RIDE WITH ME

AIDS/Lifecycle, Day Three: Miles To Go Before We Sleep

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Tuesday June 4, 2013 2:38 p.m. Day Three.

Ever heard the sound of 2,200 people snoring?

I should have recorded it on my phone last night, because it was magnificent. Tent City was pitch dark, and I was the last one to bed: a lone flashlight fondling my way through what I would call an orchestra (Opera?) of slumbering AIDS/LifeCycle riders. It was the sound of an entire community having earned, possibly, the best sleep of their lives.

“Today is a milestone,” says this morning’s Daily Spin, a publication written to keep riders updated on their progress. “We are marking 20 million miles of riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles.” Woah. I had to scratch my blonde head to ponder  how far that is. Alas, I couldn’t think of anything so I asked someone smarter. I held up my iPhone “Hey Siri how far is it to the moon and back?”  Her reply came quickly, “477,714 miles.” That means that since the ALC event was founded 20 years ago, bikers have collectively ridden to the moon and back over 41 times.

But when do we stop biking to the moon?

“The younger kids seem to believe there’s this magic pill that sweeps HIV infection under the rug,” says Suzanne Pontow, an expert in HIV research, who also rides in ALC because “AIDS isn’t over.” Sporting a streak of purple in her gray hair and a PHD in cell biology, Suzanne is a badass biology nerd with no problem straight-talking about the disease. “I have three teenage boys, I know about boy behavior, you must have an open dialogue about this kind of stuff.” At UC Davis’ Institute for Regenerative Cures, Suzanne works with adult stem cells. “The best thing about regenerative medicine is that we are trying to find a cure as opposed to treat symptoms. The current HIV meds aren’t easy. They can really beat you up. I witnessed someone get admitted to the ER because of them,” she tells me. “The saddest thing about this is that, as an HIV researcher the biggest problem is behavioral. If we want to really rid ourselves of this, we have to protect ourselves from infection.”

Miles to go before we sleep.

Photo: Christopher Stewart