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June 9, 2008

Craig HerreraThe ride is over and I am now at home reminiscing about last week and the incredible time we all had on AIDS/LifeCycle 7.

I can’t believe it’s over, it seems so long ago and I miss the community we formed along the 545 plus miles we traveled on our bicycles with 2500 other riders and 500 roadies (volunteers). I already miss being on my bike and making new friends! All that mattered to me last week was riding my bike and thinking about the people we were helping by raising a record $11.6 million. I wish I could express in words how much love and support we felt along the way. I’ll express it this way… what a different world we would live in if we only could get along like the 3000 people did on this ride. A world where people of all ages, religions, sex, sexual-orientation, cultural backgrounds and yes, politics beliefs, could all come together and get along while working for a great endeavor. Last year was my first time on the ride and I thought this year might not top my first, but it was just as wonderful and I already signed up to ride again in 2009. Paul also signed up and the rest of the Hooligans were all talking about signing up for next year too.

The final ride into LA was very exciting! It was bitter-sweet for me because I was excited to be riding the final 61 miles, yet I was sad knowing it would soon be over. The final lunch break was in a park overlooking the ocean in Malibu. The final 20 miles were along the Pacific Coast Highway and as we pedaled along the final 3 miles, the streets were lined with cheering crowds waving hand-made signs and whistling for us. I got goose-bumps up and down my entire body, I saw the welcome home sign and tears filled my eyes. It was simply overwhelming. The sense of accomplishment, the fact we just cycled 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles in seven days and the hope we all had along the way all flashed in my mind at once and so many emotions filled my heart and mind. But this ride was not about my sense of accomplishment or personal achievement, this ride was about the people who will benefit from the money raised, this ride is about the love we all shared for humanity, this ride is about the good that can come from people loving and understanding each other without being judgmental, this ride was about what people can do when they come together and this ride is above all, love and support!

I hope you enjoyed my blog and pictures and got a sense of just what happens when 3000 people from 48 states and 12 countries come together for one goal, to help others. Now, I’ll return to my regular daily routine and cut back on the calories. 🙂

So until next year and until there is a cure to this terrible disease, I’ll vow to ride as long as I am healthy and as long as there is HIV and AIDS. Thank you for following my blog, supporting Herrera’s Hooligans, (Paul, Mitch, Julie, Jean, Gary and myself) and for all of your thoughts and prayers! Thank you to the many new and old friends who shared in this journey, thank you to the people who supported us along the road and thank you to the organizers of the AIDS/LifeCycle, I love you!

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist


Final Night

June 7, 2008

Craig HerreraI’ll keep this blog short as this is the last night in camp and I want to spend time with my Hooligans, my old friends and my new friends. This won’t be my last blog as I will sum up my experience once I get back to the Bay Area.

The sun was warm and the ocean air cool, what a day. We rode along the coast and are now on a beach in Ventura. The stops today were so much fun but my favorite was a non AIDS/Lifecycle stop in Santa Barbara. The town hosted an ice cream social in a park. Yes, I stuffed myself with ice cream, cookies, brownies and strawberries, just to be healthy right, a little bit of fruit to justify it, ahaha!

The City of Santa Barbara held the event just to support the riders and the event. Yet another show of support where people are just helping people, making new friends along the way and trying to make the world a better place.

For now I will just say that I am overwhelmed all the support, the love, and above all, the memorable experience!

Tonight more than 3000 people will quietly walk onto the beach here in Ventura for a candle light vigil. This was such an amazing feeling last year and I can’t wait to be a part of it again.
I know I will be overcome with emotion and it will be the perfect end to an incredible week. Tomorrow we ride out for the final day and final miles in this ride to end AIDS. We’ll pedal 61.5 miles from Ventura to Los Angeles.

I’ll sum it all up for you when I get back to the Bay Area. For now, thank you for following my blog and sharing this experience with me.

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Day Six: 85.5 Miles

June 6, 2008

Craig HerreraHere we go – day six!

River Park in Lompoc to San Buenaventura State Beach: 85.5 miles
15.1 miles to Rest Stop 1
Rest Stop 2 at mile 25.9
Lunch in Goleta at mile 47.2
Rest Stop 3 at mile 56.8
Rest Stop 4 at mile 77.4
End at San Buenaventura state beach

Wish us luck – thanks friends!

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Day Five: Red Dress Day

June 6, 2008

Craig HerreraI have to start by pointing out the fact that I will never say we are “only going 42.5 miles” again! Those were a tough 42.5 miles!

The day was all fun and laughs until mile 20. That is when we hit 1.6 mile climb from about 200 feet to just under 1000 feet. But it doesn’t end with that “hill.” At about mile 23 we climbed from 250 feet to just under 1000 feet in 1.4 miles. I think those two hills plus quite a few other small hills really wore me out today. I’m not sore but I am ready for a nice meal and a hot shower. Have I mentioned how much I love the hot shower. It is worth every minute waiting in line, all 45 minutes! Haha!

Today, was by far the most fun of all! It’s what is called “red dress day” and every person, with a few exceptions, wears a red outfit. It’s like the great San Francisco show “Beach Blanket Babylon” on two bicycle wheels. I’m not kidding. And oh by the way, I had my first flat ever on a bike today. I ran over a nail and it was all over but it was a quick fix and I was on my way with the Hooligans. I think we looked great in our red “costumes.” Haha! When in Rome right! I’ll post more pictures on our slide show once I get back to the Bay Area next week. My phone is not transmitting a lot of the pictures so I’ll post the photos from my regular camera when I get back to work next week.

For now the watercooler conversation is all about those hills today. My question is why don’t the hills today have names like the “Evil Twins” or “Quadbuster” from the days before today? I think they should have names like “Mt. OMG” and “OMG Mountain.”

And another question I have is why do my jeans fit the same? I was hoping I would need a belt by now but it is just not the case! Maybe I should go easy on the peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches made between two graham crackers. They are the best treats at every rest stop and all I have to say is I’m so happy I can’t find these at Safeway.

Tomorrow will be great and I am looking forward the ice cream stop in Santa Barbara… Oh wait, no wonder my jeans fit the same, peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, ice-cream, and oh yeah, cheesecake or pie for dessert after every dinner. Tomorrow will be great as we travel 87.7 miles through the beautiful city of Santa Barbara and on to wonderful Ventura.

I’ll leave you now as I sit to have dinner and we are surrounded by dozens of alums from USC who are screaming their fight song near dozens of alums from Cal who proudly chant for their Bears. This is great!

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Day Four: Part II

June 4, 2008

Craig HerreraI forgot to share a few more amazing experiences with you. I was at dinner with the Hooligans tonight, and we were recapping our day and so many more memorable experiences came to mind.

The first being one of the most important. Today at lunch we met a young man, about 22 years old. He was holding a sign thanking each of us for riding. I stopped to thank him for coming out to support us. As it turns out he is a prime reason we ride, he is HIV-Positive.

He relies on part of the $11.6 million money raised on this ride to help pay for the medication which run him about $2000 a month. He is healthy and looks great, and his attitude and outlook on life is positive. I gave him a good and tight hug and walked back to my bike to ride the last 50 miles of the day. I know he will be okay and I will continue to ride until HIV/AIDS is gone. It is critical to remember and educate others that this disease is completely preventable. That is why is so special to see elementary school kids out on the sidewalks cheering us on, supporting the riders and learning about this disease.

The second fond memory I will hold from today involves food, a cinnamon roll to be exact. We stopped in Pismo Beach at a local cinnamon roll shop for the best-tasting cinnamon ever! I suppose it could be that we were 68 miles into ride, but I don’t think that was the case! YUM! It was 2 inches high, warm, smothered with cream cheese on top and it just melted in my mouth. And just for the record, I don’t usually like cinnamon rolls, but WOW, Yum!

And finally my friends, as I prepare to get a good nights sleep in my cozy tent (while it’s in the low 50s at night), I’ll leave you with this… If you ever decide to be a part of this experience, bring ear plugs! Ahaha! Last night, we were surrounded by frogs. Well, not frogs but it sure sounded like it! A chorus a frogs but it was just the people in the surrounding tents. The guy in the tent to the left was snoring and it sounded like the baritone frog, the guy in the tent behind was a tenor and from another tent came the bass, And once in awhile a squeaky alto chimed in. Haha!

So hooray to the conductor but I hope NOT to get another concert tonight… Wishful thinking!

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Day Four: 99.8 Miles

June 4, 2008

Craig Herrera
Whoo hoo, day four down and I got back to camp early enough to get an early shower without having to wait in line for 30 minutes. I’m not joking when I say it has been taking 30 to 45 minutes to get to a shower. They have 5 big trucks here with showers, but imagine 3000 people trying to shower at night after they get in from the ride. But I’m clean and ready for dinner after a great day on the road. And remember my last blog, I thought we were going to go about 96 miles, yeah well they changed the route and we went 99.8 miles, almost another century! I have to say though, after yesterday’s bumpy ride along highway 101 for about 5 miles, my derriere felt every pepple along the 99 miles!

It was just beautiful though! Along the Pacific Coast Highway, the views from our bikes, WOW! And the weather was perfect! Well, up until we hit the town of Guadalupe where the CROSSWIND was blowing at 35 miles per hour, sustained. I was riding at a 45 degree angle to stay on my bike! It was a scary 10 miles but we made it.

And we made so many more friends along the way. Dan from Ireland, Ann from England, many from the Bay Area and some Funky Monkeys (their team name) from different parts of Southern California.
And we hit the “halfway to LA” point today before we cycled along Morro Bay.

I’m also getting a great tan. I’m lathering on the sunscreen mom, but I just keep getting darker. 🙂

Off to sleep now and I’m looking forward to tomorrow… Red dress day!

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Day Three: 66 Miles

June 3, 2008

Craig HerreraDay three down, I can’t believe only four more days left on this journey. Well, after I inhaled my breakfast this morning, we hit the road and what a sunny day it was. Today was easier as we only went 66 miles.

Here is a breakdown.

After rest stop one we hit “quad buster hill.” The anticipation from some of the riders was making me nervous. I think most of the people making me nervous were from Southern California. I heard comments like “remember, just go slow and stop if you have to stop and walk” and “this hill is going to take the energy right out of you.” Then one of those nervous riders told a team member of Herrera’s Hooligans “oh, this hill should be nothing for you if you’re from the Bay Area because you’re familiar with hills like this.” I thought that was great.
The hill was a bit tough! We climbed from about 250 feet to 1500 feet in about 1.3 miles. But it was all downhill from there, kind of. 🙂 Our stop for lunch in Bradley was inspiring. The school (K – 8th grade) hosted a BBQ and the money raised supports the extra-curricular activies for one year. It’s great to see the children are educated about this disease. They can understand HIV and AIDS affects people of all ages, sexes, backgrounds, sexual-orienation, religion… It discrimates against no one.

The highlight of my day, besides a hot shower and eating all day, was a letter each rider received when riding into camp here in Paso Robles. Each letter was hand written and my letter from a student at Menlo Park Elementary reads as follows…

“Dear Rider, I am so proud of you doing this biking trip just to make a difference. And I think that you should never quit and keep trying because I know you can do it. You can do it, Isabel”.

Wow, how amazing is that?

Another letter read “dear rider, you are doing a great job. My teacher is on the ride and she says it gets windy at night so be sure to use your bicycle spokes to tie down your tent”.

Great advice! Ahaha! That is great, amazing and cute!

Thank you Isabel for the letter, thank you to the town of Bradley for lunch and to all the students from Menlo Park who wrote those letters to each rider!

I hope my tent stays in place tonight and I will never quit as long as I can ride. And Wednesday we will ride again! Our route will take us 97 miles to Santa Maria. I think it will be physically and challenging, BUT we will hit the half way point Wednesday.

I hear we will tackle something called “the evil twins hills” Wednesday somewhere along the 97.7 miles from Mid State Fairgrounds in Paso Robles to Preisker Park in Santa Maria, wish us luck!

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Day Three: Breakfast

June 3, 2008

Craig HerreraGood morning. I just had breakfast. I should say inhaled my breakfast! Funny I didn’t think I was so hungry but I sat down and within five minutes I ate two pancakes, a bowl of oatmeal, two sausage links, scrambled eggs, a bowl of fruit and a bagel. In case you’re wondering I still feel hungry! Wow!

Off to one of my favorite stops, the town of Bradley. We have lunch in Bradley and all of the town’s kids, 36 students K through 8th grade come to greet us. The parents sell BBQ and all the money raised will support the school’s extra-curricular activies… for the entire year!

And we’re off!

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Day Two: 108 Miles

June 3, 2008

Craig HerreraDay two down, five more to go. And I have to say I am very excited the longest day is now behind us. Monday, we woke up in tents in Santa Cruz, we road 108 miles to King City on a route that took us through beautiful hills, bountiful farmlands and thriving vineyards. And we all made it safely and the Hooligans had quite an amazing trip. Oh wait, let me clarify something, only Paul and I slept in tents while Mitch, Julie, Jean and Gary slept in nice beds in a nice hotel. Yup, they are doing what is called “The Princess Tour” because they book their own hotels along the way! Can you believe that? Maybe I’m just jealous. Haha! Actually I love the tents and “tent city” because I get to meet so many people. Although I have to say I am over the port-a-potties and I do miss my bathroom, bathtub and my dogs.

It’s amazing how many thoughts and memories enter your mind while riding. Even when you have 25 mile per hour crosswinds and you have to lean into the wind to stay on my bike. That was the toughest part of the day. Yup, it was a windy day but most of the time the wind was at our backs so I was able to coast for a bit. I should say the wind was a headwind, that would be more impressive right? What is impressive is the people in this ride. I passed a man who said he was going to be 82 years old in a few weeks. I also had a first. I saw a girl who is riding a unicycle on this ride. It is unbelievable! And I saw three people on one bike! Yes, step aside Daisy, this bicycle is not made for two, but instead for three. It was amazing! I didn’t get to take a picture of the bike but I will try so I can share that with you. I also heard about one guy who is 19 years old and now on his second ALC ride, and he is riding with ONE gear! That means he only has one gear for the hills, one gear for the flat road and one gear for the downhills. I go through 21 or so gears within a few miles depending on the terrain so for him to be doing it with one gear is nuts. I mean couragous. Apparently, he is just looking for a challenge this year, ah, to be 19 again! Ahaha, nah, I’ll just listen to his story when I meet him.

Tuesday will be a great ride. The route is 10 miles shorter than last year, so it will only be about 65 miles! Whoo who! On day one we had a new route that was 10 miles shorter than last year and Tuesday we we will ride 10 miles less than last year, so I am very excited. Wish us luck and stay tuned for more to come.

Thank you for your support.

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Day One

June 2, 2008

Craig HerreraWe made it through day one! And it was only 82 miles. Yes, only 82! We thought it was going to be about 94 miles but it was a new route and thankfully shorter. It was quite a relief after a night of restless sleep. I guess I was thinking about the ride. The day began at 3:30, I got to sleep in. I usually set the alarm for 2:30 in the morning to get to work for the fun with the morning team, but this week I get to sleep in… 4:30AM. Whoo hoo!

The Hooligans were strong today! We lost Paul at the opening ceremonies but found him at the first rest stop. The scenery was amazing! How often do you get to ride you bike down Highway 1, along the coast with 2500 other cyclists. And oh, did I mention, the cyclists and volunteers (A.K.A. Roadies) raised over $11.6 million as a group to help people living with HIV/AIDS. A new record, AMAZING! Thank you to all of our supporters! It was nice to see Pastor Lee Neish and Alex Hardt from our church, Los Gatos United Methodist Church, today at the opening ceremonies. We had so much support from LGUMC, thank you!

That is yet another important part of this ride, the support we get from so many people. For example, seeing the streets lined with people today who were cheering us on with large posters and thanking us for riding. One mother had a poster with her son’s picture on it, he died from AIDS, and she was thanking us for riding. I get tears thinking of that image today. I saw other cyclists, the Positive Pedelers, who are HIV+ and riding right along with us. I was riding with people from all backgrounds and of all ages, from 18 to 82! It gave me hope, hope that one day we won’t be on this ride because this disease will be history. Until then we ride. So now, as I type this blog in my tent, to the unsynchronized “hum” of snoring cyclist all around me, I’ll get some zzzz’s in myself and prepare for day two. And oh did I mention it’s 106 miles Monday from here in Santa Cruz to King City. And it’s Paul’s birthday! What a gift huh? 🙂

Go Hooligans!

Craig Herrera
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist