June 2nd - June 8th, over 3,000 Cyclists, Roadies and Virtual Cyclists will be participating in AIDS/LifeCycle, a 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds for the life-saving services offered by San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
This year, I’ll be one of them!
It took me a long time to get behind this idea that I can actually bike from San Francisco to LA. But I am now committed. It wasn't until I finished a century ride a couple of weeks ago, that I considered myself capable enough to ride. The people I met on that ride were so friendly and supportive. They're the kind of people that I like to be around; the kind of people that build each other up constantly; give each other energy and encouragement to do things you didn't think were possible (like bike 545 miles!!) and no one gets left behind. I am riding to challenge myself but also for those out there that need help, support and care and also for those who would like to but can't do the ride themselves. The services provided as a result of this event mean the world to those who receive them, and your support means the world to me. Will you join me in this cause?
We’re working together to make HIV/AIDS a thing of the past. Please support me by making a TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donation today and/or forward to family and friends who may want to support the cause. Just click the orange Donate Now button somewhere on this page. Also check with your employer to see if they have a donation matching program for charities; this way you can double your contribution (Holy Trifecta Batman - worthy-cause donation, tax-deductible and company match!!) and help me achieve my fund-raising goal even faster. If you are able to get a company match, please include my name and participant# (3290) on your match request. Thank you
If you are not able to donate financially, you can show your support in other ways:
1. Join me on the ride!! What a great way to see the coast? Slow tourism by pedal power.
2. Spread the word and ask others to help: post on social media / send texts to family and friends with the link and ask others to share and donate.
3. Volunteer: https://www.aidslifecycle.org/roadies-and-volunteers/
Being a roadie for AIDS/LifeCycle is no cake walk. They are up before dawn doing hard physical work all day, each day of the ride. Some say it's harder than riding (sometimes, but still lots of fun with great camaraderie). But for riders and roadies alike, fundraising is by far the hardest part.
Please join me on this journey. With your donation, you'll be part of something bigger than any of us. Help put an end to this epidemic with a generous donation. We'll keep this ride going until AIDS and HIV are a thing of the past.
My Personal Web Log
Looking back with gratitude
A snapshot of 7 days and 545 miles of love, encouragement, awareness and of being with family. Participation in ALC moves us closer to the dream: ending AIDS. We are helping to change and save people's lives one pedal stroke at a time. We each bring a unique history to AIDS LifeCycle; one of love and one of loss. What is incredible about this group of 3,000 people is that although our path here is different, the road home is the same. To have the determination to do something truly meaningful; we are all looking for a way to give back with our new allies to build a better world with pride and gratitude.
I am so happy to be able to do something that I never thought I would be able to do. I am so grateful for the people that I have met and the connections that were made. The willingness of the riders and volunteers to take their time to help others was truly remarkable. I hope that I can hold to that standard from now on. I made a difference with every mile and with most of them; there was even a smile. With courage and kindness, taking in the scene and the most amazing people that you have ever seen. Let's not for get the roadies (volunteers) and the cycling queens! To do the ride is life changing. Not only did it change our lives but it also makes the programs possible that are saving the lives of thousands more. I am proud to be a part of this. As crazy and challenging as this ride was, I will ride again. While I can use these legs, I will make sure to use them for good.... No, for great!
I appreciate all that you have given to the ride to make this possible. You also play a big roll in creating change. Without you, this is not possible. We could not bring awareness. We could not make such a huge and significant impact. You are important. You make a difference. I thank you for your part of the story. Thank you for being part of my life.
by Michelle Bombardier on Wed, Jun 26, 2019 @ 5:16 PM
What I enjoyed most about the Ride
Everyday on the ride was different. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.....It was challenging. Most of the faster riders warn you when they are coming up behind you and the call out: "On your Left" to which I would reply: "Thank you!" or "Good morning" (It doesn't matter the time of day, Good morning always sounds better to me). Sometimes, if I was hot or tired or concentrating on not falling over going slowly up the hills or if we were travelling on the highway and it was busy, I wouldn't even answer...sorry riders. At some point in the day I was done peddling and I wanted that part of the day to be over. But we might not even be halfway done riding that day! I would start to daydream about what I would do first when I got back to camp (eat or take a shower) what was for dinner or what speeches would we hear that night. Every night after dinner, Tracy Evans (AIDSLifeCycle Ride Director), Lorri Jean(CEO of the LA LGBT) and Joe Hollendoner (CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation) Would talk about the day and give updates on their organizations. I look forward to learning what these organizations did and how I (/ we) am (/are) helping to make that difference. Last year with over 2,500 riders, they raised over $16 M and this year with over 2,300 riders, we raise a record breaking $16,755,967!!!! The money for the riders in Southern California goes to the LA LGBT and those riders in Northern California fundraise for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The riders from out of state have their fundraising moneys split equally between both organizations. By the way, once a donation is made, the money is available for immediate use for clients. Now, more than ever, we ensure, through our ALC ride that these services continue. Every year in California alone, there are thousands of people becoming infected with HIV. That's why ALC efforts are so critical because we raise funds for La LGBT and San Francisco AIDS Foundation to educate the community and to continue to provide the services that are necessary for people with HIV. If the ride didn't exist; people would literally die; they would not get what they need to stay alive.
LA LGBT has 9 buildings and at least 22 programs; everything from family planning to senior services. Their pharmacy has 13,000 15,000 prescriptions / month or 600 /day! It also provides reminders, mail delivery and help to keep compliant about taking medications. They provide help to get housing or food vouchers. They provide an integrative team of a MA, Doctor and a case manager to work together for one person's case. They provide financial services. They have comprehensive health and wellness for the LGBT community. Their facilities are state of the art Both LA LGBT and San Francisco AIDS Foundation are national guideposts for other states and countries wanting to provide services to their community. People come from all over the world for training.
Through Lorri Jean I learn about their new facility: The Anita May Rosenstein Campus. Within are 200 low income housing beds for the most vulnerable of the community: the youth and the elderly. Seniors and youth, are helping each other, and learning from each other. There is no other facility like this in the whole world....for any community let alone LGBT. When this 2019 ALC year closes and all the fundraising monies are in (people are still donating and donation matches are still coming in) then this new building which opened in April will be completely paid off! I am just a rider but I feel very proud to be a part of this. I love their forward thinking and their leading with love and their inclusivity and their ability to look at the whole picture. Whoever does the finances is a genius. I am so glad to be involved! With such rich rewards, could you blame me for wanting to do this again?!
by Michelle Bombardier on Tue, Jun 25, 2019 @ 6:13 PM
How the ride changed me
It is because of you that I was able to ride. There was no way that I would have been able to afford this on my own. It was quite a time commitment to get enough training in every weekend. I was almost losing friends over my lack of free schedule ☺. There are many reasons that I chose to ride which you can read about on my ALC personal page blog. What I expected and what actually happened don't always match up. Here is what the ride did for me personally. I got my 20 year old assets back! Yes, that's number one! I didn't realize how far removed from it that I was but I took before during and after pictures for proof. It was interesting to see the change but what I didn't expect was how strong and confident I was becoming. When I started, my cyclist representative would hear me lament on how I wasn't sure I could ride 10 miles and how could I raise that much money. Aurelia was great, she reminded me of where I came from and who I am now. I like me better now! Aside from looking better and feeling strong, I had other health issues that improved. Like having to take a nap almost everyday to not wanting to slow down. My umbilical hernia, which I have had for three years, is sealed up finally and the muscles from the diastasis recti are inching their way back together. My varicose veins, which pain me every month, don't. Even my leg hairs seem to grow slower. That's an odd once for sure. The best positive outcome is in my soul. This definitely is a soul enriching experience. Doing something greater than yourself is the best medicine for all. Everyday I would hear stories from the people that I rode with and the volunteers or the people that come every year to cheer us on. This one man has been HIV positive for 21 years now but was in the hospital last month with a blood infection and didn't think that he would make it to the ride this year. And yes, he was tired, more tired than usual but he is riding to share his story and to give back to the organization that has helped him and to help others who are going through their similar stories. Or the woman who told her mom that she was being abused by the priest and the mom continued to see that priest; she spoke as if this was forgiven and it didn't affect her personally....how could it not? It is her mother! People are amazing. This woman still has love to give to others. Another woman has been standing on the side of the road for over 20 years when ALC comes through. Thanking the riders for what they do to help people like her brother, Gary, who died in the late 80's. This is her church she says. She has strong shoulders for others to cry on; and they do. There is also the mother who kicked her son out when he came home because he was sick and had nowhere to go. He finally told her that he was gay and she could not accept that. She confessed that she had secretly been watching the ALC riders come through for ten years, hating everyone of them. She eventually saw the sense of community that the riders had and how they helped each other. She finally saw what her son was a part of and regretted what religion had taught her. She was not seen this year; maybe she moved, maybe she still watches from the shadows. This other woman fell into drugs with her boyfriend. She didn't care if they share needles and he never told her that he had Hepatitis C. While on her dark path, the good people at the San Francisco Aids Foundation helped her; first with needle exchange and then with her health and finally getting rid of her boyfriend, realizing her self worth and getting well. Through their loving ways and gentle persistence she not only got off drugs but she is now a phlebotomist who helps others get off drugs too. She now works at the enter full time.
Every day was filled with these stories and I am richer for it
by Michelle Bombardier on Tue, Jun 25, 2019 @ 5:02 PM
We shipped our bike to Cow Palace in San Francisco a week ago and now we fly to Cow Palace ourselves. The only way to get our bikes back is to peddle....alot! From the airport we went straight to our bikes to put our gear back on and stick our number on there and pump up the tires and we went to orientation. They give you a good idea of what to expect and what safety issues we might have and the law, in case we didn't remember; some people do forget when they are on a bike. Our friend, Yanyan took us out to dinner and let us sleep over. So nice! To be fed great food and well rested and have running water; I will miss that this week.
We left Cow Palace the following morning (4:30am) and had our first communal breakfast. We also opened the ride with the riderless bike in memory of all those that we have lost. There were flags that we signed in dedication to the ones who have lost the fight to AIDS; they are still with us, I see reminders everyday; pictures on peoples' bikes or jerseys, flags or other commemorations and stories. There were fewer riders this year than last but we were still over 2,300 riders strong. with a force of almost 600 volunteers, support and cheerleaders. A lot of Riders call this the "Love Bubble" and it's true, I wish everyone could experience this respect and kindness every day of our lives. Truly, it is more than a love bubble. It is a movement, 3,000 strong moving down the coast, changing lives indirectly through our donations and directly through the people we meet on the street or at the light or in coffee shops; all curious to know more. More often than not, some rider would get off their bikes to talk to those who asked the questions "where are you going? What are you doing?". Letting people know who were are and why this matters is just as important as riding. We are breaking down barriers and educating folks. Sometimes helping them with their stories and sharing what we know and have along the way.
It seems miserable to wake up at 4:30 every morning but it really wasn't. It was cool but by the time that you got on your bike it wasn't so bad; you warm up. Breakfast at 5:00; yoga at 5:30; break down your tents and pack up your gear (and try to get it to fit.... why won't it zip up?!) and get back on your bikes by 7:00am. Sometimes we would peddle until 7pm with lots of breaks and lunch ad water and, of course, entertainment. Although the routine was the same, everyday had something new to bring to the experience. The different people that you met or helped; the scenery and the ever changing weather. Day 1 was unseasonably wet but we had fresh strawberries fed to us as we rode. Day 2 was windy and long and dangerously gravelly; I do not want to hear anymore sirens. Day Three had the Quadbuster hill; steep and long. Day 4 is where we crossed over from northern California into Southern California and now we are more than half way. Day 5 is the fun day. We wear red as the AIDS symbol is the red ribbon and going up the hill we look like a ribbon. In true gay fashion this day becomes red dress day and I marvel at the ingenuity and brashness of those costumes. This provides a good direction from the heat and the hills. Day 6. It's all becoming a blur now. We get back to the ocean and closer to my home turf. My friend Lisa is holding up a sign waiting for me.... for 2 hours. She is a trouper. She was called to help someone else but I do feel blessed that she came to support and took the time to cheer people on. Lisa tried again the next morning and again we missed each other. She is one of the many great souls that I know. Day 6 is when we recognize and appreciate the people living with HIV or AIDS. Later, there is a candlelight vigil on the beach for those we have lost; it is a very powerful and moving experience. I will gladly take anyone with me to share this commemoration anytime and everytime. Our neighbours came out to meet us in Ventura where we were camped. We celebrated at the hotel next door. I find it so endearing that they are all here: Daughter, Meghann, Steve and Susan, Rita and Alan and Tracy and Tracy (the dynamite duo; TnT) and Craig. They, without speaking to each other, all brought us dark chocolate to see us through. Ha, it's like they know us! Day 7 brought us along the coast and back into the city to the finish line at Fairfax high school. It was hard passing our house or leaving lunch at the beach but seeing our kids (and adopted son, Paul) at the finish line made for a happy day. I am so grateful to meet all the people and new friends that we did along the way. It's a once in a life time experience but I will do it again. I am so happy to not be riding my bike today. I will be so happy the next time that I ride my bike. Apparently, biking makes me happy. Who knew?!
by Michelle Bombardier on Tue, Jun 25, 2019 @ 4:05 PM
My decision to ride
I had been dreaming of doing the AIDS/LifeCycle for at least 6 years now. But I was intimidated by the speed, competitiveness and cliquiness of cycling groups. That was even before I tried them! When I finally jumped in and went for ALC training rides, I loved it! Well, maybe not all of it as my mind screamed: "What the hell are you doing?!!!" But the Training Ride Leaders were very patient and gave useful tips and knew just how to distract one from negative thoughts going up those daunting hills. They also stayed with me while I plugged away at it...slow and steady. Training was key and took up our weekends and for me at least three days a week. The routine became riding and eating and stretching.
The reason I wanted to do this ride was three fold really.
1)ALC is a fully supported ride so they are there with you every step of the way. They bring your gear and tent from campsite to campsite, they feed you like nobody's business with fantastic three meals a day and all the food and snack that you could want (some people gain weight!), they have sweep vehicles and volunteers to pick you up and take you to the next rest stop or camp, there are volunteers to fix your bike, volunteers in chiropractic /sports medicine/acupuncture / massage and medical; they even have a butt clinic for your worn out back side. My favourite is yoga after breakfast instructed by another rider who knows the value of a good stretch.
2) I was turning 50 and wanted to do something big and valuable with my life. I wanted to give back to others. I wanted to challenge myself to something so big and seemingly impossible. Could I do it?
3) I wanted to give my time to an organization that was not for profit; that also gave back most of its monies to the people that need it most. I found ALC. At least 70% of the donations are used immediately for their most vulnerable clients in need. I remember when the AIDS epidemic started in the 80s and how ignorant and vulnerable we all were. I still am frankly. I want to learn more. I thought ALC would also be intimidating as I knew nothing and I am not gay; will I fit in? Do I belong? Yes! We all do. ALC taught me that lesson with everything that we did. It is all about community and all are welcome that come here with love in their hearts. We are all connected and we work better when we are together
by Michelle Bombardier on Tue, Jun 25, 2019 @ 3:01 PM
Anti chafing cream or what we lovingly call Butt Butt'r
There is nothing but reverence for Butt Butter on the ALC. Nothin can dampen your spirits more than having sores from too much friction from a long day's ride....and then you have to pee. None of us want this torture, so to prevent it there is anti chafing cream. I slather that stuff on thick and often (every rest stop 15-20 miles). It used to be riders would put chamois cream on their chamois but since we don't have actual chamois in bike shorts anymore due to better clothing technology; we now have creams that go directly on the skin. There are many different kinds of creams out there but (Ha!) I will focus on the three that I am trying. Chamois Butt'r is the cream that is readily available on the ride. It is thick and odorless and very helpful. It is not the female version (the purple tube that is PH balanced for a woman so there is a threat of UTIs. Nobody wants that!) It also has lanolin in it which may be irritating to the few with wool allergies. DZnuts Bliss is also thick, PH balanced and has natural healing ingredients. Hooha Ride Glide (now how could I not buy that one with a name like that?!) is the third anti chafing cream it is thinner, ph balanced and also has natural healing ingredients. The latter two have a warming effect that might be annoying but the feeling goes away in about fifteen minutes. I use all three and hopefully it will be enough. I may use chamois Butt'r first and then half of DZnuts Bliss or half of Hooha Ride Glide so there isn't as much warming. You rode long, you rode hard, now it is time to air the girls out too so get out your cotton undies or go commando with a skirt. You won't regret it.
by Michelle Bombardier on Thu, May 16, 2019 @ 4:53 PM
My ride with a butterfly escort. How pleasant!
As I struggled to go up another hill. Trying to breathe through it all, a Painted Lady butterfly passed me! Either showing off or giving encouragement. I'll take the latter. For a good mile I had happy little escort. It makes for a pleasant twenty mile ride
by Michelle Bombardier on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 5:17 PM
Political changes for those interested:
The new administration has made changes that negatively affects the progress that has been made on the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS, and at-risk communities. Here are those changes:
The President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) has been disbanded. Since 1995, PACHA has provided recommendations on the U.S. government's response to the AIDS epidemic.
No director for the White House Office of National AIDS Policy has been appointed. (In fact, information about the Office of National AIDS Policy was removed from the White House website the day President Trump took office.)
A new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) directive allows healthcare workers to refuse to perform health-care services based on personal objections. (This effectively eviscerates the very purpose of HHS to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services.)
Constant attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are starting to take their toll and put millions at risk. Key pieces of healthcare legislation are gone, while 90 percent less was spent on advertising an enrollment period that was half as long!
The World AIDS Day proclamation removed references to gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, and black and Latino Americans. Huh?
by Michelle Bombardier on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 5:07 PM
Double your pleasure, match your donation
When considering supporting me, I want to let you know there's an easy way to double even triple your impact. Have you heard of gift matching? A matching gift is a charitable donation by a corporation that matches an employee's donation to an eligible nonprofit organization usually dollar for dollar, but sometimes more!
A stunning $1,054,439 of the $16.67 million raised for AIDS/LifeCycle in 2018 were from matching gifts. So check to see if your company will match your tax deductible donations.
by Michelle Bombardier on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 5:04 PM
Why am I riding?
My cousin died of AIDS back in the July 11, 1990; right before the cocktail came out (1995). I didn't know him very well but I wish I did. From the stories that I have heard, he was entertaining, admired, loving and loved. I also have close friends that live with HIV, for decades now. I have seen what they have gone through. How something as simple as a boil could persist for months! I have seen the improvements that have made their lives more bearable and better. There are so many avenues of research that have improved the quality of their lives. I am dedicating this ride to the memory of my cousin and to support my friends and, most importantly, this ride is for the people I won't meet and will never meet; those who need a hand and have no one to turn to. I know, if it were me, how grateful I would be for the kindness of strangers. I hope to do the same for others.
by Michelle Bombardier on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 5:03 PM
Why is riding so important, an education continued
By donating today, you'll help ensure more people are getting tested, have access to care and will be living healthier and happier lives. Did you know that if someone suspects they have HIV and is tested immediately they can decrease their viral load? Once a person gets their viral load down, it is difficult to spread the virus and virus symptoms can become virtually undetectable. Testing is extremely important.
HIV does NOT discriminate. Anyone can contract HIV through sex or intravenous drug use. It's not a "gay disease" although it affects the gay community the most. HIV rates in Hispanic and Black men are still on the rise. Saying AIDS is no longer an issue is exactly why we still need to do this ride, because it still is an issue. It's just not at the heightened epidemic state as it was in the 80s and 90s because of the medications which are giving people longer lives
by Michelle Bombardier on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 4:58 PM
Why is riding so important, an education
Last year ALC raised $16.6 Million! That money allows both the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center to provide free or low cost access to quality, culturally competent care for those who need it most. Both organizations have low overheads which means the majority of donations go directly to the individuals they serve. This ensures that those individuals who are HIV positive and don't have healthcare, can get medications to decrease their viral loads which helps stop the spread of HIV. This is a win-win for everybody
"Well, Michelle, they have millions of dollars, they don't need my money." Well, you make a good point but this is THE major fundraiser for both organizations for the whole year and how long do you think that money will last with the cost of research. Last year, not only did they give out close to a million free condoms, provided clean and safe needle exchange, they also counseled clients in health care, social care, law, and provided advocacy and education. Despite what some may think, HIV/AIDS still affects millions, even though it's not currently in the news. In 2016 alone, there were 39,782 new HIV diagnoses just in the US. Some states don't even provide services to help these individuals! Those people must travel to Los Angeles or San Francisco to receive treatment and help.
by Michelle Bombardier on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @ 4:55 PM