And I’m bound to keep on ridin’

I think that was the longest I’ve ever gone without writing.  I didn’t realize that I didn’t get anything up the week before I left until, like, ten minutes ago.  If you had seen this place that week you’d have run and hidden.  It was insane.

I hadn’t camped since 1974 when a bear came and swatted my sleeping bag.  I was way down in the bottom hiding when he looked down the bag at me.  My friend says “They can smell fear”.  Great.  It turned out to be a cub but that ended camping for me.  I still have that sleeping bag which has a tear in it, but technology has changed since then.  A lot.  I bought a new one, and a sleeping pad.  I had the bike tuned up and I have to give props to the boys at the Sports Basement bike shop in Walnut Creek.  A lot of people spent a lot of time at the Cannondale bike repair booth.  I never saw them.  I don’t even know what they looked like.  No flats.  No bike issues whatsoever.  None.  My little Specialized Roubaix just rolled.

The AIDS/Lifecycle has been going on in some form or another for a total of 18 years.  It’s been called the AIDS/Lifecycle for 10 years and this year was the 10 year anniversary.  It was the single largest fundraiser to fight AIDS ever.  We raised over $13 million.  There was a brouhaha when they fired their original producer.  It was because production costs kept going up.  This thing is put on for $.30 on the dollar.  The logistics were amazing.

We know why I rode, the December Project pretty much laid that out, but as the week progressed there became more reasons to ride.

  1. AIDS is the world’s number one infectious killer
  2. AIDS is the number one cause of death in sub-saharan Africa
  3. A gay man in San Francisco has a 60% chance of acquiring HIV before his 40th birthday.
  4. A gay man of color in San Francisco has an 85% chance of acquiring HIV before his 40th birthday.
  5. AIDS is the number one cause of death for African American women under the age of 40.

That last one blew me away.  Basically I thought of the young African American women I knew and the fact that if one were to die the chances of the AIDS virus being her killer was staggering.  The disease has changed.  Positive Pedalers, a team of HIV positive cyclists who road the ride had jerseys that said “If one of us has HIV, we all have HIV.”  They weren’t this year’s jersey, but I thought it was a great statement considering that HIV isn’t what it used to be.  It’s throughout society and it affects everybody.  Someone asked me about Magic Johnson the other day.  My answer was that he is and was stronger than most Americans and had access to the best health care in the world.  That is why he’s lived so long with the virus.  I know people who have been living with it for 25 years.  It’s why the ride will go on.

It’s hard to know where to start talking about this ride.  The logistics?  The ride itself?  The Rest Stops?  Red Dress Day?  Or the State of California?

I’m going to start with the State of California and come back to the other things later this week.  There are 96 photos for me to choose from and 529 miles to pick from.  The ride was actually 560 miles.  The medical staff advised me to come off the ride on Day 4.  I rode another 15 miles before I did what they told me to.  I must learn to ride faster.  Riding faster equals less time in the saddle.  And time in the saddle was the problem.

To the people of the State of California, I got to see what you were made of this week.  I am a proud Californian.  Although really, we need to fix our roads, they are crap.  My ass will tell you about that later.  California, you came out in the rain and the fog and the crappy weather and you rang cowbells and clapped and handed us strawberries and licorice.  You put on silly costumes, you played music for us as we went by, you waited for us at the top of the hills and some of you followed us all the way to Los Angeles.  There is the town of Bradley and Paradise Pit.  And the Cookie Lady.  Not to be confused with the Chicken Lady.

I missed the Cookie Lady.  She was at the Otter Pop Stop.  There was so much jackassery going on at the Otter Pop stop that I missed her completely.  The Otter Pop Stop was supposed to just be a Water Stop.  It went very wrong somewhere.

The guy with the mouse ears was really really sweet.  And I would really like to be a member of Team Popular because their jerseys were so awesome.

But I digress.  The unofficial stops were something.  The town of Bradley shuts down for the day the AIDS/Lifecycle comes through.  Everybody and I do mean everybody comes out and they put on a barbeque for the riders.  They offer massage, homemade brownies, and lunch that isn’t turkey.  I’d been hearing about Bradley both before and on the ride.  As we got off of the the 101 at the Bradley exit to ride through town we were met with red ribbons.

They were tied to every tree all the way into town.  Bradley, population 120.  They pay for all their extra curricular school needs with the proceeds from this barbeque.  He’s a little tiny town who has probably been crushed by budget cuts and they figure out a way to make it work.  And have for many years.  They were amazing.

Another unofficial stop is Paradise Pit.  It’s a little triangle of residual land in Santa Barbara where East Cabrillo turns to Channel Drive in Santa Barbara.  There’s trees and grass and Paradise Pit.

It is a Powerade and Clif bar free zone.  McConnells fine ice cream of Santa Barbara provides the ice cream, the locals provide everything else.  Several ladies offered me fresh chocolate chip cookies, there was a bakery there, a booth for ice cream, another booth for toppings and no Powerade any where to be found.  Not only that, they had running water to wash up with.  It was packed with riders and locals.  There was an official Roadie there trying to get us to ride on, but it was a big party and no one was heading out too soon.  The lovely Ginger Brewlay was there as she was every step of the ride, in a different but equally tacky and fabulous ensemble.

Yep.  That’s bubble wrap.  Kind of like Joan Rivers gone really really wrong.  More wrong than usual.

Next up: Rest Stop jackassery.

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