This past week we embarked on a great journey, truthfully my husband Chuck did all the work and I had all the fun.
As you saw from my previous posts Chuck participated in Smart Ride 14, a 165 mile bike ride from Miami to Key West raising funds for AIDS service organizations across Florida.
We set out driving from St Petersburg to Miami with registration at University of Miami. With my background in events I look at event production under a microscope and they did an awesome job.
There were people across campus directing us to bike storage for the next morning and then on to registration. They had lots of volunteers directing people across campus and they could not have been nicer. That evening after registration the opening ceremonies included a welcome and candlelight vigil.
One of the featured speakers was a woman named Ruth Coker Burks
Ruth Coker Burks (also known as the Cemetery Angel) is an activist and AIDS awareness advocate based in Arkansas. During the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s, she gave up her career as a successful real estate agent to help AIDS patients that had no one to care for them. Because of prejudices, fears and the stigma surrounding the disease at the time, she was often the only one who would look after them until they eventually died. She most notably is recognized for burying them in her own family cemetery in Hot Springs, Arkansas. – Wikipedia
I was blown away by her kindness and then realized that not only did she ‘bury’ these guys in her family cemetery; but she BURIED these guys! She and a young daughter dug holes because no one else would.
We were up before the sun as riders headed out at sunrise. They provided breakfast for riders, and a local high school cheerleading squad and volunteers were there to cheer on the riders as they departed.
The coolest thing about this ride was that EVERYTHING was donated, the riders pay for their hotel rooms the first night in Marathon and 100% of everything raised goes directly to organizations for services.
After I saw them off I chilled, found some Cuban coffee and went to a party store and got green and yellow pom-poms (Chuck’s team colors).
By that point riders had made their way through Miami and were arriving on route 1 heading south to Marathon, their overnight stop. Each pit stop, about every 15-20 miles was staffed with volunteers, snacks, sports drinks, water and there were cheerleaders and people directing them along the way.
Probably the most amazing group were the guys on motorcycles who helped direct traffic in places where the riders had to cross from one side of a road to another. They were truly awesome and I’m very thankful to them for keeping everyone safe.
The upper keys seemed to be pretty well cleaned up from hurricane Irma but there was still a lot of debris along the road ways and there were A LOT of flat tires. The Marathon area still had a ways to go with cleanup, they were hit the hardest.
The first day they did 100 miles to Marathon, I traveled along the road waiving pom-poms out the window and cheering them on. I stopped to do some writing and blogging for clients and also cheer riders as they arrived at pit stops.
As the hotel in Marathon was filled with riders and volunteers I drove straight through to Key West checked into our hotel and grabbed dinner.
The next morning, I headed over to the White Street Pier and the Key West AIDS memorial, the end of the ride. As everyone entered Key West they headed to a school where they had lunch and waited for all of the riders to arrive and then were lead through the streets by a police escort.
I got there really early and spent some time taking in the memorial, it’s a beautiful mix of poured concrete with a relief of what looks like the chain of islands that make up the keys and Zimbabwe marble inscribed with the names of 1,000 people who have died of AIDS and have shown a love of the Florida Keys by living, working or visiting there. It was pretty emotional and I’m glad I went early and spent some quiet time there.
About 2:30 in the afternoon the volunteers all arrived a head of the riders, then you could see flashing lights and hear sirens as the riders approached. I followed the riders as they crossed the bridge and found Chuck and his team. Once everyone arrived they welcomed everyone, announced how much money they raised ( you’ll have to go to the Smart Ride website to find out).
At the end they brought in the ‘Riderless Bike” a bike with a flag with an AIDS ribbon being carried by several riders representing all those lost to AIDS… it was really tough as both Chuck and I have lost so many friends.
Chuck has already committed to the next ride, which is actually later this year as this ride was pushed back from November 2017. You’ll see future posts talking about the ride and how you can sponsor Chuck!
Be sure to check out Chuck’s post, sharing his journey on his first Smart Ride! I couldn’t be more proud of of him!
I love you Chuck!