Day 6 Ends
Friday Night in Ventura
"It's just like riding a bike."
That's what people tell you when they want to convey simplicity, or that a task is easy to learn. But riding a bike is far from easy, especially on a journey like this one. And, while it's easy riding after a long trip, it's also easy to get complacent and forget just how dangerous propelling yourself on two wheels can be. A lesson I learned firsthand this morning.
We left Lompoc this morning, headed south toward Santa Barbara and the Gaviota Pass. For those of you unfamiliar, this is a hilly region of the state; it's the western end of the mountains that border Santa Barbara to the north, away from the ocean. After completing a gently meandering climb over 10 miles of highway 1, I found myself descending a 7% grade for two miles. This is a road as steep as the Grapevine on it's northern end.
I let myself fly down this stretch of road, feeling the wind in my face, feathering my brakes to keep from accelerating past 40 miles an hour. Nearing the end of my descent, I saw brake lights on the cars around me. Then I saw riders in front of me slowing down.
Then I saw the ambulance.
As I approached the scene, riding at a much slower pace, I saw two cyclists strapped on boards, waiting to board the ambulance, and heard rumors of a third cyclist as well. The two I could see were covered in scrapes and cuts, their bikes laying on the shoulder of the road, riderless.
I don't know the details of what happened. I don't know if there was a car involved. I don't know if someone was trying to pass someone else, or if someone just lost control. What I do know, though, is that it's important to know how to ride safely. Long Beach has a web site dedicated to promoting bicycles as a mode of transportation, and bicycle safety as well. Please take a minute to check out the following link for a page filled with bike basics:
I'd like to take a moment to thank the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce for serving up free ice cream sundaes to all the riders along the way today. The "Paradise Pit" stop has been scooping up ice cream for us for 12 years, and is a free, unofficial, stop on the ride. They also served fresh fruit, cookies, and pastry, as well as made us riders feel greatly appreciated. Perhaps the biggest display of their appreciation for us was the running water and liquid hand soap they provided; the first many riders had seen since last Sunday morning. Due to limited resources, we wash our hands at the porta-potties with wetnaps and hand sanitizer.
Finally, we finished off the evening in Ventura, at San Buenaventura State Beach, with a candlelight vigil to honor those affected by HIV/AIDS. It was a beautiful, lasting moment of silence, lit by thousands of candles, before dousing them in the ocean.
I look forward to riding into Los Angeles tomorrow, and getting back to sleep in a real bed, and using a real bathroom and real shower. But I don't look forward to leaving this way of life behind. An environment has grown in these camps over the last six days. One of camaraderie brought on by our united goal, by riding together across the state, by huddling together in the rain, or singing karaoke on a makeshift stage at lunch. One person referred to it as the "love bubble."
There really is a bubble surrounding this camp site, and the road as we ride along it. So many wonderful people along the way have come out to greet us, to wave, to hold a sign for a friend, or ring a cowbell to cheer us along. Every day ends with a peaceful feeling as I reflect back on the friends I've made each day. I'll miss those fleeting friendships, but I suppose that's the beauty of them.
If you'd like to see Team Long Beach ride in for our big finish, show up at the VA Hospital in Los Angeles by 2:00 p.m. For the address, and lots more photos from the ride, go to www.aidslifecycle.org