This post is adapted from a series of emails I sent to the people who donated to support my participation in AIDS/LifeCycle 2014. If you’d like to support me in 2015, click here.
I’d like to take you on a journey with me, down a road I’ve traveled twice before during the first week of June. For seven days (and 545 miles), I join several thousand cyclists and supporters in raising money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. It is both the most exhausting and the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of. And this year it took on special meaning for me as I rode in honor of my mother, who passed away last September.
AIDS/LifeCycle has been around for over 20 years (originally it was called the California AIDS Ride) and over that time cyclists have ridden over 20 million miles on their bikes in order to raise money and awareness. When I first began riding in 2012, my friends and I formed a team called The Pork Pedalers. All of us were first-time riders then. Heck, many had not ridden a bike since junior high. But this cause struck a chord with us all. Our motto is simple: United by bacon to end AIDS.
That first year, we all camped in the tent city that moved along with us down the state towards Los Angeles. Camping isn’t really the right term though, since riders are fully supported with medical teams, chiropractic services, fresh hot meals, and even hot showers each evening. Really the only bits that qualify as camping are sleeping in a tent and having to use a port-a-potty.
I was in By Scouts for pretty much my entire childhood, so I was no stranger to camping. But I won’t lie, adding seven full days of bike riding into the equation really changes how one feels about sleeping in a tent. My second year on the ride, I stayed in hotels. The contrast in how much more rested I felt each morning was shocking. It was still a thoroughly exhausting week, but I felt like I could handle it better. Plus, this way I was able to throw a pool party for the team mid-week.
This year Chris came along for the first time as part of the AIDS/LifeCycle media team. Since he was driving our car along the route, I didn’t get to fly up to SF with my teammates like I had in years past. I have to admit, I really missed that experience. The first time we flew up together was pretty awesome. The purser on our flight gave us a shout-out on the P.A. and gave us all a free cocktail to boost our courage. It was the best send-off I could have asked for.
Day 1: San Francisco to Santa Cruz
We stayed at the Hyatt Union Square thinking that we could get more sleep before our ungodly 4:15 a.m. wake-up call for the start of AIDS/LifeCycle. Day Zero (orientation day) for the previous two years had been spent at a friend’s house with several other riders, which always resulted in late night chatter and giggling and a mere four hours of slumber at best. This time, I was bound to change that.
The universe has a sense of humor, though.
We were blessed with a neighboring hotel guest who had absolutely no concept of what inside voice meant (even after 10 p.m.) and this was coupled with an unfortunate incident with the bathroom sink that had Chris mopping the floor until almost 11pm. So yet again, I awoke to the start of this long and grueling journey sleep-deprived and feeling totally unprepared for the day. Well, I had prepared in one way. I took a jersey that fellow cyclist & Pork Pedaler Bryan Prado gave me and made it a little bit more special: