I woke up this morning early to the sound of showers in the rooms around me. Larry had to take off way before me since he has to be at the gear truck to load all of our bags. I can't remember how or when I got dressed for my ride today. All I remember is sitting on the bus thinking that this is really happening. My journey back to LA begins today. The moon outside was a sliver and it was very cold. But things heated up quickly in the Cow Palace because the energy was extremely high.
I was amazed that things were so organized. Once we entered the Cow Palace, all riders were met with breakfast. There was a great team of volunteers who handed out banana bread, bagels and fruit. They had coffee waiting for us. I stuffed some banana bread in my mouth and headed for my bike. Everyone brought water bottles filled with water and electrolyte drinks. Riders stuffed their seat bags with whatever they needed for the long ride ahead.
Tires were being pumped with air and some riders were putting the last touches on their decorated helmets. There were helmets with streamers, helmets with teddy bears on top. The helmet I loved the most was Brendan's. He loves Dame Edna and calls all of his cycling trainees Possums. He was given a toy Possum by a friend and he attached it to his helmet. He placed greenery around the possum so it would be in its own environment. I think Brendan has a special helmet for everyday of the ride. I'll keep everyone posted if he does.
Before we rode out this morning, there was stretching for all the riders. It was like a huge class in a gym. After everyone was warmed up and stretched out the opening ceremonies began. Riders, family and friends listened to the announcements from the stage. It was a fun rally. Then a procession began. Riders and staff were carrying ALC banners and there was a riderless bike that made its way thought the banners. This is when the tears started to flow. The riderless bike was for all of those who cannot be with us on ride.
Around my neck I had a chain of hearts. One for every person I lost to AIDS and some names that my sponsors wanted to honor. I held it tightly in my hand and from that moment on, I cried like a baby during the first half of my ride. The Pos Peds were first to ride out this morning. Brendan was chosen to lead the Pos Peds out. Then the rest of the riders followed. It was a sight see. 2500 riders being cheered on by family and friends who lined the road. I felt so blessed to one of these special riders.
Soon after we headed out, we were met with a climb. Then another climb and another climb. The entire day was full of climbs. Oooops everyone, I have to do a part two to this one. Its late and after 75 miles of mostly climbing. I have to hit the sack. I will continue tomorrow and have pictures also.