It seems the entire month of April passed without a post – and now May is nearly over. This wasn’t a planned hiatus, but as life continuously reminds us, things don’t often go according to our plan. Needless to say, a lot has happened since March. Briefly and quickly, I turned a year older, we went on vacation experiencing our first cruise (much to my surprise, I was seasick), returned from vacation to start a new job while still doing my old job until my replacement started, finally got in to see a physical medicine specialist about my pain, went to L.A. for Carol’s Roadie training, filed a tax extension because the new IRS requirements for same-sex married couples in a community property state are complicated and lack supporting documentation, got to go to a Padres game, ate at a food truck for the very first time in support of Dining Out for Life, a fundraiser for The Center’s HIV and AIDS services here in San Diego, and pulled more weeds than I ever remember pulling – and there’s still more to be pulled – organic gardening trade off. It’s a busy life, but it’s a good life.
And, I got back on my bike for the first time in months. And then I got back on again. And again. I’m feeling good while riding with only the usual post-ride soreness. The aching and burning in my muscles that took me off my bike back in January have thankfully disappeared, slowly over time as was predicted by the physical medicine specialist. His diagnosis: muscle damage resulting from the statin drug I took to lower my cholesterol. He said it could take months to heal completely, and there could be permanent damage. I’m so thankful I had read the medication insert and was informed of all the possible side effects and stopped the medication just a few weeks into treatment. So far, it seems my muscles have recovered. I am all too familiar with the fatigue and soreness I am experiencing both during and after rides. This is what training feels like when one is not in shape and is pushing to improve. This hurt is good.
Headed out for a lunch ride.
After riding my old bike for a couple of weeks without any pain, I hopped on my new bike – the bike I bought back in January just as the pain from my muscle damage was peaking. This new bike is a sweet ride. A red and white Trek Pilot, she’s carbon fiber and three pounds lighter than my aluminum Cannondale. After one ride, I was hooked.
I do have to say I was at first reluctant about the color combination, though I was happy the white wasn’t around the drive train – white is sleek and pretty when clean, but doesn’t stay that way for long. But then there’s the red. You see, red has never been my color. When I was a kid, I was all about green or blue – never red. Like most kids growing up in the 1960s, I almost always had a bike, but never a new bike. We’d get our bikes at garage sales or the swap meet and they all seemed to be blue, usually messily painted a flat royal blue that only comes from a can of spray paint. One day my dad brought me home a white bike with pink trim. The tomboy in me was mortified. As soon as we could, we took that bike apart and painted it metallic gold. Instantly, I was one of the boys, out hopping curbs and exploring the open fields in my neighborhood that were quickly being gobbled up by apartment complex sprawl (eventually, I’d live in three out of four of those complexes built in the early 1970s). Painting that bike made it mine, and new or used, it was the coolest thing I had ever had.
My first love looked pretty much like this Le Mans.
Looking back now, I think I can actually credit that little bike with the love I have today for tinkering with my bike, cleaning it and doing some of my own maintenance. It wouldn’t be until I was fourteen and had earned enough money babysitting and mowing lawns that I would own my first new bike: a burgundy Centurion Le Mans for $149.99 plus tax, every penny I had. It came only in two colors, dark blue being the other and I was not buying a blue bike of any shade. That bike gave me freedom and continued my love affair with cycling adding the dimension of the open road. I could go so far and so fast on that bike – it was true love. Like most first loves, it would eventually be replaced, first by a moped and then a car, but I took it to college with me and reluctantly sold it only when I thought I had outgrown riding a bike. Silly me.
When I bought my Cannondale new in the summer of 1998, there was no choice in color. It was the end of the model year and I was buying the bottom of the line bike so it came only in white with black and yellow accents. I named that bike Stinger (see Mile(stones) for more on the name) and like that little gold bike from 30 years earlier, she was mine right from the start. I guess you could say she was my first grown-up love. Her colors became mine, and once adopted by Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong, white, black and yellow became trendy and I found a cool helmet to match. Together, Stinger and I have traveled enough miles to have made it across country and back – twice. That’s a lot of special memories. Letting go was hard.
I put off buying a new bike for a very long time, and had only started thinking seriously about it late last year. My plan was to do AIDS/LifeCycle on the Cannondale and retire her after one last, big event. She’s been a great bike, but like most anything else these days, bicycles have advanced by leaps and bounds due to the rapidly changing technology; she was obsolete before I even got her home in 1998. She had only eight gears in the back – the new models for 1999 were sporting nine, and just ten years later, eleven gears in the back would be introduced. My new ride is state of the art in every way and I feel it on every ride.
I didn’t really do much shopping for a bike, though I had a budget in mind and some specifics about frame material and component group. Then along came the Trek Pilot offered for a screaming deal that I couldn’t pass up. But red and white? Could I see myself on this bike? I pushed that aside and headed to the Trek store to check it out. Then, in the middle of my test ride, as I was looking down to check out the new gearing and different shifting, it dawned on me that red is the perfect color – it is the color that has come to symbolize the fight against HIV and AIDS, the color of the AIDS ribbon, the color of hope for finding a cure. At this point in time red is my color – red is the color of hope. And with that came her name: Hope.
An Indian couple walk past a 50 foot (15.24 meter) long AIDS red ribbon sand sculpture, created by Sudarshan Pattnaik on World AIDS Day in Puri, India, Monday, Dec.1, 2008. (AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout)
This journey with AIDS/LifeCycle hasn’t turned out the way I imagined it. I imagined months of training building relationships with my San Diego teammates as we became stronger riders. I imagined riding every mile from San Francisco to Los Angeles as my way of honoring all those touched by HIV and AIDS and as a thank you to those who supported us in every way imaginable. Then I was sidelined, and week after week, as what I had imagined was clearly not what was to be, I’d get stuck in my head and all caught up in my ego. And then something would remind me that the ride is not about me. I’d see a story on facebook or meet someone living with HIV for many years and I’d be brought back to why we are riding, why we are fundraising.
My sweet new “little red sports car” isn’t about me or my unique take on a mid-life crisis; it’s about the AIDS crisis. It’s about reminding people that HIV and AIDS continue to affect millions, and in affecting just one of us, it affects us all. As diverse as this big wide world of ours is, we all have one thing in common: we’re human. No matter who we are or where we come from, we all bleed red. The blood running through us is what ties us together as human beings. Through triumph and tragedy, joy and sorrow, we share this human experience. And therein lies the hope that we will come together to find a cure for HIV and bring an end to this crisis that I have known for all of my adult life, a crisis that has taken the lives of more than 25 million men, women and children from all over the world. A crisis that must come to an end.