I can’t describe the feeling of people cheering for you, but I can tell you it’s pretty much how my 11-year-old self imagined. My grandmother taught me how to cheer while at OU basketball games. Every time I cheered, I did so under the pretense that I was heard and helpful. I would imagine how good it wood feel to be those players getting cheered onto victory, and imagine how good it would feel to me.
Well. In case you hadn’t picked up on it, the STP is a bit of a big deal…at least for masses like me. It’s no lie that 11k riders tend to attract a fair amount of attention. And, for reasons other than totally screwing up traffic…some people just think it’s cool. Randomly strewn throughout those 204 miles were spectators and fans. Some folks just pull over on the highway, get out of their cars, and cheer for the riders speeding by. It’s awesome.
The boys and I were musing late in day 1 about how cool it would have been if the girls had popped up somewhere on the route to cheer us on. Not that it was a drag it hadn’t happened, just that it would be super cool if it had. This talk happened prior to our arrival in Centralia (the midpoint where the girls were waiting for us…waiting to cheer us on, as it were), and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t discussed again.
Day 2 started as expected, with a shit ton of head wind…again…still… No big deal, just put my head down and slog. The rolling hills seemed to have a bit more hill and a little less roll, while the headwind appeared to have a bead on my chest. It wasn’t anything to speak of…just missing the fire from day 1. Get back to the head lowered slog…find the pace…ride it out.
I don’t remember the exact geographical sequence of events, but it seems to be something to the order of rolling hills and winding roads…come up out of a turn into a climb and there is the scream from a couple of crazy fans at the top of the hill. The random location and time fit right in with the rest of our STP fan encounters, so my subconscious discards any familiarities I might faintly have heard from direction of those crazies cheerings. It wasn’t until more than half way up the hill that it finally dawned on me. The realization had to settle and sink in. It took a moment…but just one.
Elyse and Lorien had driven up to the course and sat perched atop the hill freaking out like a couple of crazies cheering us on. It was awesome. All of the sudden the fire had returned…the fire in the belly…the fire in the legs. It was such a rush. It took away the 100 miles from the previous day and the 25 miles already in the books for that day and washed them away. As if I were starting on fresh legs and a fresh ass. Like I said, it was awesome. It was the mental and emotional fuel I needed to finish the ride. It was awesome. I wasn’t sure if they wanted us to stop, but there was no way I was going to let this fire go…
As we drew closer to Portland, the groups of fans increased and their separating space decreased. At one point a dad and his 2-year-old daughter waved excitedly, and it hit me that Marti wasn’t going to be there with us. It was sad and I missed her, but was thankful that her grandparents were having a great time with her back in North Bend.
It was the final stretch, we were in ideal team finish line arrival formation, and the fans had come out for the fun. The sidewalk leading up the park was full of folks cheering. It was awesome. Then the light turned red, and we had to wait. The crowd stopped cheering. The entire victory momentum was being destroyed!!! Then the light turned green and…wait for it…wait…for…it…and the crowd goes wild…well, lets just say the cheering continued. It was silly and pretty awesome.
Once inside the double century club I heard the fierce female crazies cheering, but couldn’t find them fast enough. Then…there! I had finished to these crazies cheering because of these crazies cheering. It was awesome.