraption they cobbled together
later in the ride!
Sunday (Day Two)
I did not have a very good night's sleep.
My throat was still horribly sore,
but I dared not cough for fear of waking up everybody else.
Nobody figured out how to turn off the lights in the library,
so the light streamed into our classroom all night.
I feel bad for the people who are sleeping in the library!
We got up and had breakfast, brush our teeth, change into our
clothes for the day, pack up, all that stuff.
Breakfast consists of pancakes, scrambled eggs, ham,
and milk. They run out of cups, though.
A and I are ready a bit earlier, so we go
on a self-guided tour of Toledo High School.
Okay, first thing is that these rural high schools are small.
Graduating class of 66 students.
When we start our wanderings, I wonder where all the other
classrooms are, and then I realize:
There are no other classrooms.
Okay, tube repaired, bicycle back in service, off we go.
As we depart Toledo High School, I take a picture of their
I don't see it at the time, but in the picture, there is a rainbow.
Rainbows are pretty, but on a bike ride, they mean rain.
Z is not quite at full power yet
(after the ride, he explained that his knee was bothering him,
though it loosened up later in the day),
so I hang back with him while the others proceed at a peppier pace.
We cross I-5 on Toledo-Vader Road, giving us a great view of
the famous Vader/Ryderwood exit sign.
Well, famous to me at least.
I've traveled up and down I-5 many times, and somehow that sign
sticks in my brain.
Other people probably remember that exit as the place that has
the giant ice cream cone.
Riding along Highway 506 early in the morning is quite peaceful;
there's nobody else on the road.
That changes once
Z and I reach Highway 411, because that's
where we rejoin the official STP route and see an endless stream
of bicyclists pouring down the road.
We slip into the crowd, and off we go.
I broke my bike mirror this morning, so I can't use my usual
trick of riding in front of
Z and checking in the mirror that I'm not pulling away.
Instead, I ride behind
Z for a while, then pass him and ride in front for a while,
checking that I'm not pulling away, and then drop behind him for a while,
and so on.
This initial leg is a longer one than usual
since we had to ride out of Toledo
to rejoin the route (7½ miles),
and the riders on the official route had just
come out of a mini-stop, so we miss out on that,
plus this section of the route is rather hilly.
Note: Even though we took a detour that added about four miles
to our distance, I will continue to use mileage markers as
measured along the official route.
It's around this point that
Morgan Scherer, who is riding not just STP, but STPTS
(Seattle to Portland to Seattle), asks another cyclist
"Do you feel a headwind?"
The other cyclist responds,
"I don't feel anything. This is day two!"
I'm ahead of
Z, maybe a third of a mile from the Castle Rock mini-stop
when my phone rings.
I pull over to answer it, and it's
J checking up on us.
I let him know that we'll be there real soon, but in the
process of taking out my phone, I accidentally pulled my map
out of my back pocket, and it fell on the road, right on the route.
I have to play a little game of Frogger to wait for a break in the
riders so I can scoot out, pick up the map, and scoot back to
the safety of the side of the road.
During all this excitement,
Z passes me,
and I am the last one in our group to roll into the Castle Rock
The people in the lead group are about to leave when I arrive,
and I'm pretty keen on leaving too, but first I have to find
He's over at the food tables stocking up on goodies.
He offers me some candy.
I look at him kind of puzzled; it's nine in the morning.
Who eats candy at nine in the morning?
I fail to notice the
Four Corners General Store just a half mile down the road
from the high school,
Matt Picio did: Guns, Ammo, Optics.
But that's not the strangest sign combination I've seen in my life.
That belongs to
Rooney's Liquor Store in Los Banos, California,
which has the sign "Video, Groceries, Sporting Goods, Ammo, Snacks."
Ya gotta love a liquor store that also sells ammo.
During this leg, I decide to change my strategy.
Instead of sticking close all the time,
I ride for a while, pulling away gradually,
and then stop at the side of the road to wait for
Z to catch up to me.
I let him go for a while, and then I hop on and catch up to him,
pass him, and then pull over some time later to wait.
When you use the "hare" strategy, you find yourself passing the same
group of people over and over.
One such group is
Wheels of Change who were riding to raise money for
Asha for Education.
I happened to
stumble across not one ride blog
and thought it was a charming coincidence that these were the people
I saw over and over again.
At one point, I think I am ahead of
Z when I am actually behind him.
I pull over and wait several minutes, and
Z doesn't appear.
I ride for a while longer, and then wait some more.
Still no sign of Z.
At this point, I figure I must be behind him, and I ride onward,
but at a more determined pace.
My cold isn't getting any better.
My throat is still sore, though not as bad as yesterday
(doesn't hurt to talk),
and my nose is now running like a garden hose.
Z calls me. He's at the Lexington stop
and wants to know whether we should stop or keep going.
I'm confused and think that the lunch stop is in Longview,
not Lexington, so I tell him to keep going.
I reach the Lexington stop (mile 145)
and realize that this is the lunch stop.
I call Z to tell him to come back, but he
says that he'll just pull over and eat the lunch that he brought
I try to convince him to come back, but he says he's fine and will
just wait for us.
The line for lunch is quite long.
S comes over to keep me company waiting in line,
and she grabs a lunch for
Z when we reach the front.
The rest of the group have been at the Lexington stop for quite some
time and most of them are ready to head out.
Z's lunch to
and he, along with
M and A, head out.
S relaxes while I finish my teriyaki chicken wrap
and stuff the other food in my pockets.
I'm fine with eating en route, and seeing as I'm the trailing end of
our group, it would behoove me not to waste time.
It's not long before
S and I
reach the Lewis and Clark Bridge (mile 153),
getting there just before
the assembled group of riders
is escorted over the bridge.
Studying photo timestamps,
I calculate that the lead group picks up
Z and reaches the bridge at 10:47am
just as the previous group of riders is being escorted over.
They have to wait until 11:01am before they get their chance
to go over the bridge.
S and I luck out; we happen to arrive just before
another group is to be taken over the bridge.
We got the best-case scenario; the lead group got the worst-case.
Without even trying, we made up nearly fifteen minutes on them!
(Chana Joffe-Walt calls the mass of riders a
"bobbing monster of helmets".
That's why she's a writer and I'm a computer programmer.)
As S and I descend into Oregon,
Z waiting for us at the bottom of the bridge.
We stop and chat, and I take pictures of riders descending the
exit and merging onto Route 30.
I don't realize it at the time, but my picture captures
a group of riders I won't even learn about until later in the
Z, S and I saddle up for the
final 50 miles.
Once we cross over into Oregon, I start sneezing.
This is not because of my cold;
I'm just allergic to Oregon.
I'm used to it.
Once we leave the town of Rainier,
we find ourselves on a long, imperceptible climb.
Z zips ahead, while I stick with
S, who appears to be losing energy and is
struggling to keep going.
On the left,
S spots an "observatory";
it's actually the reactor core from the former Trojan Nuclear Power Plant.
The sight was more impressive before
they imploded the huge cooling towers.
A fire engine goes past us in the opposite direction with its sirens on.
We do not stop at the
Goble mini-stop (mile 163)
on the principle that we should just keep moving.
That same fire truck goes past us in the same direction we're going,
with its sirens off.
We figured it was a false alarm.
Stopped by the side of the road is a family of five on two bicycles.
The father and son are on a tandem, and the mother and two daughters
are on a triple.
The men have matching outfits, as do the women.
These are the ones I happened to take a picture of purely by chance
back at the bridge.
We'll see still more of them later.
The people who live in the towns on the Oregon side are not big
fans of STP, as far as I can tell.
Some businesses do well, like convenience stores and anything else
that sells ready-to-eat food.
Though I read that one business that suffers terribly is the cigarette store,
because most of its customers come from Washington to take advantage of the
significantly lower tobacco tax rate in Oregon.
Travelling over the bridge is an ordeal on STP day because of all
the bicyclists, so people just don't bother.
At one point, I find myself riding by myself in a gap between two
There is a semi-trailer up ahead trying to pull out of a lot,
so I slow up and let the gap expand, allowing the semi-trailer
to get out.
I figured the poor guy would otherwise be waiting there for a long time;
heck, he may have been waiting for a long time already.
I don't normally get a chance to create a gap like this;
when you're riding as part of a large group,
you aren't really in a position to say, "Okay, everybody stop so this
car can get out."
I resolve on future large organized rides to do more to be considerate of
trying to cross the line of bicycles.
Although we don't know it at the time,
it is around this location earlier in the day that
a drunk driver ran into a STP cyclist,
seriously injuring him.
(That article also has an interview with
We reach the final food stop, St. Helens High School (mile 175),
just 30 miles from the finish line.
Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion!