M.M. ADJARIAN | Contributing Writer
Janie Bush calls the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS her “baby,” a term that suggests deep affection for the event.
But get to know her and you’ll see that “baby” isn’t just a figure of speech. It’s a word that identifies the Trinity River Foundation office manager for what she is — the birth mother of the Lone Star Ride.
Conception wasn’t a solo act for Bush; she had help from a few men she names as Ride “fathers.”
The first was Larry Townsend, who, like Bush, had been affiliated with the LSR’s predecessor, the Texas Tanqueray AIDS Ride. His profound disappointment at how little money TTAR had raised for its beneficiary agencies mirrored Bush’s own.
“So we put together a proposal and said, ‘We can do this,’” recalled Bush. “[After talking] with Don Maison at AIDS Services of Dallas and Mike McKay, who was the AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County executive director at the time, we kicked [the proposal] back and forth and decided to go for it.”
Bush then took over as the first Lone Star Ride event manager in 2001, a position she held for five years. Like all new “mothers,” the ardor she had for her “newborn” was boundless; and so she signed on as the first rider, only to discover she’d bitten off more than she could chew.
“[I had no] clue what the LSR was going to be like,” she laughed. “I thought I’d have plenty of time to train in addition to creating the Ride. And then I found I had no time to get on my bike for the event.”
Her background as an investment banker and non-profit professional made her the ideal person to guide the LSR through its sometimes-turbulent infancy and early childhood. That Bush had also been a witness to the deaths of numerous friends afflicted with AIDS served as her own painful private goad.
“I lost my first two friends in 1987 when they were still quarantined at the hospital,” she said. “It was pretty horrific.”
During Bush’s tenure, not a single penny — whether earned or spent — ever went unaccounted for, she said. Her hard working ways and tightfisted fiscal conservatism put the organization on solid financial footing in short order.
At the same time, both traits also became the focal point for some good-natured personal ribbing.
Remembered Bush, “I was pretty well known for only getting a few hours of sleep in the last couple of weeks prior to Ride, because I would stay in the office until really late. So the first night [after a ride], I would fall into a very deep sleep at camp.”
One year, a few participants decided to play a joke on her.
“More often than not, I would sleep in my car because the seats reclined,” she said, clearly enjoying the memory. “Some of the riders and crew went out to my car and totally wrapped it in toilet paper and caution tape. They were waiting with cameras for me when I woke up.”
Here Bush began to chuckle. “[After I came out,] they said to me, ‘We spent our own money to buy the toilet paper. It’s not ride TP!’”
Although she retired as event manager in 2006, Bush has continued to nurture the Ride in less direct — but no less impactful — ways; a child may grow up, but a mother always remains a mother.
“I’m [always] available to answer questions,” said Bush. “And [new event manager] Jerry Calumn and I have spent a lot of time talking about stuff. As long as we continue to increase the amount of money brought in and stay somewhat steady with the ridership, [I’ll be glad].
“But I would absolutely love to see him blow that out of the water,” she added.
Pride, and a certain wistfulness, characterize the way Bush describes what she and her LSR colleagues have done to help her “baby” find its way in the world. It’s an experience on par with childbirth — or even volunteering on behalf of the Ride, for that matter.
“Every muscle in your aches, including muscles you didn’t know existed,” she said. “And then you forget it. And then you’re ready to do it again.”