DAY 1 – Daly City to Santa Cruz, 80.8 miles | Riding a bike down Highway 1 out of San Francisco is a deeply life-affirming experience. Biking it is nothing at all like doing the same trip in a car, or even on foot.
I tend to think of my self as residing more or less in my mind – I am my mind, I have my body. I assume most people are the same way. Endurance sports reverse that relationship, they smack the mind out of the way and force the self back into the body.
Riding up a long hill, you are your legs. Your legs are you. You are your sweat, your heartbeat, the wind sneaking around the corner of your sunglasses and drying your eyes, your sun burned skin and chapped lips- that’s all there is. The physicality of the effort makes everything more intense – taste, smell, vision and hearing, all set to maximum.
Take a nervous system in this hyper-activated state and send it rolling through some of the most gorgeous countryside on the planet, and you get an aesthetic and emotional experience that has no equal.
That’s Day One of AIDS/LifeCycle.
The sweeping vistas of the Pacific, the hot midday sun and the cool sea air, the good people who stand by the route cheering the riders on with cowbells and drums and cold green grapes – it’s overwhelming and humbling.
The day unfolds in a series of moments that seem to bypass narrative memory altogether in favor of something deeper, richer.
I cannot tell you where or when it was today that I rode out of the hot sun and into the dappled light of a eucalyptus grove, but I will revisit the light and the smell and the sounds in my mind for years.
I needed this.
In this moment in history, in particular, I needed to see that the world still has this beauty, that people can be this good. Some of the people standing by the road clapping today were standing in the same spot, clapping with the same enthusiasm, the last time I did the ride six years ago, and I assume they’ve been there clapping and cheering in all the years in between. If any of them are reading this, I want them to know that they started to restore my faith in humanity today.
I’m not all the way there, yet. But I’m a lot closer than I was yesterday.
Editor’s note: Today, the Los Angeles LGBT Center announced that AIDS/LifeCycle® participants this year raised more than $16.6 million dollars—a record amount in the event’s history—to support San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
AIDS/LifeCycle remains the world’s largest single event HIV/AIDS fundraiser, with more than 2,300 cyclists , 650 volunteer “roadies” supporting them during the 7-day, 545-mile journey.
“Our tireless riders and roadies have once again risen to the occasion, raising millions of dollars to make a difference in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “Thanks to their hard work and the generosity of their donors, we will continue to be able to provide free or low-cost HIV testing and medical services—caring for those most in need and reducing the incidence of HIV infection.”
This year’s journey marks the 25th year bikers have journeyed from San Francisco to Los Angeles, riding to end AIDS .