Op-ed: AIDS/LifeCyclers Tell it Like It Is

Four riders share their personal experiences and photos from this year's AIDS/LifeCycle.



David Rae: Every year the seven-day, 545-mile AIDS/LifeCycle brings with it exciting experiences as well as difficult challenges. This year proved no different, providing in a single day a difficult challenge, which turned out to be the best experience of the ride.  This year,  for just the fourth time in 19 rides, the route was closed due to rain. Most would assume this would make for a miserable day,  but this miraculously turned out to be my most memorable day on the ride alongside my Popular Teammates (aptly named after the song from Wicked). 

To be clear, before this day I’d ridden in the rain one time, and I’d promised myself I’d never put myself through that again.  It’s just not fun or safe, and it’s cold.  But we were committed as a team to do every mile possible of this ride, This is just too important an event to not give our all.

To clarify a bit, on day two of the ride, we faced a long 112-mile route. Riders were deluged with rain, hail, wind, and a downright cold day.  Being the southern California genius that I am who assumed “It couldn’t possibly rain,” I left camp with no leg warmers, arm warmers or anything heat or warmth related at all.  By lunch it was just too much to bare for most of the people I was riding with.  I stomped over the gear tent and put on a bunch of gear to hopefully keep myself from freezing.  

We quickly set off to try and cover the remaining 70-plus miles of the day as fast as possible.  Working as a team, we pounded the pavement harder than any of us ever thought we could.  This helped to keep us warm, but also helped get us from point A to B as quickly as possible.    Along the way we still squeezed in a few seconds of dancing bears, attended a white trash wedding and while I remember freezing we kept the spirits high.   None of us were brave enough to attempt to enjoy the “skinny dipping spot,” although I was later told by braver souls that the water was warmer than the air outside. 

It wasn’t until about eight hours and 100 or so miles after we originally left camp that we heard the route had been closed behind us.   We pulled up to where the final rest stop of the day should have been, soaking wet, and out of water and food only to hear that almost all the other riders had been stopped at lunch or sooner.    I later learned that a local church and community center took in our stranded riders, and of course they turned this dismal day into an AIDS/LifeCycle worthy party, and experience.  Everyone seemed to come back with smiles on their faces and ready to get back on the road the following day.  A few people appeared to be wearing Project Runwayworthy gowns made of mylar blankets.

After spreading the water, we had left between us, we pushed the pace back to camp, luckily just 12 miles away with a nice heavy tail wind to push us.   We pulled into camp in King City, which was surprisingly dry, sunny and warm.  The feeling of accomplishment, bonding, and camaraderie for the few riders who were able to complete every mile of this challenging day was just overwhelming.  Without the support of my Popular Teammates I’m picturing myself on the side of the road crying and giving up, instead of having achieved something great, and conquered a big personal and group challenge.

Days like this are what the AIDS/LifeCycle is all about, working hard, bonding with others, overcoming challenges, and turning otherwise difficult situations into life-changing experiences.  The weather was perfect the next five days, and we continued to bond as a team.  I’ve committed to being team captain again for Team Popular for ALC 12.  I hope to bring more people to this experience, and to lead the team to blow past our huge $250,000 fundraising goal that we hit for ALC 11.  

You belong here, in fabulous pink!  If you would like information about joining Team Popular or registering for the AIDS/LifeCycle, email me at [email protected].

Tags: Health