Sunday, September 23 , 2018, 9:49 pm | Overcast 61º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Colorful AIDS LifeCycle Riders Roll Into Santa Barbara County

Hundreds of cyclists traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds, awareness

A smiling cyclist arrives at Santa Maria’s Preisker Park on Wednesday during the AIDS/LifeCycle fundraiser. Click to view larger
A smiling cyclist arrives at Santa Maria’s Preisker Park on Wednesday during the AIDS/LifeCycle fundraiser.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Rafael Gonzalez marked his second stint on the AIDS/LifeCycle ride this year, and now can’t imagine not participating in the fundraiser.

“It was a personal challenge, but more than that, it was the cause,” said the Palm Springs resident, who learned he was HIV positive in 2004. “I really believe that fundraising and nonprofits provide a great deal of service to the community.”

When he was first diagnosed, a nonprofit organization helped Gonzalez connect with medical care, counseling and more.

Gonzalez said he previously questioned if he was healthy enough to do something like the lengthy ride, but found support in a friend who had participated and helped him train before embarking on his first ride last year.

He was one of approximately 2,226 bicyclists to arrive in Santa Maria on Wednesday afternoon, the first of three days of traveling in Santa Barbara County. One local rider includes Jason Villalobos, marking his seventh year on the ride.

The support crew at Preisker Park in north Santa Maria cheered arriving cyclists, directed them to bike parking and handed out ice cold chocolate milk.

Despite completing a 91-mile leg from Paso Robles to Santa Maria, Gonzalez said he learned the trick to easing sore muscles from a fellow rider who showed him the foam rollers that helped get blood flowing and removed aches.

Still, walking after miles of pedaling felt weird, he said Wednesday. 

“I feel like I'm floating on air,” Gonzalez added. 

An animated roadie for the AIDS/LifeCycle ride greets cyclists at Santa Maria’s Preisker Park. Click to view larger
An animated roadie for the AIDS/LifeCycle ride greets cyclists at Santa Maria’s Preisker Park. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The 545-mile ride began Sunday in San Francisco and ends Saturday in Los Angeles, with riders encountering hot weather before arriving in Santa Maria.

“There’s so much support along the way, it’s really hard to complain about anything,” Gonzalez said.

On Thursday, riders will don colorful red outfits for the trek from Santa Maria to Lompoc, where they will camp at Ryon Memorial Park. 

On Friday, riders will head south, with a lunch stop planned at Girsh Park, 7050 Phelps Road, Goleta, and the night’s camp set up at San Buenaventura State Beach, Ventura.

The AIDS/LifeCycle participants raised more than $15.1 million to support San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. 

That funding helps pay for HIV testing, outreach, medical care and more, Gonzalez said.  

“One of the key things is it allows the organizations to keep providing free HIV testing, information about HIV. Those people that test positive can get connected to care,” he said. 

Those who test negative for HIV can get information about steps to take to remain healthy.

“That’s what’s going to get us to being able to end this disease, to end AIDS,” he said. “That’s the goal.” 

Gonzalez said he expected to participant in the event in the future, whether as a rider or roadie, the army of volunteers who help along the route.

“I can't imagine myself not coming along this journey," Gonzalez said, noting the ride marked its 16th year in 2017. "I can’t imagine myself not being a part of it now that I had a taste of it.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Rafael Gonzalez of Palm Springs stands near tent city at Santa Maria’s Preisker Park for AIDS LifeCycle ride. The 545-mile event with more than 2,200 cyclists started Sunday in San Francisco and ends Saturday in Los Angeles. Click to view larger
Rafael Gonzalez of Palm Springs stands near tent city at Santa Maria’s Preisker Park for AIDS LifeCycle ride. The 545-mile event with more than 2,200 cyclists started Sunday in San Francisco and ends Saturday in Los Angeles. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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