Number 7008, a man I chatted with while rounding Lake Washington early Saturday morning, said the 2009 Seattle to Portland ride (STP) was his eighth go at the two day, 100 mile a day bike adventure. He likened it to a bad hangover: you get drunk, and the next day you hate yourself for it, then you eventually do it again. Eight times and he still hasn’t learned his lesson.
Neither have the 10,000 other riders that suit up in their tightest, most unflattering spandex and jerseys and ride up to eight hours a day, then get up and do it again.
Include me in that figure. I signed up after I was in Portland a couple years back the same weekend as STP and decided that I too had to participate in the fun. This year is my first and Day 1 was smooth and safe for me. I am very thankful for this as I did see more than a couple casualties along the way.
I’ve also seen some of the most beautiful landscape and savored the fantastic Pacific Northwest summer weather. Evergreens abound in the mountains and valleys, sparkling green meadows sit under white, puffs of clouds. Rural western Washington is nature at its finest: raw and clean and alive.
On the back farm roads and highways, I’ve seen a yard sale about every fifth house. I’ve seen horses and goats and country folk who work on farms and live simply. I had a cup of lemonade sold by a boy who strummed his guitar under a tall tree that protected the musician and a handfull of thirsty riders from the blazing sun.
There is a point, I admit, when I’m hammering down, pedal stroke after pedal stroke, sweaty and hungry, muscles and joints on the verge of screaming, bike rattling over rough roads, insects hitting my sunglasses and ears when I say to myself, “Is this really necessary?” Do I – do we – need to be riding our bikes from one urban center to the next? What are we trying to prove here?
That we can.