20140714-070529-25529921.jpgON TO PORTLAND!

Each July 10,000 bicycle enthusiasts gather at the UW’s Husky Stadium parking lot to set out on a 202-mile journey over back roads connecting Seattle to Portland. For most, the journey will be a two-day affair that combines pastoral scenery and hearty camaraderie with aching thighs and saddle soreness. For about 1,000 gluttons for punishment, the ride is a one-day affair. This year, I was one of the gluttonous 1,000,

I’ve done the STP (as it is known) four times and every time I do it I swear I will never do it again. What starts as a surging wave of excited and impatient cyclists flowing through the deserted, early-morning streets of Seattle, inevitably morphs into a fatigued trickle of sweat-stained and bedraggled cyclists by the time it reaches Portland.

In my case, the thinking disorder that overcomes my better judgement about taking on such a grueling endeavor is the notion that “this time it will be different.” The “difference” for me this year was a newly purchased Dahon folding bicycle, acquired with our upcoming European vacation in mind. I expected this peculiar little bike to be something of a compromise whose chief virtue is its transportability. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that by modifying the handlebar with an aerobar the Dahon turned into the most comfortable bike I have ever ridden. Since numb hands and a sore seat have been such major problems on past STP rides, I wondered if the Dahon might be the sought-after solution. There was only one way to find out.

20140714-072814-26894541.jpgAT THE STARTING LINE
The weather this year was hot, with 90s forecasted along the route, so leaving at the crack of dawn (4:45 AM) seemed entirely appropriate. Mary (who has ridden the STP three times herself) decided to sit this one out and volunteered to be my support, meeting me along the way with refreshment.

“Refreshment” on this ride would be Gatorade and a milkshake concoction consisting of milk, Carnation Instant Breakfast powder, and freeze-dried coffee crystals.

I carried my Gatorade and shake in a small ice chest strapped to the Dahon’s rack. That ice chest invariably signaled “beer” to my fellow riders, at least fifty of whom asked me to share my treasure with them.

My assessment of the Dahon? It performed admirably. I kept up with all but the fastest of the “big bikes” and the hoped-for comfort was very real. In the last fifty miles when many of the other riders were standing on their pedals to relieve their aching butts, I was cruising along with no “problem areas.” My milkshakes went down easily and kept me from bonking.

That said, there’s no getting around the fact that fatigue becomes the overwhelming sensation for the last fifty miles of a 200-mile ride. The fun stops after the first 150 miles and the ride becomes a matter of pure endurance.

My first two STPs were two-day rides and my third, with Mary, was a one-dayer that ended as darkness was falling around 9:30 PM in Portland. This ride cut two hours off that as I crossed the finish line at 7:40PM for a total ride time of fourteen hours. A simple graph shows that the older I get, the faster I get. Extending this trend out to my ninetieth year in 2040, I will be the fastest STP rider of all time and first to cross the finish line at 3:00 in the afternoon!  But even more amazing, should I live to be 180 years old,  this graph predicts I will cross the finish line before I cross the starting line!!!???