While the majority of the company was at the summer picnic, a few of us decided to try and beat the heat (lots of sarcasm intended) with a 205-mile bike ride from Seattle to Portland.

Trust me, we didn't beat the heat. But we had a lot of fun, and everyone on our team finished the ride.

Here is a little background for those of you that may not have heard about the Seattle to Portland bike ride.

Background: We have been planning the ride for nearly eight months. It started with a few of us crazy people and increased to as many as 10 back in March. Several folks ended up dropping out along the way for various reasons.

We ultimately ended up with six official team members that made the voyage. The team consisted of Duane Chrisman (La Grande), Andy Perry

(La Grande), Michelle Perry (Andy's better half), Angie Morris (my better half), myself (La Grande) and Sean Calvert (formerly with our Walla Walla office and now with Key Technology in Walla Walla).

As a reminder, Andy and Sean were the only riders in our group to ever ride more than 30 miles in a single bike ride prior to training for this event. Three of the other four didn't even have bikes before this year.

The team has been training for the STP event since back in March/April - even when the weather was not cooperating very well (snowed every other day).

The weather finally broke in May and June for us to get in a few training rides ranging from 50 to 100 miles each. One of the rides was the Three Rivers Race event held in June in

La Grande where the team raised nearly $650 from the La Grande office for a local charity and many of the team members rode their first 100 miles ("century" ride in bike rider terminology).

OK, on to the main event.

Day 1:

We headed to Seattle on Friday afternoon in order to wake up on Saturday at 4:30 a.m. to eat breakfast and drive to the University of Washington in downtown Seattle to drop off our luggage for the overnight stay at the mid-point. We were caught in traffic for about an hour just for the last 10 blocks before the UW parking lot.

We started riding with a group of several hundred others who were released from the parking lot to ride at 6:45 a.m. There are approximately 9,500 riders in the event of which 2,000 or so ride the distance in one day. The rest of us take two days.

The route took us toward Seattle where we could see the downtown area and then headed south along Lake Washington to Renton, Kent, Puyallup, Spanaway, Roy, Yelm, Tenino and then eventually Centralia at the century mark.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened on the first day other than being surrounded by thousands of other bike riders along the ride; seeing a guy in a yellow mini-dress; and waiting in a long line for more than 30 minutes to use the portable restrooms. We concluded that the guy in the dress was fairly normal looking and must have lost a bet to his friends and they made him wear the dress.

There were a lot of flat tires and other mechanical break downs along the way. If you have a mechanical problem, you pretty much have to make a jump for the ditch because the 500 riders behind you will run you over if you stop in the bike lane for a repair.

Things went smoothly, except for the beat-the-heat part that I mentioned earlier. The last 30 miles (two hours) into Centralia was very hot (temperatures in the upper 80s and lower 90s).

We arrived in Centralia around 4:30 p.m. Ten hours had passed since we left. Of the 10 hours, approximately seven hours was spent pedaling our bikes. The other three hours was spent at stop signs, traffic signals, food stops, bathroom lines, etc.

Saturday evening, we ate "all-you-can-eat" spaghetti and salad at the Nazarene Church where we were staying. There was not a lot of talking. Mainly we were shoveling food into our mouths in order to get our energy reserves back up for the next day. We topped our tanks off with desert from Denny's. Normally most of us don't eat at Denny's, but after burning 5,000 calories your body craves food and energy and it doesn't matter where it comes from.

We slept on the floor in our sleeping bags in a room at the church. Most of us were out cold by 8:30 p.m.

The highlight of the day was when Andy donned a tank top for the trip to Denny's. Everyone in the church and on our team was heckling him about his farmer/biker tan. The icing on the cake was when he got a comment "NICE TAN" shout out from a vehicle driving by when we were standing at a curb ramp waiting to cross the street in Centralia to have dessert at Denny's.

Next year I will buy Andy some better sunscreen or encourage him to wear his tank top while working in the yard a few months before the event in order to move his farmer/biker tan up to his shoulders.

Day 2:

We got up at 4:45 a.m. and ate breakfast (pancakes and sausage) at the church. We quickly packed and hit the road at 5:45 a.m.

The route went through Centralia to Chehalis and then down to Napavine, Winlock, Vader, Castle Rock, Lexington, and then Longview (all are on the west side of Interstate 5). Angie and I witnessed a small bike wreck between two bikers. Neither person was hurt, but I wish I could say the same for their bikes.

We crossed into Oregon after Longview, which is approximately 50 miles northwest of Portland. We were escorted across the steel truss bridge one group at a time by volunteer motorcycle riders. Each group consisted of 300 to 400 riders.

Imagine riding your bike with one foot of room all around you and then 400 other riders around that you don't know their riding habits or whether they are faster or slower. On top of that, people are getting flat tires, dropping water bottles or just plain stopping because they are too tired to climb the approach to the bridge. Needless to say, it was like playing dodge ball with bikes - it was a white-knuckle experience, and we were all glad to get off of the bridge in one piece.

It was starting to get hot and approaching the upper 80s for the second day in a row. Fortunately, the weather forecaster was kind enough to give us a tailwind that really helped our tired legs reach Portland. The wind blew us through St. Helens, Scappoose, Holbrook and then into West Portland on Highway 30.

We rode on the city streets through downtown Portland and over the maroon-colored Steel Bridge on the north end of downtown.

We finished the ride at the park at the west end of the Lloyd Center between 3 p.m. (Andy, Michelle, Duane and Sean) and 4 p.m. (Jeremy and Angie). There were several thousand families cheering the weary riders for the last two or three blocks. That was a great ending to a great ride.

We hung around the park for a while trying to get the energy to collect our baggage. Andy, Michelle and Sean ended up making the four-hour drive home that evening.

At the finish line, our bodies had been through an extreme workout for 14 hours out of the previous two days, which resulted in approximately 9,300 calories being burned. That is nearly five days worth of calories for a normal 2,000-calorie diet. Keep in mind that all we had to eat were sandwiches and fruit/energy bars for lunch, pancakes for breakfast and spaghetti for dinner.

A few of us were a little sore but not as bad as we had imagined. It took a few days to get back into the groove of things and for our bodies to recover fully.

All in all, we had a lot of fun and learned a lot about our fellow teammates over the past several months of planning and training.

Looking back, this type of ride is a once-in-a-lifetime event/opportunity, especially for those of us who had our spouses along on the ride. We were all glad that we put together such a great team and would be able to share those memories for a lifetime.

Next year we will probably look for a different event that is shorter (100 miles?) and try to get more people involved. If you are interested in the STP, I am sure there will be a group of us that will kick the idea around again this fall.

Here is your motivation. Collectively, we lost more than 150 pounds for the seven-person team including Mike Posada. That's nearly 20 pounds each, with some (Andy) losing more than 30 pounds.

The team will keep riding this summer and fall. We promised Mike Posada that we would ride 100 miles with him later in the year since he missed out on the STP event. Mike put in several hard months of training with the team but was unable to ride in the event because of an illness in his family.

If you are interested in seeing more pictures or participating in next year's bike ride, look up me or one of the other team members before or after work or at lunch time.

Just remember, if four out of the six of us had never been on a bike for more than a few miles at a time, then you can do it too. Take baby steps and try starting with a one-mile ride or walk to work this week. Build off of that and you will be ready to go by next summer.

Keep an eye out for our white (body) and blue (sleeve) Anderson-Perry team jerseys with a yellow swoosh through the middle. Be sure to honk or wave if you see us.