Claire Petersky’s STP 2006 report

Claire Petersky’s Seattle to Portland (STP) 2006 Trip Report (reprinted with permission)


    Left July 15 6:15 AM from University of Washington, Seattle WA
    Arrived July 15 3:45 PM at Recreation Park, Chehalis WA
    Mileage: 107

    Left July 16, 6:45 AM from Recreation Park, Chehalis WA
    Arrived July 16, 3:15 PM at Holladay Park, Portland OR
    Mileage: 97
    On-bike average speed of 16.4 mph
    Weather: Day 1, temps from mid 60s to upper 70s. Overcast in the morning,
    afternoon clearing; Day 2, temps from the mid 60s to mid 80s, clear and

My husband and I did STP on the tandem. This was our first time doing
together like this — fun and fast! With fabulous weather and a bit of a
tail wind at times, this was my most enjoyable STP to date.

Prologue: The weekend before STP, my husband David and I did a tour of
south King County. At the beginning of that ride, David noticed that the
rear wheel was a little out of true. So we took the wheel into the shop
after the ride. It turned out that the wheel was totally trashed: axle
bent, hub broken, spoke eyelets in the rim cracking. First problem:
finding an 8 speed campy tandem wheel in less than a week. Second problem:
with 9,000 riders for STP, finding a bike shop that could do the work.
Problems solved with money: since we were looking long-term at replacing
the drivetrain anyway, it being a bit of an antique, we went ahead and did
so. Now we have a smooth-shifting triple in the front and nine in the back
(woo-hoo!). And David’s bike shop (Sammamish Valley Cycles) rewarded his
loyalty of so much service paid for and bikes bought that they squeezed us
in their schedule. The wrench was so hyper when we picked up the bike I
suspect he was on amphetamines to cope with the onslaught of work he had
facing him, but everything looked good, so we paid the bill and off we

Saturday morning we were up at 4:45 and had a large breakfast. While
exiting the freeway to get to the University, our car’s tire blew out.
It’s one thing to get a flat on STP, another to get one on the way there!
I started babbling about calling AAA, but my husband, with a calmer head,
set to work on replacing it with the spare. Within 8 minutes the tire was
changed. This delay, combined with a slightly later departure from the
house than I had hoped for, got us to the start line at 6:15.

I was full of the infamous Blaze of Glory energy that you get at the
beginning of the ride, but David took a more relaxed approach through the
crowds of the first few miles. By the time we hit Rainier (mile 13), he
finally cut it loose. Through this first part of the ride, until Spanaway
(mile 54), he never let it dip below 20 mph, except to climb The Hill at
Puyallup. At this pace, at times we picked up quite a few folks cheerfully

cruising in our enormous slipstream, sometimes extending for 25 riders or

A couple times we heard the bike making a clicking noise, but after some
investigation and minor adjustment, it may just be the bottom bracket, and

more $$$ to Sammamish Valley Cycles.

We reached Spanaway at about 9:30. You don’t feel like you’re goofing off
that much, but after getting food and water, having the clicking looked
at, and waiting in the potty line, an hour goes by pretty quickly. Then
off we went again. I’m not all that impressed with the scenery in this
section of the ride, after Spanaway. However, the new part of the ride,
the Yelm-Tenino trail section, was great. It replaced riding the shoulder
of state highway 507. The trail was very pleasant: shady, pretty, just STP
bike traffic, and I think flatter than the previous route along the
highway. However, the Tenino rest stop, previously my favorite, was
re-routed to the trail, and was hot and dusty, congested with bikes, and
no longer so much in the trees.

We reached Centralia (mile 100), and stopped long enough to get our free
creamsicles and get introduced to Will Chin. In general, I also saw a
number of other people on this ride I mostly only know from their on-line
presence: Leo Stone, Dan Crawford, and Ross Carey. I’m always surprised
that people know who I am, when I’ve never met them. None of these people,
BTW, look like their board avatars.

After that, it was a short hop to Chehalis (mile 107) to the park. Rather
than burden our hosts with hauling the tandem to their home, we checked it
into the bike corral there. Then our hosts picked us up. One cyclist had
already arrived. Eventually all six of us showed up. Unlike my previous
homestay for STP, the house was dead quiet all night; and although I woke
up several times in the middle of the night, I had no problem going back
to sleep.

The next morning we had breakfast together and our hosts returned us to
the park. This year, the route out of Chehalis was not so much on the ugly

frontage road, where I bonked on the 2003 ride. Instead, we were on
pleasant, empty farm roads. The only downer for this section of the trip
was the sight of two guys, one riding down the middle of one lane, the
other riding down the middle of the on-coming traffic lane. When a car
came, they absolutely refused to move. We yelled at them, the car
patiently drove behind them, but they continued to take up literally the
entire road. *Finally* one of them moved over two share the lane so that
the car could pass. What arrogant twits.

Around this time, some fellow passed us. He said, “we were talking last
night, and we decided that you were the ones that looked like you were
having the most fun on STP”. I enjoyed this complement. I think we do have
a good time. One of the best parts of riding tandem is that you are close
enough for conversation. We goof around quite a bit on the bike, with
jokes and singing. I look for cars and traffic behind, David looks ahead,
and I enjoy the teamwork. Some people call the tandem, the divorcycle, but
this marriage apparently is surviving, perhaps even thriving, on the
bicycle built for two.

After Winlock (mile 120), we hopscotched with a Bike Friday tandem couple
from Canada through the rollers, and then picked up a bunch of riders
again in our slipstream. By 9:30 we had made it to the Lexington Food Stop
(mile 146). We didn’t have to wait for an escort across the Longview
bridge (mile 153) — we just rode up to the end of the line and just made
it. David did an excellent job handling the bike through the cloverleaf at
the Oregon side. We were going pretty fast, and there are plenty of bikes
since you’re herded over the bridge as a group. He swooped us through the
cloverleaf, passing cyclist after cyclist, until we were down at the river
level on the other side.

Then it’s mostly uphill to St. Helens, but we were aided by a tailwind
most of the way. I really think the gorge winds make a huge difference on
whether this is a horrible burdensome slog or a less burdensome slog. I am
not fond of the shadeless, noisy, highly trafficked US-30, but I guess
there’s no alternative. At the St. Helens rest stop (mile 176) we ate bags
of seemingly ambrosial popcorn and hung out. Then it was back on the
bikes, and a great, mostly downhill run to the final Scappouse rest stop
(mile 189). We pulled an enormous paceline of bikes, and appreciated all
of their thanks when we decided to take a breather and they all went on
their merry way. At Scappouse, my husband gave a packet of goo to a fellow
cyclist who, despite having completed two STPs previously, had never tried
this miraculous substance before. Certainly he and I sucked down our own
sports gels for the final push of the ride.

After Scappouse, you’re so close to Portland you can taste it. We whipped
down into town, across the Wilamette, and then did the last few blocks and
– over the finish! Yay!

After that, we loaded our bike on the truck, took showers, and
rendezvous-ed at the beer garden. I had a gyro, one of the last ones
before the stand ran out. Since the men have a shower line (us ladies just
waltz in), David
didn’t get a gyro like he wanted, and had a cheese burger instead with his
beer. After back-to-back centuries, something like this just feels like a
wee snack. On the way to the bus, we ran into the guy David gave the goo
to. He expressed how well this worked for him. The bus ride back was
interminable (what else is new?), but when we arrived back at the U, we
hightailed it to a U-Village restaurant for a real dinner. By the time we
were done, our bike had arrived off of the truck, and we could head home.

The STP this year for us was just great. The tandem makes it so easy. We
did it at 16.4 mph on-bike, which is with zero pacelining (other than
pulling for others), which I thought was pretty good. If we took fewer and
shorter breaks, we could definitely do it as a one day. But as a two day,
it was relatively relaxed and easy. I thought about how hard it was doing
it with Rose last year. Two 12 hour days is a lot harder than two 9 hour
ones. In retrospect, it makes that accomplishment even more awesome to me.
I am proud of her and me last year. This year, my positive post-STP
feeling isn’t of pride and “wow, we did it”, but more a “man, that was a
lot of *fun*!”