All AIDS/Lifecycle participants have come to expect—and anticipate—the antics and costumes of Rest Stop 4 each and every day along the ride. This year, participants were greeted at Rest Stop 4 on day three of the ride to a “quinceañera”-themed set-up at Mission San Miguel, complete with a quinceañera drag show and pastel-colored paper lanterns and streamers strung from trees to celebrate the 15th year of AIDS/LifeCycle. Other Rest Stop 4 themes from this year included “the Mighty Morphin Power Bottoms,” “Ghostbusters,” “Sister Act,” and “America Loves Cats.”
“My favorite stop has always been Rest Stop 4,” said Efren Jimenez, a veteran AIDS/LifeCycle rider. “Traditionally, they are the most colorful, creative, loudest thing to look forward to. Every single year, and every single day of the week. It’s always something special.”
Many riders, volunteers and others may not be familiar with the storied history behind Rest Stop 4: How many years the teams have continued the tradition, how much time and creative energy is poured into bringing the themes alive each year, and that our very own AIDS/LifeCyle senior director—Greg Sroda—captained this volunteer team for five years before joining the foundation on staff.
“Rest Stop 4 has become a ‘character’ of sorts on the ride,” said Sroda. “Just like you might call the Chicken Lady, or the Cookie Lady, or Ginger Brulee—who was a drag queen that came out every year—characters of the ride. Rest Stop 4 has become that. It’s not about just one person, but it’s an event that people wait to see.”
The Rest Stop 4 idea began with a group of friends during the California AIDS Ride, who all “retired” from the team after the same year. The roadie coordinator at the time then approached Sroda—who had previously participated in the California AIDS Ride and AIDS/LifeCycle both as a rider and volunteer roadie—to take over as captain of Rest Stop 4. Sroda agreed, and formed a team to continue the Rest Stop 4 legacy.
Planning the logistics for a themed stop each day of the ride was a feat, said Sroda, which involved a weekend retreat to brainstorm the theme ideas and plan who would be responsible for each part of the plan.
“There was so much organization behind the scenes. We fundraised not only for the costumes and giveaways, but also so we could give back to the organizations. We designed and created everything—from the costumes, to the props and signage. One year we were the Angry Birds—those costumes were amazing but someone had to sew and stuff all of those costumes,” he said.
Sroda was Rest Stop 4 captain for a total of five years—from AIDS/LifeCycle 6 to 10. His favorite Rest Stop from years when he was a captain?
“It’s tough to think of my favorite,” he said. “It might be the year we did Hot Dog on a Stick—like the hot dog shops you can find in malls and food courts.”
Days on the ride as part of Rest Stop 4 were long, he said, but “the entertainment piece was the gravy on top.” Arriving at the site at 10 in the morning, the team would assemble their themed set-up, then spend the day taking care of riders, managing emotions, and adding to the atmosphere of celebration and fun. After all the riders had passed through the stop, the team would clean up the site, pack up their gear, and drive to camp. “We wouldn’t get to camp until 8 at night—it was a long day on the road,” he said.
In 2011, Sroda joined the foundation as leadership for AIDS/LifeCycle—turning his passion and dedication to the cause and event into his full-time job. Now, he’s responsible for creating the same space and opportunities for other volunteers to make the event their own.
“We look for leaders we know can go out there and own what they want to do. We want to create an environment where people have fun, support one another, and feel safe—it’s about creating the AIDS/LifeCycle community you want to be part of. And we help set them up for success. These kind of things help people create the friendships and bonds that are special—and that’s what keeps people coming back, year after year.”
Registration is open now for the 2017 AIDS/LifeCycle. Find out more.
The best way to fight HIV is to know your status. A simple test can determine if you are infected with the virus.
Our diverse programs help thousands of people every year. From testing to prevention to care, our services assist communities where need is greatest.