Thursday, September 27, 2012


"After trying for years I am thrilled to finally have the chance to be a crew member for the Boston to New York AIDS Ride on September 21 - 23rd."

(c) Daniel Yoffee 2012

Many have asked me how the AIDS bike ride went.  I wanted to write my thoughts down since it was emotional just to find out that I was finally chosen as a crewmember.

I am not sure when I originally found out about the ride but I know that for many years it was something that I wanted to do in Alan's memory.  I felt that this was almost as important as starting his scholarship fund, making an AIDS quilt panel and creating the web site in his memory.  Unknown to the people we grew up with - AIDS was one of Alan's causes.

I only found out a few weeks before the ride that I was accepted as a crewmember.  I quickly arranged to use vacation time and a short while later I attended the first crew meeting.  As always when I volunteer I told them that I would do whatever needed to be done.  I was looking forward to the experience but I also had some stress.  Doing this right was so important to me that I didn't want to screw it up.

On Thursday morning at 8 a.m. about nine of us loaded into a passenger van on the way up to Framingham, MA.  Everyone got along pretty well.  At a 2 pm training session we were given an overview of the weekend and then broke into smaller groups to discuss our individual duties.  I was assigned to be a navigator.  Assisting the driver of one of two sweep vehicles. If a biker had a problem on the road and the mechanic wasn't available we would take them to the next rest stop.  Some times if someone was having a rough time we would pick him or her up and take them to the next stop.  Being nervous I asked a lot of questions at the training.  One of the organizers said to me you'll do fine, just have fun with it.

(c) Daniel Yoffee 2012

On day one, Friday, I had a 5 am wake up call.  Opening ceremonies started sharply at 6:15. The 85 riders and 27 crewmembers were almost all present to begin the 265-mile ride.  Those responsible for setting up the first rejuvenation stations (rest stops) were already on their way.  Each stop had two crewmembers and one medic.  The first day was 111 miles.  We had a number of rest stops and a lunch stop.  Our final destination that day was Farmington, CT.

My sweep partner Dan and I drove what one of the riders called "The Dan Van" sometimes back tracking on the route once or twice during the day. Along with a rider called the caboose both sweep vehicles made sure that no one fell behind.

Each night at dinner the riders were told what to expect the next day.  On the first night I was asked if I would like to share my story and be interviewed for a daily information sheet that they put out each morning.  With tears in my eyes
I said yes. 

(c) Daniel Yoffee 2012
This year the ride took a different route than in years past.  On day one there were a lot of hills but I heard that day two, Saturday, was harder.  We saw many more people in the vans on day two - an 85-mile day.  We spent more time at the rest stops making sure that we picked up everyone who needed a ride to the next stop.  Two mechanics visited all of the rest stops and also looked over each bike at night.  The end of day two found us in Danbury, CT. Less than an hour from my home.

On the final morning, Sunday, I found out that one of the staff members had to leave unexpectedly.  I volunteered to help load the luggage in the truck before rushing to meet riders at the first rest stop.  We didn't see to many people in the vans.  The 70-mile route on Sunday was more flat and prettier than the other days. Everyone was tired but in good spirits.

Once the riders got to the Hudson River bike trail in upper Manhattan we wouldn't see them again until after they left the holding area for the closing ceremony.

On 13th street, down the street from the LGBT center, the crewmembers lined up from curb to curb to greet the riders. At 2:15 pm the crew then followed along to be congratulated and to hear presentations from the center staff and the news that over $470,000.00 was raised so far.

As we were asked to close our eyes and remember the reason we participated I started to cry, thinking of Alan.  We were then asked to remember those who are alive and living with HIV.  I thought of a college friend.  I also thought of one of the riders who is HIV positive, divorced with kids and now married to a man.  His ex-wife and son were crewmembers.

A large number of riders are living with HIV - some belong to a group called Positive Peddlers.  I was in awe and amazed that a number of them were always in the front of the group. One in particular was riding with the old fashion bike pedals.

Another one of those riders, also recently married, secured his phone to his bike so he could videotape himself during the ride.  At the rest stop he would email the videos to family and friends asking them to donate.  He singlehandedly raised $4,000.00.

(c) Daniel Yoffee 2012
As tired as I was by mid-afternoon each day the riders must have been exhausted but they continued forward reminding me that the problems in my life are small compared to other people.  I hope to push myself harder when I don't feel like working-out remembering what each biker accomplished.

When I found out that I would be a crewmember I was sad and said that this would be one of the last things that I will do in Alan's memory.   But I am sure I will think of others while trying to do a better job of living and enjoying my life for myself as Alan would want me to.

Daniel Yoffee, September 27, 2012

My Cycle for the Cause photos

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