“It is not every day that you meet a true hero. It’s certainly not every day that you meet an entire community of heroes.” – Michael Barron, Director of AIDS/LifeCycle at the Closing Ceremonies.
Tattered and soiled, the message is still the same.
I was graced with the opportunity to spend eight days with this incredible community of heroes – 576 Roadies and 2361 Riders. The love and energy I experienced this past week buoyed my hopes for finding a cure, preventing new infections and making the world a better place for every human being.
It was apparent from Day 0, Orientation Day, that this community was special. We had heard about the energy, the love, the kindness, the inexplicable feeling of being a part of something this beautiful, but it wasn’t until we arrived at the Cow Palace in San Francisco that I started to feel it pulsing through my veins. Each of us was required to attend a safety video before we could pick up our packets. As we sat down, we were asked to turn off our cell phones and give our undivided attention to the most important aspect of the ride: safety. And everyone did. Five minutes in, I was amazed that I could hear a pin drop; thirty minutes in, still, we were all riveted to the information being presented. No one was looking at their cell phones, there were no side conversations going on. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt like everyone in a room (including me) was actually engaged, present in the moment. It reminded me to slow down, look around and take it all in. This whole experience, we’re told, would be over in the blink of an eye and I didn’t want to miss a thing.
My intention going in to the ride was to post regular updates to facebook, but between all that was happening every day and limited access to charging our phones, I found it difficult to keep up. The time I could find to post was usually at the end of the day, as we were settling in, and I usually chose sleep over posting. Over the next few days, I’ll be blogging about some of my experiences on the road, on the SAG buses, in camp, at the rest stops and meeting extraordinary people from all over. There is no way to replay the entire experience, either in my head or here on this blog, but I’ll share some of my memories, and you’ll get a sense of just how special “special” really is.
With riders of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities on this ride, there is a constant flow of passing riders, going up hills and down, and on the flats. For both safety and courtesy, a passing rider calls out “on your left.” The passed rider says “thank you” to acknowledge they are being passed. I was passed a lot on the ride. A lot. I’m sure those passing got just as tired of saying they were passing as I did acknowledging them. I joked at one point I should invent a detector that would say it for me as a rider passed. But then each time I said “thank you” I began to feel gratitude. Gratitude for just being out there; gratitude for having the health and financial means to commit to making a difference; gratitude for sharing the experience with Carol, Carin and Tammy; gratitude for Team San Diego; gratitude for making cherished new friends in Nicole and Lish; gratitude for the guys who hauled our gear; gratitude for everything – even the stuff that was difficult day in and day out; gratitude for the community of heroes I was now a part of.
So for now, go ahead and pass me on the left. I’ll shout out a big, heartfelt “thank you” and we’ll catch up on this blog at the next rest stop.