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.

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