Thursday, June 28, 2012

Really Not a Humblebrag

(I'm at the mall getting food at Askew Grill.)

Me: (reading from menu)...and, let's see, I'll have a salad as the side.  Yes, the salad.

Cashier: (ringing me up) Okay, anything to drink?

Me: Water is fine.

Cashier: Do you work at Ambercrombie?

Me:  Um, no.

Cashier: Oh, you look like you work there.

Me: Maybe you know me from the ads.  I'm their model.

Cashier: (major stink face) You?  You model for Ambercrombie?

Me:  I don't?  Why'd you make that face?

Cashier: Oh, I'm sorry, you get a discount if you work in the mall and I thought I saw you working there.  And you kinda smell like that perfume they sell.  I didn't mean anything bad.  You could model for them, I guess.

Me: It's okay.  I didn't even know there was an Ambercrombie in this mall.  I don't shop there.

Cashier: No, but, you could model, you never know.

Me: I don't know about that.

Cashier: You could.

Me:  Okay.  Thank you.

Cashier:  Really, I didn't mean anything bad.  You should model.  I didn't mean anything by it.  So, that's two ahi tuna skewers and a side salad then?  Would you like to try a cookie?

Me:  No.  No cookie.

You model?

Friday, June 22, 2012

ALC-Day 0--Wrap Up


I'm back from the ALC ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  My heart is full and trying to sum up my experiences on the trip has proved difficult.  I've started and stopped this entry several times in the week and days since I've returned, not knowing how to organize and relay my experience on the road.  It was just such a big time.   

I should start by thanking my donors (and hope I have stopped short of being annoying), without whom I would not have even had this impactful experience.  And thank you to the team behind ALC who went above and beyond to move this peaceful juggernaut of an event south through the state of California. Truly, this event planner is in awe of how this all came together so very well.  Our fundraising efforts resulted in $12.6 million.

Rather than give you a day-by-day of my journey, which would certainly be a tangled, flowing hair weave of my streaming conscious, imma give you the highlights.

My cycling drag, 4am, 6/3/12

Day One.
  All the cyclists met at the Cow Palace (in South San Francisco) around 5am for the opening ceremonies and send off.  Friends Henrriette, Dana, Elida, and my man interest, Jonathan, showed up to bid us well.  But before we saddled up there was stretching.  And motivational speaking.  And singing.  And a precession of volunteers carrying signs of inspiration reading "Hope" on down to "Courage".  Following the precession, an empty bicycle was wheeled in to represent those who did not have the strength to ride and/or lost their battle to AIDS--a somber moment that morning and one that brought ugly cry face to many in the crowd.  But it also brought us together and reminded us of what we'd signed on to do.

Team B List: Just Popular Enough before the ride out.

And I'm off, mile 0.

Team B List: Just Popular Enough.  I don't know that I've ever acknowledged my teammates; Chris Streeter, Nick, Chris Sommerfeld, Wolfgang, David, Justin, Wookie, Matt, and Triston--all great guys and training buddies.   We're a brotherhood now.

In years past the traveling cast of the LA production of Wicked formed an ALC team called Team Popular (after the song "Popular" from the play).  They were all snotty and too good for everyone, or so the story goes.  Last year, a group of San Franciscans formed a group called Team Unpopular, who were/are much more clever, eclectic and approachable.  This year, my team formed, and though we kicked around a lot of names and weren't really trying to add to the soup, we became Team B List: Just Popular Enough.  The story really flatlines there.  And that's how we became Team B List. 
B List (L to R) Chris Sommerfeld, David, Matt, me, Wooks,
Triston, Wolfgang, Nick, Chris Streeter and Justin.

Day Shitty (Day Two).  Following Day One, which was full of enthusiasm and beautiful weather was Day Two, full of rain and soggy diaper butts (from soaked chamois pads in biking shorts).  The morning started out well enough with an overcast sky but quickly turned into the worst day on the bike I have ever had.  Ever.  I'm talking about rain.

We rode through beautiful strawberry fields and foggy Moss Landing and while doing so, the weather turned from mist to downpour.  The high we had leaving Cow Palace was washed away along with our liberally-applied sunscreen.  When the official announcement came that the route had been shut down, there was not the sigh of relief you might expect from a horde of briny bikers.  We were sad.  And cold.  But mostly sad.  Personally, I've been training for months for the ride and to be told I could not do a portion of it was a big let down.  But it was the right decision to close the route.  Now ALC staff and roadies had a new mess on their hands: transporting a few thousand cyclists and their bikes to camp.

Furthering the disappointment we missed several highlights that day including:
  • the Cookie Lady (a local woman who voluntarily bakes cookies for all the riders as a Thank You), 
  • the Otterpop Stop
  • swimming in the river
  • Rest Stop 4--missed that! (more on Rest Stop 4 later)
For most of the afternoon while we waited in the rain, there was no cover and many of us were shivering under thin awnings and slides of nearby playgrounds.  Other cyclists just became an entangled mass of bodies alla Emperor penguins trying to keep warm.  Thankfully there was a nearby student center that the city opened up for us and Red Cross Disaster Relief was called in, bringing hot coffee and mylar blankets to save the day.

From there it took approximately four to five hours for a fleet of buses to finally pick every one up.  It was a big mess and ALC really had a massive job to do.  To kill time in the student center we wrung out our clothes, ate lunch, slept, bathed in small sinks, and laughed.  Despite the feeling of defeat, there were no losers that day, just really gay wet people in mylar capes.


Me in my garbage bag.  No mylar for me.

Panoramic of the refugees in mylar.

Routine. By Day Three a routine had fallen into place:
  • 4:30/5am Wake up to a cacophony of zippers zipping (tent doors, sleeping bags, duffel bags), dress, pack up belongings, break down tent, eat breakfast, find bike
  • 6:30 Route opens (off you go!), "butt blessings" by cheerleaders and ride supporters
  • ~10:30 Lunch on some scenic cliff or charming farm town
  • ~6:30pm Ride into camp sweaty and spent, check in bike, pick up belongings, set up tent, peel off tight clothes and shower
  • 7:30 Eat dinner, bond with fellow riders, hear ALC updates and recaps
  • 8:30 Sleep like a dead body

Best Day.  Day Three, I felt, was by far the most memorable day for me and more than made up for the sloppy, muddy, wet wreck-of-a-ride as seen on Day Two.  One thing I didn't realize when signing up for ALC is how our wolfpack of riders would stimulate the local economy along the route.  We were like locust with spend-down accounts, winding through California and buying out all the goods from mom-and-pop food trucks, school bake sales, and farmer's markets.

One of our stops was at Mission San Miguel and we took a collection raising $6,000 to go towards restoration of the landmark.  Then in Bradley, a dusty little town off the interstate, we stopped for lunch and bought hundreds and hundreds of burgers, raising over 16k (yes) for the town's after-school programs.  I was so happy to give my damp dollars to a good cause.

Day Three was also the day of the Quadbuster hill.  I thought, and not to sound like a jock, that Quadbuster was challenging but not as difficult as many of the other riders had made it out to be--something I attribute to my months of hill climbing in the North Bay.  At any rate, Quadbuster is a little over a mile incline and typically cyclists ride up and down the hill for each person in their life who has lost a loved one to AIDS or knows someone with HIV.  Some do it dozens of times.  One of our riding buddies lost his father to AIDS and in support of him and to honor his loss, each of us B-Listers rode up the hill; once for ourselves and a second time in his father's memory.

Also, as you ride up Quadbuster, there are some riders who might struggle and are aided by other, stronger riders who ride or jog beside them with their hands on their backs. Those guys are sweeter than sweet tea.  There's love like this along the length of the route.

 Helping a rider up Quadbuster.

Rest Stop 4 and other themed stops.  The purpose of the rest stop is to stop and rest.  Duh.  You fuel up with water or red, blue, yellow--Gatoraide-type drinks (we just called them by their color), and eat carb-y snacks.  In a full day's ride there are four rest stops, a lunch stop, and on the longer days, water stops.  Each stop has a theme.  Rest Stop 4, the last stop before camp, was by far the most anticipated stop as it had the most blown out and hilarious themes and sometimes a show.  Best friend Tom (see below) and my tentmate, was one of members of Rest Stop 4 and always kept us laughing.

Tom at Rest Stop 4, Day Three, Mission San Miguel.

Rest Stop 4 themes:
  • Day One: Jockeys.  The RS4 crew dressed up as horse race jockeys and set up a winner's circle with a fake horse for pictures.
  • Day Two: "Rest Home 4", which I missed because of the rainout.  The crew dressed as old men in wheelchairs and sexy nurses.  They passed out pill bottles filled with prescriptions like "Mariahcin" and "Shakiracil".  
  • Day Three: "The Best Little 4 House in Texas" had the crew in sexy saloon outfits.  There was even a dance routine.
  • Day Four: Oktoberfest was filled with boys in lederhosen and bouncing around, speaking in German accents.  "Velcome! It would be so nice if you vould get off your bike."
  • Day Five: The Voice after the show The Voice had cyclists singing karaoke to the crowd, complete with judges.
  • Day Six: Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome-themed let the crew get a little rough, dressed in rock-post-apocalyptic wear. 
  • Day Seven: No rest stop.

The B List with Tom at the Best Little 4 House in Texas.

Themes from other rest stops included Smurf Village, Words With Friends, surfers, and roaring 20s.  All very cool themes as well.  There were no losers that day, just really gay wet people in mylar capes.  Wait, did I already use that line?

Angels.  There were so many angels along the route from SF to LA, many of whom that were not affiliated with ALC.  It wasn't unusual to hear cheering from locals who stepped out on their front porches, cars gleefully honking as they rode alongside us, and throngs of school children reaching out for a high-five as we sped past.  You can't help but feel awesome.  Probably the people that got to me the most though were the individuals standing along the roads holding pictures of their brothers, partners, sisters--those who were fighting and/or lost their battles to AIDS.  "This is my brother Mike and can't be here to thank you.  So I thank you!"

Of course, my biggest angel, donor, supporter and ride back to San Francisco, Jonathan.  Thank you, boo.  You kept me happy when I was sore and full when I was empty.

 (L to R) Jonathan and Ryan.

Elevation.  Below are pictures of our elevation climbs and distance each day.  1-4 = rest stops, L = lunch, W = water stop.  Day Five is shorter and kinda our day to rest.  Also, everyone wears a red dress on Day Five which you will see no evidence of here.  (Not everyone is pretty in a dress.)

The end.  If you were to ask a woman who had recently given birth to twins if she wanted to have another child, she would throw her bedpan at the wall and scratch your face off.  As I rode into LA my heart was full and my ass sore.  This has been one long and fulfilling journey, but a lot of pushing too.  When I crossed the finish line (see below) I was filled with endorphins and fatigue and though I was just finishing ALC 11, I wasn't ready for another baby.  But my husband (Team B List) sweet talked me into getting pregnant for a second time.  Yes folks, don't put away those pocketbooks, I'm on board for ALC 12, June 2-8, 2013!  Mark your calendars.  I'm rider #2421 and if you want to get a head start on donating, check back here in the coming weeks for more information.

That's a wrap.  Me crossing the finish line, LA, mile 545.

Taking bike back to SF.

Join the ride.  Are you thinking about doing ALC?  I couldn't recommend the ride more.  There are a million reasons to not participate, but you only need one reason to do it: you care.  And if you care, those other million reasons to not do the ride don't matter (unless you're abandoning your children or going to lose your job because you take off for a week). 

It can be a lot of work to prepare for the ride but there is nothing but goodness that will come of your efforts.  You will see California in a way no one else does, meet new friends, shower with strangers, feel sore and tired every day, feel happy and loved every day, make a ton of friends you might not otherwise meet, and of course, raise money for a great cause.  And if a ride like this can make a sarcastic cynic like me preach of butterflies and fairee wings, think what it could do for you.

If you do sign up, I'll be waiting with for you in SF next June. 

Click here to check out ALC.

I will post supplementary stories and photos here in the coming weeks.

Friday, June 1, 2012

ALC-Day 147 (2 days to go)


In just TWO DAYS I will embark on this long awaiting journey to Los Angeles.  When I signed up for this ride I had no idea of the maelstrom of support that would come my way.  I don't want to forget the people for whom these funds are for--individuals at risk for contracting HIV and those living with HIV/AIDS whose Iives I hope to improve or save.  I remember that I signed up for ALC because I've got the resources, interest, and strength to help (plus my heart goes out to anyone dealing with a potentially terminal illness).  I believe it is this sort of effort that builds and strengthens communities.  I hope this ride will be the first step of many that will make tomorrow better.  End sap.

Okay, now onto packing and prepping for this ride.  

Fresh and Exciting: Do you ever get that no-so-fresh-feeling?  Well, I have and it is the reason why me and many ALC riders have tapered down our training this week--which is to say, no training.  I want to be fresh for the first of seven days in the saddle and haven't so much as peddled down the block for a shawarma.  Hope I remember what I'm doing.

Manscaping: A few weeks back on the hellacious Marshall Wall ride, I was overheating and unzipped my 3/4 jersey down, exposing my chest hair.  Yes, it's some Burt Reynolds realness up in there.  At any rate, the bugs were out in full force that day and while 80 or so critters smacked and died on my face and helmet, about a dozen of them became hopelessly entangled in my furry man pillows.  I couldn't very well take my hands off my handlebars and pick them out.  And risk crashing?  Well, many of the bugs crawled back through my jersey and ate me up.  So, in an effort to not be a fly trap on wheels, I've trimmed the hedges.  Now I'm itchy.  I think I'd rather be covered in horseflies.

Creature Comforts: I visited the store and picked up lots of lotions and pain killers for those days when I need to ease the aches.  I'm also thrilled to have found a camping pad, which I will no doubt become one with following each ride.  Also, I didn't think I would 'Princess', stay in a hotel rather than camp, but my training buddies and I have decided that at the half-way mark, Pasa Robles, we are going to spring for some Red Roof Inn (and be Princesses, not campers).  It's little carrots like these that get my ass from point A to point B.

Communication: I will not have much access to a power outlet and did not spring for all those fancy solar my cell phone usage and FB access will be at a minimum.  If you care to drop me a line, text me, sext me, or leave a VM, I plan on checking in on Wednesday night.  Or, if you want to follow our progress you may visit the ALC website and follow the trip via Facebook and Twitter

Jerseys:  I'm so excited for my jerseys!  There was one design that looked like a Tron uniform that I'm sad I didn't buy.  But I did get several others that I love, including a suit-and-tie jersey, a tuxedo top (below), an Oregon nature scene, and a Zebra face!  Suffer!

Finally, A BIG THANK THANK THANK YOU to everyone who supported my ride, training, and fundraising efforts.  I'm looking at you Jonathan Grantham, Michael Bergen, Edward Vicedo, Mel and Jess Jones, Brandi and Katherine Margay Brashears, Nancy McGhee and Clayton Newman, Team Kovach, Lisa Short and family, Tom Mullaney, Tom Weitzel and Nancy Spiller, Todd and Scott, the Haring Family, Roger and Linda Haring,  Maggie O'Brien, Michelle Allison, Rol Risska, Cynthia King, Henrriette Mena, Elida Mena, Kelley Durdella, Alex Sanchez, Lauri Jones, Kimberly Taddei, Peter Johns, Jennifer Thompson, Nathalie McGrath, Ken Maeshiro, Dora Leonard, the Gustafson Family, Justyn Makarewycz, Mary Mcginty, Joel & Sarah Taddei, Constance Bryan, Faaalu Lealaimatafao, Mark Kelleher, Teresa Ono, Ariella Granett, Laura Baber, Margaret Mattox, Heather Forest, Chloe Mounce, and Brandon Blue!  You've done good.  Real good.