9 June 2001 – 13 June 2001
Its very difficult to convey the spirit of the AIDS ride, but I’ll do my best here. Most of the below is from my journal writings each evening and may (or may not) be coherent 🙂 This doesn’t even begin to capture everything about the ride, so if you want to find out more, sign up for one!
Day 0 – Fort Mason checkin:
I woke up at 6:30 and drove up to San Francisco to meet the rest of Team Sun at Fort Mason by 8:00. For once, I didn’t get lost driving in SF 🙂 and arrived at Fort Mason around 7:50 – perfect timing, as some other SunSpots were just arriving and the rest arrived in short order.
We walked over to the tent on the marina green to watch the safety video (a prerequesite to doing any other registration activities) which was about 45 minutes of common sense, but it never hurts to drill it in, as nobody wants to get injured (much less killed!).
After we watched the video, we checked our bikes into bike parking as we didn’t really want to leave them on our roof racks for very long (although there were certainly a bazillion bikes much nicer than mine! ;-). I was told that Day 0 is a great way to get used to waiting in line, but it really wasn’t too bad at all.
After dropping the bikes off, we waited in line to enter the registration hall. This was a very long line, but it moved pretty quickly, and in short order, we were inside. Once inside, I checked in and verified (much to my relief!) that they had all of my pledges and they’d received my medical paperwork. Some folks hadn’t met their pledge minimum by the deadline, so they were off to stand in a hellishly long line to turn in late pledges. I was very glad that I didn’t have to stand in this line!
We regrouped at around 1:00 to go to tent registration. There was a great glam-rock drag queen directing folks into the tent line. S/he was wearing a lovely purple disco outfit for a while, then changed into a very ABBA silver bodysuit 🙂 When we got to the tent registration tables, happily Mike and Lee were talked into getting tents for all of us (there were 18’ish folks in our group), so the rest of us left the tent tables and waited elsewhere. I was given a dog tag with my tent assignment number on it, which also served as my gear truck assignment.
We were finished by around 2:00 and I drove home, loaded up on carbs, double-checked that my gear bag contained everything I thought I would need. I took the last private shower I would have for a week, and then tried (with limited success) to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Day 1 – San Francisco to Santa Cruz:
I woke up at 4:10, changed into my biking clothes and filled up my water bottles. My friend Denise was so kind as to drive to my place (in Fremont) from Santa Clara and take me to Fort Mason in time for the mandatory arrival time of 5:45am – many thanks to Denise! I arrived at Fort Mason at around 5:35 and lugged my gear bag to the “D” truck, put on my cycling shoes, and headed towards the opening ceremony area.
Before the opening ceremonies, someone lead stretching exercises to limber everybody up before the ride. The opening ceremonies were very emotional – 5 HIV+ riders walked a riderless bicycle up the stage in memory of those who have died from AIDS – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house (mine included). SF Mayor Willie Brown welcomed us (and rode with us on Day 1, which I thought was pretty cool), and then we walked to bike parking to pick up our bikes and ride out.
The ride out was incredible – hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people lining the streets at and near Fort Mason cheering us on. We moseyed along SF city streets with a lot of folks cheering from their balconies/driveways/cars/etc. Initially it was pretty slow going, as there were a TON of riders on the road and it was difficult to pass folks. There were some really wacky helmet decorations on folks (pink flamingos, GI Joes, Barbies, etc). I had one of the more tame helmets with a large purple ribbon on it (a husband and wife team were training for the ride and the wife was hit and killed by a car – the husband requested that any riders who were so inclined wear a purple ribbon on the ride).
By the time I got to pit stop 1 (mile 17) in South San Francisco, people had spread out a bit more and the going was a good deal speedier. We rode south on El Camino Real to Crystal Springs Road, then headed west to Skyline and pit stop 2 at Crystal Springs Reservoir (mile 29) This stop had a pre-historic theme, and I saw for the first time the snacks I would be eating for the next week – Goldfish, Chex Mix, Ritz Bits, Clif Bars, trail mix, and the like (not bad fare at all!).
The route continued on Skyline out to Hwy 92, then climbed 92 – a short and sweet climb, if a bit traffic’y. At the top of Hwy 92, folks were handing out popsicles which was very nice, as I was pretty warm from the climb. We descended 92 all the way to Half Moon Bay (a very nice descent!), then went south on Hwy 1 to lunch at San Gregorio State Beach at mile 48.
Lunch was a chicken salad and pasta salad affair – very tasty much to my surprise (I’d heard horror stories about lunches on the ride)! I ran into Lorri, who I’d met on the 2001 I Care Classic, which was nice. I rode with her and one of her fellow Team Schwab team members for the remainder of the day.
We continued south on Hwy 1 to Pit 3 (mile 61) at Los Gazos Creek Day Use Area, where I’ve parked a few times for mountain bike rides in Butano State Park. I’m quite familiar with Hwy 1 from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz, but its a very beautiful ride nonetheless. There were a number of large’ish rolling hills, but we had a really strong tailwind (25+mph!), and the downhills were lots of fun. If a car hadn’t gotten in my way, I’m sure I would have broken 50mph on one of them (I hit almost 49mph before I had to brake for the car)!
Further south on Hwy 1, there was an unofficial stop where locals had many flats of fresh Watsonville strawberries dipped in some really good chocolate, so we stopped there and had a few – yummmmmmm! It was a short ride from there to the last pit stop of the day at Davenport (mile 75). There were a handfull of drag cheerleaders cheering everybody in, which was great. I had my picture taken with them, snacked a little bit, and then we headed south for the final leg into Santa Cruz.
It was nice riding through my old stomping grounds in Santa Cruz. We headed along downtown Santa Cruz on Front St. and headed out to camp in Harvey West Park. We went by the SCO building I used to work at, but now its a Caldera building (they bought most of SCO) – it was weird seeing a different company’s name on the building I worked in for 5 years…
After pulling into camp, I was directed into bike parking where I checked in and dropped off my bike. I then went in search of the gear trucks, picked up my bag and tent, and set it up in my assigned tent spot. The tents were 3-person dome tents with clip-on poles – very easy to set up. I found the shower trucks and took a quick shower. My tentmate, Terry (also on Team Sun) had arrived in the meantime, and we agreed that I would set up the tent when I got in, and he would break it down in the mornings. I wrote in my journal for a bit, then had a yummy dinner of BBQ chicken.
I cannot imagine the logistics of moving the camps every day. They had a massage tent, chiropractic tent, medical tent, sports medicine tent, general store, media tent, remembrance tent, meeting tent, a huge dining tent, 4 meal service tents, a large stage, a trailer to register for the 2002 Pallotta events, a trailer to purchase the commemorative video, a trailer for ideas, and a trailer to see the impact of the rides. There were 8 semis hauling shower trailers, 3 or 4 semis with mobile kitchens, and trucks lettered A-Q for hauling our gear and tents around, not to mention several semis for hauling the porta-potties.
At 7:30 there was a presentation (as there was every evening) on the stage with news from the day’s ride, the weather forecast for the next day (which proved to be wildly inaccurate for the most part), any information we needed to know for the next day’s ride, a top 10 list (which was the subject of much good-natured ridicule throughout the ride) and a brief talk by the directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, the two beneficiaries of the ride. Pat, the director of the SFAF was quite a funny speaker – very brassy. I learned the ride raised $11.8 million (wow!), and had 2799 riders and 550 crew. After the presentations, a really good swing band (Zoot Suit Riot, I think) played until just after 9. I went to bed at 9 after setting my alarm clock for 4:55am. Conveniently Terry wanted to wake up at the same time I did.
Day 1 Ride Stats:
Day 2 – Santa Cruz to King City
I woke up at 4:55 to a rather wet tent, as there was a ton of condensation and changed into my cycling clothes and went in search of coffee. The nice folks of Peet’s Coffee had a truck at camp and served some STRONG coffee. I had breakfast of eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, bagels, and bacon. I normally don’t eat much, if any breakfast, but figured (correctly!) that I would need the fuel. I packed up my gear (and dreaded packing my fairly wet down sleeping bag, as its really not very good for them to be packed while wet) and dropped it off at my gear truck. It seemed to work well to get up and do everything that had lines (bathrooms, coffee, and breakfast) before doing the things that didn’t have lines (packing tent, dropping off gear, etc.). As I was leaving breakfast, the line for coffee was absolutely HUGE, making me glad that I’d already taken care of that.
I picked up my bike and hit the road at 7:15 or so. Riders had to be on the road no later than 8:30, and weren’t allowed to start earlier than 6:30. This was the longest day of the ride at over 100 miles, but it looked pretty flat from the topo profile on the ride sheet. Again, it took quite a while to get out of town due to the stoplights and the large volume of riders on the road, but once I got to Soquel, folks had thinned out. It was a very pleasant ride through Aptos, one of my favorite towns, and in short order, I arrived at pit stop 1 at Manressa State Beach (14 miles). This is a very nice beach that I’d been to a few times before when I lived in the area.
From Manressa it was a very pleasant ride through some rolling farmlands out to pit stop 2 at Moss Landing (27 miles). This pit had a Santa, statue of liberty, and an angel corraling the bikers (which must have been equivalent to herding cats 🙂 The route went inland from there to Salinas, where we had lunch at Salinas Central Park (41 miles). Again, we had really strong tailwinds (gotta love those!), and I was maintaining a really good clip (over 20 for much of it) going south through the Salinas valley. Pit stop 3 was at the Soledad Mission (71 miles), which was very nice. They had a wading pool piled high with bags of ice to sit on to cool off (it was pretty warm by this point – probably in the low 90s), which was excellent. I ran into Mike & John from the Sun Team, and we briefly rode together until I decided I would try to beat my fastest century time (set on the I Care Classic) and went ahead (alas, I wound up being 0.2mph slower than on the I Care Classic – oh well :).
The lovely tailwind turned into a fairly hairy crosswind as we cut east across the Salinas valley – everybody was having to lean quite a bit into the wind to keep from being blown off the road, and the large number of passing semis were kicking a lot of dust/small gravel onto us. We then turned into the wind (only briefly, thank heavens – it was blowing at least as hard as it had been going down Hwy 1 the previous day) and pulled into pit stop 4 at Patriot Park in Greenfield (85 miles). This pit had a construction worker theme, which was amusing. A bunch of little kids came out from a nearby school to greet us and they brought oranges and rice crispy treats (neither of which I ate, as I wasn’t hungry, but it was very cute!). For some reason there was a “Grab & Go” 3 miles from the end of the ride – nobody was stopping at it, and I wasn’t entirely clear on why it was there. If you can make it to 99 miles, its not too terribly difficult to make it to 102!
Camp was in San Lorenzo Park in King City. This was a very pleasant park, but there was quite a lot of walking involved to get from bike parking to gear trucks to tent area to showers. In previous years, tents have become airborne if not staked down, so I made sure to securely stake the tent in! I had dinner and watched the evening presentation, then went to bed around 9. They had a Brazillian band playing that sounded pretty good from what I could hear from the tent.
Day 2 Ride Stats:
Day 3 – King City to Paso Robles
I woke up at 4:55, and did the morning ritual of coffee, food, and packing. I hit the road at around 7:00. Breakfast was pancakes, eggs, yogurt, and bacon. This was the first hilly day of the ride, with the much-talked-about “Quadbuster”. Some of the roads leading out of King City were absolutely AWFUL. It felt like we were riding on cobblestones, which my already-sore butt didn’t appreciate one little bit! The ride out of town was much faster than previous days, and soon I was riding on some lovely rolling hills heading out to the dreaded “Quadbuster”. There was a warm-up hill 13 miles in, then a pit stop at the Salinan Nation Cultural Center (18 miles). From there it was 2 more miles to the big hill. I was actually starving by the time I got to this pit stop, so I had a bottle of Spiz, and felt fine shortly thereafter.
It turned out to be not all that bad of a climb at all. It definitely helped that I’d recently been doing hill training on Palomares, Old La Honda, Alba, and China Grade roads, all of which are much worse than the “Quadbuster”. The Quadbuster was listed as a half-mile hill, but they must have been talking only about the steepest part of it, as the hill was at least a mile long. It climbed about 700 feet in that mile – not too bad, but definitely noticable, as this was the third consecutive day riding.
At the summit of the climb there were a bunch of riders & crew cheering folks up the hill. It was pretty much all downhill (and very scenic) for the next 10 miles to pit stop 2 at Fort Hunter Liggett Military Installation (mile 31). I snacked and refilled my water bottles next to rows of military vehicles. This was really lovely countryside with rolling hills everywhere and a number of vineyards peppered here and there. After pit 2, I continued through the rolling hills and past more vineyards to pit 3 at an abandoned restaurant on Jolon Rd. (mile 47). This pit had a loose Looney Toons theme, which was amusing.
From there we rode on Hwy 101 for a mile or so. The highway had been recently repaved, and it was soooo nice riding on a nearly perfectly smooth surface after all of the pothole’d rodes earlier in the day. We were only on 101 for a short distance before turning off to enter the town of Bradley (OK, so “town” probably isn’t the right word – it was really tiny!) for lunch. By this point it was getting really hot, and there was virtually no shade in Bradley. I picked up my lunch (chicken salad sandwich) and sat down to eat in the shadow of a semi that was parked nearby. The town of Bradley had their own (non-free) lunch stop of with BBQ, but as it was so hot, I didn’t really feel like spending the time waiting in line and eating hot food.
After lunch we went back on 101 for 4 miles or so, but unfortunately this stretch of 101 had not been recently repaved, and desperately needed it. There were long, wide cracks every 10 feet or so on the shoulder that had been chip-sealed, so it was a lot of bump … bump … bump … bump … bump. Uggh! At least it was only a few miles of this before we turned off 101 and headed out to pit stop 4 at Mission San Miguel (64 miles). This was a really great stop, as the mission was very beautiful. There were a bunch of drag bridesmaids posing for pictures under an arch, so I had my picture taken with them. There were also a few real monks from the Mission hanging around and talking with folks, which was really cool. I heard later that the monks were posing for pictures with the bridesmaids. That must’ve been a sight to behold – real monks with fake bridesmaids 🙂 I walked around the Mission a bit to take in the sights, then hit the road again.
It was a nice, but warm (I’d guess mid-90s) ride the rest of the way into camp at the Midstate Fairgrounds in Paso Robles. This camp had an indoors, air-conditioned dining area – a welcome treat to be sure given the hot weather! I signed up for a massage when I arrived at camp, set up camp, took a shower, then went off to get my massage. It was super nice getting a free 20-minute massage! After my massage, I got dinner and chatted with a nice couple from Juno, Alaska. Apparently the highest temperatures they had to train in were in the 70s, and they were suffering mightily in the 90+° temperatures. After meandering around for a while, the evening presentation started.
This was a special presentation, as today marked the exact 20th anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS. The director of the SF AIDS Foundation, Pat, gave a very moving presentation about the history of AIDS, and the current state of affairs. 40,000,000 cases worldwide. 20,000,000 deaths. Half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Tens of thousands of new cases reported each and every day. Increasing infection rates in the young population in America. Ouch. At the end of the presentation, they handed out beaded pins handmade by a woman in Africa who either has AIDS, or has lost family to AIDS. I pinned it to my bike, where it will remain until it falls apart.
After the presentation, they showed “The Wizard of Oz”, but I was way too tired to stay and watch it, so I went to bed, again around 9’ish.
Day 3 Ride Stats:
Day 4 – Paso Robles to Oceano
I woke up at 4:55 as usual, and after the morning rituals, was on the road at 6:45. We climbed the “Evil Twins”, a pair of not-all-that-steep hills (1000′ or so of elevation gain over 7 miles). I was glad to be climbing the hills early’ish, though, as it was again quickly warming up. At the top of Evil Twin #2, there was a 5 mile descent down Hwy 46. About a mile into the descent there were a bunch of folks pulled off to the side of the road, so I stopped to see what was up. Turns out that was exactly the halfway point of the ride, and lots of folks were posing with their bikes atop a rock. There was a great panoramic view of the ocean with Morro Rock just barely visible in the distance. After soaking up the view and getting my picture taken, I continued the fun descent. The downhill was somewhat hampered by fairly stiff crosswinds, so I couldn’t go quite as fast as I’d have like to have gone, but it was a fun coast nonetheless.
I pulled into a Grab ‘n Go (affectionately known as a “Pee ‘n Flee” 🙂 at the bottom of the hill, then we picked up Hwy 1 south to Morro Bay. This was a gorgeous ride along the coast with views for miles. I stopped at a few especially photogenic turnouts to snap a few pics, and in short order, I arrived at pit stop #2 at San Geronimo Rd (34 miles). They had a prom queen contest at this pit stop, with both the men and the women dressed up in prom dresses, and they had ballots for us to vote on the prettiest prom queen (one of the real women won).
I rode south along the remnants of volcanic plugs (of which Morro Rock is the west-most), and then rejoined Hwy 1 south, which is a freeway at this point. It was fast going, but hot (90s again), and I arrived at lunch at Camp SLO Hudleson Field (50 miles) at around 11:15. We were welcomed in by the cadets, which was cool. Alas, this stop, like Bradley the previous day, had no shade whatsoever, and it was in the high 90s. Fortunately, the organizers had 2 of the transportation busses parked there with their doors open for folks to eat in the air-conditioned interior. Unfortunately, the busses were full when I got there, so I sat in the luggage hold, which was shady, so I wasn’t complaining! I chatted with some fellows from Texas, ate my lunch, then headed back out. Just as I pulled out of Camp SLO, I heard a “clang-clang-clang” sound and pulled off of the road. Again one of my spokes had come unscrewed and was flailing around uselessly. I threaded it back in for the umpteenth time and got back on my way.
It was a nice, but very hot, ride to pit #3 (61 miles). After having several folks say “Oh it must be that Death Ride guy – I recognize that squeak” (I was wearing a Death Ride jersey – I felt a bit weird wearing a Death Ride jersey on the AIDS ride, as it seemed rather out-of-the-spirit-of-things, but I only have 7 jerseys, and 2 of them are Death Ride jerseys, so what’s a guy to do?), I got fed up and dropped my bike off at the bike mechanics at pit stop #4 at a PG&E Power Plant Tour Facility, where they lubed my rear derailleur and the squeak that had been plaguing me for the whole ride went away – yay! Pit 4 had a loose Halloween theme, and I stayed a while chatting with folks before heading off for the final leg of the day’s ride.
The route passed Avila Hot Springs, where lots of people were stopping. Personally, with the temperatures in the high 90s, I wasn’t very interested in anything with “Hot” in its name, so I passed the springs up. As I was slogging along in the oppressive heat, I rounded a corner, andWOW! All of a sudden the temperature dropped 15° or so, and there was a spectacular view of Pismo Beach and Oceano with crystal blue waters and palm trees aplenty. We were definitely in SoCal now!
I arrived at camp at 2 and got another massage – mmmmmmmm. I could definitely get used to this! The wonderful crew of section ‘D’ had brought everyone’s gear and tents to their campsite, which was waaay cool of them! Camp was at the Oceano Airport (which was shutdown for the weekend). I heard that it was pretty near the beach, so I went for a walk and after a slightly brambley trek, came out on the beach. It was a nice beach, with a few cars on it (it was one of those beaches that folks can drive out onto). Camp was only a few blocks from some restaurants, so some of us SunSpots walked over to a Mexican restaurant where I had two much-needed Dos Equis and some yummy chimichangas. Many of the SunSpots stayed to watch the basketball game, but I meandered back and called my folks to update them on my progress.
Back at camp, I met the “Chicken Lady” (a very personable transvestite who was along every day of the ride cheering everybody on – very cool). The evening program had the top 10 list as usual (top 10 things the AIDS ride can do to help the California power crisis):
#8: Shorten the Top 10 list
#5: Hook 3000 AIDS riders up to a treadmill
Heh… heh… heh… OK, so it was funnier than most of the top 10 lists had been 🙂 After the evening presentation, there was a talent show. The emcee was a spitting image of Frank DeCarro (the movie critic for Comedy Central’s Daily Show). Someone did an amazing flag dance, an HIV+ rider (AKA a “Positive Pedaler”) from the Charles Schwab team sang an amazing rendition of “My Moment” (the singer could be on Broadway, I’m convinced!), and finally someone karaoke’d ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. I went to bed around 9:40pm, a bit later than I had intended, but oh well.
Day 4 Ride Stats:
Day 5 – Oceano to Lompoc
I woke up at 4:55 as usual, did the morning rituals, and hit the road around 7:10. This was the shortest day of the ride at 55 miles, so I decided to take my time, as camp in Lompoc didn’t open until 1pm. Though this was a short day, it was pretty hilly (and felt much worse to my increasingly tired legs!). We headed southeast on Guadalupe Rd. to Pit 1 (13 miles), which had a loose Harry Potter theme. There were swings here, and lots of riders were swinging happily to and fro 🙂 I got a lightning bolt stamp on my forehead, had my morning bottle of Spiz, and headed southeast towards Santa Maria and pit #2 at Adam Basin Park (23 miles). There were some children there asking us to sign their tshirts and helmets, which was very cool. There was a Peter Pan theme at this pit, and both Peter and Tinker Bell had sparkle gel that they were putting on everybody, so I rode the rest of the day with red sparkly arms 🙂 As I was leaving, a large group of cute little kids arrived to meet us.
From Santa Maria, I headed through Casmalia and on along lots of agricultural land, and it started really heating up. It was somewhere in the high 90s for most of the rest of the day – oof! There were 3 large’ish hills on the route. I barely noticed the first one, but was very glad there was an ice cream truck parked on a corner. I’m sure the proprietor made a killing that day, as nearly everybody (myself included) stopped and had an ice cream to ward off the heat.
Pit 3 (33 miles) was bloody HOT, so I just filled up my bottles, stretched, and hit the road. I figured I was going to be hot anyways, so why not be moving? A mile later I hit the “Climb for Life” hill. Owwwwwwww. It was moderately steep, very hot, and had neither shade nor breeze. I wound up pouring quite a lot of water over myself to keep cool, and drank a whole bottle of water on the climb, which was only 1.2 miles long! After this hill, it was a lovely ride through a valley out to Vandenburg Rd. and the 3rd climb.
About this time, a rider got on my wheel and started following me very closely. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem (though its much more polite to ask before drafting someone), but drafting is strictly prohibited on the AIDS ride, and people have been kicked off of the ride for doing it, so I was a bit annoyed by this. As we approached Vandenburg Rd., I saw some small ants far above me on the road, then realized “Oh crap – those are cyclists!” This was the last climb, affectionately known as “Pain Pass”, but it wasn’t actually all that bad, as we were getting nearer the coast, and there was a bit of a breeze. The gnat who had been drafting me was still doing so, even though at 5mph uphill, there’s absolutely no benefit in doing so. After finishing the climb at Vandenburg AFB, I sprinted up to 30mph on a slight downhill and lost him 🙂 Just before pulling into the lunch stop, a spoke came unscrewed yet again, so I had to pull off and thread it back in. This was getting pretty tiresome! I ran out of water a few miles before lunch (I went through 2 24oz bottles in 15 miles!), but thankfully it was cooler here, so I didn’t need water very much.
I arrived at lunch (48 miles) at 11:50, so I took my time, as it was only about 7 miles to camp, which didn’t open for another 1hr 10min. I found a bunch of SunSpots resting under a tree, so I joined them and ate my salami sandwich. After a leisurely lunch and stretch, I hit the road, and in short order arrived at camp at the Lompoc River Park.
Camp was in a very lovely location, next to a large strawberry field in a park with a big lake with a fountain in the middle of it. There were mountains all around in the distance, which added to the scenic nature of the camp. Unfortunately, this camp was very spread out, and required a good deal of walking between bike parking, tent spaces, gear trucks, shower trucks, and food tents. It was nice, though, how they rearranged the tent layout at every camp so you always were near a new group of people. I had a yummy dinner of tortellini with pesto alfredo with kielbasa (who’d have thought to combine all of those ingredients!?? It was tasty and filling, though!). At 5:30 I wandered over to the chiropractic tent to see if they could make my back & shoulders feel better. I’d never been to a chiropractor before, but they did a dandy job cracking my neck and lower back. I was diagnosed with “Biker syndrome”, which they’d been seeing a lot of (not surprisingly!). They also showed me a few stretches to help alleviate pain in the future. I spent a bit icing my knees, as they were a bit sore, then went to bed around 9’ish.
Day 5 Ride Stats:
Day 6 – Lompoc to Ventura
I woke at 4:50 to a rather damp tent due to the condensation, did the usual morning things, and hit the road at 7:20. They were handing out red ribbons to everyone at bike parking, as today was Remembrance Day. It was very slow leaving camp, as they were holding everybody up for traffic breaks. It took about 20 minutes just to get out of the campground! It was a good opportunity to chat with people, though, so I didn’t mind too terribly much. I wasn’t feeling terribly well a few miles into the ride – I think I should have had a second dinner, as I was extremely hungry, despite having just eaten a fairly large breakfast. By this point in the ride, my metabolism was in high gear, and it was getting difficult keeping from being hungry! The route went south on Hwy 1 along some scenic rolling hills.
At Grab ‘n Go A (15 miles) I had a Spiz, and soon felt much, much better. I continued on Hwy 1 until we merged onto Hwy 101 and headed down Gaviotta Pass. This was a fun downhill, marred only slightly by the myriad semis barrelling down the road next to us only a few feet away. I soon pulled into pit #1 (22 miles) at Gaviotta State Beach. This was a pretty little beach, and the pit had a country western theme (which didn’t encourage me to stay too terribly long, as they had C&W blasting on a stereo).
I continued south on Hwy 101 where there were again a ton of trucks (many of them were the trucks hauling the camp down to Ventura, though, so they were extra courteous and cheered us on). This is a very beautiful stretch of highway along the Pacific Ocean, blemished only by the shilouettes of oil drilling platforms a few miles out on the ocean. Why anyone approved planting these unsightly things along this most beautiful coastline is beyond me (OK its not – I’m sure it was the money!). Pit 2 (39 miles) was at Dos Pueblos Canyon. I didn’t stay very long at this pit, but did take some extra-strong Ibuprofen to quiet my aches. I continued south on 101 towards Santa Barbara for a short ways until we got to UC Santa Barbara, and had lunch on Storke Field (46 miles). Lunch was chicken salad pitas, and was quite tasty! I didn’t stay too long, as I’d heard that there was an unoffical pit stop put on by the people of Santa Barbara, and it was not to be misssed!
After lunch the route went along a ton of bike paths, first along the beach (very pretty!), then along a river. These were really nice bike paths, and some of them were exclusively for the use of bikes – no pedestrians allowed! Shortly after the bike paths ended, I arrived at pit #3 (58 miles) at Santa Barbara City College. Clif Bar had a ring toss game to win a propellor for one’s helmet, but I sucked at it, and won nothing *sniff*. I was told that the unoffical pit stop was shortly after this pit stop, so I really didn’t spend much time here at all.
Sure enough, a few miles later, there was the stop. They had the route marked with enticing signs congratulating the Santa Barbara riders, and promising a “Clif Bar free zone ahead!” 🙂 They had all manner of junk food (Snickers, M&Ms, Milky Ways, etc), chocolate covered strawberries, hot dogs, and ice cream. I had some strawberries, a turkey dog (which tasted awfully good!), and a really yummy cone of rum-flavored ice cream. I wish I’d had to use the porta-potties, as I heard later that they actually flushed, and had a hand-pump sink in them – ooh the luxury! I spent a good while at this pit stop, as it was a lot of fun, and the hosts were very nice.
It was a short distance from the unoffical pit stop to Grab & Go B in Carpenteria (what an odd name for a town – it sounds too much like the Carpeteria carpet store!). Not to be outdone by Santa Barbara, the folks of Carpenteria had set up tables next to the Grab & Go (or “Pee ‘n Flee” as they were affectionately known) with lots of nutbreads and other good eats. I realized that I had been missing having nutbread at the rest stops, as so many other rides have had. I imagine they didn’t have it, as finger food can be rather unsanitary, especially when you have almost 3000 riders picking at it!
After leaving Carpenteria, the route continued south on Hwy 101 to Seacliff, then continued on Hwy 1. This leg was very, very scenic as it hugged the coastline for miles and had long vistas down the coast of beaches and palm trees. Pit 4 (78 miles) had a Christmas theme. There was a Christmas tree directing bike traffic in, a snowman made out of Chamois Butt’r, and a Santa and elves posing for pictures. The elves were hilarious, making mischevious faces and suggestive poses as pictures were being snapped 🙂 I would have gotten my picture taken with them, but there was a pretty long line, so I just watched in amusement. I met up with Cindy (the tentmate of Lee, the lone female SunSpot), whose foot was bothering her, and we rode back to camp together.
Camp was at San Buenaventura State Beach, and was drop-dead beautiful. It was right on the sand dunes next to a huge beach, the weather was wonderful (if a bit overcast), and the sand was nice and warm. Dinner was a chicken & sausage gumbo with muffins – very filling and yummy. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of the food on the ride – it was not just the bare minimum you’d need to replenish energy. Most of it actually tasted good!
The evening presentation was on Remembrance, and Dan Palotta gave a speech about losing his partner to suicide. It was a touching speech, however, I thought it would have been more appropriate to have people who have lost loved ones to HIV & AIDS speak. There was much grumbling from various folks expressing the same sentiment. This was the last night of camping, and although I was eagerly looking forward to sleeping in a real bed and giving my butt a break, I was also sad that the camraderie would soon dissipate and we would all go our separate ways. I went to bed around 9’ish with the waves crashing in the distance. Very nice!
Day 6 Ride Stats:
Day 7 – Ventura to Los Angeles
I awoke at 4:45, packed my gear for the last time, did the usual morning stuff, and hit the road at 6:45. It was overcast, quite humid, and pretty warm as I headed out. The route went out on city streets for a ways, then onto Hueneme Rd towards pit 1 (18 miles) at Point Mugu Naval Air Station. There was a drag queen doing an … um … interesting dance with a bicycle pump. I had my last bag of Spiz to supplement my snacking, and headed back out.
From Point Mugu I headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway. This is a really beautiful stretch of road, hugging the coastline as it winds its way southward. It would have been even more picturesque if it had been sunnier, but then again, it would also have been much hotter! I stopped to snap a few pictures at a particularly pretty cut in the rocks, then continued on my way towards Malibu. Pit 2 (32 miles) was at El Pescador State Beach in Malibu. This was a nice little beach, and I stayed a while. Since we had to wait at the finish in LA until everybody got in (or got driven in if they weren’t there by 4), I was in no hurry.
Out of pit 2 I continued south on the PCH past myriad beaches with beach volleyball courts and palm trees. Many bleach blonde surfer dudes in convertibles were honking and giving us the “hang 10” sign – I didn’t think people actually did that in real life! 🙂 After a little while, I pulled into lunch at Malibu Lagoon State Beach (45 miles). This was a beautiful beach, and I ate a leisurely lunch with some fellow SunSpots.
After lunch I continued south on PCH for about 10 miles before turning off onto the beach bike path in Santa Monica. After a short hike-a-bike down a flight of stairs, under PCH, and up a flight of stairs, the route turned onto San Vicente Blvd. This was a very pretty road with very expensive-looking houses all long it. A few miles later, I pulled into pit 3 (60 miles) at University High School. I met up with a few SunSpots here, and also saw my friend Lorri, whom I hadn’t seen since Day 1. After hanging around a while, I hit the road for the last stretch to the LA Coliseum.
The last leg of the ride went on some pretty busy LA streets, but there were a lot of folks about cheering us on, which was nice. After a turn onto Olympic Blvd., I could almost taste the end of the ride! The last few miles of the ride were a bit anti-climactic, as they went through a not-very-good area of LA (Watts). There was nobody on the streets, and the few people watching us from their yards looked suspicious when we said “Hi” to them, but some of them appeared to loosen up and waved at us. Being a lower-income area, and lower-income minorities being very at-risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, I took some solace that we were helping get the message to those who need it.
Before I knew it, I was at the Coliseum and the end of the ride! There were a fair number of people cheering everybody in. I dropped my bike off at bike parking, got my victory t-shirt, and scarfed down some yummy food and a couple of sno-cones. It was pretty hot in the rider holding area where we waited for 4:00 to roll around. I went out to cheer in riders (and find some shade to sit in – it was pretty durned hot!) for a while. The piggie team all finished together and let out a big collective “oink!” when they did 🙂
Shortly after 4, they started to call out groups to get their bikes and assemble for the final ride-in. It took a good while to get everybody together, so I chatted with the folks around me while we waited. At around 4:45, we started the final procession and (very slowly!) rolled around the coliseum towards Exposition Park and the closing ceremonies. There were a TON of people lining the sidewalks cheering us in – I got a bit choked up at all of the support the family and friends (and others) of riders showed. It was pretty amazing! We rode up onto the lawn to the stage, and then THE RIDE WAS OVER! Woo-hoo!! People were lifting their bikes over their head triumphantly (including yours truly:) and spraying water everywhere from their bottles. There was another walking of the riderless bicycle by the same positive pedalers who had walked it out at the ride start in San Francisco. Even the second time, it was very moving. After a brief speech, the crew came up the middle aisle to extremely raucous cheers from the riders. Many of the crew looked a bit taken aback by the ovation they received, but they totally deserved it, as the ride wouldn’t be possible without their support. After the closing speeches by the exec. directors of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center and the SF AIDS Foundation, it was over.
I headed to the guest meet ‘n greet area to find my cousin, Jeremy, who was picking me up. Thankfully I found him easily, picked up my gear and eagerly put on my sandals, and he took me to his place in Los Feliz. It wasSOOOOooooo nice to take a fully private shower and use a flushing toilet!! Its the little things in life that make the difference ‘ya know 🙂 Jeremy, Maggie (his girlfriend) and I went to dinner at a yummy Mexican restaurant, then chatted for a while at their place before I retired to blissful sleep in a real bed – mmmmmmm.
Day 7 Ride Stats:
I woke up early on Sunday morning, as I didn’t want to take up too much of Jeremy’s day getting me home. He drove me to my sister’s place in San Luis Obispo. We had lunch at a really really good Irish pub in Santa Barbara, then continued north to SLO, where we went out for drinks at the bar my sister works at, then she drove me back to Fremont. I thought it worked out pretty well having them share the driving (it might have been tough convincing either of them to drive me the whole way anyways! :). I got back into Fremont around 8:00, and we went to dinner at my favorite Thai place. It actually felt very surreal being back at home after all the events of the previous week. Sort of mundane.
I suffered with a bad case of the post-ride blues for the week following the ride, and had to resist the urge to call out “on your left!” when walking past people in the halls at work 🙂 This was an absolutely incredible experience for me that I shall never forget. The high emotions of being around so many like-minded, supportive, kind people for a week, balanced by the reality of why we were riding made for a bit of an emotional roller-coaster.
My sincerest and deepest thanks to my sponsors, with whose generosity I raised $4500 for AIDS support and research, and everybody else who supported me with their words and love, if not their pocketbook!
|Total time:||53h 17m (2.2 days!)|
|On-bike time:||37h 59m (1.6 days!)|
|Average speed (including stops):||10.5mph|