What better way to celebrate Pride in SoCal than to greet the more than 1,926 riders as they arrive in Los Angeles after a grueling 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco - a journey made to raise money and awareness for The LA Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation with the annual AIDS/Lifecycle 9 (ALC).
Peddlers arrive home starting at around 11 am and trickle in all day gathering at 4 pm for the Closing Ceremony.
It's been a long, 7 day journey that people describe as both inspirational and exhausting. Around 500 volunteers - or "Roadies" as they're called - are also along to provide support (and entertainment) to those who ride - which consists of a mix of LGBT and straight people from all over the country.
The ride has been going on over twenty years now, and it is a right of passage for most LGBT people in Los Angeles. The physically shredding experience, combined with the sense of a common goal and unity, along with the inspiration provided by groups like Pos Peddlers, creates an almost euphoric, community experience. All while raising much needed cash to support those living with HIV/AIDS.
Many riders tell tales of buckets of tears from both pain and from inspiration. The cyclists spend most of their days on the road, while the Roadies provide welcome rest stops along with way, and the set up and management of the Wysteria Lanes of gay tent camp sites at night, replete with hot meals, massages and doctors on call for medical checks.
(photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center)
Personally, I'm waiting for the marathon LGBT fundraiser that involves sitting on a couch for days, eating bon-bons and watching back to back episodes of "The Golden Girls" - something I'm immeasurably more qualified to engage in.
To give you an idea of the mileage, the first day - Sunday - was a 79 miles ride. The second day was 108 miles. If cyclists cramp up or crash out, there are Sag Vans around to pick them up and drive them to the next rest stop. But there are plenty of cheerleaders to encourage most to "keep pushing through!"
Day 5 is red dress day - where all the cyclists don their most flowing gowns. Many of the riders indulge in fabulous outfits the entire time, but the red dress day evolved from the idea that seeing all the riders at a distance, with the winds would emulate a red ribbon (traditionally worn to show support for people living with HIV/AIDS).
The bonding that occurs and the friendships made, last a life time, as participants rave about the unconditional support and "hugs" from all around them to "keep going!"
There's a very moving Candlelight Vigil on Day 6 to remember all those we've lost to HIV/AIDS. It happens on the beach, overlooking the ocean. At this point, the end is near and emotions are high. The sense of remembering those we have lost, and also provide a loving community for those living with HIV, sends people to tears.
The Closing Ceremonies are this evening at 4 pm, follow this link for information and see you there!