Road Blog – Day Five, Lompoc, CA - Minutemen, Casualties, and Riding With the Red Dresses

by Michael Morris

Claire tells me that there are a few typos in the previous blogs. Sorry about that. I’m usually rushed to get these things on line, so forgiveness is requested. I’ll have a bit more time today, so I’ll make sure to triple check.

Tonight we’re in Lompoc, CA, home of Vandenberg AFB and the launching site for the Minuteman Missile – if you’re up tonight around 1am, and are anywhere nearby, I hear a launch in planned. Our bivouac is the cozy River Park. The place to be, it seems, if you are a gopher, is further north this time of year. George pitched our tent in a nice level spot and we should be more comfortable tonight. The ride today was 54.9 miles, a lot of hills, and some riders, feeling the effects of the previous 270 miles, did not ride today. I was one of them.

Well, I rode 6.9 miles, but most of that was with one hand. When I assumed the proper riding position, a knife entered my shoulder and made its way across my back laterally toward my spine in a kind of a backwards hari kari ritual. I could only ride with my right hand on the handlebars. I stopped to stretch at the first "grab and go" pit stop and kind volunteers in a "sweeper van" stopped to ask how I was doing. When I told them the trouble, they kindly suggested I not continue to ride with one hand. I took their advice and hopped in the van.

My left shoulder, actually the left side of my upper back, is now swollen to the point that I more closely resemble Quasimoto the bell ringer than I do rider 1532. Ice and ibuprofen are what Dr Davidson says I need, and rest, so I may not ride tomorrow.

I have to admit I am disappointed that the ride may be over for me, but I am not heartbroken. The ride is grueling. I rode for two miles with a woman who said she prays each day that she will just get through this. I thought that was a plausible scenario AIDS patients face on a daily basis. Our pain will end after Saturday.

The spiritual connection many of us are making to AIDS patients is directly related to the pain we have encountered on this ride. While we all have personal reasons for having raised money for the effort, this connection is ultimately what this event is about. Speaking to Palotta’s Brian Pendleton again today, he agreed. He said that people who do the ride are more likely to continue to talk about the experience and continue to raise the awareness of AIDS. This is a good thing.

We took the shuttle into town last night and had a fine meal with super-riders George and Paul, volunteer pit stop chiropractors Debra and Caroline, and a few others. George finally got the clam chowder he had been craving. We had a few beers (strictly forbidden during the ride, but well worth the risk) and after dinner we headed to the nearest sports bar to watch the Lakers trim the Nets. I couldn’t get comfortable as my shoulder was aching. When we got back to camp around 9:30 I took 800mg of ibuprofen and tried to sleep, but the pain was getting worse and sleep difficult.

This morning I went to the physical therapy tent and they tried to "work out" the tightness, and in fairness I felt somewhat better. A strapping lad named Mark drove his elbow through my back and out my front like a bad scene from a bad Alien remake. I took another 800mg of ibuprofen and hopped on the bike. It wasn’t too long before I felt the pain and it steadily worsened. By the time I made it to the grab and go, where I stopped to stretch, my ride was over.

The drivers of the sweeper van took me and two others already in the van, to pit stop one where we stayed until a chartered bus brought us to camp. The injuries today included (but were not isolated to) blisters (one person had the record with 10), very sore butts (the most common complaint), sprained knees (the second most common complaint), sprained Achilles tendons (tied for the second most common complaint), nausea, headaches, wrist dysfunction, and other logical maladies. Then there was Adam.

Somewhere around mile 5 Adam was headed up a hill, feeling strong. He downshifted to keep his momentum going when he heard something pop. He then felt the intense pain of a dislocated hip. He was able to put it back in place, but AIDSRide9 is over for him. He will be allowed to ride that last mile on Saturday along with the other casualties.

For some reason day 5 on the ride is red dress day. Everyone, men and women had on every conceivable combination of red sequins, lace, and spandex I have ever seen assembled in one place. The bus with the injured slowly made its way to camp and passed red rider after red rider. The mood on board was somber. No one spoke, a couple people were crying.

The entertainment tonight is dancing on the stage in red dresses, I suppose. George, Paul, and I and others are planning another meal in town. Hopefully I’ll heal overnight, but that is just a hope. The way things are now, I’ll rest again tomorrow and ride on Saturday to the closing ceremonies. There I’ll meet my son, and enjoy a very long, but very thankful ride home.