The View from the Information Booth -Portland Bicycling Club

The View from the Information Booth

Seattle to Portland, STP, is Portland Bicycling Club’s biggest annual money raiser. Our own Pioneer Century® did well this year and we are proud of it, but it hasn’t generated the kind of income we get from Cascade Bicycle Club in years. Of course, STP is a four-day enterprise, so it’s appropriate we earn more.

Friday, July 14, we sent three buses of riders to Seattle with their bikes loaded on Penske rental trucks. The third bus and truck weren’t full, so I’m guessing around 125 people or so used that option for travel (more had registered but did not show up!). 

Saturday morning, July 15, the riders left Seattle and started heading south – towards us. Sure, most of them wouldn’t be in Portland until Sunday, but we needed to get ready for welcoming the one-day riders who would arrive probably at 1:30 PM or later. One never knows when the first rider will appear. It isn’t a race, so riders just set off for Portland when they feel like it. The forecast was for heat, and I heard a rumor that some riders left at 3:00 AM. Most probably set out closer to 5:00 or 5:30 AM. Many like to wait for daylight. In Portland, we watched the flags at the DoubleTree and anticipated an early arrival due to a nice tail wind.

That’s the riders’ day; the volunteers’ day began with a team leader breakfast to organize, share information, clarify expectations, and fuel up for a big day. By 9:30 AM, we were all at work. While Cascade and their sub-contractor worked on the park, we helped. Our Skyview High School teams (wrestling and basketball) came in throughout the day and lifted, toted, and generally did most all the hard labor. In the heat. For hours on end. We set up the baggage claim area, the volunteer check-in booth, the information booth, and directed the placing of many signs and cones in the street to try to keep traffic under control. There was also the “fencing” to create the chutes to guide the finishers to the park’s interior and cordon off the beer garden and bike corral. Those high schoolers did a wonderful job with all that and also helped Cascade get their souvenir T-shirts and patches set up in their booths.

The announcing had not begun – there was nothing to announce – and I saw a fit young guy in the park and told him he was the first rider. No, on closer inspection his bike was broken, and he reported that he had traveled about half the course in a car. He had moved to Washington state from Guam within the last year and had been really anxious to ride STP. Alas, his crank broke. He thought he had struck it on something, and that was that.

A bit later an older but fit man crossed the finish line with an official number and so appeared to be the first rider in. It was about 2:15 PM. I went over to him and told him he was the first rider in. “Yeah, but I started a couple of days ago,” he told me. He pointed out that his rider number was 2453 (as you can see in the photo) – the same as his phone number, explaining that on the telephone keypad 2453 is B-I-K-E. His name is Virgil “Lane” Simpson, and he likes to go by “Bike Lane.”

The true “first finisher” came in around 2:50 PM. The heat played a role, to be sure, and in talking to people found that some one-day riders could not finish until Sunday due to heat-related physical issues. I’m sure everyone has a story to tell!

Sunday morning, your team leaders were back for breakfast at the DoubleTree – refueling, getting updates, and caffeinating. Multiple trucks rolled in with luggage from the riders’ overnight locations. And the riders, having slept anywhere from 100 miles away (Centralia) to 40 or 50 miles away (Longview), were on the road toward Portland. Again, with heat being a factor, many got an early start and crossed the finish line early – maybe 10:00 or 11:00 AM. Sunday typically starts slow, but the afternoon is usually busy as the majority cross into Holladay Park.

The official closing time is 7:00 PM. And suddenly it was time to undo all we did on Saturday morning. Tear down. And the high schoolers, who had been loading bicycles and schlepping bags, now got the signage out of the roads, unconnected the fencing and located it in clumps for pickup. The chutes of the finish line and the colorful flags were taken down along with the orange protective fencing.

Monday morning, a few of us stumbled back to the DoubleTree. Alas, no team leader breakfast. We filled three buses with the last of the riders. They had been told to get their bikes on the truck Sunday. Holladay Park was almost clear of any remnants of the 5,500 riders and their loved ones traipsing through. Always makes me a little melancholy. STP, over for another year.

Congratulations to those of you who rode. Your club is proud of you. And a hearty THANK YOU to all the volunteers. Regardless of hierarchy or experience, you all worked together and made it happen. Not only CAN you do it – YOU DID IT!

Ann Morrow, STP Information Booth Team Leader

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