Thanksgiving to World AIDS Day

Thank you. Thank you for acknowledging the power of a virus to ravage lives. Thank you for extending compassion to every human being, protec...

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Regardless of political affiliation, you had to be moved by the historic significance of this week's Democratic National Convention. In this, my daughter's first chance to vote for President, she saw the nation's first female Speaker of the House call roll, suspended by the first woman to not only win a major party's presidential primary but narrowly miss the nomination, 88 years since passage of the 19th Amendment.

As the spotlight fell on the nominee we were reminded that only 40 years earlier a black man couldn't drink from the same water fountain as a white man, yet here was a black man accepting the nomination for President of the United States.

One speaker who put it in perspective so well was Sen. Ted Kennedy. His presence alone spoke to the significance of the days ahead for all who struggled and persevered for decades and could now bear witness. Straddling time between two AIDS rides, I remember the Senator's words at another convention, decades ago.

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

- Senator Edward Kennedy's 1980 concession speech

I long for the day our perseverance to end AIDS pays off and for every researcher who goes back to the drawing board one more time, every mile I ride and every dollar you give, I'm reminded of how we bring hope to the journey.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What A Team!

Perhaps you navigated to our ARI Breakthrough Riders team page in the past and noticed the picture didn't quite match the names listed to the right. There's a good reason for that.

Being the most geographically diverse team on the Empire State AIDS Ride, our members typically don't have an opportunity to meet in one place until we gather at Niagara Falls. Even then, the hustle and bustle of ride out and various crew responsibilities make it somewhat challenging to herd the cats so to speak causing it to take a little while for us to put faces to the names.

To keep the archives in order, our first ESAR team (the Puget Sound Riders) chose "Washington Wednesday" as our team picture day and we've kept that tradition now for 3 ESARs running. Unfortunately, my camera didn't show up to the event so I had to rely on others for a web-worthy shot. That photo is now finally posted to our ARI Breakthrough Rider team page.

I'm incredibly proud of the team we put together this year. We had 5 new riders to ESAR, 2 more that endured a very scary bike/car accident this spring but stuck it out to join us on the crew which included a large cast of returnees including all 5 second generation ESAR teammates (Mike, Liz, Kyle, Caitlin & Carson)! Our riders were in the front, middle and back of the pack but always made sure no rider was left alone or behind. Our crew is the envy of ESAR and begged to come back year after year. The returnees OWN their jobs and take pride in giving their best effort.

Of the fully participating beneficiary teams, ours was the smallest at 18 members. While only the 7 riders are required to fundraise ($3500 minimum), our entire team considers ending AIDS as its most vital ESAR job and the numbers prove it. The ARI Breakthrough Riders brought in more money per member OR rider than any other team. None were afraid to ask and YOU generously responded. Thanks to that commitment, persistence and generosity, we will deliver approximately $75,000 to the Breakthrough Fund, generating seed grants for the innovative work of researchers of the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF. What a team!

Monday, August 18, 2008

ESAR Epilogue

The next day, Cait & I took Kyle on a 5hr whirlwind tour of NYC before heading to the airport for our red-eye flight home to Seattle. Tired as I was, I couldn't sleep so closed my eyes and allowed my mind to flash through prominent images of the week that will linger in my memory, providing motivation, inspiration, consolation and joy for years to come...

- sharing Day 5 memories with Dan
- embracing momentum and learning the true definition of "rolling hills"
- Tuesday night's Reflection ceremony - something so simple that had been so missing
- birthday cake with Shane
- Diane's endless energy and magic in the kitchen
- hard rain, soft rain, every day a little rain
- Linda's special birthday treats - lattes, hot shower,massage
- two nights in BEDS with indoor toilets
- I will not mix drugs, I will not mix drugs, I will not mix drugs...
- your notes of encouragement carried and read throughout the week
- I still don't remember those 3 hills
- the middle of the night thunder BOMB!
- friends at the finish line
- impromptu disco party at Calhoun Center
- ride chats with Michael and Barry
- Woodstock!
- surely you know Barry Manilow

Though the dog did bite and the bee sting, these are but a few of my favorite memories of the 6th Empire State AIDS Ride. Thanks to YOU, the ARI Breakthrough Riders raised nearly $73,000 to fund cutting edge science at the AIDS Research Institute. A day without HIV/AIDS will be my favorite memory of all.

Special thanks to my husband, Steve, for making sure all my mobile postings were published for your daily reading pleasure.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day 7 - One Last Hill

72.39mi. 6.5hrs. approx. 4200 vertical ft.

We had to walk down a large portion of the long hill into camp this morning and the ridden part was a little scary for how steep it was. Many heads shook in disbelief at how we'd possibly climbed it the night before. But wait! There was more cllimbing ahead! Storm King Mt, the edge of Bear Mt where we camped last year, Tor Hill - the views were phenomenal but my legs were long done. Seemed we were told each hill was the last but they just kept coming. Or perhaps at this stage of the game, any gradual incline felt like a mountain!

20mi were added to this last ride day so we had to hustle to arrive on time. We took the traditional ESAR pic on the steps of St.John the Devine then immediately left single file for the tip of Manhattan, down the west side bike trail.

What a sight to see so many supporters at the finish line (pictured)! I was especially thrilled to see donors & past teammates - Annie, Cindy, Lucy, Liz & Allen. Thank you for making the time to come cheer us to the finish line! Correction: Liz was out of town. It was really her look-a-like, Alison. My bad for continuing to think they are one in the same person! Liz & Alison will both join me on the NYC-DC ride so maybe I'll finally learn to tell them apart. Sorry, Alison!

Closing ceremonies were brief and moving, followed by triumphant pix in front of the Statue of Liberty, tearful farewells and one last unloading of baggage onto the curb by Cait, Kyle and the camp crew.

The 70 members of the 6th annual Empire State AIDS Ride put a lot of heart into climbing every hill and hurdle this week & raised nearly $300,000 to chip a little further away at that mountain of an AIDS pandemic. Thank you for being such an important part of that journey.
ESAR Day 7: Black Rock Forest - Robert Wagner Park, NYC
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day 6 -Extremely ESAR

79mi. 6.5hrs. 37mph max. 3.1mph min.

The first 3/4 of today were stunning in every way. We rode through some spectacular countryside, past a huge horse farm, down quiet rural lanes and even directly thru the grounds of a correctional facility.

In the mix was a trip 6miles up and thru the "Gunks", pictured here behind me on the way down at 973' and the view from the bottom.

Should have known it'd get ugly when we were held back at the afternoon stop while checking the direction of a passing thunderstorm. 20min later we were riding in the rain. It rained hard and was a sloppy mess thru the afternoon hills and when the lightning kicked up again 7mi from camp, we were pulled off the road to wait a while longer on the steps of an old church - with a quite clean port-a-potty no less!

Back on the road in the rain again and trying to gear up for the last 1.75mi hill into camp but without much energy left to do it. This hill was like none I've ever climbed. Teammate Scotty noted a 23% grade at one point and it was never less than 17-19%. Jon noted that our switchback approach easily turned it into a 3mi hill and when you throw in the pouring rain and slick streets, well it's no wonder that the last 15 riders came into camp with eyes wide, mouths gaping, stripped off the wet gear and headed straight for a hot shower, grateful again for a night indoors on a soft mattress.

This was indeed the most extreme day on the ESAR and pulls a very close 2nd to my Alaska Ride Day 2 experience. But at the very toughest moments I have only to think of how much worse it could be for someone with an AIDS diagnosis and the pedals keep turning.
ESAR Day 6: Sullivan Community College - Black Rock Forest
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Day 5 - Somewhere Over the Catskills (with apologies to Elizabeth)

75.4mi. 6.25hrs. 41.8mph max. 4600'vertical climbing

At 12:19AM, I was abruptly woken by such a loud explosion that I simultaneously thought a) we were under attack, b) an airplane crashed or c) a gas line exploded. Seconds later, a heavy downpour was followed by lightning and more thunder so with some relief (after returning heart to chest) I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Today's morning route followed spurs of the Delaware River in my favorite stretch of the ride which included an impromtu disco dance party across from the general store in tiny Calhoun Center shortly before lunch. Soon after, we changed course from years past and headed into territory unknown to any ESAR veteran and the real climbing began.

While yesterday held 4 long grueling hills with greater total elevation gain, today's climbs were far more numerous and many were quite steep, with grades of 14-19%. Let's just say there were about 3 instances where I was staring at what appeared to be an asphalt wall stretching another 20-50' ahead and had already used all 27 gears! We helped each other to the top by strategic gearing to maximize momentum, mind games (don't look up!), the old standby of weaving across the road, and our stellar crew urging us on with a disco beat! Those slow climbs and relaxing descents gave us plenty of time to take in the spectacular rural view, including a stop at the Woodstock farm where you'll see me doing my best imitation of Ross, Shane and Chad in their Barbie hair of the 60's.

At the end of the day everyone, even the strongest riders, agreed we had never worked harder for our dinner and a solid night's rest at the Sullivan Co. Community College. In another first, we had the option to pay $15 for a dorm bed with a bathroom down the hall. Could well be the best $15 I ever spent!
ESAR Day 5: Bear Spring Mountain- Sullivan Co. Community College, Loch Sheldrake
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Day 4 - Beasts of Burden

57mi. 5.4hrs. 42mph max. 1vertical mile of climbing

Some do it but you won't find me hauling panniers of equipment on my bike for hundreds of miles and I don't have to either, thanks to our volunteer crew.

On this ride we have the equivalent of 1 volunteer for each rider assigned to a variety of critical teams keeping riders healthy, safe and on the road. Teammates Lisa & Carson begin each day at 4:30am posting signs to mark the way along the route. Another pair of ARI Breakthrough Riders, Liz & Beau, drive the food truck, supplying breakfast and dinner in camp, lunch on the road and the rest stop teams - morning and afternoon. Riders are checked in and out of each daily stop to account for each one. Between stops there are 4 teams of drivers - 2 per car, including Mary & Linda A - who travel back & forth along their assigned section of riders, carrying extra supplies and stopping at critical points to help with traffic, provide encouragement and cheer panting riders at the top of a long, hard climb.

We have a medical crew of 4 who tirelessly wrap, massage and treat ever ache and pain all day long and well into the evening, along with 2 technicians performing similar treatment for our bikes - in camp and mobile.

Unseen during the day but whose work is most appreciated is our camp crew, including Kyle, Caitlin, Michael and Randy from our team. We break down our tents each morning and cart our gear to their truck. The camp crew then takes down all the common area canopies, clears the camp and drives all that gear to the next overnight spot. Then they set it all up again, pitch every one of our 50 tents, putting the luggage inside.

These people voluntarily spend each day serving riders' every need with a gracious heart and never a complaint. People think it's amazing that we riders can cycle so long and hard each day but I never met a rider who didn't think the job of any crewmember was equally difficult if not more so.

Three cheers for the real workhorses of the ESAR!
ESAR Day 4: Chenango to Bear Spring Mountain Campground, Downsville
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day 3 - Red Day

80.7mi. 6.11hrs. 38.1mph max

Every AIDS ride has a Red Day. Today was ours. The concept is simple - wear something red. The idea came about on an early AIDS ride - that a long line of red-jerseyed cyclists would appear from a bird's eye view as an AIDS ribbon winding across the landscape. It's a day for remembering those for whom we ride- those already gone and those who are now hopeful. In that respect it's a celebration and the evolution from "dress red" to "red dress" day has made it festive indeed. Pictured is Ride Director Marty in red prom formal greeting her hubby, Barry, who kept me company on the road today.

Another Day 3 highlight is the ice cream stop midway thru the afternoon. Made mine cherry in honor of the day.
ESAR Day 3: Sampson State Park, Romulus - Chenango Valley State Park

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Mobile blog will take a no-service break for the next few days while climbing the Catskills. I'll keep writing and post when I can.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Day 2- I've Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

73.15mi 5.40hrs. 37.7max

Fell asleep and woke to the loudest thunderstorms I've ever heard but the tent stayed dry and skies were clear by morning. The forecast called for intermittent showers so after yesterday's deluge, Marty suggested a trick learned on Alaska's infamous Day 2 (see earlier post). She spent the morning wrapping feet in Vaseline and Saran Wrap. I used my own secret weapon from that same day - Ziploc bags! It worked. My feet stayed warm and dry.

The forecast was accurate and I'm sticking by my story that the reason I took an extra hour this year was from multiple clothing changes all day long. The sun was shining at every rest stop, including the afternoon gazebo rest stop on Lake Geneva, and at camp on the shores of Lake Seneca.

One of the highlights of Day 2 dining is the mobile homemade ice cream that magically appears after a terrific meal. Peach Cobbler, mmmmmmm!
ESAR Day 2: Rochester - Sampson State Park, Romulus
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day 1 - Last One in Doesn't Wait in the Shower Line

107.8 miles. 7.19 hrs

Not dead last but pretty close!

The morning dawned Seattle-cool with threatening skies. The rain held back for opening ceremonies at the Falls where this pic was taken because, as you can see behind me, wind blowing mist our way next to the falls was just as wet and cold but cleared long enough for a quick team pic and we were off! The cool weather was perfect for a long ride until the skies opened and dumped heavy rain sporatically throughout the day. Fortunately I'd carried all the right gear, as did most others, including some that were quite creative, like teammate Jon & Linda in their Maid of the Mist ponchos, knotted at crossbar height or Saran Wrap around feet to keep them warm in wet shoes.

Oh yeah, coming in almost an exact repeat of last year, what began as a flat tire only 1/2mi from the morning rest stop, turned into a long wheel/tire/tube fix that left me as the last rider back on the road, playing catch up into lunch. There, at least I found some company to schlep thru the wet and dry afternoon, finally complete my first century of the season, ending with a lovely dry, scenic pedal along the shores of Lake Ontario into camp.

Caitlin was there to check me in and Kyle brought me snacks and told me about his day - the camp crew chief says they set a record time setting up camp today! Then I was off to my cold shower; but this year there wasn't a line.

Today's ride is dedicated to Annie and Mom who also spent the day working hard, surrounded by water.

ESAR Day 1: Niagara Falls - Rochester
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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Day 0

Traditionally, Day 0 is the day riders and crew must check-in, attend a mandatory safety talk and take care of last minute pledges, crew assignments, bike checks, etc. It's an equally busy and relaxing day.

Our 3rd year here, we've developed our own little traditions beginning with an early morning ride on the Maid of the Mist - a soaker of a boat ride right up to the water's edge - a bridge walk to Canada and (this is pretty important) bike assembly!

I'm getting pretty good at putting my bike back together and, taking my time, was done in only 30 minutes! Tho' I still let Dave (the Bike God) check my work before the night was over.

Going to sleep the night before a ride is still a little like Christmas Eve as a kid for me. It'll be tough to get to sleep for all the excitement but Kyle & Cait are expected at their assigned posts at 5:45am so to sleep we go. Tomorrow will be our longest day.

ESAR Day 0: Niagara Falls


08/08/08 - It feels I've spent more time in airports than at home this last month and today was no exception. The difference is that most flying was again on Alaska Air (I LOVE that airline), both planes were ON TIME, the layover long but company good, no heavy laptop schlepping and all the luggage arrived with us. We even got to the hotel about 20 earlier than my expected midnight arrival. A good sign!

This pic was taken from SeaTac - a distinctly Washington view of Horizon Air's WSU jet departing behind the UW Husky version.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Packing it In

It looks pretty neat and tidy right now but it all needs to fit into that one duffel bag on my right - clothes, sleeping bag, pad, lotions, gels, tarp - and stay under that 50lb weight limit! Those Ziplock bags have been a ride-packing staple long before the TSA required them. Pack 1 with each day's ride gear makes early morning sleeping bag dressing a snap! As a bonus, you have a safe, isolated place for the hazardous waste they'll become after a long, sweaty day of riding.

Tomorrow's goal - zip the bag shut!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Testing 1-2-3

New college graduate, my son Kyle, arrived home Friday in preparation for his first ride camp crew experience.

***This is mobile blog test***

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Watery Alaska

Eight years ago this month, the worst weather on the inaugural Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride was a nasty little sleet/snow storm on Day 2. This year we might not have gotten out of Fairbanks for the water from flooding rivers throughout the state as it seems to have rained the entire month of July.

So you gotta know that mother-love is the best when yours calls to wish you a happy birthday and apologizes for being distracted by a little flood.

You see, Mom was evacuated from her rural Fairbanks home late Thursday night by canoe, along with her dog and 1 bag of belongings to a safe haven on dry land. Having learned to deal with much worse in her 20+ years in the state, she was savvy enough to flood the giant, empty oil tank that could have lifted her house off its foundation had it "floated" and park her cars on higher ground. She's taking it in stride, actually hoping the river rose just 1 more inch so she could get some new flooring out of the deal. In a couple hours, she'll canoe back in to see how it's going.
Pic 1
Pic 2
Suddenly, the strength & endurance it takes this 50 yr old to ride 560 miles doesn't seem like such a big feat at all. Go Mom!

Pics appeared on the front page of the Friday & Saturday Fairbanks News Miner, including Mom's garage and the home of the friend (Barbara) who canoed Mom out and is taking her back in this afternoon.