Why I Ride: AIDS/LifeCycle 9
Words by Ryan Elizalde
Top photo by Getty Images
Other photos by Susan Goldman
Words by Ryan Elizalde
When I moved to Los Angeles several years ago, I remember hearing about a bike ride that took place every summer from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for AIDS research and support.
And then it happened. Last October, while I was sitting at dinner with my friend Julie I joked, “Sure, I’ll do the AIDS/LifeCycle ride if you do...” thinking it might give us a reason to work out, train and become more fit. We agreed to do research, learn more and see where that led. A couple of weeks later there was an orientation at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, so we made an appointment.
Suddenly, this adventure I’d heard about years ago was about to get a lot more real.
"Why are you thinking of doing the ride?” a person from the Center asked. My response seems trivial now, but was simply to explore another avenue to keep healthy and work towards a goal. They soon popped in a DVD explaining more about the LifeCycle ride, its origins, and what it supports. By the end of that video, my reasons for wanting to do this had changed dramatically.
I was touched by The Center's efforts to show how important this event was for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. I always knew The Center was a good place to go for HIV testing, but did not know the scope of services until that night. I was quick to sign up, setting an ambitious goal for myself: riding 545 miles on a bike in 7 days, and raise $5,000 before a June deadline, which in these economic times is a lot of money. But with an even bigger goal, I was more motivated than ever; after all, I was no longer riding for myself.
Before that night I always perceived life to be so "hard," but mine were trivial problems. I never really thought of the people living with AIDS who need a helping hand, or who desperately depend on a community to help them simply live their lives in a comfortable manor every single day. Now I see things differently.
I have been training for seven months now, clocked almost 1500 miles on my bike, raised much more than my initial goal, and the ride starts this Sunday. I’m terrified. I completed my first “century” (100 miles) ride with very little trouble. The “double century” from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara and back, which happens over two days, was harder. I needed a couple of days to recover from it, so I still feel like I haven’t trained enough, but I guess I'll find out if that's true soon enough.
The first leg starts June 6th and goes from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, CA. I will publish a daily account of the ride and submit to Gay.com for posting. In addition to telling people about my experience, my main reason for sharing this story is to remind everyone that it doesn’t take a lot to give a little— money, time, or just a kind word.
Any one of those things really do go a long way to helping people.
Stay tuned to see what else I learn over the next week.