Friday, September 4, 2009

One Last Week in Pictures

Gathering with friends and family in New York City.

Posing with the crest of my high school, St. John's, just after a presentation.

As we rode into Boston, a rainbow appeared over the city.

We gave a presentation about our ride at Partners in Health the morning after we reached Boston. Here we are with Sam Ender (left) of PIH and Julie Veroff, the new Executive Director of Face AIDS.

As we sat in Dave's parents' hotel room before dinner, I watched the sun set over Boston. The ride had to end and this is the image I will hold in my head when I think of its completion.

The Ride Comes to a Close- Final Entry

Endings can be such strange things. The planning and preparation that go into large events can so dominate one's time that to come to a point where all those preparations have come to realization and are no longer needed can leave a whirlwind of confusion, a sense of lost orientation.

That's sort of how the last week of the ride felt. From DC we rode a Herculean 187-miles to Philadelphia in a single day. There we rested with our good friend Michal Trope and her family. Two days later we pushed onto New York City where friends and Dave's family greeted us with open arms. Another rest day was taken there before moving onto Fairfield, CT, then Worcester, MA, and ultimately Boston.

Then that was it. It's over. As we biked along the Charles River Bike Path into the city of Boston, I couldn't help but feel home. Yet this sense of home was heightened by the last two months. Somehow I felt I knew the city, and myself, better than I had before, and that in some way it was due to each and every person we met and every place that we saw.

We celebrated our accomplishment, but inside I mourned the end of the ride. I woke on on August 14 with a pit in my stomach. The previous two months I had held a purpose: to ride and to talk and AIDS. What was I to do that Thursday morning but sit in my bed and reminisce about the greatest summer months of my life? Where could the sky ever be as clear as it was in Nevada? Where would the air ever be as fresh as in Colorado? What had driven me 4,500 miles across a continent on two wheels and some carbon fiber? And most importantly, where could I find that purpose again? I put on my clothes, hopped into my car, and headed back into Boston to try and find the answer.

That day we had a meeting with some of the workers at Partners in Health. Greeting us was also Julie Veroff, the new Executive Director of Face AIDS. After giving a brief overview of our program, Julie turned the floor over to Dave and me who spoke about the birth of the ride, what we felt we had done well (and poorly), and where to go from here. We left with new ideas, but still with the desperate loneliness that accompanies a loss that cannot be regained.

It's now been over three weeks since we rolled into the streets of Boston. Dave, Lauren, and I parted ways to spend time at our homes. A week ago I hopped on an airplane and found myself back in sunny California ready for RA training. Stanford looks different. Campus is always evolving as the university learns what works and what can be trimmed away. Staples remain, however. Roble, my freshman residence and now current place of work, looms large on West campus. Ford Center, the site of so many hours of hard work, grows dusty as the ergs wait in a corner for the day two weeks down the road when another class of Stanford oarsmen will sit down to battle their innermost demons. The Quad lurks like a sleeping giant, ready to be awakened by 6,000 eager young students. It's all still here. I already feel myself slipping into routine.

I suppose it is appropriate that the two posters I bought along the trip refuse to stay on the wall. They are perverted interpretations of divine memories that remain firmly lodged in my mind's eye. How can I take the lessons I learned this summer and bring them back with me to school? Can I avoid the fall into routine that so often encourages apathy? Where can I make a difference now that so many people have made a difference to me this summer?

The moon is shining through my window. And though the night is dark, I know that its soft light comes from the sun. And in the morning the sun will return; bright and proud and ready to shine on and fight all the problems of the day away. I hope that my ambitions to continue the fight against AIDS remain just as devout. The moon reminds us of the sun. So too I hope this period of calm reminds me of my purpose. Sometimes the end is just the beginning.