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June 2017

Day 6 ALC Post

Day 6 is at a close.

Day, 6! ...

When I crossed the country by bicycle in 2006, I valiantly worked to make daily posts to my blog.  Most of the time, I was successful.  There were a large number of logistical snafus that conspired to keep me from posting, but I made do.

Therefore, for this, the AIDS Lifecycle Ride, I estimated that I'd have plenty of time to post daily.

To use a Dub-Ya term: misunderestimation

I have the strong inclination to blather on about all the things that conspired to keep me from posting, and all things cycling here, but so many of the observations I made in 2006 are still basically unchanged today.  While self-indulgent, I need to accept that posting a disquisition now would boil down to redux.

And so, during our final night together as a group, while under the gigantic, communal tent, I listened to the heartfelt speeches of the AIDS/LifeCycle leaders.  While I sat, I struggled with what to say here now: what theme? what gem of insight?  I was devoid of any true inspiration.

Then, after the speeches, as folks left the tent to gather for the candlelight vigil on the beach, I saw that food was still being served.

I asked for a modest serving of vegetarian lasagna and some quinoa salad and headed back to the communal tent to eat it.

I took a random seat and as had happened at least a dozen times before during the week, the woman across from me started a conversation.

"How you doin' tonight?"

"I'm doing good!  I'm really holding up well, all things considered," I responded.

"I just don't know how my butt can possibly sit down on that seat tomorrow," she said, half genuinely concerned, half jovial. 

"Brenda," she said, and extended her hand to me.

"Doug," I said, and shook hers.

The typical exchange of questions ensued: What got you into the ride?  How many times have you done it?  Where are you from?  What do you do for work?

"My only suggestion for them," she said, "would be to make a condensed version of this event.  Doing it, all the training, the seven consecutive days: it's a lot."

I paused eating, nodding, and she said, "And, I got breast cancer last year."  

"I'm alright," she said, raising her hand in a don't-you-worry gesture, "I had surgery."  

Then, after a beat, "Then they had to go in again, and then I had to have radiation.  I had to hang up my cleats a long while after the second surgery."

Here Brenda was, across from me, about to complete her 545 miles, and breast cancer had only been a detour for her arrival in Los Angeles tomorrow.

I thought of the areas of dissatisfaction I had made known here-and-there during this week, the often-blind ambition to physically achieve, the stretches of feeling rejected and lonely.

This X-Ray Technician originally from Kentucky who, after leaving the profession for six years, found she needed to return after cancer, to be there, to care for others going through medical hardship; this woman, who didn't show an ounce of self-importance, opened up to a stranger the ways that she was so much stronger than I.

"I think I'm going to do the Avon 35-mile walk," she said.

I raised over $5,000 for AIDS thanks to the wonderful generosity of my friends and family.  And I descended here in California to participate in the 7-day, 545-mile victory parade.

Brenda came here for the same reason, but her authenticity is what unveiled this event's true purpose to me.

It is to end AIDS, yes, but really, her aura revealed that it is to swaddle hope.  

To feed it, to keep it warm, to comfort it, to protect it, to bathe it in love, and to let it carry tomorrow into the realm of less suffering.


Thank you, Brenda, for showing me the why for this week where I least expected to find it.





want to 


It'll Take You There

The plight to stimulate a, wishfully-so, munificent multitude to supply funds to an eleemosynary coffer, is likely to ferry the seeker to places:

That he's very familiar with… 
That he's never been to before… 
That he will never return to again…


When I think back to some of the most-intimidating road bike riding I've done in the eastern hemisphere of the US, a short list of apposite locales come to mind:

… Around the time of the globe's economic freefall in 2002, I was collared with the albatross of incapacitating (likely-psychosomatic) shoulder pain that left me exiled from bicycle riding for almost two years.

When this elusive shoulder immobility (which was so acute that I wasn't able to raise my arm over my head without searing, expletive-deleted discomfort) abated in 2003, I decided to reestablish my love affair with long-distance bicycling by spending my birthday at Lake Placid, NY to complete that region's notorious, 100-mile, Ironman course.

Lake Placid.

Host of the Winter Olympics, the world's greatest athletes were called to carve their magnum opus at Lake Placid en masse, not once, but twice.  To the exertion-based, wanderlust-disposed, an Olympic host dwelling is a beguiling creature.  A mountain neophyte like I was then, quick to slough off considerations of the scale of effort required to pedal a grand-tour route, motored northward with nary an apprehension.

One of the indicatives of the early 00s was that a viable, bike-mounted GPS was merely in an ideation phase.  I possessed a Compaq iPAQ (a precursor to a smartphone) with a NAVMAN GPS sleeve that offered a mere modicum of navigational assistance to me on the route.  It was an enormous apparatus by today's standards.  Its battery capacity would be capable of no more than a half hour of continuous use, which, during that era, was par.

Upstate New York was an unknown, save a childhood family trip to Howe Caverns, so a GPS could reveal my whereabouts where it was possible that no other means of identification exists.

Or so I speculated.

My odometer increased by 110 miles that October day.  During, a punitive, precipitous mix closed its Arctic grip on my Y-Foil.  Nimbostratus were cloaking Whiteface's vertical stretch marks as my French-made, carbon-soled shoes footed the torque required to hoist my kilos skyward, parallel to the slopes.  Numerous, unrestrained dogs, hurtled at me with evisceration in their eyes.  A fissure in my carbon rim wanted attention. Late-ride darkness made the unfamiliar, unknowable.

Fourteen years later, I recognize I succeeded that day.  And, that day succeeded on my behalf as well, despite my hubris.  The Lake Placid creature gave me permission to undertake self propulsion on her multidimensional dermis without her swatting me away.

Her inhabitants, being of a pre-GPS mindset, amiably assisted me to find my way back to the Mirror Lake Inn when I was lost, my NAVMAN long without juice.

She comes to mind quite often, though I've never returned.  Hers was an athletic drama whose plotline literally twisted and turned, whose ending was happy after tamping down perils…

Lake Placid Icy

I've had similar dramas, worth regaling at some other juncture, while riding among and atop the Blue Ridge Mountains; a place where Matt and Alan, whom I like to think of as my gay brothers, live nearby and graciously offer me lavish hospitality at their manse.


If my brethren find my sojourns to Charlottesville, VA with bike in tow tedious, they never let it show... Crabtree Falls Challenge Video


When flying solo to places like Keswick, the freedom to share with strangers is usually at the ready:  A million-miler sitting next to me a few weekends ago, at a glance, could tell the pilot was flying an erratic flight line to Charlotte.  This gentleman shared that he plays classical piano as a hobby, and his young children are also pianists, and he knew I was going to miss my connection.  His experienced, calm demeanor about that assessment helped ameliorate the affront.  The bare-necessity Quality Inn American Airlines put me up in that night had an affable woman at the front desk who, at after midnight, interacted with me as if we knew each other old-school.  "Anything you need, I'm here until 6 to help you out, Boo."  My UBER driver back to the airport was opposite the North Carolina odds as he started discussing his political bent.  He hailed from New Jersey, a former engineer, and retired in Charlotte while also having answered Kalanick's calling.  I told the woman sitting next to me on my Charlottesville flight that I had a bike stowed within our Bombardier's belly.  That spawned 90 minutes of material to bandy: her triathlete years on the west coast, her yoga, our love of Step Reebok, her insider's knowledge of commerce conflicts in the Pioneer Valley, and the challenges of parenting (her a toddler, me a bullie).

Blue Ridge Screenshot

This laudable locomotion I will commence on early Sunday morning will probably make introductions to strangers similar to the above increase two-fold, especially when there are apt to be many riders honoring loved ones passed:

LifeCycle In Memory of Screenshot

I anticipate eagerly revisiting what will be familiar, discovering what will be brand new, and perhaps most of all, making note of what I will never see again.


Closing sidetrack: here are some charts showing my bicycling trajectory depicted in miles and altitude gain -- it reveals that I'm less prepared for this than in 2006, and I lost fitness in 2016... it also illustrates the distress post-9/11 created =\

20170528 Bike Annual Mileage and Altitude Gain