Maybe it’s not to late, to learn how to love and forget how to hate

I might be working on a theme today.  Embrace the crazy.

Yes, I’m back from AIDS/Lifecycle 11.  Yes, it was tough.  Very tough.  But not as tough as last year.  Strangely even though I didn’t train as much as I did for ALC 10, (too much real estate to sell) I trained smarter and that was a good thing.

Day 1 was pure joy.  The weather was gorgeous, Highway 92 into Half Moon Bay did not swallow me up like it did for ALC 10, no construction on the 1, and I got into Santa Cruz about an hour earlier than the year before.  Great start.  My tentmate naturally got there before me.  She was a five time rider and former AD at the Jewish Community Center here.  She was in her 60’s and quite honestly, she was kind of an inspiration.  She rode every mile (a lot of us didn’t) and beat me in every single day but Day 2, but we’ll get to Day 2 in a minute.  The tent was always set up when I got there and more importantly, and thankfully, two years with a tentmate that didn’t snore.  Winning.

Day 2 started out with such high hopes.  It was warm in Santa Cruz.  It’s June, that should only mean glorious weather…..right?  Not so fast bucko.  Warm mornings and cloud cover can also mean impending rain.  Many of the riders left without jackets, rain gear, leggings.  It would be a mistake.  Although I wasn’t too thrilled to have a jacket and leggings when they were soaked and the rain was pounding down and I was worried about whether or not I was going to live through the morning.  Day 2 starts in Santa Cruz and winds down the highway through Aptos, Watsonville, Salinas and then heads out to the center of the State where we bust through Soledad, Greenfield and end up in King City.  Last year we road by Hahn Family Estate and I’d had conversations with my friend Mark and he was going to work out a Hahn Family water station for the riders this year.  Most of us never saw Hahn this year.

The storm started spitting around 10am.  By 11am it was raining.  The roads were slick and it was rough out there.  I’d passed Rest Stop 2 and chose to ride on.  I’d say probably 5% of the riders quit at Rest Stop 2.  Between 11 and noon it became a downpour.  It was dangerous and if you weren’t cycling your heart out, it was cold.  But going fast was dangerous, so it was a very delicate balance.  Personally, I am always ready to meet my maker.  The morning of Day 2 I thought it was a real possibility.  I got into the lunch stop a few minutes after noon.  I put my bike on the SAG rack.  (SAG isn’t an acronym for anything.  It’s the support vehicles for those who sag behind or need support in).  I quit on Day 2.  I was cold and hungry so I got a sandwich thinking I would get on the SAG bus after I ate.  Medical was running around cutting out head and arm holes in garbage bags for the riders and handing out mylar blankets.  I huddled with about 40 riders against a building that was blocking the wind.  We were under the eves and huddled together under mylar blankets and still all shivering uncontrollably.  About 5 minutes after I sat down Neil Giuliano, the CEO of the SF AIDS Foundation and a cyclist himself came around and said “We’re closing the route.  Please bear with us while we put our emergency plan in action.  We’re getting busses for you.”  I’ve got to say, You’ve-done-a-heck-of-a-job Brownie could have taken some advice from Neil.  Neil is no one trick pony.  He was the Mayor of Tempe, Arizona from 1994-2004, elected to four terms.  The dude is for real.

We waited for seemingly forever but in reality it was about 15 minutes.  The medical staff came by and asked if anyone was shivering uncontrollably.  Why yes, we all are.  They didn’t pull anyone out but I think we made it clear that hypothermia was the order of the day.  I later saw the gal who was sitting next to me.  She had asked me repeatedly if I was OK.  I’m my father’s daughter.  I’m fine.  But in truth I was shivering uncontrollably and just wanted to go to sleep.  Not good.  She was treated for hypothermia by the medical staff.  I’m pretty sure we all needed to be treated but there just wasn’t the resources.  Not to worry, Neil was on the job.  Probably 15 minutes later he came back and had gotten the Student Union at Hartnell College which happened (or maybe didn’t happen, was strategically) across the street from the park we were stuck in.  About 1200 of us were brought into the Student Union to warm up.  The hand dryer in the restrooms became a clothes dryer with a line out the door.  And then the entertainment began.  Because if you give a bunch of cyclists mylar and leave them to their own devices, jackassery becomes the order of the day.

This doesn’t even show the best of it.  One gal had bunched up the mylar to make one of those neck things like Mary Queen of Scots.

Just ridiculous stuff.  And now we were warm.  And it didn’t matter how bad it was.  I actually can’t remember how cold I was, but I know that it was one of the coldest I’ve been in my life.  At one point before we were moved to the Student Union, Lorri Jean the CEO of the LA Center came by to check on us.  Lorri is a boisterous character who begins every speech by bellowing “Hellloooooo Riders!!!!” and the crowd goes nuts.  She came by to check on us and there was a new crews with her.  She was definitely not boisterous.  There was concern on her face that she had a totally jacked up situation on her hands.  Not to worry, as cold as we were, shivering under those eves, we pulled on out of our asses.  “Are you guys OK?” she asked.  Stealing from the tag line for this year we all said to the news camera “You belong here!”.

About 200 riders were stranded in the parking lot of the Assembly of God church in Marina, CA.  They were going to wait it out.  The church allowed them in to the sanctuary to seek refuge from the storm.  They said “this is what Jesus would do.”  They took up a collection to pay for cleaning up the mud tracked in by the riders and the church thanked them but said “If it’s ok with you we’re going to use this to help the homeless.”  For a community that has been marginalized and stigmatized and abused by the church as much as those the ride represents I thought “my God, somebody actually read the good book!”

Day 3 is Quadbuster.  It’s a bitch of a hill, mostly because of it’s appearance.  Mt. Diablo is harder.  Quadbuster is a little more than two miles with an average grade of 5.2% with a change of elevation of 591 feet.  It’s a Cat 3 hill.  Mt. Diablo has Cat 1 places and has over 1589 feet of climbing with an average of 6.9%.  Actually I just figured out why I did better this year.  I didn’t train as much but I trained a lot on Mt. Diablo.

Day 4 is the Evil Twins and the “Halfway to LA” stop.  I took a picture up there last year when it was socked in.   This year it was clear as a bell up there.  My phone was dead so I couldn’t get a picture so I didn’t wait in line to take one.  HOWEVER, I did notice that behind the drop of rocks and scenery just beyond was to gorgeous Pacific Ocean.  One problem.  When we approached it, the ocean was on our left.  I turned to another rider and said “Did anyone notice that we’re heading to LA but the ocean is on our left?”  I think I’m the only one that gets that.

Day 5.  Tragic.  On every level.  It’s Red Dress day.  Originally it was Red Day but this crew just can’t leave anything alone.  The original idea was as we came down the Pass it would be a red ribbon symbolizing the fight against AIDS.  That lasted about 15 minutes.  One of the top fundraisers is a Doctor in San Francisco.  This year he had platform stilettos.  And cleats attached to the bottom.  He has his bike shop give him the specific adjustments to move the seat so that he can ride the 42 miles without hurting himself and the bike remains fitted perfectly.   The good Doctor raised over $40k this year and over the years he is just short of having personally raised $250,000 in the fight against AIDS.  I wish I could find a picture of this year’s stiletto’s, it was amazing.  He’s amazing.  As an aside, the ride used to go through Solvang but because of Red Dress Day the holier than thou community of Solvang declined the permit.  Solvang is permanently off my travel log.  And I will never ride a century in Solvang.  So there.

My dress choice was pure trailer trash.  I got it off the sale rack at the K-Mart at the end of the block.  I even left the tag on.  Riders would go by and say “Your tag is still on.” and I would say “I’m going to take it back to K-Mart after today”.

Unfortunately, I thought I reached all of my back with sunscreen.  Notsomuch.  You can see the sunscreen worked fine on the front.  And I got the Y at the top of the sports bra on the back too.  And as much as I could reach.  I didn’t realized I couldn’t reach it all or I would have asked for help.  I ended up with a second degree sunburn on two kidney shaped spots on my back.  I didn’t notice until Day 6 when I pulled off that sports bra and the blisters started bursting.  Back to medical.  At first they were like “you big baby, go sit over there.”  And then when I pulled up my shirt she said “Oh honey, let me get a Doctor.”  I couldn’t see it because there’s no mirrors on the ride, thankfully.  They put antibiotic cream and aloe vera on it and had me come back the next morning.  The guy the next morning was a Doctor.  I told them that the evening crew said to come see him in the morning.  I pulled up my shirt and he said “Oh honey! Let me get some gauze.”  He put non-stick gauze all along the straps of the sports bra and it did great for Day 7.

Day 6 is my favorite day.  We leave Lompoc (pronounced Laum-poke BTW) and head over the Gaviota Pass into Santa Barbara.  They changed the route this year and quite honestly, I liked it better.  The ocean is on our right for the bulk of the day.  It’s just a day that makes me very happy.  This year was even better, the sun was out.  It was the kind of perfect Santa Barbara day that lures in tourists to move there.  There’s only one day like this in the month of June and we hit it.  And it was glorious.  The boys from Rest Stop 4 have a dance party on the beach in Carpinteria and the City of Santa Barbara all comes out and creates Paradise Pit where they serve us McConnells ice cream, cookies, play music and let us wash our hands with real water instead of the sanitization system we have to use on the ride.  I love Day 6.

Day 7 we bust into LA about as quickly as we can.  Our legs are dead but we find a way.  Malibu was clear and sunny this year.  It was good and bad.  Good in that it was a gorgeous day, bad in that the beach was full of people which meant we were dodging people, children, dogs, surfboards, car doors and a host of other unexpected hazards. Still, I didn’t notice Cher’s home last year.  This year as I rolled past it I thought, “what a spectacular property” just as a guy passed me and said “Do you know who’s house that is?”  “Nope”  It’s Cher’s.  Oh, no wonder.

I made my $5000 goal.  Thank you for your support.  And yeah, sorry bro, I signed up to do this bullshit again.

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