So earlier this year I did my first long distance ride from Miami to Key Largo, FL. It was for Multiple Sclerosis. You can read about it in a previous blog post called "On Your Left" http://miamiafter40.blogspot.com/search?q=on+your+left done back in April. Since April I believe I have evolved as a cyclist. I retired my very sweet, made in America Cannondale hybrid....they were still made here when I bought it. Now they're made in China. I replaced it with a beautiful Italian Bianchi (well, designed in Italy, but made in China). I've become part of the "Lycra" crowd, and I'd like to think on good days, it's a look I can pull off. I'm not getting those "look away" stares that women in cameltoe get.
In keeping with this year's "bike for terminal illness" theme I decided to ride my first AIDS ride. I mean if you can't ride for a plague, why ride at all? Each one of these Tour du Diseases require two aspects: First, you must raise funds to ride. Second you must train.
Being a professional fundraiser the money part was easier. For the AIDS ride I simply pimped out my mad Haiku skills and promised anyone who donated any amount would get a Haiku. In no time I scribed 20 Haikus and then I knew the ride was on. For more about my Haikus see http://miamiafter40.blogspot.com/2011/12/haikupalooza-project.html. Almost everyone was happy with their Haikus, except Alex, which hurt because I put a lot of thought into the 17 syllables that I feel define him. When I gave Haikus freely, I was never criticized, now that I'm asking them to pay for them, everyone's a critic. However, the Haikus are not refundable.
Training, ugh. I was determined that I would be prepared for this ride. I would finish and I would not suffer inordinately. I would ride at a relaxed pace and I would not be at the end of the ride, the least bit in doubt of whether I could finish. I am proud to say that four months of training paid off. Despite one road rage incident (on my part) it want off flawlessly. No flats and no fats when I finished the ride on Saturday.
Finally: the ride. I can't say too much about the ride. I have ridden and driven these roads many times before. I was by myself for almost all of the ride so indulged in Conch Republic nostalgia. Each leg had a meaning, Card Sound Road brought memories of countless Carl Hiassen books. Key Largo reminded me of when I lived there doing HIV tests for people under a big mango tree in a park. Islamorada brought back memories of sneaking out of class at FIU and going to Tiki Bar for rum-runners. Leyton: speed trap. Big Pine Key means Key Deer and speeding tickets. I had seriously over-trained for this ride and spent most of the two days by myself riding furiously with a strong tailwind. Both days I arrived before the bulk of the group did.
Lessons learned: well, it was hard to get all maudlin about the whole AIDS/HIV thing. I mean as a gay man it's been around since before I was sexually active. I've lost friends and family and mourned them and I wasn't really feeling inclined to mourn them again. I felt that I did a very small part, again, to address an issue that we all thought would be gone by now. I had fun, I proved I could do something extraordinary, I can't wait to do it again.