Famed STP ride now part of bigger event

Despite claims that “nothing went wrong,” some riders had to scramble over railroad tracks.

The owner-operator of the STP and Beyond bike ride announced today that the famous Seattle to Portland ride was now a subsidiary of the longer ride.

“We are happy to incorporate the STP in our longer, more textured ride,” the announcement from the STP and Beyond organization said.

It went on to give a detailed review of this year’s ride, noting that with the smaller number of riders, individual attention can be paid to each participant.

“You can get lost in the 10,000 riders in the STP,” the announcement said. “Not so in the STP and Beyond.”

Fact checkers, despite overwork from the GOP convention, were quick to pounce on that statement, noting that riders on the first day of the ride became lost and had to carry their bikes across railroad tracks.

“Typical media, ignoring all the good things that happened and concentrating on a minor incident,” said one unidentified ride official. “If we had not sought out the Interurban Trail — not used on the STP — you would have accused us of plagiarizing the STP route. So screw you, media, we’ll say whatever serves our purpose. That seems to work for others.”

Despite getting lost in the Renton area, riders did make it to Emerald Downs in time for the first race, dinner with other participants and a night at an Auburn motel.

A rider at the STP halfway point in Centralia/

Day Two featured a 117-mile ride to Castle Rock in cooperation with the STP subsidiary organization. Accommodations at the fabulous 7 West Motel and dinner and breakfast at Peper’s 49er Restaurant. Who could ask for anything more?

On Day Three, riders finished the STP portion of the ride and were joined by an experienced SAG team (thank you, Wendy, Nancy and Kathy). At dinner that night at Nostrana, riders were regaled by Will, telling tales of downsizing, home sales and “positional reciprocating carnality,” an interesting concept that took little explanation.

Four riders
Four more bikers joined the ride on Monday. Here are three of them with an STP veteran.
Two more
And these two made six.

Day Four saw more riders joining the group as it left Portland and headed up the road to Mount Hood. The first three days covered 231 miles and this was a shorter ride at 53. It took the riders to the Resort at the Mountain in Welches, OR.

The STP and Beyond, of course, is known for more than  bike riding. Riders are expected to engage in other activities as well. Fancy meals and drink, get-acquainted hot tub sessions and ruthless croquet games.

The men folk this year had their sore butts handed to them by the croquet team of Nancy and Kathy, who used teamwork and stra-tee-ger-ree to win every game.

Teamwork played a big part in Kathy and Nancy’s sweep of the games.
Reaction to another winning shot by Nancy and Kathy. (Photo by Wendy)

Media reports have pointed out what they choose to call another snafu on the bigger ride — something that never would have happened if riders had just stuck to the STP. Riders were promised cobbler as their dessert after dinner at Altitudes. That did not happen.

“This was totally out of our control,” the spokesperson said. “We are investigating why the cafe staff stashed the cobbler in the cooler and closed early. But again, this is nothing compared to what we bring to the bicycle riders of America. Besides, there’s no fruit cobbler on the STP.”

But one rider was especially upset about the cobbler cop-out.

“I remember the cobbler from 12 years ago on a ride through here,” she said. “I guess I’ll just have to come back in another 12 years.”

It was pointed out that she would be 81 years old then.

“So?” was her only response.

Last day of the ride had the bikers climbing up to Government Camp for a hearty breakfast before continuing on Highway 35 to Hood River.

It was there, on the deck of the Three Rivers Restaurant, that Jerry, a strong rider in tune with the flow of things, asked the group: “Is there any reason — outside of those that have to do with testosterone — why this ride should not end right here?”

MoonWith 58 miles ridden that day, a fine lunch in front of us, good friends around us  and a head wind blowing up the Columbia Gorge, no one could find a reason to keep riding. The bikes were packed into the truck and van, and off we went to the Skamania Lodge for hot tubs, moonlight and a good night’s sleep.

The next day, two riders went on to Multnomah Falls, but the rest of us packed up for the trip back to Seattle, happy in our accomplishment, five pounds heavier (speaking only for myself) and looking forward to next year’s STP and the Beyond.

With Mount Hood
From left: John B., Mount Hood and Mary Jo.



Save the Smith so we can float it


One of the Mad Schemes of 2016 that did not happen was the float trip on Montana’s Smith River. That’s because we did not get a permit in the lottery. I blame that on one recipient of the Mad Schemes memo who has been down the Smith twice already this year. Please share some of that good luck, Miss You Know Who You Are.

I have blurred the ID to protect Miss You Know Who from those who did not get a Smith permit.

We’ll try again next year, probably for some dates in late May or early June. All the dates this year were in June, which obviously is a very popular time to float this river. If we don’t get a permit, we’ll try to pick up one of the cancelled trips. So be flexible in 2017, river floaters.

One more thing about the Smith: It’s threatened. Check out www.SaveOurSmith.com for the details. But here’s the general story: Tintina Resources, a Canadian mining company, wants to build a copper mine on Sheep Creek, which is the Smith’s most important tributary. The mine would go through sulfide rock, which could mean sulfuric acid forming and draining into the Smith. Not good for the rainbow, brown, west-slope cutthroat and brook trout there.  And who wants to paddle or swim in acidic mining runoff?

Make a donation, get a bumper sticker. Save the Smith . . . so we can float it in 2017, 2018, 2019, etc. etc.

The reason I tried to get Smith dates in June was to coordinate it with the Kootenai Gran Fondo in Libby, MT. I rode in it last year and said I would come back to help in 2016 but not ride. But the event has been moved back to its July 4 weekend dates, which is a problem for me and I did not attend.

It’s a great ride and has a great story behind it. John Weyhrich, who heads up this effort, has been a competitive bike racer for about 30 years and thought it his duty to give back to his sport. John did much of his training in the mountains around Libby, Montana, and saw that it was an area that could use some outside help. So he decided to put on the Kootenai Gran Fondo, which has contributed money to the Coats for Kids program in Libby, to the Special Olympics in Eureka, MT., and to a food for kids program in Troy, MT.

I do recommend it as one of the most beautiful rides in America – and one of the toughest. If you can’t make the ride in 2017, consider giving a donation.

So there are the two Mad Schemes that did not get done this year. But a couple of “if time” Schemes have been done.

Kathy and I got to the Sol duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park this spring. We made our reservations for only one night, planning to see if it was worth more time than that. It was. We spent another day and night soaking and hiking.

You’ll hear many languages besides English while soaking.

The cabin we stayed in fit our needs just fine although it was nothing fancy (except for the price). You are far enough away from other restaurants that the on-site food is the better alternative. Not gourmet, but you’ll get your fill. The National Park Service, as usual, does a great job keeping this place going despite the challenges the NPS faces in funding and lack of attention from those people back in the other Washington.

At the falls

Besides the soaking (hot, just right, frigid — like how can water be this cold without being ice), there’s some great hiking around the springs. We just did the walk to the Sol duc Falls, but there are others more challenging.

We also made it to Bagby Hot Springs near Mount Hood in Oregon a couple of weeks ago. It’s quite a contrast from Soleduc, much more rustic with hollowed out logs in the private “rooms” and large wooden barrels for the communal pools. The springs are about a mile and a half hike from the camp site, which is hard to find if you get there after dark (we did not — find it, that is.)

Kathy in log
Kathy soaking in our private log.
Ward, his name was fun

Love the way the most basic materials and methods are used to divert the hot water and provide cold water for cooling off the baths. A tennis ball for a stopper in our log, with a piece of gutter to fill the log. Take a rock out from under the gutter and the water comes into your log. Put it back and the gutter is raised so the water goes on by.

Ward Barbee, an old friend now gone, used to tell stories about his antics at Bagby in the early 1970s. Since then, I’ve always wanted to visit. It was fun to imagine Ward there, soaking, probably a Marsh Wheeling or a joint in his mouth and his wonderfully loud laugh ringing through the trees. I thought I could hear it still.




Why is retirement so hard to say?

Wendy and Jerry on the Emerald City Bike Ride on the new bridge over Lake Washington

When I put out my list of Mad Schemes to accomplish in 2016, I had not planned on so many of my potential Schemers to be as nutty about work as I have been. I seemed to have been dropped into a pool of people who say they are retired except for when they are working.

“I’m retiring but I’ll still be working two days a week.”

“I’m retired but I’ll still be on call.”

“I’m retired but I signed up to substitute.”

“I’m retired except for the seven weeks I have worked this year and whenever the paper calls on me to cover a horse race or do a book review.”

That last one is my hypocritical statement about my retirement. The last part of that confused view is usually followed by my excited statement of how after 50 plus years of work life I have found the perfect job for me: Getting paid to read books.

And like all my friends who have one foot in retirement and one foot still stuck in work, I mouth the same trite excuses:

“It’s not so bad if you love what you’re doing.”

“Besides, the money’s good.”

“I’d be bored if I just sat around the house.”

I’ve never said that last one. That’s what the Mad Schemes are for, to make sure that you’re not just sitting around the house. Which I was not doing on April 3, the day of the Emerald City Bike Ride.

Express lane
Riding on the I-5 express lanes

Sponsored by the Cascade Bike Club, the ride took thousands of pedal pushers onto the deck of the new Highway 520 bridge before it opened to motorized traffic. The ride continued onto the Interstate 5 express lanes to a food stop at the Hing Hay Park in Seattle’s International District. Then the ride introduced me to the I-90 Bike Trail. How did I miss that one?

Then back to the start at the University of Washington. About 20 miles with Jerry and Wendy, which was very enjoyable.

On Saturday, April 16, I was with Dr. Tim to do the Tulip Pedal out of La Conner, WA. But we stayed at his lake cabin the night before, and in the morning the sun had turned the lake into a big, beautiful jewel shining through the kitchen windows and Tim’s waffles were delicious with maple syrup. So the start was late and the end had to come soon to accommodate Tim’s 2 p.m. tee time. We dropped from the 40-some mile to the family ride and neither odometer came up with the mileage for that wienie ride. We probably didn’t even ride off the butter smeared on the morning waffles.

A great day, but also an early sign that my training for the Seattle to Portland ride was not on a path to make my sister proud. And she will be here soon for the STP and I’ll be lucky to stay in the same county with her. More on that later.

2016 Mad Schemes have gone forth

All done. Group on the recovery floor
Celebrating at the top of the Big Climb. Can you spot the Bernie Sanders’ resemblance?

How did it get to be July 4 already? And why have I been so negligent about updating this blog?

The answer to both of those questions is: I’ve been busy, and time moves by quickly when you are busy.

Part of the busy has been seven weeks working back at The Seattle Times. But the 2016 Mad Schemes have also played a role in keeping me on the move. Here’s an update on those events:

BZ at finish
BZ at the Chilly Hilly finish line

Chilly Hilly bike ride, Feb. 28, 2016: I had a cold, which is my excuse for taking the short cut back to the ferry. Probably good that I did. BZ, who did the whole ride, reported that the wind was straight into riders’ faces on the latter part of the ride. Proud of her for coming across the finish line like the champ she is.

Big Climb, March 20: I hope I have sent a thank you to all who supported me in this charity event. If I missed anyone, please consider this a very heartfelt thank you. We raised more than $2.7 million for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society to continue the fight against blood disease. Almost $2,000 of that came from money you donated to support my climb of 69 floors up the Columbia Tower in Seattle. They told me it would be strenuous, which is a puny word to describe the effort it took. I walked, not ran, to the top, but I made it in time to pose with the rest of the Seattle Athletic Club Northgate members who ran up the flights. The posted photo drew one comment that upset me a bit: “Who’s the Bernie Sanders looking guy on the left side?” Isn’t obvious that I am six years younger than my favorite Social Democrat?

Coming soon (I hope): The next four Mad Schemes accomplished this year.