Seeing California on Two Wheels (All While Raising Money for HIV)

6.3.2013

By Clark Harding

Clark Harding is one of thousands of participants taking part in AIDS LifeCycle, the 545-mile journey on bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles — all to raise millions for HIV research and treatment. Harding, reporting from the road, shares his experiences; read his entries below.

SOUL SORENESS

Sunday, 6/8/13 9:30PM DAY 1

Ever had that feeling of muscle soreness…but you kind’a liked it? Well, that’s how I feel about my body right now, but also about my soul. My soul is sore…and I kind’a like it.

It’s terrible to admit this, but lately I’ve been feeling a little dead inside. Between work, relationships or daily “whateverness,” my life has lacked meaning. In an effort to ignite that meaning I wanted to take a trip that hit four birds with one stone. I wanted a vacation where I get a TON of exercise, meet a lot of awesome people, challenge myself AND support an important cause all at the same time. Welcome to AIDS/LifeCycle 2013, which kicked off its first day in a seven day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to fight HIV and AIDS… and has so far managed to be way more intense than I expected. “This is the only event in which you will laugh and cry at the same time you’re riding a bike,” explains Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian, which is co-producer and beneficiary of the event. “And people keep coming back because the experience is unlike any other.”

As a hard-core camper, I wouldn’t refer to ALC as camping as much as it is glam-ping. You don’t have to carry your luggage, there are showers, and food is served. And as Lorri blasted over the loudspeaker this morning “Trust me, if you’re squeamish about using a porta-potty, you’ll get over it real fast.” After she declared “the road is now officially open!” approximately 2,203 cyclists rushed out of the Cow Palace in San Francisco (which houses the opening ceremony of the event) and were cheered by onlookers as they began the journey south.

“This year the riders raised over $14.2 million,” Jim Key, the LAGLC’s Chief Public Affairs Officer tells me. “That’s well over a million more than we expected, which is crazy.” It’s the outpouring of emotion at such milestones as this, which can be just as exhausting as riding 79 miles in the first day.

“When you experience grief,” says Lisa Anne Porter, 48, who lost her dad to the disease in 1988, “you don’t need to talk about it. You can feel it.” Perhaps it’s silent like the connection of the participants, on top of the enthusiasm of the “roadies” who’ve been electrifying riders with love, pampering, and peanut butter along today’s journey to camp in Santa Cruz. In one day, I feel like I’ve ignited the change I’ve been looking for. I’ve worked my spirit muscle a bit differently. At the end of a long ride of laughing and crying at the same time while riding a bike, hitting my sleeping bag in my tent is more than welcome. My muscles and my soul are sore…and I kind’a like it.

My name is Clark Harding and I’ll be reporting live from the ride. Find out more about AIDS LifeCycle here.

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