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California AIDS Ride 5 Participation Report – Part Two

June 10th, 1998

SAN FRANCISCO TO LOS ANGELES – 576 MILES

The route to Los Angeles was laid out in a zigzag fashion designed to keep us on the least traveled roads whenever possible. There were times when we shared a route with heavy traffic lanes and a few instances where a portion of the 101 Freeway had an official bike lane along the shoulders. Wind sheer from large passing trucks was probably the most unsettling hazard, though the proximity of speeding vehicles in lanes adjacent to bicycle routes is never a comfortable feeling. However, we received excellent traffic control support from our support crew. Leaving San Francisco our first destination was the coastal city of Santa Cruz. Next day, Monday, we continued southeast into the Salinas Valley town of King City. Paso Robles at the valley’s southern end was our Tuesday evening campsite and on Wednesday we rode west and then down the coast to a campsite which filled the runways of the Oceano Airport. Afterwards, it was Lompoc on Thursday, Ventura on Friday and then into the Century City area on the Los Angeles-Beverly Hills border for the closing ceremonies late Saturday afternoon. The entire route totaled 576 miles in length. The longest segment was 102 miles on the second day with the shortest being 57 miles on Saturday. Along the way we climbed up and over Highway 92 and in the following days a number of other ridges, peaks and hills bearing such names as Quadbuster, Evil Twin #1, Evil Twin #2, and Agony Grade. Near the top of every hill and steep grade would be a crowd of crew and speedier bicyclists clapping and cheering us on towards the summit. We occasionally observed exhausted riders walking their bikes up the longer and steepest grades. I was delighted to realize that my own training had left me better prepared than expected, for I was able to ride my bike the entire 576 mile route.

LOTS OF SPECIAL MOMENTS

My ride days were filled with memorable sights and events. Obviously, bicycling is an excellent way to really appreciate the countryside and to notice the extreme contrasts between busy city streets and the quiet of pastoral farming communities. The Salinas Valley with its’ normally 100+ degree heat was 20 degrees cooler this year making for mostly pleasant cycling days. We did encounter 20 miles or so of rather brisk head winds towards the end of the second day. As for moisture, other than a few hours of rain on Wednesday between Paso Robles and Morro Bay, the days were all cool and dry. The people we encountered were uniformly kind and welcoming. Lots of signs lined the route which either welcomed us or memorialized family or friends lost because of HIV/AIDS. Numerous passing vehicles honked salutes, sitting and standing spectators clapped, school children asked for autographs and, for me there was an especially memorable route segment along a farm road in which every telephone pole was adorned with a red ribbon and at the end was a country school house whose class stood in front lining the road and cheering us on. The message I received from all along our route was that there is definite value in using events like the AIDS Ride to continually publicize that the terrible HIV/AIDS scourge remains with us, no one has been cured, people are still becoming infected while others are dying and it’s up to all of us to continue our efforts at education and support until the day when the disease has finally been conquered. I have to tell you that my eyes were wet from tears on more than one occasion before the week had ended.

LIFE IN A TENT CITY

Home, at the end of the day, was our mobile community which the wonderful crew moved and laid out each day between 8:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Following my arrival “home” to the cheers, whistles and applause of other cyclists and crew members, I checked myself and bicycle into the secured parking area. Then off to the tent truck line followed by a search of the grounds for a tent space marker labeled “C-82”. Since there were markers for over 1600 tent sites, finding my own wasn’t always the most straight forward task. Assembling the 8’ x 8’ free-standing tent was a simple affair and nearby tent neighbors could always be counted on for assistance if wind or other problems made tent assembly difficult. My assigned tent partner, Brendan, was a nice young man from Los Angeles. I always arrived in camp first so I performed tent setup chores. Brendan oftendeparted later than I each morning so he assumed responsibility for packing the tent up and returning it to the tent truck. Once the tent had been assembled, I would look for the baggage area and the truck bearing the label “C”. After retrieving my backpack and transporting it to the tent, it was off to the shower truck area. These were large mobile units containing 16shower stalls, in two separate men and women sections. Afterwards it’s back to the camp entrance to lend my own applause and whistle sounds to the others there welcoming incoming riders. At 7:30 p.m. an area of the camp set aside for events hosted the evening’s speakers who summarized daily activities along with announcements concerning the next day’s route, followed by the evening’s entertainment program. One evening comedienne Paula Poundstone joined us (for her third year) and performed a two-hour comedy routine. Lights out and quiet time lasted from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. the next morning. Nutritious meals (though in a category different from gourmet) consisting of breakfast from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and dinner from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. were served in camp daily. Lunch consisted of sandwiches, salad, chips, soft drinks, cookie and fresh fruit served from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. on the route at Pit Stop 3. In addition to Food Services trucks, a tent truck, the baggage trucks staffed by volunteer UPS employees, and the combination shower/laundry/lavatory trucks, our mobile community had a Bicycle Repair Services unit, a Medical Tent staffed by UCLA Medical Center volunteers, Sports Medicine Tent,Chiropractic Tent sponsored by Los Angeles College of Chiropractic, Massage Tent, General Store Tent, Camp Services Tent and a Media Relations Tent. 

A TYPICAL DAY ON THE RIDE

In the mornings I was usually awake and up before 5:00 a.m. That allowed me time for the lavatory line, the port-a-potty line, the food services line, the fresh milk line, the coffee line, breakfast, the coffee line (again), and a few minutes to scan our morning camp newsletter The Daily Ride. (Now, three points about those lines. First, they were always fast moving; second, they provided an opportunity to meet others and exchange greetings, etc.; and third, and of most importance, they saved money! By standing in line, less money was being spent on extra services, and more of the funds raised went to the foundations. We jokingly groused about the lines, but none would have opted to have it otherwise). After breakfast it was back to the tent to roll up my sleeping bag and ground pad, pack my backpack, carry it to the baggage truck and finally off to the bicycle parking area. Departure from camp (provided I was successful in locating my parked bicycle) usually occurred before 7:30 a.m. amidst a long line of other cyclists. It usually took from 5 to 10 miles before the bunched-up groups of riders began to string out along the route. For the remainder of each day whenever I looked ahead or to the rear there were always bicycles for as far as I could see. Throughout the ride the sight of cyclists stopped along the route was a common occurrence. They were there for tire repairs, bike repairs, broken bikes or bodies, pay phones and port-a-potties. The latter two always had lines in front of them. Official Pit Stops were located from 15 to 25 miles apart and these rest areas had room for bike parking, numerous port-a-potties, a beverage tent, snack tent (Cliff Bars, bananas, oranges, nuts, etc.), medical services tent and bicycle repair crew. Crew member teams at the Pit Stops competed for our attention through contests, wearing unusual costumes and passing out beads, and cards, etc. They worked very hard at encouraging us in every way possible. Riders also made a point of encouraging each other, helping each other and in general proving that it is possible for a community of 3300 strangers to come together for seven days and exist as a tightly knit group of caring individuals determined that all finish – and together!

– Continued in Part Three –

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