Even we need to ride sometimes!

The 2009 GroupHealth Seattle to Portland bicycle ride was a success! Thank you all for your support before, during and after this time! We decided we’d write a little bit about the ride, so here it is. Mileages are approximate, from memory.

I rode my Origin-8 Scout 29er Cro-Mo steel mountain bicycle, modified with hand laced 27″ Sun CR18 road bike wheels, road bars and bar-con eight speed shifters. My bike also has a piece of cycling history on it-the carbon fork belongs to a client who rode it to Cyclocross world championship status in Belgium last year. It fit the 27″ front wheel like it was made for the task, and provided just the right amount of rake for the bike. I went with Tektro road bike V-brake pull levers and Avid Single Digit V-brakes front and rear. I also ran a Campagnolo racing triple crankset, which I’d been saving for a special occasion.

Mark rode his Origin-8 Foxtrot cyclocross bike, with all new Origin-8 Torq Pro 700c wheels and Shimano STI controls. The frame is aluminum, with carbon rear stays. Interestingly, he went with a Weyless carbon road bike fork, versus the stiffer straight leg carbon cross fork provided with the frame. So he had caliper brakes up front, canti brakes in the rear. Mark ran a SRAM compact 50-36 double chainring up front. His setup was good, at least what I saw of it as he was leaving me behind đŸ˜‰

We didn’t get around to leaving the parking lot till about 8:00 AM. Not the most efficient use of time, but it was OK. The weather was sunny and perfect.

Mile 10: First service stop, the Bicycles West service crew fixed Mark’s shifter cable.

Mile 25, first rest stop. Loud music, lots of food as in bananas, peanut butter wrapped in tortillas, and of course free Clif Bar products.

Mile 31, big hill outside Puyallup. We helped other folks get up to the top. I don’t know why they make such a big deal out of this hill, it isn’t actually as bad as the Fall City to Preston climb, but it is kinda steep for about a mile. I lost track of Mark, I didn’t catch up to him until..

Mile 45, lunch in Spanaway. Slightly more involved food, nice cold water. I had a lovely conversation with a couple about her gorgeous orange bike, and how the Seahawks were robbed in the Super Bowl. I have a family member who’s a retired NFL ref, so yes I have it on very good authority that Seattle was, in fact, ROBBED. We felt vindicated, and energized to continue our rides…

The next 20 miles are always a great part of the ride for me. I was holding 24mph on average, I think we had a tail wind and those rollers on the way to Yelm are just great to ride. The country there looks more like a desert to me, reminds me of the country my father and I used to cut wood from when I was a boy. I’ve always been able to ride fast in those conditions. However, Mark still beat me to just outside Rainier. It’s right about…

Mile 79 where there’s this great little old store. They have big fat raspberry fritters and pink milk. Just the thing! Sometimes Clif bars and bananas just won’t do it for you-then it’s time to rock the donuts! That new Yelm-Tenino bicycle trail they provide is absolutely lovely, by the way! Mark kept going, and I next caught up with him just outside Tenino.

That’s about mile 89, and Mark turned us on to the most excellent swimming hole there-it used to be a rock quarry in the early 1900s, but they hit a natural spring while quarrying it, and eventually had to close up rock moving because the spring was filling up the quarry faster than they could pump it. it’s about 160 feet deep, but there are life guards present. It’s also COLD! But wow, did it feel good to cool off in that natural swimming pool.

Mile 94 we stopped at the kids n dogs lemonade stand. It’s been there for a long time-I stopped at it when I did the ride in 2000, and the kid was much smaller.

Mile 102 Centralia. The halfway point! This is where we camped for the night. The college had remodeled their showers, so no more prison style shower arrangement-there are five stalls for which you must wait to use. In line. For an hour and a half. When it was old style, there were three times as many shower heads, and it was desirable to take a much faster shower-to the benefit of those waiting their turn! There wasn’t a guy in that line who didn’t wish for the old style facilities and short wait for shower time.

Also, by the time we got clean and to the beer garden, there was enough beer in the 16th and last keg for us to each get one, and about two other folks. That was it-all the beer got drank!

We set up camp and just before dark, Mark took matters in hand, climbing the tree to which that big, flappy, noisy banner was attached-and using my bike tool, unscrewing and removing the eyelet bolt holding said banner up. People cheered when the banner went down! Way to fight the power, Mark!

A much better night’s sleep was had by all, thanks to that noisy banner not being there.

We got up bright and early, taking advantage of the quick n dirty breakfast offered by ride officials at the school. Then we got on the road, with clouds in the sky and lightning in the distance.

Mile 107 lighning all around. One was so close I couldn’t see where it landed, it was just all around me. Wow!

Mile 109 or thereabouts-first rest stop. The breakfast they served was THE GOODS. Mental note: next year, give the Centralia breakfast a miss and wait for this rest stop! We took off, and Mark promptly caught a real fast paceline, with which I could not keep up.

Mile 134 or thereabouts-local roadside general store. The most fabulous collection of modern day guns and old school ammo I’ve ever seen for sale. They have ‘cowboy loads’ which is low grain loads for old guns which can’t handle the explosive force of modern powder and bullets. Mark had already stopped here, and the idea of ibuprofen was found to be a good one, for both of us.

Mile 145 Castle Rock big Group Health service stop, with STP food etc. which is a valiant effort and will refuel you. However ‘valiant effort’ isn’t the equal of ‘big gnarly cheese burger with loads of fries and chocolate malt.’ I really, really wanted to stop in Vader for the above mentioned goodies, but I’d just eaten and it was getting later.

Now it was starting to rain pretty good off and on. Every time I ride the STP, this part of the ride is a drag. It’s kind of distant, the riders are real spread out, in this case the weather sucked, and it’s the part of the ride where I go ‘…and I did this again because WHY?!’ Lunch didn’t help, my legs were empty. I made it to the rest stop at about…

Mile 164 and of course, Mark was there already. Wow, he’s fast! It occurred to me that only ice cream could save me now. It’s there up ahead at…

Mile 168 or so, is where the gas station I always stop at is located. I think it was last redecorated in the 1970s, and wow do those orange benches hold up well over time! I don’t care, that’s the best ice cream bar I ever had. Bar none.

Now I’ve found my second wind. Mark is nowhere to be seen, I’m sure he’s already done by now, so I’ve decided not to stop anymore. Then it started to rain in earnest, so I’m even more motivated to get it over with. The rain got heavy right after the Longview bridge, which was littered with water bottles. The expansion joints were wide, so when skinny tired road bikes went over them, the heavy jarring bumps were knocking the bottles out of their cages-by the hundreds. My Zefal cage stood up to the bumps like a champion-I still had my bottle! I lost Mark on the descent from the bridge. He’s still fast. I’m just lucky to be spinning the cranks at this point…

Not that I would have needed water from the bottle had I lost it, I think the rain was watering us all enough simply by osmosis. The last 20 miles or so to Portland were more a swim than a ride. But we both finally made it, and somehow it turned out that I got there about 15 minutes before Mark did! In my unpreparedness I had forgotten rain gear, so all I had was the STP jacket they give out on the ride. It worked out rather well, actually.

We both had a great time. The Origin-8 bikes we rode gave us no problems, and a good time was had by all. There were over 9500 riders on this ride, the most ever for an STP event.