Day 1 - San Francisco to Santa Cruz, 79.3 Miles
At the very early time of 4:00AM, my sister gave Meghan and myself a lift with our gear bags to Cow Palace for the ride start. After dropping off our gear at the loading truck, we went to bike parking to fill our bottles and top off our tire pressure. The bike parking for AIDS LifeCycle reminded me of those images from Copenhagen, where so many people ride that it actually because difficult to find your bike.
Afterwards we grabbed some complimentary breakfast and waited as the rest of our team showed up. As people rolled in I could see we were all still adjusting to this early scheduling, from Midnight Ridazz to Crack of Dawn Ridazz. Soon after it was time for opening ceremonies and we funneled into the main auditorium.
The ceremony was a mostly somber event underlining the reasons AIDS LifeCycle exists, to help those with AIDS and prevent future cases, while also congratulating participants on the substantial money raised in these goals. This year the ride raised a record 11.6 million dollars! Our team of 20, unusually young with lots 25 and under riders, raised over $56,000. AMAZING!!!
After the close of the ceremony it became a pedestrian traffic jam as everyone made their way to bike parking for the ride out. I regrettably did not get many pictures from the start of the ride, but as I exited the doors, I was overcome with the moment finally arriving and the frenetic atmosphere. Masses of riders flowed out of the building, surrounded on all sides by cheering spectators.
In the confusion of getting the bikes and the crowds at the start our team was split up. We would run into each other at rest stops and points of interest along the way and formed sub groups of riders of various paces, which is how the team dynamic functioned for most of AIDS LifeCycle.
It was gorgeous weather for riding, and I think we were all excited to be riding in new territory, especially amongst such picturesque landscapes.
Ordinarily on most days of ALC riders trickle onto the course in waves during the window from route opening to morning camp closing. On day one everyone rolls out together, which was an amazing sight, but it also meant lines for snacks, water, and restrooms were quite epic at the first couple stops of day one. Lance pictured below waiting in line at the porta-potties.
One of the things that consistently amazed me about AIDS LifeCycle were the people who would cheer on the riders, often toward the tops of hill climbs. They would cheer for every rider who passed with the same enthusiasm, no matter how many hundreds or even thousands had gone by already. It's hard to not be smiling at the top of a climb when a woman in a fairy suit is shaking pom poms at you.
The lunch stop was gorgeous and my teammate Johanna who rolled in with me was looking especially awe struck by the surroundings. After parking my bike I also got a chance to chat with one of the guys from the triple tandem bike team, who put on an impressive display of coordination during the trip. As more of our group rolled in we gathered around for team face stuffing time. I remember the vegetarian sandwich was especially good that day.
In addition to the official rest stops a long the way, some of the locals host their own stops at the side of the road too. Sometimes these stops are fundraisers of their own, bringing funds into their local economy. On day one there was a complimentary stop for delicious fresh pie. Pie after pie was sliced up and distributed to riders who gathered at the roadside, free of charge. Considering the number of participants in the event, that is a monumental undertaking of pie making. My thanks go out to the pie people!
After pie it was time for the home stretch and we blazed a path for the camp site. I skipped Rest Stop 4, which I later regretted, but this was before I heard the tales of the Rest Stop 4 crew. There will be more about them later.
Before long, we were one day of riding closer to home, and it was time for our first night of camping out. One of the remarkable amenities provided on the ride, are portable shower facilities carried on trucks. The lines were long (especially for the men, since someone didn't do their math when comparing the gender demographics), but after a long day of riding, there is nothing quite as rejuvenating as a good shower.
While most were rolling out the sleeping bags, I ducked out to bike parking to fill mine and Meghan's bottles and top off air pressure so we wouldn't have to worry about it during the morning rush. One day finished, six more to go.
(Bikes go to sleep too)