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