The ride is back, revamped and family-friendly
Rain or shine, the Surf City AIDS Ride wants you to get your bicycle out. The annual tour-de-Cruz bicycle extravaganza returns on Oct. 3 as a full-fledged family affair, revamped to accommodate riders of varying skill levels.
The Surf City AIDS Ride began 10 years ago as the Century Ride, and is currently in its fifth year under the direction of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP). Traditionally, it has commenced at Cabrillo College, but this year the riders will gather at the centrally located San Lorenzo Park on Dakota Avenue in Downtown Santa Cruz. Organizers say the change in the starting location will make the ride more accessible to Santa Cruz residents. Furthermore, they have plans for the park to provide a spacious and scenic venue for an all-day event. While the bicyclists endure the trek of 12, 30, 60, or 100 miles along the coast and through Santa Cruz and its neighboring counties, their cheerleaders will get to enjoy the luxury of homegrown entertainment: the park will be filled with comestibles provided by vendors, family-friendly games, and live local music. Ride organizers are encouraging all members of the community to partake in the festivities.
The Surf City Ride does more than provide riders with a scenic tour of the Central Coast—all proceeds from the ride will benefit SCAP, for which funds are especially important this year. According to SCAP Executive Director Merle Smith, SCAP has been hit hard by federal and state budget cuts. She says the benefits from the ride will greatly contribute to the ongoing success and sustainability of the program.
Smith emphasizes that the vitality of the program is imperative, not only as a resource for those living with HIV or AIDS, but also as a prevention education provider. For example, the program sponsors community outreach that seeks to educate teenagers about the risks of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Smith says that young people too often feel that they are invincible and don’t realize that their decisions have consequences. She adds that educating is the means for promoting awareness. Awareness about the spread of the virus could help reduce the growth of AIDS in Santa Cruz County, where about 15 new cases have been recorded annually for the past six years, according to the Community Assessment Project.
Like SCAP, many potential riders are also facing hard economic times. But while the race does have some mandatory fees (these include registration and fundraising charges), organizers say the fees shouldn’t discourage participants. According to Smith, many of this year’s participants have exceeded their fundraising expectations in the community by petitioning for funds over the Internet. The 30-mile ride requires $60 to register (without fundraising) while the 60 and 100-mile rides cost $90. Meanwhile, the 12-mile ride has a sliding donation scale.
Riders come from all over the Santa Cruz area. Some are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, or friends of people living with AIDS. Others participate for recreation and to support the SCAP cause. Jamie Morton, an art and sociology major at UC Santa Cruz, plans to participate in the 12-mile ride to test her athletic abilities. “I’ve never done a benefit ride, and I feel that it would be a positive and beneficial way to test endurance and strength,” says Morton. “I would encourage any bicycle enthusiasts to test their pedaling abilities while supporting SCAP.”
Other riders, known as “positive peddlers,” are participants living with HIV or AIDS. One positive peddler or “poz ped” who rode last year’s 60-mile route reported being astounded by both the “loving and positive attitude” of the riders and volunteers and the natural beauty of the California coastline.
Riding a bicycle, whether it’s for 12 miles or 100, makes certain demands on the body. The routes will be stocked with rest stops that will provide riders with food, beverages, and electrolyte boosters. These stops will be strategically placed to ensure a healthy energy level for the riders.
Those without the physical wherewithal to endure a day of pedaling can participate in the ride by volunteering. A force of volunteers will run the revitalizing rest stops as well as the celebration at San Lorenzo Park. As far as SCAP is concerned, they say the more volunteers the merrier. Interested persons can either sign up to volunteer for the event online through the SCAP website or on the day of the ride. SCAP encourages volunteers to show up to support the Santa Cruz community and the ride.
To learn more about the Surf City AIDS Ride or to participate, visit scapsite.org/ride.php.