I've been slow in getting this posted, but here it is. AIDS/Life/Cycle is a 7-day, 560 mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for AIDS research, services and education. This year, 1900 riders raised $10 million.
We left the Cow Palace (actually in Daly City) on a morning that was so foggy, the streets were wet.
It's pretty crowded at first, because we all left somewhat at the same time. My group was at the back of the pack, which is not the best place to be. The first hill is Highway 92 over the hill to Half Moon Bay. It isn't too bad a hill, but there is little shoulder, lots of riders and lots of cars, so it can be dicey. BUT, we are rewarded at the top of the hill (and the top of the worst hill each day) by the beautiful and enchanting Ginger Brewlay. That's me on the left.
It warmed up after lunch and we had a nice run down the coast to Santa Cruz, a total of 82 miles for the day. Here's what it looks like:
Day 2 is 107 miles from Santa Cruz to King City, heading inland. Along the way, we are serenaded by a man playing a conch shell and a 12-year-old girl playing the Star Wars Theme on a trumpet. Typical. Much of the day is spent riding through lettuce, strawberry and artichoke fields. Most everyone stops for deep fried artichoke hearts in Watsonville. We didn't get into camp until after 6:00pm, after spending 4 1/2 hours off the bike along the way, including time at the "Cookie Lady", who bakes a cookie for every rider. Here is my group (plus some others) out in the middle of nowhere.
Day 3 is 65 miles from King City to Paso Robles, including "Quadbuster", the most-feared hill on the ride. It's about 1.3 miles at 10ish percent. A challenge for many, but doable. The downhill on the other side is rather disappointing, but lunch is in a little town, where the local school kids put on a BBQ and raise enough money from us to pay for all their sports program and scholarships.
DAy 4 is 98 miles from Paso Robles to Santa Maria. The big deal this day are "The Evil Twins", a hill that takes us back to the coast. It's a 7 mile climb, counting a false summit. It's not as steep as Quadbuster and the fun part is that the top represents the halfway point of The Ride. From there you can see the coast (at Morro Bay) and can look forward to a long, great downhill. I'm not a hill climber, but don't find these hills too tough, albeit I am somewhat slow.
Day 5 is nearly 70 miles from Santa Maria to Lompoc via the Quasi-Dutch town of Solvang. Much of the first half is spent on Foxen Canyon Rd., where every other driveway is a winery. Here's a shot of the road. For the first 15 miles, the road rises almost imperceptively, then gets steeper. After that, there's a general downhill feeling to lunch.
After lunch in Solvang, we turn Northwest, right into the wind. And what a wind! 20 miles of headwinds, with three pretty good hills thrown in for good measure. Some riders said it was the toughest 20 miles they have every ridden.
Oh, did I mention Day 5 is "Red Dress Day". Nearly everyone is dressed in red, and many are in actual red dresses. I can't help but wonder what some of the folks in the very small towns are thinking as we ride through.
Day 6 is 88 miles from Lompoc to Ventura. It may be my favorite day. After a climb first thing, it feels like it's down hill most of the day. We get to Highway 101 at Gaviota Pass near Santa Barbara and stay pretty close to the coast most of the day. There was a bit of a headwind,which is unusual, but not enough to make it unfun. We also ride several miles on bike paths. That night in camp, there is a silent vigil on the beach, which is pretty emotional for those who have lost someone to AIDS.
DAy 6 is 70 miles to Los Angeles, Brentwood actually. It's 90% on the coast, through Malibu, where the traffic is pretty heavy (Lots of the new Bentley convertibles) but there is a good shoulder to ride on. Lunch is on a huge lawn/soccer field across from Pepperdine College, looking over the ocean. The end is only 18 miles away. The last leg is lots of fun, filled with anticipation of the finish line. Here is my group, about 6 miles from the end. That's me on the right.
At the end, there is always a huge crowd cheering us in. It is really a good feeling. There are lots of riders crying, either from relief from making it 560 miles or from thinking about the reasons they are riding.
ALC supplies two-person tents, great food, medical services, entertainment and amazing SAG support. Next year will be the 10th anniversary. I've already signed up.
Here's just one more picture to burn into your brain.