"Can I get a Yes! Yes!?"
Every night in camp, that's how our stage-host would start off the night's announcements; mentioning a positive moment, or great thing someone did for the ride, followed up with "Can I get a Yes! Yes!" Is it cheesy? No more so than asking for an "Amen" in church, I suppose. Along the ride last week, so many great things happened, so many "yes-worthy" events took place, I couldn't possibly tell you about them all without breaking the internet in half. I think my favorite was a small note I found this morning, strapped to my bike.
When I was ready to head out of the last 60 miles of the ride, I found a small, plastic Easter egg attached to my saddle. When I opened it, there was a Lifesavers Peppermint Candy inside, and a note that said: "May the reason you committed to ride this week be a song of hope for all the world to sing forever. Love, Chicken Lady, ALC11"Chicken Lady is an instantly recognizable rider, who has been riding for years, dressed in a rainbow-striped skirt, sparkly leggings, rainbow-striped sunglasses, and a hot-pink nylon parka. All with a chicken-shaped bag over his shoulder, and a chicken on top of his helmet. He's an incredible person, with a great heart. Every year he puts an egg and small note on each rider's bike to send us off on the last day.
Chicken Lady tells a bit of his story at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqiFKcUNW98
Today's ride was pretty easy, with beautiful views of Los Angeles as we rode down PCH through Malibu, and was fairly unremarkable until we arrived at closing ceremonies. For obvious safety reasons, I couldn't take a picture of the hundreds of people waiting for us and cheering as we rode into the Veterans Affairs complex on San Vicente. But the cheering, the music, the clapping, getting to give my sister a high five as I came to the end of the chute, were almost overwhelming. We had come to the end of our ride, our feet were back on the ground instead of pedaling down the road, and reality was about to set back in. The love bubble was about to burst. But we still had closing ceremonies to help prolong the energy a bit.
You've all been reading this blog, listening to me talk about riding bicycles and learning lessons, and eating cheeseburgers to benefit school programs. But I have yet to mention a highly significant group of individuals that truly make this ride possible: Roadies. Hundreds of people follow us along the route every day collecting our luggage and tents, serving us food, setting up water stations near our bikes, manning rest stops along the route, marking turns in the road and giving us instructions about hazards that lie ahead. That doesn't even include the medical staff, the sports medicine staff, the chiropractors, the massage staff, and the sweep vehicles that rescue riders in distress. These people get up before the riders, work hard throughout the day to support the riders, and don't get to sleep until after the riders. We cyclists are the visible part of the ride, but we'd be lost,cold and hungry halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz if it weren't for them. Today at closing ceremonies, the staff at AIDS LIfecycle reminded us to give roadies their due, and paraded them down the center of the celebration space so they could soak up our gratitude one final time.
After the ceremonies were over, our bags were picked up, and bikes loaded to head home to Long Beach, I got in the car with a sense of sadness. The ride was over, I was no longer surrounded by hundreds of people with a common cause, and I wouldn't be taking to the open road in the morning. But that's the beauty of the event. It's incredible, magical, educational, empowering, and when it's over you can't wait for it to start again. We were reminded by a speaker this afternoon to Be Grateful. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work so hard over the last few months raising money to fight an epidemic that's been going on in this country for decades. I'm grateful for the incredible people I've been surrounded by for the last seven-plus days. I'm grateful for all the time I spent on my bike, pondering things like whether there was a deeper meaning behind missionary costumes other than teasing the Mormon Church or what it means to quit versus giving up. I'm grateful for the opportunity to do something that took me out of all the traps we place for ourselves in life and do something for others.
Will I be back again next year?
Can I get a Yes! Yes!?