Sunday, October 3, 2010

AIDS/Lifecycle 10 Kickoff Letter

Hey everyone! Hope all of your summers have gone well!

Well, here we are again. I am signed up for AIDS Lifecycle yet again, the 560 mile, 7 day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, taking place June 6th – 12th, 2011. It is a fully supported, organized, massive event with nearly 3000 riders and over 500 volunteers.

However this year seems to be a little different. This is the 10th anniversary of AIDS/Lifecycle, and because of that they are saying it’s going to be huge, with lots of press, lots of attention, and lots of riders and workers!

Just as before, my goal is to raise $3000 for the fight against AIDS. This money will go to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which in turn uses the money to fund research, prevention, education and awareness for HIV/AIDS. Last year we raised over $10 Million dollars for this cause, and this year looks to raise even more!

This is very important right now, since AIDS programs are continually facing massive cuts due to the economy. I know we are all feeling the pinch, but for some folks out there, those cuts versus getting the funding they need is a direct life-versus-death predicament.

So, please join me this year in donating money to a great cause that directly saves the lives of people already living with this global killer, as well as those who are in danger of contracting it in the future. (Basically, all of us) Simply click on the link, which will bring you to my homepage for this event, and click on “Donate to Support Erik”. Anything you can spare would be greatly appreciated.

My personal ALC 10 donation page

Last year, I added the challenge of an additional climb up the fabled “Quadbuster” for each $1K I raised over the minimum. I ended up riding “Quadbuster” twice, the best part of which was riding back down and watching the masses climbing up the hill, the never-ending line of cyclists all putting themselves through a little pain for a good cause. And, of course, the odd looks as they noticed one of their own riding back down the hill for another go at it.

This year, however, I would like to do it differently. My goal is to have to ride it 5 or 6 times. That is all up to you, my beloved donors. So, forward this to anyone who may (or may not) be interested, and help me inflict some serious pain for a great cause!!

Thank you all in advance, for whatever support you can give, whether it is monetary, or the forwarding of this (and future) emails, or even the occasional thumbs up. It all means something in the end! Thanks!


My personal ALC 10 donation page

Friday, August 20, 2010

AIDS/Lifecycle 9 Recap and Thank Yous

First off, here is the link to the pictures I took on the ride:

Hello everyone. I wanted to start just by saying thank you so very much to all of you for your generosity and help. Lots of folks out there benefit a great deal from your donations, and I know they appreciate it a great deal. It’s going to take everyone, not only those affected by it directly, or those living with it, to finally kill AIDS/HIV once and for all. So, thank you for helping me do my little part to chip in.

In the end, you all helped me raise $4,475 for the San Francisco AIDS foundation. Which, of course, meant that I climbed “Quadbuster” an additional time. Looking back on it, the 1st or 2nd climbs were not what I remembered about that day. It was flying down the hill back to the start of the climb to do it again, and watching the steady, hard-packed line of cyclists suffering up the hill looking back at me flying down it, like I was crazy. Maybe so, maybe so. And yes, I’ll be doing the same thing next year!

Altogether, the nearly 2,000 riders raised $10 million to help fight the AIDS pandemic. Our numbers were lower, both in participants and in the total money raised, due probably to the economy, but we did have an important stat: We raised more per person then any ALC ride in the past! So thank you!

Now for the ride itself:

There were parts of this year that were easier than last year, mostly simply because I had done it before, but also some things that were harder. I had a friend ride with me (you kicked butt, Eric!), and several people came out and visited, (thanks Anna, Rob and Michelle!) and I knew several people from last year right from the start, so I wasn’t as bored this time around. The weather was also more helpful. We didn’t get any rain, and a couple of days it actually got pretty warm. The Starbucks in Paso Robles was filled to the brim with riders and roadies escaping the heat. That day was especially tough since the camp site where the tents go was not grass like in years past, but now hard pack ground up cement, like a parking lot. And with the temperatures well over 90 that day, everyone was looking for an escape.

I also experienced quite possibly one of the hardest things I have ever had to endure on a bicycle. Going from lunch in Solvang to camp in Lompoc, we were told we would have “a bit of a headwind”, with “gusts up to 15 to 20 miles per hour.” Yeah, no. How about sustained winds at 20-25 miles per hour, with “gusts” up to 30 – 40? All directly into our faces, for about 25 miles. There was a rider who was an Iron Man finisher and ultra-marathoner, who said that 25 mile section was the hardest, most painful thing he has ever done. Which made sense, since I remember being down on my aero bars, practically laying down to stay out of the wind, pedaling as hard as I possibly could, doing about 10-12 miles per hour, DOWNHILL. I laugh about it now, I spent most of that day screaming and yelling at anything that would listen, then looking around embarrassed if anyone was within earshot…

I did run into some flat tire trouble this year. I guess I used up my luck last year, not having a single flat, because this year I had several. A couple out on the road, and one right before closing ceremonies. I came back to my bike for the Mass Ride-In to the Closing Ceremonies, and I had a flat. I fixed it with my last patch, having already used my last spare tube, and pumped it up and it blew again. So, I missed the ride in. I did walk part of the way with the rest of the riders, then turned away and watched from the back entrance of the stadium as everyone else rode in and went through the Closing Ceremonies process. So it was nice to see it from a distance, and it was definitely easy to get out afterwards.

Aside from the flats, and the headwind on day 5, and the heat in Paso Robles, everything else went rather smoothly. Just like last year, it’s simply amazing how nice everyone is out there. It really is like a perfect little society for seven days. Everyone is nice, courteous, helpful, thankful, friendly. I saw ultra-fit riders pushing and helping slower riders up hills. I saw people forgo showers and food to sit at the camp entrance at the end of the day to cheer in later riders. I saw nonstop assistance in the tent area setting up tents and camps. For those seven days, I don’t think I saw a single frown or negative attitude. Aside from that headwind, of course.

I guess in the end it’s something I can’t explain with words. You literally just have to experience it to believe it. It’s like nothing else.

So, of course, while waiting for Closing Ceremonies, I signed up for AIDS/Lifecycle 10, running June 5th to June 11th, 2011. Which is the 10th anniversary of the ride, so it will be a big one. I can’t wait!

So, expect more emails in the coming weeks as I begin my fundraising adventure yet again.

Again, thank you all so very, very much for your help, in all the ways you do it. You not only enabled me to take the ride of my life with the most amazing people out there, as well as the support of angels in the form of our roadies, but you also saved lives in the process! So again, from the bottom of my heart thank you. Thank you thank you thank you thank you!

Now who’s riding with me next year???

Erik A. Dabel

Friday, February 19, 2010

James Lick Observatory, 2-17-10

I like to go up to the Observatory a few times per year. Usually it’s on the bike, in a painful and epic, full day, 6,000 feet of climbing scorcher. But sometimes it’s also nice to drive and be able to chill up there a little longer. After all, it’s a 45 minute drive, translated to the bike it’s nearly 2 hours of pedaling just up Mt Hamilton. Of course, I have to do things the hard way, starting from home and going first over Silver Creek Road, then over Quimby Road, then meeting Mt Hamilton Road about 1/3 of the way up and climbing the last 11 miles to the top of the world. Well, the top of the South Bay, which is pretty much the world, right? Right? So to drive up there means I have more time and energy to walk around and really see everything, or at least more of it.

Anyway, the other day turned out a little different. My regular schedule going up there is pretty simple. Check out the visitor’s center, look at the artwork, wander the gift shop, and take the tour, then head up the road to the other public area, the 120 Inch Shane Reflector. Sit down in there for a while, look at the info posters, watch the video.

Well, as I was watching the video, a guy came in and asked if we wanted to see the inside. I probably looked like I had just won the lottery. I have always had kind of a hidden love for sciences especially Earth sciences like Astronomy, so to see the inside of one of the most advanced, as well as famous, domes on the planet was pretty awesome.
So, he brought us in the employee only door, and the mini tour started. We started out on the control room, a small room with several computers, and he explained what each station did, and who worked where. The remote station, where you can control and use the telescope from anywhere in the world, the laser station that controls the Adaptive Optics/Laser Guide Star Program, and the various control stations around. We left that room and walked around the main room with the telescope in it, and he explained a lot of the things they do, how they do it, and some of the equipment they use. The multiple types of lenses they can switch in and out, the laser system riding side saddle to the main telescope used for sort of cheating the atmosphere that normally interferes with light traveling here, the computer systems, the pros and cons of all these things. I won’t get technical, if you want that, go to the website:

He then asked if we wanted to see what they called the “Fallout Shelter”. I had never thought of this before, even having been there all the times I had, but this dome was built in the late 50’s, the height of the Cold War, so it had a fully functional Nuclear Fallout Shelter in the basement. Seriously.

Of course, they only use it for storage and work these days, but it was pretty neat. The big project right now is preparing the 120 inch mirror, and the equipment required, for re-aluminizing. So, they had a de-compression chamber basically right below the telescope, on the first level of the basement. There was a guy inside carefully hanging aluminum pieces all over the place. This site is the re-aluminizing of the Palomar 200 inch reflector, but it will explain a little of what the hell I’m talking about without getting long winded here.

Anyway, the tour continued. He brought us further down, into the depths of the sub basement, and past a sign that read “Fallout Shelter beyond this point”. It was sort of starting to feel like an episode of Lost. He showed us the grinding stone for the 120 inch mirror, and several other things, including one of the things they used back in the day. You see, in order to take photo plate images, it would took a long time of exposure, so they would have to keep the telescope moving along with the stars. So, they would have some lucky dude in this bucket looking thing, up near the top of the telescope, keeping everything lined up. All night long.

Under that, he pointed out some of the remnants of the Cold War era Fallout Shelter. Tanks of water, a water purification system, and food rations in buckets, the expiration dates reading probably from the 60’s.

Then, I had a triple take. On the wall, in the back of the room, was something very large behind the ride-in bucket. I couldn’t tell what it was, it may have just been art on the wall, but either way, it was a large octagon with a design in the middle. Large, like probably 20 or 25 feet across. I couldn’t see the whole thing, but coupled with the fact I was in a Fallout Shelter built in the 50’s (it had the feel, you know?) with food and water rations all over the place, and then I see the massive Dharma Initiative looking thing on the wall… Awesome.

Anyway, we left there and headed back up, and he showed us another telescope attached to the side of the larger dome, one of the pieces he personally worked more with, as well as the control room for that. The Coude Auxiliary Telescope, or CAT system. The control room for the CAT system was pretty neat. A couple computer stations here and there, but not what you would expect. Most of the telescopes on the mountain could be controlled by computer, but not this one. He flipped a switch on a large computer rack setup, and up come the guidance system, all manual. You had a joystick looking thing that was used to slowly aim it where you wanted, instead of just typing coordinates into the system.
We then went outside, and chatted about the history of the place, what each telescope could do and what they were used for, as well as what it’s like to live up there. Just as I always expected: Absolutely, without a doubt, incredible. His house, which he pointed out, had a 180 degree view of the massive valleys and peaks to the North of Mt. Hamilton. Amazing. He showed us the other buildings, some still used, some long abandoned, full of Asbestos and lead. The leaky pool, next to the Rec Center, which they refer to as the Wreck Center.
We then chatted about San Jose’s plan of changing out the street lights from the low light sodium vapor lights to more energy efficient, but much brighter, LED lights. It really is a great idea, which would save a lot of money, after the initial installation costs, as well as energy, which is what we want.

However, the LED lights give out a lot more light. That means the folks that have been doing research for the good of all mankind on top of Mt. Hamilton for over 120 years, would be severely hampered in their work. The more light pollution they get from the Valley Floor, the less they can see.

But also, it has damaging effects for all of us city dwellers as well. Do you like to be able to see the starts at night? Do you even wonder why we in San Jose can see the night’s stars, and cities like Los Angeles can’t? That’s why. Because of the low light streetlights we use. So, soon we will join the ranks of other large cities and loose something really cool.

But, I digest. The tour itself was amazing. It was simply a matter of being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. The main building tour got out, and we walked instead of drove up the road to the 120 inch telescope building, and arrived just before our guide, who was bored while waiting for some computer programmers to do some work on something, who knows what. From the inside of the main telescope room, I could see the others folks from the main building tour arrive, but they didn’t get what we got. So, to the guy that was gracious enough to give us an incredible extended tour, by a scientist, not a tour guide, thank you! I’ve been going up there since I was a kid, and it never gets old. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet, and now it just managed to get a little bit more personal. Thanks!

I just love that stuff!