|AIDS RIDE JOURNAL 2004 - Page 1 | Donate Here|
I met Greg on a ride in Santa Monica last year in mid-April, about mid-way through my training. He was full on in his fund raising mode and was looking forward to riding again in June, joining some 1000 other cyclists for the seven day spin from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Like the 170,000 other Californians who struggle daily with HIV/AIDS, Greg knew all about the impact that the disease has on those who have contracted the virus-physical, emotional, financial. He talked easily about the year he almost died, unable to afford the annual bill of $20,000 for meds that would keep him alive. In comparison my effort to reach my fundraising goal of $2500 hardly seemed worth comment.
Like Lance Loud, (http://thelouds.com/lance.htm)
, the friend in whose memory we ride, Greg faced a death sentence with
no hope of a pardon, no chance of a respite in the battle. It would
be a nice metaphor for the Ride itself-relentless exertion despite nonstop
physical pain-but there is a big difference. After seven days the ride
ends and all of us, riders, roadies and crew, can go back to something
like a life. For those with HIV/AIDS simply waking up each day and having
the energy to get out of bed is a success. And not only does it not
get easier over time, but there is no end to the fight.
Two years ago when we started doing the ALC, we were geezer-newbies on the road, overweight and under-inflated, weaving unsteadily just barely within eyesight of the slowest riders of the vanishing pack. Perched on 35-pound, 18-speed, ten-year-old hybrids, we anticipated every training ride with dread and were not shy about mouthing our whiney complaints at either the ride leader (for going too fast, too slow, too cautiously, too long) or at each other (for not giving in to the unspoken urge to give up, go home, and watch TV). In those first few months of 2002 it was almost never fun but then we would remember Lance. He had died a few months earlier, just after completing his final essay for the Advocate, a summing-up of what it means to die young after being "sent on a journey to places even bleach can't reach."
And so on we'd push.
IT'S MID-MARCH NOW and we're just managing to ride nearly 100 miles a week. In four months we'll have to do that mileage daily or else suffer the ignominy of being plucked from the side of the road for a ride into camp in the SAG wagon. (Ann claims that she'll submit to being a "SAG HAG" if necessary this time but I don't buy it.)
We're repeating many of the training rides of the past-Joshua Tree, Ventura to Ojai, up La Tuna Canyon, and, nearly every Thursday, the fast hour spin up Griffith Park's Garbage Hill. It helps that many of the faces we see on the rides are also familiar Big Mel, Uncle Mel, Yanitra,
G., Doreen. For now everybody is more concerned with raising their funding
totals, losing weight, slowly building their weekly mileage time. Training
and fund raising, fund raising and training. Since we started doing
this in 2002 the year has collapsed into three basic seasons: Ten months
of getting ready for the Ride followed by two weeks of sitting in the
hammock and eating everything in sight without putting on weight or
feeling guilty thanks to a hyper-active metabolism. The other six weeks
exist out of the calendar like the old Mayan calendar, belonging nowhere
in time, days of feeble uncertainty spent in a daze of denial, earnestly
telling each other "Well, I'm not doing THAT again, I can tell you."