It’s rather dark at 0430, and this morning it was also cool and damp from the rain. I like to get up early and get things packed up by breakfast at 0530. As people awaken, tents light up and glow, and plastic bags begin to rustle as warm jammies are replaced by cold lycra riding clothes. The ZZZZ ZZZZ’s of zippers start in as individuals emerge and head to the bathrooms for emptying of bladders and brushing of teeth. Much to my surprise, I actually felt pretty good once I was upright outside the tent.
Day 2 is a day for remembering friends and loved ones who have died from complications of HIV/AIDS. To honor them, we wear aloha (hawaiian) shirts. Some take the aloha theme to a whole other level and dress in grass skirts, accessorize with leis, or even dress up as a pineapple as Melissa did :). The day’s destination was Williams, close to 100 miles away. A hearty breakfast with sausage, eggs, true “stick to your ribs” oatmeal, and coffee and we were on the road at 0645. We were quite a splash of color as we left the sleepy town of Gridley.
Lunch was early Day 2. Our lunch stop was at a nice park in Durham at approximately mile 40. It was 1015 when my group rolled in. It’s a little harder to think of 60 miles after lunch instead of 40, and the promise of pie at the last rest stop was really the motivation to keep on moving the next 40 miles. When we turned to parallel Interstate 5, we started into headwinds. Not a cyclist friend as I have alluded to in prior blog posts.
It was a beautiful day though the wind goddess was NOT good to us this day. Not much hill wise on Day 2’s route, and lots of flat with head winds instead. As one of the cyclist David says “I’d much rather have hills than wind. At least you know the hill will end. Not so with the wind.” I totally agree with him. Day 2 feels long. It’s 100 miles on top of the 100 miles we did the day before. At one point in the morning I was feeling hot and tired, and even a bit discouraged, when a big hawk flew over and cast his shadow on me. I didn’t see the bird only the shadow, and I felt it was my brother flying over saying “hang in there honey. You are doing great!”. In my tired, vulnerable state riding alone at that time, I began to cry. A quiet sweet cry of remembering Vic and knowing he was looking after me.
Most of the day I rode with an awesome group of riders, many from my team, and there was much laughter and good times despite the hot and windy conditions. We reached the half way point not long after lunch and it was set up with a sign and photographer for photo ops. We must have spent 20 mins there taking pictures with various combinations of people – most of them pretty silly – only a few serious ones. Here we were, Day 2 and already half way through our 330 mile ride.
Jim rides with a small camera and is amazingly adept at shooting pictures of scenery, other riders, and himself as he cruises along at 14 mph into the wind!!! He kept us entertained with his antics most of the long afternoon. The scenery was actually pretty in many areas with new sprouts of green poking up thru the flooded rice paddies, and there was actually a calm patch of water with a beautiful reflection of a barn to enjoy. One advantage to moving more slowly is the ability to take in the scenery.
The mile 80 rest stop had pie as promised. Cindy (one of the medical staff) gave us each an icy cold wash rag to put on our heads and necks, and Joaquin tattooed us with the word “HERO” in black letters with a red heart. Most of us wanted it visible on the road, so left upper arm and left calf were popular spots for the tattoo placement.
The route had been following along Interstate 5 on a straight, flat road with headwinds prior to the rest stop, and the next 20 miles into Williams was more of the same. I tried to find beauty in the scenery, though rice paddies between us and Interstate 5, and grain elevators that all looked alike only went so far. Put it this way, it was just a long haul in!
Tents up, shower, dinner, and a candlelight ceremony to acknowledge those we were riding, for completed the evening. It was a touching reminder of why we were riding this ride – to help put an end to HIV/AIDS, and to provide much needed services to those living with HIV/AIDS. I crawled into my tent, noted the beautiful moon shining right above me, the soft snoring of someone nearby, and I was out for the night.