The most challenging thing about the Braking AIDS Ride isn't cycling almost 300 miles in 3 days. It is trying to explain to ourselves and our family and friends what has just happened. They've supported us, and really want to know how it was, but the event is so deep and vast that words fail to convey the meaning it creates in our lives. But part of being human is giving voice to our experience, so I want to muse on a few aspects of the ride, even if my words pale in comparison with the real thing.
The heart of the ride is love - love for those marginalized by social injustice, love for those lost to HIV/AIDS, love for those living with the disease, and love for those who are HIV-negative who we hope to help stay that way. I think that this love exists as a seed within each one of us, but when we come together as crew and riders, a reaction takes place. It reaches critical mass in the cauldron of the event and multiplies, creating a sacred community - the Braking AIDS family - that does our best to address head on the challenges presented by HIV/AIDS. In coming together, we find a deep love for one another. Returning crew and riders are knitted together by love forged on previous rides, and new riders and crew are swept in and embraced as brothers and sisters.
Within "The Bubble" (the three days of being together as riders), what we encounter is the world as it could be. The concerns that consume much of our day-to-day lives (politics, money, possessions) disappear and we become genuine and supportive of one another. If someone is off their bike on the side of the road, we stop and check on them. The amazing crew tends riders with genuine care and concern. We listen to each other, laugh together (more on that below), and cry together. We embody the world we would like to live in.
The encounter with the existential issues of life and death are made bearable through humor, and humor is as abundant as love on the ride. The ride has its own language, where certain small phrases (e.g. "Hey girl hey!") can conjure up people, laughter, and fond memories. We have our own rituals (red dress day, costumes at the oases) that pour light and levity into a serious situation. Laughter serves as both fuel and balm, helping us push forward, and soothing aching legs and hearts.
As I said above, any description of the ride falls short of the reality of the event, so I'll close with a couple of things that I know to be true. I love the crew and my fellow riders very, very much, and am so grateful for their presence in my life. The ride changes lives - it has certainly changed mine. Ride on!