Hop on the LifeCycle

Gay Girl, Straight World

When I think about San Francisco and Los Angeles, I think ethnic food, thrift stores, and the friends who live there. I never think about traveling on a bike from one city to the other.

But since 2001, bicyclists have been connecting the two cities with the seven-day, 545-mile AIDS/LifeCycle bicycle ride (aidslifecycle.org). This year, LifeCycle takes place June 1-7 and will make a stop in Santa Barbara before camping in Ventura.

The inaugural ride in 2001 had 670 riders and 250 volunteers and raised $3.2 million; in 2008, event organizers had to close registration early because of the number of people hoping to ride-a whopping 2,500 individuals from 42 states and 10 countries. It is estimated that this year’s ride will raise more than $11 million.

This money goes toward HIV/AIDS service and prevention work at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (sfaf.org) and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center (laglc.org). There are more than 151,000 Californians living with HIV/AIDS, and it is estimated that about 9,000 more Californians will contract the disease this year alone. In the U.S., 1.2 million people have HIV/AIDS, with about 25 percent unaware they are infected. Approximately 50 percent of new infections are among people younger than 25.

Fourth-generation Santa Barbaran Ariana Barrett is one of the 2,500 people who will be riding this year. Aside from enjoying surfing and other nature-centric activities, Barrett is a practicing Buddhist and animal rights activist. She feels passionate about issues surrounding hunger, saying, “I think the world looks much kinder when our bellies are full and some very basic needs are being met.”

Barrett’s goal of raising $5,000 is double what LifeCycle requires that each rider fundraise, and she needs our help to reach her goal. Donations are due by May 16 and can be made by visiting aidslifecycle.org/1657. We recently spoke about her motivations and training.

What’s your inspiration for participating? This is a long-held promise to three old friends who passed away more than 15 years ago. I intended to do the ride then, but quite frankly did not have the discipline. It is also for two friends who are currently living with HIV. I feel like I have a very blessed life and this is one way I can give something back. What’s eight months of a little blood, sweat, and tears compared to living with a life-threatening disease? At the end of the day, I know my pain will end and I will live, but three of my friends never got to feel that peace through their suffering. It’s a small, small price for me indeed.

How has training been going? Training is intense. It’s exquisite torture, really. On the one hand, the pain some rides bring is beyond comprehension. I’m a surfer and the only suffering we really do as athletes is having sore shoulders when the surf is up and you just can’t get enough. On the other hand, because my commitment was born in my heart, the drive I feel is one of the most exhilarating feelings I have ever had. The entire undertaking is a labor of love and service, and where I suffer, I also experience tremendous joy.

About a month ago, I hit a wall : I simply could not fathom actually having to ride my bike the full distance. But following the LifeCycle training guidelines helped tons; I let go and put my faith in what others had done before me. I would be able to manage it. It might hurt, I might suffer, it might very well change me forever, but I’d make it and maybe even be a better person for it.

What has been the most challenging part so far? The amount of time the training is taking. Seems like I work, ride, eat, occasionally hang out with friends, ride some more, clean my bike, get my bike tuned up, ride it some more, and on and on. Bike, ride, pain, bike, ride. I also gave up sugar two months ago as part of my training, so I can’t wait until June 8, when I will go straight to Sojourner and get a piece of lemon cloud pie!

What do you think will be the most difficult part of the ride? The heat will be hard. I’m a coastal girl, so I’m really hoping we get nice weather as we go through the Central Valley.

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