AIDS LifeCycle 9 - June 2010

Part III


I’m thankful that I had the camera with me as it’s hard to put into words just how stunning this journey was.  My appreciation for California has been multiplied several times over after seeing so much of it from my saddle. 

The change in foliage as we travelled from northern California through the central coast into southern California is a wonderful thing to see and as a ride, over the 545 miles we saw everything, farmland, forests, lakes, the Pacific ocean, mountains and hills for miles, towns, villages, cities.  The ride was also incredibly challenging with killer climbs combined with the conditions; shivering cold in the morning with belligerent heat in the afternoons reminding me with every turn of the pedals that I was earning my sponsorship money.

Hopefully the photographs will go some way to showing the diversity of the land we travelled through and just how gorgeous much of it was.  It won’t show you the ten mile climbs, or the severity of the Quad Buster climb, nor will it show you just how tough the last twenty or so miles of our ride to Lompoc was, with headwinds that forced my speed to lower than 10mph and that was without the hills or the gusts that almost brought me to a complete stop.  They also won’t show the joy of riding through Shell Beach and being greeted by a whole class full of school kids cheering the riders on and holding out their hands for a high five on the way past - an absolute highlight.

Probably the overriding thing for me though is the characters that I encountered along the way.  I already mentioned the Pos Peds, but lets put it into context, I completed three months of New York Cycle Club A-19 SIG training going into this ride and I still found it tough.  There were riders by my side that were going through the ravages of HIV or AIDS and still finding time to take medication that were completing the same miles and climbing the same hills as me.

And the people who lined the streets day after day offering encouragement and support.  A bowl of mini chocolate bars at the top of a trying hill or a cooler full of ice and water.  People singing songs to us at traffic lights or dressed up making us laugh to take our mind off climbs.  This ride means so much to people.  As we pulled into Santa Cruz and as I waited at a light I saw a woman holding a billboard featuring a picture of a young man with the dates ‘1974-1996’ underneath, as I looked at the image and read the dates and then looked at her she blew me a kiss.  I can only imagine who the young man was, I’d guess her son and the fact that two thousand plus riders are out raising money to make the lives of AIDS sufferers more comfortable clearly meant the world to this woman.  I’ll remember her face for the rest of my life.

Or the ‘Chicken Lady’, a veteran of AIDS LifeCycle.  He wears a chicken head on his helmet and carries a bag that looks like a chicken.  He stops along the way leaving plastic eggs in his wake.  I stopped to collect one and it contained a lifesaver candy and a handwritten note that simply said ‘you are amazing’.  This is how much this ride means.  How long must it take for him to write those notes and fill those eggs?  On the last morning he’d attached eggs to every one of the over two thousand bikes.  He thinks we’re amazing, I think he’s amazing.

My quads were killing me on that last morning, a combination of six hard riding days behind me.  The last day was shaping up relatively simple, save a few hills on the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu, the route from Ventura to the finish in Los Angeles was a short sixty two miles.  Both Andy and I were determined to go express so that we could get to Los Angeles and in particular Santa Monica by 11am in order to get a good seat to watch the England -v- USA World Cup game.  With that as an incentive we crushed the miles and flattened the hills and made it in an astonishing three and a half hours and deviated from the cue sheet to watch the match in English heavy Santa Monica before making our way to the finish line at the VA Centre in Westwood.

The streets were lined with people holding aloft signs calling us heroes.  I don’t think we’re heroes, not in the slightest but I’m proud I took part in AIDS LifeCycle and I’m proud of my friends for backing me so handsomely with their sponsorship.  Us riders had the experience of a lifetime and raised almost 11Million Dollars in the process and I’m humbled that I was part of that.

Thanks to everyone who supported me either financially or with words of support (or both!).  Ultimately, for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, you were as much a part of this as I was.


11th : Lompoc - Ventura | 12th : Ventura - Los Angeles | 13th : Day off | 14th : Chief gig!