Cal road warriors: Halfway to L.A., there’s no turning back

SANTA MARIA — Reporting on Day 4 of the 2011 AIDS LifeCycle — Wednesday’s leg from Paso Robles to Santa Maria — are Berkeley staffer Josh Schoenfeld and Jess Dill, a new PhD in biophysics. The two are with the 28-strong Cal Team, bicycling from San Francisco to Los Angeles to benefit HIV/AIDS services and promote HIV/AIDS awareness.

Josh Schoenfeld, staff research associate, molecular and cell biology (Bilder Lab)

Today we passed the ride’s halfway mark. Over the last four days, we have covered more than 363 miles and experienced up and downs in the weather. This was a long day, 97 miles, and included a pair of big hills known as the Evil Twins.

AIDS Lifecycle 2011 logo

Yet Day 4 went by very fast. Mostly because of touring through magnificent scenery with about 3,000 amazing people, but also because it was a gluttonous day for me. Stop after stop, I stuffed myself with food, including unplanned stops at a cookie bakery and a cinnamon-roll shop in Pismo Beach.

This is my second AIDS LifeCycle ride and I am enjoying it even more than my last ride (except for the fact that my friends Steve Maranzana and Rob Heymann could not participate this year). As I sit here writing this, near the entrance to camp, I listen to people — roadies, cyclists’ family members and friends, and other riders — cheer in each and every cyclist who finishes this long ride, with as much enthusiasm for the last rider of the day as for the first.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the AIDS/Lifecycle. We’ve raised over $13 million (more than any AIDS fundraiser ever in the world) and the energy and the excitement is palpable. I’m so happy to be here and so proud of what we, as a group, are doing.

Now it’s time to go have dinner #1, so that I have time for dinner #2 (and maybe #3) before the dining service closes. I am looking forward to everyone’s interesting and amazing outfits for Red-Dress Day, tomorrow.

Jesse Dill, PhD, biophysics, ’11

Day 4 of the ride brought a lot of important milestones. The morning was cold, making many of us wish we were still in our sleeping bags. But we soon warmed up with a climb up the Evil Twins, a close-set pair of hills. The hills were swathed in fog for the first few hours of the day, giving the vineyards in the countryside a drowsy, thoughtful feel.

Jesse Dill

Jesse Dill chills in Santa Maria.

After heaving our bikes above our heads — for a photograph to mark the half-way point to L.A. (there’s no turning back now!) — we made a long, foggy descent that left us missing the brief glimpse of sun we had gotten at the top of the Evil Twins. Fortunately, the fog did burn off eventually. Soon, basked in sunlight, we were cruising past friendly small towns and drinking in the view of the California coastline, between rounds of orange slices and PB&J graham-cracker sandwiches.


Other highlights of today’s ride included a cinnamon-bun stop (so tasty and hey, who’s counting calories this week?). Also the roadies’ rest-stop antics, such as dressing up as Angry Birds and providing a full-service Mary Kay station. Not to mention a mid-morning coffee run that really hit the spot.

When finally I rolled into camp in Santa Maria, with 100 more miles under my belt, I felt content to just relax for a few hours, get some knots worked out of my back in the massage tent, grab a quick dinner. And then to bed again, so as to be ready for the next three, busy days of this awesome experience.