Road Blog - Day One, Santa Cruz, CA, Freefalling on Highway 92

by Michael Morris

Two good omens met us at the beginning of day one of the AIDSRide. First, a kindly person paid my toll at the Golden Gate Bridge. Second, when Claire and I arrived at Fort Mason with my gear, the lot was packed. We drove around the lot and turned toward the registration building and a parking slot opened like the parting of magical waters. As my trusty friend Martin would say, I was flucky. We checked in and with a tearfully sweet good-bye to Claire, I was off.

At mile 30, as I flew down the steep grade on Highway 92 toward Half Moon Bay, the metaphor of freefalling came to mind. When you are freefalling there is no sense that you are falling. The wind holds you up, your view is borderless, and all is wonderful. When the chute opens all is calm, serene. The ride today was similar in that I had no sense of the miles I'd ridden. I remember only the singular beauty of the California coastline, and the cool air. It was really quite peaceful - until mile 60.

At mile 60 I am certain riding this damn bike became the hardest thing I have ever done. The pain in several parts of my body was worse than the broken collarbone I sustained falling off the jungle gym in first grade. Worse than having my dog put to sleep. It took everything from me and left hunger, exhaustion, and the pain. Advil, be my friend.

How difficult is it to ride 90 miles? It is easier than finding a working wireless network in Santa Cruz! I sat at the café house Coffeetopia for an hour trying to configure my wireless connectivity. I was getting a double caf wireless signal, but every time I tried to open IE the system tried to connect through one of my dial-up accounts! This is probably a setup issue, but I've not the knowledge or experience to figure it out. The calvary arrived in the form of Calvin Fleming, PR Manager for the AIDSRide organizers, Palotta Teamworks. He has dropped me at Kinko's from where I submit this blog. How did I get so flucky?

Palotta Communication VP Janna Sidley, former prosecutor and former Clinton Administration official, overheard me trying to convince Calvin that I needed to get to a wireless network or phone line and offered me use of, well, Calvin. We found Coffeetopia in my list, and he dropped me there and continued on to Kinko's to make copies of tonight's AIDSRide newsletter. The mocha was fine, but no Internet connection.

Ok, really, how hard is it to ride 90 miles in one day? Really hard. The last 30 miles we had the wind at our back which really helped. Even with the wind, I was dragging. I made the trip in 7 hours, 30 minutes. That included a twenty minute stretch period, twenty minutes for lunch and two other five minute stops. Not bad for a rookie.

The people. My tent mate, George the Firefighter Olympics Cycling Champ, made it to camp in five hours, fifteen minutes. He has the tent set up and sorted me out with the layout, where I could find my gear, and where I could find the shower trucks. Yep, these 18 wheel rolling bathhouses were just the ticket for getting the mixture of automobile exhaust and sweat off and getting me feeling slightly comfortable.

More people. Todd from Cleveland is an HIV positive rider, and has the T-shirt to prove it. He is strong; strong enough to ride after a year off the bike! We kept passing each other out and shouting encouraging messages to keep each other going.

Ok, nothing to report technology-wise, but I have a meeting with Palotta Teamworks IT Manager Monkey, which should be interesting. They have an Ethernet connection and satellite hookup in the "command center" and since I am a "reporter", Janna assures me that they will do all they can for me to continue my road blogs. Groovy.

Ok, I'm bushed and hungry so I'll close with this thought; the number of people who died of AIDS related diseases in the US last year was 8,000. That's also the number of people who died from AIDS related diseases worldwide - today. That's the number that will die from aids related diseases tomorrow as well. It occurred to me that in this time of heightened awareness of war and terrorism and the murder included in that gruesome mixture, death from AIDS must be the most overlooked statistic of all time. With our attention diverted to defending our shores, we may be overlooking a much deadlier enemy than Osama Bin Ladin, more efficient and much more difficult to fight.