It's amazing to think that 1 week ago right now I was on day two of the ride. I wrote up a short letter to describe just how the ride was. Thank you to everyone that sent me messages while I was out there. Of the 150 riders, 80 of us have already signed up for next yet. And together we raised $287,000!!!
Last week I did an amazing thing. On Thursday morning I became part of a wonderful, life changing event that is truly something that I am proud of. They have told me that being a part of Act 5, the Wisconsin AIDS bike ride would change me, yet, I never realized just how true this would be. Initially the idea of riding 300 miles in 4 days on my bike was something that just sounded impossible. In fact, Thursday morning it still seemed hard to believe that I would soon be zipping around Wisconsin on 2 wheels powered by my body, a lot of love, and just pure grit.
For me, this journey began 1 year ago when I picked up the newspaper and looked at the picture of closing ceremonies of Act 4. I was so moved by the story of the riders and crew that it became my journey to join them for the next year. Through the end of 2006 and into 2007 I thought about this ride, saved up for and purchased a road bike, and began to write my fundraising letter.
As a rider, I was asked to raise $1,100 and ride 300 miles in 4 days. But it was more than a bike ride; it was getting out there and saying that this disease is not going to win. That by doing this, you are doing something for the community, and to change the world one mile at a time. At the time, I understood all of this in my head, but today I understand it all in my heart. As riders would come into camp each night everyone would cheer for them and it was a small celebration of life and accomplishment. Once the last riders were in for the night, rider 0 was led symbolizing those that were not physically there or able to ride, but always with us as we went on our journey.
By day 4 we were all pretty tired both physically and mentally. With each mile you could just tell that people were riding for home. For me, that day was especially hard due to some problems I had been struggling with in my legs the entire ride. As I came into Madison I struggled up each hill, and each time I wanted to stop and be swept into lunch, something just pushed me along. 4.2 miles from lunch I ran into a few riders at the bottom of a good sized hill. These were the guys that cycle every day, and usually finished the route each day hour and hours ahead of me, one of the guys said that he would take me up this hill and we began pedaling up together. Each rotation of the wheel was harder and harder, and I could feel my frustration building up, yet he kept telling me I could do it, just to the mailbox, only until that tree. After a while we had gone up a few more hills and I didn’t think I could go on anymore. My body was tired, my legs were cement and I just didn’t think I could pedal another foot. That rider put his hand on my back and pushed me up the hill while I was pedaling. There we were, both pedaling, him having to do most of the work; up and down we went for miles. Then, when the park was right around the corner, he pushed me off, and said he was going back for someone else and he would see me later. That was the type of human spirit and acts of kindness that I experienced throughout this whole ride. Random acts of kindness as we called it each night. Right up to riding downtown Madison and having a woman hand out lemonade to us because we were doing a good thing.
Just when you think you cannot go on, another rider, or crew is there to help you in anyway they can or carry you until you can. It was much more than a bike ride, in fact I have signed up to do this again next year, because I cannot sit by anymore. I need to make a difference one mile at a time.