Jul 13

Seattle to Portland STP 2002

by in 2002 Trips

Click to enlargeWe recorded another S2 Cycling milestone July 13, 2002, as we completed our first one-day STP. We rode 200 miles at a 19 mph pace as we traveled backroads from Seattle to Portland. That is about 55,440 pedal strokes. (Aren’t computers grand?)

We rode with a team of folks from Evergreen Tandem Club. There were three tandems and one single. Working together we were able to increase our speed while decreasing our net energy expense. Plus it was lots more fun that way.

The Comprehensive Report by Spencer

As with any big ride, the actual report must start with the training.(see complete schedule) We’d practiced paceline riding with two other tandems for 2 months before the event. In pacelining, bikes ride nose-to-tail in order to take advantage of reduced wind resistance. It is an art, plus you have to learn to communicate well with your fellow riders. We did 5 paceline training rides, plus many other rides to get us more than 1,500 miles on the bike before the STP started. Mike and Cindy Gaudio, Dave and Kelly Van Horn, Jim Van Horn, and Jay Nordquist made up the rest of our team. Jay and Jim were going to hang onto the tail of the tandems and make sure other people didn’t get in there to mess up our line.

We hosted a pasta feed for the team at our house the night before. Unfortunately, Mike and Cindy couldn’t make it and then Kelly had to bow out of the ride because she was still sick. That was disappointing for all of us. Dave and Jim decided to ride the tandem together, leaving Jay in the tailgunner slot alone.

At 4:15 the next morning, we all collected at our house to begin the ride. It was dark but warm enough that shorts were all we needed. We started in the pre-dawn light and quickly joined the other riders on the course.

The first hours were fast and smooth. We set up our line easily. We were able to keep an average of between 18-19. Since we knew we’d stop often to balance our fluids, we kept our time at the rest areas very short. We zipped up the dreaded “hill” in Puyallup without difficulty. The day was staying cloudy, and even threatened rain occasionally. But we stayed dry.

North of Tenino we were passed by a long paceline led by a tandem couple who we recognized as racers. About 10 minutes later, we passed them! It was one of the high points of the morning.

We pulled into the halfway station after 5 hours of riding, 10:30 a.m. by the clock. We were entertaining visions of getting to Portland by 4:30. It wasn’t meant to be.

The weather continued to heat up. The clouds didn’t ever completely break though, so it got muggy. When we’d stop at lights, the heat rising from the pavement was stifling.

Mike began to have stomach pains. We’re not sure why. It became increasingly difficult for him to ride. We took a long break at the 138 mile mark so he could rest up. It didn’t help, and at the 144 mile rest station, he and Cindy went their own way so they wouldn’t hold us back.

As it turned out, Dave’s bike was making weird noises so at that time he had a mechanic look his bike over. After a half hour of fussing, he said there was nothing he could do, but that the bike should last the trip. The remaining 5 of us took off after Mike and Cindy.

We crossed the Longview bridge into Portland and caught a strong tailwind blowing us toward Portland. Hooray! Our speed increased to 22-24 mph. We were 50 miles from the finish and smelling the barn. We passed Mike and Cindy just short of the last rest area and vowed to see them soon at the finish.

The food at that stop was abysmal. Was that their way to get you to keep moving? They had day-old PB&J, stale bagels, unripe fruit, boiled potatoes, and yet more Clif Bars. Having PB to spread on bagels would have made all the difference.

Anyway, we took off at a good clip. We were 5 miles from the finish line when disaster struck. We were leading the line when we came upon a fist-sized rock on the shoulder of Hwy 30. We called it out and avoided it. Dave, on the tandem right behind, also missed it. Jay wasn’t so lucky. In one second he was down. Another rider following Jay also crashed. Bikes were swerving all over to avoid the carnage.

Fortunately, both riders only suffered bruises and abrasions (road rash). Both got flat tires. We were able to clean them up and repair their bikes so they could continue. It was pretty scary though.

We finally pulled in to Cathedral Park at 6:30 p.m. We were a pretty tired crew. About a half hour later, Mike and Cindy arrived. They’d had to stop to buy water after the last rest area. But we all made it. We all had fun. All in all, a great day.

My favorite memory of this day will be how nice it felt to be part of a paceline that functioned so well. Two minutes in front, peeling off smoothly, dropping back into place at the rear, Jay letting us in, four minutes of relaxing pedaling – knowing the guys in front were keeping the pace right and setting a good course. It felt like clockwork when we were doing it right. Plus, we had people to share the experience with. My thanks to all those who rode that day, but especially to Dave and Jim, Mike and Cindy, Jay, and of course to the best stoker in the world, Sheila.

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