This year's California AIDS/LifeCycle ride got off to a record-breaking start on Sunday with over 11 million dollars raised in donations, the most in the seven-year history of the event. For those not familiar with it, the AIDS/LifeCycle ride—fondly known to participants simply as "the ride"—is a seven-day, 545-mile bike ride (and rolling party) from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This year, more than 3,000 people—about 2,500 riders and over 500 volunteers and roadies—are making the trek. The enthusiasm involved goes beyond mere numbers: For the first time, the ride's registration filled up months in advance of the actual event, and this despite the well-known fact that day three of the ride involves a hill known terrifyingly to many as "the Quadbuster."
Each rider raises at least $2,500, which goes to benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center in order to fund AIDS services and prevention programs, including needle exchange, outreach, and drug distribution programs. At over $11 million raised this year, AIDS/LifeCycle outdoes any other annual event in AIDS fundraising.
RealJock's own Devin Wicks, designer of the Strength Foundation 12-Week Workout program, is on the ride as part of the UC Berkeley team and is checking in with us regularly for a behind-the-scenes account of the pain, the food, and the fun that are the AIDS/LifeCycle ride. Here are a few of his highlights so far:
Day one: Riders set out on Sunday from the Cow Palace in Daly City, California and headed for Santa Cruz, 76.3 miles away. They were supported from lunch—eaten on famous Highway 1—onward by tailwinds, lending an auspicious start to the ride. Many of the regular cast of ride characters were present and accounted for—draq queen extraordinaire Ginger Brulee, for example, who was a participant in a LOGO documentary about the ride, and who has been along for every ride since its inception, providing encouragement and humor in a variety of increasingly outlandish outfits.
There were also some new characters this year, destined to become instantly famous—one rider didn't know that he was supposed to drop off his gear at the beginning of the day to be hauled to camp for him, and so rode all the way to Santa Cruz with his suitcase on his bike. Ouch! But many of the most important participants are the least celebrated. The ride is, as Devin described it, "a moving city of 3,000 people; and the roadies and volunteers are there for all of it. From food to medical to ambulance to handing out ice water and carrying gear and picking people up when they break down—they do it all. They come to support every rider to make it all the way to the end—to make sure every rider is safe, hydrated and cheered into camp, up a hill, into the bathroom—and they're pretty amazing."
Day two took riders—many of them already with sore legs and tender butts—from Santa Cruz to King City, in the Salinas Valley, the agricultural belt of California. Temperatures were reasonable for this time of year, averaging around the high 70's. Day two of the ride is largely about food. Not only do riders pass by all the crops of California—lettuce, strawberries, garlic, all a sight to behold—but Devin also told us in great detail about the cooked food, including roadside fried artichokes, served with dipping sauce, and the always popular water stop handing out Otter Pops. We also heard about the Cookie Lady, who baked some 2,700 cookies that she served this year with the help of her father, who flew in from Indiana for the event and dressed head-to-toe in drag. There is also some unintentional eating that goes on: as Devin put it, "all afternoon today it was sunny, windy, dusty; it was a great opportunity to taste a delightful mixture of sand and dirt. We don't only get to see California, we get to taste California!"
While the biking is challenging and fun, the social life on the LifeCycle ride is largely about rest-stops, which occur about every 20 miles. Not only is there food and camaraderie to be found there, but more exciting sights as well. Every rest-stop has a theme, and the wilder the better. Day two's racier rest-stops included the Dancing Bears in tutus—"and by that I don't mean the animal," Devin says (woof!)—as well as the skinny dipping rest-stop, where riders strip down and dive into a river to, um, cool off. We asked Devin if he participated in this last adventure and got a cheerful, "Of course!!" as an answer—but sadly, no photos were apparently taken at that rest-stop. Maybe next year….
Look for another update from the ride on Thursday, when Devin and the rest of the riders will have conquered the Quadbuster.
AIDS/LifeCycle Quick Links