We were in Portland, we had our bikes, and our hotel check out time wasn't until noon. We were in.
This ride is a BIG deal. Innumerable roads and eleven different bridges are fully/partially closed down to accommodate 20,000 bike riders all raising money for Providence Health & Services - a not for profit that operates a number of heath care facilities including 26 hospitals in Alaska, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California.
While I was eager to go, I kind of expected it to be mayhem. Nothing could be further from the truth. This ride was so fantastic in organization and in spirit that it made the absolute perfect start to our ride across Oregon.
From my point of view, here's what made the Providence Bridge Pedal such a fabulous experience:
- Ride not Race. When you have a big event that combines people who are serious about racing with people who are just out there to have fun, there's a bit of a culture clash. This event was promoted as a ride not a race, and it was run as such. There were no speed categories, plenty gigantic and tempting pit stops, space to stop on bridges to take pictures, and a general atmosphere of fun and camaraderie.
- Course design. The coarse was huge and allowed ample space in all the turns so that collisions and congestion were minimized. And that's a real achievement when you've got so many riders on the road.
- Flexible start time. Riders start the race any time after 7:00 am. This really spreads out the crowd and add to the fun for those who aren't early rises. When MM and I finished at 9:30 there were people who were just starting.
- Portlanders. I don't know if there is a city anywhere that can compete with this one. People in Portland are just really nice. They must put happy powder in the water. Time after time we came across happy friendly people. For example, we found out about the ride from a vendor at the Saturday Market. And later we got to chatting about with the couple sitting next to us in a bar and they invited us to join them and their family during the ride. We did and it was delightful.
The Providence Bridge Pedal was a memorable start to a fantastic bike trip. Have you ever participated in an organized bike event? Is there any event that can rival this excellent 20,000 rider event?