It’s been a year since NCAC 2011, and all along, I knew I would be doing it again. So… after nearly a year of training and fund-raising and planning, NorCal AIDS Cycle 2012 was about to begin!
Day 1 – Thursday, May 17 (Granite Bay to Gridley/101 miles) The night before events like this, I usually don’t sleep well, and this was no exception. Just too much adrenaline. It was to be a early start, as we had to arrive at Beals Point at Folsom Lake by 6:15 am. I just finally stopped trying to sleep, got up and made coffee and breakfast, and packed the car. JoAnn and Justine managed to get up to drive with me to the start, and when we arrived, things were really in full swing. Photos being taken… television cameras… trucks loaded with gear and food… riders nervously adjusting their shoes. Finally, all was in readiness, and we clipped into pedals and were on our way.
There’s something wonderful about the energy level at the beginning of this day. Everyone is excited and well-rested and ready to ride. The beginning of the day’s route is hilly and really gets the adrenaline going. In contrast to last year, the weather was warm, and riders were quickly shedding those jackets and arm warmers. And before we knew it, we were at the old Fruitvale Schoolhouse in Lincoln for our first rest-stop. “Have you washed your hands??” This is question one hears at nearly every rest stop. Time for a potty-stop, a few snacks, and to refill drink bottles, and we were off again. The morning finished with a cruise into the town of Marysville for our lunch stop at Faith Lutheran Church. A new caterer was supplying meals for this years ride, and our lunch promised good things to come. Maranello’s catering did the food for us, and it was outstanding and one of the best reasons to do the ride!
A rather convoluted route took us out of Marysville into rural California once again. This was the part of the route which had been changed from last year, and the scenery was a vast improvement. Some of the roads were Paris-Roubaix worthy however, with road surfaces which appeared to have been left unmaintained since they were built. Our last rest-stop was at the Mendenhall Wool Ranch, and then we headed off more back roads to Gridley, where we would camp on our first night.
Electrolytes: Your body needs them, and during intense exercise during warm weather, you burn through them. I was not being very attentive to the replenishment of my electrolytes. And I began to have some pretty significant cramping in my right thigh. Fortunately, I did have some electrolyte drink and chews with me, so I took them in pretty steadily through the afternoon.
I arrived at the Butte County Fairgrounds with some of the earlier groups, a contrast to last year when I was the last one in (due to two flat tires). A shower just always seems to bring one back to life, and then a exceptional dinner (lasagna) capped off our first day. During the evening program, we were asked how many of us had just ridden our first “century” (one-hundred miles). A number of us raised our hands. Then it was asked how many of us had ever ridden back-to-back century rides. I think two people may have raised their hands. And guess what they had planned for us on day two…
Day 2 – Friday, May 18 (103 miles/Gridley to Williams) “Uh, hello… David… this is your body speaking: what do you think you’re doing??” My body did NOT seem too happy I was back on the bike. Day two always seems the most difficult for most riders. It certainly was for me last year, and this year was proving much the same. By the time I got to the first rest stop of the morning, I managed to shake it off and find my rhythm.
The second day is “Hawaiian Day,” and many riders and crew dress up in all kinds of wacky tropical outfits, in memory of those whom we’ve lost to AIDS. The morning’s ride took us up through Oroville, and then west to Durham, where our lunch awaited. The afternoon was significantly re-routed from last year’s ride, and was infinitely more scenic, taking us through Willows, to our last rest stop at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. This was the “pie and chai” rest stop, which included buckets of icy washcloths, which draped on one’s neck, succeeded in lower our body temps on this very warm afternoon. Another twenty miles or so took us to our destination for the day, Williams High School.
The day was capped by a lovely and meaningful candlelight memorial service for those whom we’ve lost to AIDS. I was asked to say prayers, and then each of us held a candle, and were invited to say the name of someone who has died. I was very tired that evening, and sleep came quickly.
Day 3 – Saturday, March 19 (Williams to Woodland/80 miles) Today was the day of “the big hill.” And the hill came early as we climbed up highway 20 towards Clear Lake. The hill is not really THAT steep, but it’s a steady seven mile climb, and the first part of the road is narrow without a shoulder. A number of riders were intimidated by it, so opted to get a sag-ride to the top. I found another rider who was maintaining a slow and steady pace, and together we made it to the top. And what goes up… a thrilling speedy downhill followed, as the route turned left onto highway 16, a scenic romp through the Cache Creek Valley. Our ride for the day concluded in Woodland at Pioneer High School. Energy was high as we zeroed in on our last day… only fifty miles to go!
Many riders had their families come and share a excellent dinner and our evening program. The program included a talk by a young man who had been born with HIV. And of course, the ever popular drag-queen show! And… a surprise visit from MY family which was wonderful. An uneventful night passed (well, except for the 3 am sprinkler incident), and suddenly, it was the last day.
Day 4 – Sunday, May 20 (Woodland-Winters-Davis-Sacramento/50 miles) The riders left in two groups on this sunny morning (no rain, hail, thunder today!). A early group left at 6:15, for those riders who felt like they might need a little extra time to get to Sacramento for the closing ceremony. I opted for the 7 am group, knowing it is an almost entirely flat ride, of a mere fifty miles. After brief rest stops in Winters and Davis, I jumped in with a group of riders going across the Yolo causeway. What a great sight with all of us in our NCAC Jerseys! As we rode over the Tower Bridge in Sacramento, we could see the State Capitol ahead, with a big balloon arch on the west steps, which we knew was for us. My eyes welled up with emotion as we neared the completion of our journey. We rode into Crocker Park to await the arrival of the rest of our riders… for a few snacks and lots of photos and hugs all around.
Finally the moment came… we all lined up and headed up Capitol Mall for our closing ceremony, led by the roaring engines of our moto crew. I was overcome by emotion as we rode into the Capitol. JoAnn and the girls were there, part of the large and enthusiastic crowd which had gathered for our return. The awesome U C Davis Aggie Marching Band-uh! was rocking the house as we lined up together on the west steps of the Capitol. Speeches and introductions were made, and we celebrated our 330 mile journey together.
Kudos: Thank you to… everyone who contributed financially to the ride. My final total for fund-raising was $5,800 with our group total exceeding $300,000. To our awesome support crew… moto riders, rest stop workers, medical staff, and everyone who watched our backs and got us home safely. To my fellow riders for your friendship, companionship, and encouragement. I love you all more than know. To my wife and family for their incredible support through all of the fund-raising, training rides, and endless chatter about NCAC. And especially to my friend Ken, in whose memory I rode.
Next year?? What do you think??
Click here for more photos from NorCal AIDS Cycle 2012