146 riders, 142 crew participating as ride sets off on new route
The Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS grossed about $150,000 in 2008, and event chair Laura Kerr said this week that with about 40 more cyclists participating this year, the 2009 Ride is on track to bring in at least as much.
"We have 148 riders signed up and 142 crew members," Kerr said this week. "I think the loosening of the recession had something to do with it. And this year we had a rider recruitment video that really tugged at the heartstrings of a lot of people. Plus, our marketing efforts have been greatly increased this year, and I think that made a big difference."
Proceeds from Lone Star Ride — being held this year Sept. 26-27, with the starting and finish lines both at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center at DFW International Airport — will be divided between Resource Center Dallas, AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County and AIDS Services of Dallas.
Overall, Kerr said, "We are having a banner year" considering that this is a time of transition for the event now in its ninth year.
One big change is the route for the two-day, 165-mile event.
In previous years, riders have left on Saturday morning from Dallas, traveling southwest to stay overnight near Glen Rose. On Sunday, the riders would head back north, ending up at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center for closing ceremonies.
This year, Lone Star Ride starts and ends at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center near DFW International Airport. Riders will, over the course of the two days, travel in a large figure 8, with the overnight camp set up at the center.
Kerr said that while organizers have, traditionally, altered the route every few years, the big impetus this year was the generosity of American Airlines.
"The American Airlines Training and Conference Center came on strong this year, wanting to be our host location," Kerr said. "Because of the sponsorship deal they offered us, we couldn’t say no. We change the route every two to three years anyway, and it was time to shake things up and do something different. This is definitely different."
It’s one thing to take a large group of riders — many of them relatively inexperienced — and send them pedaling off into the countryside. It’s another to send them into a much more densely-populated and heavily-traveled urban cityscape, like what seems to surround much of the airport.
But Kerr said that wasn’t as much of an issue as it may appear.
"It had its challenges, but you’d be surprised how quickly you can get out into the country on this route," she said. "Going north, on the first day, by the second pit stop you are out in equestrian country. On day two, its about 30 miles before you hit the country."
Overall, Kerr said, "The route came together rather easily. I think it was karma. We knew we wanted to do lunch around Decatur or Justin, that area, so we got on the Map My Ride Web site and found the routes that cyclists generally use."
The new route also corrects a problem that many people had with the route in previous years: the fact that the overnight stay was so far away. Riders and crewmembers would park at the starting point, ride all day and then end up miles away from their cars at the end of the day. It was quite an inconvenience for those who were only doing one day of the ride and those who needed to spend the night at home for whatever reason.
This new route, at the end of the day, puts people back where they started, Kerr reiterated.
Another big change this year is that Lone Star Ride is, for the first time, it’s own tax-exempt, not-for-profit entity.
"We used to operate under Resource Center Dallas’ 501(c)3 status, but this year we have our very own," Kerr said.
The formula for distributing proceeds to the three beneficiaries has changed slightly this year, too, she added. This year, 100 percent of net proceeds go back to the beneficiaries.
"Once we cover the costs, everything else goes back to the three organizations. The costs we have to pay depends on how much our corporate sponsors give to us and what is donated," Kerr said. "We do everything possible to keep the costs down. We only have one paid employee and one part-time contractor. Everything else is done by volunteers."
With the Ride just a week away, it’s a little late for new riders to sign up. But there’s still plenty of time to sign up as a crewmember.
"We still need people on pit crews, on traffic control, massage therapists, the medical crew, cap crews, dining — if you want to do something, we will put you to work doing something," Kerr said.
Volunteer crewmembers are required only to pay a $50 registration fee, although many collect donations as well, she said.
And people can also come out and cheer the riders along, Kerr continued. Interested people can check the Lone Star Ride Web site to determine the route, or e-mail organizers, and find a pit stop where they can gather to show support.
"We do ask that people not go out just anywhere along the route for safety reasons. But if you want to show your support and cheer the riders on, we have plenty of places you can do that," she said.
Kerr also encouraged people to attend the closing ceremonies, which she said will be "amazing this year." Closing ceremonies will include appearances by the Texas Color Guard and singer/songwriter Hillary Roberts who will perform a song she wrote that was inspired by her own losses to AIDS and her experiences with people participating in Lone Star Ride.
Turtle Creek Chorale will also be on hand to perform during the riderless bike ceremony, a tribute to those who have died of AIDS.
"And if someone is just absolutely, positively sure they can’t participate this year, then they need to start planning to participate in our 10th anniversary ride next year," Kerr said. "Next year will be huge for us."
For more information, to volunteer as a Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS crewmember or to donate to a rider, a team or the event in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2009.