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 my 2015 ride (and the thousands of people living with HIV that depend on the Los Angeles LGBT Center for health care), click here. And many thanks in advance if you do.
Waking up was rough going today, but we got on the road just past 7:30 and made our way into the Lockwood Valley like good little piggies. It was cool but not damp, though as the day wore on we worked up enough of a sweat that we were damp anyway by the time we reached the town of Bradley at 12:30. Along the way we stopped at the lavender fields of Creekside Farms, climbed the infamous Quadbuster hill, stopped at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, and passed countless acres of verdant grapevines.
The wind came at us from nearly every direction and the temperatures quickly climbed over 85 degrees. In Bradley, the sun beat down on us as we stood in line to buy lunch from the local schoolchildren. Roadies ran along the line handing out peaches and potato chips. The local fire department manned the grills and churned out thousands of hamburger patties as well as (for the first time) pork carnitas tacos. And this time, they offered a special deal to anyone willing to buy a $100 burger: No waiting in line, a table in the shade and an eager student happy to get you anything you needed to enjoy your meal.
One of my teammates bought the $100 burger. He said it was worth the price of admission. And those tables stayed quite full until the time the lunch stop closed at 3:00pm. Together these 2300+ riders raising money for HIV/AIDS services helped a town fund its fine & performing arts programs as well as their field trip fund for the entire year. One of my friends, a fellow Brendan no less, who works for the city of West Hollywood told me this evening that this annual stop in Bradley is one of the main reasons he keeps coming back to the ride. I agree it’s a pretty awesome part of our journey, though this year it nearly took me down for the count.
You could say that my engine overheated. One minute I felt great and ready to ride on to Rest Stop 4’s infamous annual drag show at Mission San Miguel. Then I reapplied my sunblock and suddenly I felt like someone had tapped me on the shoulder and whispered “you’re pushing too hard.” Something in my gut told me that if I got back on my bike I would not make it to camp in very good shape. As I wavered on what to do, several friends looked at me and said I was not my normal self. So I made a tough decision: I moved my bike to the rack that would have it sent directly to camp and I hitched a ride in the car with Chris & my teammate Paul to Rest Stop 4 where there was plenty of shade under the canopy of olive trees in the courtyard of the mission. I lost about 23.5 miles as a result of looking out for my well-being, but at the same time I was grateful that I wasn’t just sitting on a bus headed straight for camp.
We’re constantly reminded that AIDS/LifeCycle is not a race. Sometimes it’s hard to hear those words. What am I racing for or against? Myself, of course. I don’t want to let you or the people this ride supports down. I want to be the change I wish to see. I want to believe that every mile pedaled brings us closer to finding not just a cure, but hope. And I want to believe that I can do this until we don’t have to do it any more.
Tomorrow is a fresh start and a new adventure across the Pacific coastline (after we get past the Evil Twins on Highway 46, that is). Soon we’ll be halfway home, but the journey is far from over. Even if my butt would like to argue otherwise. Once I find my bike in the parking lot, I’ll get right back on it. Tomorrow I will be a hill killer. Promise. Assuming the zombies don’t get me first, that is.