Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ready. Set. Pedal.

throughout our lives, there are organizations, groups, etc. in which we feel a certain connection or bond with. beer-guzzeling, sex-deprived frat guys. over-the-hill sports freaks. star trek convention cling ons. slimy-self-centered-lawyers. IT geeks. bar flys. gym flys. fruit flys. fag hags. you get the picture.

for me, the one thing i feel very connected to and proud to have been a part of was the aids ride. the ride i participated in was a 3-day bike ride that started in boston and ended 300+ miles away in nyc. keep in mind it is not a race. it was an event which required a significant amount of fund-raising on my part (when i did it there was an $1800 minimum to be raised to participate, i raised $3k+) and an extensive amount of physical training. personally, it was a step up for me in my efforts to raise $ for the fight against aids. all of the walk-athons and dance-athons would seem like kid's play compared to 3 days with my a$$ glued to a bike seat.

for the past few weeks, logo (america's very own gay-themed network channel) ran a 5-part documentary series that covered the ride that begins in san francisco and end in los angeles. i had seen the previews and teaser clips advertising the series for months and was thrilled they were finally airing it. the california ride is a bit more mileage than the ride i did and is 4 days longer. but none-the-less both excellent events.

the kick off episode was a full hour. the 5 people the documentary was following were each featured and they explained their stories. who was gay. who was straight. who was -. who was +. why they were riding. who they were riding for. explained a little about the event.

i sat in my apartment and a flood of memories, emotions and pain from my own ride overcame me. fortunately, i had taped the program and was able to pause it when the tears trailed down my face. that happened 4 times to be exact. seeing people push through the uphill inclines and refusing to give up put me right back into that scenario. toward the end of my training, i was in the gym for 2 hours a day and out on my bike for over 4 hours a day. and i still struggled on some of those uphills. but, i am still happy to report after all these years that i rode every mile of that ride and did not walk one inch. i teared up when the people in the documentary shared their stories. again flashing back to my ride and remembering the people i encountered and the stories they shared. i rode for the memory of all the people i knew who i had lost to the disease at the time. and i shared that with the people i encountered so that their memory was passed on. and it was endearing to see that sort of 'practice' still takes place on the rides that continue today.

there are a group of riders known as the 'positive pedalers.' these are people who are + and are participating every mile of the way as well. they are given no special treatment. they have to endure every hill and sleeping in a tent at the end of the day just like every other rider. the people in this group left the biggest impression on me and gained more respect from me than anyone i have ever had the pleasure of meeting. this group of people ultimately are saying, 'i have this disease. i am not hiding my illness. and this illness will not get the best of me.' they were a reminder to me why i was there and for who i was participating. throughout the ride, especially while riding through the smaller towns, people would line the streets and applaude us. thanking us for riding. never once did i think that i deserved the applause. all of the applause in my head went to the 'positive pedalers' and for all the people behind the ride who made sure it ran like a well oiled machine throughout the 3 day adventure.

participating in the ride is something that can never be taken away from me. it is an experience that i completed and can say with pride that i took part in. it was an event in which i would like to think someone somewhere benefitted because of my participaton. the pain i felt and the tears i shed could be completely understood by someone who is still a stranger but has a common tie to me. it was a reminder to me at the time (and again while watching this documentary) that when it is needed, people really can and will come together to fight against something. the ride, like the disease, does not discriminate. people from all walks of life participate and come together for one cause. and it is not a selfish cause. it is not for a pay increase or better union benefits.

so, that is the group that i am proud to say that i am a part of.

and please check your local listings at to see when the documentary will be aired again. it is important to get awareness out there about a disease that still ravishes our population. and more importantly to be reminded that in a world of current uncertainty that people are people. and that everyone has a story.


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