Saturday, October 11, 2008

STP Day 2

I started day two of my trek to Portland a little later than I had the day earlier. The reason being was that Saturday was the official start of the STP so I would at some point be riding with the people who dared to ride the entire 204 miles in one day. Also, if I started a little later there would be rest stops open for me to enjoy along the way as well. This was a lot nicer than the day before when I had to keep a keen eye out for random outhouses in construction sites. Although, that was a nice challenge in its own way.

As I pedaled away from Centralia I couldn’t help but wonder if my body had recovered from the previous day of riding and if I was going to have to battle that horrible headwind again. To my pleasant surprise I wasn’t sore at all and there wasn’t a hint of a breeze anywhere. Bonus!

After a while I rode into a small town and had to wait at a train crossing for an oncoming train. As I waited, I made use of my time by switching water bottles and stretching a little. Along behind me came some older ladies that were out for a walk. As they noticed that I was riding a bike with a number on it they walked over to me in amazement. One of them said “There’s no way you have made it here from Seattle already, what time did you leave this morning? You’re nuts!!” When I told them that I had started a day early and I had actually started from Centralia theyboth looked relieved. That gave me something to laugh about for a while as I rode along.

The route on the second day into Portland was much nicer than the first day route because it follows a lot of deserted rural roads and there were actual rest stops that I could stop at to refill my water bottles and do “other things”.

The Worlds Largest Egg (amazing what you see out riding you bike)

After the first 5 miles or so I got into the groove of riding again and I was feeling really good. The only problem was I was really getting tired of riding alone. I brought along an iPod to listen to which was nice but that even got old after a while. I even resorted to listening to church talks while I rode which I must admit was nice to hear someone talking even if it wasn’t to me.

After 20 miles or so I started into the rolling hills that I had read about. From what I read, the rollers weren’t a problem at all and in most cases if you were fast enough going down the previous hill you could usually clear the next roller. I certainly didn’t see many of those kind of rollers on the hills I was riding. After the first couple of rollers I developed a plan of attack that worked for me though. As I approached each uphill section I sat and pedaled until either I lost patience with the slow pace or my back started hurting. Once either one of these conditions were met I would then stand and mash pedals up the rest of the hill until I got to the top. Then I would coast down the next hill and repeat. It was my version of Lather, Rinse, Repeat. The rolling hills lasted for a good 30 miles and man was I glad to be finished with them.

I was now 50 miles into the route for the day and I had yet to see another rider so the loneliness was really starting to get to me. At this point I learned one of the most valuable lessons that I would take away from the ride. As I rode along I looked over to my left and there was a group of people setting up an STP rest stop at an elementary school. I thought about stopping but I knew I would be meeting Jenny for lunch in another 10 miles or so. As I rode by this group they noticed that I was an STP rider and they all clapped and cheered for me as I rode by. I couldn’t believe how good it felt to have someone cheer for me. After riding alone for a solid day a half I almost started bawling because someone else noticed me. Those people who cheered for me probably didn’t think much of it but it sure gave me a boost. This is what I learned. Everyone deserves a good cheering section in whatever they are doing large or small. It’s just important.

After another 10 miles I met Jenny in a park at an official STP rest stop. It sure was nice to see her and spend some time with her. I was the first rider there so the helpers scrambled around to make me a sandwich. It wasn’t anything special but man did it taste great. I must have been suffering from powerbar overload. I even drank a banana flavored sports drink and liked it! Amazing what you’ll consume on a long ride.

The next landmark that I came to was the Longview bridge. For the STP riders that cross this bridge on Sunday it periodically closes down for them so they can all ride alone on it without cars. For the Saturday riders you’re on your own to ride on the side of the bridge while the logging trucks wiz by. It sounds pretty nuts but it wasn’t all that bad as long as you could dodge the wood chips on the side of the road left there from the logging trucks. Once you get to the other side of the bridge you are officially in the state of Oregon.

After I crossed into the state of Oregon and headed down highway 30 the first of many one day STP riders passed me. He didn’t just pass me he flew by me. This guy must have been in out of control shape because after 160 miles he passed me going at least 20 MPH. Pretty impressive. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have riders passing me. It normally bugs me to have people pass me but in this case it I didn’t mind it at all. At last other STP riders. I thought about joining a couple of pace lines but they were riding way to fast for me to hang on the back.

As I rode into Portland someone had spray painted on the street a huge sign. “You have officially ridden 200 miles, only 4 more to go” I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. The last 4 miles were through the city of Portland and into the park. As I entered the park there was a huge party for STP finishers and they announced my name as I crossed the finish line. What a relief, I had done it.

As I wondered around the park there were bikes lying all over the place. There were also a lot of 1 day riders lying on the grass asleep. I can’t imagine riding 204 miles in one day but if I ever did I would probably pass out in the middle of the park too. After I took a shower in one of the shower trucks that they have in the park Jenny and I grabbed some food and hung out for a while before heading home.

For me, this ride was a lonely but rewarding ride. I was very glad that I had completed it. I learned that with a lot of determination and perseverance I also learned that everyone needs a cheering section.

Jenny did a great job in her support vehicle role. She was always there too supply me with additional food, Gatorade, and moral support. She also drew on the side of our car a big picture of me riding my bike with the words below it. Go Mike! All while wearing a sling.

We are planning on riding the STP again in 2009 but hopefully this time with more people. If you’re interested in doing a Friday/Saturday STP let me know because we’d love to have the company.

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