Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why do I ride?

I have been asked on several occasions why I ride.  I believe we all ride for different reasons, but for me, I ride to remember, in hope and lastly because I am able to ride.
I ride to remember the people in my life who currently have or have passed away from HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and other cancers.  I ride in the hope that someday there is a cure for all these life challenging illnesses. I ride because I am lucky enough to be able to be on a bicycle and ride for those who can't with some of the best people in the world.
I have been participating in Ride for the Feast since its inception as a rider, team captain, and a past ride chair; not just because it's an organization that is doing some good in the community and not just because I know that all the money I help raise goes directly to those who need it, but also because the riders are a community unto themselves.  In the 7 years that I have participated in this ride I have met so many great friends (and I expect year 8 to be no different).  Having participated in many charity rides in my lifetime, those that know me know I talk about this ride the most.  One such event would have been a Sunday a few years back when I was riding on the B&A trail with Deb, another team mate, when we ended up talking with 2 people riding the trail about the ride.  Deb casually mentioned they should be careful before they got caught up in the VORTEX known as Bob that sucks people into doing this ride.  Well ok so I guess I am a vortex for The Ride, but one of those people riding was Pez who joined our team.
There are also times that life puts so many things on your plate that you just don't know if you can do just one more thing.  A great friend once wrote me and another team mate when there was so much going on, not to push us to do the ride, but to remind of us of how we inspired her when she decided to become a rider and we said we couldn't wait to ride with her.  I think what she wrote says a lot about the people who participate on this ride.
     "By being so encouraging and positive, you really embodied the spirit of Moveable Feast's mission, which is meeting people at their point of struggle and helping them get past it to where they want to be. You can't get well because your nutritional needs aren't being met? No problem; we'll bring you meals and get you well. You can't find a job because you're an ex-con in transition? No problem; we'll get you into our culinary program and help you find a job. You want to ride farther than you've ever ridden before? No problem; we'll help you train because we can't wait to ride with you."
That very simple and sincere response immediately made me feel like I was part of a community. 
Why do I ride?  Because this is the ride that has the most conscientious riders and crew I have ever met.  When you are struggling to get to the next pit stop because you ran out of water, a snack, or just hit a wall and need a push, you can count on someone coming upon you and getting you to the next point.  This is the ride you go on and catch up with old friends while you are riding and don't even realize how quickly you made it to the next pit stop.  This is the ride where you are riding with someone who you haven't seen since the previous year's ride, but you know they have your back if you need anything.  As some past riders and crew will remember, this ride has been done in the pouring rain, temperatures over 100, and in high winds, yet we all pulled together and made it through the ride.  That is the kind of people you know are there for you no matter what.
As captain of The Chain Gang I have the privilege of riding with some great people on my team (yes we are accepting new teammates), the motos to protect us on the ride and on other teams, riders and crew to make this a great ride for a great organization. 
I hope to ride with you either on a training ride or during the Ride for the Feast.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why Will You Ride?

I don’t remember her name, but I’ll never forget her story.

It was about five years ago. I wasn’t yet a Ride for the Feast rider, but I knew about the ride. I’d volunteered for it, but I wasn’t as involved with it as I am now. I was working a fulltime research job that required that I periodically visit various AIDS service providers to interview their clients about the types of health and social services they needed. It was on one of these visits, on a snowy late January morning, that I met her.

She came into the interview room looking fragile—emotionally, not physically. She was timid. I couldn’t tell how old she was; she could have been 25, she could have been 45. Her hands trembled slightly as she took a seat across from me, and she made only the most tentative eye contact. She seemed…almost apologetic. I couldn’t imagine for what since we’d only just met, but then I got it. She was apologizing for being there, in my day; for her existence. I was witnessing shame like I’d never seen before, coupled with a desire to be relieved of it that was so strong I can still feel in the pit of my stomach. As our interview began, she provided long explanations for what were essentially “yes” or “no” questions. She needed to tell her story, needed to know that someone would listen.

She told me about the abusive relationship she escaped, the way she believes she became infected, the shame over her diagnosis that kept her from seeking medical care for more than two years, and the frustrating insurance problems that were threatening her continued care. That’s what brought her to the agency where our interview was taking place—she was meeting with a social worker to try to get some emergency funds to pay for her medications.

I asked her about her home situation, whether she had anyone to help with her care. She told me she lived with her daughter, and that she was great about reminding her to take her meds and making sure she got her meals on time. That’s when Moveable Feast came up.

      “We get our meals from that Moveable Feast and they are the one thing that always goes right. They always come every day and the meals are good and they are so easy for my daughter to just heat up in the microwave. That’s what I worry about the most—my daughter, how it will be for her.”

I don’t know why I asked my next question. It wasn’t on my list of survey questions, I didn’t need to know it, and I’m not even sure where my suspicion came from. But I asked anyway.

      “How old is your daughter?”

Her face changed in a way that any mother would recognize. The tension disappeared and was replaced by a beaming pride. She smiled a big, wistful smile.

      “Oh she’s so grown! I can’t believe how big she is already. She just turned six.”

I wanted to hug her. I wanted to run from the room. I wanted to find the daughter and hug her. I wanted to go home and crawl into bed and under my covers and never come out. Six years old? Damn.

      “Six years oldso grown! She takes good care of me. She makes sure I get my breakfast, and then she’ll tell me, ‘Mama, you should try to get up and move a little. You’ll feel good if you do. Come on, come to the door and watch me walk to the bus stop. I’ma go to school and learn a lot for both of us today. Watch me go!’ She’s such a sweet girl…”

Her words trailed off as the pride on her face dissolved into a storm of worry and guilt and hope. But noticeably absent from that look was resignation. She had burrowed up out of shame so deep it let her disease go untreated for two years, she had sought out a social worker to help her negotiate with her insurance company, and she was doing everything she could to make sure she’d keep getting meds. Resignation was not part of her makeup; this woman was a fighter.

As we finished our interview, I silently hoped that her daughter was a fighter, too. I couldn’t even begin to understand the challenges they faced—a single mom and her first grader battling critical illness, poverty, social stigma, uncooperative corporations, and complicated web of social service institutions. 

Gradually, a 140-mile bike ride began to seem like no challenge at all. And that’s when I knew I had to ride.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gearing up for RFTF 2010!

Well, the holidays are behind us, a new year is upon us, and the temperature has finally climbed up out of the 30s. There's no denying it:  the off-season is officially over and it's time to gear up (pun totally intended) for Ride for the Feast 2010!  Actually, there's been so much good ride-related activity already this year that it's more like catching up than gearing up. Here's what's on the up and up:

Indoor Training Rides
What I said above about temperatures in the 40s? Forget it. Just since I started writing this entry, freezing rain started beating against my skylight. Don't let unpredictable weather hold back your training--take a spin class! Two local health clubs are offering special discounted spin classes for Ride for the Feast riders. Get the details.

Jersey Raffle
For just 3 bucks you can have a chance to win a sweet wool jersey from Dirt Rag Magazine.
The jersey is made by Woolistic out of 100% Merino wool. (Yummy!) Soft but durable, this jersey doesn't itch, it wicks moisture, and it stays warm even when wet for riding in damp chilly weather like we're having right now. The jersey is black with a grey Dirt Rag logo and valued at $125.
Not bad for a $3 raffle ticket!

Especially when each ticket you buy loads a client meal onto our new Ute, a cargo bike donated to Moveable Feast by Proteus Bikes. We'll be showcasing the Ute at various events and fundraisers, starting with the CX My Heart and Superbowl of Single Speed Cyclocross Race on February 7th. Thanks to Proteus for donating the bike, Dirt Rag for donating the jersey, and Kona Bikes, makers of the Ute, for giving us a shout-out on their website.

Old friends are back, new friends have found us...I'd say 2010 is off to a pretty good start! Want to keep that momentum going? Sign up to ride, register as a crew member, or make a donation

That's it for now, friends. But there's so much more to come in the next few months, so check in often.