Mike's AIDS ride story
Mike with mattress girl

European AIDS Vaccine ride - Mike's story

Amsterdam to Paris, June 30-July 6th, 2002

As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own. -Margaret Mead, anthropologist (1901-1978)

Ride to your heart's content

Mike's Story

         
   Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2002 13:59:02 EDT
   From: MathWhiz78@aol.com
Subject: My big, long, European AIDS Vaccine Ride email

Hello!
Bonjour!
Shalom!
Hola!
Wilkommen!

If you're getting this email (and I apologize for it's mass-ness), 
you're 
special somehow.  If you're getting this email, it means that you were 
on the 
Ride with me, a sponsor, a friend or relative that I wanted to share my 
experience with, a Pallotta employee, or someone that I've spoken with 
online 
that I wanted to share the idea with.  Somewhere along the line, if 
you're 
getting this email, you have made my Ride experience and my life in 
general 
as good as it can be.  It will be a rather long email, and not all 
parts will 
apply to all people as much as others, but it should still be a decent 
read.  
Why do I say that?  Because my mom tells me I'm a fair writer and she's 
not 
biased at all, far as I can tell.

Before I really start with the Ride experience, I have to insert a plug 
here. 
 If you were on the Ride and would like to continue that wonderful 
feeling of 
community and be surrounded by people willing to do anything to help 
out 
their fellow rider or crew member, or if you weren't on the Ride but 
would 
simply be interested in a kinder, gentler world, check out 
www.heroicstories.com.  It is a list of all of the little things that 
people 
do that help make the world a better place.  I've been a subscriber 
since 
near the inception and I don't have the words in my vocabulary to do 
this 
list justice.  Joyce Showalter, the Editer-In-Chief, and a sponsor of 
mine, 
has on her business card that she is "Co-Conspirator to make the world 
a 
better place."  Their little business card thingy notes "Sometimes a 
small 
gesture toward another has a profound, lasting effect.  To see what I 
mean, 
visit www.heroicstories.com and pass this on."  (No, they didn't pay 
for the 
plug, and, had I asked them to write it themselves, it most likely 
would have 
been much less wordy.)


Sometime last winter, I saw something in the mail for a triathlon to 
raise 
money for MS, or something to that effect.  Being deathly afraid of 
drowning, 
and not able to run to the end of the driveway without getting winded, 
it 
wasn't going to work out.  But the idea of doing something to get in 
shape 
and raise money for a good cause germinated in my mind.  In January, I 
saw a 
commercial for the European AIDS Vaccine Ride.  Actually, I saw a 
number of 
them, and finally I checked out the web site.  It looked pretty cool so 
I 
signed up.  Gave them my credit card and $250.  No backing out after 
that, I 
thought.  I was determined to prove to myself and everyone else that I 
was 
capable of raising $5000 and riding 500+ miles.  As important as the 
cause is 
to me, I was doing the Ride for myself and no one else.

I went into a bike store in town and spent a lot of money to get a 
decent 
bike, clothing, accessories, etc.  I started telling people (albeit not 
my 
parents, because I was determined to do this as completely 
independently as 
possible) and started getting myself pumped up.

The first time I went for a training ride, with my friend Curt, I went 
less 
than a mile (he rode 5 to get to my house to begin with) before 
deciding it 
was enough.  The second time we went out together, I made it a few 
miles 
before nearly collapsing from overexertion.  (I didn't stretch enough 
and we 
started out uphill to get out of my neighborhood.)  I was getting some 
doubts 
in the back of my head but was determined to go on and prove myself to 
everyone, least of all myself.  Needless to say, training got easier 
over 
time so I needn't go too into that.

In February, shortly after getting myself into this whole thing (and 
that's 
how I was thinking about it at the time), I approached my friend Linda, 
who 
owns Ruby's, a gay bar here in town, about putting on a benefit show.  
We 
found a date (the sixth of April) and I went about begging drag queens 
to 
perform and donate tips.  Because of the cause, we soon had more 
performers 
than we could handle!  The evening was spectacular.  There were a 
number of 
wonderful performers, including my dear friend Ronnie (whom I don't 
have the 
words to properly describe, but to say that he has a heart of gold and 
body 
of a Greek god would both be understatements), who drove nearly three 
hours 
to sing wonderfully for the audience.  A number of area merchants 
donated 
raffle prizes including, once again, Linda, who owns the bar.  Bart, 
another 
friend and owner of Bart's Haie Salon, generously volunteered to match 
the 
evening's tips.  After all was said and done, over $1500 had been 
raised on 
the evening.

Fast forwarding...  I found a team somewhat quickly and got a bunch of 
emails 
from it.  Some guy (I know him now, but didn't then), who was one of 
the 
captains, posted a great airfare he got so I went to the website and 
duplicated his itinerary.  The same guy later posted where he would be 
staying in Amsterdam prior to the start of the Ride.  Not having any 
clue 
myself, I sent him an email and asked/pleaded to room with him (this 
way 
would be cheaper and I wouldn't have to deal with the hassle at all!).

Fast-forwarding some more...  I did some more training and some more 
fundraising.  Still no more travel planning...  Asked aforementioned 
guy if 
he'd wait for me in the airport and help me get to the hotel with him.  
He 
agreed.  (That's the type of people that are on the ride, after all.)

The day to leave came.  My friend Curt volunteered to take me up north 
to get 
to the airport (yes, the same one that did some training with me).  
Made my 
way to O'Hare, found the plane (this is the easy part, I was still in 
the 
States), and waited for takeoff.  On the way there I had two seats to 
myself 
for a while until a flight attendant asked if I would be willing to let 
a 
gentleman sit in the second seat as his ten month old child was asleep 
in his 
spot.  Knowing better than to rouse a sleeping infant on an 
international 
flight, I readily agreed.  During the ride we talked about why we were 
going 
to The Netherlands (back home for him, the Ride for me) and I told him 
that I 
was still short some fundraising.  I pulled out a form and he pulled 
out a 
five Euro bill.  Not having the info to properly credit the donation, 
and not 
being able to accept cash, the money found its way to my wallet where 
it 
still remains as a good luck charm.

Ok, I'm getting long winded here, even for myself...  The plane lands 
and, 
after some confusion with Customs (i kinda skipped the line then went 
back, 
inadvertently, and was "caught" going the wrong way through a one way 
door 
thing), and some futile attempts at hitting at some Dutch boys that 
were on 
the flight, Rob (he has a name now) found me and, along with George who 
was 
also staying at our hotel, we attempted to find transportation.  Well, 
they 
attempted to find it.  I just tried not to mess anything up.

Now, I'm not going to get into everything that happened in the first 
few days 
in Amsteceremonies in the 
same way, 
my throat tightened, clutching every breath.  My eyes welled up and 
tears 
flowed forth.  I was trying to think of any other time I had felt such 
raw 
emotion and there wasn't one.  I wasn't sad or angry or upset per se, I 
just 
was.  And it was powerful.  And I want to feel it again.  You who are 
riding 
or crewing the Heartland Ride this year will know the feeling.

Ok, enough random outpouring of emotions and feelings.  Now it's time 
for the 
fun stuff!  This is the part of the email where, like a high school 
senior 
with all his friends' yearbooks, I get to write individual notes!  This 
is 
basically in the order of email addressed I got.  Naturally, this list 
is 
incomplete.  After all, I wasn't able to get all 800+ email addressed.  
=)

Melissa--hun, you need an email all to yourself, and maybe someday 
you'll get 
it.  In the meantime, you kept telling your brother that you're 24 and 
able 
to make your own decisions.  Stop telling him; stop worrying about that 
so 
much.  Just do what you want to do provided you're aware of the 
consequences. 
 And some day I want to see more of those sketches.

Liz, Alisa, Ben, and Aaron, the Middlebury crew--the three of you on 
lunch 
were wayyy too peppy, but I know that's what people needed to see after 
all 
those wet miles.  And hey,  Champaign, IL
     61821
     USA

our cabbage kids on our way

Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich. - Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923)

Join the crew

     See about my participation in the Avon 3-day walk for breast cancer prevention.

     See also my 4-day walk around Nijmegen, Holland.

      There are over 300,000 Americans living with AIDS. In 1999, over 10,000 Americans died of AIDS many of them poor.   And a new generation of young people is growing up with a frightening lack of respect for the deadliness of this virus.

Noah's arc I received the following on email and thought it was appropriate:

Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah's Ark...

  • One: Don't miss the boat.
  • Two: Remember that we are all in the same boat.
  • Three: Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.
  • Four: Stay fit. When you're 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
  • Five: Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
  • Six: Build your future on high ground.
  • Seven: For safety's sake, travel in pairs.
  • Eight: Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
  • Nine: When you're stressed, float a while.
  • Ten: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
  • Eleven: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting.
  • On difficult ground, press on.         On encircled ground, devise strategies.         On death ground, fight.                     ---Sun Tsao

    Your comments are appreciated.    

    Return to Netiva's home away from home         Miniature planet             Check the weather in Amsterdam and Paris.
    What time is it?
    Donate Free mammograms
    mammogram

    Last updated 8/17/02