Every year before the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, I reach out to riders to hear their stories. It never ceases to amaze me what baggage people are riding with as the pedal down the road. And I’m not talking about what’s in their panniers.
David S. was diagnosed with spina bifida occulta in 1980 and was supposed to be in very bad shape by now at age 63. He has managed to buck that prediction, finishing his 16th one-day STP. He rides with a brace, a leather weight lifting belt with ace bandages wrapped around it. “I just saw the doctor and had an MRI,” he wrote. “The doctor said that I had completely stopped the degeneration that was supposed to happen to my back.”
Jamie B. said her husband first road the event with his parents just before starting high school and it gave him a huge boost of confidence. “He still had his 1997 STP jacket hanging in our closet, faded and wrinkled to sight yet its significance had not faded at all,” she said. Fast forward 12 years, and he rode it again, this time making a video. Jamie watched the video over and over again before deciding that she, too, was ready to try. Her friends and family enveloped her in support, encouragement and inspiration as she made it to the finish.
Jerry T. rode the event with a new aortic valve. (A new aortic valve, people!) Michael H. rode on new knees. (New knees, people!) Scott G. rode after an emergency appendectomy in mid-June. (Appendectomy, people!)
Read more and see photos after the jump
Sonata M. reunited with a long-lost brother who had been adopted into a different family before she was born. She decided to move across the country to rebuild their relationship here in Washington. Joyous, right? Not so fast. “He was diagnosed with MS, and last July I found out I have a brain tumor,” she wrote. “Though that’s not the reason we are doing STP I still find it very encouraging that we have each other for support. After all these years of not knowing eachother, and here we are training for the STP. It’s really amazing and I’m really excited to share in this experience.”
and a crew of 17 people rode all the way to Portland on single-speed cruiser bikes. Cruiser bikes!
Linda K. made a pinky pledge with a new friend halfway around the world last summer while she was serving in the Peace Corps. “I will be spending three days on a bus to reach Seattle in time to come through on the pinky swear promise made on the other side of the planet in the most unlikely of places between the two most unlikely of friends and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Jorge A., Bernardo G., Alejandro P., Alberto V., Enrique F. and Carlos L. came from the Dominican Republic to ride the STP. This is the furthest they’ve come for a bike ride. “The best part,” said Enrique, “was the jacket! It kept me so warm.”
Kate L. admits that she took the bus for two-block trips ten years ago due to being so overweight. Since 2008 she has shed 130 pounds (that’s a whole person, people!) and completed a marathon, four half marathons, a few 10ks, numerous 5ks and now the STP. Seriously, you would not recognize her before and after photos.
Johnnie O. was commissioned by 4Culture to create six low-impact vehicles. His bicycle built for three took about 100 hours to make and is made solely of recycled bike parts (except for one big washer.) (He also loaned his Stanley adjustable wrench to a father/daughter tandem team heading into Napavine. If that’s you, please contact him to return it.) Check out his video.
Despite crashing and breaking his pinky finger (owie!) the Monday before the event, Ben M. rode his 28th STP and is the oldest in the 20+ group at 69 (and three quarters.)
Mike R. rode for his dad Howard, who died much too soon and didn’t get to do another STP.
Mike A. rode the STP last in 2009 with his brother-in-law Byron H. Shortly after that event, Byron passed away from surgical complications, and Mike rode in his memory. I shared a teary hug with Byron’s wife at the finish line.
Don S. and his two sons rode in honor of their grandfather who died suddenly one week before the event. “You helped a father and two sons challenge themselves, accomplish a goal together, honor a father/grandfather who just passed away and made new happy memories to last a life time.”
Katherine C’s husband had a heart attack last year at age 47, which woke them both up to the need for a healthier life. They’ve lost nearly 100 pounds between them as they trained. “Setting our sites on participating in the STP has helped us stay on track with our fitness goals. I feel like if we can do it, anyone can.”
Randy D. wrote in to say he was riding with the 88-year-old fellow who has been the oldest rider for the last few years. I couldn’t get him on the phone though. Tease! If you’re reading this, we’d love to hear your story.
However, the charming wife of 84-year-old Walter B. spoke to me from Ballard about Walter’s fifth STP. He rode strong with his son-in-law and grandson. “Three generations!” he marveled.
While training for the event with her teenage daughter, Ellyn R. was hit by a car in April, going over the hood and ending up with a totaled bike. “But, we will be on the start line July 17 with smiles on. This is so important I do this for my daughter,” Ellyn said. “She needs to see that no matter what happens in life, you never give up!
And so on and so on. You’ve navigated tougher climbs than “the hill.” Your stories have inspired me, amazed me and brought me to tears of joy and sorrow. Yeesh, the excuses some of us come up with! I salute you all.