Cal road warriors: Fried artichokes, a flat tire, high spirits

KING CITY — Reporting on Day 2 of the 2011 AIDS LifeCycle — Monday’s leg from Santa Cruz to King City — are Araba Nti, a campus graduate student, and alumna Joanne Yeung, an ’08 alum in molecular and cell biology. The two are part of the 28-member Cal Team doing the week-long San Francisco-to-Los Angeles ride, to support HIV/AIDS services and promote HIV/AIDS awareness.

Araba Nti, graduate student

My tent mate and I woke up at 4 this morning to prepare for 107 miles of riding, today being the longest day of the ride. To avoid the rush-hour traffic, I left the camp site at about 6:30 a.m., and from there spent the morning biking through long stretches of farm land filled with everything from artichokes to cacti.

AIDS Lifecycle 2011 logo

Throughout the ride, we rode on many different types of roads, including highways and calmer country roads. The second half of the ride was surprisingly quick, thanks to the tailwinds that carried us to King City — the location of our current campsite — at speeds up to 20 to 30 miles per hour.

About 30 miles into the ride, just as I was getting into a rhythm on one of the ride’s busier roads, I ran over a clump of dirt and heard a loud hissing sound. Flat tire! Luckily I was able to replace the inner tube, dislodge a chunk of glass that was stuck in my tire, and get back on the road.

Cal Team's Araba Nti at the Candyland-themed rest stop.

Araba Nti at the Candyland-themed rest stop

While I was stranded on the side of the road fixing my tire — trying to hold up my bike as 18 wheelers and large trucks blew large gusts of wind in my direction — nearly every single AIDS Lifecycle rider who passed slowed down and asked if I needed any help.

This spirit of support has been strong, among riders as well as from the communities we encounter. As we pass through towns, residents come out on the streets — ringing cowbells, waving, thanking us or even holding up signs commemorating friends or family who have died of AIDS.

Along with the large amounts of money this ride has raised, riding through California in itself has the potential to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. I’m looking forward to the LifeCycle’s remaining days and I’m glad to be participating in this year’s ride.

Joanne Yeung, ’08 alum

Today’s long day started with a painfully early start: by 4:45 a.m., it was rise and shine for most riders, to avoid Santa Cruz rush-hour traffic. Day 2 for me started strong, with the help of several famous AIDS LifeCycle rest stops to look forward to. You know it’s Day 2 when you’re looking forward to free coffee and smoothies from the locals in town!

Joanne Yeung

Joanne Yeung at a Soquel cafe. Free coffee and smoothies!

Following that coffee pit stop, I made my way down the road, riding
rigorously to my next, much-anticipated stop — featuring fried and steamed artichokes! By then it was about 10 a.m. and I was starving. Something I’ve learned to appreciate on this ride is that I’m burning so many calories that I can stuff my face with practically anything. Anything!) And that I did, ordering both the fried artichoke hearts and the steamed artichoke — and ate them all up myself. Delicious!

After lunch, at around 50 miles, things start getting tough, with the strong winds blowing us in all directions. There were also times I had to ride by myself. But after awhile I realized it’s not a bad thing to talk and sing to yourself without anyone around to judge you (Haha!).

Even though I was 50 miles in, I was only halfway through and struggling to find motivation. Luckily there were a few more stops along the way to look forward to — including the Otter Pops, the Cookie Lady and a somewhat secret place along a river, for skinny-dipping. I missed out on the latter. Maybe next time….

My other source of motivation came from those around me — the people who donated and supported me on my ride, the people who believed in supporting the cause and believed in my ability to bike 550 miles, and the random strangers along the ride who say “Hi!” and cheer for us. The most touching on today’s route were little kids playing in a schoolyard who shouted out “Good luck!” as we rode by. How could I not keep pedaling for those kids?

I’m at the end of my day, winding down again and going to bed earlier than I can ever remember. I’m ready for tomorrow but slightly anxious, as Day 3 is infamously known as “quad-busters”. But here I am, ready.

Already 107.3 miles down, just 350.9 miles to go. We’re 35% there! Go Bears!

Pacific Coast just South of Santa Cruz

AIDS LifeCycle riders take in a view of the Pacific just south of Santa Cruz