Saturday, June 23, 2012

ALC Ride Days 6-7: The finish line.

“I have two rules in life - to hell with it, whatever it is, and get your work done.” - Ray Bradbury

On our journey to LA, there was just one rule: "Eat before you're hungry. Drink before you're thirsty."

By Day 6, I was tired of eating. Damn tired. I felt like a cow getting fattened for slaughter, but I couldn't get fat because I was on wheels all day. So they just kept feeding me. Clif bars, bananas, bagel bites, trail mix...sooner or later everything lost its charm. Powerade, which I don't like to begin with, turned to cough syrup.

Fortunately the road met me with many happy distractions. There was the 80-year-old cyclist who smiled as I passed him, saying something in German I wish I could understand. Later on, a group of pink squirrels passed me.

During the evenings when I had enough energy (and arm strength), I would open Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy. The book is about her lone bicycle journey from Ireland to India in 1963, at the age of 31. Talk about TOUGH. This woman traveled with a pistol, which by chapter two she had used twice (once on hungry coyotes, once on a creep).

I am not so brave. Still, throughout the week I found myself considering the merits of an unsupported ride (this is my first bike tour). The plentiful snacks, medical tents and mapped out directions made the trip a breeze. But with 2,500 cyclists in tow, you don't ever feel alone on the open road. There is always someone to pass. Always another ride on your left. Always another cowbell in the distance.

I'm not shunning those bells by any means. There's just something nice about going at your own pace, deciding when to start and stop, and figuring out where to go next.

Our destination on Day 6 was Ventura. We camped on the beach and took part in a candlelight vigil. The flickering candles and crashing waves were hypnotic. In the darkness, I felt alone for the first time all week. Sixty miles later, this would all become history.

And just like that, Day 7 arrived. I was excited but also relieved. After a week in the saddle, I was feeling fatigued and ready to spend some time on two feet. Our team conquered Malibu's rolling hills and then gathered at the lunch stop so we could ride the final leg together. We took this photo just before getting back on our bikes. In true Hollywood fashion, it looks staged.

As we rolled into Veterans Park in LA, hundreds of people, all clapping and cheering, lined the barricades. Music was playing. I don't recall which song, I just remember an amazing culmination of emotion. It felt like we had just accomplished something momentous. And we did!

Thank you, Brian Kenton Stegall, for encouraging me to do this, helping me train, and pulling me up those last few hills. I couldn't have done it without ya.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ALC Ride Day 5: The gayest day of my life.

That's right. The gayest day of my life. And I mean that in the literal, non-derogatory sense. Never before have I spent an afternoon chatting with, gawking at, and bicycling next to hundreds of flamboyant, glamourous, over-the-top gay men, the vast majority decked out in red.

It was really something.

Day 5 on the ride has come to be known as "red dress day." There was no shortage of red garb - gowns, spandex, even high heels for that matter. I rode behind this gentleman for quite some time.

The day called for only 40 miles - a nice break after going nearly 100 miles the day prior. (Still, some of those hills were harder than the wimpy Evil Twins.) On our way to Lompoc we had a leisurely lunch, barefoot and basking in the sun. About midway through my rice and bean wrap, a gentleman clad in a red Speedo stuffed with dollar bills sat next to us. He introduced himself as David. Judging by his body, he looked more like a "He-Man" than a "David."

He asked us why we were riding. We gave our usual answers - to challenge ourselves, to support a good cause, etc. - things that sound generic when played back. David told us he's HIV positive, and that after he was diagnosed, his life sort of spiraled downhill. He got into drugs, gained 80 pounds, and was generally wading in mucky waters. The HIV medication he needed would've cost him thousands of dollars a month without insurance.

David looked in the mirror one day and was like, what the hell! So he turned his life around big time. He's now a cycling instructor in Healdsburg. If I have the opportunity to take one of his classes, I definitely will. He's so healthy that the HIV strain no longer shows up in his body! Crazy.

Meeting David was the highlight of my day. And not just because of those washboard abs. (Kidding.) His story was inspiring and a wonderful reminder of how many people the ALC ride reaches. Thanks for that, David.

This field of flowers was the second highlight of my day.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ALC Ride Days 3-4: Hills, shmills.

Days 3 and 4. A combined 164 miles. Traveling from King City to Paso Robles to Santa Maria, we would encounter the dreaded "Quadbuster" and "Evil Twins." Eek.

Turns out those hills were a god dang breeze!

Despite their names, they weren't horrible. I chalk that up to training in the Bay Area - an ideal prep school for the ALC ride. The climbs we encountered in Tiburon, the Headlands and Mt. Tam were more challenging than anything we experienced on the route to LA. Though only on the latter did I witness (and join) cyclists singing Little Mermaid songs while tackling the hills.

And, of course, when you climb you get to relax on the way down. On Day 3 we met some wonderful, gentle descents with tailwinds pushing us along. I stopped for a bit to stare at this haunted tree.

We hit a small patch of crosswinds, but they chilled out after our lunch stop in Bradley, where the locals hosted a cookout. Proceeds fund an overseas trip for every kid in town! (It's a tiny town.)

By the third day I felt like I had settled into a rhythm…growing accustomed to waking at 5am, eating breakfast before I was hungry, breaking down our tent, packing up our stuff, stretching, riding, hydrating, etc. It all became routine.

On Day 4 we reached the halfway point to LA. Yes sir! There were all sorts of signs to pose with, but lines were forming for the Kodak moments. So instead, I took the below photo of Brian in front of gorgeous hills.

This was also the day Brian encountered all sorts of bad luck. (He already blogged this below, but it bears repeating.) Here's what went wrong:
- His knee started to hurt from cycling, for the first time ever. (Welcome to your thirties, old man!)
- He wore through his shoe clips and had to buy new ones.
- When he was using one of 327 porta-potties on the trip, someone accidentally took his water bottle.
- He got a flat tire.
- While attempting to fix the flat, he broke one of his tire levers.
- After telling our teammates about these calamities, a bird shat on him! Though, as Vida pointed out, that's actually good luck.

And despite my contempt for pigeons, I'll admit maybe it was good luck. He made it back to camp safely and went to the sports med tent, where a wonderful bloke named Tony worked on the injury. Thanks Tony!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

ALC Ride Day 2: The rain came down.

I will say this. Ear plugs, a sleeping mat, and some imagination will turn tent-sleeping into a Sealy Posturepedic under starry skies. Never mind that you're surrounded by 2,500 other campers. The only time I heard any cavernous snores was when I got up to relieve my bladder around midnight.

on Day 2 we awoke to overcast skies and watery oatmeal. Those oats have a knack for foreshadowing. We started our ride around 7am. As the day wore on, gray skies turned to mist, which lead to light rain, and ultimately a cold, brooding downpour. These seals were making quite the ruckus - I'm not sure why. They loved or hated the rain, or they smelled delicious fried artichokes in the distance.

We got to the second rest stop (at about mile 40), drenched. Staffers told us it was sunny and warm at the lunch stop, a mere nine miles ahead. Like a naive child, I believed them, wiping graham cracker crumbs from my moist cheeks and hopping back on my bike.

We raced those nine miles only to be greeted with more rain. Waiting out the storm, we sought warmth in Mylar blankets. Everyone tells me how well they work, but my teeth would not quit chattering! We huddled together for shelter under one of the already crowded tents.

I don't think it's a stretch to compare the environment to a Green Bay Packers game, frozen tundra and all. The thought of getting back on my bike was repellent to my muscles. Around noon, the remainder of the ride was called off. I'm not gonna fib…I was relieved! It wasn't me quitting. It was the event staff. I was simply there standing at attention, saluting their wise decision.

Brian spotted the first round of buses (hooray!), and we made a mad dash to get on - squeaking by, with just four seats left. Our bus leader was a fabulous, flamboyant diva of a man. He made sassy jokes and played Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland DVDs as we made our way to King City. It was wonderfully entertaining, and my body began to thaw out. Other members of our team did not fare so well. They had to wait something like four or five hours to get onto a bus. Fortunately the Red Cross provided them with Oreos and additional blankets. But their hearts nearly froze over. Witness Pat and Jason, below.

In the meantime, I was back at camp taking a 20-minute hot shower (so necessary), snacking on cookies and signing up for my complimentary 15-minute massage. Those last 50 miles were a cakewalk.

Monday, June 18, 2012

ALC Ride Day 1: I only dreamt it was broken.

Somewhere around 2:30am the morning of the ride, I had a dream I was riding my bike. Some clown had replaced my handlebars with goofy, long ones, almost like ape hangers. Then I realized I had two flat tires.

Our alarm went off at the ungodly time of 3:30am. My stomach was nervous. Our dog was confused. After we brushed our teeth and put on cold padded shorts in a groggy haze, we bade Lemmy farewell and loaded our gear into Pat's big green van. Onto the Cow Palace, aka the starting line.

The place was abuzz with cyclists, mostly gay men. Opening Ceremonies started out with 1,000+ people stretching to club music, which I just couldn't get into at 5am. Then a few individuals took the podium to speak about how their lives had been affected by AIDS. It was quite touching and made me feel like I was part of something really special. Between that and my perpetual yawns, I was reminded of the Golden Girls episodes when Dorothy gets married, and Sofia doesn't know whether she's crying or has allergies.

After what seemed like hours, we finally got on our bikes. Yay! I was anxious to start what we'd been training for since March. The route for the day was a cool 82.5 miles. Destination: Santa Cruz. We hit a few decent climbs, though these were largely overshadowed by adrenaline, people cheering, and the views. Man, the views… The scenery that day was simply epic. It got me really excited for the days ahead.

I like your style, mother nature.

Soak that in...

As for the ride itself, I felt great! The first 20 miles were congested, but as the day progressed riders naturally spread out. I found myself in the middle of the pack, spending equal time passing slower riders and being passed by faster ones. Brian was one of the speedsters, but we fell into a plan of meeting up at each rest stop.

A few things I noticed that first day:
- Everyone was so friendly and polite. "On your left, darling." "Love your jersey." "Good morning, rider!" I enjoyed it.
- Each rest stop had a theme. Thinking back on the week, I remember Flappers, Oktoberfest dancers, drag queens, Smurfs, Thunderdome warriors and Jockeys (from the non-breeders cup).
- There was a team of maybe six riders (gents and ladies) dressed as Dolly Parton with gigantic balloon boobs and blonde wigs. They were slightly faster than I was, even with those knockers.

So my flat tire dream of literal and symbolic trepidation was for naught, at least on Day 1. That night, we got into camp, set up our tents, grabbed dinner (two Boca Burger sloppy joes for this cowgirl), and hit the hay by 10pm. We had more than 100 miles to go the next day. Or so we thought.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ALC: days 6 & 7

Sorry for the delay on this final post... things just got a bit hectic with traveling home and what not.

I will start off talking about day 6. Day 6 was fairly uneventful. It was a pretty casual ride through LA suburbs to ventura. The views in santa barbara and ventura were pretty nice, seeing the beach and all. As for the actual ride, my knee was feeling a lot better that day, but I wasn't pushing it. I ended up pace lining with a group of about 6 people dressed up as pink squirrels. No joke. They probably saved my knee to be honest. It was amazing how fast they were riding for being in full pink squirrel suits. Anyway, I paced them for about 40 of the 86 miles we rode that day.

Day 7, my knee was feeling almost 100% so I went for it. I paced with 2 dudes from one of ALC's most notorious teams, team popular, for the first 20 miles. We were rolling pretty hard keeping about a 21mph pace. I was pretty excited about that. However, right after that first 20 mile stretch the ALC staff decided for safety purposes that no one would be allowed to pass on the PCH. Unfortunately for anyone riding faster than 10mph... the rest of the day was on the PCH. So for the next 40 miles riders could only go as fast as the slowest person. This got extremely obnoxious really fast. They employed this rule due to a large number of accidents the previous day. However, in my opinion it was far more dangerous to not allow people to pass. This created HUGE lines behind slower riders, not to mention put a large amount of stress on these riders when they looked back and saw a mile+ long line of riders wishing they could get around them.

Luckily, toward the end of the day people were pretty much over it and just started passing. The day would probably never end if that didn't happen. The entire ride that day was about 64 miles. Our whole team met up at the lunch stop and cruised the last 16 miles in to town together. It was really nice to ride in to the finish line as a squad. The finish line experience was actually really fun. ALC had set up a barricade about a mile long for all of the riders to ride through to the closing ceremonies. On both sides of the barricades there were tons of people cheering us on. It was actually really fun. I felt like we had won some sort of race.

Anyway, that is how the last couple of days went. I will write one more post describing my impressions of the event soon! So stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

stay tuned...

Hey Hey! we finished the aids life cycle and everyone made it without getting sagged! I haven't had time to write a proper update on the last couple of days due to relaxing and driving back to SF, but stay tuned! I will write an update soon.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

ALC: double dose! days 4 + 5

oops! I missed my post from yesterday. let me tell you... it was a doozy. so, here comes a double dose!

both today and yesterday were really nice rides. however, yesterday in particular, was a true comedic shit show. we started off our ride for the day and I had some pain in my knee. I've been rising bikes now, pretty extensively, for many years, and never had any sort of knee pains. out of nowhere comes this shit. it started off pretty tame, but then we approached the infamous "evil twins" which we have been hearing about almost as much as the "quad buster." the evil twins are basically two really long hills back to back. we've heard all kinds of horror stories about these twins from people who have done the ride before... but honestly they were a piece of cake. even with knee pains I felt like they were pretty tame. however, by the time I reached the top my knee was having stabbing pains. gross. the top of the second twin was the halfway point of the ride as well. hooray!

anyway, right after the halfway point, we dropped in to what people had been telling me, was the most insane descent ever here people have breeched 50 mph. I was stoked to break some records, but was disappointed by getting slapped in the face with harsh head winds only allowing for a top speed of 38mph. boring.

to continue with my comedy of errors yesterday, my toe clips wore out and I wasn't able to keep my feet affixed to my pedals. luckily, this cushy tour sells new clips at the lunch stop. after getting my new clips and heading out from lunch i road another agonizing leg of the ride to the next stop where someone swiped one of my water bottles. thanks to whoever did that.

shortly after that stop I got a flat in oceans CA right down the street from a motel Zach and I stayed in on our bike tour. while trying to change my flat I broke my tire lever an had to wait for someone to stop and let me borrow theirs.

to top all of this bad luck off, I came slowly whimpering in to the last stop and was telling all of my teammates about my crappy day when a bird shat right on me. way to go! all garbage aside, we all finished the 97 mile ride for the day.

after we made it to camp and took care of things like seeing up tents, showering, and eating food... I went to the sports medicine tent to get my knee checked out. my dude tony, who is the sports med dude for the women's olympic volleyball team, dug his hands all in to my knee and quad muscles. it hurt, then I went to sleep.

on to today! today was red dress day. this the day where everyone dresses up in some ridiculous red outfit and we ride 42 miles through the hills. I didnt dress up, but almost everyone else did haha. some people went all out. I even saw a guy riding around in heals!

even though today was short... it was certainly not an easy day for me. my man tony did a real number on my knees, and I was feeling painless for
about the first 10 miles until we got to the first of 3 shitty ass hills. I am not sure why everyone bitches about the evil twins, but the 3 hills today were way worse and no one said shit. this may have been because my knee was shot and I was essentially rising up the hills by only using my left leg.. but they were not enjoyable.

regardless of the pain, i finished the ride around 12:45 or so where they had lunch 3 miles before the camp. we were fortunate enough to meet a really cool guy named David at lunch who really put some perspective on the entire event for us. he is an HIV positive dude who is doing the ride for the first time. he told us about how he was a former drug addict and when he was diagnosed with HIV he basically had to turn his life around or die. he cleaned up his act and got good insurance and is now living with undetectable HIV. dude is in great shape and is an incredible cyclist. he explained to us that if he keeps up his healthy lifestyle he can potentially defeat the virus completely and no longer be HIV positive. it was really cool to meet him an hear his story. he was also hilarious and we joked around a lot.

after getting back to camp, I went and visited my boy tony again and he dug in to my leg some more. this time hurt even more than the last, but I am hoping his magical hands will solve my problems so that I can ride like and adult once again.

tomorrow we ride 80 some miles to Ventura. I hope my knee will take me there.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

ALC day 3

just finished crushing day 3 of aids life cycle. it has been my favorite day so far. it was a shorter day, only 64 miles, but I managed to cruise through it at 17.6 mph.

we started the day off by doing the infamous "quad buster" which we have been hearing about for days from everyone. it was honestly not very hard. it was pretty steep, but fairly short.

after quad buster,bathe rest of the day went super quick with lots of downhills and flats with tail winds. the weather was great as well. couldn't have really asked for a better time.

the unfortunate news is that it is going to be significantly hotter for the rest of the trip.

anyway... I gotta go pound some burritos right quick. bye bye

Monday, June 4, 2012

ALC: kings city / SAGGED

well today was interesting... we woke up at 4:45am to get things rolling. packed up our bedding, then popped over to the breakfast tent.

Jessica and I wanted to get an early start, so we jumped in the express breakfast line to have some cold cereal. as we found out after a very long wait for express breakfast... all of our teammates who went to a regular line got their food before us. way to go "express" line.

after that Jessica and I hopped on our
bikes to hit the road for the scheduled 100 mile ride. getting out of Santa Cruz took forever. so many stop lights while waiting in line at each one. we usually had to wait 2 to 3 lights before even being able to go through. it is pretty exhausting stopping and going do damn much.

anyway, the rise out of town was hazing and sprinkly. we started the day off pretty wet. about 20 miles in it started raining for real and we were blessed with some pretty strong head winds to blow it extra hard in our faces. as we kept riding it just rained harder and harder.

by the time I got to the second rest stop I was soaked and freezing and my morale was super low. I hate being wet. the only thing that. an make that worse is when it is also cold and windy and there is nothing I can do about it.

as we were snacking at the rest stop I was considering just getting on the support bus and getting out of there. however, I kept hearing everyone say "oh it is warm and dry at the lunch spot" which was only 9 more miles.

so we hopped on our bikes and crushed that 9 miles. I was pushing super hard to get to that sunny lunch spot, but to my dismay... it was colder, and rainier than it was before. I was already ready to throw in the towel as I was freezing and wet... however, the ALC called it for me. they closed down the route. womp womp. they ended up having to bus 1500 riders back to camp. yikes!

anyway, I was relieved to get on that warm bus and get the hell out of there. it's now sunny, but windy, back at camp. hopefully the rain doesn't come after us here!

ps. here is George waiting for the bus

Sunday, June 3, 2012

ALC day 1 : Santa Cruz

oh hey there. what a long day this was. I slept about 3 hour last night before getting up at 3:30am to head down to ALC opening ceremonies. I got nervous or the first time about the trip when I saw how long the bathroom lines were. I almost soiled myself while waiting to get in to the men's room amongst a sea of gay men.

we didn't actually leave the cow palace until around 7 or 7:30? we then proceeded on a very different route than I have usually taken to half moon bay. thankfully it was much easier.

I was feeling super good for having no sleep. however, around mile 45 I started feeling the lack of sleep. we ate lunch on a beach overlook and I passed out in the grass for about 5 minutes before we hit the road again. I was definitely still dragging for the next 20 or so miles until we got the next bathroom spot.

I don't know what happened, but after that I had a surge of energy and assistance from a sick tail wind that propelled me at an average speed of about 22 mph for the last 20 miles of the ride.

all in all, today was a really good day. other then being super sleepy, I felt pretty good and averaged around 15mph which is pretty decent for how many people there are to contend with on this ride. there are something like 1800 riders. I never thought I would say the phrase "on your left" so much in my life.

anyway, I had vegan sloppy joes for dinner. BOOM! ok, I gotta go to sleep. tomorrow we have a century to tackle.

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"non-breeders cup. @jeccaberta @amabileawesome @patricklcrawford "

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"4:15am. ready to ride bikes. "
(taken at castle bergall)

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

And they're off!

Here we are, approximately 19 hours until we mount our bikes and ride like the dickens. Over hills so steep. On little sleep. With views so sweep(ing). We're heading to orientation at Cow Palace shortly to drop off our bikes, secure our tent assignments, and meet 2,800 fellow riders. The best part? Our alarms will go off at 3AM tomorrow. GOD HELP US. Sleepy-eyed, we will hug Lemmy farewell and climb into Pat's monster green van to get to Opening Ceremonies.

We'll be cycling for seven consecutive days, to the tune of 77 miles per day on average. During the rides, I expect to take breaks to fuel up on water, snacks, PB&J, and to take photos of this gorgeous state. I am hoping to get on the road early every day, so that I can finish before sundown and avoid the support vehicle (particularly on those 90+ mile days).

Looking forward to views as epic as the one below, which we snapped from the Headlands a few weeks back.

Also hoping that I won't have to change any flats. But if I do, I've studied Brian's how-to guide.

I'm aiming to write a post on here every day. So stay tuned and wish us luck! Pretty stoked for a week of riding and meeting folks on the road, for a great cause no less. All together, our team has raised nearly $20,000...and counting. Let's ride.

ALC begins today! (sort of)

So here we go! Today is kind of the beginning of the aids life cycle experience. We don't actually start riding until tomorrow... but today we have to go spend a few hours at orientation sorting things out. I am not necessarily looking forward to orientation. I am sure it is going to be a shit show with 3000 some people all trying to get things done in one place.

The actual ride starts tomorrow. In my typical fashion, I am all packed and ready to go... I packed like 2 days ago... We have to wake up tomorrow morning at 3am to take our little pup lemmy out and get ready to meet up with our crew to ride down to the cow palace tomorrow. I am totally not looking forward to waking up at 3am to fuck around for like 3 hours before we even get to start our 80 some mile ride tomorrow. Uggg. Everything after today and tomorrow should be pretty awesome though. Don't have to carry my shit. Don't have to plan my route. Don't have to find food on my own. Free gatorade and snacks... Should be pretty awesome!

Anyway, keep checking back. I am going to try to post every day. I am also hoping some of my teammates hop on with the posting!

I leave you with a pic of me ripping and raring to go!

And here is our boy who I will miss!

LASTLY!!!! two of my teammates still need to raise some funds for the trip! Please feel free to donate and cap them off. they are so close!