California AIDS Ride 5 Participation Report – Part One

June 10th, 1998

Dear California AIDS Ride Sponsors:

The May 31 – June 6, 1998 California AIDS Ride is now history and its primary objective of raising funds for the fight against HIV/AIDS was extremely successful. You and the other collectively contributed close to 10 million dollars through your support for this year’s AIDS Ride program. My own ride effort was sponsored by 113 persons whose generosity resulted in more than $6,000 in contributions benefiting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.


Last year (1997) when I undertook the AIDS Ride commitment I had only been bicycling for a couple of months. As a veteran day hiker and backpacker I assumed much of my body was sufficiently in shape to make the transition to bicycling a rather easy one. That assumption turned out to be somewhat optimistic and it required more time and effort to get my almost 60 year old body in shape for the AIDS Ride than I had expected. Nevertheless I proved to myself it can be done and I have no hesitancy in recommending it to others. Along the way I encountered riders of all ages and with many different body types proving that neither factor serves as a deterrent to the determined bicycling enthusiast. To continue, though, my own training efforts included a few temporary and annoying setbacks. Excessive training in October caused both knees to “go out” leaving me inactive for a month. El Nino blessed us with lots of wet weekends, making them unsuitable for training rides. In mid March while returning via bike through Sausalito I was hit by an automobile and suffered a leg injury which left me inactive for 3 weeks. (The driver became one of my sponsors). Despite these setbacks I eventually attained a level of fitness which allowed me to complete two Century rides of 112 miles each during the month of May. As the actual AIDS Ride date approached I was somewhat apprehensive whether my fitness level would be sufficient to meet the challenge and would have preferred more time to train. However, my training program ended the weekend before the Ride, for I spent the final week resting, away from my bicycle – and off my regular diet (that was the fun part).


Saturday, May 30, 1998, was Day Zero for all AIDS Ride participants. Many of us spent from 4 to 5 hours at San Francisco’s Ft. Mason Center checking in our bicycles and going through the mandatory registration and orientation procedures. That’s where I got my first taste of a fact of life which would be part of my existence for the next seven days – namely, long, long, lines! By day’s end I was wearing an orange wrist band attesting I’d viewed the mandatory safety video, a red wrist band bearing my official rider number (vegetarians also received a green wrist band), and a chain around my neck holding a tag bearing my tent number. I also received a luggage tag, a helmet sticker and a bicycle sticker bearing my rider number. After attaching the sticker to my warehoused bicycle, my Day Zero experience was over.


Sunday morning, May 31st, at 5:00 a.m. my good friend Nina Smith rang my doorbell signaling she was ready (even if I wasn’t) to transport me and my backpack of personal belongings down to Ft. Mason. After expertly navigating our way through the traffic jam of cars, taxis and buses merging at that location, Nina dropped me off around 5:20 a.m. I delivered the backpack to my assigned baggage truck, stood in line for breakfast and searched the crowd vainly for faces of others I had met on training rides. That morning I observed for the first time the full complement of 2600 riders and 650 crew I would be traveling within the seven-day journey to Los Angeles. Around me many had adorned their helmets with figures (Star Wars characters, Barbie Dolls, reptiles, Godzilla, Martini glasses, Animals, Stuffed Creatures, etc.) or were wearing distinctive costumes – anything to make one stand out in a crowd of 3300. Following breakfast there was an emotional ceremony in the Festival Pavilion followed by a brief sendoff speech from Mayor Willie Brown. And, they kept calling us heroes. Afterwards we were called by row number to retrieve our bicycles and begin the first day’s ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. My section of the group left Ft. Mason around 7:45 a.m. along a route filled with applauding and cheering spectators, giving us our first taste of the wonderful, uplifting, exhilarating, emotion-filled events which would so completely dominate our experiences throughout the week-long ride.

– Continued in Part Two –

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