Every year for the last five years my wife Janet and I have been riding in the four day 300 mile NorCal AIDS Cycle Ride. This year was different. Not just because it was the 15th anniversary of the ride, or that we had changed the route to take us through the Bay, or the rain and the hail (I’ll get to that later). This year was different because my friend and coworker Stephanie Swain joined us.
I suckered her into signing up in my usual casual style, “Hey you like to ride bikes, want to join us for a fully supported training ride?” It took a few years, but once she finally agreed to doing the ride Stephanie committed fully. She even suckered her friend Sam into joining us. She helped me put together a Día de los Muertos ride and a party that was a ton of work but ultimately turned out to be a smashing success. She also roped her parents into helping out (for the one day event and the four day event). We trained in all kinds of weather (except for rain), she even got me hooked on spin classes (I was certain that I would hate them). We raised a lot of money (I did far better than any other year), D+B made generous contributions to our fundraising. By May, we were well prepared to ride.
When the big day finally came we were optimistic that the rain in the forecast would be gentle with rainbows and sun breaking through the clouds. Well, we did get a rainbow or two, but the rain/hail was not gentle by any means. I was so impressed with Stephanie’s tenacity, I was even more impressed with her friend Sam who hadn’t trained nearly as much as we had. All in all, we had three days of rain and hail. At times our fingers were so numb that we weren’t sure we could pull our brake levers if we had to. On the last morning (freshly dry and ready for a strong finish) while we were walking down the driveway of the Jess Jones Vineyard who had hosted us, the sky opened and hail and rain soaked and pelted every square inch of us. That day (for safety’s sake) we hitched a ride with SAG to the first rest stop and drank hot beverages until we were somewhat dried out before continuing on our soggy journey.
These were the toughest conditions I had ever experienced in my five years of riding with NCAC. There was however, one breathtakingly beautiful clear day on day two of our ride. We rode through the Marin redwoods and past the beautiful Tamales Bay. We even stopped for oysters and a beer at Hog Island Oyster Co. It was a hilly ride, but the astonishing scenery took our minds off our screaming legs and sore rears.
We may not have exactly hit the 300 mile mark but we finished the most challenging ride I have personally ever attempted. Next year (oh yeah, Stephanie is already signed up) we will not cancel our training rides if it looks like it may sprinkle a bit. Regardless of the weather we had an epic time. We became closer friends and I learned just how tough our sweet little Steph is (and how loud she can burp).