It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Team ReaganHarlow doing the work closest to our hearts: bringing an end to HIV and AIDS. Last Sunday, we put in a full day’s work running volunteer transportation for AIDS Walk San Diego. Carol has been volunteering for San Diego’s largest HIV/AIDS fundraising event since 1995, the year following the death of her dear friend, Scott. For her, this event involves months of planning, meetings, and then the whole weekend to get her area and team together to pull off this huge event. Her dedication to this event, in memory of Scott, and now in honor of those we’ve met this last year, is immeasurable, inspiring and truthfully where I found the courage and resolve to sign on for AIDS/LifeCycle last year. Sure, we come home exhausted from a 12-hour day that starts at 3 am, and each year it takes us just a little longer to recover (I think it was Wednesday this week when I felt my usual bright-eyed self), but we know we are making a difference in the lives of our fellow San Diegans living with this disease.
Sunday two weeks ago, I had the privilege of planning and leading my first ride as a Training Ride Leader (TRL) for next year’s AIDS/LifeCycle 11 (ALC). It was exactly one year to the day since I had gone on my first training ride. One year since seeds were planted, relationships were born and life was forever changed. Within a few days of that first ride, Carol and I committed to AIDS/LifeCycle 10 – to making a difference in the fight against HIV and AIDS beyond our own community. We knew we were signing on for something big, but it was impossible to know how our involvement in the ride would change us, or who would come into our lives because we made that decision. For me, the opportunity to be a TRL brings things full circle; I’ll be giving back in the same ways I was given to by the TRLs and other experienced riders I came to know last year. I couldn’t have done the training or the ride itself without therm. Leading my first ride on the one-year of anniversary of being brought into the ALC family couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Excited to begin sharing my knowledge and experience with this year’s riders, I planned a ride around San Diego Bay, starting with a trip to Coronado on the ferry. San Diego is my hometown. My parents’ families came to San Diego with the United States Navy before World War II. My grandfathers worked in the shipyards in south bay. When I began riding in 1998, my bike took me to parts of the county that I had never visited, and I began to see parts of our beautiful city already familiar to me as I had never seen them before. I planned this ride around San Diego Bay in hopes of sharing that wonder and beauty with my teammates.
It was a gray, chilly morning when we met at Tuna Harbor just south of the USS Midway Museum. Nine riders came out for the ride, and Carol came along to provide support (i.e., smiles, YooHoo and Red Vines) for our 24-mile journey. Three of the riders I had never met; one of them was coming for his very first training ride.
We took the ferry across the bay and rode down the Silver Strand toward Imperial Beach. More than half of the 24 miles of the Bayshore Bikeway consists of dedicated bike trails. Without much stopping and starting, our group stayed pretty much together for the first half of the ride. By the time we met Carol near the Chula Vista harbor, the sun was shining and the gray had given way to vibrant blue skies. Our rockin’ Roadie Carol sure knows how to put out a spread at a rest stop! We mingled a bit, enjoying our treats, filling up with water and stretching our bodies, but soon we were back on our bikes.
We’d had the wind at our backs for the first part of the ride, but heading back toward the city, the wind was hitting us square in the face. Soon there were gaps between all of the riders and I found myself at the back with our first-time rider. He was tired, but still pedaling strong. There are times on a bike when you ask for a red light so you can grab a drink and an ever-so-brief rest. The wind was making it one of those times. As we got closer to Tuna Harbor, we seemed to hit every light. At one of the lights, he thanked me for sticking with him and told me this was the longest ride he had ever done. I told him great job and that he’d get stronger with each ride. We gathered back at Tuna Harbor to say our goodbyes. For another of our new riders it was also her longest ride ever. It had been a successful ride with no safety issues or mechanical failures (NO flats) on a simply gorgeous day with a great group of people training for the Ride to End AIDS. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Looking back on the day and all that happened in the year since we committed to doing the ride, it struck me that we never really know how making a decision will change our life. Not a simple decision like what to wear or which movie to watch, but a decision to step way out of our comfort zone, to reach for the impossible, push ourselves beyond our limits, ask for support – over and over and over again. And we surely don’t know who we touch along the way. For better or for worse, Facebook has changed the way we connect and share information. You put yourself out there; you don’t know what seeds you are sowing. You reconnect with friends from high school, and one of them shares that they lost their father to AIDS not long after we graduated from high school. Or you write a blog post and months later someone tells you something you wrote about your own struggles and fears touched them, kept them going, helped them get beyond their fear. You never know.
As we left the ferry in Coronado on that gray, chilly morning, serendipity graced me with another full circle moment. Standing in line waiting to board the ferry back to San Diego was my Team in Training coach from my first cycling program with the Leukemia Society in 1998. The coach who taught me almost everything that is the foundation of my cycling. The coach who showed me that when climbing hills, whether on the bike or in life, you have to sit up, hold your head high, breathe deeply, loosen your grip, start slow, and save some for the top. The coach who helped me see through our shared experience of loss of love that we could live and love again. The coach who could not have known when he made the decision to be coach for that season – to teach others how to ride while saving lives – that 13 years later, his hand would be on my shoulder as I reached out and put my hand on the shoulder of new riders committed to saving lives. You just don’t know.
Never doubt that what seems like a simple choice between do it or don’t has an impact. On you. On others. On your community. On the world.