I can still remember my first Lone Star Ride.
It was in 2002. I had recently gotten out of a six-year relationship — yeah, that’s the one, the one that leaves you completely emotionally and spiritually dead inside because you’ve suddenly lost everything defining who you thought you were.
As I sat isolated in my apartment in Las Colinas, I came across an advertisement in the Dallas Voice for a 175-mile bike ride for AIDS.
I can remember thinking that I needed something to kick-start me back to the real world, something that I could do to prove to the world that I was still alive. I promptly registered and bought a "Wal-Mart special" bike to begin this new adventure.
As I left the store carrying that new bike, I could not have begun to fathom what would happen to me on that ride.
As the ride date approached, no matter how hard I tried to justify not doing the ride, the universe, apparently, had other plans for me.
That year, the minimum per-rider donation amount was $1000 — and I managed to raise it with little effort. I hated the bike I had bought, and wouldn’t you know it, a friend had a road bike just sitting in the storage unit that I could use.
So, I gave in and resigned myself to actually participating.
I can’t tell you exactly when I forgot about "me" that weekend, but I can tell you that I will never forget the way I felt the first time I saw the riderless bike ceremony.
You see, AIDS had only touched me through acquaintances and co-workers. I hadn’t lost anyone really close. But as the riderless bike was moved through the crowd in Reverchon Park that afternoon, I had what I can only call a spiritual awakening.
I realized didn’t need to prove anything to anyone except me, and I realized I had done that through helping those in my community affected by HIV/AIDS.
Three days after the ride, I went out and bought my own road bike and all the accessories and resolved that Lone Star Ride was where I would focus my service.
Since that first ride, I have lost my fair share of friends to HIV/AIDS. A few friends that I didn’t know were HIV-positive have let me in on their secret since then. Gay, straight, white, black, Hispanic — I have friends of every race and orientation who live with HIV.
It is because of these friends that I continue to participate in Lone Star Ride. I can help someone in my own backyard through the three beneficiaries instead of just sending money to an organization where my money may or may not be used for the people who need it and not likely to help people I know and love.
You know, in seven years of participating in Lone Star Rides, I have piled up thousands of memories and adventures.
Being chased by a three-legged dog, the camp night drag shows, the hurricane that forced us to ride in November, the "Vice Presidential Gun Range" pitstop and the bike tech ingenuity that allowed a cyclist with a hopelessly broken bike to get back on the road — each and every one is a testament of what the human spirit is capable of when acting in the service of others.
It’s been an amazing journey that I will continue as long as I can pedal.
Won’t you come share the adventure with me? Nothing will change but your whole life. Mine did.
Laura Kerr is event chair for Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS. The Lone Star Ride Journal will appear weekly in Dallas Voice through Sept. 25, the Friday preceding the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS on Sept. 26-27.
For more information on Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, or to donate, go online to LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 4, 2009.