UC Berkeley Web Feature
Bears on bikes
Day 1: Working, sacrificing, sending a message
SANTA CRUZ – I never thought I'd ever have so much fun waiting in a line to pee.
Nor did I realize that I actually do know all the words to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Just give me an 11-mile hill and you'd be surprised what I can belt out.
Those are just a few of the things I have learned about myself on this ride. I've spent all day trying to figure out what to say to convey the wonder and awe my experience has been filled with so far. I don't have the advantage of prior rides or even prior days on this ride under my belt, so I have no basis of comparison. I'm writing first. Ask me tomorrow to describe the day, and I will have a firmer grasp on what is or is not to be expected and thus tools to paint a more analytical description.
I suppose the best thing to do is start from the beginning, to take you through the snapshots I will soon develop from my Kodak Max Versatility disposable camera as a guide, knowing that in between, there was the work — the hours of pedaling and sweating that string these memories together and represent our fight against the pandemic. Keep that in mind always; we are here, working, sacrificing, sending a message.
At opening ceremonies, our Cal jerseys stood out in the crowd and many of us gathered together with ease. We got a picture with our hair neat and tidy, our jackets still on, faces freshly scrubbed. We held hands and thought of those who could not join us today; I know many thought of loved ones they had lost to AIDS, but I thought of my father, the triathlete, always pushing me to do my best. I wished he could have been there to see me off, to mirror the tears streaming down my face as we witnessed together the beauty of 2,333 dedicated cyclists riding off into the early morning San Francisco mist. That's a picture I didn't get to take, but one I will still carry with me always — the pride, yet simultaneous humility, the moment brought.
There were the moments at the rest stops, when I finally found the riders I lost on that tough climb, and it felt like we were never separated. Wiping dirt and bike grease off each other's cheeks, using a shoulder to balance for stretching, getting sunblock on those hard-to-reach spots; this is what it means to be a team.
In the dwindling miles, there was the rare beauty of the coast highway shrouded in a soft marine layer, the cliffs jutting out like giants among smaller, tree-specked peninsulas. What seemed like a hundred parasailers, their colorful kites billowing in that dreaded crosswind. Fresh-smelling eucalyptus hanging over the road and signaling the descent into Santa Cruz. Sense memory will keep this day alive forever.
But remember, always, always, the work. The astonishment when, after that initial sinking feeling, I actually did charge up that hill. The relief when, at last, the "Rest Stop 1 Mile Ahead" sign appeared and reappeared as the day went on. I am prepared, I have trained, but pushing myself to keep going , even when I'm tired, reminds me why I am here, why we are all here: to stand in the face of violence, in the face of silence, and keep fighting until we end AIDS. Sure, my memories will live on for me, but what I am doing here, what my team and my fellow riders are doing here, will live on for so many more.
I'll let you know how those pictures turn out.
For an earlier NewsCenter report on the Cal Team, chronicling Hailey Gilmore's misfortunes during training for the AIDS LifeCycle, see Wheels of Fortune.