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AIDS RIDE JOURNAL 2004 - Page 2 | Donate Here

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A FEW FACTS A John Hopkins report called AIDS "the worst epidemics of our time" and "it is estimated that more than 70 million people have been infected with HIV, clearly making this one of the worst epidemics of our time." I confess I find it hard to imagine what 70 million people means in my insular little world. What comes to mind instead is a far smaller figure-a half-dozen friends who have slipped out of this life too early, too painfully. And I'll bet if you played six degrees of separation you would also find six people in your life who are no longer here - or, worse yet, in some ways - wish they weren't. How about $5 for each of them (which easily multiplies to $30)? You send the money and I'll fix flats without complaint from San Francisco to West Hollywood. Deal?fixing the flat

I actually don't mind getting the occasional nail, staple, or thorn in my Continentals. It gives me an excuse to sit on the side of the road to pull out the old tube and pop in a new one. It takes only a few minutes and it provides a break from the relentless thigh churning rhythm. Indeed the most annoying aspect is having to constantly be giving the thumbs up to passing riders so they won't feel compelled to stop and offer assistance.

There is nothing too very complicated about riding a bike once one has managed to ignore the basic illogic of an unstable position delightfully made more-or-less stable through forward motion. The physics of the phenomenon are simple-centripal acceleration that is neatly described thusly: A=VT=V2/R. Blah blah blah. But really all I care about is that as long as I keep pedaling all obstacles--the pavement, the curb, that stop sign, that garage door--will remain where they belong, well outside the surface of my wrinkly, squishy epidermis. I know intellectually that to steer left I have to actually turn right. It's a truism of biking I first learned in mountain biking-don't look at anything you want to avoid. It sounds counter-intuitive but it works, just another real world proof that biking, at its heart, is all about self-delusion: I can make it up this hill, $800 is not too much to pay for a pair of wheels, I do look fetching in this spandex bib.

Of course any number of unexpected random events can interrupt this pleasantness-a door opened by a driver getting out of his car, a skateboarder racing through a crosswalk while chattering on a cell phone, simpletons in convertibles who find hurling bottles at cyclists not only a source of amusement but a fun competition over who has the best throwing arm. There is something about cyclists' ability to pass on the left, the right, or the sidewalk, thank-you-very-much, that gives some drivers apoplexy-either that or they're oblivious to anything on the road that weighs less than three tons. Those are the human factors-there are also nails, glass, dogs, winged insects, drain grates, railroad tracks, oil slicks, potholes, standing water, running water, rainwater. Not surprisingly our fellow bikers are also a danger--those who pass on the right, pass on the left, or tailgate, drafting too closely.

Oddly, despite all these obvious risks, road biking is essentially a meditative exercise, and therein lies its joy. You are conscious of how quickly and effortlessly you could be slapped down onto the road in front of a bus, yet for most of the time you are thinking about that fleeting moment when you are somewhere between floating and flying, dancing on your pedals, as we say.

Athletes call it the Zone and I guess that's what it is-the combination of endorphins mixing with muscles that have stopped hurting-at least temporarily, You settle in, eyes flickering over the glitter of mica in the pavement, and time drops away and is now measured in the twitter of birds in the fields, the whoosh of tractor-trailers exploding suddenly out of your peripheral vision, the somehow passive rush of being swept along like a chunk of packing crate foam in a riptide current of riders. We are a tremendous band of the like-minded believing we can do this, make it up this hill, raise this much money, and somehow, really, we will help save lives of people we know and millions more we don't. (PHOTO9: OPENING CEREMONY (ann to email)

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