By David Ward
Just over two years ago, my wife, Karma, and I bought a new home. Well, actually, an old home that was new to us. It needed some severe remodeling, and we have been spending the last two years doing just that. It has been fun, but it has also been a lot of work.
That has nothing to do with this article except as a segue into my topic. Because it has been taking a long time to move our home project along, much of the decorating has also been slow to materialize. In our old home, we had a family room where I was allowed to put up my cycling pictures and posters. No room in our current home has been allowed to take its place, but Karma finally designated one wall of the stairway downstairs for my use.
So it was that, a couple of weekends ago, we spent a Sunday afternoon hanging several cycling pictures, including a series of six of my favorite cycling photos. Each of these is a picture of me on a tandem with a member of my family taken as we ride the two day, two hundred mile bicycle event from Seattle to Portland known as the “STP”.
As background, in 1997, I learned of the STP. I promptly called my nephew, who lives in Portland and was into cycling, to say we should do this ride. He told me he and several friends were already registered and logistical support plans already made. I was invited to join them, so I did.
I rode the STP in alternating rain and sunshine the first day, and a pretty steady rain the second day. In fact, at one point, the rain was pounding so hard we had to stop and shelter under a tree because we could not see the road beneath our feet. Despite the conditions, I had a great time and felt exhilarated when I finished the ride. After crossing the finish, I immediately called my daughter, Marielle, who really enjoyed riding, and suggested we ride it the next year on our tandem.
As I look at the photo of Marielle and me, the first of these six photos hanging in the stairway, I remember how, one year later, Marielle and I joined up again with my nephew and his friends, and we had a great time riding the STP on our tandem. One particular memory from that ride occurred toward the end of the first day. We were cruising along and, as tandems tend to do, we had picked up a following in our draft. Then, we cam
e to a series of rolling hills. As we climbed the first roller, about six fairly strong riders in our draft came around as we slowed on the incline. However, we managed to crest just a short way behind them, and quickly caught them on the downhill, with them jumping in our draft. This continued for the next several miles while these rollers lasted. It was like a tag team ride up and down these hills, and great fun for us and them.
My gaze moves on to the next photo, this one of me with my daughter, Rachel. She was getting married in August, 1999, so we decided to ride the STP together on the tandem as a final daddy/daughter date before she married. Again, we hooked up with my nephew’s friends, who by now were my friends also. Rachel has a very even pedal stroke, and I marveled at how smooth our ride together was. We had the benefit that year of training by riding with a briefly formed tandem club, ULTRA (Utah League of Tandem Riding Addicts).
The next photo, taken in 2000, is with my daughter, Jessica. She had recently returned from serving as a missionary for our church. So, since the trend had started to take shape, we signed up and trained for the STP. ULTRA was no
longer around, but we managed to get ourselves trained anyway. This year will always be known by us as the “Gold Bond” year. Paul, one of the friends who had done this ride with us in previous years, had not ridden much at all this year. So, after the first day, his bottom was not only very sore, but quite raw. Someone recommended Gold Bond, and later we received a very colorful and descriptive narration of the pain associated with his application of Gold Bond to his very sore derriere. Indeed, the story has been retold by Paul and others for years.
The fourth photo, taken in 2002, is of Karma and me. Karma was amazed that, at any given point in the ride, there were riders in front of you and behind you for as far as you could see. The STP annually draws 10,000 riders, and anymore it sells out in a matter of days after registration has opened. Karma and I will forever remember that year as the year of the bus. Paul and his brother had purchased an old Greyhound type bus that had been converted into a motor home. It was old and unique, but it got the support job done.
We missed a couple more years before the next photo of my son, Kimball, and me when we mounted the tandem in 2005 for that year’s STP. He was the first, and frankly only, male I have ridden the tandem with. Not to demean the females of my family, but I just remember how strong it felt doing the ride with Kimball. That year, we found a great campground a few miles off the beaten path, but off in the pines. Though it added a few miles, it made for a great place to camp after the first day of riding.
The final photo of this series of six is with my youngest daughter, Marinda, taken in 2007. With this ride and photo, the circle was complete. I had ridden the STP on our tandem with my wife and each of my children. This ride was memorable for several reasons. First, I had tried to hook up with Paul about doing the STP, but he had never responded to my email. Marinda and I were riding the event alone, that is with 10,000 people we did not know.
We had stopped at the first feed stop, a veritable party sponsored by REI. Naturally, there are hundreds of riders arriving and leaving at any given time. As Marinda and I were leaving, I heard someone yell, “Hey, Dave”. Being as egocentric as I am, I assumed that out of all the hundreds of Daves likely participating in this ride, someone was calling for me. And I was right. Standing on the side of the road was my good friend, Paul. It was amazing that he would actually find me among these masses of people.
Next, after having ridden a 100 miles the first day to the official midpoint in Centralia, we still had a ride of 3-4 miles to our campground, the same one we had stayed at the year before. Though Marinda was tired and ready to be done, she gamely jumped on the bike and we were off. Unfortunately, I missed a turn, having only ridden to this campground once before. Several miles later, I knew I was well astray. We had to double back those several miles to where I had missed the turn. Marinda was not happy with me, having to put in nearly ten miles extra, and wouldn’t speak to me for several hours.
Finally, Paul and his group decided to join us at our campground, having made no plans for themselves. This was good fortune, actually, as this is a group of people
I truly enjoy, with Paul being the very funny comedian of the group. The next morning, my sister, who had driven up from Portland and planned our breakfast meal for us, was providing a healthy meal of fruit, yogurt, whole grain cereal and nuts. Meanwhile, Paul’s sister was frying up bacon and pancakes. While we appreciated my sister’s efforts, we eagerly accepted the invitation to also share in the bacon and pancakes.
All these memories and more flowed into my mind as we mounted these pictures on the wall. While I have been by far the most avid cyclist in our family, my wife and children have enjoyed the sport as well. The STP is the one event that became a tradition to do with each the member of my family . It was exotic, being an event we had to travel to participate in. It was a unique experience, riding with 10,000 other people. It is a beautiful ride through mostly rural countryside. And it gave us an excuse to get to Portland to visit my two sisters and their families.
I have many memories associated with my nearly thirty years of active cycling. But as with most memories, the most poignant are those in which the people I know and love figure prominently. Walking down the stairs of my home is a stroll through a set of such memories, with the photos to bring them sweetly to my mind.