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Welcome to the new season

The AIDS/LifeCycle 9 season officially got under way this morning with kickoff rides in San Francisco and Los Angeles. And even though just four months ago I said I didn't know whether I'd be back ... well, I'm back.

I'm sure things will somehow be different this time; they always are. I'm hoping to have a smoother training season, although the early weather forecasts suggest that we'll be dodging rain for much of the winter and possibly into spring. I'm again looking forward to making new friends and reconnecting with veterans from past rides. And for me, that's a rather numbing thought -- at five years in ALC, that apparently puts me in about the top 15% of riders for longevity, and it means that I've now been around for more than half of all the ALCs. (That doesn't count the earlier California AIDS Rides, of course, and there are many folks who have been around far longer than I.) I've been more active in the preseason this year, helping teach this year's new classes of training ride leaders, and I skipped most of my traditional time off to lead a series of training rides for the recently completed Seismic Challenge.

Since I've already proven to myself that I can do this ride -- even when somewhat injured and in suboptimal health, as I was this year -- this clearly isn't about me meeting any physical challenge anymore. So why am I coming back? I'll admit that the social aspects have become an increasingly important part of my life. The year-round exercise is also important -- probably more than I realize as the years go by. But for all of the reasons why we ride, we share one common goal: to help fight HIV and AIDS so that the ride is no longer necessary.

To first-year riders and those considering joining us: Welcome aboard. This is a journey quite unlike anything else you've ever experienced. You'll experience just about every emotion in the book, and all of the videos, pictures, and words that you see about the ride really don't do justice to the unique experiences that you -- and only you -- will have.

To returning riders: Thank you for coming back. You already know how important the ride is, and your continuing involvement in the ride helps carry our message forward. And whatever kind of ride you had last time you did it, chances are you'll experience something completely different this time.

To my supporters: Giant thanks! I, of course, wouldn't be able to ride without your generous donations, and your support is more important than ever in these challenging times of drastic budget cuts. I know it's tough to be asked year after year to give what you can, and I'll again appreciate whatever support you can give the San Francisco AIDS Foundation on my way to reaching my $3,000 minimum and my $5,000 goal. (And if you can give sooner rather than later, that's a big help -- your money goes to work immediately, and it helps me stress out less about meeting my minimum.)

Thanks to all of you, and stand by for action!

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