When Hagrid teaches Harry Potter and his Hogwarts classmates about hippogriffs, he begins by explaining that they are very proud creatures. They are powerful, fierce, and extremely proud; they demand respect and humility. Draco Malfoy, impudent little priss that he is, defiantly approaches the beast brashly and is attacked. Harry bows low, proceeds cautiously and is granted immediate friendship by Buckbeak. Hold that image for a moment...
I live near "the dreaded Quadbuster", the mile long climb up Jolon Grade. I have driven over that hill every day for thirty years going to and from King City where I work. I have long wondered what it would be like to try to ride a bike over that hill. But I wasn't really a cyclist until I registered for ALC 8, bought my first road bike, and came face to face with the reality that I was going to have to deal with "the beast". My first attempts were disastrous; I wasn't strong enough, and I tried to climb too fast. Ouch. Failure. No fun. I came to view the hill as a beast to be slain; I would have to learn to thrust a dagger through it's heart before I was ready for the AIDS/Lifecycle ride.
Subsequent efforts were better. I was becoming stronger, and I was beginning to realize that there might be some value in approaching the climb with a little less bravado. I learned that if I would just slow down, acknowledge that I can't fly over the hill like the super-cyclists (I do love to watch those guys ride!), and stay within myself, I was able to make the ascent. In sports, home field advantage can be the difference between winning and losing; I definitely had a bit of that in my pocket as I prepared for day three of ALC 8.
What I had learned is that the hill is NOT a beast to be slain. It is a hippogriff; it is a mighty force of nature to be reckoned with, and if it is approached with a bit of humility and respect, it just might allow the cyclist to become its friend. In fact it demands humility and respect. Attack it with arrogance and it will flick you off your bike. Approach it with an understanding that you're just a guy on a bike who has no special powers but wants to climb it, and you're treated to what Harry Potter got...a majestic flight, soaring high into the air where only the birds and the wizards are usually allowed to go.
I rode the grade carefully today...a nice slow ride out of King City, a pause at the rest stop to refresh, stretch, and suck down a Gu (not a gourmet treat, but they seem to help), and an easy ride to the base of the climb. Low gears, easy pace. And then the ascent was on...nice and slow, a little slower, and then even a little slower than that. I passed some riders, some riders passed me, and this whole long line of cyclists gradually inched its way upward. It seems that most of them already knew the way to do this, probably long before I did. There were some "cross-trainers", people walking their bikes, but there's nothing wrong with that. The objective was for all of us to get to the top of the hill so we could ride on out through Lockwood, down to Bradley, and finally on into Paso Robles. And we did. The hippogriff had accepted our acts of humility and we were rewarded with a thrilling ride.
Quadbuster...hippogriffs...a metaphor for life? I think so. If we brazenly declare that we are doing this bike ride and you, prospective donor, had better donate, we will be flicked off the bike and the check won't be written. If we humbly go to our friends, our families, our neighbors and explain how critically important this ride is, then millions of dollars pour into SFAF and LAGLC.
The beauty of the actual experience of this remarkable bike ride/road trip is seeing 2,700 people put the needs of others above their own. Lunch servers, water toters, cross-dressing entertainers, people at intersections pointing out directions, bike parking staff, and a couple thousand riders. All humbly offering themselves, bowing down, and being granted a remarkable ride. How cool is that?