Washington DC AIDS Ride # 6: Wet, cool and glorious: Part 2
Saturday, June 23, 2001
What I would have written at 8AM had I not been a wet, cold, tired mess: So I shouldn't have written down the prediction about camp evacuation last night. About 30 minutes after the last posting, the rain started again. This time, the pools that Holly and tentmate had experienced, and that the people in tents behind ours were seeing, also began accumulating in our own. After using the chamois towel that had so poorly dried my body the night before (I failed to read directions!) to dry the floor of the tent during the previous wave of falling water, this time I decided to cut my losses. I packed the stuff I thought shouldn't get wet in the waterproof compression pack I brought, and left the less important stuff in my other duffel bag. I gathered my flannel sleeping sack, my pillow and sandals, and headed out towards the dining tent to seek dry ground.
Turned out plenty of people had the same idea. Some sought refuge on the dry ground, but some of those found that the gentle slope was not keeping them too dry anyhow. I started out trying to sleep on the stage from which the ride staff delivered the nightly news, but a drip right above me made that way too close to water torture. Anyhow, the sound of so many people trying to figure out what to do didn't make for a sleep-friendly environment.
I figured I'd help people move tables around to create makeshift beds, since I couldn't sleep anyhow. I recruited a couple of people and we rearranged some tables to create sleeping pods to accomodate more than one person per table. I saw a woman walking around in a confuzed daze, looking very cold, tired and miserable. I showed her to a table, and when I noticed she only had what looked like a t-shirt on which to lay her head, I gave her my pillow so that at least one of us would get some rest. I also saw Aesha (sp?), whom I had met the day before at a pit stop, walking around in what was almost a trance. I called out to her, started to tell her there was a place to sleep, but she burst into tears: she had had a bad encounter with a car during , had suffered some heavy bruising on her side, and all her stuff was wet. I held her for a few seconds, then led her towards the table and helped her get on it so that she could get some rest. I also offered her my sleeping roll, but she refused it despite my insistence. A few minutes later, as I walked past her, she seemed to be in mildly better spirits. [I feel somewhat dirty writing this down--almost seems like one sullies a good deed when one talks about doing it]At that point, thought, I decided that I had exhausted my ability to help anyone there, and that the TeamWorks staff that was gathering outside the tent would be in a better position to help everyone out, so I went over to the corner of table I had claiimed and tried to sleep.
A few minutes later, the TeamWorks folks walked around handing out space blankets, and then mentioned to us that if we wanted to, we could board one of the waiting buses they had lined up, where they'd take us to a relocation center [a very poor choice of words, if you ask me] down the road. After looking around, hearing the clanking of chairs, and feeling the cool breeze on my shirtless shoulders--I forgot to bring out a t-shirt when I left the tent--I took them up on the offer.
The relocation center turned out to be the showroom for the Richmond raceway--basically, a very big garage. The floor had that texture of a busy NTB--a combination of smooth concrete with occasional patches of motor oil and road grime. But at least it was dry and spacious. The space blankets, however, showed the dark and evil side to their otherwise shiny and heat-inducing nature: they crinkle when you do as much as touch them. One of these sheets is loud enough to wake the dead. Put 100 of these in an enclosed space and you have the teeth-gnashing equivalent of four dozen children with bags of Cheezetos at a matinee for Toy Story. Between snoring and the crinkleCrinkleCrinkle from people who treated them like actual blankets, 'twadn't a very restful night. But at least it was dry and warm.
Next day, on the bus, I got to sit next to Cher, one of my training ride buddies. Her shoulder provided a wonderfully soft place for a 5-minute nap until we got back to camp.
I learned this morning that I made the mistake of packing wet stuff in the compression pack, so the smell of musty clothing will follow me for the next two days, but the clothes are all still dry. I forgot to pack my camera in the sack as well, and the Palm and Omnisky fortunately remained dry in their ziplock container. But with the laughter of all of us trying to make the best out of a bad situation, the process of drying everything out became more of a party than an adventure into the land of the forlorn. The sight of Holly picking up her sleeping bag and it just running one steady stream of water onto the grass became amusing to both of us. When I looked into her tent and saw the absurdly huge puddles in it, and heard Holly's jestful description of her very own swimming pool, the giggling began. As she proceeded to empty out the tent with a paper cup, the full-fledged laughter began. The woman on the other side of my tent was also in dire straits, but the chamois towel came to the rescue again--that thing absorbs water something wicked!
What I would have written at 9PM had I not given up on the wireless thing: Day 3 is usually described to most first-timers as the most difficult day of the ride. In many respects, it is: after almost 200 miles of biking for two days, the third day adds numerous hills to the already difficult distance of 100.4 miles. This time around, we could also add cold rain throughout the morning to the equation. However, both of the times I've done this ride I've found that Day 3 has been the best day for me as a biker. Perhaps it's the proximity to well-known territory, or the knowledge that after the steep climb out of the lunch stop it's all pretty much mild rolling hills to Manassas.
As we boarded the bus that would take us to camp, those in the bus would cheer the next person getting on. There's something very gratifying about walking into a room full of strangers that just start cheering you for no reason. Maybe we should all do that every now and then.
After we reached camp, one of the TeamWorks people got on the bus and explained that we could all sleep in the gym of the High School we'd be staying at, and that there were also classrooms we could use if we wanted to. She also said that those who wanted to stay in tents could do so. When someone asked "What's the protocol for setting up the tents?" she replied "I don't know, ask those people," pointing to those who had already squatted on whatever dry plot of ground was available. Wet sleeping bags, towels, gear, bags and tents covered every vertical surface in sight. The Mobile CityTM had become the Mobile Shantytown.
I found earplugs in my bag. They'll be my salvation as I sleep in this large gym, full of sleepy riders with spaceCrinklers.
[In retrospect, I think it was the absurd amount of rain that fell in such a short amount of time that defined the Ride for a lot of us. It sort of put us all in a situation that was harder than what he had planned for, and yet just about everyone took the option of taking it in stride and finding ways of making the best of it. Having to confront it and continue riding brought back home the real reason why a lot of us are doing this Ride to begin with--to remember those who have died and to celebrate those who continue fighting this disease despite its difficulties. Compared to that life-and-death challenge, a night in the rain, or in a garage with CrinklyCrap, or in a gym full of people who snore, or biking in the rain or with wet gear becomes merely an amusing anecdote.]
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