Posted by: derekchad | June 13, 2011

Ice Cream!

Some of you have chastised me for falling a bit behind on my blog, and I’m sorry I’ve let you down.  The truth is, I’ve been having some trouble with processing the end of the journey.

The morning of Day 6 began very cold and wet in Lompoc; June Gloom has clearly descended upon and enveloped Southern California. Fortunately, the morning of Day 6 is the last big climb, and I love climbing when it’s cold.  Bundled up in wool arm warmers, with those chemical hand warmers tucked in to my gloves, I rolled out of camp at 6:41 AM.  I actually should say that I snuck out of camp, intentionally avoiding my teammates as I needed some time to myself.

Knowing that I had another long 85 miles ahead of me, and also knowing it’s one of the most beautiful days of the ride, I was positively joyous in my anticipation.  The climb at the start of the route is a fifteen mile gradual slog up to the top of the Gaviota pass (you can see the elevation profile from the route sheet above). As I reached the top, I saw a sweep vehicle at the top, and nearly flagged them down to have them ferry me down the hill.  You see, I’m absolutely terrified of that downhill.  But I took a deep breath, dropped into my most aerodynamic position and began the descent.  About halfway down the initial and steepest section, my bike developed a shimmy, which turned into a wobble; it felt like my bike was trying to tear itself apart.  With my heart nearly pounding through my jersey, I managed to bring it to a stop without going down, hoping all the way that the cyclists behind me would be in control enough to not run me over.  Once the adrenaline subsided a little, I proceed the rest of the way to Rest Stop 2, poised on a cliff above the ocean, where I paused a while to watch for dolphins (I saw two).

The next stretch into lunch was the hardest part of the day; most of it was along the busy freeway, which is exhausting.  However, once I made it to lunch, I was still feeling strong and actually felt like I was getting stronger.  Somewhere before Rest Stop 3, I ran into Trish (Mary M) and Paula (Mary Achi), and ended up riding the rest of the day with them.  We blew by Rest Stop 3, situated right on the beach in Santa Barbara, knowing that one of the day’s big highlights was just a few miles down the road at the other end of town: Paradise Pit.

For the past ten years, the citizens of Santa Barbara have been welcoming AIDS/LifeCycle participants with a delightful treat: junk food.  There’s ice cream, cookies, cake, brownies and more.  Their warm embrace of the AIDS/LifeCycle community makes 85 miles feel like nothing!

With only 25 miles or so left until camp, and with all of us feeling the boost from all that sugar, Trish, Paula and I set a very fast pace, hoping to make it to camp with time for a walk on the beach before the evening’s program.  Rest Stop 4 was a full-on party, equipped even with a DJ, to celebrate 10 years of this fantastic event.  I had my picture taken with some of the boys (at the top of this post), and a little placard noting my 10 years of involvement.

Arriving in Ventura at 3:30 PM, I had plenty of time for that walk on the beach and even some In N Out.  Ok, lots of In N Out: two Double Double combos!

That evening, my partner Henry drove up to join us for the Candlelight Vigil on the beach.  It’s extremely hard to capture and describe the Vigil, both visually and emotionally.  Over three thousand people gathered on the beach, lit only by the candles they’re holding, hugging, crying, holding hands, and sharing a vision of a world free from AIDS.

Posted by: derekchad | June 9, 2011

Join me

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Today was the day that many of us have been waiting for: Red Dress Day. Thankfully, the route was just 42 miles, but it wasn’t an easy one; most of the day was spent climbing the hills of Vandenburg Air Force Base. These hills have false summits an switchbacks that inspired the idea of dressing in red on this day, with the thought being that from the air, the line of cyclists would appear as a magnificent AIDS ribbon. Of course we have fun with it, though, as you can see from the above photo.

Tonight from camp stage, LAGLC CEO Lorri Jean shared with us her concern for next year. This year a near-record number of cyclists raised a record amount of money to support the work of SFAF and LAGLC. But next year is not the 10 year anniversary, and already I’ve heard quite a few long-time riders say that this is their last year.

And so I’m issuing this challenge to you all: join me for next year’s AIDS/LifeCycle. You don’t need to be a cyclist; I wasn’t when I first did this ten years ago, but I learned. And if you really don’t want to ride, you can be a volunteer Roadie. You don’t need to be gay; about 50% of the riders are straight. If you can’t think of a reason, I’ll give you several: it’s a great way to get in shape, meet new friends, become a part of a community of caring individuals, the AIDS epidemic rages on, and whether you know it or not, someone you know is living with HIV.

Anyone that wants to join has an open invitation to join our team and become a Mary. We’re fast and slow, men and women, gay and straight. You’ll fit right in.

Posted by: derekchad | June 8, 2011

Just another day in paradise

You maybe wondering what happened to me yesterday, but I’m not going to get into it. Let’s just say that some days are better than others, I don’t like riding in the heat, and yesterday was hot.

Today started out the exact opposite. In fact we didn’t see the sun until the halfway to LA point at the top of the Evil Twins, where we all gathered to take a group photo. (I didn’t take any pictures today, but I’ll get some from friends and add them to this post later).

Turns out the sun wasn’t really out, we were just above the gloom, and the descent all the way to the ocean (at 35+ mph) was brutally cold.

I should explain now that today is, and always has been my favorite route. Clocking in at 97 miles, it’s long, but the scenery is beautiful and varied. We begin the day in wine country, reach the ocean, pass through Morro Bay, have lunch at a college, ride through a military base, reach the ocean again at beautiful Pismo Beach, ride inland again through farm country and end in Santa Maria.

A long day was made longer by gathering for team photos, stopping to help two riders with flats, and getting a flat myself…3 miles from camp. It was, however, a truly great day; I felt and finished strong and had a wonderful time with my friends.

Tomorrow is our “rest” day: only 40 miles (with lots of climbing) in red dresses.

Posted by: derekchad | June 6, 2011

107 miles is really long

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107 miles, the longest day of ALC, done, crossed off the list. Such an incredibly long, long day, over seven hours on the bike.

I saw dancing bears, seals, and lots of dead animals on the side of the road. I saw a Jack Russell chase another rider. I saw the ocean, the mountains, fields of artichokes and strawberries. The winds blessed us mostly, pushing me at speeds up to 38 mph on the flats, but when we turned east or west, it turned into a brutal crosswind, forcing us to lean into it or be blown over.

It was such a long day that my mind is literally a blank slate right now, and I just can’t write any more.

Posted by: derekchad | June 5, 2011

The silly and the somber

It’s 9:15 PM, and my tentmate and I are zipped into our tent. The rain that threatened today’s ride has started coming down, I hope we’re able to stay dry.

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I’ve had some time to reflect on the seeming incongruousness of the silly and the somber that is ALC. For instance, today’s rest stop themes included Christmas at Rest Stop 3, complete with a Santa whose lap I got to sit on. Rest Stop 4 (usually the best and most creative themes) were lumberjacks today. I also saw a whole team dressed as Dolly Parton, two lobsters cheering me up a hill, and a snowman riding out of Opening Ceremonies. Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine, and when your legs ache, something silly is the only thing that can take your mind off of it.

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But ALC exists for a very serious reason, and we are constantly reminded of that. Today is the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS, and the lunch stop included a walkable timeline of the AIDS epidemic. I also experienced a very somber moment today when I stopped to talk with a woman, standing by herself at the edge of Santa Cruz, holding a sign with a picture of a man who died in 1996 at the age of 46. She’s has been coming out with the sign every year for ten years to thank riders for riding to fight the disease that took her brother’s life, but this is the first year that I’ve stopped to talk to her. “This is the most important day of my whole year”, she said, adding, “It’s an outlet for my emotions and grief”. My brief chat with her was a poignant reminder that ALC is more than a fundraiser; for many of the small California towns that we ride through, it’s the only chance to have a conversation about AIDS and the lives that have been lost.

Posted by: derekchad | June 5, 2011

Dodged a bullet…so far

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It’s been an epic beginning to an epic journey. I’m writing this from the lunch stop at San Gregorio Beach, at mile 45, a beautiful spot to enjoy a little rest and some lunch.

So far the skies have been threatening, but dry. The worst of the days hills are behind us, and everyone I meet seems in great spirits. And I have been meeting people, as I somehow got separated from the group.

Today’s Opening Ceremonies at the Cow Palace included a wonderful surprise: ALC 10 has raised $14 million, a record-breaking amount. I had some time to reflect on the growth and maturation of this event over the years. ALC 1 had so few riders that I actually made a wrong turn on Day 1; there’s no chance of that happening today.

Posted by: derekchad | June 4, 2011

Orientation Day

Although we start pedaling towards LA tomorrow, AIDS/LifeCycle really began today, on Orientation Day. Participants, both Cyclists and volunteer “Roadies” arrive from all over the world to check in and take care of last-minute logistics. Cyclists must meet their fundraising minimum and park their bikes in bike parking for tomorrow’s ride-out, and Roadies have meetings to prepare them for the hard week of work ahead. Everyone must get their tent assignment (unless they did it online ahead of time), and view the Orientation and Safety video.

With tomorrow marking the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS, a special activity was also planned for today; several hundred of us donned red t-shirts and posed as a human ribbon to honor those we’ve lost.

For the past seven years, Orientation Day has been miserable for me. Even the two years when I was able to participate as a cyclist during my tenure at SFAF, I was still required to work on Orientation Day, and it was always very stressful. Today was a wonderful change, as I was able to go through the process with my friends and not really worry about anything. Team Mary was representin’ in our swank new jackets!

A special surprise awaited me at check-in. I received a special gold pendant honoring the fact that I’m one of the very few people who have been a part of every AIDS/LifeCycle since the beginning (as a rider for ALC1, ALC2, ALC5, ALC8, and now ALC10, and as a staff member for all the others). I’ve given alot of myself to this event over the last decade, and gotten even more in return, and it feels very nice to be recognized for that.  (The other chip is the tent chip, which is my tent address; you’re supposed to wear it around your neck so you don’t forget where to set up your tent.  It happens.)

After Orientation Day, I stopped by my friend and co-worker Justin’s house to say hi and pick up some rain gear for tomorrow. His little girls were literally bouncing off the walls with excitement and showing off for me. Justin and his wife made a very generous donation towards the ride in my behalf, which was matched by his wife’s employer, and now Justin’s lent me a great jacket, shoe covers and gloves which will help keep me warm and dry tomorrow. A special thanks to you, Ryckebusches!

Whether it rains tomorrow or not the San Francisco sky is beautiful this evening.

And now it’s time for bed…I’ve got a big day ahead of me tomorrow!

Posted by: derekchad | June 2, 2011

Introducing Team Mary

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I ride with Team Mary. Our primary mission, besides having fun, is raising money and awareness. Each of us has a Mary name; I’m Mary Kay. New Marys are Virgin Marys and receive their official Mary name at some point during the ride.

Several years ago one of us tested HIV+, and was struggling with the idea of doing AIDS/LifeCycle. All of us were begging him to ride, and finally he agreed…if we all got mohawks. Years later, it’s still a tradition…Marys get mohawks. Well, those with hair do.

By the way, the fifteen of us riding have raised over $98,000!

Posted by: derekchad | June 2, 2011

Go Derek!

One of my donors has been telling his daughter about AIDS/LifeCycle, so she decided she wanted to draw me a picture on her mom’s iPad.  Can you imagine anything sweeter?

Posted by: derekchad | June 2, 2011

Oh Shit!

 

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