My name is Clark Harding (above, left) and I’ll be blogging live from the road.
Wednesday “Hump Day,” June 5, 2013 10:04 p.m.
I’ve had the same sleeping bag since I was 12. It was a hand-me-down from my brother for when I’d go to summer camp. It still keeps me warm at night in Tent City. While pulling on my cycling clothes this morning, I noticed that my onesie was big on me and sagging in the butt. That’s when it occurred to me that all my cycling gear consists of hand-me-downs, too. See, when I first did the AIDS/LifeCycle in 2006, I was broke, just out of college, and not only did I have to be creative with raising money to participate, I had to get creative on how to outfit myself for the 545 mile journey…bike included.
“HONEY!” shouts Brian Howard, as he pinches my cheek at a rest stop (I kinda want him to pull my hair and smack me around a little bit too, but…I’ll save that story for my therapist). Brian, has flown completely under my radar for years, and only until recently did I discover (from stalking him online, obviously) that he is a living piece of history. Ever seen the Pink Triangle symbol with the words “SILENCE=DEATH” written underneath? Uh, yeah that’s part him: an AIDS Activist from the very, very…very beginning.
This is Brian’s 7th ALC ride, and he’s raised well over $50k. “I ride to honor lost friends,” Brian texts me. “Lost friends including Oliver Johnston, one of the original members of SILENCE=DEATH. He made the pink triangle into a pyramid giving the image power.” Today is Hump Day on the ride, literally and figuratively. It’s half-way through, when all the bikers climb to the top of “The Evil Twins,” and take their pictures, holding their bikes over their heads, overlooking the valley. Then they cross the hump and head to the ocean. I’ve been trying to find Brian all day, but searching for a daddy in spandex among 2,200 cyclists is about as easy is as finding a straight guy at a Lady Gaga concert (or he’s avoiding me because I’m totally obsessed with him). Thus we resort to texting.
When I first did the ride in 2006, Brian Howard gave me all his old gear. To this day I still wear his helmet and his jerseys…the very seat I sit on is his. When I crossed over the hump today I remembered the first time riding with him. I was too much of a weakling to lift my bike over my head like the others, so Brian and his friends held it for me so I could have my picture taken. Today, as I stood there, I imagined back to the ’80s and images of Brian quietly postering “SILENCE=DEATH” all over New York City and sparking a movement to end AIDS.
And I wanted to take this opportunity to say, “Thank you for the hand-me-downs.”