AIDS/LifeCycle 2013

7/9/13

It has been one month since Jeff and I finished the AIDS/LifeCycle. That's about how long it took me to unpack my suitcase from the ride, too. It still has a lingering odor of soggy tents and sneakers, which immediately conjures up memories of that week. Showering in a trailer, waking up at 4am, freezing in my sleeping bag at night...these things are really not as miserable as they seem once you're a part of the ride.

In case you don't know what the AIDS/LifeCycle is, it is a 545 mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles which takes place the first week of June. The ride benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. There were 2,203 riders this year and over 500 roadies, and together everyone fundraised a whopping $14.2 million. I'm really proud of Jeff for committing himself to the ride. He trained for six months, fundraised a little over $3,000, and rode every mile of the journey on his own.

I was there too, as a roadie. I was a part of the lunch crew and got a chance to see Jeff get to our lunch stop everyday. Being a roadie is such hard work. We were up at 4am everyday and had to set up the lunch stop before the first cyclist rolled in at around 9:30 or so. When the last rider left, we had to break down, load up the trucks, and head into camp. It was such. exhausting. work. I don't think I've worked that hard in my entire life, but the experience was so worth it.
Day 1: San Gregorio State Beach. See all those bike racks? I was a part of the bike parking crew, and I had to help unload those A frames and steel poles everyday. We had to break it all down each day, too. Beyond the bike parking you can see the hill with cyclists continuing on the ride from our lunch stop. 
The gear trucks. Everyone had the same gear truck the entire week. We would pick up our luggage and tent each day in camp. The next morning, we'd pack up our stuff and give it to our gear truck crew to load up. It was a very efficient system of keeping everyone's stuff in check. 
Lines for port-o-potties. Now that I think about it, the times that I used a proper bathroom were few and far between on the ride. After a while, you get used to it. As a lunch crew roadie, we got the luxury of being the first ones to use the port-o-potties at the lunch stop. Port-o-potties smell so nice in the morning, much better than how they reek at the end of the day. Hey, it's the little things...
Jeff at the halfway point. Sidenote: look at that beautiful hair! 
Jeff and our cousin Tommy rode together as Team Wheely Tired.

Lunchies! Each day had a costume theme, which we all voted on in the months leading up to the ride. This was in Bradley, CA on tie dye day. As if the riders and roadies weren't already amazing for being a part of the ride, they also donated to the local school in Bradley by buying lunch from them as part of their school's fundraiser. I heard someone say that the school raised enough money for all extracurricular activities in a year from the riders and roadies that supported them. Someone else said the school got all new musical instruments. They fundraised about $16,000 in one day.
A view from Chateau L46, our number on the grid system used to keep everyone's tents in order. This was on the day we camped in Santa Maria. After working so hard each day, I looked forward to climbing into my sleeping bag and sleeping on my thin mat! Jeff and I went to bed around 8pm each night and slept very soundly due to exhaustion.
Another view of the tent city. It's pretty cool to see how organized it all is. People would hang things on the tent to dry and to make finding their tents easier. Jeff and I moved "off the grid" a few times to get away from some of the noisy people sleeping around us. Lights out was at 9:30pm, but we were usually passed out way before then. 

My fearless leaders, Adam and Mike. This was on Red Dress Day in Lompoc. These two men are some of the best people I've ever worked for and made managing our lunch crew look like a breeze. It was Adam that recruited me to be a part of the lunch crew when I talked to him about being a roadie at the AIDS/LifeCycle expo. 

The candlelight vigil on the beach in Ventura in memory of those we've lost to AIDS. There were at least 3,000 people there and everyone was completely silent. It was powerful and deeply moving. 

The last day of the ride in Malibu. This day was bittersweet. Everyone was so excited that the hard work was over, but we were also sad to part ways. From here, the riders rode to the VA Center in LA. 
We were told that the ride is a "love bubble," which describes the ride perfectly. Everyone in it is comfortable with themselves, and comfortable with one another. It is a place where everyone is safe to be themselves. People were so friendly and happy to be there, even after working 10-12 hour days in the sun or riding their bike for a hundred miles. The positive energy was palpable and it felt really good to be a part of such a wonderful experience.

At some point during the week I was warned that I'd return home and be disillusioned by the real world, where there are assholes and haters and folks who are intolerant of those that are different than they are. I wouldn't say I was disillusioned, but I definitely miss the acceptance, kindness, and happiness of the folks from the AIDS/LifeCycle. I can see why some people have been doing it for twenty years. They are doing great things for the LGBT community and AIDS/HIV awareness, and I am very proud that Jeff and I were a part of it. 

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