For the 13th year, the Otter Pop Stop is going to be treating cyclists on the Aids LifeCycle to some delicious popsicles, dancing, and shenanigans. The Otter Pop Stop gets its name from everybody’s favorite fruit flavored popsicles and possibly from the large population of otters supplying them. The Otter Pop Stop began 13 years ago with a rider name Kyle Monazzi and the Cookie Lady. Eric “Wink” Maltman tells the story to Hornet

“It starts with Ginger Brulée,” Maltman says, “a volunteer cheerleader who was tireless in fabulous outfits and heels, every day cheering on the riders, usually along the steepest hills. Ginger inspired Christy Muller, a beautiful person who’d volunteered as a roadie for a few years, to think of something unique that would help lift the riders’ spirits at a tough point on the ride. Christy decided she’d bake a cookie for each rider and hand them out along the route on Day 2.”

Muller is known among riders as the “Cookie Lady” for her delicious cookies. She bakes over 2,400 cookies every year to hand out to Aids LifeCycle riders.

“Our Kyle Tonazzi was a rider in 2005, and just after mile 80 on Day 2, he hit a wall,” Maltman continues. “Kyle tried skinny-dipping in an icy cold river, but even that didn’t help. He thought he was finished for the day. Still pushing, Kyle came upon Christy the Cookie Lady, wearing a big cookie costume. They met, Kyle got a hug, ate a cookie (or three) and was motivated by Christy’s spirit and generosity. Kyle was recharged, and he had a strong Day 2 finish and then made it all the way to Los Angeles.”

Kyle Tonazzi didn’t ride the ALC in 2006, but knew that he still wanted to ‘pay it forward,’ contributing something to the ride like Christy Muller and so many others did each year, all to help encourage and show appreciation for those making the long haul. “So with a sparkly tulle-filled flash, the Otter Pop Stop debuted in 2006 at Mission Soledad,” Maltman says.

“For most riders I spoke with, the Otter Pop Stop is their highlight for the entire trip,” says Nick Leoni, who was able to snap some great pics of this year’s rest stop, his first time witnessing it in person. “Seeing the riders come in and thanking them for their contribution went really far. The smiles and tears from a simple ‘thank you for riding’ was just so emotional and wonderful to witness. Cookies and Otter Pops were a’plenty, and so were smiles, hugs and kisses. It was a completely loving, life-changing experience for me, and I cannot wait to do it again next year!”

The Otter Pop Stop is set up about 85 Miles into the route on Day 2 of the Aids LifeCycle. More than 3000 riders are participating this year, including Olympic Silver Medalist and gay heartthrob, Gus Kenworthy who has personally fundraised more than $200,000 for the ride. The AIDS LifeCycle is a 545 mile journey from SF to LA that is the world’s largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser. The money raised during the event goes towards the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Find more information at https://www.aidslifecycle.org/

By Dirk Smith