We woke up a little more relaxed on the second day – but noticeably more sluggish and a little bit sore from the first day’s effort. (If you didn’t catch the first day’s details, check them out here.) We got a 7:45am start out of Centralia – downright sleeping in compared to the 5:30 start of the first day. We were both quite slow and heavy in the legs though. It was a relatively flat start through farm lands and into Chehalis under overcast skies and downright chilly conditions. We slowly – almost grudgingly – made our way onto a rode in Chehalis lined with beautiful older houses with great big lawns. That is when I saw it – “Free Starbucks Coffee.” Really? Sure enough a guy had quite literally ran an extension cord out his front door to the sidewalk to where he had a coffee pot brewing coffee on the sidewalk. We stopped and chatted for a couple of minutes – the guy actually refused any sort of payment or donations. Yet another example of the amazing support of folks along the route. That little stop for coffee completely energized us in a huge way.
We continued on through farm lands heading towards Napavine. I knew there was another climb of some significance, but wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Well… Napavine delivered a climb that was early enough in day two that we were both still shaking off the stiffness of the first days ride. It felt like about the same gradient of “The Big Hill” from day 1, but was somewhat shorter. Melissa and I both made it up to find a great stand with some tasty homemade banana bread up on the top. This apparently is something of a tradition for this guy, as I heard reference to the “famous Napavine banana bread” and overheard another rider making a comment about the bread being “just as good as last year.” Again – kudos to the amazing supporters along the way.
Day two actually had slightly more climbing that I might have expected, but it was over a long series of rolling hills. The entire first half was pretty much on rural two lane roads. Beautiful riding despite the still-overcast skies. There were a couple of great descents adding a little spice to the rides. Another of the numerous non-official road side stands was in Winlock right at the base of one of those descents – great place to stop and munch on a delicious breakfast sandwich the had for sale there. It was also the first time I noticed a couple of guys doing the ride on fixies. Wow! Bravo to them.
Eventually we made our way over to Longview and one of the big milestones in the ride – crossing the Columbia river. Here the riders were queued up on the Washington side of the Lewis and Clark bridge waiting for traffic to be stopped so that we could make our way across the Oregon boarder. The bridge is built high enough to allow shipping traffic to pass under it – thus it provided a noticeable climb with a descent on the other side. There were a couple of expansion joints – one each on both sides of the bridge – that created a bit of a challenge. You can see them in the video, and see the camera take a noticeable bump when I go over them too. That put us onto Highway 30 in Oregon. Next stop – Portland.
The stretch along Highway 30 is, to be honest, a little anti-climactic and somewhat boring. It is a busy four lane rode that, while having huge shoulders and plenty of room for cyclists to ride safely, doesn’t offer much in the way of aesthetic beauty. However, coming into Portland and catching the first glimpse of bridges lets you know that the end is in sight.
Unfortunately there was a slight detour on the end of the route this year due to construction on the normal route. This resulted in a significantly longer stint in the industrial area of Portland. From there there were several blocks of gorgeous downtown. That’s when it hit – one hell of a climb. Sure it wasn’t much more than two or three blocks, but it was probably at least a 10% grade in some spots and it hits right at the end of the 200 mile ride. Legs burning from the effort that had me out of the saddle for the entire pitch, Melissa and I joined up with a group that had collected at the top of the hill. Folks were starting to get excited – you could feel the finish line approaching. The detour route took us across the river on a beautiful pedestrian/bike path separate from the traffic. Some more blocks of downtown and suddenly the voice of an announcer on a loud speaker could be heard.
The final finish line was into a park in Downtown Portland. The finish line narrowed into a path with cheering spectators lining both sides. It really was an exciting experience. Brian met us right at the finish line after we were handed our official “Finisher” patches. Bikes were everywhere. Folks were smiling, laughing, hugging. Any fatigue was immediately forgotten (well, at least until a couple of hours or so on the ride home!) The whole thing from beginning to end was a really amazing experience. Melissa and I both are very much looking forward to doing it again next year.
I’d also like to thank a couple of folks that made this ride so much easier and greatly contributed to our success:
- To my Mom and Dad – thanks for helping us with a great start and a calm place to prepare before starting!
- To Chad and Jamie – thanks for the ride from Centralia, and accomodations at the end of day 1. So great of you to open up your home to us! Lov eyou guys!
- To Brian and Jamie (yes – that’s the same Jamie again!) – Your hours behind the wheel took a lot of stress out of getting back to Seattle from Portland safely.
- Finally, to all of our friends and family for words of congratulations and encouragement. I can’t tell you how much it all means.
Next stop for Melissa and I – ride around Lake Tahoe in September.