Read Part 1 of my experience here.
I awake and set about putting together my outrageous outfit: it is Red Dress Day! Red Dress Day used to be Dress Red Day, but with that many gays on the ride, it quickly turned into Red Dress Day. The line of red riders winding up one of the hills looks like a Red AIDS Ribbon. It’s my favorite thing to watch 2200 riders emerge from their tents in various states of drag on this morning. Many have wigs, makeup, glitter, and wild accoutrements. The ride is short (only 52 miles), so we enjoy the scenery and the eye candy as we go. There’s one stretch where we face an intense headwind, and we take turns breaking the wind for each other. The teamwork and camaraderie is neat to experience in what usually is a very individualistic sport. We finish early, around 11, and hang out at the lunch stop until camp opens. Once in camp, I get a quick massage to ease the pain in my left shoulder, and then complete a quick upper body workout. Afterwards, we take our group picture, have dinner, and head to bed.
Day six is one of my favorite days. It’s fairly long, but includes some of my highlights from ALC, including riding down a windy mountain into Santa Barbara, Paradise Pit, a massive ice cream social hosted by the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, and the dance party at rest stop 4 before finishing on a beautiful campsite in Ventura Beach.
I ride with three of my new friends that I made on the ride, and we have an amazing time all day long. It was a great reminder that AIDS/LifeCycle is a ride, not a race. It’s worth going a little slower to share the experience with friends. After dinner, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence lead an AIDS memorial service.
Thousands light candles and stand in silence on the beach in honor of those who lost their lives to the disease. Some carry pictures of departed loved ones. It’s an emotional moment. After some time, the candles extinguish and people wander back to their tents to rest before the final day.
Day 7 dawns like a ton of bricks. It still doesn’t seem real that it’s the last day of the Love Bubble. I feel conflicted. On the one hand, I’m super tired, sore, and longing for my own bed. On the other, I’m so incredibly in love with the experience that I never want it to end. We start out solemnly from Ventura, but get more jovial as the morning wears on.
I gave the team a deadline to meet at Starbucks in West Hollywood so we can all ride across the finish line together, and to my great pride, the group that typically picks up the rear has started early so they can make the deadline! We’re all excited to get to LA. We speed through Malibu, and then start to hit LA proper.
My emotions rise as we get closer and closer to the end. Finally, about 1 PM, we make it to Starbucks, and cheer as more and more team members start to arrive. By 2 PM, we’re 45 strong and ready to go. I make my final speech to the group letting them know how proud I am of all of them, and I give instructions for what comes next. We line up two by two and set out on the remaining mile.
As we approach the finish line at Fairfax High School, cops start halting traffic so we can ride through. Emotions continue to rise, and as we turn a corner and see the cheering crowds, a lump forms in my throat. We cross the finish line to deafening cheering. I know it’s the proudest moment of my life.
Words cannot express the exhilaration, pride, and nostalgia I feel as we roll in. There is not a dry eye on the team as we get off our bikes for the last time, and embrace, cry, and cheer together. After we hand off our bikes, we say our goodbyes, and head to our respective hotels.
After the ride
The rest of the weekend, I participate in the LA Resist March, and celebrate PRIDE in WeHo. While I enjoy the weekend, I start preparing for some big life changes that will take place when I get back. On Monday, I fly back to SF, and immediately go to my office where I turn in my badge. It’s my last day with my company, and I start my new job the following Monday. With the close of one adventure, so begins another.
As I reflect on my ALC experience, my biggest take away is The Love Bubble. There’s something about the ride that eliminates the barriers that keep us from connecting with each other in more meaningful ways. It’s the easiest thing in the world to strike up a conversation or a friendship with someone on the ride, yet, in real life, I find that much more difficult.
I want to carry that sense of openness and freedom with me so I can connect more meaningfully with more people. ALC truly is a remarkable experience. I’m a better, healthier, and happier person because of the experience, and I’ve developed relationships that I know will stand the test of time.