2005 Seattle To Portland Bicycle Ride



Last year, when I tried to ride non-stop from Seattle to Portland, I only made it 150 miles before dehydrating.
That story can be found here: 2004 Seattle to Kelso

This year, everything went fine. 
In some ways, the trip actually started Friday afternoon, when I drove down to Portland to have my car there for the return trip.  Normally, the trip takes about 3 and a half hours.  Traffic was horrible, and it took nearly 6 hours to get there.  That meant that I missed the earlier bus I was planning to take back to Seattle.  (The train was sold out – other riders heading North.)  So it meant that I didn’t get back home until close to 11pm, and I still had some prep work to do before going to bed.

When I finally got to sleep, it was about 12:30am, and I would be getting up again at 3:00am to eat a big protein breakfast, stretch my muscles, drive to the starting line, and perform final safety checks on my bike and person, then hit the road.

I crossed the starting line right at 5:00am, and rolled across the finish line in Portland just before 10:30pm.  So that’s about 17:30 hours on the clock to get there.  Some of that time was spent at rest stops, so the total time actually pushing south while on the saddle was 14:22:30.

At the 100-mile mark in Centralia, I was feeling GREAT!  My average speed was 17.7 mph, and I had made it there before noon!  But I made the mistake of having some spaghetti to re-fuel.  The pasta was fine, but the sauce was way to acidic for my stomach.  I kept riding, but for the next 10 miles, I was at a much slower pace because I kept burping tomato sauce.  After about another 5 miles, I was able to resume “normal” speeds of 17+mph.

By around mile 125, I started hitting a wall.  I started seriously thinking about stopping for the night.  However, knowing that might happen, I deliberately chose NOT leave provisions at a midpoint.  I told myself I would make it to Portland, and that I was going to draw upon my well-honed skills of stubbornness to get there.  75 miles of stubbornness?  HA!  I can muster that EASILY!

However, I still had to play lots of mental games to “reframe” the rest of the trip…

  • “More than half way there” only worked for a little while. 
  • “75 miles is not that bad… I’ve done that in an afternoon many times.” 
    (Yes, but you were fresh when you started…)
  • “As soon as I get it down to 64 miles, that’s just like a trip around Lake Washington + Lake Sammamish”
    (Take the short-cut, and don’t do Lake Sammamish this time)
  • As soon as I get it down to 52 miles, that’s just like a trip around Lake Washington”
    (Why would I want to ride around Lake Washington after 148 miles already?)
  • What are these great big bugger-like things that keep showing up on my handle-bars?  Eewww!
      (After 4 years, the leather on my gloves has finally warn through and the gel cushioning was coming out.)
  • “Just let me go another 12 miles… that will put me at 40 to go, which is a trip to Marymoor and back”
  • “OK, 40 miles to go… I can do this. 
    Lets see, at current speeds, that’s only another 3 hours on this #%@*! bike.”
  • At the rest-stop in St. Helens, no sooner do I sit down on the port-o-potty when somebody’s cell-phone starts ringing from down below.  Now there’s a call that is going to end up in voice-mail!
  • “20 miles to go… It’s just like riding home from Marymoor…  I’m in the home stretch now”
    (Uh oh.. it’s getting dark, and I don’t have my lights.  It’s also getting lonely.  Time for another cookie?)
  • I can’t stop now… both because there’s so few miles left, and because I do NOT want to try this again next year!
  • I said I would make it, now make it so! 
    I’m going to make it just because I created that possibility with my word.
  • Where is a good dilithium crystal when I really need one?
  • Look!!  A road-sign saying 13 miles to Portland! 
    Yea!  Woo Hoo! 
    And I get to see another mile marker every 3-4 minutes! 
    Yea for the mile markers! 
    Come onnnn Mile Markers!  
    Mile marker mile marker mile marker….  Be de be de be de!
  • Wait a second… I’m becoming invisible. 
    Wow!  Wouldn’t that be cool?
    Wake up!  This is serious.
    It’s definitely dark, I’m riding on the side of a major highway, and I’m nearly exhausted. 
    I had better put on my jacket inside out, because it’s white on the inside.
    So help me, if some ass hole runs me over when I have so few miles to go, let me tell you, I am going to be PISSED!  So put on the jacked to ward off the ass holes.
    (Personal safety was secondary to ass hole repellent at that point)
  • 10 miles to go.  Just about into the single digits now, but I am SOOOO tired!!
    I’ve had 3 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours,
    my back hurts,
    my knees hurt,
    my shoulders hurt,
    my hair is all itchy,
    I’m covered in dirt and grease,
    I smell so badly that not even the wind keeps it away,
    my feet are on fire,
    and don’t even TALK to me about my rump!    
    I’ve tried every position I can think of, there is not a single position which is pain-free.
  • 5 miles to go.  Oh, how lovely Portland is this time of night. 
    I bet it’s much nicer when I can actually afford to look at it rather than staring at the road for those route-markers.  Thank goodness I hooked up with 3 people with lights and a map.
  • 5 blocks to go!  And look!!!  There’s where I parked my car!  STOP!  STOP!  Get off this crazy thing, turn right and go to sleep in my car!  I’m in Portland already!  That counts!  Just STOP already!
    (No, wait, I can’t do that… 5 more blocks and I get my one-day-rider patch, plus the restrooms.)

So I finally did it.  203 miles in a single day.  It was fun, but it was also rather grueling by the end.  In the words of Mark Twain, “I’m glad that I did it partly because it was worth while, but mostly because I shall never have to do it again.”

While I fully expect I’ll still do the ride again next year, I think I’ll stick to the two-day plan, where the fun-to-pain ratio is a little bit more towards the fun side.

Preparation for the ride consisted of 17 weeks, over 1,500 miles of training and over 100 hours of saddle time.  While I’m glad that I did it, and it was indeed a personal best and huge accomplishment, I’m ready to have my life back and start something new.  Maybe I’ll take up paragliding next.

2004 Seattle To Portland Bicycle Ride



Yesterday, July 17, 2004, I set out to ride my bicycle the 206 miles from Seattle to Portland in a single day. I had done the trip twice before, both times in 2 days. Both times, the second day seemed far more grueling than the first.  From multiple riders, I had heard that one day was really the way to go. I had put in the training miles, steadily increasing my speed and endurance, and was all set to give it a go this year. 

Much to my surprise, I found myself looking at the various group-dynamics along the ride with a LIOSian slant. At the start line, there were riders all over the parking-lot at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium. They were stretching, checking their bikes, riding around in circles to warm up, and engaged in idle chatter. This would be a group of people from all over the area, tentatively exploring the early “forming” stages. At this point, other than those who already arrived together in smaller groups, everybody shared little more than the commonality of seeking to peddle their way South for the next 10-20 hours in either one or two days. Up until the time when the gate would open to let people loose in groups of about 200, the “task” part of the adventure had not yet begun.

Alas, when the gate did open, I found myself in the second wave, crossing the start line at 4:59:00 AM.  It had officially begun. The sun was just barely coming up in the distance, there was slight cloud cover, and the air was a near perfect temperature for beginning what would become a long and arduous endeavor. I found myself experiencing a high level of nervous excitement at the start of the ride.  As we left the parking lot en-mass, starting speeds were only about 15 miles an hour. There were too many people, we were too close together, and there were too many turns for anybody to travel much faster. At this point, the group of maybe 40 cyclist within my immediate proximity were all quite unified in the task leaving the stadium, traveling down the roadways, and of wanting to gain greater separation for safety.  At the same time, even beyond the 40 within my immediate vision, there were still others both ahead and behind seeking to do the same thing. As we traveled, my sense was that we were all one big undifferentiated ego mass.

Yet while the initial speeds were moderate, the effort to travel at those speeds was quite minimal.  The need for vigilance was high in order to travel safely, but the mass of people created a force of wind and suction that allowed us to coast at those speeds, even up-hill. Surrounding me on all sides were the sounds of gears shifting, chains pulling, wind blowing, and tires rolling over the roadway. The cacophony of stimuli bombarding all of my senses was so overpowering and rhythmic as to make the effort of peddling almost unnoticeable. Instead, my focus was on the wheels in front of me, the pot-holes below me, and the other cyclist to both of my sides — those on my right fading back as I passed them, and those on my left surging forward as they passed me. The effort was more about concentration and focus than physical exertion, and it was easy to enter a hyper-vigilant state that was also somehow quite soothing, as if in deep meditation, broken only by the repeated calls of “On your left!”

After about the first 5 miles, the roadways opened up a bit, space between cyclists increased, and there was a greater sense of mobility within the group. Speeds had increased to about 20 MPH, and it was possible to break away from the pack. While traveling with a group took less energy, it also demanded a greater degree of conformity and predictability. It was not possible to speed up or slow down at will and still remain part of the group, which had now taken on a character of its own, even without words among the members. To travel at my own pace would require leaving this group – differentiating – and traveling at my own pace.

So as I moved towards the left and began increasing my speed to 22 MPH, I began passing greater numbers of people. At that point, two things started to happen. The first was that there were others in the group who also wanted to go faster, and as I began to surge forward, they would drop in behind me to ride in my wake. It was as if there were a latent urge to go faster by others within the group, and it did not become expressed until such time as somebody took the lead by pedaling harder. My goal to surge forward, to differentiate myself as a cyclist, was met with joining behaviors of others who wanted to follow my lead.

The second thing was that as I began to separate from the pack in which I was traveling, I saw how large the hoard of cyclist really was. I knew that at most, there were 300 people in front of me, though from my vantage point, I could not see the front of the line which seemed to go on forever. Likewise, there would be upwards of 7,000 riders behind me, and I had no interest in seeing that end of the continuum. The line seemed to alternate between clusters of about 30, separated by about 500 yards of sparse riders, followed by another group of cyclists. I suspect that were you to start at the head of the line and work your way backwards, that pattern would repeat for miles. 

Within my place on that line, I found myself simultaneously wanting to separate from the group I was in, and also wanting to accelerate to join the next group ahead. On the whole, there was really very little difference between one group and the next, and yet the urge I felt to leave one and enter the next one was quite profound. I had an inner desire to separate, to travel on my own as an individual cyclist, while at the same time to enjoy the benefits that membership within a larger group provided. Traveling on my own meant the greatest personal freedom, but also the greatest amount of effort. Traveling in a group took far less energy, but required greater conformity and concern for the safety of those around me. It was not a problem to be solved, as much as it was a paradox to be navigated.

So this pattern continued for the first 11 miles, until reaching the Seward Park mini-stop, where probably half of the pack pulled over, and the other half (myself included) continued on. With the hoards now thinned out, it was safer to increase speed, and I found myself in the midst of a group rolling at a comfortable 25 MPH. On my own, I would not likely travel much faster than 20, but I could easily assimilate with this group by watching my spacing and riding close behind in the wake of those in front of me. Having “found my pack,” the reality that teams are capable of doing more than individuals became blatantly obvious. 

I was now traveling within a semi-established group of 5 which had formed as a byproduct of traveling at a common speed. Storming was non-existent, as the norms were based purely on speed. Anybody not meeting that norm would be dropped, while anybody who could match that speed was free to join. At intervals of about one minute, the lead cyclist would move to the side and allow the pace-line to pass, at which point the former lead would join the rear to benefit from the draft of those up front.  Traveling this way saves about 20% of the effort required to ride solo, but it is not without risks.  

The distance between the tip of my front wheel, and the tail of the rear wheel in front of me was from 6 to 18 inches.  At 25 MPH, we are traveling over 36 feet every second, which means reaction times need to be less than 0.1 seconds to maintain safety.  It’s analogous to two automobiles driving 50 MPH with less than 3 between their bumpers.  

Yet somehow cyclists who are complete strangers manage to establish enough trust to ride this way for miles at a time because it allows the group to remain strong without over-burdening any individual cyclist.  This particular group lasted for the next 12 miles, until reaching the first stop which was the REI in Kent. By that point, I had managed to go 23.5 miles in a little over an hour, and it was only 6:10 in the morning.  It was only the beginning, of course, but at that rate, I was well on my way to making the entire journey in a day.

However, as soon as we entered the REI parking lot, the “group” disbanded as we all sought to tend to our individual needs for carbohydrates, water, and bladder relief. It was the fastest I had ever made it to the first stop, and also the first time that there were no lines for the bathrooms. After a 22 minute stop, I was on my way again, except that the “group” I had formerly traveled with was nowhere to be seen. There were others re-entering the course at the same time as me, though most of them were traveling at 15 MPH, while I was cruising solo at 20. 

As much as I would have liked to have caught up to a group traveling at 25 MPH, there was no way that I could sustain that speed on my own, and so no way that I could ever catch one going that fast. At the same time, some of those 15 MPH riders were just waiting for somebody my speed to pass by, and before I knew it I had a trail of 5 in my wake. Fortunately, riding in someone’s wake helps the followers, while doing no harm to the lead. Then, just as those 5 had latched onto me when I passed, there was a 10-person pace-line gaining from the rear. The line passed me, one rider after the other in rapid succession until the end of the line, at which point I pushed forward to catch their wake, leaving behind the 5 who were my former entourage. The point here is that it is much harder to find an appropriate group to join, and far more likely that it will find you.  The key to being able to join a new group when it comes along is a willingness to change speeds.

So for the entirety of the ride from Seattle to Portland, there were roughly 7,000 riders spread out over many miles, coming together into groups of various sizes and for various lengths of time and distance. Groups would travel together, having formed on the basis of speed, both helping and being helped by each other’s presence, only to disband and form again in a new configuration. On the one hand, each of these groups may have been mere groups-of-convenience, yet there was also a level of camaraderie among strangers which was somehow established quickly and with very little negotiation.

I continued to enter and exit these groups for about the first 52 miles, until I reached Spanaway, Washington. At that point, while I still felt fine, I noticed that I did not have to pee nearly as much as I should have. It was my first sign that perhaps I was not drinking enough, just as the temperatures were beginning to rise through the high 70’s. My cumulative average speed was still 18.8 MPH, including slowing down for hills. I only needed to maintain 17 to be able to complete the course in a day. I made it a point to drink more on the next segment, and was merrily on my way again.

By the time I reached Tenino, at 85 miles into the trip, I was starting to have trouble. The temperatures had climbed into the 80’s, the sun was beating down brightly onto the pavement, and I was unable to drink enough to meet my body’s needs. Fortunately, I still had an appetite, and crammed down a banana, two brownies, a peach, a yogurt, 3 rice-crispy treats, a hand of grapes, and a power-bar before heading out again. Truly, one of the greatest things about cycling is that I get to eat, and eat, and eat. In a matter of minutes, I can consume enough calories to send a diabetic into a coma, and if I’m lucky that will be enough to get me to the next stop. Food, however, was not the problem – water was, and I was not drinking enough.

By the time I made it to Centralia, Washington, just past the 100 mile mark, I was showing signs of stress. The temperatures had reached somewhere into the 90’s, and my stomach was not doing well. I needed to eat, but could not bring myself to eat anything at all. I knew I had expended vast amounts of energy, and I should have been famished. Instead, in what I knew was scorching heat, I was getting the chills. Recognizing the symptoms of heat exhaustion, I sat in the shade and decided not to go anywhere until I managed to drink 3 quarts of water and started peeing again. As much as I wanted to hit the road, I knew I had to tend to basic self-care, lest my body collapse. As if I needed the reminder, there were EMT’s loading another rider into an ambulance for heat stroke. My body just wanted to puke and to go to sleep. My mind knew better, and began flushing my system with water. I was showing all the signs of over-heating, and the two hours it took to re-hydrate were essential to my survival.  I had focused too much on the task of getting to Portland, and not enough on maintaining my body to get me there.

After the two-hour delay, my legs were rested, and I was anxious to get rolling again.  Unfortunately, having let that much time slip by, most of the riders who would be traveling at my pace were already well ahead of me.  That meant that it was less likely that I would find another group traveling at my speed.  However, I managed to travel at 22 on my own, until I was indeed approached by another pace-line going 24.  In some ways, it was like stepping onto a moving sidewalk — accelerate to match the prevailing speed, then enjoy the ride.

The next stop was at mile 120 — Winlock, Washington — home of the world’s largest Egg.  By this point (3:00 PM), many of the other riders were stopping for the day, and those going all the way to Portland were long gone.  I was considering calling it quits myself, except for a strange turn of events.  There was another woman there who was also planning to go all the way to Portland, except that she was having a mild asthma attack.  She managed to ask if I had an inhaler, which I did not.  Unfortunately, Winlock is one of the smaller stops without any first aid or amenities to speak of.  However, I remembered pursed lip breathing from my training as an EMT, which I suggested to her.  It seemed to help, and she said that her head began to clear up when she did that.  At a minimum, she said she would not be going on, and would call her folks for a ride home.  However, since she was not going to Portland, she gave me her bus-ticket from Portland back to Seattle.

So now all I had to do was make it another 80 miles in 6 hours, so that I could make it to Portland in time for the last bus back, which left at 9pm.  In theory, it was quite plausible that I could make it, except that I was still trying to re-establish equilibrium after having dehydrated back in Centralia.  My legs were fine, and I was still able to travel at 18 MPH or better on my own.  The problem was that my stomach was still not happy, and I was going to need to put in a lot more fuel to complete the ride.

I continued to press on, though at this point I was leading far more groups than I was able to join and follow.  I was slowing down, and there were others for whom I was now the strongest cyclist around.  They latched onto my wake just when I most wanted to find a faster wake that I could join.  The irony of a "wake" being both the vacuum of air behind a moving cyclist, as well as what takes place after a funeral was not lost on me at this point.

When I finally reached the 150 mile mark in Lexington, Washington, it was about 7:00pm.  That was the last major food stop, and when I got there they were closing down for the night.  The volunteers there went into the truck and got me a sandwich and some grapes, then basically closed shop.  Earlier in the trip, grapes were the most delicious thing I could put into my mouth — sweet, bite-sized, and wet.  I sat down to eat them now, and they were absolutely vile.  I tried some of the PB&J sandwich, but I could not eat that either.  Not only was it gross, but I could not produce the saliva to eat it.  In both cases, I knew there was nothing wrong with the food.  It was me — I was dehydrated again, only this time my body was resisting far more than it did 50 miles ago.

At that point, I knew there was no way that I could re-hydrate and perform adequate self care, while also making my way the last 50 miles to Portland.  I had started this ride in excellent shape, and should have been quite capable of reaching Portland in a day.  However, I had gone too far outside of the maintenance-envelope to recover without significant physical penalties.  Although I was heavily task-focused and having a great time, I had neglected an aspect of self care to the point that my level of functioning was beginning to suffer.  I might be able to push on still further, but I knew that the costs would only increase exponentially.

As much as I had wanted to achieve my goal of reaching Portland, it was time to quit.  I called home for a rescue, then traveled another 5 miles to a more convenient pick-up point in Kelso, Washington.  I thought long and hard about making that call — partly because it seemed like quitting, partly because I did not like the need to be rescued, and partly because it meant that I had failed to achieve my goal.

Fortunately, in the 2 hours it took for my ride to get to Kelso, I had a bit of time to do some re-framing.  Portland was really just a point on the map, and if I really wanted to get there, I could have stayed at a hotel for the night and finished the next 50 miles in less than 3 hours.  However, my real goal was not Portland — it was to do my very best.  

  • I rode over 1,800 miles as part of my training.
  • I made a decision based on personal self-care, 
    rather than to sacrifice my health or safety for an external goal.
  • I rode the fastest 100 miles in my life — reaching Centralia in 5:09:38, 
    with an average speed of 18.9 MPH
  • I rode farther that day (150 miles to Kelso) than I had ever done in my life.
  • I was still able to walk without stiffness or soreness, even the next day.
  • I completed the S.T.K. (Seattle to Kelso), and lived to tell about it.

Without a doubt, I performed at my personal best.  That’s more than enough to hold my head high about.  And next year?  Well, I’m going to drink so much water that I may float my way into Portland.

2002 Seattle To Portland Bicycle Ride



The "STP" is a highly organized bicycle ride that goes (obviously) from Seattle to Portland, covering 200 miles in the process.  This year, it was over the weekend of July 13 and 14.

This was my first time riding in the STP, and the longest I’ve ever ridden my bike over a weekend.  I managed to complete the ride in two days, going 112 miles the first day, and 91 the second.

The ride started out around 5:15am on Saturday at Husky Stadium, in North Seattle.  Kristen had volunteered to help out with registration, so that meant we were both there around 4am.  I hung out at the car, stretching and making sure everything on my bike was still the way it should be for a ride of this magnitude, then finally crossed the starting line around 5:30a, shortly after it started getting light.

In the first 3-5 miles of the trip, there were probably 7 accidents where people had either crashed into each other, fallen off of their bike, or run into the back of parked cars.  (Yes, "parked" cars — because they were riding with their heads down and failed to look up to see what else was in the shoulders of the road).  So from the start, I was thinking that if this was any indication of what was to follow, that the entire course would be littered with these wrecks within a matter of hours.  However, after leaving the University district, people spread out a bit more, and things got a little safer and less chaotic.

Looking around me, there were truly all assortment of riders.  Most were on bicycles, but there was one on a uni-cycle, another on roller-blades, a handful of tandem-bikes, one 3-person bike, and several people in tri-cycles that were pedaled by hand, ridden by those without the use of their legs.  Beyond that, there were many for whom the traditional cacophony of colors found on bike jerseys was simply not enough splash, who resorted to accoutrements from Viking horns to plastic pigs on their heads.  If nothing else, it made them easier to spot amongst the other 7,000 riders along the route.  There was even one rider who brought his small dog in a basket on the front of his bike.

There were also a large handful of people riding various forms of recumbent bikes.  Of those, many were further   streamlined with a wind-faring up front, and some form of spandex that went from the edges of the faring to the back of the bike and left only their heads sticking out of the top.  The point was for the faring and spandex to make a more aerodynamic shape as they headed down the road.

Further on that extreme, there was one rider with a custom recumbent bike that was inside of a fiber-glass shell.  It had a cock-pit that opened up to let him in and out like those on fighter jets.  The rider was a goof-ball who looked like Christopher Lloyd from "Back to the Future", and wore an odd set of custom glasses that let him see out the back of his craft through two square holes in the cockpit.  He was not much faster on the up-hill or level parts of the ride, but would easily go 45-50 mph on several down-hill sections where the rest of us were only doing 40.

Several people along the ride were also clearly riding in groups.  They rode with various matching jerseys and took turns in the lead by breaking the wind up front that others would follow by "drafting".  This simple exercise of riding in the wake of the rider in front can easily add 2-3 mph to your traveling speed for the same amount of work.  By and large, most people were drafting for large parts of the ride, and it did not matter who was in front, or if  you knew who they were.  In fact, during the first day of the ride, I didn’t actually get to see that much along the route because I was usually drafting within 6 inches of another stranger traveling around 22 mph.  I had to keep my hands on my brakes and my eyes on his tire to keep safe with so little space between us.

In one of the more interesting groups there was a cyclist who had a trailer attached to his bike, on which he carried a box with 4 speakers — one going in each direction.  As they traveled, they were blasting rock music that could be heard for 500 yards.  It didn’t matter what they were playing… just so long as it was loud, and had a clear, fast beat to it.  I rode with them for about 5 miles, and it definitely helped on the up-hill parts.  After that, I passed them and continued at my own pace.

Normally, my own pace is about 16mph — slower on hills, faster on level and downhill.  My best speed riding my bike in to work had me going 16.8 mph over the 16 mile ride.  But on the STP, with all the drafting my average speed over the first 112 miles was 18.3 mph.  That doesn’t count time spent in the rest-stops every 20 miles, nor the time spent dealing with mechanical failures.

I was fortunate enough not to have any flat tires, but at about mile 35, my back wheel went massively out of true.  I could feel a large wobble in the back, and my rim kept hitting my brakes, even with them wide open.  So I had to pull over, get out my spoke-wrench, and try to re-true the thing on the road.  That took about 15 minutes, and it was good enough to get me the next 20 miles to Spanaway, Washington, where there was a mechanic at the next rest area.  He took a look at the wheel and saw that it was pretty screwed up, but was able to get it good enough for me to subsequently finish the ride.

Early on in the ride, and for the few days prior to the STP, I was wondering whether or not I should actually try to complete the entire 200 miles in one day or two.  About 15% of the riders do it in one day, and I was riding at the one-day pace, but by the time I got to mile 85, it was clear to me that it was getting close to quitting time.  I typically start to have a little trouble in my knees after around 65 miles, and this ride was no different.  At some point, my body simply rises up and says "what are you trying to do to me?  Enough already!"   

So I continued on past the 100 mile mid-point in Centralia, knowing it was only another 10-12 miles until Chehalis, where cousins Duke and Mar’ia lived.  Their house was actually only a few blocks off of the main route.  Unfortunately, it was also on the top of a very steep up hill, with a long set of steps to the house that seemed to go on forever.

Upon arriving at their house, I sat with ice on my knees and drank copious quantities of water, despite what I thought was a reasonable job keeping hydrated along the ride.  Meanwhile, Mar’ia made a meal that would put Martha Stewart to shame, including stuffed peppers and a deluxe Mac and Cheese dish loaded with enough fat and carbo-hydrates to push me through at least 40 miles the next day.  By the time 9:00 PM rolled around, I was a near zombie, and headed for bed.

By morning, I was afraid that rigormortis would have set into my legs and that I’d have trouble walking, but I was actually OK.  My knees were still a little tender, but my muscles felt fine after a little stretching.  Motivation, on the other hand, was bigger problem.  Duke made pancakes, and I had some more of that Mac and Cheese to go with it, yet I kept finding one thing after another to "stall" before actually getting back onto my bike.

I was concerned that if my knees were still tender at the start, that I might not make it to the finish line.  However, Duke had a knee brace that he lent me which made a huge difference.  Once I finally got started, I could tell within the first 5 minutes that it was making a big difference in terms of support.  By the time I’d gone a few miles or so, I again met up with the main group of cyclists, and began thinking that the journey was not so unreasonable after all… only another 85 miles to go.

During the second day, the rest-areas were a little closer together, and I stopped at most of them for at least a little while before moving on.  Unfortunately for me, however, there were far fewer people traveling at my pace that I could draft behind.  Whereas on the first day I could easily pedal at my own pace, then push just a little harder when another group passed me, today I found myself passing others who then slipped into my wake and let me pull them instead.  Fortunately, drafting is something that helps the riders in the rear, but does not hamper the rider up front.

At one of the stops, there was a cyclist who pulled into the rest-area and started to carry his bike.  I though there was something wrong, but he said that he simply didn’t want his tires to spin slowly in the rest area and potentially lower his rolling average on his cyclometer.  That made sense, but I simply turned my bike computer off when I entered the rest areas for the same reason.

I also noticed that from one stop to the next, it seemed that there were more and more port-a-potty’s lined up.  As if it was not clear enough already what they were, there was a paper sign on of them that said "Restroom".  Somebody joked that last year, there was a problem with somebody mistaking them for a vending machine, so they put signs on them now.  You might wonder why I mention the facilities in this little story, but after 10+ bananas, 5+ plums, a sizeable amount of water-melon, 4 apples, 20+ cookies, about a pound of grapes, maybe a sandwich or two,  and a fair number boiled potatoes and power-bars, one starts to realize that these things become a VERY important part of the ride.  So much so, that if I do it again next year I’m bringing my own TP so I don’t have to use the sand-paper that they are stocked with.

One of the bigger highlights on the trip came around mile 150, when we crossed the Columbia river via the Longview bridge.  The police gathered cyclists up into a group until they had about 300 of them, then closed down one lane of the two-lane bridge and escorted the lot of us over the bridge as a group.  During that time, the group obviously spread out, but to have that many cyclists taking over an entire road way at once on a high span bridge was quite a site to behold.  Then, as we descended down the back side of the bridge and around a clover-leaf, we were into Oregon, and Portland was now close enough to feel.

The remaining 50 miles were mostly along the Columbia River Valley, and consisted of more rolling hills.  A byproduct of being the lead cyclist in my groups for more of the ride today meant that I got to see more of the scenery, which was quite picturesque.  I kept an eye on my odometer periodically, but the remaining miles seemed to just slip on by, and before I knew it, I was at one end of the St. John’s Bridge over the
Willamette River, less than a mile from the finish line.  There was one final hill-climb to get to the top of the bridge, but from that point onwards, it was all down-hill to the finish line.

I kept thinking "That’s it?  This is really the end?  But I’ve only been going for about 5 hours so far today."  As I completed my final stretch down the hill to the finish line, I was filled with a sense of amazement, pride, accomplishment, fatigue, surprise, relief, and even a little disappointment that it was now over.

I had been training for this ride for over 3 months, having put in over 1,200 miles of preparation through my rides to and from work, and around the Seattle area on weekends.  I’d seen my average speed climb from about 13 mph when I started training, to almost 17 mph towards the end, to over 18 mph during the first day’s journey.  I had spent nearly 11 hours riding my two-wheeled vehicle from North Seattle, all the way South to the city of Portland, and now it was over…  At least until next year.

  Sat Sun Total
Total Altitude Climbed (ft) 3,200 2,800 6,000
Time Cycling 5:44:35 5:04:46 10:49:21
Average Speed (mph) 18.3 17.7 17.99
Maximum Speed 36 40.2 40.2
Distance Traveled 112.2 91.2 203.4


See also: 1994 Bridge to Bridge Ride

Copyright (C), 2002, by Ashley Guberman


Bridge to Bridge Bicycle Ride

Hickory, NC

September 18, 1994

Early this morning, I woke up knowing I had to eat a large breakfast, but was really not that hungry. It’s hard to eat at 6:00am. So I just had a plate of spaghetti, a banana, a bowl of ice cream and a lot of peanut butter, then washed it all down with some orange juice and a bowl of Cheerio’s before leaving for Hickory.

There was very little traffic on the road at that hour, and I kept looking at what few cars there were to see if they were carrying bicycles. Close to Morganton, none of them were, but as I got closer to Hickory, one and then another car would enter the highway from the various tributaries with bicycles clearly visible. Instantly, there was an identification that we were both headed to the same place. Soon, almost all of the cars on the road had bicycles… like we were all descending on a cosmic bicycle Mecca or something.

And as we got closer to the registration area, there were people RIDING there — why, I’ll never know. I can’t imagine riding a bike to the beginning of what is going to be over a hundred mile course.

There were just under 900 cyclist for this years riding of the Bridge to Bridge challenge. The staging area was about a mile and a half from the official start, and served as a rolling start for the ride that gave the cyclist a little time to spread out so that we were not so dangerously clumped together.

For me, the first 40 miles went by in just over two hours. Groups of cyclist would ride in packs from 4 to 12, all riding within inches of the wheel in front of them. As the terrain changed, the ordering of the group shifted as people vied for position in a friendly manner. I would usually start in the back of a group, then work my way forward, always trying to remain on the outside or front of the group when we came to the crest of any of the MANY hills. As soon as the terrain sloped downwards, I would break away from the pack and try to catch the next group to repeat the process.

Riding in a group, there was a simultaneous feeling of both togetherness and isolation. My group-mates were all strangers, and I knew I would ride with them for only a short while. Yet while traveling, I felt very much like a wolf among a larger pack, traveling at considerable speed on a trek that would only get harder and harder as we entered the mountains.

After mile 41, things slowed down greatly. We had all just been rained on, and were now soaking wet. We could not ride as close to each other because the tires in front of us spewed rain-water straight up like a rooster-tail at whoever was behind it. It was also after mile 41 that the hills started getting steeper. From an average clip of 19 miles/hour, the pace dropped to around 12. By mile 50, my right knee was starting to flare up, and made pedaling more difficult. The rest areas were spaced closer together now, ranging from 3 to 8 miles apart depending on the grade.

At all of the rest areas were people handing out water and either apples or banana halves. The physical exertion was quite extraordinary. With a banana in my hand, the urge was to just swallow it whole, except that I needed to keep my mouth open to breath. The moment the food hit my tongue, physiology took over. My body was DESPERATE for more calories. Rather than just engulfing the banana, I felt the need to let it SIT in my mouth as I rode, turning it into baby-food before swallowing so that it could be absorbed more readily. This was not something I consciously thought of doing, nor did I think about WHY I was doing it, but it just seemed the thing to do, and I listened to my body.

The latter rest-areas had cookies too. Sugar and carbohydrates – cookies from heaven. By the time I reached the 50 mile mark, I think I had more than eaten my registration fee in just bananas and cookies alone. WOOF!! Where did it all go?

Between mile 50 and 64, my pace had slowed to around 6 miles/hour. I was simply plodding from one rest-stop to the next. As far as energy and endurance goes, I was definitely beginning to fade, but the real limiting factor had become my knee. I was pedaling up hill with about 85% of my power coming from my left down-stroke, and letting the momentum take my right foot through the revolution. So when I stopped around mile 64, I decided I would only further injure myself if I went on, especially since there was still another 3,000 vertical feet to climb.

Another rider had severe mechanical trouble, and the two of us were driven to the "reception" area beyond the end of the course. Shortly after getting off my bike, I could feel my temperature dropping rapidly. After all, I’d just expended several thousand calories, gone through 6 miles of rain, ridden 64 miles, and climbed several thousand vertical feet, and now I was actually STATIONARY. I asked if the other rider and I could have a garbage bag to wrap ourselves in, since we would be riding in the back of a pickup, and were at great risk of hypothermia. The other guy thought it was silly, but once we were moving he was glad to have that bag around him!

After hanging out at the end of the course for a while, I met up with the other folks from the OB office, then I caught one of the shuttle busses back down to the start in Hickory. It was about an hour bus ride, and when all the riders got their bikes out of the bottom of the bus in the parking lot, not a single one of them RODE from the bus to their cars, even though the cars were still quite a ways away.

When I got in my car, one of the first things to cross my mind was what an incredible man Henry Ford was. The idea of being able to just push a pedal on the floor with one foot and GO was simply astounding. And to actually go UPHILL by just pushing the pedal a little further? Simply a modern miracle if ever there was one.

By the time I got home and disrobed, I saw that my legs were completely covered in road-slime, and my arms and face looked like I had been playing in the sand. It wasn’t sand, of course — it was crystallized salt. A nice long shower, and I’m almost back to normal, though I suppose the real test will be to see what condition I am in when I wake up in the morning… (or afternoon).

In any event, since my office has two floors and I usually have to go up and down quite a bit, I’m giving serious thought to re-arranging my schedule: until 1:00p, the people up-stairs are shit-out-of-luck, and after 1:00 it’s the other way around. If the problem can not be brought to ME, then too bad.

I’m also going to bring in an extra pillow to sit on, and I don’t think I’ll be getting on my bicycle for at least another week or two. My ass hurts just thinking about it.

2002 Seattle to Portland Bike Ride (STP) 
2004 Seattle to Portland Bike Ride (STP)

Copyright (C), 1998, by Ashley Guberman