You’re likely aware that for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the club, we set aside the weekend of September 17 and 18 for a special ride and an anniversary bash at il Casaro restaurant in the Castro.
Although this year we are hosting a Forty & Fab ride every month, September’s was memorable because it was a resurrection of a long-vanished ride, the 25-Mile AIDS Bike-A-Thon route. The first AIDS Bike-A-Thon in 1985 consisted of just one route: San Francisco to Guerneville in one long shot, over 100 miles. When the club decided to do a second Bike-A-Thon for 1986, the organizers knew that the event had to be expanded in order to raise more money since a one-hundred mile route was appealing only to the hardcore. So a second route of 25 miles was added and the hundred mile route became a loop from SF and back. In later iterations a 60-mile route was added to generate even more riders. Of course the 25-mile route was the most popular because even a casual cyclist could survive that if it were flat enough. And it was, being a loop up to the Presidio from the Castro, and then down around Lake Merced and back to the Castro, about as flat a ride in SF as possible while avoiding the car-crowded main streets. The only significant hills were the short, two-block grunt up Arguello to the Presidio and the short hill up to the Palace of the Legion of Honor.
All the Bike-A-Thon routes were marked with spray painted BAT icons. They lasted for many a year but eventually they all faded away or vanished under new asphalt. Did anyone keep a map of that route? Apparently not, so I had to recall as best I could where the route went. That became the route for the day, a “faux” Bike-A-Thon.
I thought that maybe ten, at most fifteen people would show up. Instead there were over 30, which is highly unusual for a club ride. Donald C. and David Gaus volunteered to help with guiding the cyclists along the route and thank god they did because it was a ride dwarfed only by our annual Pride Ride.
We met at the old Bike-A-Thon “recruitment center”, Hibernia Beach a.k.a. the Bank of America in the Castro. Almost no one knew why I referred to it as “Hibernia Beach”. I feel so old. Sigh. We were a large crowd in brightly colored spandex and polyester. No passersby even deigned a glance at us this being the Castro. After the obligatory ride orientation I gave a little history lesson and off we went. Even though it was windy the sun was bright and thus we had the weather on our side. Of course within seconds we scattered into a long line, with folks at the back getting delayed by one traffic signal after another. We had several regrouping points including the old standard start of many DSSF rides, McLaren Lodge, before Peet’s in the Castro became our regular JR start.
Although these days we get to Golden Gate Park via the Panhandle bike lane, back in the day that didn’t exist. So after the Wiggle we always went up to Page Street before turning west. Page is quiet and furthermore the Freewheel Bicycle Shop, which was owned by Jerry Walker, a club member and former president (or was it vice president? I can’t recall), is on the route. Jerry eventually died of AIDS in the early 90s like so many other members. Up at the Palace we regathered for a group shot and twittered together like the little birds-of-a-feather that we were.
I had routed us down the Great Highway even though I knew this wasn’t the original route. Nowadays the Great Highway is closed to cars and makes a safe cycling route to Lake Merced. But back in the day it was used heavily by cars to head south since it had no stops signs and only one light. We did a clockwise loop around Lake Merced, which is what I recollect, but in fact we may have done it counterclockwise originally. While designing the route I couldn’t recall exactly how we returned. But on the ride when I got to Sloat/Ocean it suddenly came back to me: we crossed Lake Merced Blvd. and headed directly north on Lakeshore. Too late now!
We were all scattered like leaves in the wind and since I was patroling the back end of the group I had no idea where everyone else was but assumed that they were fine and having a grand time. This was after all a social ride rather than a hammerfest.
I rushed back through Golden Gate Park and the Wiggle to Hibernia Beach; there were still a few participants hanging out and chatting. I hadn’t had a chance to talk to many riders being preoccupied by “leading” the ride. My old riding buddy and “old fart” Spoker Dr. Bob Bolan was still there as well as old fart Don Lapin, so I was able to catch up a bit with them before everyone drifted away. I waited for the rest of the group to arrive and they never did, having slipped off before the end to head back to their homes or their cars. So the ride just fizzled out kind of like the way Bike-A-Thon did! Despite the nondescript end I sensed that people had a palpably fun time even if they didn’t know the full history of the AIDS Bike-A-Thon. It’s good to keep the memory of that club accomplishment alive. It was an incredible ten-year effort by so many members and in the end generated $2.3 million dollars of funds for various Bay Area AIDS organizations. Some traditions are worth preserving.