Monday, July 16, 2007

Notes on a great ride

One thing about blogging on the road is that you have no idea if your pictures are downloading properly, or if anyone’s watching. My husband called me on Sunday morning, when we were at Castle Rock High School, and told me there were a bunch of comments on the blog. He read most of the comments to me; it was a kick. So thanks for following me on the road – knowing that I had people riding along, virtually speaking, made the experience much more fun!
I have some other pictures I took with a better camera, and I'll try to freshen up the blog this week, add more commentary and some better pictures.

The ride was well organized and well supported by the Cascade Bicycle Club. Kudos also to the many small-town police officers who stopped car traffic for us along the way, and to the drivers who enthusiastically waved us through even though they had the right-of-way. They were terrific. So, too, were the motorcycle riders of the Goldwing Touring Association, who escorted riders over the Lewis & Clark Bridge and kept watch for trouble along the route.

The only problems – and they were probably unavoidable – were the long lines for bathrooms and food at some of the stops. When a big concentration of cyclists arrived, volunteers couldn’t hand out food fast enough. And on Saturday morning, the lines for the Port-A-Potties at some stops were intimidating.

I’m happy to report that I had no flats or mechanical problems on the entire ride. Physically, the roughest part for me was day 1, at about mile 70. It was hotter than I had expected. My feet and shoulders hurt. I was wiped out, and there were miles and miles to go. I was so pleased to finally spot the sign that read, “Welcome to Centralia.”

On the second day, I set up my bike odometer so it only showed the time of day – not the number of miles I’d ridden. Perhaps that was why day 2 went so much better. I stopped focusing on the miles and just enjoyed the scenery.

The best parts of the STP are the ride through Seattle, the Kent Valley, and especially the countryside between Roy and Kelso. The worst parts: Spanaway and the last 50 miles along Highway 30. There was a serious bike accident along Highway 30 in Oregon – a driver, reportedly driving under the influence at 9 in the morning, who hit a cyclist and caused a chain reaction bike crash with two other cyclists – and then drove away from the accident. I hope the injured rider is going to be OK.

The Blog

Photo-blogging on the bike was pretty easy. I’ve got a new Samsung phone with a 1.3-megapixel camera (nothing fancy – it’s what you get free with a T-mobile account). You can set up the photos to send them to a default destination, and I had set it up in advance to send to my blog. So each picture required just three pushes of the phone’s buttons: One to turn the camera function on, one to take a picture, and one to send it to Blogger.

If you’re interested in mobile blogging, just do a search for “mobile blogging.” Blogger isn’t the only blog service that offers it – I think all the major blogs support mobile blogging now.

It’s also possible to send videos to YouTube from your phone, but this involved a lot more button-pushing, and I only tried this once. I don’t think it worked.

My homemade phone holder, made with balsa wood and duct tape, worked quite well – a picture of it is down further in the blog. I was able to take pictures while keeping good control of my bike. I was also glad that I tethered my phone to my bike handlebars with a stretch of elastic band. That saved my phone a few times, when rough roads jiggled it right out of its holder.

I look forward to the day when manufacturers are able to marry a better camera to a cell phone. In the bright sun, the phone’s screen was hard to see, and I took a lot of so-so pictures.

Random notes

For the most part, people don’t watch the STP. Sure, it’s not the Tour de France, but there was almost nobody on the side of the road to view the spectacle. Instead of watching, people set signs out: “Go Lisa!” and “Chuck – Portland or bust!”

Overheard: Two guys discussing the plot of “Breaking Away,” the 1970s movie about cycling. One guy remembered the plot better than the other. “What, you mean the Cutters lost?!”

The pine forests around Fort Lewis smell fresh and delicious.

Overheard, from a guy riding a fixed-gear bike: “Gears are for sissies.”

Accidental badge of honor at the end of the STP: a tattoo of chain grease on your calf.

I wasn't planning to do this again anytime soon, but John reminded me that the 30th anniversary of the STP is in two years. Hmmm...


Michael Rice said...

Hey Katherine

Congratulations on STP. It is a personal accomplishment to be proud of. I have done the ride a few times and I have to say that the year I did it in one day is one of my greatest moments. I will say that doing the ride in two days is way more fun because all the small towns on the second half of the ride really turn out for the second day. They don't really turn out on the first day. Does the Goble Tavern still have a rest stop? It always seemed kind of cool to stop at a tavern during the ride. I hope the people in Napavine still do the Banana Bread. That is the best part of the ride.

Anyway, great job.

kbz said...

Hi Michael - yes, they were giving away banana bread in Napavine, and there was a rest stop at the Goble Tavern, although I happened to skip these both. Doing it in one day is an extraordinary accomplishment -- maybe I'll have to give that a try one day -- but I did really like taking my time and getting a good look at the scenery. Thanks for reading the blog!

cz said...

Katherine - my dad clipped your article while I was riding the STP and handed it to me upon my return late last night. I'm also a 1st timer ... and my kids are also nearly grown. I now have to hold newsprint about a yard from my face if I don't know where to lay hands on glasses, but I stretched out my arm and forced my eyelids open to read every last word .... and then ..... "out went the lights!!" But I felt a kinship as I dropped off to a sound sleep. I'm amazed and exhilerated at how well my poor aging body held up. It almost feels as if a Dr. just gave me a complete physical and then a clean bill of health. I must admit that I turned around and looked in a mirror at a part that I normally try to avoid seeing in the mirror these days ... only to find a distinct red bike seat stamped right where you would expect! A badge of honor!!
I was most impressed and touched by the cohesive unit that the bikers form in terms of cooperation and support. I had never been on a bike in a pack before and didn't know the rules of the road at first ... but it didn't take too long to catch on. Our small and now very tight group of 7 riders were threaded together by the memory of a great kid who passed much, MUCH too soon at age 18. In spite of his tender years he had crammed 5 STP's, 1 RAMROD and the summiting of at least 3 of the 5 major peaks that the Cascades have to offer (that I know of). SUCH a spectacular kid!! So we assembled a motley crew of first timers to join his experienced mom and sister .... one of which was his uncle .... the rest friends .... and we took him for his symbolic 6th STP. Everybody in our group had something "BJ" (his nickname) with them. I wore his bike shoes. We all wore what I thought were spectacular jerseys designed by his mom and sister and SO many folk were SO kind and curious to ask about our mission. It was very touching ... and we heard nearly as many touching tales in return. I was impressed. I was moved. I was proud. I was empowered. I was drained. I AM changed!!
Thank you for sharing and documenting.

Anonymous said...

Skinny. quite proud. You take on big project and see it through! I knew you'd make it cuz you are Skinny! What an adventure. (And, you ARE taller than me.)

kbz said...

CZ - Thanks for sharing the story about BJ. I saw you guys on the ride, and wondered about those jerseys. Turns out I was standing behind BJ's mom in the port-a-potty line, at the last food stop at the high school. I asked her about the jerseys, and she told me about the group effort to ride in his memory. That was such a touching story, and such a lovely way to honor his passion for cycling. Katherine

cz said...

So glad to hear our group crossed paths with you. Now I feel even MORE connected. Good luck to you on future riding!

allenu said...

Congrats on finishing! This was also my first STP and I'm still in a euphoric mood from completing. It's just such a great journey. At the end of it, you do feel a little sad that it is over. It happens so quickly.

I don't know about you, but now I am looking for another challenge. :-D

Thanks for posting the pics on your blog. I didn't bother to take pictures along the way, so yours are a great memento.