We arrived at Opening Ceremonies uneventfully. Mike dropped me off and went to park the car, then we waited around for a good hour or so before Opening Ceremonies started. I was briefly interviewed by a reporter for the Asian community, then we met up with Brett, Herve, Brian, and Mike Creech, all ready for the Ride.
The most touching moment of Opening Ceremonies was when Chris Cole, the director of AIDS Lifecycle, “came out” as HIV+. He said, “It has taken me sixteen months to get over the shame—especially for a man who has been fighting AIDS most of his life—and come out and declare myself, openly, as HIV+.”
I didn’t know what to say. I know a lot of people who are HIV+, but this is the first time someone I know has become infected with HIV, and to have it be someone whom I know and greatly respect is a real shocker. And this is a man who knows all about AIDS transmission, and I can only assume practices safe sex himself…it really drives home that AIDS can happen to anyone, no matter how careful you are.
(Since then I have heard from another friend who got home from the ride to discover that the daughter of a close friend had tested positive…she isn’t even 18 yet! Truly, this is a disease that can happen to anyone—it’s not a gay disease, it’s not a drug user thing—it’s simply a horrible, horrible virus that doesn’t care who it infects.)
The speeches ended, and we poured out into the streets. Each of us was wearing a red helmet cover that read “NOT ANOTHER 25 YEARS” (referring to the 25th anniversary of the first reported AIDS cases), and we made quite a sight as we rushed through the early morning streets. We didn’t take up one lane, or two, but three full lanes as we rode triumphantly out. I scanned the cheering throng intently and spotted Mike, and waved as I went by. “I won’t see him again for another week,” I thought. “I miss him already.”
And on we went, past police officers and roadies directing traffic for us, out through the city and on our way down the
As I rode out, the first thought in my mind was “What on earth have I been thinking? Ride to
We rode down the
I struggled up the hill, wondering sincerely if I was really ready for the Ride. I’m a much weaker cyclist than I was last time (average speed 12.5 mph as opposed to 13-14 mph), and I haven’t trained that much. My cyclometer was reading 9.5 miles per hour average, far slower than my usual time…could I do this? I was terrified, and discouraged; if I’d had the opportunity, I’d probably have turned back. But I was committed to this thing: I was going to ride. So I went on.
After lunch, we went up another long, slow hill—the one where a rider died of a heart attack, on AIDS Lifecycle 1—and began following Route 1 down the coast towards Santa Cruz. It was a gorgeous day—parasailers’ big billowing sails bright in the wind, the craggy coast falling away to our right—and mostly flat, except for one thrilling downhill where I hit 45 mph on the way down!
At Rest Stop 3 I ran into Brett, one of the friends I’d trained with. I was astonished—he’d been faster than me in training and I’d thought he was far ahead of me, but no! there he was. I figured I must have gotten faster if I’d been keeping up with him.
Between Rest Stop 3 and Rest Stop 4, I passed by a woman holding a big sign with a photo of a handsome man, and his birth and death dates. The sign read, simply, “THANK YOU.” I cried.
I rolled into Rest Stop Four eager to find out what costumes they had this year. (Each rest stop has different costumes every day to entertain the riders, but Rest Stop 4 is renowned for being the absolute best and having the greatest themes.) They were doing a “Bike wash” theme, with fake washer strips blowing in the wind and the roadies dressed up as car wash folks, blowing bubbles as we passed through. I got a picture with them.
From Rest Stop 4, it was only 5 miles into camp. As I sailed through the streets of
(At mile 50 I was seriously doubting whether I’d be able to do it, and wanting to turn back…but I finished mile 80 feeling stronger than at mile 50!)
As I sit in my tent writing this, I hear the sound of cheering as the earlier cyclists cheer in the late cyclists. ALC reserves its greatest accolades for the slower cyclists, who are, in general, working much harder for less results than the faster cyclists—they are the ones who are truly stretching their boundaries and sacrificing for the cause. It’s one of the things I love about AIDS Lifecycle-- it’s a ride, not a race.
(Which is a darn good thing, because I am not a racer!)