Lala’s birthday was yesterday. She turned forty, and she rode the longest leg of the AIDS Lifecycle on the same day. That was taking a chance, to combine those two things, since she has been equating forty with OLD. (Let me make it clear that I don’t think forty is old, nor does she think other people over forty are old. But for her, OLD. I debated whether to get her a walker, and then I remembered she already has one (she uses it to hold her lap steel at shows)).
I wasn’t sure how Mom would be doing, so I didn’t totally commit to being able to see Lala on her birthday. But yesterday afternoon was okay, so I left Mom in the capable hands of Mom’s best friend and both my sisters, and drove up the coast, two hours north to King City, where the ride ended for the day.
We’d guessed that Lala would ride into camp late in the day, since she’d called and said she’d had a really late start. The route closes at seven o’clock, and anyone still riding past a certain point is swept into buses and driven into camp. Lala did NOT want this. This would not make for an easy transition, in her mind, to OLD.
I got there about 5:30pm. I stood on the corner, at the last turn the riders made before riding straight into camp, where food, showers, and sleep were waiting after their 105 mile trek. I cheered and hollered, and the motorcycle crew guy I was with let me use his flag. "300 yards to camp! Right turn! Downhill! You made it! Congratulations!"
Most of the riders grinned as they rode past. Some screamed with joy. Some were astonished, having given up guessing how close they were to the finish hours before. Some proposed marriage. Others were so far inside their own minds they gave no indication of hearing us, they were just concentrating so fixedly on making their bodies turn the pedals. Blank looks. I worried about their motor coordination.
The motorcycle crew guy, Ron, told me a story. He rode on the first ride, and has been doing moto crew ever since. He was directing traffic by himself out on 101, near Goleta, before it reaches the ocean. In a break between riders, a woman pulled her car over. She ran on the shoulder back to him and without saying anything, wrapped her arms around him and held on. After they hugged a while, she said that she’d been driving past the riders and had to say thank you to someone — her uncle’s partner had just died of AIDS, and she needed to thank them for what they were doing, out there, riding single-file on the freeway.
Already having a weepy day, that sure set me off.
I cheered for more riders and got more brilliant smiles and whoops of joy.
Six-thirty. Still no Lala.
Seven o’clock. Ron’s wife, who was directing the last turn on the ride before this one, came in. No one left behind her, only the couple hundred riders still on the road between her old post and his. Everyone else behind THEM was being picked up by the buses, she guessed maybe two or three hundred of them.
So Lala would make it or she wouldn’t. I searched for that magic combination of yellow jacket, pink helmet, and you’d be ASTONISHED at how many of those there were. I’d get my hopes up, and even think it was her, but the mouth wasn’t right, and I’d just barely stop myself from yelling her name. It’s honestly weird how so many of them looked so much alike, even close up. With the helmet, sunglasses, and bike clothes, you really only have to go on nose, mouth and chin to identify your loved one cycling by. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be.
More riders. Still no Lala. I started to make contingency plans in my head. What would cheer up a newly 40-year old person who didn’t finish the day’s ride? They can’t drink on the ride, so that’s right out. Food, sure, but would she be able to stop snuffling long enough to eat it?
Then, yes, I think so….
It was Lala! Looking seriously H.O.T.T. Mmm, my sporty SPICE! And even better, she was one of the relaxed riders! Grinning! My yelling her name didn’t make her fall off her bike, she just beamed and pulled up next to me, gave me a kiss. She’d had a GREAT ride. Even though she started so late she’d worried she might not make it, she’d passed a ton of people and enjoyed everything she saw along the way. She went to park her bike and grab her bag, and I stayed with Ron, and cheered people in with new enthusiasm. Lala had made it! So could they! And lots more, another half-hour’s worth of riders filing steadily in, did make it. The "caboose" rider finally came in — you knew she was the last for the day, because she was being followed by the Caboose vehicle. Literally driving right behind her ass. I said to Lala later, "Wouldn’t that be awful? To know you were the last person?" She said, "No, she knows she’s the last person not be swept by buses. She’s thrilled."
I took her to her birthday hotel (no sleeping on the ground on a birthday, Rachael will not stand for that, no), and she took a hot shower, and washed some clothes. We went to a really nice restaurant and had steak and potatoes. I think she ate two potatoes, actually. She had chocolate milk.
By the time we got back to the room, she was too tired to eat the cake I’d brought her. We both slept all night, a beautiful sleep that we both desperately needed. It was really, really good.
Today she’s riding from King City to Paso Robles, and tomorrow she’ll be passing close by to Mom’s house, from Paso to Santa Maria, so I plan to be out of the route again, looking for that yellow/pink combo of hotness and youthful determination. The walker can wait.
(Speaking of walkers, Mom’s hanging tough. It must be your thoughts and prayers — today, on no morphine at all since yesterday, she’s sleeping a gentle sleep with peaceful breath, and when she’s awake she has very little pain. At all. It’s a miracle we’ll accept with open hands and hearts.)
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