Clark Harding was one of thousands of participants who took part in AIDS/LifeCycle, the 545-mile journey on bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles that raised millions for HIV research and treatment. Harding finished the ride this weekend; he shares some of his experiences in the entries below.
Thursday: Ever tried to ride a bike in a tutu? Or say hooker heels? Maybe a Tele-tubby costume?
Welcome to Red Dress Day on AIDS/LifeCycle 2013, where poor innocent tourists were frozen in shock as over 2,200 riders zipped by them…all wearing some type of red. “Lots of dudes in drag, chicks in bikinis, I think there was an entire team of Little Orphan Annies,” exclaimed Lorri Jean, CEO of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, who claimed to have dressed as “Little Red Riding Hood” but looked more like Elvira meets Morticia Adams meets…Kathy Bates? Regardless, many communities were confused (to say the least) as the cyclists proudly rode from Santa Maria to camp in Lompoc. This is the shortest day on the ride, thus comfort is encouraged to be sacrificed for fashion, and form takes priority over function.
According to Greg Sroda, Director of ALC “The tradition began back when this was called California AIDS Ride, we had a ‘dress-in-red day,’ because the route is very hilly, and when the bikers rode through the hills single file, it would look like a red ribbon. But when we changed to AIDS/LifeCycle the riders switched it, and it became Red Dress Day.” Then of course, it kind of evolved in to dress-in-whatever-is-red-day, and people just had fun.
Friday: I’m exhausted. I feel like a worn out old hag. My calves are burning and I have one really angry taint. I think I have a spandex rash, athletes foot and I smell like tent. I would complain to all my friends on the ride, but I’ve totally alienated them already. And just when I’m about ready to check in to a hotel, and SAG (Support and Gear) my bike the rest of the way home, I am reminded why I am here:
After dinner, at camp in Ventura, 2,700+ AIDS/Life Cyclists and roadies were handed a candle where they walked down to the beach. This is the traditional candle light vigil that happens on the last night on the road. “I’m a vigil virgin,” says Kimiko Martinez “and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
About the size of a football field, the cyclists organically form a circle of lights. In silence, we reflect on our ride, and our losses and look forward to the end of AIDS. The collective energy will be just enough to get me the rest of the way home for closing ceremonies tomorrow in Westwood.