Roughly 275 miles ridden in the past four days and it’s time for a rest day of only 43 miles. Only. The things cyclists say sometimes never cease to astound me. Day Five on AIDS/LifeCycle also has the honor of being Red Dress Day, a day which brings out make up, costumes, and of course dresses.

I also posted a thread to Twitter for today with more pictures

If you are in the market for a good cycling dress, I advise the following criteria:

  • Breathable and airy, to enhance evaporation
  • Close to the body, to reduce drag
  • Short, to avoid messing with your pedal stroke or wheels

Following these criteria I ended up with a trashy little backless number with criss-crossing straps which I am confident have left “X” tan lines down my back.

Dresses are of course not compulsory, which adds to the fun of the day. In addition to the cheerleaders, pirate wenches, and bombshells there are Waldos, Lobsters, Marios, Ketchups, Santas, and so much more. For those who have lived in San Francisco, it has a very Bay to Breakers vibe.

I departed camp late for two reasons: first the final destination didn’t open until 1pm, so there was no sense in leaving early. Secondly, wearing a tiny dress is cold.

The last time I did a century I rode around 40 miles before my first rest stop. While that was foolish, a comfortable pace and a hearty breakfast can take me quite a long way. Today I needed to hit up two rest stops, a water stop, and lunch. I needed to stop because I knew I was going to have some time to kill.

Getting to Rest Stop One was through the streets of Santa Maria. Leaving later meant a lot more cyclists on the roads ahead of me, and today is not a fun day to compete with traffic since we’re all squeezed onto bike lanes during rush hour traffic.

Despite it being a recovery day, I still popped out into the lane to crank it past some slower cyclists. Everybody is entitled to their own pace and rightfully so, but I get particularly anxious in traffic like that since the risk of accidents goes up quite a bit. Generally speaking the safest place to be is often in front of other cyclists, regardless of speed. Another cyclist followed my initiative and ended up riding with me for a while, before I lost him in the pack again.

“Ho, ho, ho!” proclaimed the Santa as we rolled into Rest Stop One. I parked and went about my routine, albeit in slow motion so that I would eat up more time.

The segment to Rest Stop Two takes us out into the country on nearly shoulder-less country roads. I cannot imagine the thoughts of the folks driving by seeing hundreds of fabulously dressed cyclists. As I passed two men working on some utility cabinet, I noticed that one was holding his phone up. I should have yelled or catcalled at him, but I’m really not good at thinking of those things in the moment. Oh well.

Rest Stop Two is on the other side of a couple little rural climbs and tucked in the field behind a small country school. There I ran into Sister Tutti, one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence that does the ride. I had helped her with a computer problem on Day One and we’ve greeted each other every day since. She is an elementary school teacher and has incredible energy. For Red Dress Day she was also in her garb, so I had to have a picture together. I also ran into the woman who I had cycled with previously, and she shared more of her face glitter with me. It looks very pretty highlighting my cheekbones, but after the next time I apply sunscreen it turns into just my whole face glitter.

We climbed out together towards Lompoc and lunch. My right knee keeps stiffening up. The quad muscle that comes over the inside has been tender since yesterday, and while I’m sure the foam rolling I did helped, it’s still slowing me down.

Like a big stupid dog chasing a rabbit around a track, I cannot seem to just chill and sit in. As I see more cyclists ahead that I can pass, I crank onward.

This segment is the one in 2019 where my frame broke. The memories are still so vivid to me, the climb where I hear the snap, the straight away where I could hear a clanging when I put power down, and the shoulder where I stopped with a team mate to figure out what was making that noise before tackling the big climb that lay ahead. Almost exactly at mile 25 of Day Five, I thought my ride was going to be over.

I considered stopping for a picture, but the new miles of that climb was in front of me, and I wanted to get to it!

We don’t have a name for this climb, but we probably should. It’s a long and gradual slog up the hill towards what I would come to learn is now called Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Space. Force. Base.

I caught a red light right at the entrance and took a number of pictures. It is just as funny in real life as it is in that documentary with Steve Carell. I still cannot believe it’s a real thing.

Anyways, I grab a wheel to follow to the water stop, and kill some more time. Before leaving I was complimented again on the strappy dress, which I’m sure made me blush under the glitter that was by now smeared across my face.

The dress also turned some heads as I passed by the federal prison on the outskirts of Lompoc. That I was not as thrilled by, but I could only chuckle to myself as I entered the cross winds after the facilities. Bright yellow helmet, smeared face glitter, backless red dress, and celeste colored bicycle, I would turn my head and stare too.

The ride into lunch was quick thanks to a nice little tailwind to scoot us into town where we took over some city park. Still quite early, I decided to have two lunches while I nursed my knee in the grass. Basking in the sun, there just wasn’t much to do other than eat, tan, and socialize. Camp sits only a few miles beyond lunch, and those would be very easy miles.

I don’t know what number into camp I was today, but it also doesn’t matter. We were all getting into camp early. Over 2,000 cyclists have each put down over 275 miles this week, their legs acclimating to the demands on them, their minds knowing what they’re now capable of.

43 miles is a short day.