As the sun sets on a long day in the saddle I realize that I have been riding AIDS rides for five years now and this will be my last for a while. Not for any reason other than that I require some time to recharge the resources necessary to accomplish the monumental task that is a multi-day AIDS charity ride.
The tremendous time away from my family in order to train, the late hours in my shop maintaining my bike to prepare for the next day's ride, and the commitment to find donors willing to part with their hard earned money in the name of a worthy charity, all of these things take a toll that is both physical and emotional.
My family has been patient with my absenteeism for five years as I spent both time and energy spinning my wheels through countless miles, planning several fundraiser parties and addressing/mailing hundreds of appeal letters so, now it is time for me to pay back those who have supported my benevolent endeavors with a much needed break.
I ask the reader to kick back their feet and settle in for the Letters from the Road series that will cover my journey in this final AIDS ride before I go on hiatus. This is my way of sharing with the reader the experience of this challenge that is both great and ultimately rewarding. Enjoy...
So, how did I fare on Day One? I have never experienced a more difficult day on a bike ever! Never, never, Ever! The heat, humidity and hill climbing were all unrelenting.
To expound upon my point of view, I am not one of those folks like Dan who looks forward to the challenge of a hill for the sheer thrill of having surmounted yet another impossible challenge. I suffer hills as merely an unavoidable part of the game that we cyclists play. I hate hills, tightly banded topography assaults my sense of decency. You wanna see Gary smile? Lay out 200 miles of flat country roads and tell me, "Run Forest, Run!" and you will see a grin across my face and my rear wheel as I disappear off in the distance. All that being said, I finished today's route running on fumes. My tank was completely dry; perhaps it was being stuck for 4 hours in one spot on the New Jersey Turnpike, which turned a three and a half hour bus ride into seven and a half hours, lack of sleep, or the combination of it all, but today I left it all out on the road! I left my legs and more stretched along hills that climbed from our start in Maryland to the small town in which we rest our weary heads this evening before tomorrow's early morning rideout.
Several times I thought to myself, "Gee, there is the Sag Wagon" but, each time the thought crossed my mind, I just dug deeper and found a hidden reserve of energy, and I found more inspiration from my Positive Pedaler friends as a gentle push up the next piece of road. These are the folks on the ride who are living with HIV/AIDS. These are the people for whom I ride! Kind, loving souls afflicted with a disease, yet filled with a resolve not to let it defeat or diminish them. Take that hill! And I pedaled on.
We have over 100 riders on the road here this weekend, a new record for Braking the Cycle. Some new faces, some old, and some absent, all to remind us why we continue to ride. We ride because we can!
My travel partner, Dale, (the Cannondale R700 I rode last year) couldn't make it on the road with me this year but, his cousin Charlie made it. Charlie is my new traveling companion, a Cannondale SIX13. Why Charlie? So I can start a new series, "Travels with Charlie" of course. Hey if Steinbeck can do it why not me?
Well I am closing now. Exhaustion has set in, aches find their way into my body from the sun, dehydration, and many miles ridden. Tomorrow will bring new challenges to question my resolve in completing the task I have sacrificed so much for.