LSR Journal: Marine trains to fight HIV apathy

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

Many riders find themselves becoming gradually more involved with the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS over time. But if you’re on achievement overdrive like freshman cyclist James Esh, you’re going full force right out of the starting gate.

The ex-Marine-turned-lawyer first learned about the Ride in 2010, three years after he moved to Dallas from Arkansas. His interest was sparked by the complacency he’d seen around him regarding the AIDS crisis.

“I was really young when I heard the term ‘gay cancer,’” recalls Esh. “In the early ’90s, Ryan White brought it back to the everyday American. But [when I started college in 2000] and the subject came up in the courses I was taking, it just wasn’t a big deal to most people.”

The nonchalance he’s witnessed came about because medical advances made the disease easier to control. But those same advances have sometimes come at the cost of sweeping HIV/AIDS under the rug and out of sight.

Ever the vigilant military man looking to set a positive example, Esh decided to take arms against apathy, ignorance and silence by saddling up for the LSR.

And like a good soldier, he went on a reconnaissance mission to learn about the event and its sponsoring organization. The data he gathered met with his wholehearted approval.

“All the money from the LSR is [earmarked for] local agencies,” says the ex-Marine. “So the bang for your buck is a lot higher because all the money goes back to the community.”

The organization impressed him so much that he volunteered to become an LSR board member.

Explains Esh, “Participating on the board was not a decision I made in the beginning. It was made after I had already decided to ride. So when the opportunity presented itself, it just kind of worked out.”

The freshman cyclist expects to pedal 150 miles in this year’s Ride. His goal is an especially lofty one given that he admits that a busy work schedule has not allowed him to train as regularly as he would like.

“I started [preparing] in February but fell off the bandwagon for a few months,” he says. “Then I had about two weeks where my bike was in the shop. I’ve been hitting it hard this past month, though, and will continue to do so because the LSR is less than 60 days away.”

Esh also admits to not having cycled with the Texas sun full on his back. The toughness he cultivated during his time in the military will serve him well, especially if the current record-breaking heat wave continues into September.

“It was 104 degrees the other day when I went [cycling] around White Rock Lake,” he says. “I was a little crazy for doing it [but] I did grow up in the West Texas Panhandle so I’m not too unaccustomed [to the heat].”

As much as Esh has reintegrated into civilian life, it’s clear that he’s still a Marine at heart: semper fidelis (always faithful) to a cause regardless of the challenges he encounters along the way.

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