Many thanks to the wonderful sponsors who helped me raise $2,470 so far to support the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. The total raised so far by the event is $660,000. Each of you wonderful people are part of something very special, and I want you to know how important it is and how much I appreciate your support. You can still donate here.
As a first-time rider, I was both nervous and excited about bicycling an average 100km per day for 6 days to Montreal. But from the moment I got on my trusty bike at Church/Wellesley in Toronto and rode out with Day 1 buddy Jerod, any fears melted away to the natural rhythms of the ride. For those who have expressed their amazement at such a physical challenge, it’s quite simple really: Just keep pedaling.
The ups and downs (geographic, physical and emotional) of the ride paid off in spectacular fashion as we filed through the bike paths along the Lachine canal into Old Montreal, a kilometer long snake of cyclists stopping traffic, at times without a visible beginning or end. Truly an amazing sight. Our welcome in Square Viger, the home base for this week’s first Outgames event in Montreal, was overwhelming. Hundreds of cheering supporters, our whole team of 220 riders, our amazingly supportive and fabulously campy crew, the Mayor of Montreal and Leader of the Opposition Bill Graham, everybody celebrating our accomplishment. It was a remarkable feeling of accomplishment for individual participants who are all part of a community success. We don’t ride the Bike Rally. We ARE the Bike Rally.
Why do we do it? We do it for the 35 brave HIV+ riders who were with us, for the many people around our city who live with the disease everyday – friends, loved ones and neighbours, many unseen and unknown. We ride for the man who is grieving the loss of his partner to AIDS in November of last year, searching for renewed purpose in life. We ride for the talented 12 year-old HIV+ girl who lost her mother and for her dad who wants her to have every opportunity for a happy future and a full life.
We also do it for ourselves, each of us with very personal experiences and individual journeys. The Bike Rally is a microcosm of life on this planet, each of us experiencing it from our own perspective but part of a larger mass that is moving through time and space in an interconnected dance. I will be processing my own personal meanings of this experience for some time to come, as I adjust back to everyday life. I look forward to riding again next year.
For riders and crew, I hope to see your pictures up on Flickr. Please remember to add the tag “bikerally2006” to your photos.