Before the Ride
Saturday, July 8th 2000. After about 9 hours on the bus, with several pit stops, we arrived at our hotel in St. Paul. Bob had reserved a large suite at the hotel for the weekend before the ride. Another check to Bob, and my lodging was set.
Left to right: Billy, Christine, John, Kym, Amy, Marty, Bob, and Bill.
Sunday, July 9th. The night before the ride, the entire group ate together in the hotel suite. We all infused our bodies with the essential carbs that would be burned on Day 1.
Spending time with this group of people before and during the ride was a great experience. I had only just met them, but I felt a real sense of camaraderie with the group. The evening before the ride, we all shared our reasons for why we were participating in the ride. Had I not waited to the last minute to make my travel plans, I would have never met these great people. One of the most personal reasons for doing the ride was John's. He was riding in memory of his father who had died from AIDS the year before the ride.
St. Paul, Day 1, our luggage is on the trucks, let's ride to Chicago.
Day one started out smoothly. At 6:30 am, 1470 other riders and I cycled through the streets of St. Paul. At the start, cycling through St. Paul was slow going. As you might imagine, 1470 riders all starting from the same point makes for a pretty tight pack of riders. This was probably one of the most dangerous sections of the ride because of the tight rider spacing. One of the riders crashed during this early section and was out for the rest of the ride. I would be much more fortunate.
At around mile 8, just as the pack started to separate a bit, I noticed a sharply pointed rock lying in the road just ahead of me. Little did I know that the rock had my name on it. With little room to maneuver in the pack, and only a split second to make a decision, I decided hold my course rather than risk running in to someone else making a sudden maneuver. A moment later I nailed the rock head on with my front tire at around 22 mph. In a matter of moments, my front tire was completely flat and I was pulling off to the side of the road to change it.
Thanks to my handy dandy tool bag, I was prepared for just such an occurrence. I calmly started to remove the front wheel and tire to replace the punctured inner tube with a spare from my bag. As I sat on the side of the road and changed the tube, several of the other riders stopped to see if they could help; after all, the AIDS ride is about people helping people. Confident that I would have the flat fixed in short order; I assured them that they could get back on their way.
After reassembling the wheel with a new tube and the old tire, I began to inflate it with my air pump. But as the new tube inflated, it started blistering through the side wall of the tire where the rock had pierced it. Unfortunately, my tire carcass was road kill, and I was going to have to wait to be picked up by a SAG (support and gear) vehicle. Within about 30 minutes I was picked up and taken to the next pit stop about 8 miles ahead. Once there, I was able to purchase a new tire and get on my way. Fortunately I made through the rest of day one without any further problems.
Bill, Amy, Christine, Kym, and Bob taking lunch break.
Wisconsin's dairy laborers escaping from the heat on Day 2.
Day 2 would turn out to be one of the most difficult days for many riders. I believe the official temperature was 95 degrees Fahrenheit with a 105 degree heat index. To compound the situation, day two's route would be over freshly paved asphalt on a slight upgrade into a head wind all day long (ugh!). The cows had the right idea, but we were on a mission.
On day two, the sound of ambulance sirens rang several times throughout the day. Many of the riders were not drinking enough fluids and started to dehydrate. At around the 80 mile mark, Bob almost lost it. Luckily, Christine was riding with Bob and she started to notice that Bob was "beginning to act a little loopy". As Bob put it, "she sensed my plight and started pouring an alarming volume of fluids into me". Christine and Bob rode the rest of the way together reaching camp at 8:00 pm after a 97 mile day riding in oppressive heat. Even though they had reached camp hours late, a welcoming crowd cheered them in to camp as they arrived.
Bob inspired a lot of people that day. Many riders half Bob's age didn't make it through day 2 without the help of a bus ride back to camp, but Bob was focused on riding every mile.