Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ride on

For months, the headline on my AIDS/LifeCycle page has said "Won't Let Cancer Keep Me Out of the Saddle" of this year's ride.

Well, gang, it did.

But I'm not beating up on myself about it.

This weekend, I realized that whether I ride in AIDS/LifeCycle or participate in the event as a volunteer roadie is not the point, and never was. I'm still a citizen of the broader AIDS/LifeCycle community and that counts for a lot.

I spent Saturday afternoon at the Veterans Administration grounds in West L.A., watching riders complete the last mile of their seven-day ride from San Francisco to L.A., and then viewing the closing ceremonies for the event, which drew thousands of spectators.

As one of those spectators, I got a perspective on the event that I don't get to see as a rider, and that is how beautiful each and every cyclist looks as he or she spins toward the finish line.

All last week I had been following the progress of the ride on the AIDS/LifeCycle website, where thousands of photos and several blogs were documenting the ride as it wound its way south toward L.A. Experiencing ALC online was almost like actually being there, but seeing the riders and the roadies in person was thrilling.

A few of my friends in Positive Pedalers invited me to join them in the closing ceremonies as a flag bearer, but I wrote them a note explaining I wanted to watch. They smuggled me into the staging area where I was allowed to watch a rehearsal of the ceremony and then stand with VIPs beneath a canopy to the left of the stage.

I dumped my backpack and jacket on a seat in the second row of the VIP section and then flitted about with my camera and pom-pon, snapping photos of riders and roadies, many of whom I hadn't seen since last June. When the actual ceremony got under way I cleared the seat and offered it to a VIP, explaining that I was going to stand, but as it turned out all of the VIP seats went unused. Everyone was standing, because the real VIPs at the V.A. on Saturday were the ones with the bicycles and helmets and roadie hats.

When Lorri Jean, the CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center gave a shout-out to the Positive Pedalers, I waved my orange Pos Ped flag. It was the first time in six months that my Pos Ped flag had felt sunlight, and man, did that feel good.

There was at least two fewer riders arriving in Los Angeles than who began the ride seven days earlier in San Francisco. On Mile 13 on the first day of the ride, a cyclist who is the brother of a friend of mine in Pos Peds suffered a serious accident, and remains unconscious in the hospital in San Francisco, surrounded by family members. His progress is being reported on his ALC home page blog by his brother, who left the ride to be with him.

And there are hundreds of cyclists in AIDS/LifeCycle or its predecessor, California AIDS Ride, who were absent from ALC 8 because they have died from HIV/AIDS. A riderless bicycle represented them in the closing ceremonies, just as it did in the opening ceremonies in San Francisco. In the photo at left, I'm standing with Mr. Goodman, who escorted the riderless bike to the stage on Saturday, joined by his wife.

Meeting the Goodmans was an incredible moment for me. Their late son, Jeffrey, is the namesake of the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. Becoming a patient of the Goodman Clinic in 2005 after losing my health insurance was the catalyst for my involvement in AIDS/LifeCycle in the first place.

So cancer kept me out of the saddle in AIDS/LifeCycle 8, but it didn't keep me out of the ALC community.

Not even 10 cancers can keep me out of ALC.


Photos of Positive Pedalers at ALC 8 Closing Ceremonies

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