On the morning of Day 6 I was really determined to ride as much as I possibly could. I went to Sports Med in the morning to get all taped up and got on my bike hoping for the best. By mile 5 I was already in pain. And was pissed. I decided to pull over and stretch. I cannot even express how much that helped! What I figured out was that stopping and stretching BEFORE my neck went into a massive spasm was really a good idea. Even if that meant stopping on the side of the road way more than I would have liked. By the time I got to rest stop 1 I thought there was a very good chance that I could do the whole day with this new plan, even if it meant I was the last one back at camp.
Day 6 was the best day of riding for me a far as scenery went. The Santa Barbara area is such a beautiful place with beaches and excellent real estate. So much more interesting to look at than mountains. Sorry. We also road on the freeway again. This time it was a much better experience. The road was actually flat which makes freeway cycling a whole lot easier. And here is the other thing about freeway riding: It seems a lot more efficient than taking some random windy back roads. And I do love efficiency.
The other best part about Day 6 was Paradise Pit in Santa Barbara. This is a non ALC sanctioned event with just the kind people of Santa Barbara organizing, baking and serving each rider as we pass through. I have to tell you that after riding your bike for 5 days, there is NOTHING better than all you can eat ice cream. And brownies. And croissants (I ate 3). I could have stayed here all day and eaten myself into a sugar induced coma but I was in a hurry to get back on the road. It felt as if the pain was something I was actually running from and the faster I went the further I got ahead of it. I realize that this is an absurd theory, but it got me through the day.
Once back in camp I called Autumn (!) as she was slated to come out to Ventura for the evening's candlelight vigil. Not only did she come, but she brought my sister. I generally hate surprises (Really, I'm not one of those people who say they hate them and secretly love them. They genuinely give me anxiety and I hate them.) but this one was totally awesome. It was so fun for both of them to see what I had been living all week, and what Autumn is going to live next year. I think the whole ALC metropolis is something that you really have to see to believe.
When it got dark, we were all given candles in paper cups around them to guard them from the wind for the vigil on the beach. Now this particular night my sister, Autumn, Tara, Ivy, Ethan and I were hanging out with our new friend and tent neighbor Jay. He was with us as we walked down to the beach and sat silently with our candles in the sand. Now Jay is HIV positive. He is also one of the most boisterous, full of life people you could ever meet. On this night however, sitting one the beach with thousands of lights surrounding him it was impossible to mask what he was feeling. And he had no reason to anyway. Tara and I sat flanking Jay, a freind we had only known for 5 days, holding his hands and crying with him. I can olny imagine what he has been through, what hundreds of our fellow riders have been through. But on that night, maybe more than any other night on the ride, we were there for each other in a tangible and meaningful way that is difficult to articulate.
At a point, people began to stand and move towards the ocean to extinguish their flames in the water. This is where the real beauty of ALC came in for me. Tara, Jay and I head towards the surf, still very serious and solemn ready to put out our candles. Tara and I lean down and plant our candles in the sand so the water can wash away our flames. Except for that it doesn't. The wave doesn't come right away and Tara's paper cup starts smoking. At first we all noticed it, but not wanting to spoil the moment ignored it hoping that the ocean would come and put it out soon. But it didn't. In about 30 seconds the entire cup/candle goes up in flames and Jay comes to our rescue by stomping the whole thing out. Of course this happens to us. So there we are laughing so hard we can't even speak after we had spent the last 20 minutes crying. This dichotomy was ALC for me. It was sublimely ridiculous and I loved it.
Ivy called it Pleasure Pit. That name works too.
Eating ice cream makes me happy.
I wasn't the only one that had to take a day off! MO did too! http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/outposts/2010/06/aidslifecycle-the-undesired-day-off.html