Day five...a beautiful ride from Santa Maria to Solvang, then across to Lompoc. Great roads, incredible scenery, perfect weather (well, other than some NASTY headwinds late in the day), but it all pales in comparison with "Red Dress Day". Here's the story (which might be part history and part myth)...some years back someone noticed that on one stretch of a long climb on day five, the line of cyclists going up the switchbacks looked a bit like the red ribbon that is used as a symbol for HIV/AIDS awareness. And then apparently someone figured out that if everyone wore red, it would really look like a red ribbon. And then, apparently someone decided to call it "red dress day". Well...take a few thousand people participating in an AIDS/Lifecycle ride and tell them that it's "red dress day" and just sit back and enjoy the view. It was stunning.
I was swept up in the spirit of it, got myself a darling little red skirt, and frankly I think I look pretty hot in it. I haven't yet broken the news to Janice and the kids that I liked wearing it (I probably have to come back and do the ride again next year if I want to wear it again). That's me with my new friend Andy (he's the one with the wings). Andy's an incredibly important part of this year's event. He's a cyclist, which means that he raised at least three thousand dollars for HIV/AIDS treatment and support. And in the photo down below, that's me with my new friend Diana. Diana is also an incredibly important participant in ALC 8, because she is pouring water at Rest Stop One. If someone isn't providing water, 2,200 cyclists are NOT riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles...not gonna happen. Alright ladies, what do you think about the skirt...does it work for me??
So...we all get a lot of great laughs out of the red attire (honsetly, some of it was incredible!).
And we all get a lot of great laughs out of Rest Stop Four and their brilliant shenanigans. But it's not just a bunch of silly stuff. What it is, is people taking something that is as serious as this huge fight with HIV/AIDS, and as challenging as this bike ride, and finding a way to lighten it up. There's nothing funny about AIDS. And there's nothing funny about sore knees, aching muscles, and worn bodies at the end of the day. But it's all part of life, and if we're going to experience life fully, we need to find ways to blend the pain with the joy and laughter. That's a good thing.
Last night we heard a piece of writing by a woman who has ridden every mile of every one of the AIDS rides in California. She talks of the pain and the fatigue of training for the ride, asks why she can't just stop, and answers "because I can't imagine what it feels like to have AIDS". Those words echoed through my mind repeatedly today on each of the climbs. The more my legs ached and my breath got short, the more clearly I heard her words. We ride because we have to, because someone who can't ride really needs for us to do this. And so we push on up the hills, knowing that our pain is just for the moment, and theirs is inescapable.
I feel pretty darned good this afternoon. I woke up a little sore (normal, I guess), started slowly, and found that within a few minutes I was riding comfortably. As the morning progressed, I realized that I felt GREAT, and enjoyed most of the ride just as much as I would enjoy any Saturday morning ride on the back roads near King City with my cycling buddies Dave, Ralph, and Chuck. As the day wore on, I started to wear down (again, normal I guess), and even though it was a relatively short 67 miles today, I was really glad to get to camp. I'm showered, cycling shorts and jersey are washed, I slugged down a couple of cartons of chocolate milk (for medicinal purposes of course), and it's only 4:30. Time to go do some serious stretching and try to get rid of some kinks.
Tomorrow we're off to Ventura. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers, as the route takes us down Highway 101 from above the tunnels north of Santa Barbara down to Goleta. That's a pretty busy stretch of highway, often with tough crosswinds, and plenty of trucks whizzing by. We'll ride safely of course; we do that. The community of riders on this event is a couple thousand people who all have each other's back. It's a pretty special place to spend a week.