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Alex is a member of the 10K Club! Please give generously!

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"Impossible" is just a word.


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10K Achieved
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Mr. Alex Darke
108 percent of goal achieved.
Goal: $20,000.00
Achieved: $21,507.69

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Edit: We did it! We broke 20k in donations and I successfully completed the AIDS/Lifecycle 2013 ride. I am deeply humbled by all of the love and support I've received in this goal. I've written up a thank you to my sponsors, along with some pictures, located here:

http://alex.darke.net/2013/06/17/we-did-it/

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My name is Alex Darke and this year I have made the pledge to make the ALC ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 7 days (June 2-8th, 2013).

9 months ago, I wasn't even sure I could ride 1 mile, much less the 545 that this ride will take, but I was inspired by friends that have made the ride before. I have actively entered into training and I've successfully completed both the MS150 and the Cystic Fibrosis rides this past year. I've successfully completed my first century ride (100 consecutive miles) and have now been working on back to back big ride totals to get used to being on that bike for 300+ miles a week. A far cry from my couch surfing days! :) I continue to train and work on endurance in preparation for June, and I'm feeling more and more unstoppable with each ride.

I'm doing this ride for a couple of reasons, but the largest of them is in memory of a dear friend I lost a few years ago. He taught me many things in the years we were friends, but the last (and most lasting) lesson he taught me was to get off my butt and DO something rather than just think about it. Riding 545 miles seems like an insane and impossible goal...

 

... until you do it.

 

I will be riding 545 miles in June of 2013. In memory of a dear friend. In celebration of life. In an attempt to raise money for a very worthy cause. Will you help me to meet my fundraising goal? $20k seems about as impossible as riding 545 miles did when I set out, but you know what? With your help I can get there. Every bit helps.

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I've come back to this page, many times since I started fundraising, trying to figure out how to write about the friend that inspired it all, but I've had a difficult time doing it. I'm a guarded person on the best of days, but I've been told by a good friend that has gone
on ALC previously, that one of the most rewarding parts about the ride is being open to the stories of the people there, including sharing your own. So... here we go...

I first ran into David on the livejournal blogging service back in...2000? Either 2000, or 2001. He was a brilliant writer. Witty, charming, and very, very funny. Things that I'm not, so I was drawn to them in him. We made an immediate "internet friendship" that lasted for years. Shortly after I had moved to Texas, he offered me an old ikea dining room table, so I drove down to Houston to meet him, face to face, and to pick it up.

Towards the end of things, years later, David and I had one last chat on the AOL instant messenger service. He expressed some concerning things to me and I tried to walk that line between "worrying friend" and "empathetic person" that can be so very difficult to navigate when you're talking about very serious things that can hurt the person you love. After that convo, David virtually vanished for me. One of the blessings and the curse of the internet is that you can effectively dissappear for anyone not in your immediate vicinity. He was no longer in Houston, having moved to Canada prior to this conversation, so I couldn't just drive down to Houston and check on him.

One day, months after that, I got a blank email from him with a movie file attached. I watched it. I won't discuss its contents, but I'll say that it was all too apparent to me that David had decided that it would be easier if I walked away from him angry and left him alone to do his own thing. I replied to the email to let him know that I'd watched the video, in its entirety, and while I didn't "like" it... I knew what he was doing and I wasn't going anywhere. That even through the hard parts, I'd see it all the way through. He never replied.

In 2009, I was contacted and told that David was in the hospital in Toronto. He'd been there for 3 months and that no one knew how long he'd have. I booked my tickets and I flew to Toronto. If I'm being completely honest, I have to say I was terrified. While David was not the first person I'd ever met that was HIV+, he was the first one I'd ever loved. As scared as I was, I was not going to break my promise that I'd be there through all of the hard parts.

The next few days were a mixture of funny and sad, on top of heartbreakingly difficult. Funny, you ask? Like most ill folks, he was having trouble eating...so his nurse said I could bring him anything he would actually eat. Like a true Texan, he asked for chili. I spent forever running around looking for chili before I found it, returned back triumphantly, and then tripped and dumped it all over his lap. *curtsy* Thank you, I'll be here all week.

While sitting by his side, I had to keep the conversation going. This had never been my strong suit... he was the witty, charming one. I was the quiet, watchful one. So I blathered about a lot of things. At one point, I started telling him about the quilts that friends of mine had been doing and showed him pictures of them. I talked about how I thought that it sounded like a neat hobby and the pieces they were making were beautiful and I wondered if I'd ever be able to make something like that. He sat up suddenly and grabbed my hand: "Alex, I want you to promise me that the first quilt you make will be for me."

That unbelievable, beautiful bastard. heh. He knew what he was doing. He KNEW what promises mean to me. He knew that no one refuses a promise at the bedside of a dying friend. And he knew that I would immediately go into overdrive because no one could tell me how long he had to live. I promised. I promised him my first quilt would be his.

There were other hard parts in the following day, mostly involving me having to make one of the most difficult phone calls I've ever had to make to ensure that David and his parents would see each other after a decade or more of silence. That was rough. Still, in the end, it was that moment when he sat up and looked me full on in the face and made me promise... that's what I remember the most today.

Why?

As much as I knew and loved David, he knew and loved me. He'd spent years watching me say "Oh, that looks neat... maybe someday I'll try it." "Oh, that's kinda cool, I wish I knew how it was done." "Oh, that's awesome, but I could never do something like that." In that one brief moment, a few months before the end, he gave me a gift that has remained with me ever since. When I returned to Texas, I asked a friend to come down and teach me to quilt. She did it and in the course of a weekend, I had finished my first quilt that I then sent north to David. He loved it. I'm currently working on quilt #7... it turns out I am kind of OK at it. So the side effect of this promise to my dying friend was that he'd managed to help me flip a switch in my brain. I can hear him telling me: "Nothing is impossible. Just set your mind to do it and do it. You don't have to be pefect at everything. Just try it and see what happens." Since then, my free time has been increasingly dwindling as I branch out more and more. I don't just wonder if I can do stuff anymore, I say "Let's give it a go and see what happens" and I try it.

When AIDS/Lifcycle came across my radar, it was watching multiple friends do it. This June I found myself thinking: "That'd be cool, but I could never...." and then I went and signed up. That was David's final gift to me. I don't say never anymore. I don't think about living, I get out there and do it. I don't wonder if I can do something, I try to do it...and I succeed far more than I fail, it turns out. So while a 545 mile bike ride is certainly a daunting task to someone as largely inactive as I was before I started down this road, I know that I can do this. And that David is cheering me on.


David's quilt:
http://alex.darke.net/2010/01/03/keeping-promises/