"Every time I get on my bike, I still feel like a kid," says Infor Healthcare major account executive Lou Gibbons. So, his seven-day, 545-mile bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles this summer must have been like a second childhood.
Here's his experience on the 2015 AIDS/Lifecycle - Ride to end AIDS:
I joined the ranks of 2,400 cyclists for the opening ceremonies at the Cow Palace in San Francisco early on the morning of May 31. The most emotional part was a procession led by the Positive Peddlers (cyclists who are HIV+). They would be a constant source of inspiration each day along the route. They were followed by four people pushing a riderless bicycle symbolizing all the people who have died of HIV and AIDS. This is why we raise money for this cause.
After a hug and kiss from my wife and son in the crowd, I was relieved to finally begin, but also nervous knowing what a bear this ride could be over seven days.
A typical day begins at 5 a.m., packing gear, stretching, and then a hot breakfast in a huge open-air tent, and a glance at the Daily Spin newsletter filled with information about each day's ride. Lunch is provided along the route, and a hot dinner is served when you get to camp at day's end. Rest stops are typically between 15 to 25 miles apart, and they are loaded with great energy food, fruit, and Gatorade along with medical and sports therapy tents.
Pretty much all I had to do each day was ride safely. Easier said than done.
For example, Day 2 took us from Santa Cruz to King City, our longest day with 109 miles. The cross winds and head winds in the Salinas Valley below Monterey were not fun. With long stretches of rough surfaces and pot holes, if you lifted your head to talk to someone or look at the scenery, you did so at your potential peril.
Ode to the roadies — Picture a moving tent city with about 600 support people (affectionately known as roadies) leaving for the next overnight town as soon as the last riders head out each morning. There are roadies who ride motorcycles and station themselves at busy intersections and highway exits along the route to provide a big measure of safety for the riders. There are roadies who set up the rest stops, roadies who set up the overnight town and serve our meals, roadies who manage the luggage. They are the backbone of the ride.
The highlight of the ride was cycling along the Pacific Ocean the last two days. The quality of the roads was great, so I could comfortably spend time looking at the sea. The weather was spectacular.
On the last evening before our final leg into Los Angeles, most of the riders and roadies gathered on the beach to conduct a quiet candlelight ceremony honoring the friends and family members who have died of AIDS or continue to be stricken. It brought the message home, once again, of why we ride to raise money to eradicate this disease. Our ride ended with hundreds of people cheering us on at the VA Center in Los Angeles.
Being around 2,400 cyclists who are all in this event to accomplish similar goals is powerful. Riders were required to raise at least $3,000; I was able to raise over $18,400. Many of my Infor co-workers combined to give me nearly $11,000 of that total. All told, the AIDS Lifecycle organization raised over $16.3 million from this year's ride. A new record!
The AIDS Lifecycle website provides information on the ride and the beneficiaries of the monies raised each year.
— Lou Gibbons