Tuesday, July 18, 2006

StP Commentary

I'm tired
But not as tired as you'd think from all the riding I did. I actually made it into work pretty quick today - though some guy on SE 17th and McLoughlin edged over the bike lane divider by a full foot while I was almost alongside him. I yelled "hey!" and he tried to say something I couldn't hear (his windows were down enough to hear me - my voice carries well). Now he's probably annoyed with cyclists, all because he didn't realize he was in my lane, or worse, thought he belonged there. SE 17th at that spot has a really sharp turn, and vehicles frequently "cut the corner" on it and edge over the line. It's the absolute worst point along my entire commute.

So - StP 2006. Awesome ride, and I got a mention in Jonathan Maus' blog, which totally rocks. The weather was awesome, and most of the ride was terrific. At mile 45, there was "The Hill", which wasn't nearly as bad as people made it out to be - just long. It's about the same grade as McLoughlin between Milwaukie and Oak Grove, which is much easier than north Oatfield, Concord, Jennings or Thiessen. Or Roethe or Naef, for that matter. Other than that, there were only a couple of hills that were any real effort - most of the climbing seemed to be saved for day two, which I think is cruel and unusual punishment for a first time StP rider.

Day one had good weather, and the ride along Lake Washington was quite nice. The parks and homes out there are pretty, and away from the freeway one can forget how much of a pain in the butt Seattle traffic is. I don't like Seattle. I love parts of Seattle, but overall the city reminds me too much of Detroit or Chicago, just with hills. I left Detroit for a reason - too big, and soulless. Well, most of Seattle has a soul, and they have the PacNW attitude, which is cool, but there's still too many people, which is why I think Portland is cooler and why I'll miss the Portland of today 20 years from now when we're Seattle's size. (by then, Seattle will be Detroit's size, and have all kinds of problems they've avoided until now) After leaving Seattle, we rode through Renton and Kent, which could have been Auburn Hills or Rochester Hills, MI, or Chesapeake, VA, or any other city with no real downtown and full of office parks and distribution centers. Good riding, well-kept roads with little traffic on a weekend. Some of the rail crossings were kind of bad, and the one right before REI Headquarters (the first pit stop) was the scene of a really bad accident. Whoever that guy was, I hope he's ok. It looks like he hit the tracks wrong and went head over wheels and landed on his face. They had a mask on him, and his face was caked with blood all over. The helmet was still on him when the ambulance arrived, so I'm sure they were worried about head / neck injuries. Future bac crossings were well marked and most had carpet laid over them on the side to help bikes transition them. (Note to railfans - these were all spurs, no mainlines or secondaries, so rail traffic wasn't an issue) The rest of the day was spent transiting the edge of Fort Lewis and navigating some of the western Washington backcountry. We were overflown by 3 Blackhawk helicopters, and then the reservists were firing artillery for an hour somewhere in the middle of the base. Way cool, and not a sound I was expecting. We almost had an incident when a group of riders ahead of us stopped suddenly without warning - Tomas, Lee and I were in a paceline and another group of 4 riders were drafting directly behind me. Fortunately we all slowed and avoided the mixup without incident. We got into Centralia sometime before 6pm, about 11 hours after we'd left the start.

Day two started off really cold, and I was very glad I had the Tyvek jacket that came as part of our registration package. I snapped the obligatory early morning picture of my shadow, then settled into a good cadence and got some of the sores out of my muscles. We hit a whole host of small towns: Napavine, Winlock, Vader. All rolling hills the whole way after the first 10 miles or so. Tomas and I had breakfast (second breakfast?) in Chehalis (before the aforementioned small towns) and the pancakes really helped us out. I'd forgotten my sunglasses in the hotel room, so the wife had them with her when she headed back to Portland to meet us. Lee had a couple of pinched nerves from day one, and wasn't able to join us, so it was just Tomas and I. My patience was tested by this one 12-year old kid that would speed up if I was passing him. He did this on an uphill with a sharp right at the top, and I had to slow down on the uphill to turn behind him instead of cutting him off. Later, I was coming up behind him again at a steady pace, and when I went left to pass, he sped up again. Ok - that's it. Time to show this little punk who's boss. I got left and started passing him, and when he sped up, I put everything I had into it - 35+ mph on a slight downhill and at least 27 mph on the subsequent uphill grade. I ran out of energy when I'd opened up the distance to 1/4 mile or so, and throttled back to a slower pace than I'd started out with. He passed us about 5-10 minutes later, with an obnoxiously cheery "hi", but I felt pretty good because an overweight 37-year old beat the pants off a skinny, healthy, unlimited energy 12-year old, even if only for a few minutes.

The character of the ride changed after crossing into Oregon. No one honked at the cyclists (other than a friendly tap "beep" to say "hi") in Washington, but as soon as we crossed into Oregon, there were angry beeps when we were riding south on Hwy 30. One guy was laying on the horn every few seconds, because riders hundreds of yard ahead of him were taking the lane in order to pass the slower riders on the bike lane. That's frustrating - taking the lane in that situation is totally legal - ORS814.430(2) specifically permits it. There wasn't even any real traffic in the left lane - he could have gotten over rather than getting pissy with a few hundred cyclists on the road. I realize that all those cyclists are inconvenient, but the ride only happens once a year, and the date isn't really hidden. All the news outlets say something about it beforehand. And we weren't the only group slowing things down on Sunday - there was a big music festival going on in St. Helens while we were riding through. The main reason it bothers me is that a large event like that attracts a lot of inexperienced riders - the very people that the cars have no tolerance for. As traffic rises and drive times lengthen, road rage becomes ever more prevalent. We (all of us) really need to do whatever we can to discourage road rage, and to encourage patience in each other.

And that's my soapbox moment - should be on my other blog, I guess.


Tomas_Quinones said...

Dude, thanks again for all the photographs. My folks are going to really appreciate the pictures.

Now, I've REALLY got to get my own digital camera again.

Anonymous said...

No problem - Hey, did you check the marathonfoto.com website? They got 19 pictures of me - a couple of them have you in the background. How many pics did they get of you?