I have been a training ride leader for three years in a row now. Each year our group out here in the sticks gets a bit larger and more cohesive. I am proud to say that we have 60 riders on our list and about 20 regular riders. And each year I am awed by the commitment and effort our riders put out to help others while improving their own lives. So far this training season, our core riders have put in over 10,000 miles to prepare for the AIDS/LifeCycle. 12 of us rode in the ALC NorCal Day on the Ride yesterday.
This was no easy ride. 67 miles with 5000 feet of climbing. Fortunately for our regulars, even though this ride began in a foreign jurisdiction (the East Bay), we were on familiar roads for a good ⅓ of the time. Watching the riders pull in to rest stops, I could see the confidence that only regular training provides. Each of the riders was out on the road each week, even though that means giving up weekends, getting to bed early on Friday night (and often on Saturday night, too), and fitting weekday training in to the schedule somehow.
Why, in Thor’s holy name would anyone put themselves through this? Victor Phillips said it best yesterday: “Its the people.”
Every time I’m out on the road I’m inspired (often to tears) by the effort I see. People raising money for total strangers, doing the work that should be a basic human right because our government will not. Cutting the dead-wood from their own lives, shedding extra pounds, improving cardio-vascular health, and generally getting the fuck out of their cars to see the world in technicolor.
I’m thinking about the directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. I’m thinking about the AIDS/LifeCycle staff. Paid positions, it is true, but when you see these people at work, you can’t help but see how much more than a job it is for them.
I’m thinking about the hoards of volunteers that make the ride possible. The wonderful and sexy Bears at Rest Stop 2. The incongruous ladies who seem so demure putting up with the raucous, loud, and sometimes inappropriate frivolity. The men who drove up from LA just to support our single-day ride. The volunteers who may have wanted to be on their bikes, but elected to make sure that there was a smiling face next to the snacks all afternoon.
I’m thinking about the riders who raised $3,000 or much more for the privilege of representing ME and all my friends out on the road. The queens in their tiaras (you know who you are). The grumpy hungry ones. The straight guys who are there because they lost a loved one — a son or brother — not even knowing they were gay when it hit them. The riders from outside the Bay Area and LA — local, like her in Sacramento, and foreign, like NY, Chicago, and even Canada — some of whom are top fundraisers. And all our lovely women — gay and straight — who love us as much as we do them.
Thank you. Thank you for making my live so meaningful and worth living. Thank you for caring whether we can get needles to those who might die if they cannot get them. Thank you for raising money so that our impoverished brothers and sisters can get the medication they need. Thank you for making the world a brighter and happier place, leaving the dour and cold laissez-faire attutude behind us.
If you’re with us, then we have a bright future indeed — challenges notwithstanding.