AIDS/LIFECYCLE 2014 RECAP
FINALLY! Getting a chance to sit down and write about my adventures on this year’s Aids/Lifecycle. I posted when I could on Facebook and Instagram, but there’s no amount of photos or posts that can capture all that goes on during the ride.. and everything that makes it so incredible.
I covered alot of things in my posts from last year’s ALC ride, so i’ll try and breeze through the basics for anyone that’s already seen those (and if not, its worth the read!). This was my 2nd year riding for team FedEx which is one of the major sponsors of the ALC. Given the variety of personality and character within the team, we should be getting our own show in no time..
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
HOW LONG IS THE RIDE? HOW MANY DAYS/MILES?
7 days, 545 miles (roughly). Average distance per day is 80 miles. Shortest day is 42 miles (harder, more climbing), longest day is 108 (easier, more flat)
WHAT ROUTE DO YOU TAKE.. I-5? 101?
No!! And Not really… We do go along the coast and occasionally hop on 101, but its mostly back roads which is much safer and also much more pleasing to the eye. Lakes, oceans, hills, strawberry fields, vineyards, neighborhoods, small towns, we see it all!
WHERE DO YOU SLEEP? HOW DO YOU TRANSPORT YOUR STUFF?
We camp! ALC provides tents for all the riders.. A dozen Budget trucks are setup to take all of our gear and tents to the next location each day. So we basically get our stuff from the trucks once we reach camp, setup our homes, shower, eat, sleep, and breakdown the next day before hitting the road again.
YOU MUST HAVE TO BE IN THE BEST SHAPE OF YOUR LIFE…
Mehhhhh, I mean it helps but you don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to do this ride. There are people all ages, shapes, and sizes doing this. The youngest rider is 18 and the oldest is 84 (my dude Harvey from last year was back again)! Its not impossible but the more you train the easier it will be. Its def a challenge for anyone and not everyone rides every mile. There are sweep vehicles that go up and down the route all day looking for riders who can’t ride for whatever reason (tired, injured, mechanical issues, etc) and will take them to either the next rest stop or to camp, the choice is yours. You could skip a whole day to recover if you needed to, but obviously most rewarding to ride every mile everyday.
WHAT IF YOU ARE INCREDIBLY SLOW, DO YOU GET LEFT BEHIND?
Nope. You have from 630am – 7pm to complete the route. Each rest stop has a 2-3hr window that its open, anyone who doesn’t reach a rest stop in time will be scooped up by the Caboose and taken to the next stop, and if you’re not done w/ the route by 7pm you will be scooped and taken to camp. PRO TIP: Don’t get swept by the Caboose!! That being said, its a ride, not a race… There’s no prize for finishing first so its good to take your time and enjoy the day. Just gotta stay on track.
PEOPLE OF THE RIDE
2300 riders and 800 roadies (who are a HUGE part of keeping us safe, organized, and having the time of our lives). The demographic is all over the spectrum. Every race, gender (there’s more than two here), sexual preference, and athletic ability is represented on the ride. Its one the of the only environments i’ve seen where you can be 1000% your true self with no fear of judgement whatsoever. After a few days of the ride and certainly by the end, you will have seen it ALL, and will be completely desensitized to anything that may have shocked or offended you before. If some reason that’s not the case, then you’re doing it wrong..
Even those which are HIV positive wear their “Positive Pedalers” jerseys with pride, as they aim to be a positive influence in eliminating the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. They are no different than you or me, and you can’t spot them out of a crowd. One night at dinner the speaker asked all HIV positive people to stand up and a good amount of people in the room stood up, including the person sitting right next to me. Its still such a taboo subject that many infected people can be too scared to admit they are positive or even get tested in the first place, which is why this is still a growing problem. The Pos Peds encourage communication and support within that community, as well as raising public awareness. Much of the funds from the ALC event goes to the services and treatments that help these people continue to live long and meaningful lives.
THE FOOD (PORN)
Breakfast and lunch are usually variations of a theme.. Eggs, meat, potatoes, bread. Turkey sandwich, chicken wrap, or some vegetarian thing if you’re about that life. Dinner is usually pretty good and this year was off the hook thanks to a new caterer. You can eat as much as you want and after burning 4000 – 6000 calories/day, getting the steak AND chicken AND mac n cheese AND bread (with a diet coke of course) isn’t out of the norm.
During the ride there’s also unlimited snacks at the rest stops.. Bananas, oranges, peanuts, chips, pop-tarts, cliff bars, fruit snacks, water, gatorade, FUEL! The only way to make it through these days is to keep eating and keep drinking. As they say, this is NOT the week to be on a diet.
THE ALC “ALL-STARS”
Being that its my 2nd year on the ride, its nice to come back to some familiar faces.. most of whom have been doing this ride for years up on years. Here are some of my favorites:
– A 19 year vet and staple of the ALC ride- Chicken lady rides the course in her outlandish outfit, hiding colorful eggs along the route w/ treats inside for other riders to find. And always smiling. On the last day of the ride she rubber bands an egg to EVERY BIKE SEAT with a message inside. Along with a lifesaver candy with the note “you are a true lifesaver”. Every single one of the 2300 riders gets an egg. Amazing.
OTTER POP STOP CREW
– This is def one of the best stops of the whole ride. Big burly men in tutus basically throw a dance party in a open dirt lot.. giving out free otter pops and taking pics. Also at this stop is the COOKIE LADY who makes fresh baked cookies for all the riders, just like mom used to.
CONDOM / VIAGRA GUY
– He pops up in the most random places every day of the ride. Dressed like a giant condom or viagra pill he’s always yelling something like “keep it coming!” or “You’ve kept it up for 4 days!”
– Not one specific person but there’s always at least a couple guys who ride the whole day in their underwear and nothing else. Besides the ass pain of not having proper cycling shorts, its usually freezing cold for the first couple hours of the ride (then hot as hell by the afternoon). Kudos.
RED DRESS DAY
Once named “dress-in-red day” to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, its evolved into “Red Dress Day” with many of the riders wearing red dresses, and now going further into the creative spectrum with anything under the sun having to do with red. Its basically if Bay 2 Breakers was a cycling event. I have my limits and can’t get down with wearing a dress all day, however me and my compadres decided to go the super hero route. I managed to find an actual full spiderman cycling suit, which was amazingly comfortable (and stylish!). Some of the other outfits were priceless..
1371 – RIP Edna Flores-Lagunte
The last day of the ride got off to a somber start, as we were notified that rider #1371 had passed away after having a heart attack a couple days prior. Her name was Edna and this was her 13th ALC ride, which she was doing with her husband. She was a training ride leader for NorCal and collectively raised over $60,000 for the AIDS foundation over the last dozen years (She raised $13k this year alone). Only a few days prior she was interviewed and written up in the Huffington Post about how she got started doing the ALC and why she was riding this year.. which was in honor of a friend who wanted to do the ride but passed away in February. Just another one of those moments when you realize how precious and unpredictable life really is, and you never know when your last moments will be or the last time you’ll ever see a loved one. Never hesitate to tell someone you love them, and live each day to the fullest.. It might be the last day you have.
There’s an unlimited amount of stories so here is a mixed bag of moments captured along the ride…
One of the harsh realities of the ride is the ratio of riders to porta-pottys at any given time. Germs can spread quickly and we only have handy wipes and hand sanitizer to clean with. ALC preaches cleanliness after using the restroom and before eating 100% of the time. Nobody skips the poop table.
Every rest stop has a theme.. This year they added an “Orange is the new Black” stop, and these guys REALLY go all out to stay in character. At one point they bust out into a fake jail fight, however this is in a public park and on two separate occasions someone called the police to report a fight in the park. Little did they know it was just a handful of gay guys putting on a show..Doh!
Soul Train dance party @ the lunch stop on Red Dress day. They boasted that this is the “53rd largest Twister Board in the World”
Flat tires are a way of life when you’re biking 500 miles.. These Roads Ain’t Loyal..
An unlucky rider took a big spill on the highway after a HUGE downhill. They had to stop all riders on the side of the road as we were coming down while they got the situation cleared. In the 15 or so minutes we waited several hundred cyclists accumulated behind us. Unfortunately this was just one of many accidents that happened along the route that landed several people in the ER. Its all fun and games but safety is still a huge concern when dealing with this many people on the road (and many not-so-experienced riders).
6am Yoga Session before our 85 mile journey.
Day 3 has the infamous “Quad Buster” hill everyone is afraid of.. Happy to say my quads are still intact after climbing this, although its definitely no joke.
Day 3 is also when we pass through the small town of Bradley (population 120!!) for the special BBQ the grade school kids put on just for us. All money goes to their after school programs and in this one day they raise over $16,000 for their school.
This year they upped the ante and added a “VIP Package”: For $100 you get to skip the line, sit in the SHADE and get served your order by the kids. They only expected a handful of people to bite but they ended up having 40+ people spring for the VIP treatment. After eating Turkey sandwiches all week sitting on the ground in the hot sun, its a pretty attractive deal.
If this guy isn’t the Mayor of Santa Barbara, we need to change that STAT.
Crossing the finish line!!! Another successful journey across California. Such an incredible week and unique life experience, all for a great cause. Between the fundraising efforts of the riders and roadies, this year’s ALC hit a new record raising $15 MILLION for the SF Aids Foundation and LA Gay & Lesbian Center. Unreal. So happy to be a small piece of that.
Until next year!!