Wednesday, June 12, 2013

AIDS/LifeCycle Days 5-7. All my love.

Day 5. 42 miles. Santa Maria to Lompoc.

Day 5 was a special day on ALC. Originally people were asked to dress in red on Day 5, so that the ride looks like a red ribbon winding its way through the switchbacks and countryside. Of course the ALC community, at its very core being fabulous, evolved this into 'Red Dress Day'. I was going to go semi-practical and wear a red wool jersey, red shorts and a lacy underskirt but when I emerged from my tent to see 10 disco glittery red Annies I pretty much went back inside to see what else I had. Fortunately, I brought a red Esther Williams halter bathing suit. I asked my fashion consultant teammate Christopher which one I should do, and it was destined to be a bathing suit day.

Surrounded by glittery Annie's #alc2013 #teamunpopular

I checked in with bike tech and found Mark Ray, the wonderful guy who was going to go pick up my wheel. All was working in my favor today as I had plenty of charge on my phone, the package was in transit, I forwarded the UPS shipping email to Mark, and gave him my number. It was immensely reassuring to set out knowing that all of this was being taken care of and that I only needed to ride 40 miles on this wonky wheel.

Borrowed this from Uncle Larry:

Riding to the first rest stop was fun, I met up with John and we took this pin up photo in our bathing suits.

Res dress day

We had some climbing and descending into Rest Stop 2. Normally I would have enjoyed the shit out of these descents, they were fast and fun, but in my mind all I could think about was my wheel wobbling. Every little bump scared me a bit. Not to mention that it was overcast and cold. I was planning on skipping Rest Stop 2, until I saw some folks leaving with mylar blankets, and deciding to go in and get one to add some disco to my ensemble.

Club wear acquired, it was all uphill after that! Dangit. Mylar on, mylar off. Mylar balled up and stuffed into the back of my suit like Quasimodo. Since I didn't plan to wear the suit, I didn't bring a bag or anything to carry my stuff. My phone was also stuffed down the back. Note to future self, next time bring a purse or something. Ah, another good 'reason'  to purchase the small Alex Singer Berthoud. Hmmmm. This is how these things go.

So the hills on red dress day are not listed in the brochure, nor do they have names like the infamous Quadbuster or Evil Twins. But they are no joke. It was overcast and cool, whereas last year it was scorching hot, so we had that going for us. But it was nice rolling into camp pretty early so that we had time to do things.

Lompoc camp #alc2013

Camp in Lompoc was really pretty. There was a lake with ducks and happy birds. I dropped off my bike at bike tech when I arrived, confirmed that Mark Ray had the wheel, and also dropped off my shoes for new cleats. ALC has no mercy for the yellow stuff on road cleats, I couldn't clip in by the end of Day 5.

Camping for 7 days was interesting. I bought the big 36" split duffle that the packing clinics recommended, when it arrived I was going to send it back because I thought it was too big. It was bigger than anything that I could ever conceivably travel with. Too big to handle even. Then I started packing and talking to people and my cycle rep told me that it is nice to have extra room when packing up your crap in the morning. And boy was he right. Everything grew.

Morning were like this: 4:30 rise and shine, breakfast, maybe a quick foam roll or stretch at Chiro. Get dressed, pack up sleeping bag, Thermarest, 2 pillows (highly recommend!), attempt to jam all my other shit back into my HUGE GIGANTIC SHRINKING bag. The first couple of days were very stressful, on Day 5 I Fedexed some dirty clothes home, and that saved me.

Good morning campers! #alc2013

Our Team Captain, Jesse James. So much love.

A couple of notes about Rock Star Jesse. Jesse is a wonderful designer, he made Team Unpopular look good. We had awesome tent cards with our names, amazing kits, and team profile photos.

My team profile photo...

OMG. I'm not even done with Day 5. We arrived early to camp, got some shit done, and headed out early for Day 6. I really wanted some time with the Pelican before I got on the road. The new wheel was glorious, I spun it around, checked everything out and felt confident again. Which was good because Lorri Jean had me a little scared about Gaviota Pass, the descent into the LA basin. It's a 17% grade, with big trucks and there have been some major accidents during ALC on this stretch of road. I'm trying to find a video of Lorri Jean squealing out 'Hello riiiiders, Hello roadieeeees'. Maybe later.

Day 6. 84.3 miles. Lompoc to Ventura
We rolled out of Lompoc with overcast skies on barren hay filled roads. Rest Stop 1 was generally about ten miles from camp, this one was right before the Gaviota Pass. I knew that I didn't want to spend too long here as I need to keep my confidence up about the descent. My camera does not capture how massive these Rest Stops look from the road.


Right on the other side of the climb was the descent of a lifetime. I felt very confident on the Gaviota Pass, I made sure to leave myself plenty of room in front and behind me. This strategy will be good on future rides. Passing slower folks is not the most fun for either rider.

I sailed down this mountain, and when the trucks were all gone, it was silent. And beautiful. And the emotion came bubbling up and out of me. It's hard to describe what this ride did to me. I felt immersed in a welcoming and loving community, I was told many times that we were heroes. I rode for my teammates who are HIV positive. I rode for the people who felt the stigma of this disease and who tried to keep it a secret and died shrouded in mystery (Freddie). This ride offers a safe place for many with HIV/AIDS, it shows that positive people are not defined by their disease, they are strong and healthy. I learned about the services that the SF AIDS Foundation and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center offer: free mental health, doctors, and substance abuse programs for people of all walks of life. Straight, gay, homeless, addicted, you name it, everyone is welcome.

And I rode for me. Now I know that I can do this.
Gaviota Pass

Another highlight of Day 6 was riding though Santa Barbara and having ice cream. As our director, Greg Sroda, was fond of saying the 'Santa Barb-arians' had an unofficial official ice cream stop for us. I took this photo for one of my donors, Barbara Evans, who is a Santa Barbarian.

Santa Barbara ice cream stop! #alc2013

We rolled onto the beach camp in Ventura. It was a bittersweet night as it was our last night. There was a candlelight silent vigil on the beach to honor everyone who has died from AIDS.

Day 7. 60.7 miles. Ventura to the city of Angels.
I arrived at the Hustle bike parking to find Chris leaving as well. Joy!

Rolled out this morning with Chris #alc2013

And to find that the Chicken Lady and her minions had visited everyone over the night. We had eggs strapped to our seats with these inspiring messages.

'I am part of all that I have met' - Tennyson 'what did we ride for? If it was not to make life difficult for the ones we live, then we rode in the memory of the ones we lost.' Love, chicken lady, ALC 12  #alc2013 #teamunpopular


I know I'm not done with Day 6, but I need to give a shout out to so many characters from this event. Team Slow Poke. The Chicken Lady. The woman from Team Dilly Dally who 1) flashed her boobs at me 2) played the theme from Rocky as we climbed Quadbuster 3) had on a penguin suit and a walker as we climbed some other god forsaken mountain. Lorri Jean and her inspiring, tear wrenching stories. Each and every member of Team Unpopular. People who I danced with up and down rollers. Kids who wrote us letters of encouragement. The people of Bradley who cooked for us. The people who stood along our route and cheered and held up signs of loved ones who have died of AIDs. Maybe also I just don't want Day 7 to end. sigh.

At lunch, Team Unpopular met up to ride the final stretch together. I got to ride with Tall Guy, whose legs are lean and long and who was usually in the fasty-fast group. A memorable quote from the day. I shared that my sash had Freddie Mercury on it and two of my teammates said that Freddie showed them how to be gay. So much love.

We rode through parts of So Cal that had been burned and that looked like Mars.
Rest stop 1#alc2013

My teammate Shelley fell before lunch. Nothing was broken but she hit a rock and fell on her hip and has a huge 'leg baby' (her words) of a hematoma on her leg.

Aaaaaand this happened :( #alc2013 #teamunpopular

And then this happened. Photos courtesy of Mike Schmitt.

Mike Schmitt 1 Mike Schmitt 2Mike Schmitt 3Mike Schmitt 4

SF to LA. Done!

SF to LA. Done!

Whew, that was a 545 miles long blog posting. The video below sums up a bit of what we experienced. Also more photos here:

I highly recommend doing this ride, it will change you in so many ways. It's not just a 545 mile ride, it's a loving community. I heard many people say that they joined AIDS/LifeCycle in the beginning for the physical challenge but come back every year because their lives changed. They were affected in some way by the disease and it meant even more to them.

I'm keeping my bike number on the Pelican for a while. Number 3166 says 'You belong here'. Thank you to every cheerleader and donor. This wouldn't be possible without you.

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