LSR Journal: Changing tactics to address changing needs

2011 LSRFA co-chairs John Tripp and Danny Simpson lead the annual fundraising event into a new decade

LSRFA-Simpson.Tripp
LSRFA Co-chairs Danny Simpson, left, and John Tripp (Photo courtesy Roger Lippert)

M.M. Adjarian  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

This year — 2011 — marks the first year of the second decade that Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS has been in existence. For event co-chairs John

Tripp and Danny Simpson, it’s the beginning of a new era for both the organization and in the struggle to eradicate a devastating disease.

Tripp and Simpson have a big job. As co-chairs, they are tasked with keeping LSRFA organizers and cyclists motivated to keep going throughout the year and focused on the September weekend when the event actually takes place.

“Everybody knows why we are here, but at the end of the day, we’re all volunteers. [John and I] are the [organization’s] cheerleaders,” says Simpson, a portfolio revenue manager for the International Hotels Group.

Both men came to the LSRFA in 2008. But where Tripp, a resources professional for Deloitte & Touche, started — and still continues on — as a cyclist, Simpson started as the organization’s events and ceremonies planner.

The pair finally began working together as co-chairs this year. Their goal is simple: to build upon the foundation established by their predecessors and grow the ride.

Achieving that goal has been a challenge — but one they welcome.

“We’re really focused on getting our brand out there and getting recognized and making people understand who we are,” says Simpson.

Adds Tripp, “[It’s vital that we can communicate] with our community to say, ‘This is our story and this is why we do what we do.’”

The co-chairs also plan on transforming the LSRFA by making the actual ride more visible than it has been in the past.

“This year, one of the things that [event manager] Jerry Calumn heard unanimously from all riders was that they wanted a route that was more visible and could be seen by communities we were supporting,” Tripp explains. “There are serious pockets of our community that have never heard of us and have lived in Dallas-Fort Worth for many years.”

Partnering with fundraisers such as Neiman Marcus’ Fashion’s Night Out and Audi Dallas’ Casino Night is yet another operational change that Tripp and Simpson are currently overseeing.

As deeply committed to the organization as the two men are, neither has much time to spare. But the sacrifice is well worth it and is, in their eyes, a necessity.

Observes Tripp, “HIV infection rates are skyrocketing within minority communities, the LGBT community [and among members of] the youngest generations, but now that people aren’t dying, the disease is not as high profile.”

The medications that now exist to control HIV/AIDS are at the heart of this newest twist in the epidemic. While the medications have saved countless lives, they have also given rise to a dangerous complacency that if left unchecked, make HIV/AIDS become even deadlier than it already is.

“What [really] frustrates me is that the younger generation isn’t understanding that they’ll face drastic differences in their aging process because of HIV,” Tripp says. “ Their organs are going to have to deal with these medicines for the rest of their lives.”

And with the economy in a weakened state, supporting organizations that provide services for those suffering from HIV/AIDS has now become more critical than ever before.

“If you are lucky and have healthcare,” says Tripp, who is HIV-positive, “you could probably survive on and afford your medications every month for anywhere from $240 to $2,000 per year. What happens, though, if you run out of your healthcare or are suddenly unemployed?”

The AIDS crisis has not gone away; it’s only changed form in a world that has also changed. Combating it will require new tactics, but Tripp and Simpson are up to the challenge and boldly look forward to joining with others in the fight.

“[You may be] upset that you are having to help other people and are having to help them pay for their medicines through social welfare programs,” says Tripp.  “[But] what are you doing to fight [the disease]?”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS will be held Sept. 24-25. To donate to an individual rider, to a team or to the Ride itself, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

New routes means higher visibility for 2011 LSRFA

Even though Event Manager Jerry Calumn was told routing riders through Dallas and Fort Worth wasn’t possible, he refused to take ‘can’t’ for an answer

Calumn.Jerry
Jerry Calumn

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

When he took over as the new event manager of Lone Star RideFighting AIDS, Jerry Calumn started hearing about a number of things he “couldn’t do.”

For instance, LSRFA cyclists said they wanted people to come out and cheer them on. But the route the last few years has been mostly rural, and getting groups out was something Calumn “couldn’t do,” he was told.

Riders told him they wanted to ride where people would see them.

“Riders felt disconnected from the cities we serve,” Rider Retention

Co-Chair Michael Wilkesen said.

But changing the route was something Calumn was told he “couldn’t do,” because permits and other obstacles would make it too expensive and logistics would make it too hard.

But Calumn wasn’t willing to settle for “couldn’t do.” So through the summer, he worked quietly with Wilkesen, mapping out a new route and making plans to get people out to cheer on the riders.

The ride begins and ends again this year at the American Airlines

Training and Conference Center in North Arlington, as it has for the past few years. The difference this year is that instead of making loops northwest of the center on Saturday and southeast on Sunday through suburban and rural terrain, this year’s routes move through Fort Worth on Saturday and Dallas on Sunday.

“And you know what it cost us?” Calumn said. “Nothing. Not one damn penny.”

Calumn encouraged the community to come and cheer for riders and suggested some of the best times and places to do that.

The routes

Pit stops and lunch stops for the riders are great places for supporters to gather and cheer them on.

On Saturday, Sept. 24, Pit Stop 2 will be at the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth. Riders are expected through there between 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Pit 3 is the lunch stop. That takes place at the Pour House on 7th Street between downtown Fort Worth and the Cultural District. Riders attempting the 100-mile “century” route to Eagle Mountain Lake must leave lunch by 11:30 a.m. Other riders may linger here until 2:30 p.m.

One of the highlights of the Fort Worth route will be 22 miles along the Trinity Trail. That scenic system of trails follows the Trinity River as it winds through the city. Riders will pick up the trail near Texas Christian University after the Rainbow Lounge pit stop, detour off the trail for about a mile for the lunch stop and then pick it back up for the ride around the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Wilkesen said that unfortunately the ride cannot go through the Stockyards because of the bike-unfriendly cobblestones in the area.

Day 2 takes riders through Irving to Dallas, then back to the American Airlines training center for closing ceremonies.

The first stop is the new Irving Convention Center.

“It’s an architectural gem sitting in the middle of Las Colinas,” Calumn said.

He said that Irving was excited about the ride coming through the city and was very helpful. Riders travel through Irving both in the morning and afternoon.

A highlight of the Sunday route will be riding through Oak Lawn. This will be the first time the ride has traveled down Cedar Springs Road.

Pit Stop 2 will be at Station 4. Most bike riders will pass Cathedral of Hope between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. The church promised a cheering section as riders pass.

From there the route turns north on Turtle Creek Boulevard and crosses Highland Park before heading north to Webb Chapel Park.

The ride through Irving will be on the Campion Trail. “Irving invested well in its park system and it shows,” Calumn said.

He called the highlight of the afternoon the stop in North Lake Ranch Park, located on one of the highest points in north Dallas County and with a panoramic view of the area. Of course, for riders, that’s a mixed blessing: To get to the highest point means riding up hill. And the uphill ride comes in the afternoon after they have already pedalled more than 40 miles.

But once there, the ride back to base camp for closing ceremonies is mostly down hill.

Both Calumn and Wilkeson said they believe that the higher visibility of the routes this year will help with organizers’ ongoing efforts to grow the ride.

“With more visibility, we’ll get more riders,” Wilkesen said.

In a battle of Dallas vs. Fort Worth, Wilkesen suggested Irving wins as the city most aggressively interested in bringing the ride through town. He said the city even mapped a safe and scenic route for him, saving him a lot of time.

Calumn said Fort Worth has the most sophisticated plan to host groups like this. In Dallas he met with police, parks and events separately. He complimented each department for its cooperation.

But, he said, Fort Worth held one meeting with him that also included the health department.

“That way, police can talk to streets,” he said. “It’s very helpful.”

Closing ceremonies take place at the AATCC at 5 p.m. The Riderless Bike leads the procession as riders return and complete a year of fundraising that is expected to bring the total raised in event history to more than $2 million.

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS closing ceremonies, American Airlines Training and Conference Center, 4501 Highway 360 South, Fort Worth (just south of DFW Airport). 5 p.m. Everyone welcome.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

LSR Journal: Partners in pedaling, partners in life

Michael Smith and Benjamin Mussler

Longtime partners Smith and Mussler say training together for LSR has strengthened their bodies and their relationship

M.M. ADJARIAN  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

Michael Smith and Benjamin Mussler are just entering their 30s, in peak physical condition and with bright futures ahead of them. They have it all: youth, health and success.

But these two Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS cyclists also have something else to envy, and that’s a loving, longtime relationship with each other.

The men joined LSR as a couple in 2007, starting out as pit crew members. On the first day, both were part of a Bachelor-themed pit stop.

“There was one ‘bachelor,’ and everybody was fighting over him,” Smith, a Dallas-based Farmers Insurance agent, says of the pit stop theme.

The second day, the pair got to live out their fantasy of going back to school at the Hogwarts Academy, the school for young witches and wizards from the “Harry Potter” books and movies.

Those manning the pit stop all donned their witch and wizard robes and grabbed their wands to help keep the cyclists hydrated.

The two men say they enjoyed every minute of their time “in the pit,” refilling water bottles and  cheering cyclists onward. But as they tended to the sweat-drenched riders, Smith and

Mussler say they felt the road — and ultimately, LSR — calling to them to make a deeper commitment.

“We saw what a great cause it was and wanted to help out more,” says Mussler, a marketing manager for Sabre Holdings. And so, they registered to ride.

But to be able to experience the event on two wheels rather than two legs meant training — and lots of it. Both have dedicated many hours every weekend to preparing for the event, on their own and through LSR-sponsored training sessions.

But neither of the two has any complaints about the loss of free time. If anything, they say, becoming cyclists for the ride has actually drawn them closer together.

“It’s something that we can do together that’s healthy for us; it’s definitely exercise!” remarks Mussler. “[Cycling for the LSR] is also just something that challenges us to keep up with each other.”

The two men’s commitment to the event mirrors the even deeper one they have to each other. They are family, and proud to share that fact with their community. Smith and Mussler are even more proud that their efforts on behalf of LSR have brought their nearest and dearest into the larger “Ride family.”

Says Smith, “ Last year, my mom became part of the medical crew. This year, 10 of our friends — including my mom — are part of the event.”

Born as they were in the early 1980s, Smith and Mussler did not experience firsthand the devastation that the early days of AIDS caused in the gay community. But they are still keenly aware that they are part of the first generation to benefit from those who struggled through the epidemic and who fought for the greater social freedoms both now enjoy.

“I feel like the gay and lesbian people that came before me paved the way to making our lives a little easier,” Mussler says. “I don’t want to paint HIV/AIDS as something that only affects LGBT people because it definitely [affects others, too]. But I do feel like [I am] giving back to the community, and I take pride in who I am. It’s a real motivating factor that I can do this with my partner through the Ride.”

Smiling his assent Smith adds, “It’s important for the community to have positive role models of people [like us] who do things together.”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

—  John Wright

Lone Star Ride in (on) the news!

Cynthia Izaguirre of Dallas’ News 8 Daybreak interviews Lone Star Ride co-chair Laura Kerr on the Katy Trail Tuesday morning.

Around 15 cyclists participating in the 10th annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS got up bright and early this morning to hit the Katy Trail to meet with Cynthia Izaguirre, co-host of WFAA-Channel 8′s News 8 Daybreak program. Izaguirre interviewed LSR co-chair Laura Kerr, event manager David Minehart and Pos Pedaler Jim Frederick, and the rest of us were there with our bikes and bright jerseys to ride down the trail together for the “B-roll” extra footage.

Ms. Izaguirre told us the segment should air on Tuesday, Aug. 17, between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. (unless it gets bumped by some big breaking news story. If that happens, watch for it on Thursday, Aug. 19 at the same time).

She also asked for as many LSRiders as possible — at least 50, she said — to gather in the Plaza at Victory Park about 6 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 24 — the day before Lone Star Ride — for the filming of News 8 Daybreak. So if you are a LSRider, put it on your calendar and head on day that morning in your jerseys, with your bike and all your gear. (I know, I know. That means getting up at the ass-crack of dawn, which I hate. But I can do it this one time for such a great cause, and so can you!)

Even if you’re not a rider but you are LSR supporter, come on down that morning. The more the merrier.

News 8 Daybreak’s Cynthia Izaguirre interviews LSR event manager David Mineheart, above, and Pos Pedaler Jim Frederick, below.

—  admin

I ride because ‘You’re only as old as you feel’

Tammye Nash – Team Dallas Voice

Tammye Nash
Tammye Nash

Last year in October, I turned 49. It wasn’t any big deal, really, and at first, I didn’t think much about it. It was another birthday; considering the alternative, I was glad to be turning 49.

And then a few days later, it hit me: Reaching my 49th birthday meant that I would be 50 in a year. A year! That’s not very long at all in this my-how-time-flies world we live in.

And I was surprised to realize that the idea bothered me. I have never been distressed by any of those so-called milestone birthdays that can send others into a tizzy of depression. But the idea of turning 50 — it was really getting under my skin.

Oh, not because of the number, the Big 5-0. That, after all, is just a number. One more than 49; one less than 51. So what? It wasn’t being “50,” that bothered me; it was the idea of being “old.”

I have always believed that old cliché about age just being a state of mind (“If you don’t mind, it don’t matter”). The problem was, I was afraid that I was going to “feel old” when I turned 50. And I don’t want to feel old. Ever.

But what to do to avoid that? I pondered for a bit and then it hit me: Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.

See, last year in September, I volunteered as an event photographer for the ninth annual Lone Star Ride. Other folks were out there pedaling across North Texas, but my co-worker and co-volunteer photographer, Terry, and I had the hard job. We had to spend two days driving around North Texas in a convertible sports car, taking photos of the cyclists.

And I loved it — every minute of it. Even though I had covered Lone Star Rides in the past for Dallas Voice, last year was the first time I had participated. And I was amazed and awed by the spirit of the people, those who worked to organize the ride and those who rode and those who volunteered as crew.

All those people, strung out across the Metroplex on bicycles and in support vehicles, were all working together for a common goal — the goal of helping someone else. It was such a soul-shaking feeling to know that I was part of that, that I was in my own small way helping to make life better for people with HIV.

I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a part of Lone Star Ride again in 2010, and Terry and I had already talked about volunteering again as photographers.

But a month later, as I contemplated reaching that half-century mark, I changed my mind. I decided I wasn’t going to volunteer. Instead, I was going to register as a rider.

That way, when mid-October rolled around and I turned 50, I could look back and say with confidence, “Hell no! I am not old! Look what I just did; I just rode my bike for, lo, these many miles to raise money and help someone else. Could an old person have done that?!”

There were other reasons, too, of course. I wanted to participate this year for the same reasons I volunteered last year. I want to help people living with HIV/AIDS today in memory of and in honor of the many friends I have already lost to the epidemic.

I am participating in Lone Star Ride for Dennis Vercher, who I worked with for more than 15 years, and for all the other Dallas Voice staffers we have lost through the years; I do it for people like Bill Hunt and John Thomas, who showed me by example what true activism looks like; I do it for Jessie Waggoner, my “little brother” who made me laugh with his crazy-legged “Fred Flintstone” dance. I do it for all the others, the list of names far too long to fit here in this space.

Yes, I know I could have honored my friends this year the same way I did last year, by volunteering for the crew. I know that without the crew, there would be no Lone Star Ride. And it’s possible that next year, I will set aside the bike and once again be a crew volunteer.

But this year is different. This year, I’m riding. I’m riding to prove — mainly to myself — that I can do it. I’m riding to prove I am not old, no matter what that calendar says. I’m riding to remember. I’m riding because others can’t.

Come join me if you can. And I won’t even ask how old you are.

Tammye Nash is a member of Team Dallas Voice. Donate to her or to another Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS participant at LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens