Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Join the 2011 Ride Against AIDS!

By Austin Keeley, Ride Against AIDS 2009 Alum and Ride Against AIDS 2011 Director

In the summer of 2009 my friend Dave Evans and I embarked on the 2nd annual Ride Against AIDS. We weren’t really sure what we were getting ourselves into, but we were eager to find out. It’s been almost a year and a half since Dave and I first shoved off from Palo Alto, CA on our cross-country journey, but it feels like just yesterday, and I can scarcely believe FACE AIDS is preparing for the 4th annual Ride Against AIDS this summer! Rider recruitment has begun (applications are available here), and I’m frequently asked, “What is the Ride actually like?” I hope this blog post gives potential riders and supporters a glimpse into the adventures of life on the road.

When I begin to think about the Ride Against AIDS, it is always the roads that come back to me first. One moment I’ll be sitting in class listening to a professor lecture on one topic or another, the next I’m in Kentucky perched on a grassy hill looking over the border into Virginia. I won’t have thought of this particular road in six months, but instantly it’s as if I’m back there. I can sense the rising sun, I can smell the morning dew on the tall blades of grass, and I can anticipate all the adventures that a new state will bring. Not a day goes by without a recollection of this sort.

I think I remember the roads so well because of all the remarkable people to which they led me. I can’t help but associate Nevada with the ever-kind Sue Sevon in her hometown of Fallon. The mountains Colorado pale in comparison to the enormity of generosity that Jack and Donna Seilheimer showed us in Pueblo. Newly weds Sam and Sherry Flaming of Hutchinson, KS are epitome of mid-West hospitality. When Dave and I first rolled into these towns we were greeted by strangers. By the time we left we knew we had made deep and lasting connections with extraordinarily kind and generous people that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

As evidenced by Sue, Jack, Donna, Sam, and Sherry, public response to the Ride was extremely supportive all across the country. The magnitude of the undertaking- “Wait, you’re seriously biking 4,000 miles this summer?”- speaks to the magnitude of the problems we face. Time after time when I told people about the Ride the response was the same: “If you’re willing to spend an entire summer biking for this cause, it must mean a lot to you. Tell me more.” Spreading awareness about the global AIDS pandemic and entering into serious, interesting conversations with people from a variety of backgrounds was perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the summer.

Finally, the Ride made me realize for the first time in a very concrete way how important students are to this movement. I witnessed firsthand how you can plant a seed in someone’s mind and watch it grow. We as students have boundless energy and an unlimited resolve to face the problems that the world faces today. Whether by spreading awareness and affecting change through political channels in the United Sates or by raising funds that directly support life-saving care in Rwanda, we are the impetus for social change in the 21st century. For me the Ride Against AIDS was an extraordinarily powerful way to get involved in an intensive, hands-on way with these issues that I care so deeply about.

Each year FACE AIDS seeks to grow and improve the Ride Against AIDS, but some things will never change. The roads may be different, but they will still call to you. The route may change, but you will still meet incredible people all over this great country. And one day we will live in world without AIDS and the need will change, but we will still be here to answer the call.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the Ride. My email is austin@faceaids.org and I’m ecstatic to talk to you about whatever questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you and encourage you to apply for a spot on the 2011 Ride Against AIDS team by December 15!

Ride Against AIDS Application: http://www.faceaids.org/rideagainstaids.html

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ride Against AIDS Finale!!

With 4,474 miles biked and over $50,000 raised, the FACE AIDS 2010 Ride Against AIDS has come to a triumphant close. Sporting their stylish FACE AIDS team jerseys and huge smiles, Claire, Jason, Kirsten, Mike, Sanford, Shane, and Zane made their way into Boston, the Ride's final destination, on August 19.

RAA 10 Final Day

As they biked their last few miles along the Charles River, they were joined by family, friends, and Partners In Health staff. When they began the ride in June, they symbolically dipped their back bike tires in the Pacific Ocean, and upon reaching the Boston Harbor last week, they marked the end of their journey by dipping their front tires in the Atlantic Ocean.

RAA 10 Dipping the Tire 3RAA 10 Celebrating Boston HarborRAA 2010 Boston Harbor

After much celebration, the team enjoyed a BBQ dinner on Thursday evening with the Partners In Health team, and were welcomed into the Partners In Health office on Friday to talk about their journey with the entire staff over a brown bag lunch.

We are so proud of these students and all that they accomplished this summer. With the funds that they raised, Partners In Health will be able to provide hundreds of thousands of people in rural Rwanda with high quality comprehensive health care. FACE AIDS will be able to provide many of these same individuals with employment and access to savings and credit, helping them to secure a stronger financial future. Moreover, through the conversations these students had with people all across the United States about social justice, global health equity, and the power of young people to make a difference, they have powerfully contributed to our mission to build a veritable movement of people committed to ending the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. To us, these seven students exemplify the leadership and dedication that is needed to change our world for the better.
This ride and the achievements of our students would not have been possible without friends like you. Thank you so much for everything that you did to support the 2010 Ride Against AIDS.

East Coast and Cupcakes!

Our spirited team of seven is officially on the East Coast, with just one week remaining in their cross-country ride! Characterizing their experience over the last few days are two themes: dessert and conversation.

After leaving the Hegde family in Toledo, OH, our riders continued on to Pittsburgh, PA, where they stayed at the home of wonderfully gracious hosts Adrian and Nicole. The team was treated to great conversation and dinner on the patio, followed by dessert freshly made by the hosts' friend, one of Pittsburgh's best pastry chefs.

The riders then trekked to Delaware where they were hosted by John, a good friend of Partners In Health, and then continued on to our nation's capital.

While in Washington, D.C., they took time to see the sights and also to meet with Ronnie, mother of FACE AIDS co-founder Katie. Their delicious tapas dinner was filled with, of course, wonderful conversation about FACE AIDS' mission and the role of young people in driving social change. The next day, the team gave a presentation to the students, staff, and faculty of the Stanford In Washington House, as well as to Stanford alums in the area. They also had the chance to present at the D.C. Rotary Club.

Most importantly, rider Kirsten Pufahl made sure to take advantage of Washington, D.C.'s cupcake scene, including Hello Cupcake, Baked and Wired, and Georgetown Cupcakes.

Having enjoyed tasty desserts and great conversations with new friends, the Ride Against AIDS team is now passing through Philadelphia, staying at the church of Barbara and Elliott Waters. These lovely hosts even arranged for the team to get free bike tune ups! From Philly, they'll hit Princeton, NYC, Greenwich, Providence, and finally, Boston.

We'll be in touch again soon to announce the team's final fundraising totals (they're currently at $47,625!) and share with you their grand finale into Boston and the Partners In Health office. In the meantime, keep an eye on the team blog and rider Kirsten's blog.

Halfway There!

In the time since our last Ride Against AIDS update, our team of seven crossed the halfway point of their 4,474 mile ride across America! They are currently in Toledo, OH, where they’ve enjoyed some much deserved rest with rider Shane Hegde’s family. In the coming weeks they’ll be traveling through Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Washington DC, New York, and Greenwich, before finishing their journey in Boston on August 19.


Over the last two weeks, the team saw many quiet days of rolling green hills in Iowa. They met up with Angy, a FACE AIDS member from Creighton University, and toured the state capital building in Des Moines, where they stayed at the home of Rick and Dena. A record 120 mile ride to Iowa City followed, full of country roads and wind turbines. Upon entering Illinois, the team rode to Batavia, home to the family of rider Kirsten Pufahl. A local newspaper highlighted Kirsten's journey and her stop at home. A rest day in Chicago gave all the chance to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.


All of the riders are safe and healthy. The only minor fiasco of the last two weeks was a frantic search for a misplaced car key, which was eventually found hiding behind a toaster.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 3593: "Rest" Day in Chicago

Note: The gap blogs will be filled in shortly-we are experiencing technical difficulties and will be back on the air shortly.

The group split up yesterday for the rest day in Chicago. However, they all reunited, albeit in two groups, at The Friendly Confines, Wrigley Field. With help from donors, all seven members of the team were able to attend the Cubs-Cardinals game this afternoon, watching Sweet Lou's ballplayers romp the Cardinals 5-0. A day that saw Alfonso Soriano, a Lupatkin family favorite when with the Yankees, hit a home run and Albert Pujols, a Lupatkin family favorite although he made Tino Martinez obsolete, go 0-4 will truly prove to be memorable. Sitting in the bleachers, Shane, Claire, Sanford, Zane, and Jason proved to be a lively bunch, making conversation with the fans around and even the outfielders at one point. Unfortunately, although that conversation led to Marlon Byrd throwing Shane and Jason a ball after warming up, he may have become to energetic and enthused about the FACE AIDS mission; in fact, he overthrew our two matching boys and ended up hitting a clueless Zane in the end. Used mostly to holding pitchforks and other farming implements, Zane's calloused hands were no match for not-cow filled leather, as he quite literally dropped the ball, leaving Claire with an injured finger and the other riders filled with a seething, festering anger.

With "Go Cubs, Go" playing their heads, members of the team went their separate ways for dinner. Enjoying a delightful and delicious dinner at the Sullivan Household, courtesy of Tim and Sue, were Shane, Sanford, Claire, Jason, and Zane, while Mike and Kirsten head back to Batavia.

The night culminated with a 50 mile drive back to homebase in Batavia, where the team was forced to endure rough thunderstorms in the Mystery Machine. Fear not, however, as our meddling kids were able to weather the storm (get it?) and make it to the Pufahl Household in one piece.

PS An obvious many thanks to Kirsten's family for hosting the team and being as flexible as they have been.
PPS Yes, Joel, maybe they should have kept Soriano

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 32: Life is a Highway…in the Middle of Nowhere Surrounded by Cornfields

Leaving the Super 8, the bikers were bussed to Anita (10 miles away) in the Mystery Machine to begin the day where they left off. Country roads would be the choice asphalt for the day, and the scenery would be unlike anything our group had come across thus far faced.

Pushing away from Anita, the first 15 hilly miles of the trip were dotted with enormous wind turbines that would put even the Dutch windmills to shame. These skyscraping turbines helped us realize that one day we could solve the energy crisis, and dumping billions of barrels of useless oil into the Gulf of Mexico should be the first stop. Those executives at BP were brilliant!

Past the oversized fans, cornfields soon became more cornfields and the eye could only see a sea of green and yellow. Emptiness. Though this was far from any morbid emotion: mile upon mile of cornfields and farms formed the backbone of America. This was the land, the state that bred the highest average SAT scores for the last ten years. This was the real America: enormous, relentless, and oblivious that the world was becoming more and more technologically advanced.

Arriving in waves, Des Moines was introduced to us by the lovely Rick and Dena. Hearing about our ride from friends, the two willingly took in seven unshaved strangers, and gave us advice on the many sights of Des Moines. Learning from the two, our team traveled into the downtown area and was drawn closer and closer to the golden domed (extremely gaudy) state capital building. With snacks in hand, we sprawled out across the steps of the capital and watched the sun fall on the steel stalks of the city. Heading home to eat a delicious home cooked meal, our group was enthralled with the couples shared stories of their travels and college experiences (which, I might add were only a few years ago). The night of stories and laughter reminded us of summer nights back home with our friends, and as the light left the state of Iowa, we had all counted our blessings for such amazing hosts.

In talks before bed, the plan for tomorrow is to combine two days of biking and make it all the way to Iowa City. This 120 mile ride, would be the longest of our journey, and, to be honest, the odds are better for BP actually stopping the oil in the gulf than for us making this journey.

Day 31: Perfection Needs Few Words

When you decide to bike across America, often times the thought of spending countless hours alone, pedaling over and over slips past the train of thought. You get caught up in the wonder and adventure, and forget that some days will simply be miserable.

On that extremely cynical note, if there ever were a ‘most boring day to blog about’ July 15th would take the cake. Yesterday’s turmoil left our professional cycling team ready for a spotless day of ridding, and the 60 miles of rolling hills through Iowa provided just that.

Upon crossing the graceful Bob Kearny pedestrian bridge spanning the Missouri River, the group rode straight into the countryside of Iowa, noting, “at least this state is greener than Nebraska?” Now this is usually the point in the blog where we make an over the top, half-truth joke about one of the riders, but, to be honest, no one had any significant issues on this day. No flats. No drama. No whining from Jason. Even Claire pedaled right on through these 5 hours of biking as if she were wearing a Livestrong bracelet and a yellow racing jersey.

Rolling into Anita, Iowa around 1p.m., our group quickly realized that the town of 900 had no campgrounds and that our mothers would kill us if we stayed at the ransacked motel located in the ‘downtown’ area. Piling into their unmarked van, the team turned west, and decided to spend the night in the already-passed city of Atlantic, Iowa (pop. 7257).

Perfect days are a blessing and a burden: they leave us with an usual sense of peace, but they lack the drama required for a memorable, ABC prime time television show. Des Moines, Iowa sat just 87 miles away from our Super 8, and with quiet souls our Brady bunch went to bed early in hopes of an early departure to the capital of Iowa.