Friday, June 20, 2008

ALC Day Two

Day 2 - Santa Cruz to King City, 105 Miles
(Complete Photo Set On Flickr)

I forget how early we woke up for day 2, but I remember most people apparently woke up much earlier then we did since many tents outside our team block were broken down already. Jared stood around outside his tent in pajamas staring off into space for quite some time before actually moving to action.

Team Midnight Tent Block Lance breaks down his tent.

The first long stretches of road on day two were fields and more fields of strawberries. The pictures don't really do justice to what it was like, especially the intensely sweet smell in the air.

Endless fields of strawberries. Endless fields of strawberries. Endless fields of strawberries.

In addition to the strawberry fields the rest of the landscape was quite beaitful as we went through wetlands and then into dry brush. You really see the diversity of landscapes California has along the AIDS LifeCycle route. Day 2 also featured a rolling stretch of bike only path and it was really pleasant to not have to think about cars on the road for a while.

One of our first bike only roads.

Strong winds slowed progress toward lunch. Meghan who had suffered a knee injury after being merged into by a car a couple months earlier, started to feel pain again in her knee even though it had not bothered in her in our last training rides. We were quite eager for food when we finally got to the lunch stop, and did some stretching as pirates directed riders to bike parking. Yes, pirates.

Team Lunch Time Ridazz 2.0 Team Lunch Time Ridazz 2.0 Team Lunch Time Ridazz 2.0

As we left lunch and started making our journey onward we started rolling through wine vineyards, with vines grown upright into perfectly groomed rows. It was a beautiful sight, that mix that only comes with human influence over nature's growth.

Orchard

Rest stop 3 seemed to take longer to get to then anticipated, and Meghan had started dreaming of pain killers. The terrain was not especially challenging, but when winds start coming into play, elevation graphs are no longer an accurate measure of difficulty. Personally I'd rather face a hill climb then a strong head wind, because at least with a hill I can see what I'm up against and pace my self accordingly. Wind is an invisible force that can change it's whim unexpectedly and when it's against you, it can be relentless.

Rest stop 3 was appropriately at a vineyard, making it one of the nicer rest stop locals of the trip. After some sunscreen reapplication, snacks, and drinks it was time to hit the road again.

Meghan applies sunscreen. Johanna squeezes Randy. Danny & Steph

Again the wind was the most challenging part of riding on day 2, mostly crosswind, that would occasionally be direct headwind as the road would bend. After the turn toward Rest Stop 4 we encountered extremely strong cross winds forcing riders to angle sideways to counter balance. When large trucks would pass this could become tricky because they would temporarily block the wind, forcing you to resume riding upright, but as it finished passing you would need to angle again as the force of the wind returned. This was proving to be a long day of riding, and not just because it was 105 miles.

Fallen Tree
Danny Farmlands

At long last I spotted the cones for the infamous Rest Stop 4, and as I approached closer I saw our welcoming committee. The stories I had heard about Rest Stop 4's elaborate efforts to entertain riders while they snack and hydrate had built up a reputation that did not disappoint. I'll let the pictures do the talking, and you can see some of that crosswind in Miss Period's hair.

Rest Stop 4
Rest Stop 4 Rest Stop 4 Rest Stop 4 Rest Stop 4

After leaving the rest stop it was back into the fury of the cross winds blowing hard from our left. When there are cross winds from the left there is nothing more exciting then making a right turn, and sure enough it was a right turn to the road that would be our last leg to camp.

Of course the flip side to fighting winds is having the wind on your side, and what an ally it became. With winds that intense at our backs up hills felt flat and flats felt like downhills. Most seemed interested in taking this opportunity to ease the pedaling and keep the same pace, but now with less effort. I get too excited by the chance for speed and just like I love to bomb epic downhills, with rocket powered tail winds I wanted to blast off. I didn't have a bike computer with me, but for those 10 miles or so I felt like I was averaging at least 25 with moments of 30+ and even 40+ on the slight declines. Fwoooosh!!

Rolling hills with a tail wind. Fun fun fun!!

With mother nature giving us a boost home it wasn't long before we were setting up camp for the night, waiting in lines at the shower (except for the women as mentioned in Day One), and putting food in our face. I don't really remember much about the food, it's all a blur, I just remember shoveling it like there was no tomorrow. One of the things I was grateful for through out the trip was my vegetarian wristband. Since there was a separate line for us veggies, we got dinner immediately while everyone else waited in epic lines. Yay for instant gratification!

Liz Meghan

2 days down 5 to go. Primarily so far I had kept pace with my girlfriend Meghan, but due to Meghan's knee injury coming back to haunt her, she especially wanted to take it easy on day 3 to recovery. So we agreed we would go our separate ways the next morning, and I would get my fix for speed in the day ahead.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ALC Day One

Day 1 - San Francisco to Santa Cruz, 79.3 Miles 

The 4AM Drive To Cow Palace The 4AM Drive To Cow Palace

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.

Where's my bike again? Bikes, bikes, bikes, echo, echo, echo.

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!!!

AM Randy Johanna kicking off the morning stretches. Opening Ceremony

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.

The Starting Crowd

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.

Cathy Ready To Kick Ass Shaun at Rest Stop 1 Rest Stop 2 Rest Stop 2 Meghan at the lake crossing. Jared & Shaun.

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.

Rest Stop 2

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.

Faeries lifting riders spirits at the top of the climb.

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.

Lunch Stop Lunch Stop Lunch Stop Lunch Stop Lunch Stop Lunch Stop

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!

Gifts courtesy of the pie lady.

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.

Night time bike parking.
(Bikes go to sleep too)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ALC Day Zero

OMG We're here. It's the front entrance.

The day before AIDS LifeCycle begins, there is a mandatory orientation process, often referred to as Day Zero, and is held at the Cow Palace, also the site of the ride start. With a combination of bike and more BART action I got down there in fashionably late fashion. I learned quickly though rolling in later makes everything much easier because most everyone tries to process everything in the first couple hours of opening. Hence I waited in much shorter lines then most. On this day you also drop off your bike to be numbered and scanned into their highly official bike database system thing.

One of the essential parts of this orientation is a video, focused primarily on safety issues for riding on the road. Everyone must watch it in it's entirety. If you leave to go to the restroom, you have to come back and watch it all over again. Once you have seen it, you are given an orange wrist band of safety, that is to remain on your arm until the ride is over. It is rumored those without orange wrist bands are never heard from again. (* Not an actual rumor. Or is it...)

Madatory Orientation Video Madatory wrist band of safety.

This orientation day is also the last day to process money to your fundraising account and have it count toward the minimum requirement. Not everyone on the team had hit $2,500, but with some last minute checks we had available to process, we all hit the mark and were ready to ride, woooo!

With some time left to kill and now bikeless, we used the Muni to get back to the BART station and went to the Mission District in search of delicious vegan food from the notable veggie haven, Herbivore. In preparation for many long days of riding, it was time to exercise our other favorite pass time, putting food in our faces.

The Mission District was a cool place to walk, with lots of interesting murals and shops to feed the eyes as we made our way to feed our stomachs. Herbivore delivered the awesome, and lived up to it's reputation. Everything was exceptionally delicious. Pictured in the middle right below is their yummy carrot cake, but the vegan chocolate shake truly stood out, being the best chocolate shake of my life, vegan or otherwise. Mmmm chocolate...

Mission District Murals
Herbivore Herbivore Walking The Mission District

Satisfied and ready for early bed, in anticipation of the 5:00 AM arrival for cyclists the next day, we boarded the sleepy time train. Did I mention I love BART?

BART BART