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ALC 2013 UPDATE: A LETTER FROM SOPHIE, THE $16K BURGERS, RED DRESS DAY, FINAL THOUGHTS

A LETTER FROM SOPHIE

As we got to camp on day 3 (after 66 miles of headwinds), each rider was given a folded piece of paper. I didn’t think much of it and didn’t look until I was cleaning out my pockets later.. turns out it was a letter from an elementary school student named Sophie. Sophie’s teacher has done the ALC ride 19 times, and this year (or perhaps every year) her students wrote letters to all the riders. Each letter is handwritten and each one is different. Sophie offered me a few tips (like watch out for glass and the cookie lady!) and words of encouragement. Despite coming from a total stranger, this letter totally made my week.

THE $16,000 BURGERS

Earlier the same day, we passed through a super small town called Bradley (est population is less than 100!). The first few years of ALC, they were less than thrilled at this event coming through their town.. but eventually they embraced it and even saw opportunity. They began having a BBQ lunch as an option to the provided lunch that’s given to the riders daily, all run by the students. You could get a burger, chips, and drink for $6-8. There are 2200 riders and almost everyone waited in line to get a burger instead of the free ALC lunch. The line was around the block and we probably waited an hour before we got our food, but it was well worth the wait. Aside from being the best burger ever (I went back for seconds), the kids raised $16,000 in one afternoon as a result. This money pays for their school’s extracurricular programs for the entire year. Just another way this event helps people so much, and how a little bit goes a long way.
Besides funding their after-school programs, ¬†exposing these children to the ALC event is not only educating them about the issue, but it helps to eliminate potential prejudice at a young age. None of these kids will grow up to be gay-bashers or homophobes, and likely they won’t grow to hold any other prejudice against race, gender, etc.

RED DRESS DAY

Day 4 was the infamous “red dress day”, where all the riders wear red to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Many newbies like me opted for just a red jersey, not knowing what to expect.. but most riders went all out. Some of the more creative spins were geishas, superheros, firefighters, or just straight red underwear. The whole week was pretty outrageous and this was just a little more over the top. Never been around such a large group of people with so much character, sense of humor, and DGAF attitude. Good times!

FINAL DAYS

The last few days were definitely the highlight for beautiful views.. Riding through Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Malibu, I couldn’t even capture enough photos to do justice. Also some delicious pit stops along the way like the notorious cinnamon roll stop in Pismo, and the ice cream stop @ Passion Pit in Santa Barbara. Every city we pass through welcomes us with open arms, and cheers as we ride through.

Day 6 was the last camp night, and we had candlelight vigil on the beach in Ventura. Close to 3000 people gathered on the beach with candles, to honor those that have lost their lives to AIDS. I don’t have any personal connection to the disease, however I could definitely feel the heavy emotion in the air, as many of the ALC participants have lost a friend or loved one, that being their reason for riding.

Day 7 rolled around faster than I realized, and we rode the last 60 miles to the finish line. We were greeted with a sea of cheering supporters as we entered the VA Park in West LA. It was surreal to think I had just completed 545 miles on my bicycle, something I never thought I’d do in a million years.

My reasons for doing this ride completely changed over the course of the seven days.. Initially it was a physical challenge and step outside of my comfort zone, and a chance to do good for others although I didn’t know a whole lot about the cause. After being immersed in such a positive environment, hearing all the success stories and what this ride and the fundraising is doing for so many people, this was no longer about me. I’m so happy to be a part of something that’s helping and influencing so many people. I even had a handful of people reach out to me saying how inspired they were by what i’m doing, and it motivated them to get out and do something they’ve wanted to do, or never thought they could do. That’s what this is all about.. helping, motivating, and inspiring others.

I appreciate the overwhelming support from my friends and family, from the fundraising (I exceed my goal and raised $3695!!) to the sideline cheers and encouraging words on social media. I hope to recruit some people to share this life changing experience with me next year, I’ve already registered!