• Photo for End of the Road: Memories from the Last Few Days of AIDS/LifeCycle 9
    Photo Credit: Devin Wicks

End of the Road: Memories from the Last Few Days of AIDS/LifeCycle 9

By L.K. Regan

Last week we spoke to our own Devin Wicks,creator of the RealJock Strength Foundation workouts and fitness operations director at the University of California, Berkeley, about his experience on the first half of AIDS/LifeCycle 9. This is the famous 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. We want as many people as possible to sign up for AIDS/LifeCycle 10—an important anniversary year—so we checked in with Devin to get a sense of how the ride wrapped up, and why you would want to go.

We last heard from Devin just before Red Dress Day, when all of the riders, as he says, "put on red dresses and look very hot and sexy riding out of the little farming town of Santa Maria." Unfortunately, he says, "there were incredible headwinds as we rode to Lompoc [the day's destination], so there were 1900 extremely frustrated cyclists all in red dresses—but having a lot of fun." The next morning, with dresses packed and bike shorts back in view, the riders wound down Highway 1 (complete with dolphin sightings) to Santa Barbara. Here the riders paused at the Paradise Pit (that's Devin in the photo on the right, in between two of the "angels" staffing this rest stop). The angels serve neither Clif Bars nor Gatorade—this stop is all about junk food, ice cream sundays, cookies and massages. After all, the end is in site, and, as Wicks says, "When you're riding that hard, any food is good food."

That night, the riders rolled into Ventura and held the annual candlelight vigil. Here is Devin's description of the event: "Once all the riders are in, we have a vigil, a moment of reflection. All the riders, and the roadies and the volunteers all come out and get a candle and stand on the beach in the dark. They reflect on the reasons they're riding, or on lost friends. This is not formalized, you just make a giant ring and take some time to reflect. When people are finished, they often put out their candles in the ocean. For a lot of people this is a very powerful and moving experience."  

That is the last night the riders spend together. The next day is the ride from Ventura to Los Angeles. "It's a bittersweet occasion," Devin says, "because you're excited to be almost done, but you'll miss everyone and the experience." This day started in typical California "June gloom" but ended with beautiful weather and thousands of people gathered for the closing ceremonies, which are, Wicks reminds us, "a moment to celebrate and thank roadies for helping out." After the ride a lot of people stay in LA, whether to attend LA Pride, in which many of the riders actually ride, or "just to go for a massage, because you really, really need one!"

Next year's ride will sell out early—Wicks is already signed up for it with the UC Berkeley team. So why should you join? "People have their own reasons for doing it," he says. "Some for a challenge, some for the cause, but a lot end up finding that not only do they do it for themselves or own goals, but because they come away with such a sense of community. This is a week spent in a world where everyone is there to help everyone else. So it's a bittersweet ending, because you're leaving that world to come back to the normal world. The ride is there for a lot of reasons, and a lot of riders find things they weren't expecting—friendship, community, new awareness about HIV/AIDS and about the agencies served, new ways to get involved. After the ride, I miss all that camaraderie and community that develops over the week."

AIDS/LifeCycle 10 will take place June 5 - 11, 2011. Get registered and get on your bike.