Road Blog – Day Six, Ventura, CA – “Overtired, Cold, and Dirty”, The View From the Pits

by Michael Morris

Thursday Night, June 6

I hooked up with Kelly, Cyndee, Ana, Cheryl, and Peter, all twenty-somethings (ok Kelly is thirty-something, but his childlike behavior makes him younger – more like 9!). We had pizza and ice cream (strictly off the diet, but I was on a roll!) and watched a bit of the Stanley Cup.

It is possible that Kelly is the funniest AIDSRider I have ever known. We laughed hard and long, working our face muscles into catatonia, perhaps venting some of the daily dose of ride emotion. It is a great night that almost didn’t happen.

I met the gang at the shuttle stop and they kindly invited me to dine with them. They were looking for Mexican food; I was looking for the Dodger game. I ungracefully uninvited myself when I saw the restaurant they chose (clearly no TV inside that fine family establishment). I really wanted to be alone with my thoughts and the game.

The group dismounted our shuttle and met for a brief meeting in front of the bus, blocking my escape. They changed their plans to be with me. I was humbled by their largess and embarrassed by my ingratiude. It was Kelly who broke the ice, laughing, “You really weren’t going to say goodbye, and now you can’t get rid of us.” I am very glad they decided to join me. It was without a doubt the best night I had on the trip.

Cyndee, Ana, and Cheryl said they are doing the ride because they felt it was important to contribute to raising AIDS awareness. It is refreshing that they - stereotypes of the directionless Y Generation - have, for the moment, found a direction and have become activists. From the legs and hearts of these young people flows the hope to those connected to the financial success of the AIDSRide. I am very proud of them for stepping up to the plate.

It is impossible to ignore or dampen the spirit at our table, especially with Kelly around (we all riffed on this very funny scenario Kelly invented – how many nine-year-olds would it take to beat up Kelly? My guess was one!), yet everyone is tired and ready for tomorrow’s conclusion.

The shuttle came by at 8:30 to collect us and bring us back to camp. George was in the tent when I arrived, having had an easy evening in our tent city with Paul, Jackie, and others. As we settled in George talked about how the trip has reinforced some basic beliefs, that life is too short to be lived in fear. Life is an adventure, he said, and is about taking risks, and having some fun. George’s confidence is infectious and just what I need to keep me going. He knows I am worried about my shoulder and riding tomorrow. He tells me to relax and that I will be fine. I hope he’s right. I take my nightly dose of 800mg of Advil and listen to tent city go to sleep.

Friday Morning, June 7

I am to help in the chiropractic tent today as I want to rest my shoulder one more day. The ride tomorrow is "only" 62 miles. I will work with Dr Caroline Reno and Dr Debra Pear (still feeling a bit under the weather from a bout with dehydration), part of the George gang. I will be the CA today (Chiropractor’s Assistant) handling the sign in sheet, getting patient information, getting vitals for new patients (I put a sleeve on their arm and push a button, a machine does the rest), and organizing the flow of riders desperately needing an adjustment. Many could not continue without this help.

I ride to the lunch stop with the medical crew, disappointed that I am not riding today, but feel it is the best thing. I do not want to miss tomorrow’s last ride. We arrive at the lunch stop around 9:30am, set up our gear, and wait for the riders.

Sally Misell walks into the chiropractic tent, slowly leans forward, finally resting her elbows on her knees, and lets out a long breath. Sally is on the crew for the lunch stop today at Storke Field on the UC Santa Barbara campus, 46.1 miles from our day 5 camp in Oceano. By 9:00am her face and hands are dirty from organizing the set up of tables and tents for medical and lunch services. Riders leaving camp by 6:30am will begin to arrive by 9:00am, so the area must be ready to accommodate all their needs. To do this, Sally began her day at 4:00am.

"Overtired, cold, and dirty," Sally says when I ask her how she’s doing. Sally is a determined worker and her exhaustion is a measurement of how difficult the ride is on the crew. When I suggest that the crew job is in some ways thankless because of the focus on the riders, Sally and others agree with the point, but to a person they say that the ride is not about them. The ride, they say, it is about the courage of the riders and those battling AIDS. It’s the reason they volunteered to crew.

On one side of our tent is Physical Therapy and the other is Triage. One young woman arrives with a severe case of "road rash". She is dirty, bruised, and bloody, wrapped in a silver mylar blanket to keep her warm. She winces as the Dr cleans her wounds with alcohol. She laughs when a friend asks what happened, "I got in a fight with the pavement and lost. At least I saved my bike!"

The weather is horrible for views but decent for a long ride. It is overcast and cold. One rider mentioned that without the sun, his mood was not as festive. The same is true in the pits. We saw 17 patients today, most with rhomboid muscle problems (same as me). At the end of the day Dr Reno told me to hop on the table and she was able to do what the interns at the camp tent were not able to do – loosen my rhomboid. She coaches me on a couple of stretches and I feel great and ready for tomorrow.

Back at tent city, George is organizing a last night out with the gang. I cannot get on line at the command center van to upload the story, so I decide to leave the blog and join them in downtown Ventura. George stops a charter bus leaving camp and negotiates a lift for us into town. We are off for one last adventure before the final ride, and with George leading the way we are confident we’ll find one.