John Pierson of Long Beach has been pedaling down California since this weekend and raised more than $5,000 toward HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment as part of a statewide bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles by AIDSLifecycle. Follow his journey here.
Day 5 (Thursday)
I thought today's ride would be short and sweet at just 40 miles. In reality, it was, but it also provided some great food for thought.
The first thing you should know is that day 5 is Red Dress Day. It means you should wear red, but most of the men (and a lot of the women) end up wearing some form dress that is red. Today I saw men in petticoats, men in dresses, men in long, curly-haired wigs. It's quite a sight for the fairly conservative, mostly agrarian town of Santa Maria. While sitting at a stoplight, waiting for our turn, I noticed a Latino man, who was walking, and giving us a somewhat confused look. A rider in front of me said something in Spanish, which the pedestrian acknowledged. After a second, I (using my rudimentary Spanish skills) realized he told the man "Don't be afraid."
The literal translation amounts to something along the lines of "Don't have fear," which I thought was a pretty relevant message for what we're doing on this ride; 2,300 people, mostly dressed in outlandish costumes, riding bicycles through heavy winds, hot sun, rasing money to fight HIV/AIDS.
I noticed one group of men were not wearing dresses today, but rather red dress shirts, black ties, and a name plate on their shirt. After another glance, I realized they were dressed like Mormon missionaries but in red shirts. I chuckled for a minute, but then realized we were doing the same thing the missionaries do. They ride the cities and countryside spreading the word of their faith, we ride the cities and countryside spreading a message of empowerment to HIV-positive people, and encouraging people to practice safe sex.
The two epiphanies, if you will, made today's ride a great inspiration for regular life. Don't be afraid, and spread the word. I've been a volunteer at The Center in Long Beach (mentioned in yesterday's blog) since last August, and signed up for this ride last October.
Both endeavors required a leap of faith on my part, and have given so much more back to me than I have put in. I strongly encourage those of you reading this to find a cause you believe in, whether it's cancer, AIDS, or the local library, and help out. Bring in someone else with you so they can benefit from the experience too.
Don't be afraid. Spread the word.