Like many others on Team Dallas Voice, I am neither an experienced writer nor was I an experienced cyclist. So thanks to Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS and Team Dallas Voice, I guess I can say my realm of experience has been expanded.
I had wanted to ride since 2001, when I volunteered at Resource Center Dallas and first learned about Lone Star Ride. But being overweight (the only shape I was in was "round"), I thought it would always just be a thought in my mind.
Then in January 2007, I promised myself that I was going to do the ride that year. The only problem was that I didn’t own a bike and I was still in the aforementioned "round" shape.
So I set out to recruit my friends to join me so I wouldn’t be able to back out of it.
While I did find a lot of financial support, I only got one rider — and I had to use her pride and competitive spirit against her to get her to ride. But she has been my training partner ever since and I have loved every minute of our experience together.
We both bought bikes and showed up to our first training ride. Not having a clue what the "turn sheet" they gave us was for, neither one of us bothered to take it with us — a move we would later regret as we got lost and ended up riding about an extra 5 miles through Richardson. We learned that day that it is possible to get cramps from laughing while riding a bicycle.
But I was hooked. I joined Team Lone Star Ride to help promote the LSR in events like Tour Dallas, Richardson Wild Ride and the Collin Classic. And each ride helped me gain confidence.
Before I knew it, it was the last weekend in September — and I was terrified. Had I trained enough? Did I really know what I was doing?
After the amazing opening ceremonies, I mounted my bike with tears in my eyes, knowing I was about to embark upon something bigger than me, bigger than the 100-plus riders and the 180-plus crew members there to support us.
I will be honest: My training partner and I struggled, and I resigned myself to coming in last. But we had fantastic crew behind us, and it was like they were there just for the two of us. Day One ended with the sweep crew asking me to get in the truck because the lunch pit was about to close and I was still about eight miles away.
But that night, Princess and I somehow got involved in the "Camp Night Show" and ended up as background horn players in a song and dance number, paying homage to Lucy and Ethel by dragging an ever-growing plant across the stage, and handing out prizes in the drawing that seemed it would never end.
By Day Two, I had a whole new outlook — and it was truly spectacular. Riding into the AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth as one of the last riders, with all of the other riders there cheering us on, once again brought me to tears. Then it was on to closing ceremonies for another amazing experience.
That first year, I ended up riding 87 of the 150 miles.
My second year in LSR was completely different, save Ride Out when I once again mounted my bike with tears in my eyes. I just knew that I had to ride further than I had the last year.
I didn’t struggle as much; I didn’t stress as much. I knew that I only had to ride until I couldn’t ride any more and someone would be there to pick me up and take me to the next pit stop, unlike the year before when I let pride keep me from taking the Sag Wagon when I really should have.
In 2008, I had a blast! I rode 127 miles and even rode up the steep hill coming out of Glen Rose. I was so proud of myself!
Now when someone asks why I ride, I have two reasons: to support the hot meals program at Resource Center Dallas, and to fight the stigma of HIV/AIDS. The hot meals program was my first volunteer experience in the realm of HIV/AIDS, and I spent a couple of days a week over the course of two months in 2001 and 2003 working in the kitchen preparing lunch.
When I started, I was in heaven and hell at the same time: I got to use my passion for cooking, but when I went into the dining room to serve lunch my first day, I broke down. My experience with HIV/AIDS was limited, and putting faces, names and stories to this disease took me to a place I hadn’t been before. Still, I loved every minute of it.
It’s an expensive program, and I shudder at the thought of it being closed down every time I hear of funding cuts. So when I ask my supporters for money, I ask in the name of RCD’s hot meals program.
I also support LSR because HIV/AIDS knows no boundaries, no zip codes and it doesn’t care who you lie next to at night. It doesn’t just live in Oak Lawn or San Francisco; it lives in Plano, Burleson and Grapevine, too.
I ride to support the programs that help that 29-year-old man that was just diagnosed with HIV cope with the life changes that he is about to face and help him tell his family about his diagnosis, because without their support life will be very difficult.
I ride for the 52-year-old woman who has just learned that after years of a marriage that ended in divorce and then finding a new love — or so she thought — she has contracted HIV.
Most importantly, I ride for you, and I ride for me! And I ride for those who have supported me throughout it all, like my partner Tim. Without his support, love and encouragement I couldn’t have made it. (Happy anniversary, Tim.)
So please support the Lone Star Ride with your time, your money or your enthusiasm. I promise, nothing feels quite as good.
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 to Team Dallas Voice, a Team Dallas Voice member or any other rider or team, go online to LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 31, 2009.