It amazes me how well I slept on this trip. I noticed the moon shining in my tent, and I was out!! No full bladder to wake me up, so it was a good thing I set my alarm for 04:30. The weather forecast was for WIND – strong wind, with even stronger gusts up to 25-30 mph. And guess what? Most of the way to the Capitol was going to be into headwinds. My tent sides flapped against me as I packed up my things inside, and it wasn’t even light yet.
Two start times were set to ensure that all riders reached the gathering spot at Crocker Park in time to get organized for the parade into the Capitol as a team. I rode off with the early group, and the going was tough right out the chute. I was able to grab onto Nancy and Karen, a couple of wise and experienced riders, and learned about “stacking”. This is another form of drafting used when the wind is a cross/head wind. I learned that you put the lead rider in the front on the side taking the brunt of the wind, and fan out to the inside, and slightly behind her. By doing this, the inside riders are able to get some protection to draft. This proved to be very efficient, and we moved along fairly well and passed up others struggling alone, or in small groups with the wind.
The first leg of our route took us along the fields between Woodland and Winters where the roads were long, straight, and flat. When me made our first turn (at about 15 miles) the wind became our ally, and we cruised along at 25-26mph without much effort – what a relief. Suffice it to say, this was the only section of the 51 mile ride into the Capitol that provided some relief from the buffeting head and side winds!
I didn’t linger long at stops as I was anxious to get to the holding area in time to take some pictures and spend time with individuals before we got swallowed up by the awaiting crowd at the Capital Mall. The first rest stop was in Winters, and the second at the UC Davis Fire Department. By the time I got to Crocker Park, it was buzzing with energy and excitement, and each and every rider was applauded as s/he road into the park. We took team pictures, and pictures of our riding “buddies” to remember this special time that we had shared. All riders were dressed in NCAC TEAM jerseys and we made quite a striking group there in the park.
As noon approached, we lined up 2 by 2 behind Slingshot and her “motocrew” (our ladies on motorcycles), for our entrance to the welcoming crowd. Engines were revved, cyclist clipped into pedals, and we were “ROLLING!”. There is nothing I can write that quite describes the feeling I had when the crowd began to applaud and whistle as the first riders made their way into the crowd and up onto the Capitol steps. I began looking for people I knew and I saw my sister and my family in their black “Dare To Care” t-shirts right away. Hugs and kisses from friends and family slowed the procession at times, and the steady progress forward into the crowd continued until we were all lined up on the steps. As I turned around to the applauding crowd, I felt my self tear up and the lump in my throat grow. Here before me, and up on the steps with me, were some of the very people I road for – those living with HIV/AIDS – and their appreciation was palpable.
I felt proud to have completed the ride and to have raised money for this worthy cause, I felt the love for my fellow cyclist and crew, and I felt hope that one day, as Jim McCann stated ‘the only thing my grandchildren will know about HIV/AIDS is what they read in history books’ (roughly quoted). The MC announced that we had raised $325,000 at that point, and with money still coming in until June 7, 2013 that number has continued to increase.
As the group of riders began to disband, Kevin, who had a mishap on the first day and was unable to complete the ride, came up to me with his broken wing in a sling. He gave me a big one armed hug and we both broke down and shook with sobs. Tears of joy?, tears of sadness?, tears of whatever was the overcoming emotion in that moment, and then he was gone. I was told last year when I signed up to do my first ride, “this event is life changing”. I must say, I have to agree. Will I do the ride again? Absolutely!!!