STP Saturday July 12th started very early, which is too bad since STP Friday ended very late, at about 2:45 am. We had everything ready the night before and only had to do a few minor things before leaving home at 3:15 am. We wanted to leave the start line by 4:30 am. As we were heading towards the University of Washington Start Line Aurora was in the rear of the van happily singing and noticing every bike that was around us on cars also heading in our direction. Most had STP numbers on them. She was very excited. As we parked our van she hopped out and was wondering why I was taking so long. (I got out maybe a minute after she did.) With her help we got our gear unloaded and the bike unstrapped from the van. We grabbed our overnight gear and headed out in search of the trucks to put it in. Since we arrived early the truck for Winlock was not there yet and our gear was the first in the pile to wait for the truck. The one day riders were supposed to leave the starting line EXCLUSIVLY before 5:15 am, but we snuck out another exit of the parking lot, missing the actual starting line totally. (We could see it, but we really needed to be on the road long before then.)
On the road... Aurora and I were riding with a small group of riders who had escaped the start line as we had. She was talking with them as long as we rode with them. Eventually, about 15 minutes, these riders got ahead of us and we never saw them again. Several bikes were passing us but for the first hour or so we rode with a small number of bikes since we had left so early. It was very dark and the street lights shone brightly everywhere except under the trees leaving nothing but darkness to light our path as we rode along in those wee hours of the morning. It didn't take too long before the masses of bikes began passing us. It felt like we were standing still at times. Aurora quickly learned the meaning of a "line", a paceline that is. She would tell me that another "herd" was passing us. It was a cute description, but very accurate.
At five thirty we were scheduled to meet up with my Mom and her friend, Richard, at Seward Park. They had told us that they would be leaving the park by five thirty and so we really pushed to make time so we wouldn't miss them. Having never rode this stretch of the ride before I had no idea just how hilly it would prove to be. The road seemed to be a constant never ending hill and we were getting tired fast. We arrived at Seward Park (mile 11) at five thirty exactly according to my watch. They were antsy to leave as they had been there for ten minutes already. We got a few pictures together and then soon headed off at our own speeds. As we left Seward Park ministop we started up a very steep hill, although fairly short thankfully, in which Aurora and I both stood up and pedaled or we never would have rode it. While we pedaled hard we watched my Mom and Richard disappear out of sight into the crowd ahead of us. That was the last time we ever saw them.
The adrenaline was helping us out considerably, but it would not prove to last all that long. At mile 24 we reached our first real stop the "REI ministop". There was food, water and porta potties here so we stopped by. This stop was more like a party than a checkpoint as there was music playing loudly, a balloon artist designing balloons for the kids and whoever wanted some. The lines were long for the things we needed and before we knew it our intended five or ten minute break was long past and we had been there about forty five minutes!!! Aurora ended up with a balloon that was tied to her helmet and attracted much attention from that point on. Many people hollered "Nice Hat" as they rode past.
The next several miles Aurora was content for the most part as I was sharing some meringue cookies & crackers with her and she was talking to the other bicyclists as they passed us. She appeared to be having a good time. She was liking the attention that the balloons and our hawaiian shirts brought us. Soon we had come to the Puyallup ministop where Aurora ended up at the first aid booth because she said she had sprained her ankle while riding the bike. She had been complaining about it, nearly in tears, for a while before this stop. I sat and waited for her while she had an ice pack strapped to her ankle. After several minutes she decided she was able to ride again, so off we rode.
The next stretch of the ride included "THE HILL" at mile forty three. It is located near Sumner. We lost much time as we walked the vast majority of this hill. Eventually we made it up, but the sun was hot and we were very tired by that point. I knew that there was a lunch stop not too far ahead so we again got on and rode. It was slow going after that hill, but after another hour or so we finally reached the Spanaway Jr. High School for our checkpoint and lunch stop. The food was nutritious, but getting my daughter to eat a balanced meal was quite a challenge. Since we had really been pushing hard especially for time I had been lacking the necessary food for myself and I suspected Aurora hadn't eaten enough either. So we made sure to eat a fair amount at this stop. I was also cautious of not overeating. We were there at right about noon time. Just right for lunch, but not so good when you are not yet half way to your destination for the day. Progress was slow.
As we rode through Roy the winds were howling, the flags were all flying straight out. The wind was was blowing right into us from the front. The progress seemed to be non-existent for a while. We continued through the town of McKenna where I first called my hubby, Leif to tell him that our progress was very slow and I didn't know how far we were going to make it, but that we were going to keep going and not give up just yet. While I was on the phone a mother deer and her two fawns wandered near us not more than 30 feet away. Aurora enjoyed watching them until they were out of sight.
After what seemed to be hours of time, we arrived at the McKenna ministop and refilled our water bottles and talked to people and looked at bikes. It was here that we saw a bike similar to our "Monster" bike. It was a tandem with a trail-a-bike on behind and there was a father and his two kids riding it. Aurora enjoyed telling them about our big bike. With much dread we slowly got up and started riding again. Time was passing fast and our miles were not keeping up at all. We had now been on the road for over nine hours and had only gone 68 miles. It was not looking good at this point.
We continued on to the town of Yelm just around the corner from the last ministop. Something didn't feel quite right and as I began looking around I realized that our front tire was flat. We pulled over with the other many bicyclists who also had flat tires. Someone had put tacks onto the road again this year, so we would be discouraged. Thankfully, another tandem was there also and they had two tacks in their tire so they were busy fixing their flat and offered to fix ours for us as well. I gladly accepted their kind offer. The Goldwing motorcycle had stopped by and asked us what had happened. We told them about the tacks. They informed us that there were reports of tacks all the way from Yelm to Centralia. Oh, Joy!
Once our flat was fixed we were ready to ride again, except that I had been having pretty bad pain shooting through my left knee and I was concerned about it. I talked to the man on the Goldwing, who was still there, and told him of my pain. He informed me that there were medics on the ride, but no one really knew where they were at so my options were to wait for a support vehicle to transport us to the nearest stop, which was a mile in either direction, and call someone for help there or just keep riding. Hmmm I didn't like that choice very much and was still debating what to do next when someone rode up the the motorcycle and told them that she had found a lost item to report. It turned out she was a medic on the ride. Anyhow, she came over and looked at my knee and told me that I was damaging the cartiliage in my knee because the distance from the seat to the pedals was too high. I could not change the distance because it was already as small as it would go. I knew what the problem must be, I had recently had new toeclips installed on the bike and they were a large size. I knew I needed something smaller, but none was available so I rode with those. I assumed that no repair shops along the way would have smaller toeclips since they are rarely used these days, so I opted to quit the ride and avoid further damaging my knee(s). I called my husband. Leif, who was attending the Fly-In up at the Arlington Airport. He said he couldn't leave for a while because he was busy helping his Dad tie down his plane because the winds were blowing the planes around up there. So I knew help would be coming but that it was going to be a long wait.
So after getting the flat around 2:30 pm in Yelm we ended our ride for this year's STP. Our ride was done but our day was not done. We had been sitting in a yard near Clark Road under the shade of a big evergreen tree. The owner of the place came over to us after a while and asked me if I would like a cold pop. I told him that was kind of him, but that I didn't drink pop. He then offered me a beer, and I REALLY don't drink that at all, so again I said "No thanks". He told me that if the weather turned bad, and it was looking ominous at that point, he had a patio out back we could go under if we needed it since we were going to be around for a while. I thanked him and off he went back inside his house.
The rain started soon after, probably at about 3:30 pm by this point. So, I took the bike and walked it to the back of the house where he said the patio was at, but I didn't see a patio anywhere. I walked back to the tree which by this time had become our home away from home. About this time .......