LSR Journal: Because I learned what’s important

Eddie Munoz  Team Dallas Voice

Eddie Munoz
Eddie Munoz

This year marks the first year I’m officially involved with the Lone Star Ride.

I’ll be honest: Initially, I wanted a reason to be obliged to stay fit during the dog days of summer, not to mention getting to wear the shiny, sexy 88 percent polyester/12 percent spandex cycling gear. I mean seriously, who doesn’t look good in that?

Although my reason for participating began as a selfish ploy to achieve somewhat of an Adonis status, the reality of the event’s purpose has undoubtedly taken over — and I’m glad it has.

I first heard of Lone Star Ride while working for the Dallas Voice in Web development during my college days. As part of my duty, I would upload the weekly newspaper to the website, reading the stories as it pertained to our community’s struggle in the area, state, country and world. One of the things I remember was preparing for the Lone Star Ride articles and thought, “Oh here’s just another fundraiser.”

Back then I was a different person than I am today. As a younger person, I didn’t see the need to get involved, nor did I feel that I, as an individual, could make a difference.

It wasn’t until I graduated from college and met someone whose whole life pertained to getting involved in our community and I was inspired. He was making a difference, “saving the gays” as he sometimes would say. He definitely made a difference in me whether he knows it or not.

I’m happy to say that now I wake up next to him everyday.

In March, Robert Moore and I talked about the Lone Star Ride, and for some reason, I had a strong urge to know more about the ride and to get involved.

So a couple of months ago I picked up a bike from the Lone Star locker and began to train. Let me tell you though, it has not been easy to train for the 75 miles I hope to accomplish in September.

My very first training ride consisted of 23 miles and I said to myself, “Oh Lord! What did you get yourself into?” No amount of Gatorade could’ve quenched my thirst that day.

For someone who grew up with asthma and who, shamefully but admittedly, barely learned how to ride a bike five years ago, it has been a challenge. I’ve had a couple falls here and there, bruises, injuries, blood, sweat and tears. But with every fall I have, I commit myself to riding even more.

Cycling has become my therapy, a healthy escape from the weekly workload, the bars and the drama that it sometimes entails.

It’s also a game of mind versus body — “just one more mile … one more … one more,” I tell myself.

When I ride I focus on the people that the event benefits, and I can also focus on myself and my life. Whether I’m riding with my team, my partner or by myself, it is always an enjoyable experience for me.

I may not know the people that the event benefits, but I know that it will make a difference, that I will finally make a difference. I’ve learned to participate in life and help those in need, those who want another day in this world, who want to know they’re still appreciated and not forgotten.

AIDS may be incurable, but our apathy and inability to help has a cure. It only takes a minute, the click of a mouse, to donate online and change someone’s life.

So as I prepare to hit the pavement in September in my 88 percent polyester/12 percent spandex cycling shorts, I look forward to hearing from the organizations and the people that your contributions go towards.

And I hope to return next year and do it all over again with a bigger fundraising goal and more support.

To donate to Eddie Munoz or any other Lone Star Ride rider, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

LSR Journal: It’s a lot more than just pedaling

Suzy Smith Team Sabre Flyers
Suzy Smith Team Sabre Flyers

In March of 2008, a friend asked me to join her in riding Tour Dallas, a 30-mile bike rally in and around the Dallas area.

It was my first time on a bike since I owned a pristine pink Huffy as a child, and I was more than just a little intimidated that chilly morning as we headed out of the AAC parking lot with thousands of other riders.

Crazy, maybe, but I convinced myself that riding a bike was just like … well, riding a bike.

Ask anyone that knows me for a description, and a sort of theme always seems to appear.

I am stubborn, determined, and “a little” competitive, and it shows in my work and hobbies.

I began marathon training simply by putting one foot in front of the other, and ran countless miles and several marathons.

Although I’d never been particularly athletic, I found strength in running, seeing the sun and my shadow, and training to reach a goal.

By the time I’d pedaled to the end of the Tour Dallas route, I’d not only fallen in love with cycling, but established a new challenge for myself — I would train for the Hotter than Hell 100, held in Wichita Falls at the end of every scorching Texas summer.

With that goal in mind, I clipped into the pedals of my Trek, started pedaling, and never stopped.

On the best days, cycling is my meditation. With the familiar sound of “clipping in,”  I find mental clarity in pushing my body. I know every inch of the concrete and asphalt around White Rock Lake and delight in the summer heat and breeze coming off the water.

On the worst days, when my legs feel like jelly and even kids with training wheels pass me by, I believe that Beyonce and Lady Gaga on the iPod can be considered a performance-enhancing drug.

In just more than two years of riding, cycling has become such a part of my life that even my vacations include a bike rack and a route map.

I own more bike shorts than jeans, have tan lines that never fade and my friends all roll their eyes at my persistent Facebook posts about cycling.

This year, I will be participating in my third Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, riding two days and 180 miles across the Metroplex with the singular goal of improving the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS.

The Lone Star Ride stands out among all the cycling events in which I participate, and I find it the most motivating and meaningful.

The route of the two-day course is as challenging as any you’ll find in North Texas, but the ample support of crew members — whether directing traffic from motorcycles, refilling Gatorade or providing a much needed laugh — truly makes the LSR experience unique.

When I roll out this September with two hundred plus riders and as many crew members, it will be to make a difference as an athlete, an activist and an educator.

I ride for those who cannot, for those who the AIDS Outreach Center, Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Services Dallas provide much needed support, and to reduce discrimination directed towards people with HIV and AIDS.

I ride for a future of the Lone Star Ride in which, not hundreds, but thousands of cyclists work together to raise awareness and funds.

For two days this fall, I ride because “riding a bike” is a far greater event than just pedaling. Won’t you join me?

Suzy Smith is a member of Team Sabre Flyers. Donate to her online at LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

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

LSR: It takes everyone’s effort to succeed

Brian Franklin Team Blazing Saddles

Brian Franklin

Push, push, push! Pedal for your life!

Well, that’s definitely the way it feels at times along the two-day, 150-mile bike ride across the Metroplex that is Lone Star Ride.

Last year was my second year to time in Lone Star Ride, and I didn’t have a doubt that I would be riding again this year, the 10th anniversary of the ride.

I first heard of LSR when my friend, Patrick Burton, told me he was riding and that I should come out to support him and share in the event.

I had been cycling for about a year and I had participated in other organized rides, so I thought I would check it out. I drove out to Glen Rose, which is where the overnight camp was in 2007, and quickly realized that this was not like any other ride I had ever experienced.

I knew the next day that I wanted to get involved in this event. In 2008, team Blazing Saddles was formed and it included myself and a small group of friends.

As a regular reader of the Dallas Voice, you already know that LSR brings people from across the community together for a common purpose. LSR is about raising money for local organizations that supply life-changing support to people living with HIV/AIDS and to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.

LSR is a two-day ride, but a team of people works year-round to make it the best ride it possibly can be for those that participate.

I have always been a rider, but many people participate as support crew. The LSR support crew is the best I have seen. These dedicated people work tirelessly behind the scenes and on the front lines to make it the best ride around.

The new ride route forms a figure eight across the Metroplex and features pit stops about every 10 miles. It is always exciting to ride into the next pit stop to see what crazy costumes the crew members are wearing. We saw everything from poly-blend pant suits at a disco-themed pit stop to a trailer park scene that seemed to be right off the set of “Sordid Lives.”

By the time we ride into the lunch pit stop, I am always looking forward to visiting the massage crew. They do a great job of getting the legs ready for the second half of the day.

The long day of riding makes for a big sense of accomplishment when we ride into camp at the end of day one. Rest and relaxation is all that’s required the rest of the day. Everyone comes together for dinner, entertainment and to share stories from the ride.

The morning of day two comes all too early, but a big cup of coffee, breakfast and some ibuprofen are just enough to get back on the bike.

The motor crews are a personal favorite of mine as they help direct us along the route, cheer for us and sweep us up if we need a break. It is the hard work of all the dedicated people that make up the various support crews that make the long ride fun and enjoyable.

Another thing that sets LSR apart from other rides I have participated in is the closeness of everyone involved. Becoming a part of LSR is becoming part of a large, extended family. Sure, there will be heat, head winds, hills, sore muscles and perhaps rain, but there is also beautiful scenery, good company and lots of great memories.

The ride concludes with all the cyclists riding in together to the closing ceremonies. The closing ceremonies are especially memorable and by the end I always realize that the fatigue and soreness is far outweighed by the sense of accomplishment that everyone who is part of LSR has achieved.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but who says it can’t be fun? It is rewarding knowing I am making a difference, knowing that others are directly benefiting from something I love to do.

As captain of team Blazing Saddles, I am proud that our team has raised more than $20,000 for LSR in just two years. Blazing Saddles is still a small team and we hope to increase our numbers. You can help.

You don’t have to be a seasoned cyclist. You just need a bike, a helmet, some good padded shorts and a good sense of humor.


To donate to Brian Franklin and Team Blazing Saddles, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

LSR: Don’t ride but wanna make a difference? Join the Crew

TERRY THOMPSON Team Dallas Voice

Terry Thompson - LSR Team Dallas Voice
Terry Thompson – LSR Team Dallas Voice

Lone Star Ride 2009 was an exciting year for me.

It was my first experience with this organization. I was not a bike rider then. And while I’ve since taken up the sport and will participate this year as a rider, I’d like to focus this journal on the people who really make things tick: The Crew.

As someone who didn’t even enjoy riding a bike last year, I wanted to find other ways to participate in Lone Star Ride.

As a member of Team Dallas Voice, I crewed our training rides. I had many opportunities to play host when riders met at our house before heading out. I sent them off with a wave and a smile and welcomed them back with mimosas and hot lunches.

When it came time for the actual ride, I was there with my camera, recording all of it as the ride’s official photographer. I did group shots in the pre-dawn, photographed crew, and documented pit stops. I rode shotgun in a convertible, rolling alongside riders, taking snapshots as I worked to capture the magic of the ride. And in the process of pitching in and helping, I grew to love this organization and all it stands for.

By the closing ceremony, I’d really begun to take in just how many talents were engaged to manage and facilitate a ride this big. Before, I thought of LSR as people riding bikes. Now, I see it a larger and far more diverse group of not only the obvious — riders on bikes — but also of a talented army of support people we call Crew.

Long before the first biker arrives, and long after the last biker leaves, there are Crew.

There are Crew that set up the registration, the camp, the gear, the ceremonies. There are Crew that deliver and set up the pit stops, Crew that deliver snacks, lunch and drinks to the stops, Crew that serve it to the riders, Crew that return and take down the stops. There are Crew that mark the route, Crew on motorcycles giving direction and encouragement, Crew in trucks and vans that pick up riders when they need assistance, and Crew that repair bikes to get riders back on the road. There are Medical Crew and Massage Therapy Crew. There are Ceremonies Crew and Event Management Crew. There are Traffic Crew and Bike Parking Crew and even Cheerleader Crew. And, of course, there’s Crew to pack it up for next year.

I think this just may be the year for you to Crew! The fact that you don’t ride a bike is no reason to avoid being a part of this year’s ride. Honey, if you want to participate, trust me, they have a job for you! And by time it’s all over for another year, you’ll feel proud to have participated in this honorable event benefiting AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County, AIDS Services of Dallas, and Resource Center Dallas.When is the last time you did something that you felt genuinely proud of?

We all have lost friends to HIV/AIDS. We all want to be a part of the solution, to engage, and the make this place we call home a better place. We all have a reason to participate.

Make this year the year you joined in. Go to LoneStarRide.org and check out the possibilities.

Terry Thompson is a member of Team Dallas Voice. You can contribute to him or to any other Lone Star Ride participant online at LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

LSR Journal: You tell me your story, I’ll tell you mine

Michael Mack, co-captain, Positive Pedalers

Michael Mack, co-captain, Positive Pedalers

When I was asked to write about why I participate in the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS I had to stop and think.

Don’t get me wrong, I now know why I ride. It just took 10 years to realize it.

In 1999 my best friend was diagnosed with HIV. The news was heartbreaking. The thought of losing him to HIV/AIDS was unimaginable.
And I couldn’t stand idle any longer. Shortly after his diagnosis, I heard about the Tanqueray Texas AIDS Ride 2, and I found my call to action.

A week or so later, my 10-years-old-plus bike was dusted off and I was on my first solo ride. Feeling shaky and unsure, I started asking myself the questions we all ask:

Why did I decide on this event? How in the world will I finish the ride? What makes me think I will make a difference?

They were all valid questions, and there was one simple answer for them all: Because I have to, because I can. Failure was never an option!

Skip forward seven months, 1,200 miles of training, and countless hours of fundraising to find me headed down to Houston. I knew without a doubt I was “prepared” for this. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Sure I had trained enough, fundraised enough, packed enough — but I found out quickly “enough” that doesn’t matter. I was on a four-day therapy session. I loved the chance to laugh, to cry and to hear the countless stories of others.

Now jump forward another year as I wait in the holding area for the California AIDS Ride: San Francisco to Los Angeles through south central LA — Are you kidding me?

Was I prepared for this seven-day adventure? Not in the least.

I thought my reasons for riding had changed. My friend was healthy, so it was less about him and more about the accomplishment.

I found pleasure riding for hours, speaking little, listening to the hum of the tires across the ground. Pits and camp were exciting — finding my group of friends, listening to how they were doing, eavesdropping as others talked about their day of heaven or hell (depending on your perspective). It was my heaven!

Eight days after it started, I was flying home to Dallas with the heaviest of hearts. Something was missing. But what?

Ok, I had enough of the biking, fundraising, training and all that went into preparing for an AIDS ride.

For many years I would break out the bike, get some miles behind me and drift into my memories about the AIDS Ride. I always found incredible memories to draw on: Remember when one night’s desert was a cold chocolate éclair with its divine taste? Or when you stopped with a friend who blew a tire, giving the “thumbs up” sign to dozens of riders asking, “Are you ok?”

Jump with me now to 2008 — and my introduction to Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS. I was fortunate enough to be at opening ceremonies and closing ceremonies. As the moto crew roared their bikes to life my heart jumped — I knew “that feeling.”

The next day as I waited for the riders to come home, I listened to crew members and families talk about their reasons for being there. As the riders pulled into view the tears flowed. I knew I would ride in 2009!

In 2009, I made new friends, bought a new bike and cherished (though I did my share of complaining about) the 1,400 miles I rode from May through the end of the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.

That year my reasons were more selfish. I wanted to get into better shape, be outdoors more, do something different from the past few years. I took a chance and self-identified as HIV-positive and joined the Positive Pedalers Team.

For 2010, I joined the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS as a council member and co-captain of the Positive Pedalers Team. As I reflected on the past AIDS Rides, I found again my true reasons to ride: I know I will make a difference, and I want to hear your stories.

If you find me on the ride, or training, do me the honor of telling me your story about why you ride. Now, Saddle UP!

Michael Mack is co-captain of the Positive Pedalers team for the 2010 Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS. To donate to Mack or any LSR rider, or to register as a rider or crew, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice