Tien's AIDS Lifecycle 5 Blog

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Name: Tien
Location: San Francisco Bay Area, California,

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Day One

The alarm went off at 3:30 this morning and I got up and dressed, numb with shock: This is it! After all this time, we’re FINALLY rolling out. I packed the last of my gear into my gigantic gear bag, put the finishing touches on my costume (orange and blue, the AIDS Lifecycle colors), and clip-clopped out the door, teetering on the cleats of my cycling shoes as I dragged a giant gear bag behind me.

We arrived at Opening Ceremonies uneventfully. Mike dropped me off and went to park the car, then we waited around for a good hour or so before Opening Ceremonies started. I was briefly interviewed by a reporter for the Asian community, then we met up with Brett, Herve, Brian, and Mike Creech, all ready for the Ride.

The most touching moment of Opening Ceremonies was when Chris Cole, the director of AIDS Lifecycle, “came out” as HIV+. He said, “It has taken me sixteen months to get over the shame—especially for a man who has been fighting AIDS most of his life—and come out and declare myself, openly, as HIV+.”

I didn’t know what to say. I know a lot of people who are HIV+, but this is the first time someone I know has become infected with HIV, and to have it be someone whom I know and greatly respect is a real shocker. And this is a man who knows all about AIDS transmission, and I can only assume practices safe sex himself…it really drives home that AIDS can happen to anyone, no matter how careful you are.

I cried.

(Since then I have heard from another friend who got home from the ride to discover that the daughter of a close friend had tested positive…she isn’t even 18 yet! Truly, this is a disease that can happen to anyone—it’s not a gay disease, it’s not a drug user thing—it’s simply a horrible, horrible virus that doesn’t care who it infects.)

The speeches ended, and we poured out into the streets. Each of us was wearing a red helmet cover that read “NOT ANOTHER 25 YEARS” (referring to the 25th anniversary of the first reported AIDS cases), and we made quite a sight as we rushed through the early morning streets. We didn’t take up one lane, or two, but three full lanes as we rode triumphantly out. I scanned the cheering throng intently and spotted Mike, and waved as I went by. “I won’t see him again for another week,” I thought. “I miss him already.”

And on we went, past police officers and roadies directing traffic for us, out through the city and on our way down the Peninsula.

As I rode out, the first thought in my mind was “What on earth have I been thinking? Ride to Los Angeles? Huh? I thought we were just doing a bunch of training rides and then some fabulous costumes. What’s this ‘ride to Los Angeles’ thing?”

We rode down the Great Highway and then down onto Skyline Boulevard, through dense fog and misty drizzle, until we broke through to clear sky by the gorgeous Crystal Springs Reservoir. We rode along the reservoir, then up and over 92, a long slow climb, but worth it as we were met at the top by belly dancers and a pair of taiko drummers who had come out to support us. The rhythm of the drum pealed out joyously as we caught our breath at the top.

I struggled up the hill, wondering sincerely if I was really ready for the Ride. I’m a much weaker cyclist than I was last time (average speed 12.5 mph as opposed to 13-14 mph), and I haven’t trained that much. My cyclometer was reading 9.5 miles per hour average, far slower than my usual time…could I do this? I was terrified, and discouraged; if I’d had the opportunity, I’d probably have turned back. But I was committed to this thing: I was going to ride. So I went on.

After lunch, we went up another long, slow hill—the one where a rider died of a heart attack, on AIDS Lifecycle 1—and began following Route 1 down the coast towards Santa Cruz. It was a gorgeous day—parasailers’ big billowing sails bright in the wind, the craggy coast falling away to our right—and mostly flat, except for one thrilling downhill where I hit 45 mph on the way down!

At Rest Stop 3 I ran into Brett, one of the friends I’d trained with. I was astonished—he’d been faster than me in training and I’d thought he was far ahead of me, but no! there he was. I figured I must have gotten faster if I’d been keeping up with him.

Between Rest Stop 3 and Rest Stop 4, I passed by a woman holding a big sign with a photo of a handsome man, and his birth and death dates. The sign read, simply, “THANK YOU.” I cried.

I rolled into Rest Stop Four eager to find out what costumes they had this year. (Each rest stop has different costumes every day to entertain the riders, but Rest Stop 4 is renowned for being the absolute best and having the greatest themes.) They were doing a “Bike wash” theme, with fake washer strips blowing in the wind and the roadies dressed up as car wash folks, blowing bubbles as we passed through. I got a picture with them.

From Rest Stop 4, it was only 5 miles into camp. As I sailed through the streets of Santa Cruz, I took a look at my watch, and was flabbergasted: 3pm! I’ve never gotten into camp that early! I looked at my cyclocomputer and it said 13.4 mph average speed…that’s just about what I averaged for AIDS Lifecycle 2! So perhaps I’m not in as bad shape as I had thought.

(At mile 50 I was seriously doubting whether I’d be able to do it, and wanting to turn back…but I finished mile 80 feeling stronger than at mile 50!)

As I sit in my tent writing this, I hear the sound of cheering as the earlier cyclists cheer in the late cyclists. ALC reserves its greatest accolades for the slower cyclists, who are, in general, working much harder for less results than the faster cyclists—they are the ones who are truly stretching their boundaries and sacrificing for the cause. It’s one of the things I love about AIDS Lifecycle-- it’s a ride, not a race.

(Which is a darn good thing, because I am not a racer!)

5:30pm: showered, fed, and ready to take a relaxing nap in the shade. Life as a faster rider is good.

Day Two

Last night at dinner (after I wrote my blog entry) the executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation spoke to tell us where the money was going. I forgot most of the programs, but one stuck in my head:

“Today, because of the money you raised, 7,231 IV drug users in the city of San Francisco will receive clean needles. It is largely because of our needle exchange program that San Francisco has the lowest HIV infection rate in the nation among IV drug users, under 1%--which is a large part of the reason that there have been NO babies born with AIDS in San Francisco General Hospital for the last four years!”

Elimination of pediatric AIDS. What an amazing accomplishment. I know some people consider needle exchange programs controversial, but they save lives—I personally know two HIV+ former IV drug addicts who were infected by dirty needles. And anything that prevents babies from being born to HIV+, drug-addicted mothers has got to be a good thing. I applaud the work of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation; I raise money for them because I believe in what they’re doing. Now more than ever.

The day started out warm, warm enough at 7:30am I didn’t need arm or leg warmers, so I donned a fabulous iridescent purple top and purple-with-sequins tutu, purple fishnet stockings, and my blue Camelbak full of electrolyte fluids, and I was off.

Day 2 is flat and long, 105 miles—a real challenge physically. I had started using Butt Balm (an anti-chafing lotion designed to relieve, well, sore butts) the previous day, but slathered it on with extra enthusiasm today. It’s gonna be a long day.

We rode today through the Salinas Valley—fabulously beautiful farmland, strawberries, iceberg lettuce, cabbage, onions, grape vines, bare fields of freshly turned dark earth looking lusciously rich and fertile.

At the artichoke stand, we met Ginger, resplendent in green with a headdress of beautiful green ostrich plumes. (Ginger is the fabulous drag queen—who has been HIV+ for over seventeen years, by the way—who follows us along the ride, and appears each day in something both smart and outrageous.)

We ate some of the steamed artichokes, and they were fantastic. It’s amazing how burning 3,000+ calories per day will make food taste better.

Rolled into the water stop at Mission Soledad, where the roadies had somehow gotten hold of tons of frozen Otter Pops!, much to our delight. I grabbed one and sucked greedily on the icy pop—the ice being more of a delight than the synthetic flavoring. After that we went into the chapel, where (as every year) the congregation of Mission Soledad had set up an AIDS memorial chapel to all those who had passed on from AIDS, and put up a dedication cloth where people could write their dedications. I read some of them, and was incredibly touched. So many loved ones passed on from AIDS...so many AIDS angels watching over us as we ride.

I don’t have many more notes on Day 2, mostly because it was such a long day, and so physically taxing. I do remember Cookie Lady, though—she annually bakes over 2,000 cookies and feeds them (with help from a few followers) to all the riders. It was late in the day, I was rolling slowly along feeling exhausted, and suddenly, by the side of the road, was a table full of cookies! And a woman in a fake girl scout uniform handing them out, riding crop in hand. (I got a very silly photo of me—in purple tutu—being spanked by Cookie Lady.) I chowed down on a fantastic oatmeal cookie, and sneaked an extra tollhouse cookie—excellent, and just what I needed to raise my energy and get me into Rest Stop 4.

I rolled in at 6:30pm after nearly 11 hours on the road—7.5 hours pedaling, 107 miles, at a blisteringly fast average pace of 14.4 miles per hour! I must have picked up speed somewhere in the last few weeks of training, because man, that is FAST!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Day Three

The road from King City is cracked and seamed like alligator hide, and riding along it is like using a belt sander for a vibrator. It was a most unkind start to the day, especially since my butt was already sore from the last two days. After the first hour, I said “Screw it,” and took some Advil. It helped ease the pain a little, but didn’t make it go away entirely. That kind of saddle-soreness is just what you get on the Ride.

The day was overcast, not too cool and not too hot—beautiful cycling weather. We started with a long, sustained climb, not too difficult, up to Rest Stop 1. (Unfortunately, it was a very long climb, meaning my butt (a euphemism for considerably more tender parts) was really, really, really sore by the end of it.)

At Rest Stop 1, I got ready to go up Quadbuster, the steepest hill of the ride. I took an energy gel (a shot of nearly pure sugar that gives you a boost of energy) shortly before riding up. It worked: I felt challenged as I worked my way up the steep hill (I was going about 3.5 mph on the way up—a fast walk, no more!) but felt like I had plenty of energy, confident, would make it to the top. And I did. Riders around me were slowly riding, being pushed by stronger riders, or even walking to the top, but we were all getting there, one way or another. I remembered past years when I’d walked the hill myself, and another year when I’d been too injured to ride at all. It felt good to be riding, slow as I was.

Fabulous Ginger was at the top, in a nice Little Black Dress, and a big crowd of riders cheering in the other riders at the top. I got a final push up by a member of the med crew, and scooted on up.

I honestly can’t remember what kind of country we went through today. The brain fries after a couple days on the road, and I wasn’t thinking about much today besides putting one foot in front of another. In a way, it’s very Zen.

I do remember Rest Stop 3, though. They had a hysterical theme—“Vote!”—complete with people campaigning, and a roadie dressed up like Bill Clinton (complete with cigar), who dropped his pants every time someone wanted to take a photo. I got a photo with him:

Shortly after Rest Stop 3, I developed sharp pains in a muscle near my right knee while cycling. I almost stopped riding, but then, thought, “Hmm—dehydration often causes muscle cramps.” So I drank a lot of electrolyte fluids, eased the knee gingerly along, and eventually the sharp pain went away. I finished out the day feeling relatively non-sore, and am feeling quite confident that I can (physically and psychologically) finish the Ride.

Today’s mileage: 77 miles, 5:49, 13.2 mph average.

Today’s tutu: pink with silver holographic bows! People loved the pink tutu, especially at Rest Stop 4, which had a Prom Queen theme. Got photo taken with a bunch of the prom queens. Very cool.

Camera unfortunately died last night, so dependent on other people to take photos for me. Hoping I can get copies of everything from Brett.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Day Four

Today featured the halfway point, and the Evil Twins, two of the longer hills on the Ride. The Halfway Point is at the top of the Evil Twins, and is located at a pullout with a gorgeous view of the valley. They had several signs reading “HALFWAY TO LA” and I got my photo taken at one of those.

Ginger was there, too, fabulous in a purple-and-black bustier with purple rhinestones, and a purple skirt:

Not much to report on scenery, we went out of the Salinas valley and went up and over to the coast, on 1 for a good fraction of the distance. But by then I wasn’t really thinking or noticing anything…time goes into a broad expanse of pedaling, pedaling, pedaling. Daily routine: get up in camp, go to shower trucks, put in contact lenses and refill Camelbak (water pack) for the day ahead; go back to tent, drop off shower kit, go to breakfast line, stand in line for breakfast. Eat a colossal breakfast, then go back to the tent. Change in the tent, then pack up everything, drag bags and tent to the gear truck, and go stand in line at the portapotties. Business taken care of, go down to bike parking, meet friends, and GET OUT ON THE ROAD!!

Pedal to next rest stop, roll in to the cheers of roadies. Admire the costumes, eat Fig Newtons and Rice Krispies treats, down a banana or two, get water, hang out with friends, visit the portapotties, get back on the road. Repeat. There has never been anything else, no outside world, nothing to do but pedal. It’s very restful.

I’ve been having more soreness in my right calf, enough to concern me. (I almost swept in to lunch, but decided the pain wasn’t bad enough to stop.) So I stopped by Sports Med for lunch, where a very friendly intern told me that the muscle was sore at the insertion point, probably from tight hamstrings. She showed me a few stretches, and that helped. I’m going to make a concerted effort to start stretching that hamstring. I hope it stands up to 43 miles tomorrow.

I’m actually surprised by how good I’m feeling (apart from the hamstring). I’ve been waking up slightly stiff in the mornings, but not in great pain, and nothing is hurting except my butt, which is quite sore, and my back, which twinges occasionally. I feel like I could ride all week, all month with no trouble. I must be in better condition than I was last time I rode—back then I was in serious pain by Day Four, with all my muscles burning.

Today’s statistics: 7:24, 97 miles, 13.0 mph.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Day Five

Day Five

Woke up at 5am this morning, as usual. We’ve been having no trouble finding our tent, as the guy next door to us (who is a most melodramatic queen, very entertaining) has a pair of bright orange feather boas woven into his tent-poles. You can spot it from all the way across the tent-city! Very convenient when faced with a sea of identical tents.

(Along those lines, I have a little squeaky-turtle horn on my bike, and have wrapped the handlebars in rainbow ribbon. Makes finding your bike amidst 1,839 other bikes much easier.)

The minute I got up, I could sense there was something unusual about today. Maybe it was the energy, the enthusiasm of the roadies. Maybe it was the sense of celebration, as we were only doing a half-day of riding. But maybe it was just that it was…..RED DRESS DAY!!

Yep, that’s right, Day 5 is Dress in Red Day, aka “Red Dress Day”. It started long ago when one of the cyclists noticed that there was a loop in the road, and suggested that everyone dress in red on Day 5 to make a living red AIDS ribbon as the cyclists rode by. It quickly became a tradition, and just as quickly, the FABULOUS queens turned it from “Dress in Red” Day to “Red Dress Day”. If you’ve never been stunned by the sight of an entire gear truck’s worth of roadies in identical Minnie Mouse dresses, or big burly men in slinky red cocktail dresses, or the one rider who rode in a red dress and six inch stiletto heels!, man—you haven’t been living.

There was even a Raggedy-Ann and Andy pair on a tandem:

and a pair of superheroes visited us for a day:

Anyhow, I rode in a Bavarian princess dress, low-cut with ruffles (I’ll let the photos speak for themselves), and for once I was not the most fantastic thing on the road—there’s just no way a woman can out-fabulous a tarted-up drag queen! I rode in a sea of red—red jerseys, red dresses, red feather boas, and (of course) red tutus! Heaven only knows what the people in the very small farming towns thought as we passed.

(Overheard in a convenience store that day: one man turns to another and says, “Did you see what I saw? I thought I saw a man in a red dress cycling by!” Response: “Nah, you must have been seeing things.”)

Day 5 was pretty nasty. It’s a short day, only 43 miles, but those 43 miles include three big hills, two of which I think ought to be “named” hills like the Evil Twins and Quadbuster. I call them the “Three Cranky Bitches.”

(AIDS Lifecycle “in” joke: “Everyone tells you that you will feel millions of emotions before the ride is over, and that’s true. What no one tells you is that, of these millions of emotions, one is what we call ‘Cranky Bitch’.”)

By this point I was starting to feel a lot of saddle-soreness, and unfortunately the worst thing for a sore butt is going uphill. I’m not sure what it is, but it hurts more going uphill—and it’s a fiery sort of sore, a burning right where your sit-bones hit the saddle. I was taking three Advil every six or seven hours, but it didn’t help—there wasn’t much to do besides grit my teeth and keep going. I did stop once or twice up the bigger hills to swing out of the saddle and get a little respite from the pain. Fortunately, it only really happened while I was climbing.

At the top of the toughest hill was Ginger, resplendent in a red dress covered in AIDS ribbons. 36 AIDS ribbons, to be exact—one for every friend she’s lost to AIDS.

Lunch was in Casmalia, population 100. As we came in, we were each handed photocopied notes from the elementary students, written in shaky elementary-school script, thanking us for riding. To the students, we’re an inspiration (as well as one of the most interesting things that happens in town all year)—1,840 heroes riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise millions of dollars for sick people.

We got in early today, around 1pm, did our laundry and hung up our things to dry. Then we went into the town of Lompoc for dinner, a real dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

(The food in camp has been pretty good—if you don’t mind standing in line for it—but we just wanted to get out and eat off something other than paper plates for a change.)

Day 5 also features the Talent Show, open to all riders/roadies—this year we had everything from hilarious stand-up comedies to hula dancers to incredibly touching poems about people lost to HIV and AIDS. I remember one man speaking about the “alchemy of love” between him and the partner he lost to AIDS. It was a lot of fun; I didn’t stay to the end because I wanted to get to sleep early, but I enjoyed it.

Today’s stats: 3:49, 43 miles, avg. 11.2 mph. Wow, that was a lot of hills!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Day Six

Day 6

Woke up this morning feeling slightly stiff, but generally pretty good. Yesterday being only a half-day, my legs felt pretty well-recovered, but my butt was still sore. (Sadly, it is not actually the butt that gets sore, but considerably more tender parts. When on a cycling saddle, you are actually sitting on two small bones called the ischial tuberosities, which can get REALLY REALLY SORE by the time you’re done.) The hamstring problems had more or less gone away through really aggressive stretching, but I was still getting a trace of soreness from time to time.

It was a good thing I was mostly recovered, because the first fifteen miles were all uphill. A long, slow, gradual climb—not hard—followed by a thrilling descent to the bottom. I was happily plunging down the hill at my usual 38-40mph when I spotted the police car in the right-hand lane, parked, lights blazing. I looked over my shoulder and gingerly edged over to the left lane (there were only two lanes, so this meant going into the main traffic lane), and as I flew by I saw a cyclist being loaded into an ambulance. He must have crashed on the hill! And at that speed, it could be serious. I hope he turns out OK.

Later in the day, I had an amazing and thrilling experience. We were riding along the 101 (on the shoulder, not in the actual traffic lanes), my back was aching, and my butt was on fire. Not just a little bit, but about as bad as when I had a root canal. I was riding along thinking about how miserable I felt, when I whizzed over a chalk mark that I thought said “Go Tien!”

Well, I didn’t pay much attention to it, assuming that I’d read it wrong, but then I buzzed past another set of chalk marks that I thought read “BIKE ON TRAVELING TIGRESS!” I had just ascribed that to a Day 6 hallucination (I really only caught a glimpse of it) when I saw in the road, clearly and distinctly, “GO TIEN!”

I was thrilled. Someone was cheering me, personally, on! I forgot how tired and sore I was and started following those little messages like a trail of bread crumbs. Every few miles, there it would be in the road—“GO TIEN!” and I would perk up and start going again. It got me to lunch. I had absolutely no idea who wrote that on the pavement, but I owe them a giant, enormous thank-you for making such a difference in my experience that day.

(I have since found out that it’s a friend of mine, a fellow Tech alum, whom I have never met but who was generous enough both to sponsor me and take a half-day of his time to write those messages in the road. Thank you, George, thank you. You made such a difference. :-) )

I wore a white tutu today, with a top in bridal white. People couldn’t decide if I was a runaway bride or a fairy princess, but they took lots of photos. I just smiled mysteriously. :-)

Suffering really badly today—it really really hurts sitting on the saddle—fortunately taking a break of a minute or two stops the hurting for awhile. Took three Advil in the morning, didn’t help much. Back also aching. Don’t know how I’m going to get through tomorrow, but it’s only 60 miles—I can (hopefully) do anything for 60 miles.

Just past Rest Stop 3, we came across Paradise Pit, one of the marvels of the ride.

Every year, the citizens of Santa Barbara put together a rest stop for the riders. They have strawberries, brownies, cookies, and ice cream!! Plus free massages, and lots of other goodies. And it’s all donated to the Ride. A few years ago, the grant money dried up, and several residents took it upon themselves to pay for the entire rest stop—all the goodies—out of their own pockets just so the riders could continue to enjoy their rest stop. It’s just another example of the spirit of generosity and giving that seems to follow the ride. It’s truly magic.

The rest of the day went smoothly—a quick stop at Rest Stop 4, aka Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion (everyone was dressed up as a glamorous Playboy bunny—even and especially the guys)—and then into camp. As I came cruising into camp, I heard “Tien! Tien!” And there he was—my friend (and tentmate’s partner), Hervé. I gave him a quick hug, parked my bike, and came back out to wait with him. We went out for dinner, and then came back for the Candlelight Vigil.

The Candlelight Vigil was touching, as it always is. 1,840 people making a ring of candles on the beach, we must have stretched out a quarter-mile or more. Eerie, those dancing flames in a circle, so numerous, yet completely silent. I saw people crying, or sitting in silent contemplation, or naming their loved ones lost to AIDS. It was a powerful moment.

Today’s stats: 86 miles, 6:19. Avg, 13.6 mph.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Day Seven

Through Hervé and Brett’s generosity, I princessed it last night in their hotel room. (“The Princess Tour” refers to riders who stay in hotel rooms, rather than in camp. They get a lot of convenience but miss the camaraderie of camp life.) It’s amazing how much more efficient getting up is when putting in your contact lenses doesn’t involve a five-minute hike to the shower trucks and breakfast doesn’t involve a fifteen-minute line, and going to the bathroom doesn’t require another five minute walk and ten minutes in line. We got up, got dressed efficiently, and made it out onto the route at 6:30am, 1 hour early. I made the guys get up early because the route closes early today, meaning anyone who doesn’t complete the route by 3:15 will be taken off their bike and bussed into Closing Ceremonies. (Normally you have until 7pm or so to get into camp, but Closing Ceremonies start at 5pm, and they want to make sure everyone’s there.)

When we got to Bike Parking, we discovered that Chicken Lady

had laid eggs on all of our bikes!

Inside were a few pieces of candy and this slip of paper:

(Sorry it's sideways...I've tried everything I can but Blogger still rotates it. Don't ask me why!)

Rode out at 6:30, butt still sore, but fortunately the twenty miles to the first pit stop were entirely flat. At Rest Stop 1, we were met with “Heaven and Hell”—a bunch of (fake) nuns plus some devils/succubi in, well, very skimpy clothing (big electrical-tape X’s across the nipples). I got a photo with one of them, who also happens to be a friend of mine. She was having a blast, and so was I, resplendent in a blue-green tutu.

We rode on, a scary ride down Hwy 1 in Malibu—not much shoulder and traffic whizzing by at fast speed. The coast was beautiful, though, and there was plenty of eye candy by the side of the road, as all the cute surfers/divers clustered by their cars, changing into wetsuits.

The feel today was more relaxed, celebratory—none of the tense excitement of Day 1 or the cranky bitchiness of Days 3-4. Today, we all knew we would finish the day, would finish the ride, and we felt inclined to stop, savor the moment, and have that cappuccino we’d been craving for the last week.

After lunch, we realized with shock and almost grief that there were only fifteen more miles to go! 530 miles behind us, and only a few more miles, maybe one hour of riding, to go. So we did the only thing we could. We went out to Starbucks for a latte.

After a much-deserved coffee break, we rode on. My butt was still hurting, but I ignored the pain: almost there! Supporters began appearing on the route, cheering us on: we saw signs “GO MIKE #4092!” and “Lydia’s Parents Salute You!” as friends and families of riders came out to support them and us. We passed small clusters of riders sitting at coffee shops, cheering us on as they took their coffee break. We entered the county and city of Los Angeles.

We kept riding.

And we turned a corner and…we were THERE!! People lined up three and four deep, cheering us in. As each new rider turned the corner, the crowd roared, screamed, blew whistles, rang cowbells. We were their heroes, and they were cheering us home. A staggering moment.

I rode into bike parking, had my bike scanned in one last time, and swung into bike parking. I stripped off helmet, Camelbak, and gloves, then stood by my bike for a bittersweet moment. My ride was over.

I found my friends, collected my long-sleeved victory T-shirt, and went to look at the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which was on display. It was an incredibly touching experience; looking at the grief of each family brought tears to my eyes. It really drove home each loss from AIDS: there were tributes to men, and women, and I saw a quilt block for a child just five years old. One mother and six-year-old daughter had died within a month of each other; can you imagine watching yourself and your daughter sicken and die? Innumerable blocks for men who died young, in their twenties and thirties…it’s hard to express the grief and the love that came through so clearly in each block. And if you take those hundred or more stories and multiply them by the millions who have died of AIDS…dear gods. Not another 25 years.

(If you have a chance to see the AIDS Memorial Quilt, do go see it—it’s an amazing experience.)

All too soon, we were called to go to bike parking for Closing Ceremonies, and the official end of AIDS Lifecycle 5. We lined up for the last time, and rolled into Closing Ceremonies—slowly—to the roar of the crowd. It took almost fifteen minutes to get all of us in! I hadn’t realized how many of us there were…but the sheer immensity of the sea of cyclists made such a visual impact…1,840 of us…wow. Collectively we rode almost one million miles on this ride, and raised $8 million for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. As the mayor of Los Angeles said, “You make us proud.”

There were a couple of speeches, and a short video of moments on the ride, and it was over. I still couldn’t believe I had finally cycled every single mile (and without a single flat!). I dropped my bike off at bike shipping, got my gear bag, and went to the hotel with Mike. AIDS Lifecycle 5 was over.

Status for today: 61 miles, 4:21, avg. 14.0.

Friday, June 09, 2006


So here I am, sunburned, windburned, and covered in glory (or at least in butt balm). I have accomplished what I set out to do—to ride 585 miles from San Francisco to LA, to prove that AIDS is not yet over, to prove to myself that my knee is finally recovered (not a single peep out of it the entire ride). I have been fabulous, I have cheered other riders, I have been comforted myself by people who cared for me, and I have been part of an incredible, caring community that came together for seven days of the ride. Together we are making a difference. 8 million dollars for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, and over 200 riders already registered for next year.

I will ride again next year. AIDS is not yet over.