How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Hi, my name is Katie, and I’ve neglected my blog. Here’s my excuse: On Thursday, July 9, I flew out to Seattle for the STP. My flight took a very long time, thanks to thunderstorms and our diverting to avoid them and then waiting in the air around Seattle for a while and then letting other people with connections off first. But eventually my backpack, camera, and I made it off the plane and into Gary and Deborah’s car. We ate lunch together and caught up, and then they took my to my parents’ house, where I almost immediately set about putting my bike together. Then Mom and I drove down to Bothell to have a bike shop look at the bike to make sure it wasn’t going to fall apart around me or something. I didn’t have a good experience there and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Eventually I got my bike in working order and I met up with Dad and rode home from his work with him. I went to bed what felt like extremely late and then woke up at 1:40 am.
Friday we spent getting ready for the STP. I had a nice walk and chat with Jane, Ian’s grandma; Dad and I did various errands that took forever, thanks to obscene amounts of traffic everywhere even though it was only early to mid-afternoon. I got a UV filter for my camera, mainly to protect the lens, not because I’m particularly worried about UV. That night we packed the car, ate pasta, watched W., and went to bed early. I slept well, which was a nice change from the previous three or four days.
Saturday morning we got up early — at least it felt early for Mom and Dad; to me it felt fairly normal — and drove to the UW, where the STP starts.
The long lines make sense because, especially on Day 1, there were a zillion people at every stop. That’s what happens when you have 10,000 people all head in the same direction within a 3-hour window: Long lines for everything.
We also waited in a very short but extremely slow line for Dad to get a tire replaced. The manufacturer, it turns out, had issued a recall on his tires: They were prone to getting weak spots, exploding, or shredding. Dad had actually had that happen with a previous tire, and recognized the bulging in his replacement tire as a herald of woe. The wait took a long time, but when the mechanic got to Dad, he provided a tire and put it on Dad’s wheel for a total of $20 — an amazing deal.
Despite the lines, we made it to Centralia, where we got the world’s most delicious Creamsicles. I don’t even like Creamsicles as a rule, but those were truly delicious. I had ridden ahead the last 10 miles or so before Centralia, but the three of us met up again there and rode together to Chehalis, where we planned to camp. For a while it looked like we might not camp after all, because Dad’s backpack, which contained all our camping stuff in addition to all Dad’s clothes and toiletries, had not made it to the park. Dad was, understandably, particularly displeased with this circumstance. Mom and I talked to the luggage handling people, who took a description and gave us very little reassurance otherwise. There was little else to do about that, so Mom and I went and showered. Dad found a hotel with an open room back in Centralia and he bought new shorts and a jersey from the bike shop that had set up in the Chehalis park. That was the best we could do for a contingency plan, if the backpack did not show up. We then bought extremely expensive all-you-can-eat pasta, and by the time we three had finished dinner, Dad’s backpack had appeared! Great relief all around ensued as we set up our camp.
Notice the tent. We were very, very happy to have a tent. Later I put the ra
in fly on, which turned out to be unnecessary. We did not sleep well and kept waking up as jerk people drove by honking their horns really loud just to disturb all the people sleeping in the park. The next morning we got up at 4:00, I think it was, and packed up the tent. We saw a flash of lightning and heard some thunder and our hearts sank: Mom and I had only brought lightweight windbreaker vests and Spandex arm warmers, nothing waterproof. Dad had a waterproof jacket. We hoped it wouldn’t rain, but within 5 minutes of stowing the tent away, it started pouring.
The torrential downpour moderated into a tolerable drizzly mist by the time we put our bags on the truck and ate a really unexceptional breakfast.
I took no pictures on Day 2 because 10 miles in we got drenched in a pretty decent thunderstorm. I put the rain fly on my camera bag and that kept my back mostly dry, but my feet and butt got soaked and remained that way for a long, long time. My arms and torso felt fine. Sunday was a day of endurance: Enduring the pain of sitting on a bike saddle again; enduring the rain; enduring having endless faster cyclists pass us; enduring the rolling hills; enduring the slow creep of miles. We rode over the Longview Bridge and on the downhill side, a waterbottle fell off the bike in front of me and started bouncing and spraying water all over as I approached. It bounced erratically, like a football, and I was terrified of hitting it going 25 mph downhill. Fortunately I missed it and we rode on. And on… and on… It wasn’t the gorgeous day we hoped for and we did get drizzled on occasionally, but mostly we had steady 60°F temperatures and overcast skies.
The best part of the entire ride was the lunch stop. They had set it up at a middle school, and the food was all laid out around the field house. Mom noticed a Men’s bathroom that appeared to have no line. We sought out the Women’s bathroom and lo and behold! No line! Real stalls! Real toilets and sinks! We giggled with delight as we luxuriated in the novel experience of not waiting in line for half an hour to use a disgusting port-a-potty. Then we told other people about it. Some took off right away for the bathroom and others just looked at us skeptically, unwilling to give up their place in the port-a-potty line. Their loss.
After that we just rode. I led fairly often, setting about a 14-mph pace as well as I could. Dad rode ahead for a while with a faster group, and Mom and I continued. We kept passing the same people, and having the same people pass us as we stopped at each rest stop. I saw a unicyclist and later got a picture of him at the finish line.
Eventually we came into Portland and found Dad waiting at a pull-out. We doffed our vests and arm warmers to expose our Team Hill Slug jerseys; alas, I have no pictures of us all kitted out. We helped a girl who fell down for no reason aside from fatigue that we could tell. We endured up the last steep, endless-seeming hill. When we finally saw this view I think we all felt a deep and abiding relief.
The instant we got off our bikes, we went in search of the trucks that would cart our bikes back up to Seattle. This took a little bit of wandering around, but eventually at about 2:15 we found the trucks and handed our bikes over for transport to the UW. Thus unburdened, we were able to obtain our backpacks — all three made it to Portland with no mishap, thankfully — and Mom and I went off to enjoy the single greatest perk of being a female on the STP:
No shower line. Yep. We just walked up, dumped our bags, got our shower stuff, and hopped in a shower for as long as we needed. It was beautiful. The guys had to stand in a very long, very slow line for showers, but because comparatively few women ride the STP, Mom and I avoided all that. Once clean, Mom guarded our bags while I ventured off to find a line for food. Dad waited in line for the shower. I got food — it was a long line, of course — and returned. Mom and I found a spot to sit and eat. Eventually Dad appeared, dumped his stuff, and got in line for food. After what felt like a long, long time, we all made it back together and stuffed our faces full of noodles, rice, and chicken. Yum.
That is almost the end. Once fed, we found the bus back to Seattle, put our bags in the hold, and sat down. Then we waited for the bus to fill up, which didn’t take long because it had started drizzling and nobody wanted to hang around outside at that point. The drive back took a long time, and the people in the seats behind us talked loudly the entire way. I read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Mom dozed. Dad may have read or may have been asleep. Eventually we got to the UW, and as we were standing up to get off, Dad got a kind of panicked look on his face and told us, “I left the car keys in my bike bag.” This meant, of course, that we wouldn’t get home or into the car until the bikes showed up. Only the first truck of bikes had arrived, and they announced that the next truck was in Tacoma, with the rest having left Portland. “All the bikes will be here by tomorrow morning,” they told us. Exhausted, we looked at each other with dismay, imagining the repercussions if our bikes were on the second truck.
Our bikes were not on the racks, but only a very few bikes had actually been put out. We joined the crowd of people from the bus who were clustered around the back of the bike transport truck, hoping that our bikes were on it. We reassured each other that we had loaded or bikes very early and that they were sure to be on the truck. But with every bike that came off, we wondered: What if…? I’m sure Mom and Dad were thinking of who they could call to bring us home, but fortunately that wasn’t necessary. Dad’s bike appeared and we all gave a big sigh of relief. Then mine and Mom’s came out, we loaded up the car, and drove home. I was exhausted. I’m sure Mom and Dad felt the same way. We got home and slept, although I didn’t get to sleep until 11:00 and I still woke up before 5:00 am.
Monday I spent getting more going-away errands done, packing up my bike (I took it on the plane this time and it only cost $50, as opposed to $150 to FedEx it), meeting with the bike shop owner to talk about my bad experience, getting my hair cut, going to the grocery store — doing all sorts of necessary things. Mom and I got a massage, which was extremely weird — not the massage, but the place itself was very new-age-y and sort of spiritual in a general way. I wouldn’t go back there again. The massage felt fine, but I didn’t feel like I got much out of it and I won’t be adding massage to my “wellness regimen,” as the gal at the front desk put it. I met up with Karissa at Red Robin for dinner that night and I somehow consumed 2,300 calor
ies’ worth of bacon cheeseburger with a turkey patty, raspberry milkshake, and huge fries. It was great. We watched Emma; and by “watched,” I mean “dozed in front of,” because all three of us were still plenty tired from the STP. The day felt like it flew by, and before I knew it, we’d hit Tuesday morning. I said goodbye to Dad; patted Carmel, loaded the bike and my bags into the car, and we were off to SeaTac.
Nothing exciting about the airport or the flight, except I was only about 4 rows up from the back, in a middle seat, and spent the entire time feeling slightly queasy. Not my best or worst flight, but I made it just fine and found Ian at the baggage carousel standing with my bike box! It had come out first thing, so we had only to wait a few more minutes for my backpack. The normal 5:00 Boston traffic mired us down for a while but we made it home in reasonable time. I put my bike back together and on Wednesday dropped it off at Landry’s after work. They’ll get it back into tip-top shape. In the meantime I’m riding the Xtracycle, after some very unfortunate tire-related difficulties.
I went back to work the day after I flew in, and I felt totally discombobulated all week. My coworker is on vacation right now, too, and I actually didn’t mind spending the entire day in an empty, quite cube area. It suited my not-all-with-it frame of mind.
And that pretty much brings us up to date. Sorry for the boring telling of it, but I’m sure nobody made it this far anyway, so I don’t feel too bad. 🙂 Better posts are coming, I promise!