Why I Ride: Day 7 of the AIDS/LifeCycle
DAY 7- Ventura to Los Angeles
Words and photos by Ryan Elizalde
For the first time since day 4, I got up this morning and didn’t feel groggy. While in the shower, I actually felt a surge of energy hit me (keep your minds out of the gutter, children). I’m sure it was the thought of getting home and being in my own place instead of living this crazy Amazing Race adventure I’ve been on for the past week. After getting dressed and down to the campsite, I went to my bike and noticed that there was an egg on every bike; a small gift from the Chicken Lady (see Day 2 for the Chicken Lady details). Inside was a heartfelt and inspirational message that gave me even more energy to finish this last leg.
I was so excited to get going, I just felt my tires to see how hard they were and decided I didn’t need to check or pump them with air – they would get me through just fine. The first rest stop was 20 miles away and I got there in what seemed like no time at all. I just gave myself enough time to use the port-a-potty and get more water. The next rest stop was only 10 miles away and between the first and second my legs began to return to their gelatinous state (Jello people!), but didn’t want to stop because I felt like I was on a mission to finish this ride and get home.
I got to our lunch stop before noon, so I spent about an hour just relaxing a bit and catching my breath. As I got back on the road, passing the next and final rest stop, as we rolled through Malibu, and seeing the buildings and landscape of Santa Monica in the distance felt incredibly familiar. Once we emerged from Highway 1 onto surface streets I only had a few miles left. I was so ready to be off my bike and just stop moving, but I was also sad this amazing experience was coming to an end. As I got closer to the VA Center in Westwood there were people along the streets cheering us on. As I turned the next street corner, there were literally hundreds of people lining the path leading us into the VA. It was amazing to see so many people out to support not only the riders, but also all of the charities we did the riding for.
At the closing ceremonies there were some moving speeches and videos shot throughout the ride. One scene from the video was of the Chicken Lady. They asked him, “Why do you ride?” He responded: “I heard of this ride from SF to LA to raise money for HIV/AIDS support and thought I would give it a try. Four weeks later my good friend died of AIDS and I’ve been riding ever since.”
Simple, yet powerful. While saying that, he started to cry, which made me think he’s been doing this ride for years in memory of one person, and so others wouldn’t have to face the same pain he did. It was truly moving, and brought many of us close to tears.
To be honest, going into this last day, I didn’t think I would consider doing this ride again. Maybe it’s because I lost perspective due to the physical and emotional challenge this ride delivered. But after hearing that one sentence from the Chicken Lady, I knew I’ll probably be doing this ride in some capacity in the future, not only for myself, but for my friends who are HIV positive and to help keep the message out there that this illness is still affecting so many lives and we need to do everything in our power to stop it.
This experience has opened my eyes. I’ve helped my community in a way I never thought I could. With the money we raised – over 10 million dollars from this year’s ride – we’ve helped enable the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to keep supporting people and other charities in a time when funding in the state of California is being massively cut for HIV/AIDS research, treatment and social services.
In my personal life, I reaffirmed the fact that I am capable of doing what I set my mind to, and proved that it’s not hard to help and do your part for others. I am proud to have been a part of this year’s event, and if there are folks out there who want to experience this please do so. You will have an unforgettable time. If you find yourself wanting more information about riding, or my experience in ALC 2010, it’s easy to contact me through Facebook.
Lastly, I would like to thank the following people for their emotional support and donations. My parents and family, Aaron Grant, Cindy Elizalde, Cristina, Bonilla, Kendra Fried, Bernard Rook, Julie Siegel, Edward & Zorina Pelant, Brian & Nancy Navis, Josh Rosensweig, Paul Colichman, Mark Umbach, Scott Ragan, Fabrice Tasendo, Andrea Krauss, Jon Barrett, Mariana Galvez, Jason O’Claray, Meredith Kadlec, Justin Sobodash, Kal Kaminer, Javier Armijo, Adam Lucas, Jeff Hendricks, Marcelo Acevedo, Erika Paras, Brandi Leve, James Moser, Jeff Payton, Darryl & Remy Olivier, Renee Eby, Maria Dwyer, Mark Matthews, Andrew Rakos, Rob Reimer, Jonathan Pollack, RJ Rousso, Tamiko Graffius, Kyle Leatherberry, Yvonne Behrens, Brigitte Bequet, Eric West, Kevin Bissada, Laura Sheriff, Christin Dennis, Jonathan Aubry, Liz Mackiewicz, Dustin Tyner, and Here Media.