Another successful STP this year, as measured by smiles, good times both Day 1 and Day 2, good time over the course, lack of collisions and falls, and friends met along the route. Sure, there were the usual STP frustrations, crowds on the road, bad cycling behaviors witnessed, the Dirty 30, the last 50 miles before crossing the St. John's Bridge into Portland, but the good far outweighs the bad. When asked how many times I've done this, my response is that the right number of times to ride STP is N +1.
- Getting an early start on Saturday, which was cloudy and cool relative to the extraordinary heat in the Great NW from the previous weeks.
- Riding with another CTS ride leader to have some company, swap stories, and share the way-finding. Using Google Maps to get back on track when we missed a turn.
- The training prior to the ride. I've put more miles on the bike than in previous years, so the 12 hours in the saddle on Day 1 was doable.
- Route changes - riding through JBLM and stopping for lunch by the aircraft, quiet roads by the ammo bunkers and shooting ranges (!), guarded by the young soldiers, but a strong upgrade over SR 507.
- Overnight in Napavine. That means climbing the Napavine hill at the end of Saturday, allowing for a much easier start on Sunday with rollers, countryside, and quiet roads. And, avoiding the circus at the Midway point in Centralia.
- CTS and other connections to the broader community. Always great to see friends and fellow travelers en route.
- Sensible eating, plenty of hydration, Starbucks stops. Breathing and stretching. Laughing and smiles. Rest stops, snacks, and sites. You know, 'Eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty.'
- The Blue Riot. No breakdowns. No flats. The only mechanical issue was loose handlebar tape. Quiet, comfortable ride. Best bike ever. Terrific contrast to the carbon, titanium, pseudo-racers.
- Cascade's organization. Medical staff to keep us healthy and Outriders to keep us safe and in line created a presence that made riders feel comfortable. Heard many compliments from locals and more importantly, from out-of-towners and first-timers about how impressed they were with the Club, the support they received and the 'feel' of the ride. And, heard many times how well CTS prepared riders for the experience. The thank-yous were gratifying and give me the encouragement to do it again next year.
STP is one of those group experiences where everyone projects their own perspective and experience onto a larger stage. It's intense, 205 miles, 10,000 riders, each with their own baggage to pull, reasons for riding, things to prove to each other and to themselves. Emotions can run high among those in the peloton, but the perspective of accomplishment, confidence, camaraderie and having fun overcome the discomfort and the snarkiness that some express, at least for me. Next year, again.