WELCOME TO LA LA LAND
We awoke to day seven of the AIDS LifeCycle day to a light June gloom hanging over us, that morning fog so typical to this part of California in late spring. The mood of the camp matched the weather. While I think most of us felt happy that we only had 60 miles of biking left on the ride, the thought of leaving camp and the friends we had made over the past six days left its own haze hanging over camp.
Today’s ride mostly followed the Pacific Coast Highway, revealing how many of the rich live (hey, was that Cher’s palatial mansion we just passed in Malibu?). Unfortunately, the police had been warned of our not-so-rich presence, and decided to come out and ticket riders who ran any stop signs or lights. I passed one straight couple on a tandem bike being given a ticket by one of these gentlemen. Ughwhat a nice “Welcome to Malibu, riders!”
On day seven of the AIDS LifeCycle ride you encounter some tough hills, but more difficult are the rows of cars parked on your right for miles on end; surfers, beachgoers and locals with houses on the beach seem to have no place else to park. This made for some challenging cycling as you had to maneuver a thin line with masses of traffic passing two feet to your left and the threat of a car door opening to your right at any minute. It was hairy cycling to say the least, and I felt lucky to have survived it intact. After the ride, I spoke with a woman who said she loved doing the ride but felt that she couldn’t consider doing it again: “It just felt way too dangerous to me. I didn’t feel safe,” she said. I could understand her fear.
SPEAKING OF DANGER…
We were just about three blocks from the finish line, cruising through some residential neighborhoods, when I made a right turn and accidentally popped out of my right clip. Attempting to clip back in, I missed the pedal and started to fall down. Through some miracle I managed to go from a 35-degree angle back to upright, but only after cutting my left leg on my bike and eliciting some “Whoas!” from the people behind me. My body was already beat to within an inch of its life after finishing 584.5-ish miles, but it managed to pump up the old adrenaline machine anyway, so I rode between the rows of onlookers and into the finish area with my heart pumping like mad.
Everyone warned us newbie riders that the AIDS LifeCycle closing ceremony can be something of an anti-climax. And I agree with themto a certain extent. For me the real closing ceremonies happened after we put away our bikes. I found myself hanging out with a group of guys I had gotten to know on the ride; we reminisced, vowed not to drink another Gatorade for at least a month (and then went and got one anyway), and then exchanged hugs and email addresses. I really enjoyed that closing ceremony, because I learned that most of these guys were coming back next year, which means I’ll see them again.
The closing ceremonies themselves started about an hour later, with riders getting on their bikes and riding into an open square at the veteran’s center. People lined all sides and cheered along as thousands of riders filed in, followed by the volunteer roadies who accompanied us. I took a lot of pictures and listened to the nice speech from the mayor of Los Angeles, but by then the ride had already ended for me; all I wanted was to hop in my friend Michael’s car and ride back to my hotel so I could remove my tight running shoes and peel off my sticky, nasty biking shorts. Which I did, then bathed, had a snack, and promptly fell asleep at 8:30 p.m. and slept straight through the night.
AN ODE TO ROADIES
The volunteers along the ride are known as “roadies,” and they’re an incredibly important part of the AIDS LifeCycle ride. They feed us, transport our gear, massage us, treat our injuries, mark our route, stop traffic from killing us, help us fix our bikes when they break, and guide us through just about everything else you can think of that would or could go wrong on a 585-mile bike ride down the left-hand coast of our country.
This year, almost 400 roadies accompanied the 1,839 riders who made the journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles. At the closing ceremonies, the roadies entered after the riders, and the collective cheer that we riders let out spoke volumes of our feelings for them. We all chanted “Roadies! Roadies! Roadies!” as they marched into the square. I think that despite the workout we cyclists endured, the roadies had it even harder, often getting up in the middle of the night to start their shift, lifting heavy bag after heavy bag, cleaning up our crap, and hopping in a van to do it all over again the next day.
Which is why I wrote a poem about them. Yes, a poem. Now, keep in mind that I’m not a poet; not even close. Actually, I think the last time I wrote a poem, my senior English teacher in high school actually read it out loud so that the class could have a good, derisive laugh at my expense. So as you read my “Ode to Roadies,” below, I hope you take away these two things: (a) A sense of just how fried my brain must have been after seven days and 585 miles on my bike to actually consider attempting poetry in a public venue, let alone rhyming poetry; and (b) a profound understanding of just how much respect I have for these awesome individuals who saved our collective rider butts dozens of times each day on the road. So without further ado, cover your ears and “enjoy” my “Ode to Roadies”:
Oh roadie gear truck goddess,
How your morning smile shines.
Your biceps are the hottest,
They’re twice as big as mine!
Oh roadie nurse, good medic,
There in sun or heat or rain,
You’re so darned sympathetic,
When I come to you in pain.
Oh roadie on the food line,
You serve up quite a marinade,
It tastes so warm and divine,
But please, no more Gatorade!
Oh roadie in the massage tent,
Kneading tired muscles so well.
I have just one small question,
Does it bother you, our smell?
Oh roadie on your motorcycle,
You make those mean cars stop.
You guide us on our bicycles,
Oh sh*tis that a cop?
TEN REASONS YOU SHOULD DO THE AIDS LIFECYCLE (OR SIMILAR CHARITY SPORTING EVENT)
Sitting back home in San Francisco, my brain still buzzing from the road and my face a nice, leathery, sun-burned red (very flattering), I can’t help but realize I’ve become a convert to this kind of sportthe charity kind, that isand in particular the AIDS LifeCycle. I have met so many friends and experienced so many emotions, learned so many things about my own strengths and weaknesses while helping others through theirs, all while doing what I love to do bestgive my body an incredible endurance workout.
So to close this seven-day log, I thought it appropriate to try to convert you, dear reader, with a top-ten list of reasons that you should consider signing up for the AIDS LifeCycle or similar charity sporting event:
- It’s a lot of fun.
- You will be helping people in our community who sorely need it.
- It’s seriously so much fun I can’t describe it.
- You will make a lot of friends with really good people.
- I think it was one of the top four most fun weeks of my life. I can’t write about the other three or my boyfriend will kill me.
- You will help open the world’s eyes to the unjust suffering of others.
- It’s better than sex. Well, not really, but hey, maybe you can meet someone nice you want to have sex with—there are lots of cute men on the ride!
- You will find strength you never knew you had and learn to fight through your weakness.
- You will get incredibly defined calves.
- You will see places you’ve never seen, meet people you’ve never met, and learn that it is, indeed, possible to develop an intense love-hate relationship with an inanimate object, in this case your bike seat.
1 out of 5
Pain? What pain? I feel nothing below the waist.
READY TO RIDE?
Learn more about the Positive Pedalers, register for LifeCycle 6 or read more about the event at aidslifecycle.org.
Jeff is rider no. 2111. To make a donation to Jeff or to the AIDS Lifecycle in general, visit aidslifecycle.org.