This post is about the fifth official training ride I took in preparation to AIDS LifeCycle, a 545 mile ride from San Francisco to LA in seven days, June 2-8, 2019. Which is almost now!
The ride I am writing about though took place about a month ago. This ride is dedicated to another friend I know from tango, one of the many sponsors of my participation in AIDS LifeCycle. Thank you, anonymous sponsor, for your support! I look forward to spending time together soon after I am back!
This turned out to be the last official training ride I did this season, and it was pretty epic. I ended up riding 98 miles in one day, including the 79 mile route, about 6 miles to get to the meeting place in the morning, about 8 miles to get home in the evening, and one more addition which I will get to.
What like about these long riding days is that you just don’t know what the day would be about! We have maps and weather forecasts of course, but I’ve never been so far, so the map doesn’t really tell me anything.
As I rode to the meeting place in the morning with that question, what will the day (and this post) be about, I thought, perhaps it will be about butts? My long term readers will know that the subject is not new to me. I wrote about butts coming to rescue in challenging situations before. Now that I am training for an epic bike ride, clearly, the butt question needs to be addressed. In case this would become a ride about butts, I GoPro’d a couple of 7 AM mutts on Polk Street.
Turned out, this bike ride was not so much about butts but about ways to make friends. I occasionally indulge in imagining that it’s difficult for me to make friends, because I am eccentric or whatever. I say “imagining”, because here I am writing the 25th post to thank somebody who supports me in this endeavor while glancing at a list of about a dozen people who I haven’t thanked with special thank you ride post yet! And there are dozens others who supported me in non-monetary ways!
Well, this was just my fifth training ride with this group, I didn’t know anyone at first, and I rode by myself a lot. Still, based on my experience, I can offer you three excellent ways to make friends in this setting! They are:
- Don’t have a GPS app thing
- Have a GPS app thing
- Come up with an art project involving taking my shirt off and invite strangers to participate
Let’s go into more detail.
The training ride organizers use a particular GPS app in which you can plan the route in advance, and then, if you download the route on your portable device, it will give you directions and let you know if you deviated from the route.
The first time I went on a training ride with this group I didn’t have a GPS app thing, which turned out more challenging than I anticipated. That was a blessing in disguise, because on several occasions that forced me to chat to the people when I was lost and we would ride together for a while. It turned out OK in the end, but I installed the app after that for the peace of mind at least.
This particular training ride took us deep into Marin County again: through Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, San Rafael, Novato, and then toward the place called French Cheese Factory roughly between Petaluma and Point Reyes.
Many parts of the route were rather straightforward, and the south part of it was vaguely familiar even to me. Still, there were a few tricky spots, with the route weaving along highways railroad tracks, and some big intersections, so it was helpful to have the GPS app thing. By this time I rode still slowly, but a little bit faster than in the beginning of the training, so I would often find myself riding in a group. Here are a few pictures from the morning, including some with other riders in them!
And – after a while, people would follow me, because now I had the GPS app thing. In particular, after the first rest stop, a guy named John joined me, and we ended up riding a lot together. He would slow down to my speed during tricky parts, go faster on straightforward bits, but then I would catch up for whatever reason and he’d follow me again, and we’d chat now and then. Here are a few pictures from the northernmost miles of the ride.
I thought I was a pretty good lead, if I can say so myself! Even though I didn’t know the road, I did my best not only to signal clearly, but also to anticipate what’s coming up, based on the app warnings and the actual scenery, and shouting my inferences back to John. For instance, we were riding on a quiet pretty residential street and I shouted “slowing and stopping!”, and then I shouted, “I think we will be turning left at that traffic light and then it’ll be uphill for a while!”
After that turn, John charged ahead, because that was just 10 miles straight uphill almost all the way to our lunch stop, the French Cheese Factory. I stopped as I was getting close to the Cheese Factory to take in this beautiful view and to take a picture to share it with you.
It was just as gorgeous as the picture suggests! Many people were taking pictures by the water. The ride’s outreach director Maggie drove up there to meet us and she was taking pictures of the riders and cheering us up. I had just gone to a class to prepare for the AIDS LifeCycle experience a few days ago, so Maggie and I recognized each other from the class. As I sat at a picnic table for lunch with Maggie and a few others, I had this idea…
You see, many riders were already wearing beautiful jerseys signifying that they had raised $5K for AIDS LifeCycle this year already. Not like this is about jerseys and not like I really need another thing, but that’s a very pretty jersey!
The problem is, I hadn’t risen the $5K yet! So I figured, I could take my regular shirt off and pose next to somebody wearing the pretty $5K fundraiser jersey, and I would look shirtless and sad and he or she would look smug, because they got the jersey.
I shared this idea with all the near strangers at the table and they thought it was brilliant and had to be executed immediately. Maggie ran and fetched a suitable model and here we are:
Later on, at the last rest stop, I chatted with this guy and his husband, made even more new buddies! And – I did incite a few more donations to my fundraising when I posted this on social. I am still shirtless, by the way, and there are just a few days left! If you are just as concerned about this situation as I am, I encourage you to head here immediately and do the right thing!
After lunch, I headed back South and caught up with my no-GPS buddy John at the last rest stop, other than Sausalito that is. John somehow got a flat tire at the rest stop, so even though I got there later, we were leaving at the same time, with a few others, some of them also with the GPS app thing and others latching on. The rest stop was a coffee shop at a shopping plaza on an intersections of several roads, and getting out there was a bit confusing, but the GPS app told us what to do!
John and I got ahead of everyone else after a mile or so, and it was up to me again to be a good lead! Like that one time we were riding on a quiet pretty residential street and I shouted “slowing and stopping!”, and then I shouted, “I think we will be turning left at that traffic light and then…” Wait a second… John and I had that conversation already! Come to think about it, that mobile sculpture we just passed looked familiar. The others caught up with us, we pulled out all the maps and realized that while the app did indeed keep us on the route, but we exited the rest stop close enough to an earlier portion of the route, and so it sent us back north, around that loop in the route near Novato.
What I really liked about this was that even though everybody was tired, we were all chill about it. One lady got indignant about the app for a second, but that’s all. We just figured out what happened, finished the loop, and carefully found the way South.
The part after that was useful to me, because I could see how even though I was tired, I could keep going on sheer stubbornness, and our little group of 4-7 people was still chill and sweet and supportive.
That extra loop we did added 5 miles to the intended route, making the total for the day 98 miles for me! While being stubborn and having trained a little bit definitely helped, having positive, strong, determined people around me made it an excellent day! Some of those people were there because of a GPS app thing; some participated in the shirtless “art project”, and others, like this anonymous sponsor, supported me from home by sending positive thoughts and sponsorship. Thank you, anonymous sponsor! Thank you all my readers for joining me!
AIDS LifeCycle, a 545 mile bike ride from SF to LA, is coming up in just a few days!!! I have been dedicating occasional training rides to my sponsors. You can read more about the dedication here, and if you feel inspired to help me raise $5K for the SF AIDS foundation and the LA LGBT Center, head over here.