I moved to San Francisco in 1990. When the first California AIDS Ride (CAR) took place in 1994, I said someday I’m going to do that ride. I had no idea it was going to take me 20 years to accomplish that goal.
Previous to moving into the city, I had spent the last 8 years working for Keystone Ski Resort in Summit County Colorado. I had a handful of ‘out’ friends, but there wasn’t much gay life happening. We were insulated from what was happening in San Francisco and New York… or so we thought. In 1987 my good friend Michael Bryant fell sick with pneumonia and was rushed to a Denver hospital where he learned he had full blown AIDS. By 1988 he was gone. Michael was an entertainer by trade and had the voice of an angel. I’m so thankful to Michael’s roommate David who took such great care of him in his time of need.
That was my first brush with AIDS and I counted myself fortunate when I moved to the city and made new friends who shared how many people they had lost. Shortly after moving to the city I learned of another friend from Denver, Kap Soo Kim, had also died. Kim and I had dated in the mid 80’s but remained good friends. Later came Rio and then Roger.
I remember crying when the August 13, 1998 issue of the Bay Area Reporter (the BAR) proclaimed “No obits”. We were finally making some progress in finding effective drugs to fight AIDS.
In November of 1997 I met my (future) husband Mooney. We moved to Sacramento in 2002 and married in 2008. We started to become more politically active, joining the local Stonewall Democrats club, participating in fundraisers, online activism with Daily Kos, helping with local campaigns, attending Net Roots Nation, etc., but something was still missing. I still wanted to do the ride.
Through my online activism with Daily Kos I met Bob Katz who, many of you will know, has done the ride 16 (?) times. Bob kept encouraging me to sign up and ride, but I was still daunted. As a long time bicycling advocate and commuter I was worried about the distance since my longest commute was never more than 10 miles. I knew my first step would be to get a road bike since my 18 year old Specialized mountain bike probably wasn’t going to cut it. So… in April of 2013 I invested in a road bike and in addition to my weekday commuting began going on longer weekend rides of 30-40 miles. This gave me the confidence to sign up for the 2014 ALC ride in June of 2013.
I was also frightened by the amount of money I would be required to raise. I’ve always said I’m good at writing checks not asking for them. Turns out I was pretty good at asking for them and I have never been more proud of my family and friends who helped me raise over $5300 last year. Nobody wore their $5k jersey more humbly and proudly than I did.
During the ride I experienced a lot of doubt each morning laying in the tent… but I would get up, go have breakfast, coffee, tear down the tent and pack up, get on my bike and tell myself… I’ll just try to get to rest stop one and see how I feel. Turns out I felt stronger than I imagined I could and I rode every mile and climbed every hill. At the finish line as I hugged Mooney, I could only say “I did it… I did it” #AllTheFeels
This year I’m riding again, only this time with Mooney by my side. He is doing so incredibly well and I’m so proud of him. It’s fun to watch him go through the same emotions as I did and to experience the increased confidence in his ability to complete the ride.
So… why do I ride? I ride for Michael, Kap Soo, Rio, Roger… all who are HIV positive, for myself, for my husband and most importantly to see an end to AIDS.
Why do you ride? Let us know in the comments…
— Curtis Paullins