Docstoc

Wow - Download as DOC

Document Sample
Wow - Download as DOC Powered By Docstoc
					Wow! What an amazing four days! Day 1 started with a 4:00am wakeup call so that I could finish packing and meet my friend Jason who was also planning to do The Ride with me. After getting our bikes and gear together we took a cab to the Mall of America for opening ceremonies. The Ride started with over 200 cyclists rolling out of the mall at 7:30. By 8:30 Jason and I were not only in the lead but we had also managed to miss a turn and lost the official route. After turning back to rejoin the group I decided to charge towards the front and didn’t see Jason again until camp that afternoon. I was making great progress and by the third stop I was within five riders of the lead. It was just as I left the third stop that the rain began to fall. This turned into a full fledged thunderstorm and I managed to miss another turn. This time I was alone on the road, with a torrential downpour and lightening in the distance. I finally pulled over in the small town of Red Wing to check the weather and map on my iPhone. This confirmed two things for me: I was still on the right course for Lake City (where we would camp that night) and the rain was only gong to get worse so I better keep riding! After about 40 miles of wet riding I finally ended up in Lake City and rolled into camp, not having any idea what I would find there. As I rolled in and steered towards Bike Parking the place looked like a ghost town. No helpers. No riders. Just a bunch of cabins and (still) a bunch of rain. I eventually found a cabin with a dozen volunteers eating lunch and playing cards while they waited out the rain. Since I had missed the lunch stop with my second wrong turn they were kind enough to feed me and we all waited for the rest of the riders to come in. Day 2 was much nicer. The weather was great the whole day and the ride took us over rolling hills in the picturesque farm country of Southern Minnesota. One similarity with day one however was that I again missed a turn after stop three and ended up on a back road that was even more deserted than the official route. It was all very pretty but I knew it had been way too long since I’d seen a route marker so I flagged down the first car I saw and asked for directions to Rochester. The mother/daughter team I talked to had great news for me. Rochester was only 27 miles away and if I turned left at the next stop sign the road would take me straight into downtown! It was on this main road to Rochester that one of our “sweep” vans from the ride finally found me. They threatened to pick me up and take me back to the assigned route or, worse, all the way into camp! This ride meant many things to me and getting “swept up” would symbolize a failure on my part to the people I had dedicated my ride to. I begged them to let me continue. They eventually caved in to my request but took down my rider number and name “to make sure I’d be safe.” I told them, “rider number 120 and my name is Will.”

Just then a voice from the back shouted up “WILL GRAFF?!?” Turns out I was already a bit of a legend from the previous day and this lady (who was the director of The Ride!) wanted me to find her when I got to camp that night. Laughing about this incident helped carry me thru the rest of the trip into Rochester. Since I was still “off the beaten path” I again had to rely on the map program on my iPhone to find camp. THANK YOU APPLE! I rolled into the Willow Creek Middle School in Rochester at 11:00am. The next rider came in at 12:15 claiming he was first since he had been the first out of stop five and no one had passed him. We decided on a compromise: I was first into camp but he was first to finish the published route. It’s so much fun when everyone is happy. Day 3 was unique in two ways. Lunch was moved up from stop four to stop three and I was actually able to stay on course the whole day! I was trailing the lead rider by only a few seconds going into the first stop. He kept going so I did too. A mile or so later I pulled up beside him and realized it was Andy! Andy is 40 years old and has been living with HIV for 21 years. He rides an all carbon Orbea racing bike that costs every bit of $6,000. I always say though it’s the rider that makes the bike fast and Andy keeps himself in great shape so he had no problem holding his own on the course. In addition to riding, Andy has also been the public voice of The Ride for the past six years and gave very moving speeches both at the beginning and end of The Ride. The fact that he can even DO a ride like this after 21 years positive is proof that we can do anything we put our minds to. He is truly an inspiration to us all and it was an honor to ride with him for those few miles on day three. I pulled ahead of Andy just before stop two and by lunch we were about ten minutes apart. I was just happy to finally GET lunch so I wolfed down a quick sandwich and packed a few veggies in my back pocket in case I got hungry on the road later. I was again first into camp but happy to see Andy still in second place just a few minutes behind me. The two of us were about 30 minutes ahead of the next set of riders. A great day for both of us! Day 4 was scheduled to be a quick finish to The Ride. The course was only 43 miles so that we could all get to St. Paul in time for the closing ceremony at 1:30. Jeremy, the captain of our team and my friend who recruited me for The Ride, came to me with a proposal before starting out. It has been tradition for the past several years for all of the Wells Fargo Team riders to wait at the last rest stop and then ride in to St. Paul together. Would I mind doing just this one little thing for the team, he asked? It was time for me to play diplomat. I told him that my commitment to doing The Ride rested with my five friends who were living with HIV/AIDS. I had vowed to give 100% every day (fundraising and riding) for them, just as they have to give 100% every day to live with this disease. Riding bike was my way of honoring them and their struggle. I did have a counter offer though. I would finish The Ride my way, 100% effort to the end, then come back to the last stop and ride in with the team. He chuckled at the thought that, yes, I could probably do that final six-

mile stretch several times before the rest of the team caught up. It was then 6:30am, time for the course to open, and I was off! The previous afternoon the drivers of our “gear trucks” (who had gotten to know me pretty well over the past three days) joked with me that I might actually beat them to St. Paul in the morning. Here was the simple math: course opens at 6:30, last rider is out by 7:30, they then have to finish packing the trucks and drive up arriving between 9:00 and 9:30. If I rode anywhere close to my average of 18-20 miles per hour I’d be in by 9:00! As it turned out I got to the State Capitol at 9:12. When the pit crew radioed back to announce the first rider in the response was, “how is that possible???” The voice was that of my friend, the director, from day two. As far as I was concerned The Ride was complete for me. I had preformed a great service for my friends and now it was time to go back and fulfill my commitment to the team. As I pulled out of the Capitol to return to the meeting place I was able to snap a picture of the gear trucks coming in. This also made me proud and I dedicated the achievement to the most recent friend of mine to contract HIV. You may remember me mentioning him in my last fundraising letter a few weeks ago. His life has been literally turned upside down by HIV and thinking about his struggle has brought more tears in the past week than I’ve had in a long time. The closing ceremony was great. Andy spoke again about the importance of the ride and the work done by this “traveling family” of cyclists who bring awareness to this disease and the people living with it. When it was all said and done Jason and I got on our bikes and rode home. So what’s next? I have the day off tomorrow so I will clean my bike up from the last four days and then go for a nice ride around the cities. Beyond that I will use this past week as a springboard to continue educating people about HIV/AIDS and the work that needs to be done, both to stop new infections and treat those already living with the disease. I cannot thank each of you enough for the incredible support you have all given me in the months leading up to this adventure. You have helped out an incredible cause and each of you holds a special place in my heart. THANK YOU! Will


				
DOCUMENT INFO