Friday, June 20, 2014

Day #45: The STP -- In Reverse

Today's Route: Portland, OR to Castle Rock, WA (69 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 2,075

Alex had the directions for our new route on his phone. For the first ten miles of our ride this morning, we'd memorize two or three of the turns, ride one or two of the turns (because we'd forget the third), and then pull over on the side of road to look at the phone for the next few turns. Ah ya ya! This form of navigation was going to take forever!

I proposed that we write down the turns.

Alas, we didn't have any paper. We pulled over at a gas station, and I went to the bathroom to get some paper towels. The paper towels served perfectly for capturing our directions in an easily accessible manner.

Our route, handwritten with a quill pen on fancy brown paper.

In a nutshell, our ride north will follow the Seattle-to-Portland ride (aka "The STP") -- in reverse.

The STP is a popular bicycle ride that is held every July. The route is just over 200 miles in length, and takes 10,000 ride participants from The Emerald City to P-Town. Cyclists chose whether they wish to complete the route in one or two days.

I've ridden The STP once. That was back in 2008. As it turns out, I did The STP with Alex. So, as we've been following the route, we've been reminiscing on the memories of our ride six years ago.

We began our reverse-STP ride with a long stretch along Highway 30. I first rode my bicycle along this route when I rode The STP. But I also rode along this route last year when Jake and I did our Scaponia ride (see The Scaponia Shake-Down). As Alex and I rode along Highway 30 this morning, I reflected on all that's happened in my life since last riding along this road. The reflecting reminded me that although the years are short, the days are long.

The STP takes participants across the Longview Bridge. The bridge spans the Columbia River, which divides Oregon and Washington. Before heading south across the bridge, STP participants are corralled at the north end of the bridge. Once an adequate number of cyclists have been corralled, they are then escorted across the bridge as one large group. The riders can use the entire southbound lane of the two-lane bridge.

The Longview Bridge.

Our crossing today was not nearly so pleasant. While there is a shoulder along the lane, and while the shoulder is a pleasant few feet in width, the shoulder was thickly littered with bark and other tree rubbish from the lumber trucks.

Our trip across the bridge was just under two miles. The entire time we were maneuvering our rigs between the shoulder rubbish as best as we could, all while trying to avoid being run over by the fast moving traffic. Ten minutes later, we had crossed the bridge and were now in Washington.

First impressions when entering a new state are huge for cyclists. Our first impressions of Washington were not-so-great.

For one, we were hoping for a pretty "Welcome to Washington" sign. The only sign we saw was a generic "Entering Washington" sign, which was small and mounted mid-bridge -- not great for photo ops.

For two, Longview is a depressed town. Everything -- the people, the buildings -- looked sad. There was concrete everywhere and definitely not enough evergreens for which The Evergreen State is well known.

It's a good thing I live in Washington, as I know first-hand that there are some awesome parts of this state.

We are staying at a motel this evening in the town of Castle Rock. The first thing I did when we arrived at the hotel was clean my drivetrain. It had become super-duper dirty during the last few days due to the rain. I also lubed my chain, because, as I learned earlier today from a sign outside the "Fast Lube and Oil" on Highway 30 in Oregon:

"If you love it, lube it."

When Alex and I rode The STP back in 2008, we completed the route in two days. As each of us is pedaling a bicycle that weighs nearly 100 pounds, this go-around we're completing the reverse route in three days. One day of the reverse-STP down -- two days to go!


  1. Yep I knew you'd be taking that route and of the entire ride Longview is the worst! I prefer the single day crossing on my own to the herd though, too many inexperienced riders in that group! Welcome home lady!

    1. I totally agree about you "inexperienced" comment. I don't think I ever care to do a ride with 9,999 riders ever again! Almost home... :)


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