I called Joe to let him know that there really wasn’t any rush to be at my place by 7:30, as once we checked in, we really didn’t have anything else to do until the opening ceremonies started at 9:00. He said, “Okay, I’ll be there by eight, then, instead.”
He arrived promptly at 8:00 and we were off by 8:15. On the way to the Fairgrounds, Robert asked me if I had my meds with me, and I didn’t. Thank God he asked. He dropped us off, and was a dear to run back to the house to get them. In the meantime, Joe and I went to the bike rack and claimed our bikes.
It was quite festive in the Jim Graham building with the anticipation in the air, and with pretty much everyone in some kind of team, or Tour de Friends, riding jersey. Robert returned in a little while, and took some pictures of us as we waited for the opening ceremonies to start. Shortly after that, we were lead in group stretching exercises, and then in the Rider’s Pledge, whose main theme was, “I will put safety above all things.”
It was kind of funny during the pledge as the person leading it often read passages too long for most people to remember, and plus, it was hard to hear in there, so several times people were just moving their lips or mumbling when they got to the end of a passage they were repeating. It looked, and felt, like someone doing bad drag, off on the lip-syncing.
Next in the opening ceremonies was a very poignant display of the names of the people for whom we were riding. They had made huge banners, probably twelve feet long and maybe four feet high, and had written the names line by line on them. There were six or eight banners. We all held hands, and as a very touching song played, they marched the banners down the main aisle. There were lots of wet cheeks, including mine.
We lined up for the rideout in as much semblance of order as possible. There were cheers when we finally started moving. Joe and I were amidst Team Alliance, but toward the back of the team. Robert gave me a tight hug, and said his good-byes.
As we exited the building, there were folks lined up along either side of the sidewalk, and they cheered us on as we started out. Almost right away, to my most delight, was Robert clicking pictures of Joe and me as we rode by. I looked in the crowd for a few people who mentioned that they’d try to attend opening ceremonies, but didn’t see anyone. Just before we exited the fairgrounds, onto Blue Ridge Road, there was a group of high school cheerleaders doing cheers on the left side.
We had a police escort until we were almost out of the Raleigh City limits. We went North on Blue Ridge, turned right onto Edwards Mill, crossed Glenwood onto Creedmoor Road, and followed that up to Strickland. It was wall-to-wall bicycles, and we stopped a lot of traffic. Some people were enjoying the moment by blowing their horn and waving as we rode by. Others were making U-turns, and seemed a little annoyed by the interruption. I’m embarrassed to say that if I weren’t involved with the ride, I would probably be in the latter group. Perhaps now, the next time I see something like this going on, I’ll enjoy the moment as well. If I’m not supposed to be somewhere. :-)
We turned right on Strickland, and then left on Falls of the Neuse to head out of town. I don’t remember the route from there, actually, but I’m sure at some point we turned right to make our way over to US 1 North, out toward Warrenton. Also, at some point during this time, the police escort ceased.
The first pit stop of the ride was at a school from which we started two of our training rides – the one north of Falls Dam on Falls of the Neuse Road. It was strange pulling into what was a totally deserted parking lot in our training rides, to a most festive first stop on the ride. There were several huge tents set up in different areas, catering to different needs.
There was the food tent with all kinds of goodies, such as Cliff Bars, raisins, bananas (cut in half), oranges (in wedges), bagels, individual servings of peanut butter (to put on the bagels), some other brand of energy bars, and some type of crackers, I believe. There was an area for drinks (water and Gatorade) and ice, one for bike repairs, and another for things like Ibuprofen, butt balm, and sunscreen. And of course there was the lineup of port-a-johns, for which the line was extremely long.
Joe and I feasted, refilled our water bottles, and used the facilities. And then we were off.
These are transcripts of the voice recordings I made riding throughout the day:
Day 1, Thursday, June 19, 2003, Raleigh to Warrenton, 68 Miles
At the Fairgrounds waiting for the Rideout
Okay, we’re in the holding area, and we're waiting to leave. We had the opening ceremonies, which was very moving. We had a nice song playing, and guys walked through with several huge banners, full of peoples’ names who we’re riding for, which was very moving. Then we did the pledge to ride safely, with safety being our number one concern. And we're now just waiting to head out the door. It's about quarter 'til ten.
Pit Stop #1 @ 17 Miles (Opens 10:30AM, Closes 1:30PM)
Okay, here we are at the first pit stop. I'm trying to see the red light, that it's really recording, but I guess it is. We enjoyed some good food. The smorgasbord consisted of bananas, oranges, granola bars, raisins, peanut butter, bagels, pretzels [Joe chimes in in the background, "the peanut butter was like buttah], and a little bit like peanut. Then we went to the bathroom. The line was really long. We got Gatorade, and water, and there were cute little Handiwipes when we came out of the bathroom. There's a bike station set up. The man who is wearing the sequins dress is still hanging in there. And I think that's probably it for now.
Pit Stop #2 @ 31.8 Miles (Opens 11:30AM, Closes 2:30PM)
Okay, we're finishing up at pit stop number two. We had another fine meal. [laugher, Joe shouts in the back ground, "Luna Bars!"] Luna bars, Cliff bars, bananas again, no peanut butter for the bagel, which was a little bit disappointing, but I ate two bagels plain anyway, just to spite them. I forgot to mention at the first one there were little wares being sold, I think they were being sold, yeah they were being sold, beads, suntan lotion, and stuff like that. Here, we have massage people, doing people up, and bags of ice, and someone told Joe to take his hat off, and my hat was on crooked. So, I think that's it for this time. Any other comments? No. We'll be stopping for lunch at, next, cause we're really hungry. Cause we're hungry. [Joe in the background, "We have reservations."] Yes, we have reservations. Good-bye.
Lunch Stop @ 47.1 Miles (Opens 12:30PM, Closes 4:30PM)
At lunch time we had some fabulous turkey sandwiches on focaccia bread, and some oatmeal raisin cookies, and I ate some raisins with it to make it, like, extra three times the raisins kind of thing. We had three-bean salad that wasn't very good, Joe tested that. He had barbecue chips, which were better than my plain ones. We made a pit stop, and they had some people playing, not playing with your feet, but rubbing your feet; stuff like that there. Saw David working the stand, the food stand. Got a big hug from him, and he scratched my back, which felt good. And we passed Santiago on the way.
Pit Stop #3 @ 56.6 Miles (Opens 1:30PM, Closes 6:30PM)
Okay, we are rest stop three, which is the Rock 'n Roll stop. We were quite ecstatic to find; yeah, "Welcome to the 50's," and we were excited to have peanut butter and jelly, find peanut butter and jelly [laughter] that look like they were made with the Pampered Chef little sandwich maker, "Cut 'n Seal." [laughter] My sidekick here is filling in [laughter]. We got us some Udder Cream, for your udders and udder places that hurt. We sat for a minute in the shade where the little mist was coming from water coming off the roof. That was quite nice. And we're getting ready to head out for the last 12 miles into Warrenton. The weather's been great. Ciao!
We arrived in Warrenton to a very festive scene. The little town really went all out. The streets looked great, as they were a total mess the times we rode through there during our training rides. There was a band playing, dancers performing, the Ben & Jerry ice cream guys, and a lady cutting up fresh, free watermelon for the riders. While we were eating our watermelon a nice lady asked us if we wanted to be “pinned” with a cute “Welcome to Warrenton” pin. There was also a table set up where people took a pushpin and stuck it in a map indicating where they were from. You also wrote your name along the side of the map, and then they took a string, tied it around the pin, and strung it out to end at your name. There was a lot of string on that map.
We hung out there for about 45 minutes, and then got back on our bikes to ride to camp. It was more of a ride than we were lead to believe, but we were excited in anticipation of reaching our first camp. The excitement soon waned, however, when we saw how wet the place was. There was a huge puddle, almost a little pond, really, in the area designated for tent city. They had little white, large index card sized, markers in the ground with tent addresses on them, ours being A-047. We eventually figured out the numbering scheme and found our “lot.” The guys two to the right of us had set up their tent so crooked that by the time Ken (the Team Alliance team captain, who had the lot to the right of us) arrived, there was no room for him to set up his tent. You can tell he was an experienced rider, because it didn’t faze him; he just moved to another, more remote, spot. In retrospect, that was a great idea.
Joe and I got the tent instructions out and started putting ours together. Of course we didn’t know what we were doing, and after a few minutes, a nice Lesbian said, “Do you guys need some help with that?” What a nice gesture that was, and we got the thing up, easily, in half the time it would have taken us to figure it out. I just wanted it done, so I could go take a shower.
Once we got it set up, Joe crawled in, fiddled around in his bags, and said, “Voila!” He produced three stems of beautiful, plastic flowers, and a tiny little pinwheel. We proceeded to decorate our tent with them!
While we were setting up our tent it quickly became obvious to us that we were “in trouble” when it came to the neighbors. The guy to the tent to the left of ours was one of the loudest guys on Team Alliance, and one of the most talkative. He was yapping with the two girls who were his neighbors on the other side, and it was just nonstop. He had brought paper lanterns with him to decorate his tent, and kept talking about lighting up candles in them. I was totally not comfortable with the talk of fire from a neighbor with, literally, four inches between our tents.
We got set up in the tent; it was hot as hell in there, and I was, once again, dripping with sweat by the time we finished. We opened the back flap to try and get a cross-breeze going in there, but it didn’t seem to help much. Later on, we were to discover that the zipper for the screen part of the front door didn’t work, which was going to be a little crucial in keeping the bugs out without having to close the outside flap cutting off all chance of any kind of cross breeze at all. [insert sarcasm here] Love camping.
Next, we headed out to the showers, which turned out to be very, very cool. There were sinks, three on each side facing each other, with a little wall above them, which was a mirror. There, guys were shaving, and folks were brushing their teeth. The showers were in a 16-wheeler. You took your shoes off outside, and climbed up stairs into the truck. The shower stalls, complete with curtains, were all along the left side, and along the right side was a bench to put your clothes on, and hooks along the wall to hang your towel, and whatever. The water pressure was surprisingly good, and the water was surprisingly hot. I brought my Tour de Friends jersey in the shower with me to wash, as we’re going to wear them again on Sunday to ride in.
After washing up, we had dinner, which was of a Mexican theme. We had chicken fajitas, Spanish rice, and beans were offered though very few people seemed to take them seeing on how close the quarters were, not to mention that most of us were sharing a tent with people we didn’t know all that well. There was a delicious carrot cake for dessert.
The “entertainment” for the night wasn’t really entertaining. There was a lot of, sort of, “preaching to the choir” about The Ride – how great an endeavor this was for the riders, and how beneficial to the people relying on AIDS services, etc. They noted that there were two people who had been hit by cars during training season this year, one of them being our Michelle. The other one was a guy, and he spoke about his experience – about the caring, camaraderie of his teammates, and about the little town of Warrenton. There may have been more, real, entertainment after all that, but Joe and I were so tired that we left pretty much as soon as we were done eating, and went back to the tent.
We laid our wet shirts on the top of the tent in hopes of them drying overnight. As it would turn out, that was very optimistic. All cell phones were supposed to be turned off at 9:00, and lights out was scheduled for 9:30. Joe made a call a little after 9, as that’s when his unlimited nights and weekends plan kicked in, and called his parents. As it turned out they weren’t home, and his sister answered. She has Down’s Syndrome, and when he said, “Tell mom and dad that I’m on the ride, and I made it through the first day.”
“Did you win?”
“No. Everybody came in at the same time. It’s not a race.”
“No, but did you win, Joe?
I was listening to, and laughing at, this conversation. Joe was smiling and rolling his eyes.
Between that time and 9:30, before the lights went out, our next door lantern neighbor was going back and forth with the ladies in the tent on their other side, cracking jokes about the girls “serving visitors,” and “providing pleasure,” etc. It was kind of funny because they had strung a cord between their tents, and there was Frederic’s of Hollywood-type lingerie hanging on it – black lace panties with a red hem, skimpy bras, that sort of thing. Though the exchanges would have been classified as funny and witty, at that hour, tired as the devil, and settling down to sleep, it was pretty annoying.
The lights went out at 9:30, and at about 9:45 the snoring started. Let’s just say there’s no insulation in tents, especially when they’re set a few inches apart from each other. Joe and I tried to close the zipper on the screen to our door without luck. He reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a roll of thick clear tape like you’d use on packages. Oh yeah, he had scissors in there, too. I held the screen flaps together and he proceeded to put four pieces of tape along the seam. We both had very little confidence that in this heat and humidity that that would last any amount of time at all.
I was totally restless, and though lights out was at 9:30, I don’t think I fell asleep until well after 11:30. Then I woke up later in the night, and had to use the restroom. I pulled open that taped seam, and hopped outside the tent.
My back was killing me. At home, I sleep with three pillows, including one under my knees for my back. Here, I had no pillows at all, and my hips were sore from turning to the side on and off to relieve the pain in my back. I rolled up one end of the sleeping bag to try and create a pillow, but it was pretty lame. Joe also had a full-length bath towel in his bag of tricks, and he loaned that to me to roll up into a pillow. I ended up using it to cover myself though, as it got too cold to not be covered yet too hot to be in that sleeping bag.
I made my way to the port-a-johns in the pitch dark. I had a little flashlight that Robert loaned me to find my way, and that helped. Once inside, while peeing, I felt something sticky on my arm. Entrenched in my arm hair was one piece of that fine tape previously holding our tent together. Ouch.
I had a little trouble finding my way back to my tent in the dark. Even though I had the little flashlight, it was very dark, and all the tents look alike. I started off down the wrong aisle, which didn’t help. Eventually I realized I would have passed our tent if I had been in the right aisle, and I circled back. I was thankful for those bodacious paper lanterns hanging on the tent next to ours. They were easier to see in the dark than our fine flowers, and pinwheel.
I got back in the tent, tried to close the screen as best I could, it having one less “fastener” and all, and got situated again. After about 15 minutes of not being able to fall back to sleep, I turned on my side to a slight crinkling sound. Another piece of the fastening tape was stuck to my other arm. I was so restless all night long. At about 5:30, people started getting up, including our next-door neighbor, who with his loud talking, had everyone around him awake as well.