AJ took off SUNDAY at the unnatural hour of 6am to bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles (585 miles) over 7 days to raise fund for AIDS and HIV. He's participating in the AIDS/LIFECYCLE 5. (That's AJ in the middle, flanked by his fellow gutterbunny friend and tentmate Glen on the left, and Mark on the right).
It's always emotional for me to see him bike off every year. This is 6th time he's done the ride, and every year, I think it's not a big deal. I'll just see him off and it's only for a week. And every year I miss him more and more. He was back for two or three days from Indiana and then he left for the ride. He was crazy hectic trying to get stuff done before he left for the ride as well.
Our place is a wreck. I'm talking HUGE MESS here. I've been too out of it because of my cold/sinus infection to clean up and AJ was just crazy packing and trying to organize stuff for the ride. I should pick up but I'm feeling bachelor style lazy right now. So the dishes are crazy stacked up in the sink and counter, clothes are strewn across the living room and bedroom, as are boxes and bags still packed with dirty clothes from our Chicago trip. My sewing machine is sitting on the ground, as it has been for the past month, and let's not talk about the piles of paper that I finally moved from my desk (where it was threatening to bury my laptop) to the sofa. Even the bathroom is a tornado aftermath, with AJ's left over crap from his Chicago/Indiana trip on the counter along with other crap that he pulled out but never put back for his bike ride.
I have grandiose plans of cleaning and scouring the place before he gets back. But if I don't I have the perfect excuse of "hey, I was sick." to use. In the meanwhile I'll just sleep in our huge CA King size bed (unmade of course) and miss him all the more.
I drive down to LA on Friday to meet up with him in VENTURA where I'll get to see the campsite and participate in the candlelight vigil that they have every year on the beach. I have the utmost respect for all the riders and crew people who embark on the journey every year. It astounds me every year that I see the thousands of people who are putting cycling nearly 600 miles to raise funds for a pandemic that has lasted for 25 years. This year, as they all took off for LA, all the riders had red helmet covers that said "Not another 25 years." (oh yeah, I stole this photo from the New York Times website, the photo credit is to Jim Wilson - but please don't rat me out to them).
It was moving and sad and uplifting as 1800 cyclists sped past wearing the same red covering. Most moving were the Positive Pedalers - those participants living with HIV who were part of the ride. They garnered the most cheers as they rode past - and rightly so. They were the reason that people were on the ride, and the reason why the ride is so important. That's them in the blue jerseys in the photo. If you look closely you can see that they all have orange flags attached to their bikes.
The ride itself is pretty darn powerful. It's a moving community of people who are united in one goal, to help end the AIDS. I hear stories about the 70 year old who does the ride, or the teenage girl who skipped her graduation to do the ride because her uncle died of AIDS, or the paraplegic man who does the entire ride on a custom bike pedalling with his hands. AJ tells me of stories of riding through small towns where people come out and cheer or give out cookies to the riders. And he tells of how riders stop by the handful whenever someone gets a flat or needs help with their bike. It's a strong bond that develops when you ride 600 miles together. But the most moving story he told me was on the very first ride that he participated in. He was riding by himself, having broken away from his pack of friends. It was near the end of the ride itself, probably day 5 or 6. He was tired and dirty and hadn't had a proper shower or slept in a proper bed in nearly a week. A car pulled up next to him and window rolled down. An older fragile man leaned out of the window and said "Thank you for riding for me." and then the car sped off. That's when AJ realized the impact of what he was doing. He's done the ride every year since.
AJ's participant number is #1122. It's not too late to donate to his ride. Or email him a note of encouragement.