cycling is a journey…

I was asked to write a small sentence or two talk about my thoughts on cycling….especially for the AV200.  I suppose many of us ride for different reasons: philanthropic, challenge, fundraising, togetherness, purpose.  The list could go on…… It occurred to me that riding is more than a just getting dressed in cycling gear and hammering out seemingly thousands of miles to get ready for two days of riding for a cause.  The cause is admittedly a good one, HIV/AIDS vaccine research. However, the real reason most of us ride is to put an end to AIDS!

To me, riding is a journey. I have to wonder about that journey though. Is the journey leading me away from something? Or, is the journey leading me towards something?  Whatever the end result, I find that when I am on the bike, I am participating in escape.  I have found that cycling allows me to leave the cares of my daily life behind… I can get away from the stressors of living and enjoy the open air. I can see parts of the city in ways that I could never see or experience by riding in a car. I can take part in fellowship with other riders who share some common interests. I can process my crazy rambling thoughts and make some sense of all that I am so unwilling to let go of in my head. I can forget, if only for a moment, the very real challenges associated with living that we all experience. So, in essence, my riding is a way to escape…to be free…if only for a few miles.

I suppose that cycling is a journey towards something. I am sure my legs are a bit stronger, my endurance has increased…maybe I am getting healthier?  Maybe I am advancing the cause of the cyclist? Becoming more visible to the Atlanta driver who seemingly loathes the cyclist? Maybe I am doing a part for the environment to cut down on smog…I am unsure of where I am heading, but I must have a goal that I am working towards!

As the journey relates to the AV200, I suppose I am cycling to honor the journey that the men and women who are living with HIV/AIDS are on. I imagine the weight of finding out that I have contracted HIV/AIDS. I can only imagine living with a disease that, for some, changes the appearance of a person, makes a person more susceptible to other illnesses, and challenges a person to think about their longevity. I imagine that some men and women living with HIV/AIDS have to deal with the shame that our society imposes upon them and difficulties of telling potential love interests about their status. I think of all of these things and so much more…no person should have to endure the hardships of living with HIV/AIDS. When I am on my bike, I am attempting to escape, just as a person who has HIV/AIDS may want to escape their disease…even if just for a little while.

My AV200 journey is ultimately for a single purpose. I ride towards putting an end to HIV/AIDS! We all have our own personal reasons for becoming involved in AV200, whether it is because we have lived vicariously through friends and loved ones who have suffered with HIV/AIDS. Or, because we believe that nobody should have to suffer getting HIV/AIDS. Whatever the reason, we are all on this shared journey. A journey towards ending the impact of this disease on all those who have it and the many people whose lives are impacted by knowing and caring about someone who is living with HIV/AIDS. I believe that my journey is a journey shared by all us who are cycling for a purpose, cycling for a cause, cycling to find a cure.

Hope for all,

Paul
cyclist, activist, and the best friend to someone living with AIDS for 25 years

one month and counting…

For the next couple of weeks leading up to the 2012 ride, we asked members of the AV200 community to share their stories on (or off) the road with us. Not only are their stories inspirational, but we wanted each of you to feel a connection to the individuals who work tirelessly to make this ride a reality regardless of where you are in the world! We hope that you find their words to be inspiring (or at the very least, entertaining) and visit us regularly as we approach the BIG TEN ride! Plus… you never know — we might throw in a incentive contest here or there, or some good tips for the rookies 🙂  See you on the road soon!

Wendell York

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One can’t help but smile when you spot Wendell York out and about on a ride. An avid cyclist, spin instructor, healthcare administrator, and overall positive spirit and good guy, this is Wendell’s third year being involved with AV200. Read on to learn more about Wendell’s story, why he rides for AV200, and how he came to join the AV200 family.

Why are you participating in AV200?  You ask me why I ride my bike 200 miles? In memory of Kenneth Becker, this is why I do it………….. My high school friend Lisa Becker wrote the following on my Facebook wall:

My brother had a transfusion in ’81. His finger was cut off in an accident and he lost four pints of blood. My brother died of AIDS in 1995 two years after my parents were killed. He had lived with it for seven years. My parents knew that he had it, but they had know idea what my brother would go through at the end. He was doing fine, or should I say he was coping, but while he was at Piedmont Hospital for pneumonia, his lungs filled with fluid, and he couldn’t fight it. He was so brave and such a fighter. I was with him when he drew his last breath. I told him it was alright to let go and join mom and dad. I told him how proud I was to be his sister and that he was such a brave man, but that it was ok to leave that we would be ok………..It was terrible to watch my brother shrink from 170 lbs to 70 lbs. He had lung cancer, diabetes, was blind in one eye, but he kept going……I miss him….Thank you Wendell for your fundraising for research….I hope it will bring a cure…..My brother’s square travels with the quilt. It was the very least we could do…….Hugs.

Thanks Lisa for sharing your story…………….

What makes it personal for you?  As a healthcare administrator, I’ve seen the fear of the unknown on those that know their end is drawing near. This look is all it takes to make it personal to anyone.

How did you learn about the AV200?  I was teaching a spin class, and was approached to join a team in 2010, and thought, “Why not? Since I can ride 100 miles. Let’s just ride 200, while raising funds for a worthy cause!”

Are you doing any unique fundraising activities for the event?  One of our team fundraisers is Beer Bash for a Cause. Once we started putting this event together, Urban Body Fitness stepped up to be a sponsor, simpledesignworks produced our flyer free of charge,  and DJ Corey D offered his services to spin for the event. We had a cruise for two donated by gobahama.com, and administrivia.com donated an Xbox 360. These items will be auctioned off to the highest bidder at our event on April 14th at Cowtippers.  All the proceeds will go directly to the Emory Vaccine Center.

What I’ve found is that having fundraisers is a great way to build team spirit, and raise funds at the same time, so it is a win for all.

Do you participate in other rides for HIV/AIDS research?  One of our team participants has done the Smart Ride, and has asked if I’d like to join him for the Smart Ride this November. So who knows? You might see me in my lycra riding from Miami to Key West!

As a returner, what aspects do you look forward to most about the ride?  The most memorable moment for me would have to be at the end of day two. As all the riders gather in Decatur, we divide up and create a hall/passage. One of the AV200 riders will then push a bike without a rider down this passage. This riderless bike represents the invisible rider, or the riders we have lost to AIDS. Someone with a microphone explains this symbolism to all the new riders, and there is usually not a dry eye in the crowd.