A couple from my local cycling club organized an expedition to participate in “Seattle to Portland” ride. It was 200 miles over 2 days.
The last overnight trip I did within this group to Yosemite was so meaningful and fulfilling that it was no brainer for me to join this ride.
Friday, I flew to Seattle with a big hard bike suitcase with my disassembled bike in it. I had my lunch at the San Jose airport, and I started talking to an old man sitting in front of me. He was visiting the bay area from Burbank to teach bio informatics. I told him about my experience observing my daughter’s Saturday Japanese school and how that made me want to teach math/physics, the joy of sharing/passing the passion. He recommended that I sign up to Quora to answer questions posted there, which in turn made me think about my experience showing up at the Japanese StackOverflow community. Turns out he also rides a bike, so that led to a rather unexpected fulfilling conversation. A great way to start a journey!
Saturday morning, we rolled out late at 7:30am. There were supposedly 5000 riders in this event, but because they sent riders off in a small batch every 5 minutes or so, I’ve never seen the whole crowd.
We rode through Seattle early morning. Police officers were out protecting our path, holding off traffic here and there. Pretty soon, we found ourselves descending down gently toward Lake Washington, then rode alongside it for a while. Air was still cool, we could see Mt. Rainier afar, and people were out fishing, rowing, and otherwise having all sorts of fun. Quiet Saturday morning.
We soon left Seattle and entered into rural Washington state. We went through countless small towns, forests, and farmlands. Sometimes I rode solo, stopping & taking pictures here and there. Other times, I rode with the group, pulling the train where I can. We moved at a blissful fast pace.
By late morning, we caught up with the main body of the riders. I started passing them more and more. We then went up the only climb in this entire ride, which is really not much of a climb at all for us who ride regularly in Santa Cruz mountains. It started feeling as if all those slow riders were not moving at all! It was here that I got carried away a bit too much. Next thing I know, I was riding fast with a few other fast riders of the group, and we had so much fun until we rolled into the lunch stop. When the rest of the group caught up to us, we got reprimanded (rightly!) for failing to ride as a team.
By the afternoon, the temperature was so high. The group kept going, inexplicably often skipping rest stops. My mind turned off at some point. I just kept pushing pedals, leading and following, passing slow riders, and generally focusing on the moment and the patch of pavement right in front of me. 100 miles went by rather quick.
If I were going solo, I would have made more liberal stops in restaurants, coffees, beers, and ice creams. But that is difficult to do with a larger group; A dozen riders moving at 18mph can’t make a split second decision to stop at a cozy local coffee shop that we run into.
Day 2, we rolled out earlier at 6:30am. That was much better, as we got to spend more time going in the cooler morning air. The morning sunlight created much more interesting lighting for pictures, too.
The road kept going over endless rolling hills, gently curving left and right. Forest. Farmland. Forest. Farmland. Occasional creeks and train track crossings. When we finally joined up with the river, it was a welcoming change.
I continued to rely on tangerines to fill my empty stomach. The food was scarce in this ride, as the organizer didn’t let me have the 2nd serving, and we didn’t stop for more food outside the official rest stops. I found that I can get any number of tangerines, and I loved them. I must have consumed a dozen each day. I brought my own energy bars to the ride, but I wasn’t used to fuel without stopping, especially in close formation to other riders around me.
We crossed a huge bridge into Oregon, then later another one into Portland. Seeing those huge manmade engineering marvels that defy the gravity so up close, and descending down to the other side at high speed were exciting and exhilarating. But then there was also endless stretch on the shoulder of busy car road for miles at a time. In the high heat of the afternoon, asphalt felt like mirror reflecting sunlight back to you. I applied water liberally onto my body to stay cool.
Once again 100 miles went by quickly, and I was done. I missed riding into the goal line with the whole group. As we got into Portland, there were more picture opportunities, so I got behind. I was hoping that they might be waiting for everyone to reassemble before the goal line, but that was not the case. I cannot blame them; I think everyone was tired and wanted to get to refreshment, and my act of dropping out to take pictures is arguably bit selfish.
We spent the evening on a roof top patio of the hotel we were all staying, having very candid vulnerable conversations about everything from human relationships to photography. I got to know some people at deeper levels than before, which is something given that I know them pretty well already. Alcohol, gentle satisfying fatigue from the ride, and Portland skyline in fading twilight created this feeling that reminded me of the summer trips in college days, and I felt very fortunate to get to do that again, with all the maturity that came from the age.
I will cherish this memory. I’m looking forward to organizing the next expedition ride. It will be a blast, and I can’t wait.